Archive for 2016

Why Brown’s Choice of Becerra for AG is Brilliant

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

becerraGov. Jerry Brown’s nomination of Democratic U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra of Los Angeles to become the state’s first Latino Attorney General, replacing Senator-elect Kamala Harris, is a shrewd and surprising political move and a superb pick.

It not only instantly positions one of California’s most talented politicians as a national leader of anti-Trump progressive forces, but also prepares the state for looming bitter legal battles against the president-elect’s reactionary policies on immigration, health care and climate change.

Becerra is keenly aware of the challenges.

“Right now, when California continues to lean forward on so many issues: environment, clean energy, immigration, criminal justice and consumer protection, we’re going to need a chief law enforcement office to advance those positions and protect them,” he told the Sacramento Bee.

All in all, it’s the first bit of good news we’ve had since election night. (even though we were poised to endorse furniture breaker and populist legal bruiser Joe Cotchett for the job).

garrysouthnew1cropPolitical gamers impressed. Becerra, 58, is the son of Mexican immigrants who grew up in Sacramento, earned his undergraduate and law degrees at Stanford and has served as a leader of the House Democratic and Congressional Hispanic Caucuses. He also has served in the California Assembly and as deputy attorney general under John Van de Kamp.

“Once again, Brown surprises,” said Democratic consultant Garry South, noting that Becerra’s name was not on anyone’s speculation list of potential appointments to fill the last two years of Harris’s term.

“This is not a Rose Bird kind of appointment,” South added, referring to the controversial former chief justice of the California Supreme Court whom Brown appointed in 1977. “He has the experience, character and background to be a credible attorney general.”

“It’s a shrewd pick,” drawled graybeard California Democratic consultant Bill Carrick, describing Becerra as “really smart, politically savvy and somebody who can manage that office.”

The political implications of Becerra’s nomination – his confirmation by the Democratically controlled California Assembly and Senate is all but assured – are myriad.

No sooner was the ink dry on Brown announcement of Becerra’s nomination when former Assembly Speaker John Perez declared he would run to fill Becerra’s seat in Congress, which is liable to be hotly contested. Speculation about other political impacts came fast and furious. Asked Thursday by NBC’s Chuck Todd whether he would rule out running for governor or U.S. Senate in 2018, Becerra artfully sidestepped and said only he will be grateful to be confirmed as attorney general.

Which leaves speculation running rampant about:

davejones— Attorney General: Democratic Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones – who has tangled with Gov. Brown over regulation of insurance rates in the past — had already announced his intention to seek the AG’s job in 2018; with Becerra holding the office with the ability to seek two full terms, the likelihood of an internal party contest for the post arose immediately. As the first Latino AG with a wide national network, however, Becerra would be in a prohibitively strong position to seek election to the post. Jerry serves his revenge cold.

gavintonyv— Governor: Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Treasurer John Chiang all have announced bids for governor in 2018, as has Delaine Eastin, former Superintendent of Public Instruction. Other possible contenders include billionaire climate change activist Tom Steyer, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and former State Controller Steve Westly, to name a few.

While Becerra would make another top-tier potential candidate for governor, Calbuzz insiders on Thursday suggested he is unlikely to jump into the 2018 race for governor. In part, it’s expected that during Legislative confirmation hearings he’ll have to say he intends to serve as attorney general, and in order to run for governor he would have to pivot almost immediately to planning a campaign or 2018. The timing and optics would be ugly. (Prince Gavin and Tony V especially can likely breathe a sigh of relief.)

difi— U.S. Senate: What remains less clear is what would happen in 2018 if, at the last minute – her preferred timeline – 83-year-old U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (who will then be 85) decides to retire and the Democrats are scrambling for a first-rate replacement who could step into the job seamlessly. Although California Secretary of State Alex Padilla is said to be eager to seek Feinstein’s job, Becerra might look to many Democrats as a stronger choice. (Difi, showing no signs of slowing down, has staked out a high-profile position to scrap with Trump in Washington, as the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee and close ally of Democratic Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York).

In the meantime, Becerra has an opportunity to play a crucial role as the chief law enforcement officer of the largest state – one where Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by more than four million (!) votes – which is also a leader on climate change, immigration, health care, civil rights, women’s rights and so much more.

jerrygandalfBottom line. We’ve met with and interviewed Becerra several times and came away extremely impressed. Jerry Brown has made an inspired choice and allied himself with a forceful, intelligent Latino politician who we expect to carry the banner against Trumpism and all its despicable effects, while competently carrying out the duties of California’s Attorney General.

Nice work, Gandalf.

From Ted to Trump: Why Do You Want the Gig?

Monday, November 28th, 2016

young tedIn 1979, the late Senator Ted Kennedy famously torpedoed his nascent campaign to challenge President Jimmy Carter by blathering in a high-profile CBS interview when asked a deceptively simple question:

Why do you want to be president?

Well, I’m, ah, were I to make the announcement and to run, the reasons that I would run is because I have a great belief in this country that it is, there’s more natural resources than any nation in the world, there’s the greatest educated population in the world the greatest technology of any country in the world, the greatest capacity for innovation in the world and the greatest political system in the world.

Things went downhill from there. (Unless you count this – I would basically feel that it’s imperative for this country to either move forward, that it can’t stand still or otherwise it moves backward – as great rhetoric).

Kennedy’s nearly-incoherent response to interlocutor Roger Mudd long ago became an iconic image for a candidate or campaign that simply has no rationale for being.

Sort of like Donald Trump’s.

TrumpBabyRecount that election I won! As the (gulp) president-elect (gaggghh!) worked earnestly to unite the country over the holiday weekend by falsely claiming that Hillary Clinton’s ever-growing, 2.5 million vote lead in the popular vote is due entirely to fraudulent ballots cast by undocumented immigrants (while paradoxically attacking her for supporting a recount in what he says is a fraudulent election) Kennedy’s Mudd Moment came to mind as we recalled Herr Trump’s similar, if steroid-level, failure to answer the why-you-want-it question.

Where Kennedy babbled on the subject for a mere 242 words (many in complete sentences!), however, Trumpkins spewed nearly 3,000, in stream of consciousness bursts, byways and digressions, when Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of the Washington Post posed their own version of the Mudd question in March.

Trump now offers daily demonstrations that indicate his one and only purpose in campaigning for the presidency was to, well, campaign for the presidency. His utter inability, way back last spring, to compose a single comprehensible, let alone cogent, sentence about why he wanted the presidency explains a lot about why he’s quickly reverting to comfort zone Twitter campaigning instead of focusing on, you know, the problems of the nation.

In that context, it’s worth looking back at the incredible dreck he disgorged in the WashPost interview, published April 2.

What did you know and when did you know it? Woodward began with his version of the Mudd Question, asking Trump to identify his go/no go moment for jumping into the race and to discuss the thinking that went into it:

Where do you start the movie of your decision to run for president? Because that is a big deal. A lot of internal/external stuff, and we’d love to hear your monologue on how you did it.

Trump clearly loved the movie reference and therefore explained his desire to be president by noting that there were a lot of cameras at his announcement:

Where do you start the movie? I think it’s actually — and very interesting question — but I think the start was standing on top of the escalator at Trump Tower on June 16, which is the day — Bob, you were there, and you know what I mean, because there has. . . . I mean, it looked like the Academy Awards. I talk about it. There were so many cameras. So many — it was packed. The atrium of Trump Tower, which is a very big place, was packed. It literally looked like the Academy Awards. And . . .  .

Woodward then interjects, for the first of about 456 times, in an effort to keep Trump on course and to get an answer to his question.

“But we want to go before that moment,” he said, as Costa helpfully suggests, “Maybe late 2014 or before you started hiring people?

There ensued a long, painful, absurd, hilarious and, in retrospect, horrifying, colloquy in which the steadfast Postmen used all their tools and techniques as interviewers to force an answer from a guy who clearly had never spent a single minute thinking about the question.

woodward-bob-largeHerewith a lengthy excerpt that provides a taste of the total idiocy the world’s greatest nation now faces in its president.

DT: Well, but that was — okay, but I will tell you, until the very end. . . . You know, I have a good life. I built a great company. It’s been amazingly — I’m sure you looked at the numbers. I have very little debt, tremendous assets. And great cash flows. I have a wonderful family. Ivanka just had a baby. Doing this is not the easiest thing in the world to do. People have — many of my friends, very successful people, have said, “Why would you do this?”

BW: So is there a linchpin moment, Mr. Trump, where it went from maybe to yes, I’m going to do this? And when was that?

DT: Yeah. I would really say it was at the beginning of last year, like in January of last year. And there were a couple of times. One was, I was doing a lot of deals. I was looking at very seriously one time, not — they say, oh, he looked at it for many — I really, no. I made a speech at the end of the ’80s in New Hampshire, but it was really a speech that was, it was not a political speech. But because it happened to be in New Hampshire . . .  .

BW: And that guy was trying to draft you.

DT: And he was a very nice guy. But he asked me. And he was so intent, and I made a speech. It was not a political speech, anyway, and I forgot about it.

BW: And that was the real possibility? Or the first . . .  .

DT: Well no, the real possibility was the Romney time, or the Romney term. This last one four years ago. I looked at that, really. I never looked at it seriously then. I was building my business, I was doing well. And I went up to New Hampshire, made a speech. And because it was in New Hampshire, it was sort of like, Trump is going to run. And since then people have said, Trump is going to run. I never was interested. I could almost say at all, gave it very little thought, other than the last time, where Romney was running. And I thought that Romney was a weak candidate. I thought that — I thought Obama was very beatable. Very, very beatable. You know, you had a president who was not doing well, to put it nicely. And I looked at that very seriously. I had some difficulty because I was doing some big jobs that were finishing up, which I wanted to do. My children were younger. And four years makes a big difference. And I also had a signed contract to do “The Apprentice” with NBC. Which in all fairness, you know, sounds like — when you’re talking about “president” it doesn’t sound much, but when you have a two-hour show, prime time, every once a week on a major network . . .  .

BW: So when did it go to yes?

DT:  So — okay.

BW: Because that’s — having made, you know, we all make minor decisions in our lives.

DT: Okay.

BW: This is the big one.

DT:  Big decision. Yeah, this is a big decision. And I say, sometimes I’ll say it in the speeches. It takes guts to run for president, especially if you’re not a politician, you’ve never . . .  .

BW: When did it become yes?

trumpchuckyDT: What happened is, during that time that I was just talking about, I started saying I’d like to do it, but I wasn’t really in a position to do it. I was doing a lot of things, and I had a signed contract with NBC. But I started thinking about it. And the press started putting me in polls, and I was winning in the polls. In fact, the day before, I was on “Meet the Press” the day before I announced I wasn’t going to do it, and I got signed for another two years of “The Apprentice” and everything else. Which, by the way, I don’t know if you saw, but “The Apprentice” is a big thing. I made two hundred . . .  .

BW: You made a lot of money.

DT: Yeah. You were shocked. Remember this crazy man, Lawrence O’Donnell — he’s a total crazy nut — he said, Donald Trump only made a million dollars with “The Apprentice.” I said, “A million dollars?” You know, when you have a show that’s essentially number one almost every time it goes on, you can name it. . . . So anyway, when they added it all up — and these are certified numbers, because you have to do certified numbers — it came out to $213 million. Okay? That’s what I made on “The Apprentice.” That’s just — and that’s one of my small things. That’s what I made. You know? So it was put at $213 million, and it was certified. And your friend Joe in the morning said, “There’s no way he only made. . . .” They had a big fight, and O’Donnell, Lawrence O’Donnell started crying. I never saw anything like it. Do you remember? He started crying. [Laughter] He actually started crying. But that shows the level of hatred that people have. But what happened is, I made — I had a very, very successful show. And they put me in polls, and I was essentially leading right at the top, without doing any work. Not one speech, not one anything. But any time I was in a poll, I did very well in the poll. Anyway, I decided not to do it. NBC called and Mark Burnett would call, and I did see if I could get out. I had another year on the contract. Because you’re not allowed, because of the equal time, you’re not allowed to have a show . . .  .

RC: What happened between 2011 and 2014?

DT: Well, that’s what — I mean. . . . Between 2011 and 2014? I would say, just thought process. Only thought process.

Thought process, indeed.

trumphandsBottom line. There’s more, sadly, much, much more, but you get the idea.

The point here, other than showing that a few news organizations actually did make a serious effort, despite the blanket trashing of “the media,” is simply to illustrate just how deeply Trump now is in over his head.

In those secret, secret, oh so secret moments before beddy-bye, when Little Donny gazes into the mirror to throw a net over that hirsute wedding cake concoction on top of his melon head, then looks down at his tiny, tiny hands, even he must begin to realize that you must always be careful what you wish for.