Davis Gaining New Confidence! Part II: Another data point suggesting at least a small Schwarzenegger lead--from Sunday's S.F. Chronicle:
One overnight poll commissioned by a Democratic-leaning union -- one of the state's biggest -- had it this way:
-- Schwarzenegger at 31 percent.
-- Bustamante at 24 percent.
-- Tom McClintock at 15 percent.
-- Peter Camejo at 4 percent.
-- Arianna Huffington at 3 percent.
And 23 percent were still undecided or voting for one of the other 130 people on the ballot.
Note that in the hinged strategic environment of the recall, this sort of seemingly pro-Arnold poll can be a self-defeating, or at least self-limiting prophecy: If Democratic voters think Schwarzenegger is clearly ahead in the "replace" race, they may come out to vote against the recall on the ballot's other, yes/no question. And McClintock enthusiasts will be discouraged from switching to Schwarzenegger in order to avoid a Democratic victory. ... 1:55 P.M.
Davis Gaining New Confidence! Part I: Does the dramatic new CNN/USAT/Gallup recall poll assume a "relatively high 50 percent turnout" or a "low turnout of 51%—lower than election officials expect"? Polipundit notices that two stories now on the LAT site--one by AP, one by the Times--report opposite conclusions. ... Which is right? Weintraub says high. ... If the poll is excessively pro-Schwarzenegger, though, presumably it assumes a low turnout, since another key finding of the poll is that the most motivated voters tend to favor Schwarzenegger more than less likely voters. ... Here's Gallup's description, which isn't very helpful. ... Update: Now Weintraub can't figure it out either. ... Maybe the helpful Field people will explain everything by attacking Gallup too. ... Asked and answered:USAT's polling director answers Weintraub's questions. The poll assumes a turnout (51 percent of the voting age population) that's a bit higher than in 2000 and 1996 but lower than in 1992. I suspect the LAT ("low turnout") assumed, incorrectly, that the 51 percent was of registered voters. ....6:03 A.M.
Das Bowl: A final Solomonic note about Arnold Schwarzenegger's controversial debate comeback to Arianna Huffington last Wednesday, in which the actor said:
I just realized that I have a perfect part for you in 'Terminator 4.'
Arianna's line: Huffington claims that Schwarzenegger was referring to a scene in Terminator 3 in which Schwarzenegger's character briefly stuffs the head of the rival, female robot in a toilet. Huffington says the remark, thus understood, was "offensive to the women of California." (Schwarzenegger had already been criticized by women's groups for referring to the scene in an interview with Entertainment Weekly magazine and commenting, "How many times do you get away with this -- to take a woman, grab her upside down, and bury her face in a toilet bowl?")
Arnold's line: For his part, Schwarzenegger denies he wanted to stuff Arianna's head in a toilet: "The fact of the matter is, it was a compliment, because in 'Terminator' we always had powerful women,."
kausfiles' line: Arnold's dissembling. Of course he was referring to the toilet bowl incident. That's why it was funny! It's also why it wasn't really offensive. Schwarzenegger was making fun of Arianna, but he was also making fun of the bogus inflated feminist outrage about the EW interview, and he was also making some fun of himself for having made the remarks in the first place. ... (It would have been different if he'd angrily said, "Arianna, I'd like to stuff your head in a toilet right now.") ... Give him points for a) sensing the ridiculousness of the political process when he's in the middle of the process and b) actually daring to bring up his own "gaffe" rather than treat it as a sensitive issue he's supposed to shy away from at all costs. ....
Note to Arianna: You get the joke too. (It was a good shot, you've got to admit. You laughed!) You're not really annoyed at him for that. You're annoyed that he zinged you on your taxes earlier in the debate, right? ...
P.S.: Huffington also claimed Schwarzenegger would never have said the same thing to a man. But that's not right--he's famously cruel to men too! (See, e.g., today's LAT.)
Now they tell us! Today, the Los Angeles Times reports:
As it became apparent last week that Schwarzenegger was the front-runner and Davis' anti-recall campaign was in trouble, the governor challenged the actor to a debate. [Emphasis added]
But that's not what the Times actually reported last week, as it "became apparent" that Davis was "in trouble." Instead, on Thursday 9/25 the paper's front page featured "Aides Feel Davis May Pull It Off," declaring
aides to Gov. Gray Davis said they increasingly feel that they are within striking distance of saving the unpopular governor's job.
In other words, even as Davis's aides were panicking at their candidate's decline, the LAT was publishing their spin that they were growing "more confident" of victory. ... Even on Saturday, two days after Davis issued his debate challenge, the paper didn't report that it was a reaction to his being "in trouble." Instead, Times readers were given more Davis aide spin:
In internal campaign polls, Davis continues to fall a few points short of the vote he needs to remain in office. But the polls show a swing of several points in Davis' favor if voters believe his successor would not be Bustamante but Republican Schwarzenegger, Davis advisors said ...
Was this a) amateurish incompetence, b) intentional misdirection, or c) an all-too-willing suspension of normal journalistic skepticism? You make the call! (But c) would be the respectable choice) ... 3:12 A.M.
Small shoe drop: About the only thing standing between the LAT and the humiliation of a big Davis defeat (given the paper's widely-ridiculed pro-Davis polls and reporting) is ... the editors of the LAT, who are presumed to be sitting on a pile of revealing Arnold dirt. ... Today, finally, the paper publishes an excellent Mark Arax piece with two nasty Schwarzenegger anecdotes.
1) One suggests the actor's unattractive pleasure in humiliating others:
According to several of those workout partners, Schwarzenegger played a particularly cruel joke on his now-deceased bodybuilding friend Don Peters.
At the time, Schwarzenegger was single and made no secret of his attraction to Peters' girlfriend, a beauty contest winner. One day after a fight with Peters, the girlfriend went home with Schwarzenegger. That night, Schwarzenegger told her he needed a favor. Would she mind calling his lawyer to reschedule an appointment? Schwarzenegger dialed the number, but it wasn't to the lawyer's house, according to several bodybuilders familiar with the incident. Instead, he had phoned Peters.
It took only a moment for the ruse to become clear. As Peters and his girlfriend discovered each other's voices, Schwarzenegger shouted into the phone. "I just [made love to] her. I just [made love to] her," ...
2) One goes to his Euro-style social inegalitarianism, suggesting a willingness to rank himself above others without even paying lip service to equality:
As he began landing roles, he started giving the cold shoulder to his old muscle buddies. [Gene] Mozee said he encountered Schwarzenegger on the beach one day after he had finished shooting a movie.
"He told me, 'Gene, I can't talk to you. You're beneath me now.'
P.S.: More troubling for Schwarzenegger are the paper's apparent sourcing rules -- Anecdote #1 makes it into print on the basis of hearsay even though the woman involved refused to "discuss the past" on the record. ... If you apply those rules to all the other reporting the Times has presumably done ... well, Schwarzenegger himself seems a bit worried, preemptively warning against last-minute Davis "tricks." But reporters don't need guidance from the Davis camp to come up with Arnold dirt. ... We await a bigger shoe. ... 2:56 A.M.
Sunday, September 28, 2003
'Davis Aides Grow Even More Confident--Have Plan to Sway Final 28 Percent': Suggested L.A. Times spin for this poll. [Via Weintraub ]... Update--The "fog of doubt" arrives:The Times' Mark Z. Barabak begins the delicate process of stepping away from the LAT's alternate universe (in which the yes/no recall is in a dead heat and Davis aides '"grow more confident") to the real world, in which Davis is losing. The paper can't suddenly flip from "he's winning" to "he's going down" in one day, of course. Better to stop at the halfway-house of pretended uncertainty and near-total vacuity. Barabak's Sunday lede:
California's extraordinary election — the first gubernatorial recall in state history — is ending much as it began, in a fog of doubt that makes these last campaign days as urgent as they are unpredictable.
They must not be all that urgent, then! ... Hasn't the recall election gotten a good bit more predictable, not less, for everyone except people who believe the LAT's spin. ... 1:36 P.M.
"Let me tell you, Arianna, you may not understand how the process works" It doesn't matter that Lt. Gov Cruz Bustamante's college degree was a bit phony. It does matter--it should be disqualifying, I think--that, as Weintraub reports, his whole rap on workers' compensation reform at the Sept. 24 debate was based on what seems to be an elementary misunderstanding of the way workers' comp works. (The common-sense reform he proposed is so common-sensical it's already part of the law)... 1:23 P.M.
Lucinda Franks, Office Krupke report for duty:WaPo's David Broder explains that the "quirks of [Gov. Gray Davis's] character"--a "tendency to delay confronting a difficulty" and a "selfish and almost unprincipled approach to public life"--are the product of his "abusive, alcoholic father." (That's Rep. John Burton quoting pro-Davis lobbyist Warren Beatty):
....some political insiders believe that growing up as the oldest child of an alcoholic father had scarred Davis's personality in ways that have been politically costly. They say that the emotional coldness, distrust of others, avoidance of conflict and relentless self-discipline displayed by Davis are characteristic of adult children of alcoholics. [Emph. added]
So Gray Davis is a vindictive loner and a prick because his dad was an alcoholic. Hmmm. Wasn't it only a couple of years ago Bill Clinton was too-eager-to-please, gregarious and promiscuous because his dad was an alcoholic? Those alcoholic dads cause a lot of damage! But it sure pays to have one in the family when you get in trouble and sympathetic reporters come around. ... Update: Alert reader D.V, notes that another California governor, Ronald Reagan, also had an alcoholic father. Did Reagan shy away from confrontation? Not that I remember. ... 1:09 P.M.
Saturday, September 27, 2003
Daniel Weintraub's blog has the polling data the L.A. Times might have tried to get before fronting its credulous story about how Gray Davis aides were growing "more confident" in their candidate's ability to "pull it off." Weintraub reports:
My sources tell me that two Democratic polls, including one by the California Teachers Assn., show the recall leading 54-40 and 54-41.
In short, "the gov's momentum has slowed and he is in trouble." Davis can thank the Ninth Circuit three-judge panel (and the ACLU) for the momentum-slowing, as predicted here. ... Note: Los Angeles Times readers, happily living in their paper's off-kilter alternative universe, have not been informed of these disturbing facts for their own good. ... 3:05 A.M.
Friday, September 26, 2003
E.J. Dionne bucks the insidious "circus" meme and writes a near-definitive column praising the Recall debate (and Weintraub's format) and contrasting it with the usual tedious "stately" rule-bound affairs. ... "Have you ever heard a debate in which the candidates actually made the workers' compensation issue moderately interesting?" ... 1:13 P.M.
Tabs in the Tank: San Jose Mercury News on "Arnold, the American Dream," the latest no-holds-barred expose of Arnold Schwarzenegger planned by fearless tabloid kingpin David ('I do favors for friends') Pecker. ... Page Six had this story two days ago--adding the detail that the caption on a picture of Arnold and Maria is "Camelot's Future." ... P.S.: How much money is Pecker losing by failing to cover Schwarzenegger? Do his investors like that? ...
Note to members of the respectable press: Perhaps you've been following the old Newsweek rule "Get it first, but first get it second," hoping the tabs would do the nasty work of dredging up the dirt on Arnold, allowing you to then jump in and write about the "controversy." Well, it's not going to happen--the tabs have taken a dive. If the voters are going to be informed, the onus is on you. 12:39 P.M.
Undropped Shoe Reminder: The L.A. Times has not yet published the results of its big investigation of Arnold Schwarzenegger's personal behavior (unless this mostly favorable piece is all we're going to get). Is the Timessaving it for the last minute, the better to really damage the actor's chances (think Bush and DUI)? Is the story going through an arduous bureaucratic editing process filled with contentious sourcing debates? Or is that Times uncomfortable with the whole idea--so that the fruits of its reporting will never see the light of day? ... We won't know for a week or so. Until then, just in case Schwarzenegger appears to be pulling ahead, it's worth remembering that it aint' over until the ladies sing, or don't sing, or we find out that there was nothing to sing about. ...[What do you expect?-ed. A non-fatal story. I've said it before: The happiest day in a politician's life is when he learns he's being investigated by the L.A. Times.] ... Rumor: Is next Thursday (10/2) Shoe Day? Seems a little late to me. ..
Attention, LAT employees: Feel free to email me at Mickey_Kaus@msn.com... 3:28 A.M.
LA Weekly's Bill Bradley noticed something in the recall debate that I missed, namely that the reason Arianna Huffington pursued Arnold Schwarzenegger so ... vehemently is not that she was upset by his interruptions or his "Terminator 4" crack--but that she was "angered," early on, when he brought up the issue of her not paying any individual state income taxes for the past two years (because losses in her private corporation exceeded her income). ... I've noticed this distressing character trait in Huffington, who can be extremely smart and charming, except when she's called on a select group of potential hypocrisy sore spots. I remember one incident on the KCRW radio show "Left, Right & Center" when host Matt Miller asked Arianna, who was railing against negative ads, if she hadn't participated in some negative advertising herself when her husband was running for U.S. Senate against Dianne Feinstein. Let's just say Huffington did not react gracefully, even though there were easy possible responses (e.g., 'That's right, I've sinned but seen the light'). ... The crude, overbroad description of this undesirable quality is "She can dish it out but she can't take it." But the more interesting question is why this happens (and why it doesn't always happen). My guess is it has something to do with the way Huffington has built her coalitions on personal relationships, cemented by invitations to excellent parties at her fabulous house, etc. When she's criticized by someone she's arguably friendly with (and Schwarzenegger, who lives a few blocks away, would fall into that category) she seems to regard it as a personal betrayal. I don't think Bustamante or McClintock would have triggered the same anger if they'd brought up the tax business. ... 2:45 A.M.
Thursday, September 25, 2003
Doesn't Davis Believe the LAT? If California Gov. Gray Davis's camp is so damn confident of victory, as credulously reported on the front page of today's Los Angeles Times, then why is Davis now suggesting he wants to debate Arnold Schwarzenegger? ("If he doesn't set the record straight himself, I may just have to debate him," allows Davis, as if it didn't take two to tango.) Isn't calling for a debate the desperate last-ditch move of someone who's not at all confident? ... Note: Oakland mayor and ex-governor Jerry Brown was pushing this move on Davis last night precisely on the theory that unless Davis does something dramatic he's going down. ... 8:04 P.M.
More Debate Bounce: I don't think the Lehane/MulhollandArnold-insulted-Arianna-and-all-women meme will go that far, in part because Arianna (unlike Hillary Clinton in the Lazio race) wasn't a major candidate whom viewers were focusing on. The bigger threat to Schwarzenegger, it seems to me, is the Tucker Carlson it-was-a-circus-that-only-helps-Davis meme, propagated also by Phil Bronstein and the S.F. Chronicle. I don't see how anyone who watched the whole debate could agree with that assessment--there was plenty of discussion of substance--but of course even with high ratings many voters didn't watch the debate. And it appeals to the press as a convenient, lazy-reporters' way to cover the debate while seemingly sneering equally at all sides. At least two of the three network news shows took this lazy, dismissive "food fight" line. ... What could happen is 1) the TV stations and papers select only the most entertaining circus-like, clips of personal putdowns and 2) run those clips over and over. Then 3) the TV analysts for those stations denounce the debate as nothing but a circus filled with entertaining personal putdowns and 4) voters, having seen only those clips, believe this. What a racket, as Johnny Carson might say. ...
P.S.: But here's a question: Why did Arnold go after Arianna at all? When Arianna gets votes, remember, Bustamante loses votes, which helps Arnold. Hello? Game theory! Wasn't there a way to deflect her criticisms while building her upand treating her like a serious player, thereby gaining her votes? ("Arianna, you and I disagree. You're the spokesman for the view that ...") The answer seems to be that 1) she really ticked him off! (e.g. when she tried to steal the spotlight at his candidacy-filing a few years--or was it weeks?--ago) and 2) he was "focused on showing he could contend with her vaunted debating skills," according to Schwarzeninsider William Bradley. ... Jousting with Arianna also hurt Schwarzenegger in another way, notes L.A. Weekly's Marc Cooper:
[H]ad she not kept Arnold Schwarzenegger tied up in relentless guerrilla crossfire, the Terminator would have totally flattened the staggeringly hapless Cruz Bustamante.
Good point! ...Update:WaPo takes the 'Circus/Davis Won' line. "Calif. Hopefuls Hurt Themselves in Raucous Session, Analysts Say." Which analysts? The only unexpected one (and probably only because I don't know enough about him) is Republican Arnold Steinberg. Weintraub is quoted as if he agrees with the "circus" thesis, which he pretty clearly doesn't. ... The Post also cites a "Web log," The Condor, written by an ex-reporter who lives "on a sailboat on the west coast of Mexico." A blogger? What does he know? ... More: Several readers have written suggesting that Arnold did build up Arianna by going after her, thereby raising her profile among his Democratic opponents. I'd agree if he hadn't gone after her on the issue of her taxes--a charge designed to cost her votes on the left. ... Maybe that's why she got angry! Arnold was refusing to play the obvious symbiotic non-zero-sum game in which they attacked each other in ways that helped both of them (by boosting Arianna's appeal). ...6:56 P.M.
Profound question raised by the Recall Debate: If a tree falls in the forest, and The Note doesn't cover it because the editors are off at some damn ABC News "Culinary Clash in the Capital," does it make a sound? ... 3:43 P.M.
Laundering Lehane: On whose behalf, exactly, was ex-Kerry, ex-Gore overspinner Chris Lehane hanging around the California recall debate giving anti-Arnold quotes to the LAT and Reuters? The post-debate stories in which Lehane's quoted are disturbingly unclear as to what he's up to and what his bias might be. Was he working for Gov. Gray Davis, who employed him during the recent state energy crisis? Was he trolling for a new job? Is he such an incorrigible spinner that he goes to wherever the press pack is and starts dispensing sound bites even though nobody's asked him? And is it a coincidence that he turns up, like a character in Gravity's Rainbow, whenever a massive Democratic failure is about to occur? (Al Gore, Gray Davis, John Kerry--the guy's a veritable good luck charm!) ... kf Drills Down! The LA Times 's Matea Gold and Dan Morain vaguely identifiy Lehane as a "Democratic spinmeister" and someone
who worked as former Vice President Al Gore's press secretary in 2000 and has done work for Gov. Gray Davis
suggesting he might now be an unemployed, free-floating pro-Democratic commentator. But Lehane's obviously working for Davis. As recently as yesterday, the Times' own Mark Barabak wrote that Lehane was "now working for the no-on-recall effort." Last week, the paper's Ron Brownstein reported that Lehane was "consulting for the California AFL-CIO in its opposition to the Davis recall," while in June the Times identified him as a "member of the Davis brain trust." Why couldn't Gold and Morain say that? Were they trying to make Lehane's pronouncement--that Arnold's anti-Arianna crack might "prove potentially fatal"--look more authoritative because it came from a potentially uncommitted analyst? ...P.S.: Reuters is worse, identifying Lehane only as "Democratic consultant Chris Lehane, a veteran of the Bill Clinton White House," before quoting him to the effect that Arnold's Arianna putdown was "a strategic miscalculation." ... P.P.S.: It's not as if the LAT ran a front-page above-the-fold story with the headlines
AIDES FEEL DAVIS MAY PULL IT OFF
AIDES GROW MORE CONFIDENT IN DAVIS' CHANCES
that consisted entirely of unchallenged Davis aide spin (including "some [i.e. one] outside analysts said the campaign's assessment may be correct" but none who said it may not) and that identified all members of the Davis brain trust except Lehane. ... Oh, wait ... Maybe I have a short memory, but I don't remember the "AIDES FEEL GORE MAY PULL IT OFF" or "AIDES FEEL BUSH MAY PULL IT OFF" stories from two weeks before the 2000 election. Aides always feel they may pull it off --they have some argument or strategy that sketches out how they are going to win. Isn't it the job of a newspaper to figure out to what extent these scenarios, properly intended as self-fulfilling fantasies, have a grounding in reality? ... P.P.P.S.: The Times lead debate story also gives as much front page play as possible (third-through-fiftth grafs!) to Arianna's claim that Schwarzenegger said he wanted to stuff her head in a toilet bowl. ... 4:11 A.M.
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Recall Debate Wrap--kf Does What It Needed to Do!
Format:The CW will say it was a success. I'm not so sure. Yes, Daniel Weintraub was right that it wasn't a boring format, and there was plenty of give and take. But a) voters weren't debating the questions ahead of time around water coolers, as organizers had hoped, nor were the candidate's answers unusually deep and detailed; b) Something is definitely lost when you give up the ability to ask surprise questions. (Arianna's attacks turn out to be no substitute because they, too, are predictable); c) Schwarzenegger in fact managed to skate through pre-scripted, as feared.
Arnold: Not too bullying or too vague ... but it was close! Did well enough to win.
Cruz: Mr. Blobby. Condescending, accommodating, pleasant, and once again Smarter Than Expected. But does he seem like a guy who likes to say "no"? Seems more like the guy who announces arrivals and departures at an Amtrak station. (Great voice!)
Arianna: If she'd been less shrill when attacking Schwarzenegger, it would have helped ... Schwarzenegger! (Success for Arianna hurts Bustamante, remember, by splitting the left vote). A useful presence who wore thin. And let me get it straight: The California economy is doing fine and it's all George Bush's fault! It's outrageous that Republicans switched positions on workers' comp over a decade--and it's outrageous for reporters to even ask why Arianna switched positions on every issue under the sun over the course of the same decade.
McClintock: Solid presentation could make him national figure. (Gee, why do you think he stayed in the race?) The only candidate who even tried to fully answer the immigration question. Briefly seemed to go into peaceful, mantra-chanting trance.
Camejo: One-note johnny on tax distribution, but a walking case for proportional representation.
Alternative Universe Award to: CNN's Tucker Carlson: He says he's ashamed to be from the state that produced this amateurish circus. Hello? Which debate did he watch? And what dignified, subtly nuanced show does Carlson host? Oh, yeah ... Crossfire.
Update: Weintraub notes that Schwarzenegger was "a little too trigger-happy with his quips and retorts, most if not all of which sounded rehearsed." ... A.S. "offensive to the women of California!"Adam Tanner of Reuters and, yes, Chris Lehane think Arnold will lose ground among women with his interruption of Arianna (and "Terminator 4" putdown) when the soundbite is played over and over again, out of context, on the news (the context being that Arianna had been pretty annoying). Just ask Rick Lazio, whose confrontation with Hillary Clinton was rebroadcast, to his detriment, in a similar contextless fashion. I was blind to its impact at the time, and could be blind to the impact of the Arnold/Arianna business. ... So he got his message out, then! My mother thought Arnold smugly "felt he was in a class beyond, that he was the important one."
Bounce report: Arnold's "Terminator 4" crack didn't even make the Channel 2 11:00 news in L.A. and didn't get much play on the other channels, although they featured a) lots of man-on-the-street criticism of his one-liners in general and, surprisingly, b) much Tucker Carlsonesque disdain for the whole debate. ... P.S.: Do debate clips get played "over and over and over" again any more? The news cycle is getting faster (so I hear). Unless it's a "You're no JFK" Bentsen-Quayle moment, maybe a particular clip gets, what, three plays? And if it doesn't get included in the initial broadcasts, maybe it doesn't get replayed at all. That could work to Schwarzenegger's defensive advantage here. [Tell it to Trent Lott-ed. Good point!] 9:00 P.M.
Mark Fineman: My friend Ann Louise Bardach, a Cuba expert, just emailed me about L.A.Times reporter Mark Fineman, who died of a heart attack Tuesday in Baghdad: "I did not know him but he was one of the few reporters who knew what he was doing in Cuba. ... I always read him. ... this is a tragedy." [Ellipses hers] 2:32 P.M.
How Arnold could blow tonight's (6:00 P.M. PST) debate: In his pre-recall-debate story, the NYT's LeDuff reports: "The Schwarzenegger strategy is to make a boogeyman of the Indian tribes who have contributed generously to his opponents." That's probably true, but since Schwarzenegger is clearly addicted to misdirection and surprise as tactics, anything we learn today from "aides" about his "debate strategy" is deeply suspect.
Schwarzenegger could easily win the whole election in tonight's debate (as Reagan did in his sole debate with Jimmy Carter in 1980). Or he could easily lose the election. It's that important. Here are two obvious ways he could blow it:
1. "The public doesn't care about figures." It may be true that most voters don't want to be bombarded with policy details from candidates. But Schwarzenegger is a special case. Early in his career--in Oui magazine!--he talked about how important it was for him to be cast against type. That turned out not to be true for his movie career, but it probably is true for his political career. Voters may not get excited by Cruz Bustamante talking about the intricacies of workers' comp--he's a pol, after all, But watching Schwarzenegger talk about the details of workers comp (as he did on Larry King Live) is a category-busting surprise, an unexpected pleasure, a deal-sealing moment. It's like the moment in so many Julia Roberts movies when the beloved, delicate, porcelain beauty says "F**k!" It's sublime. It's better than ... coming up with more generalities!
Do Schwarzenegger's advisers understand that there is a huge payoff when their man discusses specifics that doesn't exist with more typical candidates? If so, then why have they for weeks been running ads in which Schwarzenegger talks vaguely about "special interests" and "the people"? I'm probably one of many deal-sealable voters who still craves some (not much!) evidence that Schwarzenegger actually is the candidate he promised to be. I hope LeDuff's report that Arnold's "handlers said they expected few specifics from any participant" is just more misdirection.
2. Bullying: Schwarzenegger's rep in Hollywood is that he bullies people "below the line" (e.g. technicians, dressers, etc.). He's certainly got a big ego. Couple that with a tendency to get flustered when things don't go according to script, and you get the potential for some highly unappealing moments. When he didn't get to make the lame jokes he'd planned during a softball interview, Schwarzenegger even tried to bully NBC's Chris Matthews :
MATTHEWS: OK. Let me ask you about the big question. A lot of people are trying to figure out your politics. This is the central question out here. You said, at this rally just now, that you're a Republican. But, you also said, I got to live with this Democrat all the time, and you're married to the Kennedy family, and all those dinners and thanksgiving and get-togethers. What is the -- what is -- if you had to explain the big running argument that makes you a Republican in a Democratic family, what makes you a Republican in those arguments?
SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, first of all, we always have major arguments up there in Hyannisport when we get together for those dinners - or in Washington - because the Kennedys never want to sit to the far right. So we have a problem right there with the seating arrangement. But besides that.
MATTHEWS: The big stuff now. I want the big stuff.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Exactly. The big stuff.
MATTHEWS: Are you - are they a bunch of lefties? Are they.
SCHWARZENEGGER: . and I, we argue.
MATTHEWS: What is the issue?
SCHWARZENEGGER: I think should you train with weights three times a day. He don't believe in that. So we fight over those things. So those are the kinds of things we argue.
MATTHEWS: I'm trying to get to, why are you a Republican? Tell me what makes you - because, a lot of people on the far right out here say you're not really a Republican because you might raise taxes if there's an emergency, or you're not pro-life, or you're not against gay rights. But what makes you positively a Republican? That's what I want to know.
SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, if you let me talk, then I can tell you. [Emph. added]
Maybe you had to watch the body language, but it wasn't pretty.
This doesn't mean Schwarzenegger isn't allowed to be politely forceful in the debate. A quick resort to egotistic testiness or bullying when things don't go quite according to plan, though, would be damaging. And a glimpse of Teutonic hierarchical arrogance--the idea that there are some people low down on the status ladder who Ubermenschen like Schwarzenegger can just roll over--would be fatal. If they're smart, all the other candidates will be trying to provoke just such a moment, of course.
That's why Schwarzenegger's (or his handler's) decision to take the conventional Reagan route and do just one debate is so risky. Has A.S. lowered expectations--or raised them? He hasn't done this before. If he makes a single big sound-bitable flub on his maiden outing, he could be sunk. ... 1:39 P.M.
Is Bustamante Busted or BS-ing? Do we really think Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante has already spent the $4 million in illegal donations from casino tribes, government employee unions, and others that a judge recently ordered him to return? The television ads (featuring Bustamante wading into an adoring crowd) are still running, apparently. Will they continue to run? Don't you think that if Bustamante cancelled the ad buy the stations would give the money back? I'm told that's a common practice. ...Update: L.A. Weekly's Bill Bradley makes the same charge:
Ross says the campaign can't give any of the money back, as the court ordered, because it has all been spent on ads opposing Proposition 54. But the TV ads began airing just six days before the court ruling, and the campaign acknowledges that money is sitting in TV-station accounts waiting to pay for ads that could be canceled. Is a contempt-of-court citation the next embarrassment in the lite guv's future?
More: LAT's Morain and Rubin tracked down someone at an NBC station:
Although NBC requires four weeks' notice for ad cancellations, the employee said, affiliates treat political candidates as "preferred customers" and would likely reach a quick compromise with Bustamante.
See also: John Fund's big WSJ takeout on Bustamante's casino backers, which is being promoted by the Schwarzenegger camp. Fund doesn't attack Bustamante's suspect claim that his Indian money is all gone. But he's got a hot doc--or, rather, evidence of a hot doc--that points to conservative #3 candidate Tom McClintock as a tribal spoiler pawn. ... P.S.: Is it smart for the Schwarzenegger team to focus so much of its fire on McClintock, rather than Bustamante (or Davis)? ... 2:51 A.M.
Tuesday, September 23, 2003 It's toxic, I tell you! In the wake of Weintraubgate, Hugh Hewitt has taken to calling the Sacramento Bee the Stingless Bee. But isn't a better name the P.C. Bee? ... 5:22 P.M.
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
It's toxic, I tell you! In the wake of Weintraubgate, Hugh Hewitt has taken to calling the Sacramento Bee the Stingless Bee. But isn't a better name the P.C. Bee? ... 5:22 P.M.
Monday, September 22, 2003
Monday, September 22, 2003
Lost Tribes II: If you watched the Ninth Circuit en banc oral argument, you now know that the "Screws Bustamante" outcome first suggested by Daniel Weiner--which would involve restoring the California recall election to Oct. 7 but postponing the vote on Proposition 54--is now a very real possibility. ... Hasen agrees, but points out some obstacles. ... Slate's Dahlia Lithwick, unaccountably, doesn't ridicule Laurence Tribe's argument--in which, it seemed to me, he tossed virtually all of his Equal Protection argument overboard in the course of debating the various judges and groping for a rule that might cover the weak facts of this case. ... 5:12 P.M.
'Free Weintraub' update, updated: Word out of the Sacramento Bee is that ombudsman Tony Marcano's report misleads in suggesting that star writer Daniel Weintraub was required to submit his blog to an editor just because the legislature's Latino caucus objected to these sentences:
If [the California Lt. Governor's] name had been Charles Bustmont rather than Cruz Bustamante, he would have finished his legislative career as an anonymous back-bencher. Thus there is reason to wonder how he would handle ethnic issues as governor.
And while people can debate forever whether MEChA and its more virulent cousins do or do not advocate ethnic separatism, it's indisputably true that the Legislature's Latino Caucus advocates policies that are destructive to their own people and to greater California, in the name of ethnic unity.
It turns out that Weintraub wasn't saddled with a minder to placate PC forces in the state legislature enraged by this "Bustmont" crack, because he'd already been saddled with a minder to placate PC forces within the Bee's own newsroom enraged by the "Bustmont" crack!
Weintraub is a Bee editorial-page employee, not a news employee. Apparently the news side of the Bee has never liked his blog, for some obvious reasons--e.g. he's been beating the pants off them. His provocative anti-Bustamante comments were enough to trigger a newsroom-led bureaucratic Thermidor. (It was as if he was criticizing affirmative action!) Executive editor Rick Rodriguez says "folks on the staff brought" the issue to him after Weintraub's posting. They "wanted to know if it was edited," he says, though he adds he suspects they mainly wanted to "yell at some editors" about it. Rodriguez volunteers the ethnic makeup of the angry newsroom "folks": "Some were Latino, some Anglo, some black." The result was a review of Weintraub's status. "Our policy at the Bee is that everything's edited," Rodriguez declares.
Amazingly, this may be the Bee's best defense--in effect, "We didn't let the Latino caucus muzzle Weintraub because we muzzled him first!" (What were the complaining Latino legislators told? Marcano says he thinks the paper is "still crafting" a response; Rodriguez agrees, saying it's the publisher's job and he hasn't spoken with her about it: "It's not even on my calendar.")
One obvious test of the new arrangement: Would Weintraub's new pre-clearance editors have allowed the offending sentence through? "Maybe, maybe not, but I think that conversation ought to be held," says Rodriguez. Other informed sources agree that some editors would OK it, some wouldn't. That's enough to confirm my suspicions that Weintraub doesn't have the freedom he once had. His work is already suffering, I think.
Rodriguez argues that the new editorial review, complete with "conversation," shouldn't delay a post for more than "10 or 15 minutes"--and he says the Bee editing desk is staffed until midnight. But delay is only half of the pre-clearance problem. The other half is self-censorship. If Weintraub isn't willing to have a blow-up, to-the-wall fight with his editor (especially if Mr. "Maybe Not" is manning the computer) he'll tone it down in advance. That's doubly true because Weintraub's supervisors now know that if they greenlight anything as controversial as "Charles Bustmont" they're likely to get another visit from some "folks" on the news staff--Latino, Anglo, and black!--who are looking to "yell at some editors."
I don't want to pretend this is a completely uncomplicated issue. Rodriguez recognizes that "two cultures are clashing," and concedes that maybe the Bee just can't do what unaffiliated bloggers are able to do. He claims, not crazily, that accuracy suffers without editorial supervision--citing Weintraub's erroneous prediction that Arnold Schwarzenegger wouldn't run for governor: "What does that do for the credibility of the Sacramento Bee?" The news section tried to check the prediction out, he says, and it didn't meet their "standards" for sources. "It didn't make it into the paper."
I'd concede that pre-publication editing often improves pieces--depends on the editor--but not enough to justify what is lost on the Web (where you can always do post-publication fiddling if necessary). The controversy that provoked Weintraub's semi-castration wasn't a question of inaccuracy or libel, after all. It was a question of Weintraub's non-crazy opinion offending some "folks" in the newsroom. As for accuracy--well, Marcano's ombudsman report, which is edited, contained a huge inaccuracy: the implication that the complaining Latino legislators had prompted the Weintraub change. It's an inaccuracy that's still doing damage to the Bee's reputation. (And it still hasn't been corrected. Except here.) ... Update: Marcano emails to note that he has freely corrected the error on radio and in emails (as well as in his phone conversation with me). He just hasn't done it in print:
The reason it hasn't been in the Bee yet is that I only learned about it yesterday, and my column doesn't come out until Sunday. I'll say it again then. ...unlike a 24-7 blog, I have to wait a week to do it.
Fair enough. But that's my point, isn't it? Unlike a mistake in a print column (or for that matter, a mistake on radio) a mistake in a "24-7 blog" can be easily and quite effectively corrected in the same place it was made. For this reason, the cost of a blog error is less than the cost of a print error. That means when you are balancing a) the cost of errors versus b) the cost of more procedures and "standards," you come out in a different place for blogs than you do for print. Update update: An alert kf reader and several Drezner readers report emailing Marcano--and none seem to have received an email containing a correction of Marcano's error. Most received form letters. One received a rude response.
P.S.: I obviously think the Bee leadership has made a large, embarrassing mistake. But the "Free Weintraub Coalition" shouldn't necessarily take it out on the paper's editorial pages, or the editorial page editors' new blog--they seem to be the relatively Webby, loosey-goosey ones in this fight. It's the dark, malevolent "news" side, apparently, that harbors the envious PC anti-speech bureaucrats. ... P.P.S.: I haven't talked to Weintraub himself about this--he declined an invitation to comment. ... Warning: What you've just read has not been pre-cleared. Click if you do not want to see this notice again. ... More:Instapundit makes an excellent point about adding thoughts to a blog post incrementally, much as I am doing even now. His point is that if you had to fly each little "P.S." or "More" by an editor it would drive him (or her, or you) batso. The other alternatives are a) to not make the points at all, or b) to try to save up all your little points until some grand, artificial roll-the-presses-style moment when you present them to your overseer and then cease thinking about a subject. There's no way that approach (b) doesn't lose thoughts and information when compared with just posting things by yourself as they come to you. In part that's because (b) tends to encourage (a). ... Backup: From Patrick Frey. ... Still more: Jeff Jarvis, an ex-big-time editor himself, has several sensible pithy comments. ... 4:12 P.M
Bustamante re-busted:The Bee's still-unmuzzled Dan Walters, backing up William Bradley and Daniel Weintraub 's charge, says Cruz Bustamante is either lying or "woefully ignorant" when he blames the California budget crisis on the California energy crisis. ... 11:00 A.M.
Free Pregerson too! So Judge Harry Pregerson violated the judicial code of conduct by in effect calling the Ninth Circuit's en banc panel a bunch of cowards who are going to reverse him. He's saying what he thinks, and the public should know what he thinks. It's not as if he's not going to think it because he doesn't say it, right? Like Prof. Volokh, I suspect the "gag" rule that Pregerson broke isn't justified. It seems designed mainly to promote the myth that federal judges are disinterested, non-ideological, publicity-hating, almost non-human scholars impartially divining and obeying "the law." Pregerson's comments give a clearer picture of the reality. ... 3:03 A.M.
Free Weintraub! An item posted by estimable Sacramento Bee blogger Daniel Weintraub annoyed the state legislature's Latino caucus, which "protested in a letter to Bee Publisher Janis Besler Heaphy," according to this Bee ombudsman report. The upshot? The Bee courageously stood up for its employee, noting that he hadn't gotten any facts wrong and was simply giving his opinions? ... No. That's not what happened. The Bee apparently caved, according to the ombudsman:
The Bee has instituted some reforms. Weintraub's blog now goes to the editorial page editor or his deputy before it's posted on sacbee.com.
So now readers of Weintraub's blog are not getting his unfiltered, up-to-the-moment thoughts. They're getting the thoughts that are approved by an editor--an editor who is now well aware of how sensitive the Bee is to complaints from powerful constituencies. ... Or some powerful constituencies, at least. A kf emailer writes: "If Arnold had complained, do you suppose the Bee would have strapped an editor on DW's back?" ..P.S.: Even if the Bee's move is just for show--to placate the Latino caucus with a procedural reform--and even if the editors involved have privately assured Weintraub they won't change a thing, it will have an inevitable degrading effect on Weintraub's blog. The whole point of blogging is that you get someone's take right now, when it can make a difference. What if Weintraub has a good idea at 7:30 P.M. and the editors have gone home? By the time they come back in the next day to "review" his idea, history may have moved on--the idea will be stale, even if it might have actually made a difference if it had been posted in time. ... But I actually doubt the editorial approval process will be completely benign. Read the ombudsman's pompous report ("no newspaper should publish an analysis without an editor's review") and you can see an edge-dulling, anti-controversialist mindset at work that is inimical to sound and well-established blogging practices. ... As long as nobody's libeled, why not publish analyses without an editor's review? If an editor (or a reader, or another blogger) comes back with a good objection, Weintraub can get another item out of it! ... If Weintraub's too much of an anti-liberal blogger, add a liberal blogger! Don't supress them both under a smothering blanket of bureaucratic timidity! [Calm down!-ed. ]...
Update: The blogosphere responds as one with horror and outrage. See Hewitt (who had it first); Instapundit; Tagorda; Simon (who's fatalistic); Welch; Fresh Potatoes (who, like many others, gives the Bee ombudsman's email address); xrlq; Pathetic Earthlings; Boifromtroi (who has a "Free Weintraub" logo); breaker; and Prestopundit. It's a damn Web posse! ... Holdout: Calblog ... 1:03 P.M.
I'm very proud of the Hummer, because I created that industry. I went to the Hummer factory and said we should make this Hummer not only a military car but a civilian car. [Emph. added]
Egomania aside, I actually think Schwarzenegger may be telling the truth about this. P.S.: Schwarzenegger quickly added "Now we have to find ways how to create alternative, you know, fuel for them." ... Update: Thomas "MinuteMan" Maguire emails to note that Schwarzenegger's claim is supported here, here, and here. At least it's a story several reporters have bought over the years. ...More: Arnold skeptic Hesiod Theogeny comes up with even stronger evidence of Schwarzenegger's role, and concludes (in an e-mail): "Arnold deserves credit for seeing its potential, but it's hard to know whether or not he actually suggested that they should market it, or just wanted one for himself." ...12:01 P.M.
Saturday, September 20, 2003
Earnest exclamation points? They're all ironic. Honest! 2:20 A.M. Friday, September 19, 2003 Howard Bashman and my brother Steve (a lawyer) agree: The anti-delay side has won the Ninth Circuit en banc lottery in the big California recall case. Bashman says it's "as conservative an en banc panel as one is likely to see from the Ninth Circuit."... Upshot: It's highly likely the very liberal three-judge panel that postponed the election will be reversed, and the recall election will go ahead as scheduled on October 7. ... Sorry, Prof. Hasen! ... Jake Tapper, you can come back to California now. [Presumptuous? Maybe the judges don't like to be so predictable--ed. They're not journalists. They're judges. And the three-judge panel's vindication of "fundamental and cherished liberties" did not exactly open to glowing reviews, even from the usual friends of liberal activism. The L.A. Times denounced it. Former Ninth Circuit clerk Dahlia Lithwick ridiculed it. Election officials throughout the state predicted a debaclefor which the Ninth Circuit would be held responsible. The relative unreliability of punch-card ballots, on which the three-judge decision rests, has been credibly questioned. Even Gray Davis now wants to "get it over with." If I'm wrong I'll cross out the ink!] P.S.: The en banc panel could still screw Cruz Bustamante by moving Propositions 53 and 54 to the March ballot while leaving the recall vote on October 7 (a possibility first suggested by Daniel Weiner). That would deprive Bustamante of an easy way to launder the Indian gaming millions he's currently spending under the guise of fighting Prop. 54. ... If this happens, the net result of the ACLU's self-righteous, trendsurfing, myopic litigation will have been to a) rob Davis of his best week in the press and b) strip Bustamante of his money. Good work by attorney Mark Rosenbaum! I may send them a contribution. ... [Many links via Weintraub] 7:07 P.M.
Friday, September 19, 2003
Howard Bashman and my brother Steve (a lawyer) agree: The anti-delay side has won the Ninth Circuit en banc lottery in the big California recall case. Bashman says it's "as conservative an en banc panel as one is likely to see from the Ninth Circuit."... Upshot: It's highly likely the very liberal three-judge panel that postponed the election will be reversed, and the recall election will go ahead as scheduled on October 7. ... Sorry, Prof. Hasen! ... Jake Tapper, you can come back to California now. [Presumptuous? Maybe the judges don't like to be so predictable--ed. They're not journalists. They're judges. And the three-judge panel's vindication of "fundamental and cherished liberties" did not exactly open to glowing reviews, even from the usual friends of liberal activism. The L.A. Times denounced it. Former Ninth Circuit clerk Dahlia Lithwick ridiculed it. Election officials throughout the state predicted a debaclefor which the Ninth Circuit would be held responsible. The relative unreliability of punch-card ballots, on which the three-judge decision rests, has been credibly questioned. Even Gray Davis now wants to "get it over with." If I'm wrong I'll cross out the ink!] P.S.: The en banc panel could still screw Cruz Bustamante by moving Propositions 53 and 54 to the March ballot while leaving the recall vote on October 7 (a possibility first suggested by Daniel Weiner). That would deprive Bustamante of an easy way to launder the Indian gaming millions he's currently spending under the guise of fighting Prop. 54. ... If this happens, the net result of the ACLU's self-righteous, trendsurfing, myopic litigation will have been to a) rob Davis of his best week in the press and b) strip Bustamante of his money. Good work by attorney Mark Rosenbaum! I may send them a contribution. ... [Many links via Weintraub] 7:07 P.M.
HRC-VP? John Ellis writes a very sharp insider's column in the process of reaching what seems a strained conclusion: that General Wesley Clark is part of an Anybody But Dean movement designed by the Clintons to install Hillary as Vice President. Why would Hillary exchange a solid chance for the #1 job (in 2008, which would be put in jeopardy if Clark/Clinton gets clobbered in 2004) in exchange for an iffy shot at the #2 job? And think of all the power-behind-the-throne stories that would attend a Clark/Clinton pairing. You'd think Hillary would have had enough of Lady Macbeth. ... Still, Ellis's piece is valuable for his concise analysis of primary mechanics, fleshing out the Note-like theme that
a presidential campaign isn't about delegates, it's about media coverage.
P.S.: When Ellis writes that there is "not enough time," given the compressed primary schedule, to organize an A.B.D. movement after New Hampshire, is he forgetting the Feiler Faster Thesis?P.P.S.: Where's the wackily-compelling-yet-wrong Dick Morris column explaining exactly which Hillary conspiracy Clarks' candidacy furthers? Did I miss it? P.P.P.S.: One more thing--why do so many HIllary conspiracy stories assume she can't run for president in 2012 when she's 65? I'm sure she'd rather run in 2008. But what's wrong with 65? It's the new 50! .... Hey, here's a complete obsessive-paranoid insider's too-clever-by-half theory that doesn't come from an insider at all but from a suggestion by alert kf reader J.B.: After New Hampshire, it's too late to file candidacy papers in many early Democratic primaries. But Clark could function as Hillary's surrogate vote-collector, pledging to throw his delegates to her at the convention. Clark's candidacy today thus enables a Hillary A.B.D. late entry in 2004 despite the "front-loaded" primary schedule. ... This has to be tomorrow's Morris column. Get it today at kf! ... [Link via Instapundit] Update: Apparently the rationale for Hillary-as-VP is that it will "scrub" her for 2008--get out all the potential unfavorable stories and scandals and make them "old news." (Doesn't sound like much fun for General Clark.) ... 1:04 P.M.
Thursday, September 18, 2003
You can vote. But first, what's your race? The estimable Jill Stewart reviews the ill-advised legislation the two-house Democratic majority in Sacramento seems to be spewing out. My nominee for the worst:
AB 587, by Mark Ridley-Thomas. A box asking your skin color will now go on voter registration forms. It's voluntary---but expect a move next to make it required.
Stewart reports that Governor Davis "signed this creepy law Wednesday." ... P.S.: On the other hand, the wild Democratic move to subject all development to review by a Native American Heritage Commission (in order to protect "sacred sites") appears to have been stalled, for now. ... 4:29 P.M.
Lost Tribes: A casino-addicted California Indian tribe will run ads in support of conservative Tom McClintock. Similar tribal gambling support has so tainted Democrat Cruz Bustamante that his negative ratings have doubled and his chances of becoming governor have been severely diminished. ... The tribes are considered Machiavellian on the theory that they're only buying ads that support McClintock in order to undercut his fellow Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. If they were really Machiavellian, though, they'd start buying ads that support Schwarzenegger. He might never recover. ... 3:08 P.M.
Lefties for the Recall I: L.A. Weekly's leftish-pro-Arnold correspondent William Bradley says a March recall might not be such a godsend for Governor Davis:
Davis gets a chance for the initial wave of recall anger to subside. And his slight uptick in support, which is very slight, increases. But he suffers a backlash from angry moderate and conservative voters who become just as likely to vote as liberal Democrats turning out for their allegedly interesting presidential primary, which has so far engaged only enthusiasts of the little-known candidates. And he has to face the electorate in the midst of the latest budget crisis, a likely referendum on the highly unpopular bill allowing driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, and after months of car tax increases. So the deeper dynamics of the recall may well continue no matter when the election takes place.
Wishful thinking? Only time will tell! ... Actually, let's hope it doesn't tell and the recall gets put back on schedule. ... P.S.: Bradley piles on the hapless LAT poll, quoting a "senior Democratic strategist with close ties to Governor Davis" saying "The L.A. Times poll is not correct ... " Times Poll Director Susan Pinkus--where are you? ... 3:45 A.M.
Lefties for the Recall II: L.A. Weekly's Marc Cooper demonstrates that nobody can bash the Democratic party establishment more effectively than someone to its left, demolishing MoveOn.org's anti-recall dogma. ... Cooper also gets in some solid shots at hack supporters of the three-judge panel:
Why, according to our Democrat friends, was blocking the Florida recount supposedly a "coup"? But short-circuiting an entire election with the same legal criteria isn't? Answer: because this time the heavy-handed court intervention benefits Democrats!
And until this week's court ruling, some Democrat activists were claiming that computerized electronic voter machines — which the court now favors over punch cards — were prone to right-wing Republican fraud. Now, poof! These same machines are guarantees of civil rights.
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Blogging election law prof Rick Hasen, who by taking Bush v. Gore seriously helped get us into the current Ninth Circuit recall mess, now recognizes the wisdom of the quick-election-with-paper-ballots solution. (See the second-to last paragraph of his latest Ninth Circuit filing.) ... Note to Prof. Hasen: If it's such a good idea, why not let the Ninth Circuit appellate court spell it out in an en banc opinion? Why do we have to take the risk of the campaign-until-March debacle that you've helped bring about?.... 4:29 P.M.
No Justice, No Paez II: Here's a kf item from 2000 on Richard Paez, one of the three judges who postponed the recall. When he was nominated by President Clinton, Republican senators accused him, not without evidence, of being a liberal activist. Democrats denied it and played the ethnic Latino card. Senate Judiciary chairman Orrin Hatch said he finally approved Paez, a fellow Mormon, after Paez promised to "abide by the rule of law and not engage in judicial activism." ... It now looks like a) Senator Hatch is a cheap date! b) the Republicans had a point in trying to block Paez, and c) the ACLU didn't just luck out when it came to the composition of the three-judge panel that postponed the recall--it hit the jackpot. Recall proponents' chances with an 11-member en banc court have to be better, if this Clare Cooper assessment of all 26 "active" Ninth Circuit judges is to be believed ... 1:40 P.M.
Attention, Ninth Circuit Clerks! Excellent Bruce Ackerman op-ed noting two big differences between the California recall and Bush v. Gore. ... Here's a third: In Bush v. Gore, the U.S. Supreme Court was confronted with a state court ruling that allowed, not different voting systems in different counties, but two completely different recounting systems within a single county--Miami-Dade. (See "One County, Two Systems: The Decision's Fatal Flaw") ... Worse, one of the systems was obviously more permissive. It actually looked at "overvotes" as well as "undervotes." The other was obviously more restrictive, only looking at undervotes. ... Even worse, the permissive system was applied almost solely to the Democratic precincts and the restrictive system was applied almost solely to Republican precincts. All of these factors might trigger Equal Protection worries, but they don't afflict the California recall. ...
Why is it different when the different treatment is within a county? Because counties are the jurisdictions that decide which voting system to use. The systems aren't imposed on them. If a county chooses a punch-card system that loses 1.34 percent of the vote, it has in a sense democratically chosen to dilute its own vote a little bit. And as long as counties run elections, some differences between counties are inevitable. It's much more troubling when officials within the decisionmaking jurisdiction choose different systems for different parts of their domain--for different parts of town, in effect. Then the possibility of favoritism, partisanship, or racism, or other invidious ulterior motive is much harder to dismiss, as is the possibility of a parallel invidious effect. That was the situation in Miami-Dade in Florida in 2000. It's not the situation in California in 2003. ... Update: Einer Elhauge makes a similar argument, and includes some useful Bush v. Gore pull-quotes. ... 5:56 A.M.
Does the NYT read its own charts? Unlike the L.A. Times, the New York Times reflexively applauded the Ninth Circuit 3-judge panel's decision to postpone the California recall vote. The NYT denounced as "unacceptable" the "mass disenfranchisement" that happens when
"[voters] in the counties stuck with punch cards are far more likely than other Californians to have their ballots thrown out."
But the NYT itself, on the bottom of page A-19, prints a chart showing that punch cards have a lower rate of "invalid votes" than touch-screen voting systems--one of the "new" systems California counties are required to replace punch cards with under the Ninth Circuit's rulings. True, the punch cards do slightly worse for top-of-the-ballot races (a 2.5% rate of "invalid votes" versus a 2.3% rate). But they do significantly better on down-ballot races (4.7% invalid rate versus a 5.9% rate). ... Was it the three hour time difference--or those deceptive pro-Davis polls--that allowed the LAT editors to come to their senses before following NYT ed-page editor Gail Collins off the cliff of maniacal Equal Protectionism? ...
P.S.: Note that the category "invalid votes" includes ballots with no votes at all. A non-vote might not be a miscounted vote, but rather an intentional and legitimate decision to leave that choice blank. These intentional abstentions are especially likely in down-ballot races. But suppose one voting system, rather than miscounting voters more often, somehow encouraged voters to voluntarily leave a choice blank. Maybe the electronic scan system reminds voters of the scandalous contract the Davis administration signed with Oracle, and they throw up their hands in disgust! More generally, maybe choosing on optically scanning machines is just fun--like a fill-in coloring book--while choosing on punch card machines just seems more of a hassle, so voters get grouchy and intentionally abstain. On other computerized systems, some voters might worry that somehow the machine could crash if they vote on too many questions. Heck, if you changed the machine's color it would probably produce a measurable change in the voluntary abstention rate. After all, when it comes to this sort of reaction, corporations pay billions to consultants to measure differences of a few tenths of a percent, which is what we're talking about here. Maybe slightly fewer motorists choose to gas up at Shell because the stations are a garish, off-putting yellow. Shell wants to know that. ...
Would this sort of discrepancy in consumer reaction to different voting systems, as it were, also be the basis for an Equal Protection challenge--even though in all cases the voting systems were accurately registering the voters' genuine preferences. (It's the actual preferences that differ, in reaction to the environment of the different voting systems.) ...
If the answer is "no," aren't these charts, and the studies that produce them, relatively useless--because no court can know what portion of the differential "invalid vote" rate measures miscounts (where the voter intended to vote but it didn't register) and what portion reflects accurate count of voters' differential tendency on different systems to abstain. ...
N.B.: The three-judge Ninth Circuit decision, which relies on the very Caltech/M.I.T.study reflected in the Times chart, conveniently omitsdiscussion of the error-rate of the electronic touch screens. It contrasts the punch cards only with "optical scan" machines. ... The three-judge panel also appears to address the abstention question, raised above, by noting that "given the many control variables" in the study "to which the pattern of disparity [in invalid votes] is resistant" it is likely that the disparity is not "completely attributable to voter intent to abstain or overvote, rather than the use of different voting machines." But if you read that passage carefully, you realize the judges are claiming only that the study rules out the possibility that voters of different races, ages, and classes--or in different elections and technological eras--have a diffferent abstention rate. What the study doesn't seem to rule out--what I don't think it could rule out--is the possibility that differential abstention rates were produced by "the use of different voting machines" itself--i.e., that all voters voting punch cards just tend to intentionally abstain more than voters using optical scanning equipment, perhaps because voting on the latter is more fun. ... 3:56 A.M. Monday, September 15, 2003
Monday, September 15, 2003
Has the Ninth Circuit 3-judge panel inadvertently screwed Gray Davis the same way the Florida Supreme Court inadvertently screwed Al Gore? ... In Florida, remember, the state Supreme Court's ruling--ostensibly siding with Gore--managed to deprive him of adequate time for either a pre-certification recount or a post-certification recount. ... In California, the three-judge panel's ruling has interrupted the Davis campaign just when it seemed to be getting some traction in its effort to overcome the recall's lead. If the panel is overturned next week, and the election goes ahead on October 7, there will be just enough time for Schwarzenegger to seize momentum back with a solid debate performance on September 24. Davis will have lost the intervening week of favorable post-Clinton-visit press. ... P.S.: The court also helped Schwarzenegger directly by distracting attention from his strange comment on Oprah that he was merely trying to get publicity during the 1970s
"when I was saying things like 'a pump is better than coming.'"
And what was he trying to do during Oprah? Annoy some more McClintock Republicans? Annoy his handlers? Appeal to wild and crazy anti-moralistic California Democrats and moderates? Appeal to what he condescendingly supposed were sex-obsessed Oprah-watching women? ... P.P.S.: You mean a pump isn't better than coming? I just spent $300 to join Joe Gold's gym. ... 3:10 P.M.
Drudge Report--80 % true. Close enough! Instapundit--All-powerful hit king. Joshua Marshall--Escapee from American Prospect. Salon--Better click fast! Andrew Sullivan--He asks, he tells. He sells! Washington Monthly--Includes Charlie Peters' proto-blog. Lucianne.com--Stirs the drink. Virginia Postrel--Friend of the future! Peggy Noonan--Gold in every column. Matt Miller--Savvy rad-centrism. WaPo--Waking from post-Bradlee snooze. Calmer Times--Registration required. NY Observer--Read it before the good writers are all hired away. New Republic--Left on welfare, right on warfare! Jim Pinkerton--Quality ideas come from quantity ideas. Tom Tomorrow--Everyone's favorite leftish cartoonists' blog. Ann "Too Far" Coulter--Sometimes it's just far enough. Bull Moose--National Greatness Central. John Ellis--Forget that Florida business! The cuz knows politics, and he has, ah, sources. "The Note"--How the pros start their day. Romenesko's MediaNews--O.K. they actually start it here. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities--Money Liberal Central.. Steve Chapman--Ornery-but-lovable libertarian. Rich Galen--Sophisticated GOP insider. Man Without Qualities--Seems to know a lot about white collar crime. Hmmm. Overlawyered.com--Daily horror stories. Eugene Volokh--Smart, packin' prof, and not Instapundit! Eve Tushnet--Queer, Catholic, conservative and not Andrew Sullivan! WSJ's Best of the Web--James Taranto's excellent obsessions. Walter Shapiro--Politics and (don't laugh) neoliberal humor! Eric Alterman--Born to blog. Joe Conason--Bush-bashing, free most days. Lloyd Grove--Don't let him write about you. Arianna--A hybrid vehicle. TomPaine.com--Web-lib populists. Take on the News--TomPaine's blog. B-Log--Blog of spirituality! Hit & Run--Reason gone wild! Daniel Weintraub--Beeblogger and Davis Recall Central. Nonzero--Bob Wright explains it all. [More tk.]