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Archive for the ‘debate’ Category



The Gov’s Debate Calbuzz Would Like to Live Blog

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

When Tom Brokaw, Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown meet for their three-way in Marin County tonight, we’re betting it will be a pretty tame affair, with NBC’s anchor emeritus setting the tone with genteel inquiries delivered with urbane civility as Meg and Krusty display their best behavior.

Or not.

In any case, while the candidates have been hunkered down boning up for tonight’s big event at Dominican University, political writers have been furiously trying to answer the crucial question of who played the opponent in debate prep for eMeg and Krusty.

Calbuzz hears eMeg was played by Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board,  in at least one debate prep session. We’ve been unable to unearth any more than that. So we decided to cast the sparring partners ourselves, as you can see above.

We’re also offering Calbuzz readers a look at the debate questions you won’t (and probably shouldn’t) hear as you’re deciding whom to support to lead the Great State of California.

With his Olympian air, Brokaw might turn to Brown and ask, for example: “Gov. Brown, what medication do you take for your ADD?” (For Bigfoot Tom this has the advantage of having no “ls” to swallow.)

Or, in his most resonant basso, he might look quizzically at eMeg and ask: “Ms Whitman, after not voting for 28 years, exactly when did you decide you wouldn’t let California fail?”

But really, since it’s not our debate – you may recall, Jerry accepted the invitation we proposed along with FlashReport and Calitics but Meg declined – we’d prefer to see the candidates question one another. To wit:

Meg: Who you calling a whore, bitch?  It was Anne wasn’t it?

Jerry: Hey Meg, how come you never talk about those boys of yours?

Meg: Who does your eyebrows, anyway?

Jerry: Don’t they have any decent hairdressers down there around Atherton?

(For the record, we criticize ourselves severely).

Or on the slightly more serious side, how about this:

Meg: How come you didn’t fire Jacques Barzaghi the first time he sexually harassed a woman on the city staff?

Jerry: Why didn’t you hire Nicky Diaz an immigration lawyer ?

And if they want to get really nasty:

Meg: Mr. Brown,  why don’t you just come out now and admit you’d like to put a measure on the ballot to overturn Proposition 13’s requirement for a 2/3 vote for tax increases?

Jerry: Ms Whitman, what are you going to do when an assemblyman from Firebaugh tells you he’ll vote for your budget as soon as you put a $4 million swimming pool in his district?

Meg: Would you appoint anyone to the bench who doesn’t support the death penalty?

Jerry: Would you appoint anyone to the bench who doesn’t support a woman’s right to choose?

Here’s what we don’t want to hear, yet again: talking points from their respective web sites – positions honed and polished by their advisers and allies – brought to life as a filibuster.

Which is what we’re likely to get if Brokaw doesn’t force Whitman and Brown to explain their reasoning, to get beyond the simple-minded superficialities they’ve resorted to in the campaign to date.

Well actually, Krusty hasn’t even offered too many of those.

What the hell, we’ll live blog it anyway. Sure you can watch it live on your local NBC affiliate, but you’ll be much better off coming back to Calbuzz around 6:15 p.m. Plenty of free parking.

Coming Up Next: Brokaw Takes on eMeg and Krusty

Monday, October 11th, 2010

First there was the Duel in Davis. Then the Fracas in Fresno. And now comes the Brokaw Brawl.

The former NBC News anchor will be the third conspicuous presence in the match-up on Tuesday at Dominican University between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman. The substance, tone and texture of the debate will be entirely decided by Tom Brokaw who, despite having no intimate knowledge about the race for governor, has a facility for asking candidates questions that probe the thinking beneath their talking points.

For Gandalf, that should not be much of a problem: it doesn’t take much to get him to talk about the philosophical underpinnings of his political ideas. His only risk is letting loose a verbal arabesque that references G.K. Chesterton, St. Ignatius and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and leaves listeners asking, “WTF is he talking about?”

But we have no idea how eMeg will handle the challenge because as far as we know she’s never submitted to an interview where her political ontology has been revealed. She’s a smart woman with an accomplished business resume but she didn’t even vote for 28 years before she woke up one day and decided she just couldn’t let California fail.

In the 2008 presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, Brokaw took time between questions from the audience and the interwebs to ask questions like:

— “Quick discussion: Is health care in America a privilege, a right, or a responsibility?”

— “Should we fund a Manhattan-like project that develops a nuclear bomb to deal with global energy and alternative energy or should we fund 100,000 garages across America, the kind of industry and innovation that developed Silicon Valley?”

— “Let’s see if we can establish tonight the Obama doctrine and the McCain doctrine for the use of United States combat forces in situations where there’s a humanitarian crisis, but it does not affect our national security.”

— “This requires only a yes or a no. Ronald Reagan famously said that the Soviet Union was the evil empire. Do you think that Russia under Vladimir Putin is an evil empire?”

Of course, a well-trained seal candidate can revert to talking points, even in the face of a thoughtful question. But at the risk of looking like a shallow evader – especially if the moderator or the opponent points out that he or she never answered the question.

Consider the possibilities. In a moving 2006 commencement address to Stanford’s undergraduates, Brokaw spoke of a world of perpetual contradictions, unintended consequences and unexpected realities, and he described how he admires most people who gave up comfort and convention to make a difference.

He said he could hobnob with elites anywhere in the world but that he never felt so intellectually alive as the time he heard a young nomadic tribesman in Mongolia describe riding his horse 20 miles through freezing temperatures just for the chance to vote.

Will he use the passion he has about commitment and participation to ask Whitman why she never voted for all those years? Or to ask Brown why, if he’s genuinely committed to democracy, doesn’t he advocate a majority vote for passing taxes?

Just because Brokaw is in charge, however, doesn’t mean the candidates won’t have their own debate strategies. Brown, believing he is leading in the polls, has no reason to attack and every reason to project himself as an elder statesman who does not have to wrestle in the dirt. Voters know he’s got what it takes to be governor; they just want to know he’ll keep his hands off their money.

But if Whitman believes she’s behind (as she apparently did going into the Univision debate), she will want to make Brown bleed and pressure him to make an error. She’ll want him on defense (which is not that hard if you attack his record). But as we’ve seen, Brown is a consummate counter-puncher and is not afraid of breaking the conventions of TV format if he has to. So if Whitman comes at him, it’s a move that carries risks, especially when her No. 1 challenge is to demonstrate that she has the skill, knowledge and temperament to be a governor.

In an interview with comrade Joe Garofoli of the Chronicle back in August, Brokaw, who said he won’t be a “patsy,” even though he has been following California politics from Montana. “The big issues obviously are spending and taxes and special interests and the referendum procedure. These are all critical issues for California,” he said. “The large issue for California is, ‘Are the golden years over?’ Or, is there a new era for California? And if there is, how do we get to it and bring everybody on board?”

Let’s hope he doesn’t ask vapid questions like that because he’ll just get the same drivel the candidates spew on the stump.

Tuesday’s debate may serve as a pivot point for the rest of the campaign. We’re not sure when Whitman will make her next move against Brown on TV:  Will it be before the debate or after? Will she put something up that she wants Brokaw to ask about, or will it be something she’d rather not have brought up in the debate?

Most consultants we’ve talked to in the past few days are predicting that Whitman will throw whatever’s left of the kitchen sink at Brown in the next weeks. Some think she’ll just hammer him further about taxes and spending – since the Armies of eMeg believe that’s his weak spot.

Others foresee nastier hits, perhaps something aimed at women tying the “whore” comment to Brown’s handling of his friend and aide Jacques Barzaghi (whom Brown belatedly fired long after he’d been charged with sexual harassment) and to his questioning, in 1995, the value of mammograms (a debate that is still going on in the medical world, btw).

As for the mammogram issue, a story which got fed  to Maggie Haberman of Politico in New York like cheap bait to a fish, we have two notes. First, this from the (All Bow Down) New York Times – an article noting that the usefulness of mammogram screening is still hotly debated in medical circles. And the quote of the week from Brown’s spokeshuman Sterling Clifford (or Clifford Sterling, if you prefer):

“Jerry Brown opposes cancer in all cases.”

How Did the Armies of eMeg Blow the Nicky Story?

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Two news items emerged yesterday to underscore some questions Calbuzz has puzzled over since last week’s revelations that Meg Whitman employed an undocumented housekeeper for nine years, fired her unceremoniously and never lifted a finger to help her resettle or become a legal resident.

1) An Ipsos Public Affairs Poll for Reuters found that nine in 10 people know about the incident and it makes a net 13% of voters less likely to support the billionaire Republican candidate for governor and, 2) The total amount of lost wages and expenses that the housekeeper, Nicky Diaz, is seeking to be paid is $6,210 – less than she pays her campaign manager every two weeks.

Here’s what we don’t get:

Why didn’t Whitman and her husband, Dr. Griffith Harsh IV, do something for Nicky? Why not spend $20,000 or so (or more, if need be) to hire her the best immigration attorney she could find to help her see what could be done to stay in the country or ease her return or whatever?

Why not offer her a year’s severance (about $18,000) or help her with re-settlement costs in Mexico? She was, in eMeg’s words, “a member of our extended family” (or as Meg said in one press conference, Freud never sleeping, “an extended member of our family”).

Okay, so Whitman and Harsh had to fire Diaz once they knew she was here illegally, if you buy their story. But they didn’t have to kick her to the curb. They might have avoided statements like this one from Nicky on Tuesday: “Meg, don’t say I was part of your family because you never treated me like I was.”

They could have tried to help her, which would have the advantage of being the right thing to do, would have made everyone feel better about themselves and – not insignificantly – would have demonstrated a measure of decency and compassion when the whole incident became public. Which leads to our second question:

Why – if as Whitman said last week,  she told her senior campaign advisers about the matter at the time — did she not disclose the whole thing publicly back in June or July of 2009?

Sure, she would have taken some guff from Steve Poizner and/or Tom Campbell, who were then challenging her for the GOP nomination. But everyone – everyone – would have understood how she could have wound up with an undocumented housekeeper.

That’s a common experience for many Californians of means and Whitman could have used herself as an example of how complicated the immigration issue is, and why we need a better system for employers to verify the status of people they hire (and make it believable).

Moreover, according to Political Consulting 101, this is standard operating procedure: control the bad news, put it out yourself, do it early to inoculate against a late hit. It borders on campaign consultant malpractice to have handled it as it was handled (unless, of course, Meg herself decided she would just keep the story a secret – ssshhh).

Whitman says she didn’t want to expose Nicky to the possibility of deportation. But had she actually done something to try to prevent that, or helped her in any way, she could have prevented the worst effects from what consultants always warn their clients: assume that everything that can come out will come out.

Calbuzz has tried to ask some of the consultants who were on Meg’s payroll back then – some for a quaint $25,000 a month – whether they knew about the housekeeper problem and what they advised. But nobody is returning our calls. We can’t figure out why.

Why did Whitman decide to attack Brown from a position of utter  weakness at the Univision debate, where the audience was overwhelmingly Spanish-speaking?

It was loopy enough that Whitman kept trying to get out ahead of Nicky’s attorney, the bombastic Gloria Allred, and kept getting blindsided by Allred’s disclosures. Everything was a smear and a lie and absolutely, 100% false. Until it turned out that it wasn’t. And Meg’s nose grew a little more.

All that aside, to turn to Brown on the stage in Fresno and wag a finger and charge him with sacrificing Nicky on the altar of his political ambition (such a line, you wouldn’t believe!) – what the hell was that?

Whitman knows Brown had nothing to do with Nicky’s hiring or firing and that there’s no evidence to support the charge that he had anything to do with the disclosure of her hiring and firing (if Brown had something he wanted to get out, the unpredictable loose cannon Allred would be right there at the waay bottom of his list of candidates).

But she made the aggressive debate charge as if she had some clear and compelling evidence that Brown had engaged in dirty tricks (spreading vicious truths?) when in fact she had bupkus.

So she very effectively led with her chin and Brown very effectively clocked her. Can’t stand on her own two feet, won’t take responsibility, no accountability, won’t crack down on herself. Brown could riff all day on this right-in-his-wheelhouse stuff.

How big is the impact of all this on Whitman’s campaign? Big. Already we’ve heard quantitative and qualitative reports about the bottom dropping out of Whitman’s support among Latinos. But it appears the effect may be wider.

The Ipsos survey, first reliable public poll to report findings regarding eMeg’s problem, in which Brown leads Whitman 50-43%, found that while about nine in 10 voters have heard about the story (and 9/10 of anything is huge in polling), 72% said it would make no difference in how they will vote.

But here’s the kicker: a net 13% of voters, including 11% of independents, said the incident would make them less likely to vote for Whitman. That’s one in 10 independents who are less likely to vote for Whitman because of this one incident.

The survey, conducted Oct. 2-4, included 448 likely voters, with a margin of error of +/- 4.7 percentage points.

If anything, we think, it understates the impact of the affair, although the Whitman campaign argues otherwise in a polling memo sent out to news media contending:

The race is still “too-close to-call.”  Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman are in a virtual tie among all the voters surveyed, with 43 percent for Brown and 41 percent for Whitman. The race is tied 30%-30% among the sub-set of voters who say they “strongly” support their choice and are unlikely to switch. Among the 85 percent of the sample we consider most likely to vote (based on past voting history, intensity of opinion, and demographic profile), the race is a dead heat at 44%-44%.

Brown continues to lead in the North and Whitman in the South. Whitman’s share of the Hispanic or Latino vote is still significant at 30 percent, compared to Brown’s 45 percent.

Whitman seems to have weathered the Gloria Allred attack, owing in no small measure to Allred’s negative image. Only 24 percent of California voters hold a favorable impression of Allred, while 68 percent have an unfavorable impression of her. By comparison. Brown and Whitman are seen in a better light. Brown’s favorable-unfavorable ratio is 51%-41% and Whitman’s is 44%-44%.

Putting aside the question of why they’re putting out a poll that shows their candidate losing, inquiring minds want to know: Is it remotely possible that 92% of voters have an opinion about Gloria Allred? Really?

We can’t wait for the data showing how she matches up one-on-one with Meg.

Sabado Gigante! Jerry Smacks Meg in Fresno Brawl

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

In the very first seconds of the Univision debate with Jerry Brown in Fresno on Saturday, Meg Whitman clearly defined the political stakes:

“The Latino vote is incredibly important to this election,” she said. “I cannot win the governor’s race without the Latino vote.”

It cannot be known until the November election, of course, whether eMeg’s debate performance succeeded in helping to make her candidacy a serious option for Hispanic voters. The early returns in the Calbuzz Why Wait for the Voters Electoral Count, however, show decisively that she didn’t get the job done.

After three days of stories filled with charges about her callous treatment of an undocumented Mexican native who worked in her home for nine years, Whitman’s challenge in the historic, broadcast-in-Spanish debate was to demonstrate that she can connect with the hopes and aspirations of Latinos.

Whitman gave solid, conservative answers on most of the issues. But, despite her own opening statement about the crucial importance of this voting bloc (which we think she overstates), she said almost nothing to suggest to Latinos that she would be there for them any more than she was for Nicky Diaz, whom she booted to the curb when she learned her housekeeper was an illegal immigrant.

“Why did you not show compassion for this longtime employee?” asked the  moderator, Univision’s Maria Elena Salinas, setting the stage for the money moments of the debate, which will probably be replayed, oh, no more than  12 or 13 million times between now and November 2. [Here’s the clip]

“This is a very sad situation,” Whitman replied, first describing her own hurt feelings because Diaz in her recent press conference called her “Ms. Whitman” and not “Meg” as she had for all those years.

“The real tragedy here is Nicky,” she added. “After Nov. 2, no one’s going to be watching out for Nicky Diaz.”

Then she turned directly to Brown and (to the astonishment and delight of Camp Krusty) attacked:

“Jerry, you know you should be ashamed. You and your surrogates put her deportation at risk. You put her out there. You should be ashamed for sacrificing Nicky Diaz at the altar of your political ambitions.”

In that instant, Calbuzz had a deeply profound thought: OMG!!

For reasons that remain unclear, eMeg used her spotlight moment to point a finger of blame at Brown, with absolutely no evidence, for exposing her hiring and long-term employment of an undocumented housekeeper, Which  big-brain  adviser thought that was a good idea? Perhaps the same one who suggested she not mention the matter back in June 2009, when she could have disposed of the issue with a couple of page 8 stories, if that.

When he had a chance to respond a moment later, Brown, whose greatest strength as a debater is the counter-punch, denied he had anything to do with the Diaz affair and let fly.

“Don’t run for governor if you can’t stand up on your own two feet and say, ‘Hey I made a mistake, I’m sorry, let’s go on from here…

“You have blamed her, blamed me, blamed the left, blamed the unions but you don’t take accountability. You can’t be a leader unless you’re willing to stand on your own two feet and say, ‘yup, I made a mistake and I’m going on from here.'”

Ouch.

Things seemed to go from bad to worse for eMeg after that. In an exchange likely to resonate with Latino parents, she defended her proposal to ban illegal immigrants from California higher ed institutions in answering a question from a young woman who said she was an honors student  at Fresno State University:

“Here is the challenge we face: Our resources are scarce. We are in terrible economic times and slots have been eliminated at the California State University system—I think they’re down by 40,000 students. Same is true at the … the University of California system. Programs have been cut, and California citizens have been denied admission to these universities and I don’t think it’s fair to bar and eliminate the ability of California citizens to attend higher universities and favor undocumenteds.”

“Undocumenteds”? Really? And was she really arguing that this bright young Latina was hogging a place that some deserving white kid should have had?

Brown, who was very aggressive throughout, jumped on that answer as well. He said he would sign legislation, known as the state Dream Act, to make it  easier for illegal immigrants to obtain financial aid from California’s public universities and colleges – a bill Gov. Schwarzenegger recently vetoed.

“Ms. Whitman goes beyond opposing the Dream Act. She wants to kick you out of the school because you are not documented, and that is wrong—morally and humanly.”

We wondered why he didn’t mention that former Gov. Pete Wilson is chairman of her campaign. At least she didn’t suggest she’d round ‘em all up and deport them. Or did she?

“Illegal immigration is just that, it is illegal,” she said. “And we need to make sure we have the workers that the economy needs to grow and thrive,” Whitman said. “We live in a rule of law. There is a judicial process, and we have to abide by that. So I think the best thing that I can do to help the Latino community in California is as first and foremost, as I said, jobs.”

Brown countered that it’s wrong to bring workers in to fill labor shortages and then herd them home.

“This is about human beings. And you don’t bring in temporary workers and then when you’ve used them up, you send them back. … You don’t just bring in semi-serfs and say, ‘Do our dirty work,’ and then we’re finished with you like an orange and just throw it away. That’s after you’ve squeezed it. That’s not right.”

On “path to citizenship” alone, Whitman dug in against a position that 90% of Latinos (and Brown) support.

And it was notable that when Meg later accused Jerry of not being “accountable” for Oakland schools when he was mayor of that city, there was a low, rippling laugh throughout the audience, whose members had been admonished not to say anything.

The Univision alleged simulcast translation into English was so poorly engineered, there won’t likely be too many TV clips in English. But in Spanish, watch out. Latinos who had been flirting with Whitman are likely, Calbuzz thinks, to default to the guy who marched with Cesar Chavez and dated Linda Rondstadt.

We can hear the conversation around the kitchen table: “Maybe he’s un poco loco, but at least he doesn’t accuse the help of stealing the mail.”

A couple of other key points:

Water – Whitman had her best moments when she and Brown were asked about their plans for increasing state water deliveries, a crucial issue for Central Valley residents.

She strongly endorsed the $11 billion water bond measure that the governor and Legislature agreed on last year, but which they removed from the ballot because they feared recession-weary voters would defeat it; although she criticized some “pork” she said was in the measure, she showed a good grasp of the issue and sympathy for the economic hardships of the valley.

By contrast, Brown offered a head-scratching answer about how Kern County was to blame for the defeat of a 1982 Peripheral Canal initiative plan he had sponsored. Brown was historically and politically accurate: the giant Kern County agribusiness conglomerates J.G. Boswell and Salyer Land Co. helped defeat the canal plan by financing the opposition to it, in a strange bedfellow alliance with environmentalists that was driven by their own, narrow economic interests. But it wasn’t much of an answer for the 99% of the viewers who neglected to brush up on the history of California water politics before the debate.

Taxes – Brown repeatedly hammered Whitman for her support of repealing the state capital gains tax. As he did in the UC Davis debate earlier in the week, he not only called it a gift for “billionaires and millionaires” but also criticized it as a budget-buster, saying it would increase the state’s deficit by $5 billion.

Whitman responded  again by characterizing the capital gains tax as a job-killing obstacle to business development, but after days of being hunkered down in crisis mode, bludgeoned by the controversy over her former housekeeper, eMeg’s answers lacked the spirit and spark they had in her previous encounter with Brown.

AP has a good round-up of other issues here.

Bottom line: Whitman took a huge risk in turning on Brown and attacking him – without a shred of evidence – for being behind the Nicky Diaz story. He staggered her with his roundhouse right response and, although she rallied a little in the debate’s final moments, she never really recovered.   Looking tired and drawn, she mostly seemed to be going through the motions. A clear victory for Brown.

PS — Our video reporter, intern Jennifer Fey, trekked to Fresno and offered this nifty take from a student’s point of view.

Jerry’s New Ads; Meyer on Meg; R = eMeg Squared

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010

With Team Whitman furiously trying to spin away the story about Meg Whitman’s undocumented housekeeper and both sides preparing for today’s Univision debate in Fresno, Jerry Brown unloaded two new ads designed to keep Whitman on defense.

One is a positive saying Brown balanced budgets without raising taxes and took on Wall Street banks, mortgage scammers and public officials. “Knowledge and know-how that works for you” is the slogan — a subtle suggestion that he has it and she doesn’t.

The negative ad is far more compelling, saying the “real Meg Whitman” was caught reaping millions for insider stock deals when she was on the board of Goldman Sachs, using the words “conflict of interest” and “corrupt,” charging that she paid herself $120 million while laying off 10% of eBay’s workforce, and asking, “Shouldn’t character matter?”

As Calbuzz noted Friday, demonstrating character is exactly Whitman’s challenge, after it was revealed she had employed an illegal immigrant in her home for years — knowingly or not — before she started talking tough about cracking down on them. And with his pals in the SEIU on the air with an ad speaking to that issue, Brown attacked Whitman as a greedy Wall Street predator.

Whitman’s response was fast and furious. Said spokesperson Andrea Jones Rivera:

“This ad is an outright lie. Meg’s salary was under a million dollars and it was approved by the eBay board of directors.* After swearing that voters would ‘always get the truth’, Jerry Brown has abandoned his promise in favor of a smear campaign that intentionally distorts the truth. In the ad, Jerry Brown goes so far as to cynically attack Meg’s brief service on the Goldman Sachs board, despite the fact that Brown’s own sister is currently a high ranking executive at Goldman Sachs. The truth is Meg Whitman was rated one of the top bosses and CEOs for her time at eBay and we will put her business record up against Jerry’s 40 year political career anytime.”

Meanwhile, Whitman continues to pummel Brown as a tax-and-spend liberal who opposed Proposition 13 and drove up unemployment and the state deficit. Surely that’s why Brown argues himself in his positive ad: “As Governor, I’ll cap government salaries and pensions. On the budget – we have to face reality. Make do with what we have, and no taxes without voter approval.”

Polling suggests voters appreciate Whitman’s business background but they aren’t sure they like her or that she’s got the skills and experience (“knowledge and know-how”) to command California government. On the other hand, they know Brown has what it takes to be governor and they like him pretty much; they’re just not sure they can trust him not to pick their pocket.

Although jobs, budgets, environment, water, education and public safety are kinds of issues governors actually must confront, the curbside political world is wondering today how eMeg’s housekeeper issue will come up in the Univision debate — with an expected audience of millions of Latinos — and what Whitman and Brown will say about it.

No doubt, Whitman would like to be asked why, after hammering on the issue of illegal immigration, did she not report Nicky Diaz to the authorities after learning that she was here without documentation. That way she can come across as sympathetic (although she has to be careful not to sound too condescending).

She likely would not like to be asked why she didn’t use a teensy weensy portion of her vast wealth to hire Diaz an immigration attorney or whether she actually said, “You never have seen me and I have never seen you,” as Diaz recounts the conversation. (Of course, denying it is calling Nicky a liar, so that’s tricky, too.)

Brown, the betting suggests, will keep his trap shut and let Whitman stew in her own juices unless Meg charges to his face that he was behind the whole episode. At which point, it’s hard to predict. He could cooly note that it was not he who hired an illegal immigrant to work in her house.  Or he could fire back at how outraged he is to be accused of the “politics of personal destruction.” We’ll know soon enough.

* Thank you Steve Harmon for this reportorial note: “Salaries are rarely the true measure of a CEO’s net worth in their rarified world of dividends, stocks and bonuses. Forbes Magazine, in September, 2008, and the New York Times, reported that Whitman received a $120.4 million, in salary, bonus and the value of her excercised options in her final year, despite eBay’s stock plummeting 49 percent.”

Meyer Carefully Evaluates Meg’s Skills

The slashing pen of Tom Meyer, world renowned editorial cartoonist and dressed-to-the-nines Calbuzzer extraordinaire today examines the deeper political implications of eMeg’s using the famous phrase, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” multiple times during her Tuesday night debate with Jerry Brown.

Us, we’re still wondering why Her Megness used the aphorism over and over and kept expecting a different result; like, maybe somebody might actually laugh when she repeated it, oh say, the 13th or 14th time. Must be that exquisite sense of comic timing she has to go with her wonderful ability to laugh at herself and her highly-developed sense of self-awareness.

All that aside, a wide-ranging Calbuzz investigation of more than 10 minutes worth of Googling reveals that there is not a single shred of citable evidence to support her attribution of the quote to Albert Einstein (not a big week for Meg and documentary evidence). There is , in fact, a considerable debate around the internets about the original source, with the current conventional wisdom crediting Rita Mae Brown, who actually did write it down in a book once. You could look it up.

And speaking of misusing hoary phrases: Calbuzz was appalled this week by the widespread misuse of the phrase “October surprise” to describe the bombshell news about Whitman’s housekeeper, which Gloria Allred dropped on the candidate’s head on Wednesday morning.

In his essential “Political Dictionary,” the late great William Safire traced the phrase back to the 1980 presidential election, when then Republican vice presidential candidate George Bush the Elder warned that President Jimmy Carter “is a politically tough fellow, he’ll do anything to get reelected, and let’s be prepared for some October surprise.”

Of course, it turned out that the surprise was on Carter, as the Iran hostage crisis that had bedeviled him for much of his term was instantly resolved when the Ayatollah Khomeini ordered the release of the hostages shortly after Mr. Jimmy lost to Ronald Reagan. Safire continues:

By 1991, the noun phrase was being applied to any controversial or unpleasant event in October. (emphasis ours)

Let’s be blunt: The Allred-Nicky Diaz press conference triggering the Meg and the Maid drama took place on Wednesday, September 29; while it might qualify as a “September Shocker,” it most definitely was not an “October Surprise.”

And while we’re at it:  Let’s make it perfectly clear that eMeg’s big laugh line at the debate – making Jerry governor is like “putting Dracula in charge of a  blood bank” – is a total rip off from none other than…Jane Fonda. Hanoi Jane used the line in whacking Carter for his appointment of James Schlesinger as Energy Secretary about the same time that October became so surprising:

“Putting Schlesinger in charge of nuclear power is like putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank,” Jane Fonda orated to the cheering demonstrators at the foot of the Capitol steps.

Mega-kudos and H/T for that catch to Calbuzzer Debra Hall who, besides being brilliant, eagle-eyed and ever-alert, also has the buffest arms of any marketing consultant in California.

Polly Wolly Doodle: Our old friend Steve Lopez of the LA Times has cleverly lined up a polygraph expert, LA PI John Grogan, to give eMeg a polygraph test on whether she ever knew about that letter from the Social Security Administration. After saying she’d be glad to take a lie detector test, Meg backtracked and said she’d do it only if Jerry and Nicky would, too. But what the heck, Meg — this could be a great moment in gubernatorial leadership. All expenses paid!