That was the week that was: We’ll leave to more talented social commentators the task of weaving together the sad, always-happens-in-threes departures of Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, and focus instead on another crossover entertainer who seared himself into the nation’s consciousness with a breakthrough performance this week: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.
As everyone who’s watched Sanford’s narcissistic, nihilistic, nut ball performance in confessing to an Argentine love affair already knows (anyone who hasn’t is banned from reading further until you do ), the guy flat-out retired the Loony Tunes Lifetime Achievement Award with an excruciating, stream of consciousness, political-train-wreck-in-public act.
Between his opening incoherence – “I won’t begin in any particular spot” – his self-pitying Andrew Lloyd Webber knockoff – “oddly enough, I spent the last five days of my life crying in Argentina” – and his extraordinary explanation of how he’d violated moral law – “the biggest self of self is indeed self” – Sanford managed the seemingly impossible feat of making Rod Blagoevich and Sarah Palin seem like Ozzie and Harriet.
(Calbuzz finds it fascinating that Sanford’s Argentine lover, María Belén Chapur, was a producer at the television network America from 2001 to 2002 — kinda reminds us of LA Mayor Tony V’s fixation on TV babes.)
Oh sure, between eMeg, Prince Gavin and General Jerry, our own field of candidates for governor includes a few eccentricities and some borderline weirdness. But Calbuzz feels a profound sense of journalistic injustice at being denied the career peak experience of covering a total whack job like Sanford.
In our view, the only decent thing for Sanford to do — with just 18 months left in his term, Palmetto State legislators screaming for his head and almost a year to go before California’s primary — is to move to the left coast and jump into the Republican primary with twin barrels aimed at both feet. Please, governor, you’re the only one who can save us from the earnestness of Tom Campbell, the grumpiness of Steve Poizner and the unctuousness of Meg Whitman. Plus: great connections to BA from LAX.
BTW, the Sanford saga produced some yeoperson efforts by the ladies and gentleman of the press. Top honors in the print category go to the San Jose Mercury News for a keeper front page, carefully crafted for single copy sales, which featured a big foto of the wild man and a red, screamer hed: “What Was He Thinking?” Online division kudos to the Washpost for its special, Sanford edition slide show titled: “Interactive: A history of political sex scandals.” Interactive? Really?
Don’t Invitems: Capitol Weekly and the Bay Area Council went head-to-head twice within a few days over the former’s coverage of the latter’s proposal for a constitutional convention.
The first flap focused on a Weekly piece published Monday, in which Malcolm Maclachlan reported that the council was circulating a draft convention call that would bar changes to Proposition 13. When we checked out the report, Council execs grumbled that the Weekly had overreached in its sweeping assertion. Because the Calbuzzer motto is, “We’re from the press – we’re here to help,” we offered our own report that addressed the nuances of the council’s position on the complex issue, ever eager to heal a breach between two organizations we respect.
Then on Thursday, Maclachlan filed again, this time reporting that the Council was moving to “hand off” the campaign for a convention to an independent third party. At this, council vice president John Grubb let his feelings show – hollering “foul” and loudly demanding a correction.
At issue in the new dispute is a report about a panel of “experts” that the Council plans to convene for the purpose of wording and framing the exact questions that convention delegates would consider; the language this panel will draft is to be included in the “call to convention” initiative BAC is aiming at the November 2010 ballot.
The Weekly story suggests the “experts” panel gives the council a pass-the-buck way to escape the political heat they’re getting from anti-tax groups threatening to oppose the convention if it tackles Prop. 13. Not so, insists Grubb, who told us the “experts” panel has been part of the plan all along, and that the Council fully intends to remain the lead dog on the constitutional convention campaign.
“It was kind of weird to have your obituary written,” Grubb said of the latest Weekly story, “without having participated in your death.”
Anthony York, the editor of the Weekly, told us he’s confident the story is factually accurate, but “understands (Grubb’s) sensitivity” to the suggestion the council is ceding control of the convention process. York called it “a semantic difference” and said he’s invited Grubb to submit a letter or a commentary addressing his concerns.
Putting aside the journalistic subtleties here, the crucial substantive issue is how and whether the convention deals with Prop. 13. Whatever your favorite cliché for the tax-cut measure – political third rail, elephant in the room, the Big Enchilada – trying to revise California’s system of governance without dealing with the multiple strands of Prop. 13 is like trying to blog without links; it kinda’ misses the point.
Dissin’ Dianne: Back in the day, when she was Empress of San Francisco, Sen. Dianne Feinstein once chewed out a Chronicle reporter for running a scoop that disclosed a draft plan for a new ballpark that Her Honor wasn’t yet ready to make public: “I don’t want any more premature ejaculations in the paper,” she told him angrily, promptly generating a follow-up story that prominently featured her lovely comment.
The old quote came to mind this week, when DiFi again got in trouble for being candid with a reporter, this time on a Sunday talk show, where she threw cold water on President Obama’s big health care reform plan: “Well, to be candid with you, I don’t know that he has the votes right now,” she told CNN’s John King. “I think there’s a lot of concern in the Democratic caucus.”
Damn that candor.
It didn’t take long for the armies of the netroots to launch a full-scale attack, led by Moveon.org, which rallied its members to swamp her office with calls assailing her for politically incorrect (for a Democrat) thought. By week’s end, as David “Comrade” Dayen reported on Calitics , Moveon and its coalition had organized a full-bore, multi-platform assault.
With an arsenal of Facebook, Twitter and My Space weapons arrayed against her, Feinstein responded with a throwback press release featuring a laundry list of principles she would support in health care . The techno mismatch of the fight between an old-school pol and new generation social network forces was fascinating to behold – who knew from one-click re-Tweets? – and made us start to wonder if maybe Dan Schnur might be on to something with his out-of-right-field prediction in a L.A. Times op-ed: “Feinstein is an unlikely candidate for re-election in 2012.”
Wussup on the internets: Mega-kudos to Nikki Finke, who sold her DeadlineHollywoodDaily.com site for a reported $14 million , which establishes a decent enough price floor for when it comes time to unload Calbuzz in a month or so (why of course, Tom Campbell will drive more traffic than Jacko!). Don’t miss Finke’s post-sale grilling by arch-rival Sharon Waxman, who runs The Wrap.
In other internets news, the Public Policy Institute of California has an interesting new survey on digital usage in the state, including a full and frank examination of the 12 people who actually use Twitter. Key finding: internet use has increased from 70 to 76 percent over the past year (clearly due almost entirely to the launch of Calbuzz).
Must read of the week: “California to Feds: Drop Dead,” Joe Mathews’s terrific piece over at Fox and Hounds analyzing the chutzpah of Obama et al in refusing loan guarantees for California.
Finally, we note Kevin Roderick’s classy tribute to TMZ for their ace online reporting on Michael Jackson’s death — which killed the traditional media in LA.