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GOP Mashup: Gaga & Michele Meet Pat Boone & Ron

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Five important things Calbuzz learned at the California Republican Convention:

Lady Gaga and Ann Coulter were separated at birth. The Northwest Ordinance is one of the nation’s founding documents. Michele Bachmann believes chains are the key to freedom. Pat Boone knows for a fact Barack Obama was born in Africa. Ron Paul thinks life was better before World War I.

Those are a few highlights from the CRP’s weekend convention in Los Angeles, where a dozen TV cameras focused on public events featuring the stylings of the GOP’s No. 3 and 4 presidential wannabes and their Tea Party faithful.

At the same time, however, there were more serious and rational conversations, many behind-the-scenes, about issues like the electability of a Republican president, how the state party might begin to reverse its recent movement towards irrelevance and its troubled relationship with Latinos.

“The word ‘Republican,’ unfortunately,” observed one participant in a crowded discussion about the latter topic, “is repugnant to Latinos.”

Political junkie alert: First the more substantive stuff (those wanting to cut straight to the entertainment may skip this and the following two subheads).

New party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro predicted, in a lengthy press conference that opened the weekend, that the GOP is poised to make gains in California in 2012, given the recession-wracked economy, Gov. Jerry Brown’s leadership failures and President Obama’s flagging popularity.

So Del Beccaro said the GOP is energetically reaching out to women, Asians and especially Latinos. “We have to directly communicate with voters,” he said, adding that the GOP is currently defined by Democrats and the media.

But when we asked how the state GOP can attract Latino voters while it steadfastly opposes any sort of path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already here, Mr. Chairman dodged the question, saying the party must concentrate on a message of jobs, education and public safety.

'Failure to communicate'

All well and good. Del Beccaro is a nice guy, sincere and earnest, and give him credit for understanding the problem he has to address. But will Latinos hear the economic message if Republicans remain tone deaf on immigration?

A stacked “town hall” meeting about Republicans and Latinos, which Del Beccaro engineered with Univision on Saturday, underscored the problem.

Like Strother Martin as the Captain, and Paul Newman’s title character in Cool Hand Luke, who says ironically, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate,” GOP panelists unanimously said the party simply needs to get better at the way it shapes its message, rather than changing what it is communicating. But if the underlying message remains “No citizenship for you” it’s unlikely Latinos will ever hear what else the GOP might have to say.

Presidential pragmatists: Other practical-minded delegates meanwhile were more focused on processing the pros and cons of Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, the actual GOP presidential contenders, neither one of whom bothered to show up. While Bachmann and Paul drew lots of coverage, their lack of electability made them more a sideshow for realpolitik apparatchiks.

“If you’re not elected, you can’t change things,” said Ron Edwards, of Stanislaus County, chairman of the Republican caucus of the California Teachers Association.

“The rest is just people just yelling,” he added, pointing to a noisy Ron Paul demonstration echoing inside the atrium lobby of the downtown J.W. Marriott Hotel (plenty of expensive parking, although the Emmys awards show setting up across the street took most of it).

Summing up the assets and liabilities of the two leaders, Edwards said he’s leaning towards Perry because of his policies on job creation in Texas, but also worries about Perry’s volatile statements on Social Security. He sees Romney as much more polished, but worries that as a Mormon, he can’t carry the base of evangelical Christians, especially in the South.

“The religion issue, for whatever reason, hasn’t been put to bed by Mitt,” he said, reflecting the fact that some evangelicals do not consider Mormons to be Christians and some even see the LDS Church as a cult.

Like other Republicans at the convention, Edwards is unsure whether the GOP – which normally wraps up its nomination fight early, avoiding nasty, protracted struggles — will close ranks behind one candidate before June, when California’s 172 delegates will be at stake.

It’s hard to envision either Perry or Romney – both of who will have plenty of money – dropping out unless one or the other pulls off a blow-out. And with Florida (with its huge retired population) a major player in the still-unsettled calendar, and in the wake of Perry’s attacks on Social Security, the notion of an early finish is far from certain.

Challenge for Difi? Some Republicans also discussed whether Senator Dianne Feinstein might suddenly be vulnerable – if the GOP can produce a credible challenger. The latest Field Poll found only 41% of voters support re-electing Feinstein while 44% are opposed. And her job approval is only 41-39% positive.

Among top-rank Republicans who could conceivably mount a serious challenge, Calbuzz favorite daughter Meg Whitman, the former eBay CEO and failed candidate for governor, told us a while back there is no way in the world she would enter that race. Boo hoo.

Carly Fiorina, who came up way short last year against the diminutive Senator Barbara Boxer, has become vice chair of the GOP’s Senate campaign committee, but we’re pretty certain Dianne would clean Carly’s clock.

That leaves longshot scenarios, long one being spun about former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, or perennial window-shoppers like Representative David Dreier of the San Gabriel Valley, a potential contenders that senior GOP professionals might lean on.

“We’ve been trying to get Dreier to run for a while,” one top Republican consultant told Calbuzz.

Other names bandied about over the weekend included Michael Reagan, RR son and former radio host; whackjob birther Orly Taitz (Difi’s dream opponent); over-the-hill crooner Pat Boone (more below) and former Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner (our Commish camp sources say he won’t get in the race).

Mondo bizarro: As for the weirder side of the convention, Tea Party diva  Bachmann was the star of the show on Friday night — 10 TV cameras! —  combining her routine right-wing shtick with some truly original political thinking.

Calbuzz was instantly offended by the video used to introduce Bachmann, a low-rent piece of propaganda called “Fire From the Heartland: the Awakening of the Conservative Woman,” which cast Lady Gaga as the symbol of America’s cultural corruption, playing her off against Ann Coulter as the embodiment of strong moral values. Ann (How do I offend you? Let me count the ways) Coulter? Seriously? Talk about your bad romance.

Bachmann’s 40-plus minute stemwinder was replete with tried and true paeans to the Founding Fathers, as she went all dewy-eyed over Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence (“God answered his prayers for our nation”). She caught us up short, though, by declaiming on the collective wonders of the  Constitution, the Bill of Rights “and the Northwest Ordinance.”


As every school child knows, the Northwest Ordinance was passed by the Continental Congress in 1787 and paved the way for the westward expansion of the union. Known more formally as (all rise) “An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio,” it lay claim to new territories and provided that they could become new states, instead of simply adding to the size of the original 13.

As a practical matter, kind of a big deal, to be sure. But equal in importance to the founding documents? We don’t buy it, and think that Bachmann’s home girl Minnesota bias has clouded whatever shred of judgment she has left in that huge lacquered melon sitting on top of her neck.

Chain, chain, chain: At one point, Bachmann also ripped President Obama for purportedly conceding control of space to China.

This surprising allegation involves the Chinese “blinding a critical component of our overhead architecture,” she assured the gathered Republicans; despite a typically wide-ranging Calbuzz investigation that yielded some interesting background about the government’s long-range space planning, we finally decided that puzzling out whatever the hell it was she was talking about was way beyond our pay grade.

A few moments later, she called on Republicans to cast a “wide net” to attract independents and disaffected Democrats; this net, she added, would then become a “glorious umbrella” that would allow the country to “forge a chain” and “birth a new beginning.” Warning: do not try this at home.

“Forging” was a key part of her big rhetorical flourish of the evening, an elaborate and extended, if utterly contrapuntal, metaphor about “chains” as the defining symbol of, uh, freedom.

As in: The Founders “faithfully forged a chain of liberty” that has grown longer (and presumably heavier) through the following generations so that today, “People all across America can’t wait to fashion that chain.”

This just in: long lines form early outside Home Depot amid reports of widespread chain hoarding.

Maybe it’s just us, but the whole chain thing seemed slightly offensive, especially when she railed about the need to “take our country back,” presumably from the current occupant of the White House who’s apparently claimed it on behalf of Kenya, in order to claim it for those chain-totin’ Tea Party overseers.

Friendly persuasion: Speaking of Kenya, we were delighted to have the chance post-Bachmann to interview Pat Boone, the 77-year old erstwhile pop crooner who, back in the day, was our parents’ goodie-goodie answer to Elvis, and who’s since become a white bread Christian Republican icon. (Hard to believe some of us made out to his tunes).

Along with Old Chroniclers Carla Marinucci and Joe Garofoli, we had an  intriguing colloquy with Boone (they’ve got major video of it on their site)

The bullet points: a) he’s personally traveled to Kenya where he found sufficient evidence to convince him Obama was born there (i.e. a bunch of people, including Obama’s grandma, told him so); b) all the documentation proving that Obama was born in Hawaii proves no such thing (the president is “spending millions” on lawyers to keep the truth from coming out); c) the president’s claims to be a Christian are very shaky (he grew up “reading the Koran in Arabic” and does not celebrate Christian holidays in the White House). Except when he does.

Boone, who substituted his trademark white bucks for a pair of white patent leather ankle boots, also said that while he’s opposed to gay marriage, he’s “not a homophobe,” because he knows and has cared for lots of people with AIDS, including his late friend Rock Hudson.

Further fashion note: along with the white boots, Pat wore a 5-button khaki suit, pink shirt, American flag tie and a US/Israel pin. This could become known as the Full Boone.

Is that a doubloon in your pocket or are you just glad to see me? Although worn out by our exertions of trying to make sense of Bachmann’s big night, Calbuzz was up early the next morning to catch Ron Paul’s speech about monetary policy, silver and the gold standard.

“Endless wars overseas and endless welfare at home — we can’t afford that anymore. We have to change those policies,” said. Uncle Crankypants. “I’m running on peace and prosperity and personal liberty, the U.S. Constitution and American tradition.”


His bottom line: Forget the eradication of diphtheria, polio and smallpox, “things have not improved since 1913,” the year the Federal Reserve was created.

In an exclusive huff-and-puff hallway ambush interview with the candidate, as he was rushed away, Calbuzz learned that Paul thinks the state of California does have the right to prevent children from being enrolled in public school if they’re not immunized for polio and whooping cough — “but there should be no federal mandates.”

And late Saturday the excited word spread that Paul had swept to victory in the CAGOP’s Mickey Mouse Straw Poll in which a total of 833 votes were cast. Indeed, the Congressman from the Great State of Texas captured (drum roll please) 374 votes — or .0107% (that’s point zero one zero seven percent)  of the Republican vote in California. .0070468% of the 5,307,411 registered Republicans in California.


Hey, it’s a start.

GOP Convention Preview: Dem Cash Scandal Notes

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Rejecting the sage advice Calbuzz offered them, GOP presidential candidates Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have basically told the hundreds of dedicated activists of the California Republican Party, who will convene in Los Angeles today through the weekend, “You are irrelevant, meaningless and worthless.”

Romney, who has a seaside mansion just down the road in La Jolla and who will be doing three fat dollar fundraisers in California on Friday, and Perry, who just did a series of Golden State cash grabbers, have opted to skip the state GOP convention, leaving the field to Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul (oy).

They appear to have concluded that the Republican nominee will have been chosen by next June, when California holds its presidential primary, and therefore there’s no need to recruit and fire up grass roots conservatives. That’s the only way to interpret their decision because if the state’s 172 GOP delegates are still in play next June, neither campaign is likely to have enough money to seriously advertise on TV in California’s hugely expensive media markets.

According to the latest Field Poll, Romney leads Perry 28-20% among Republican voters statewide, but among the activist crowd, Tea Party identifiers and born-again Christians, Perry leads Romney 33-23% and 28-19%. By not showing up, both candidates are sticking fingers in the eyes of those potential volunteers.

We can understand why Romney might be a little gun shy since he’s getting California advice and counsel from former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. She got skewered at a couple of California GOP conventions during her 2010 campaign for governor. “Mitt, don’t even think about getting mixed up with those loons,” Whitman told Romney, according to sources close to our imagination.

But Perry is missing a bet. He’s just the kind of gun-loving, God-fearing, abortion-banning, tax-hating, tough-talking candidate California Republican Party conventioneers adore. Instead of lining up support, he’s flipping them the bird.

Of course, part of the reason the big boys may want to stay away is news that a group of GOP moderates – incorporating some of the advice Calbuzz has freely proffered – are seeking to tone down some of the explicit arch-conservative language in the California GOP platform, in hopes of appealing to a broader swath of voters.

According to a handy spreadsheet put together by our knuckle-dragging friend Jon Fleischman – who vehemently opposes the proposal – the new platform would remove a specific call for withholding government benefits to illegals, remove specific support for two-thirds votes on tax measures, wipe out platform language relating to allowing concealed weapons and ending waiting periods for gun purchases, remove mention of support for “English only” laws, take out support for three-strikes laws, wipe out specific anti-abortion language and much, much more.

As the AP’s Michael Blood describes the proposal:

“A proposed rewrite of the California Republican Party platform retreats from opposition to same-sex adoption, domestic partner benefits and child custody, avoids any mention of overturning Roe v. Wade and drops a demand to end virtually all federal and state benefits for illegal immigrants.”

Calbuzz, of course, is agnostic about the Republican Party platform which nobody but a handful of political proctologists pay much attention to. Except that it’s always useful to ask candidates for high office if they agree with the GOP plank that asserts that life  begins at conception and ends at natural death, opposes all abortions and calls for overturning Roe v. Wade.

Why is this worth asking? Because no candidate at the top of the ticket – for president, U.S.  Senate or governor – who is not pro-choice has won in California since 1988.

Looks like the platform debate won’t really be decided until next year, but it will be gearing up this weekend. And the entire Calbuzz National Affairs and Emmy Watching Bureau will be there to tell you what happened.

Kunta Kinte meets Durward Kirby: Nice work by Old Chronicler Carolyn Lochhead hosing down Politico’s breathless story about Senator Difi having her $5 million re-election campaign fund “wiped out” by the widening scandal involving Democratic accountant Durward Kirby  Kunta Kinte Kinde Durkee.

As the Senior Senator from California was coming off the Senate floor the other day, Politico ambushed her with a question about the mess. Herself, apparently afflicted by one of her occasional episodes of logorrheic shoot-from-the-hip disease (see: Ejaculations, premature) blurted out, “I was wiped out too.” To her credit, she instantly added the rather important phrase, “we don’t know how much.”

To their discredit, Politico has little use for nuance and subtlety, and so rushed out – Win the morning! – with a misleading hed (“Feinstein: ‘Wiped Out’ by Scandal”) that probably generated a few extra page views but did absolutely nothing to clarify this complicated and murky story.

So Lochhead got stuck with cleaning up Politico’s mess, with a clear explainer beneath a headline that was unquestionably more boring (“Dianne Feinstein campaign: no idea how much money is missing”) but also, you know, accurate:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s $5.2 million re-election war chest may or may not be “wiped out” by trusted, and now arrested, treasurer Kinde Durkee, as the senior California Democrat has implied.

Politico skinned back the next day, employing the cheap old MSM trick of sneaking a correction (or “clarification” as they doubtless would have it) in the 1,2,3,4,5 – sixth paragraph of a snooze analysis that was considerably less electrifying than their original yarn:

Democratic Reps. Loretta Sanchez and Susan Davis and the Los Angeles County Democratic Party have already announced that they’ve lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to Durkee’s allegedly long-running illegal activities.  Sen. Dianne Feinstein is afraid that her $5 million-plus campaign fund may have been “wiped out,” although her aides say they’re not sure how much may be missing (emphasis ours).

(Slight digression: Debra Saunders points out in a brief but lucid blog post – <Confidential Carrot Top memo: maybe write short all the time?> – that Costco Carla Marinucci has been sniffing around suspicious Durkee activities since at least 2007, when she linked the firm to a shady operation called Californians for Obama.  She later followed up with a story noting that Durkee’s company had made at least $10K from the outfit. With our impeccable news judgment, Calbuzz doubtless would have trumpeted both of those stories, sparing everyone all the current angst, but unfortunately we weren’t in business yet).

The bottom line: Durkee apparently operated about 400 separate accounts, both political and corporate, using an unknown number of Bernie Madoff-style transactions to allegedly move money all over, through and in between them.

The accounts are now frozen, and it’s going to take a battalion of forensic accountants to untangle the mess, and determine what was stolen, what was shuffled around, how much is left and where it all resides.

As far we can tell, the only pol whose losses so far have been confirmed  is Assemblyman Jose Solorio, who’s named in the criminal complaint against Durkee. It’s unclear how long the untangling will take, however, so it seems prudent, to say the least, for any candidate or committee with a Durkee account to start refreshing the campaign treasury pronto.

Whether they’re “wiped out” or not.



Press Clips: GOP Debate’s Media Winners & Losers

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

This just in: The results are final, and it’s clear that the landslide winner of the Republican presidential debate was…Ron Paul.

That at least is the shocking conclusion to be drawn from the “Who Do You Think Won the Debate” feature on “First Read,” MSNBC’s political blog.

Following the Wednesday night event at the Reagan Library, the site reports that 85,205 of 161,499 respondents to its online insta-poll – 52.8% – declared Uncle Cranky Pants the victor, the most controversial piece of public opinion research since the last Vote for Your Favorite Lady Gaga Look survey.

You can’t blame FR for trying, given the competition for eyeball-driven, warp speed wipe-out wave of instant analysis, You Tube mashups, Top 10 takeaways,  Twitter snark bites and W&L lists caroming around the internets about a cable network debate a mere 14 months before the election.

Show business for ugly people: The only sight more cringeworthy for viewers of the debate than Jon Huntsman’s shiny spray tan was the awful showing by John Harris, the editor-in-chief of Politico, which co-sponsored the event.

On a night when the political junkie site had a chance to shine on a national stage, its co-founder put on an awkward and clumsy performance better suited to 2 a.m. local cable access than to prime time.

Introduced by Brian Williams, Harris high-beamed a wide-eyed, unblinking visage of terror directly into the camera, his gaze apparently locked in place by multiple injections of ibogaine.

When a technical malfunction screwed up the plan to use an old video clip of Mitt Romney to pose a question, Harris looked dazed in yanking out his IFB and flopping around behind the moderator’s desk like a catfish in a boat bottom.

After leaving the set during a commercial break, perhaps to wolf down a Xanax, he came back as the broadcast was resuming, and walked directly between the camera and Nancy Reagan, in the middle of Williams’ slobbering tribute to the former First Lady.

When Newt Gingrich bitch-slapped him for asking a question he didn’t like, Harris seemed to an untrained eye to be wetting his pants, as he inanely mumbled “okay, okay” in response.

Jim VandeHei, Harris’ business partner and Politico’s executive editor, nearly redeemed the site with a post-game appearance in which he made several swift and sharp observations, calling attention, for example, to the vast improvement Romney has made as a candidate since 2008; unfortunately he was quickly drowned out by the insufferable braying of Chris Matthews, who is hardwired to instantly and automatically interrupt anytime one of his guests  starts saying something interesting or intelligent.

The nadir of Politico’s dismal effort came the next morning, with its own coverage of the debate. In recounting Michele Bachmann’s performance, ex-tabloid reporter Maggie Haberman, who covers California politics from a perch in Manhattan, wrote the single stupidest line among all the zillions of words spent on the event:

(Bachmann) held her ground on issues like reducing the price of gas to $2 per gallon if she’s president, and called for a full border fence.

There you have it: an unalloyed nugget of 100% pure Beltway idiocy confirming yet again why the American public is right to hate the media.

Never mind that Bachmann’s promise of $2 per gallon gas is ineluctable proof of the woman’s full-blown, cuckoo-land psychosis, a recurring delusion that should prohibit any serious discussion of her fitness to be president.

No indeed. Reality be damned, the key issue for Politico and its legions of cynical “insider” brethren is that she held her ground on her nutty claim.

Lefties for Mitt: Perhaps it couldn’t be helped, given that MSNBC, the Marxist-Socialist-Nanny-state-Bolshevik-Communist network, was co-sponsoring the debate, but we did wonder whether an in-studio panel consisting of Al Sharpton, Lawrence O’Donnell, Gene Robinson, Ed Schultz, and Rachel Maddow was the best group to analyze, you know, a Republican debate.

Schultz and O’Donnell were about as useful as farts in an elevator, but Maddow did a nice job of airline control anchoring, low-keying her own opinions as she smoothly kept the flow among and between a battalion of panelists, guest commentators and spin room appearances, in contrast to the foghorn rantings of Matthews, who was exiled for the night to Simi Valley, no doubt on the theory he could do less harm there.

Sharpton’s tirade against the candidates’ embrace of “states rights” was most entertaining, as he got up in Herman Cain’s grill by noting that 60% of the MSNBC panel – Maddow, Robinson and himself – would be ineligible to even vote for president if states righters had their way back in the day. (Also, we now know that Galileo is pronounced “Gal-ay-o” in eubonics.)

And our old friend Gene was suitably outraged at Cain’s repeated canard that the Chilean pension system, Mr. Pizza King’s hobby horse for the evening, is not privatized; “With all due respect, Mr. Cain, I covered South America,” he said, coolly managing to keep his head from exploding.

But let’s face it, being Al Sharpton’s favorite Republican can’t really be all that comforting to His Mittness.

Right from the start: Unfailingly Fair and Balanced, Calbuzz spent a few hours noodling around the best of the right-wing blogs and sites, and strongly  recommend checking out Michelle Malkin’s “Why the Reagan Library GOP Debate Sucked,” which tells you all you need to know about how red state true believers saw the debate  (best line: holding a GOP debate on MSNBC was like having the “Yankees network interrogating the Red Sox”).

For our money, Guy Benson at TownHall not only had the best winners and losers list from the starboard perspective, but also the best-edited compilation of the Perry vs. Romney set-to on Social Security.

For self-interest purposes, we also appreciated Red State’s urging that Santorum, Cain and Bachmann drop out of the race ASAP. The Gnomes of Flashreport did yeoperson’s work compiling the most encyclopedic collection of coverage links; while we enjoy wandering around a garage sale as much as the next guy, however, our personal round-up preference was Jack Kavanagh’s  professionally edited selection.

Speaking of practical and useful reader-friendly journalism, at a time when every MSM organization on air has pretensions of fact-checking political candidates, the Washpost’s Glenn Kessler is still the go-to guy for this stuff. His debate offering is here.

ICYMI: Here it is, Ron Paul’s double-barreled paean to 10 cents-per-gallon gas and a precious metal monetary standard, the debate highlight that singularly demonstrates why he’s the hands-down favorite of Republicans who still live with their moms.



Press Clips: Are Obama, SF Giants Both Doomed?

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

As the SF Giants sink slowly in the West, the only team with worse-looking numbers is the re-election campaign of Barack Obama.

The G-men’s utter collapse in recent weeks (averaging only 3.3 runs a game for the season, they scored a grand total of 78 times in August – 78!) is mirrored by Obama’s polling plummet (with an aggregated 53-43  unfavorable/favorable job rating in the Real Clear Politics index, he now trails a hypothetical match-up against Rick Perry, 41-to-44).

And with the Blogosphere Boo Birds already writing off the Giants’ post-season hopes (“Stick a fork in ‘em”)  the Beltway’s conventional wisdom brokers agree there’s little hope of a a re-elect (“the most likely outcome next November is the defeat of President Obama in his campaign for reelection.  In fact, historical trends point towards a blowout”).

And yet . . .

Bandwagons and Bloomberg biographies: Just as Giants’ diehards (we name no names) express contempt for fair weather fans leaping off the bandwagon (“the pennant race doesn’t start until September”) so the dwindling ranks of Obama partisans insist there’s both plenty of time to pull out a victory on November 6, 2012 and a strong campaign case to be made.

Leading the uphill charge for this argument is Jonathan Alter, chief MSM apologist for the Administration. Alter, the author of a friendly Obama biography who’s now flinging words for wages at Bloomberg, ignited a Beltway flapdoodle with a recent post deconstructing the lines of attack against the president and responding that his guy did as well as anyone could have.

Like everyone else, I’ve got my list of Obama mistakes, from failing to break up the banks in early 2009 to neglecting to force a vote on ending the Bush tax cuts when the Democrats still controlled Congress. He shouldn’t have raised hopes with “Recovery Summer” and “Winning the Future” until the economy was more durable. I could go on.

But do these miscalculations really mean it’s time for him to go?

What, specifically, has he done wrong on policy? What, specifically, would you have done differently to create jobs? And what can any of the current Republican candidates offer that would be an improvement on the employment front?

Fuzzy’s piece – “You think Obama’s been a bad president? Prove it” –  set off a land rush business among pundits to do exactly that, a compendium of which provide a kind of  unified theory of what’s wrong with Obama.

Writing in Commentary, conservative opiner Peter Wehner proffered a damning “empirical, reality-based look at economic life” in the Age of Obama, previewing the Republican campaign:

In one sense, the answer to the Alter challenge is obvious: Obama has failed by his own standards. It’s the Obama administration, not the RNC, which said if his stimulus package was passed unemployment would not exceed 8 percent. It’s Obama who joked there weren’t as many “shovel-ready” jobs as he thought.

It’s Obama who promised to cut the deficit in half. It’s Obama who said if we passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health care cost curve would go down rather than up. It’s Obama who promised us recovery and prosperity, hope and change. What we’ve gotten instead is the opposite.

Gluttons for either punishment or piling on, or those who are simply garden variety stat fetishists, are further advised to check out Louis Woodhill at Forbes.com, who’s talking GDP, CPI and BLS:

Executives are judged by results.  In terms of the economic results produced during the first 2.5 years of his first term, Obama is the worst president of the past 60 years.  Given that Alter himself would likely agree that there have been some bad presidents during the past 60 years, this makes Obama a bad president.

Our friend Mickey Kaus, the closest thing to a Blue Dog Democrat allowed to live in California, answers Alter with a superb Top 10 list which combines political, policy and process blunders that he says all but guarantee Obama will be a single-termer:

Excessively well-sourced Obama boosters are now channeling, not just White House spin but White House self-pity. Both Ezra Klein and Jonathan Alter wonder aloud why our intelligent, conscientious, well-meaning, data-driven President is taking a “pummeling.”   ”What could Obama have done?” (Klein) “What, specifically, has he done wrong .. .?” (Alter)

They’re kidding, right? There are plenty of things Obama could have done differently.

Would doing these 10 things have revived the economy? Who knows. Probably not. FDR didn’t really revive the economy either until World War II began, as Alter knows. But Obama would have shown leadership and creativity. He wouldn’t be both unsuccessful and disdained.

Crafty portsiders: Michael Tomasky, the Daily Beast’s liberal analyst, whose consistently good stuff has added him to our daily must-read list, reports some interesting polling information, illustrating how badly Obama’s appeasement of Republicans on the debt deal bombed with independents, to make a broader point about the ineptness of White House political strategists:

The fundamental problem appears to be the excessive fixation on Obama’s (forgive me for even using this word) “brand”—this “adult in the room” nonsense. Whenever I see those words in print anymore, usually in a background quote from a White House aide or a Democratic source trying gamely to be on-message, I hear strong and unsettling echoes of the 2008-vintage messianism. Does anyone buy this anymore, outside of what appears to be an increasingly bubble-ized White House? Those beloved independents certainly aren’t thinking of the president that way these days, and one doubts that even most of his supporters are.

It’s tough to dispute that, especially in light of how Obama’s erstwhile lefty boosters are disgusted, whether it’s unions  (“labor groups are planning to scale back their involvement with the Democratic Party in advance of the 2012 elections”), netroots progressives ( “It’s hard to see how we avoid a Tea-Party recession if the president who has the biggest megaphone in the country is not willing to speak clearly on the issue”), Democratic party careerists  (“the even-keeled president has got to be ‘a lot less keep-it-cool Calvin Coolidge and a lot more give-’em-hell Harry Truman’”) or sympathetic columnists  (“Obama hates to bring up the nasty fact that we have political parties, but very soon, he will have to point out that it is Republicans in Congress who are blocking his agenda”).

Even more ominously, the historian Michael Kazin, writing in the New Republic, tries to comfort Obama with assurance that he’s merely caught in a powerful, historic  wave which discredits or destroys all American presidents:

In Washington, on both left and right, a new piece of conventional wisdom is hardening into place: Barack Obama’s presidency is slowly collapsing under the burdens of a bad economy, a rudderless foreign policy, and confusion about how the man who once twinkled with charisma wants to change the country. Even if the president manages to get re-elected, his chance to “win the future,” pundits agree, is probably over. Such a descent is neither a remarkable nor an exceptional development in American politics, which might provide a bit of ironic comfort to Obama as he pedals around Martha’s Vineyard. In fact, the history of the modern presidency is replete with disappointment and failure.

As for our own view, we can’t get over how poorly Obama has been served by his own communications operation. Inherited debt, health care passed, stock market recovering, Bin Laden dead, Gadhafi deposed, Egypt and Tunisia liberated and yet Obama is always on the defensive and fighting on GOP turf.

Nothing gets framed to his advantage, Republicans outmaneuver him on every argument, surrogates seem unable to advocate on his behalf. What an amateur operation — especially compared to the 2008 campaign.

It ain’t over ’til it’s over: Despite the weight of negative fact and opinion (and we hold this fundamental truth of politics to be self-evident: the  conventional wisdom is always wrong), the esteemed political scientist and presidential campaign weatherman Allan Lichtman, who’s correctly forecast the outcome of every race since he invented his 13 “Keys to the White House,” predicts a no-sweat win for Obama.

Allan Lichtman, the American University professor whose election formula has correctly called every president since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 re-election, has a belated birthday present for Barack Obama: Rest easy, your re-election is in the bag.

“Even if I am being conservative, I don’t see how Obama can lose,” says Lichtman, the brains behind The Keys to the White House.

And while we’re at it, once the Giants open a can of wuppass on the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks, starting tonight, they’ll be right back in this thing. Take it to the bank.

P.S. On July 25, the day Obama met with the Giants in the White House, the team was in first place, four games ahead of the D-backs, with a record of 59-43, for a winning percentage of .578. As of this morning, they’re six games behind Arizona at 72-65, a winning percentage of .525. You could look it up.




The Sad Spectacle of Pete Wilson Taking a Dive

Friday, August 26th, 2011

What a sorry disappointment, seeing Pete Wilson behaving like a low-rent political hack at an age when he ought to be a senior statesman.

The former governor, who turned 78 this week, has foolishly let himself be drawn into the desperate rear guard effort by state GOP apparatchiks to undo the state Senate districts drawn by the independent redistricting commission.

In doing so, this former advocate for a redistricting process free of partisan influence has become one of the Crybaby Republicans who don’t like the results and now demand a do-over for strictly partisan purposes.

Thanks to Patrick McGreevy’s scooplet of the week, the world now knows that Wilson signed a five-page fundraising pitch to “several thousand potential donors,” pleading for cash to help finance a dead-ender referendum aimed at repealing the commission’s new Senate plan and throwing it into the courts.

“The state Senate lines drawn by the California Redistricting Commission virtually guarantee a Democrat Super-majority in the California State Senate in 2012,” the mailer added. “A successful drive to put a referendum on the June 2012 ballot is the best way to prevent this from happening.”

Say it ain’t so, Pete.

The invention of indoor plumbing:  Wilson can be a prickly guy, but even if we didn’t get all warm and fuzzy when he walked into a room, we had respect for him when we covered him, back before electricity and indoor plumbing were invented.

With the very notable exception of his anything-to-win sponsorship of Prop. 187 (which, unfortunately for him, will be the main thing he’s remembered for), Wilson was an old-school governor who understood the importance of compromise. A classic California moderate Republican, he put ideas ahead of ideology, flipping off the right-wing witch burners with his support for abortion rights, cutting a ballsy deal with Willie Brown on cuts and taxes when he came into office and found state finances circling the drain, exercising leadership on environmental issues, well before it was fashionable.

So it wasn’t a big surprise when he stood next to then-Governor Schchwarzmuscle four years ago, cheek-by-jowl with Gray Davis, in a tableau of goo-goo bipartisanship, the three of them earnestly endorsing the need to “give an independent commission the authority to draw district boundaries,”  an event that turned out to be the first shot of the campaign for the redistricting reform measure that would become Proposition 11.

Now that Prop. 11 has become law, however, and that commission has drawn an electoral map without regard to partisan fear or favor, GOP extremists who’ve grown fat and happy perched in safe gerrymandered seats are suddenly in a panic, realizing that their just-say-no ideology is a non-starter in fresh  political terrain that accurately reflects the politics of California.

It’s telling that Charlie Cook, the Washington-based master of nuts and bolts politics, recently cited California’s new redistricting process as a reform that could offer some hope of breaking the nation’s ritual gerrymandering-polarization political cycle.

Most of us are also wondering: How do we get out of this mess?

Notoriously ungovernable California may be the last place that most people inside the Beltway would look for solutions – but, shockingly, it is worth watching this year. At first, many derided the state’s new Citizens Redistricting Commission, set up by ballot amendment in 2008, as an amateur-hour boondoggle. But after the panel of 14 average citizens, which was barred from factoring in political data and was completely unaccountable to politicians, did its work, California is on the verge of passing a map with much more politically heterogeneous districts.

Partisans who control most states have an incentive to make districts even more polarized, but California’s new districts and ‘top-two’ primary system could produce a few more incumbents with an incentive to compromise. So far, equal numbers of Democratic and Republican officeholders hate the way this experiment is going. Sounds promising.

Wilson’s shameful spectacle: Here’s what Wilson told a crowd in Santa Monica in 2009, in one of those public “conversation” things with Joe Mathews:

“There are Republicans who are forever happy to be in the minority. They don’t have to govern. They can be sort of bomb throwers.”

But today, we find Wilson throwing in with those very folks he criticized for not caring about governance.

Public interest aside, by supporting their foot-stomping little temper tantrum, Wilson is doing a disservice to his own party by enabling the extremists to cling to the delusion that they don’t have to change, that if they just keep on repeating the same outdated, discredited, bumper sticker cant, it will finally dawn on those dumb voters that they’ve been right – we’re right! –all along.

For shame, governor.