I was so wrong to suggest, below, that by dribbling out the stories of Schwarzengroping victims in twos and threes the Los Angeles Times would "lessen their impact." In fact, the daily announcement of new victims has kept the story alive, forced Schwarzenegger to keep responding (and tempted him to waver from his appealing apology strategy), given his opponents new excuses to ratchet up their criticisms, and given the press a convenient "mounting" body count to keep updating and new rounds of self-fulfillling "process" stories recounting how Arnold has lost another day of campaigning. ... Duh! ... The Times violated its old scandal-killing "Do It Once, Do It Right" creed and the result has been scandal-magnification. ... 1:00 A.M.
L.A. Weekly'sBill Bradley--now a blogger, but you knew that would happen--says "both Republican and Democratic sources say that the prison guards' union ... has a new poll showing sizeable leads for both the recall and Schwarzenegger." Not clear when the poll was taken. Bradley notes, correctly I think, that "even reporters who are writing that Schwarzenegger is in serious trouble say they expect him to win." 12:42 A.M.
Jill Stewart raises a relevant question about the L.A. Times:
Who did the editors assign, weeks ago, to investigate Davis' violence against women who work for him?
I assume the editors assigned some people a few years ago when the incidents occurred, and the stories couldn't be proven on the record. But didn't the Times have an obligation to go back and reinvestigate, given their D-Day like assault on past Schwarzengropings? Applying the same sourcing standards they applied to Schwarzenegger? Maybe people who weren't willing to talk before changed their minds.... P.P.S.: I'd argue that editor John Carroll should also tell us if he did try to check out the Davis violence story and couldn't. But editors don't discuss the stories that haven't checked out for fear of unfairness, you say? Not when it comes to Schwarzenegger--Carroll freely referred to uncorroborated examples of groping to justify his paper's coverage:
John S. Carroll, the editor of the Los Angeles Times, rejected criticisms Thursday that an article detailing six instances of sexual harassment by Arnold Schwarzenegger was unfair to the Republican gubernatorial candidate, and he said the newspaper had collected even more examples but had not printed them because it had not had time to corroborate them.
You want polls? Two slightly divergent new surveys:
1) Just-released results from the intriguing Knowledge Networks poll, which attempts to replicate the actual ballot facing voters, show the recall down only slightly (with 59 percent still in favor, 41 against), and Schwarzenegger's lead over Bustamante increasing slightly, to 43-30. ... Democrats have been gradually coming home to the anti-recall position, however--contrary to what the NYT suggests ... The poll was take from 9/26 to 10/4, straddling the big LAT grope story. "Interviews collected since the Oct. 2 revelations do not show a decrease in support for the recall initiative," according to the poll's press release. ...
2) The Mercury News/NBC 11/Knight-Ridder poll has the recall winning 54-41, but the fraction of people who say they "definitely" would vote for it fell over the course of the past week. Update: Alert reader R.M. notes that the fraction who say they "definitely" will vote against it also fell over the same period, though the trend is not as pronounced. ... And Weintraub has some plausible methodological objections to the end-of-week sample. ...More: The Contra Costa Times' far superior report on the same poll catches that nuance, and also a) the crucial role of new voters (the bigger the turnout, the better for Arnold) and b) the poll's findings that, contrary to what kf suggests below, the recall actually does worse if voters think Bustamante will win. They don't seem to want him! "By almost every measure, the Bustamante candidacy has been a bust." writes Daniel Borenstein. This poll finding also calls into question Davis' strategy of pooh-poohing Bustamante and trying to make it a "two-man race" with Schwarzenegger as the only alternative..... 1:59 P.M.
Kf has just received a download of campaign buzz from knowledgeable sources. The upshot: 1) Republicans are kidding themselves if they think the continuing Groping and Nazi stories aren't hurting Schwarzenegger. His campaign is certainly behaving as if they are, as Weintraub reports. 2)Both races are tightening, but--as RealClearPolitics predicted long ago--Democrats have a better chance at beating the recall in the initial yes/no vote than Cruz Bustamante has of beating Schwarzenegger in the second "replacement" contest. Even on the recall,everything must break the Dems way for Davis to survive.3) Nobody really believes the polling claims of either camp (Davis' claims the recall race is within a couple of points). There is supposedly a Field poll in the field, but polls taken over a weekend are notoriously unreliable. (Sunday evening, in contrast, is usually a good polling night--but this Sunday night is Kol Nidre, which screws up the measurement of a non-trivial group of voters likely to be especially sensitive to the "Nazi" charge against Schwarzenegger.). ....
P.S.: We need more polls! Accurate last-minute polls would be very helpful to recall voters, who must make strategic decisions that depend on whether they think Schwarzenegger is safely ahead. If Schwarzenegger's lead is shrinking, accurate last-minute polls would probably help him--by encouraging Democrats to recall Davis in the hopes of getting Bustamante, and encouraging McClintock voters to reluctantly switch and bolster Schwarzenegger. But will there be enough prominently-played post-grope polls to achieve this effect? ... Update: Here's one. ... 1:30 A.M.
When is a late hit a late hit? What's the difference between the "Groping" and "Nazi" stories?
Answer: 1)The Groping story would have had lasting impact on the race even if it had been published a month before election day. Individual 'Arnold-groped-me' stories might be true or untrue--here's today's harvest--but enough are certainly true to make Schwarzenegger's cruelty and piggishness in the recent past something voters should and would want to consider. The L.A. Times was right to publish them. Smoke, fire. (True, if the stories had come out earlier, that might have given Schwarzenegger more time to respond--but it would have deprived him of the "late hit" defense, as well as at least some of the 2 million absentee ballots already cast.)
2) The Nazi story seems flimsy by comparison. It's a shaky quote from decades ago, taken out of context, that sounds more scandalous than it really is. If it had come out two weeks ago, it would almost certainly have collapsed or faded into near-insignificance by Election Day. Its power derives almost entirely from Schwarzenegger's inability to put it into perspective in the time remaining before the vote. Which is why at least one Democratic activist I know, who supports Davis and promotes the groping story vigorously, regards the Nazi story as an embarrassing late smear, the triumph of last-minute Mulhhollandism (named after the notorious California Democratic Party button man Bob Mulholland, whom I once helped out in what is not my finest moment). ... 1:14 A.M.
Saturday, October 4, 2003
Gentlemen, Start Your Shredders: Here's a sentence buried in a NYT story--on Gov. Gray Davis' last-minute appointments--that might be news on Monday:
Plan B also has a strong pragmatic component. A state official with knowledge of the situation said the governor's office recently put in an order to the state archives for storage boxes, along with a list of approved vendors for shredding documents.
This could be wholly innocent. Or not! But if Schwarzenegger consultant Mike Murphy can't do something with it--e.g. seeking a showcase Temporary Restraining Order to prevent Davis from shredding state documents--he doesn't deserve his reputation. ... 1:14 P.M.
What Arnold said about Adolf: Bill Adams laces into the NYT for its seeming 180 degree turn on what Arnold said about Adolf. The following paragraph from today's NYT storyis fairly breathtaking:
According to Mr. Butler's reading of the transcript, Mr. Schwarzenegger followed his comments about Hitler's public speaking by adding, "But I didn't admire him for what he did with it." He did not say, "I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for what he did with it," as he was quoted in the book proposal and in early editions of The Times. [Emphasis added]
How long did ABC and the Times sit on this without actually checking its accuracy, by the way?
The problem with the easy condemnation of the Times--something I applaud and engage in myself whenever I can--is the omnipresence of George Butler, the Pumping Iron producer [correction: director] and author of the book proposal in question. Butler seems to have been all over the lot on the Arnold/Adolf issue. By his own admission, he screwed up the transcription in his proposal. ("I am amazed that something like that escaped me.") Also, Arnold Schwarzenegger has paid him a lot of money ($1.2 million, according to the Times) for his film and its storied outtakes.. Did the actor, after making Butler a small fortune, then pressure him to change his tune? I'd say Butler's word is pretty non-bankable at this point, and resolution of the transcript issue probably awaits production of the actual relevant tape. ... Schwarzenegger, the tape's owner, understandably won't want to release the Hitler snippet to the media for rebroadcast during the campaign's final days, even if it only shows him admiring Hitler's rhetorical chops. But can't the A.S. campaign play it for a few reporters and put the issue to rest? ... Update: Reader J.W, a member of the Directors Guild, e-mails to suggest that this bit of 16mm film and corresponding sound tape might be quite difficult to find, depending on how well the outtakes--potentially many thousands of feet of film--were catalogued. But did Schwarzenegger, allegedly a meticulous planner, really buy up this potentially damaging film in 1991 and then not have someone look at the outtakes to see what the potential damage was? ... P.S.: Butler seems to like John Kerry. ... That would bring him several degrees of separation closer to Davis overspinner/hit man/bad karma carrier Chris Lehane, who was Kerry's communications director and who can't be very far away from this story, which seems to be the Official Davis Late Hit. ... 3:55 A.M.
Friday, October 3, 2003
Chum in the Water: Overnight polls show Arnold Schwarzenegger even gaining one or two percentage points since the LAT's grope allegations. But here's the thing: It's not over. Thursday's Times story, as you might expect, prompted a flood of calls and emails from other women who claim Schwarzenegger groped them or was otherwise piggish with them. The Times is feverishly checking out these leads, and there will be another tranche of ugly 'Arnold-humiliated-me' stories in the paper. ... At some point the level of sordidness may rise high enough to do him some damage. ... What's ballpark estimate of how many gropees will pass muster? Dozens. [Not hundreds?--ed. No. Unless they come up with an online gropee registration form--and have you ever tried to register at the LAT?] ... Update: If the Times is going to dribble them out in twos and threes, as in Saturday's paper, that will lessen their impact. Nor is today's batch as sordid. For example, there is this sentence, from a woman who alleges Schwarzenegger "bent her over and pushed his tongue in her mouth."
When Schwarzenegger released her, Baron said, she "slapped him lightly on the face," then pointed a finger at him, saying: "Do not ever do that again without asking my permission," Baron said. Schwarzenegger immediately apologized and didn't give her any more trouble on the set, she said.
Hispanic Hype Corrective, XVIII:
But whatever hope Schwarzenegger had of winning a large share of the Latino [vote] may have been lost when former California governor Pete Wilson (R), a chairman of his campaign, revealed last month that the actor voted for Proposition 187. [Emphasis added]
--Rene Sanchez, Washington Post, three days ago. (Headline: "For Latinos, Recall is a Rare Opportunity: Bustamante Strongly Favored in Community")
While Latino voters continue to prefer [Lt. Gov. Cruz] Bustamante over the actor, the level of support for the Lt. Gov.is not that large (40% to 34%). [Emphasis added]
--today's Field Poll, measuring voter sentiment as of three days ago.
So NU? I don't speak German, but if you trust the translation on FreeRepublic--a site I do not endorse!--then this magazine says that Arnold Schwarzenegger heckled a neo-Nazi rally when he was a teenager in Austria ... Some of the Freepers themselves are skeptical of the story for journalistic reasons (it relies on the testimony of one 80-year old man). ...It's a strange story in other ways: Could it really have been lying around for weeks in a German Jewish magazine without the Schwarzenegger campaign publicizing it? Was there a reason they didn't? Wouldn't Schwarzenegger himself have told us about this to dispel the persistent rumors--stemming from his Pumping Iron days, and his friendship with Kurt Waldheim--that he was soft on Nazis?. Update: The entire magazine article in original German is available here. Don't make me make my mother translate it! ...Here's a translation: From Scrutineer ... and from Stone Knives See also: BBC report. ... 12:52 P.M.
Steve Sailer expands on the 'Roid-o-causal Theory of Schwarzenegger, drawing the possible connection (which I'd missed) between "his history of bullying both sexes" and the body-building steroids he admits having taken:
What do you think loading up on artificial testosterone does to you? It drives you toward aggression and a need for dominance. Does that sound like anybody we know?
This doesn't seem a crazy theory to me, though I don't know how long-lasting the drug's effects are. ... Over to you, Sullivan. ... Caveat: Schwarzenegger's only running for governor of California. It's not like he'll have his finger on the button and nuke Nevada in a fit of "'roid rage." And maybe he'll scare Senate President John Burton. [How do you nuke Nevada?Nevada's already nuked-ed. Good point!]... 3:20 A.M.
This attack, coming as late as it does, from a newspaper that has been acting more like a cheerleader for Gray Davis than an objective source of information, will be dismissed by most people as more Davis-like dirty politics.
You couldn't get away with criticizing the New York Times like that on the op-ed page of the New York Times--not on a touchy subject like the paper's bias during a campaign. ... I told Hugh Hewitt the LAT op-ed page was going to get better. ... Update/Semi-correction: It's been pointed out to me that Estrich herself blasted the NYT in the NYT in 1991 over the paper's decision to print a rape complainant's name in the William Kennedy Smith case. I didn't know that. But that is a piece focused on a specific, journalism-school-worthy incident. I still don't think you could say in the NYT what Estrich said in the LAT--that the paper has a general bias for or against one candidate. Have there been any NYT op-eds charging the paper with being a "cheerleader" against Bush? I missed them. .....2:27 A.M.
Thursday, October 2, 2003
Thursday, October 2, 2003
Where there's volk, there's mire! 1) Are the fingerprints of the Gray Davis camp on Thursday's LAT groping story? I doubt it. The Times didn't need Davis' help to get hold of that sort of information in Hollywood, and they say they didn't receive it. 2) Are the fingerprints of the Gray Davis camp--specifically, his union backers--all over the attempt to prolong the story by bringing forward a succession of complaining women? You bet, says L.A. Weekly'sSchwarzenophilic Bill Bradley. (How can he be so sure? He's got proof!) .. Update: More evidence. ... .3) And kausfiles recently learned that operatives working out of Gray Davis' Los Angeles headquarters have been busy on the phone rounding up press-feedable quotes condemning Schwarzenegger over ABC's "Nazi" allegations. (Were these Davis operatives peddling the "Nazi" story to begin with? I don't know. But if a campaign wants to stay away from an unsavory negative hit to avoid being tarnished it usually stays completely away from the unsavory negative hit, no? At least for a few minutes?) ... Scandal fratricide: Will the slightly moldy "Nazi" allegations actually help Schwarzenegger by eating up valuable feeding-frenzy time that would otherwise be used to keep alive the more recent groping/harassment/bullying allegations? 11:33 P.M.
Cable Diary II: Jill Stewart was just on MSNBC's Abrams Report referring to her published New Times L.A. articles that, she says, charge Gov. Gray Davis with "physically attacking his own staffers, female staffers." Stewart says she was told the L.A. Times didn't follow up on her pieces because it didn't want to rely on anonymous sources! ... I would think the Times now has a heavy obligation to check out Stewart's reports using the same sourcing standards it applied to Schwarzenegger. Plenty of time left! ... 10:56 P.M.
They don't call it "Hollowood" for nothing: Chris Matthews was just on "Countdown" extolling Arnold Schwarzenegger's funding of "Hollycost Studies." ... Aren't those the things the L.A. Mayor's office puts out to try and stop film production from moving to Canada? ... Groveling P.S. to Matthews: I know you simply misspoke! Easy mistake to make! Like "kindler and genter"! But still a valuable coinage. ... 10:03 P.M.
Peckergate has legs! Aptly-named tabloid kingpin David Pecker's PR man dismisses as "unfounded rumor" bodybuilder Joe Weider's assertion that when Pecker's company bought Weider's muscle magazines Pecker promised to "lay off" Arnold Schwarzenegger. But the resourceful Ann Louise Bardach gets Weider to reconfirm his charge in an L.A. Times op-ed on the tabloid's shame. She also interviews American Media employees who blame commerce, not ideology. ... P.S.: Weider's pro-Schwarzenegger, so why would he say this if it weren't true? ... [Did Pecker's spike make any difference, given today's LAT bomb?--ed Sure. If the story had broken earlier, Schwarzenegger might never have been able to emerge as the frontrunner, and his supporters would be unable to dismiss the charge as a desperate last-minute hit. Despite the Schwarzenegger camp's current complaints, it's hard to believe they actually would have preferred the LAT to have published a non-last-minute hit. ... In any case, all Americans should be concerned when a respected journalistic institution, once a vital part of the "communications stream of conspiracy commerce," is corrupted.] 9:49 P.M.
Rabbi Hier, call for you from Mike Murphy: ABC News has an old 1975 Arnold interview in which he violates the Hitler rule of Political Speech (never mention Hitler) in a pretty big way. ... [link via Weintraub ] ...P.S.: At least part of this quote--the "admire Hitler" part--does not seem to be new news. Here's a 1996 article discussing it. ... .. 6:01 P.M.
Gawker likes Grove. 5:15 P.M.
Where There's Smoke There's Fire II: "Closet Wacko"? I'm not troubled by the LAT's use of anonymous sources in it's big Schwarzengroper story. But if the Times had applied the same sourcing standards to Gray Davis that it has applied to Schwarzenegger, could it have come up with something newsworthy? Anti-Davis operatives would be well-advised to seek out an article by Jill Stewart published in the now-defunct New Times Los Angeles in Nov/Dec 1997, titled "Closet Wacko vs. Mega-Fibber." ... Sophisticated opposition research techniques like googling "Jill Stewart" and "Closet Wacko" might turn up a column quoting an unsatisfyingly short passage from Stewart's article. You never know. ... Update: Or you could scour the Web, site by site, for thousands of years, perhaps starting at a site such as windsofchange.net to see if "Armed Liberal" has the whole Stewart article posted. ... 2:42 P.M.
Where There's Smoke There's Fire I: Der Schwarzengroper Yes, Arnold's statement was only 65 percent of a complete apology. (In particular, "playful" doesn't own up to the pecking-order cruelty of his actions. They didn't just "offend" people. They were offensive. And not just to "the women.") But count me among those who found it refreshing nevertheless, especially the smoke/fire admission. That's a bit of honesty you didn't find George Stephanopoulous/Chris Lehane deny/discredit/spin playbook for the past decade. ... .... It raises the obvious question: Would history be different if Bill Clinton had been as forthright? Yes, though if Clinton had been as forthright in 1992 he probably would never have been nominated, much less elected. And in January 1998, at the beginning of Monica, Clinton was facing a perjury rap. Admitting to "fire" might well have sunk him then also. (Sure, without the perjury wrinkle, admitting adultery would have avoided a year of scandal. But that wasn't a pre-election situation, when voters feel free to drop a pol who hasn't taken office yet.) ... The unpleasant truth may be that Arnold can only get away with his reponse, if he gets away with it, because the Clinton impeachment trauma raised the electorate's tolerance of sinful male Darwinian behavior. Schwarzenegger stands on the shoulders of the gropers who came before him. ... 2:35 P.M.
The Shoe drops here, as foreshadowed in the eerily prescient item below. Initial reactions: 1) It seems hard to question the truthfulness of the the complaining women found by the Times--at least 5 of the 6, anyway. And it would be a big mistake for the Schwarzenegger people to try to discredit them, I should think. 2) The A.S. behavior described is ugly, along the lines of what we'd been led to expect. It's ugly in a particular way: he's not a normal horny groper. He seems to have always enjoyed using his star power to humiliate people on occasion. Note: He does it to men too, as the LAT reported on Monday. (Steve Sailer would say this is the steroids talking.) 3) It would in fact be good to have had more reporting on his bullying of men, to put the 'he disrespects women' charge in perspective. Maybe he disrespects everyone when he's in the mood and can get away with it. 4) Do the incidents fit the technical definition of sexual harassment? At least two--involving crew members--seem like good candidates. Another incident, on a street, might be some sort of assault. More legal analysis, please! There's one second-day story. 5) Not that it excuses anything, but prominent national Democrats (and I'm not just talking Bill Clinton) have been accused of not-entirely-dissimilar behavior in the course of their careers. 6)Not that it excuses anything, but there must have been many, many times when this sort of groping "worked" for him--something the Times, to its credit, hints at; 7) Maybe he has an alcoholic father and Warren Beatty can leap in to defend him; 8)Will it sink him? I tend to think no, not this by itself. But maybe conservative Tom McClintock had an unstated reason for not dropping out; 9) Should it sink him? Ask me tomorrow, after the prudish shock has worn off and I've defined deviancy down for a few more hours. ... 3:50 A.M.
Wednesday, October 1, 2003
Shoe day? Tomorrow would be about the logical last day for the Los Angeles Times to drop its bomb on Arnold Schwarzenegger. If editor John Carroll waits any longer it will look like a late hit designed to stampede the electorate. ... Note to increasingly non-confident Davis aides: Hello? You're not relying on the famously gun-shy Times are you? And you certainly can't rely on the in-the-tank tabs controlled by the aptly-named David Pecker. ... What to do when you're looking to get out all your opposition-researched Arnold dirt without any fingerprints? I have one word for you: D-R-U-D-G-E ... He's a mouse click away! ...Update--Rush Bummer! It may be too late for even that option. Drudge is now occupied with the surprise Limbaugh scandal, which seems to have been prompted by a story in the National Enquirer. Only a barking paranoid would think that the Enquirer's publisher, American Media Inc., and its aptly-named CEO would try to blot out any possible Schwarzenscandal on this final pre-election weekend by launching a competing, equally large scandal. Woof! ... Post shoe-drop update: Bill Adams has similar thoughts, though he doesn't finger Pecker. He thinks the crowding-out effect will save Arnold, because the Limbaugh scandal, unlike Schwarzenegger's groping, is new news. ...6:49 P.M.
400 Blows: We Got Your Davis Bacon Right Here! Excellent Inland Valley Daily Bulletin report on the 400 or so bills sitting on Gray Davis' desk that he could sign into law even after he loses the recall election.. Arguably, it may turn out that Davis will have more lasting impact as governor because he's been recalled--a prospect that prompted the Democratic legislature to rush these laws to him--than if there'd been no attempt to recall him at all and he'd just served out his term peacefully positioning himself by vetoing liberal legislation. ... The biggies include: 1) A health care "pay or play" mandate for employers; 2) Financial aid or free tuition for illegal immigrants! 3) A requirement that the L.A. Unified School District only deal with contractors paying "prevailing wages," according to reporter David Drucker. ... Is it just an eerie coincidence that the federal counterpart of (3) is known as the Davis-Bacon Act? [yes-ed] ... Link via Rough & Tumble. ...1:18 P.M.
Worthwhile Futile Initiative: William Bradley recounts his back-channel efforts to help arrange a Davis-Schwarzenegger debate--a doomed public-interest effort that flew in the face of the zero-sumness of the situation. It couldn't have been in both Davis' and Schwarzenegger's interest to have a debate (assuming McClintock and Bustamante had no chance of winning). Once Schwarzenegger had made it through the Sept. 24 debate (which didn't include Davis) he didn't need to debate Davis anymore. ... Good campaign detail here, though, including the best evidence to date that neither campaign believed the cracked L.A. Times poll that left the state's biggest paper reporting on a fantasy world of its own creation.
Indeed, both Schwarzenegger and Davis had the action superstar leading Bustamante or at least in a dead heat while some public polls — most notably the Los Angeles Times poll — had the lite guv in the lead. In fact, a very wide lead, according to a notorious Times poll of last month, which both the governor and the movie star discounted out of hand. [Emphasis added]
The price of editing? I was tipped off to the new LAT poll results by an e-mail addressed to both me and the Sacramento Bee'sDaniel Weintraub, whose blog was recently and controversially subjected to editing. This created an experiment, of sorts, testing at least one of the actual practical effects of requiring bloggers to obtain editorial pre-clearance:
kausfiles (unedited) reports LAT poll results: 5:38 P.M. PST
Weintraub (edited) reports LAT poll results: 9:39 P.M. PST
Advantage: Unedited! ... [Maybe Weintraub didn't care that much about the LAT poll, or he was out to dinner and didn't see the e-mail, or he has higher sourcing standards than you do, or he didn't want to poach on the LAT, or he was working on something else-ed. Sure. Still ... four hours. An eternity in blog time!] 3:14 A.M.
The Brentwood Landslide: I was wrong to cruelly suggest (below) that Arianna Huffington was right to quit the race because "it's less humiliating to get 2 percent of the vote after dropping out than 3 percent staying in." In fact, Huffington's share of the vote was not as bad as 3%, according to the LAT poll. It was worse! ... The Times reports
Arianna Huffington, an independent candidate receives less than 0.5% of the vote.
Ouch! Not 0.5%, mind you--less than 0.5%. A microscopic showing represented on the Times' chart by a symbol that is not a number! ... If Arianna didn't announce her withdrawal today in order to block out this highly embarrassing news, she should have. ... Note: Huffington did get 2 percent in the Gallup/USAT/CNN poll. ... More: Hasen notes that she is a victim of Duverger's Law. ... Still more: An alert, well-informed kf reader e-mails:
The Arianna story is in the results on questions, in this and other polls, asking who "won" the debate or "did best" or was "most informed on the issues." Arianna never reaches even close to 10% on debate winner questions. It's bad when you are an old media hand, you prepare well and play all the tricks that attract attention to you in the debate, and that attention only serves to convince people that you'd be a terrible governor. And who will hold accountable all those next morning pundits in LAT and WaPo who said the Arianna-Arnold squabble will hurt Arnold--the squabble killed Arianna! [Emphasis added]
You mean the Chris Lehane spin was wrong? How can that be? ... 2:10 A.M.
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Universes converge: The new L.A. Times poll (teased below) is out. Recall winning 56-42. But Schwarzenegger leads Bustamante by only 40 to 32. And I would not understimate the Univision card, which Bustamante has now played. Univision had a huge impact on the Latino vote on Ron Unz's 1998 anti-bilingual-ed initiative, Proposition 227 ... P.S.: What's with the LAT headline, "Majority Now Favors Recall"? A majority always favored the recall, except in the weird world of the L.A. Times, which misreported the reality that all the other polls captured. (Even in the Times poll, the recall got 50%--versus 45-47%). ... More: Amazingly, the Times' Susan Pinkus and Jill Darling Richardson spend their entire "analysis" in this Times alternative universe, describing how "the momentum has shifted toward recalling the governor" since the previous LAT poll, never even considering the Field Poll organization's powerful argument that there was no big shift--that the previous LAT poll was simply wrong because it oversampled blacks, who tend to be heavily anti-recall. (The previous Times poll sample had 18 percent blacks and Asians, according to Field. The new poll has 16 percent. Field's most recent poll had 13 percent.) ... Bonus polling wrinkle: kf's mystery pollster "M" accurately predicted the polls would start to converge as we approached election day. Why? Differences between polls are often due to different turnout estimates. But it gets easier to identify "likely voters" as the election approaches and people have a clearer idea of whether they're really going to vote. ... 8:41 P.M.
Arianna is now at war with Eurasia: Huffington will drop out of the California recall election tonight, according to L.A. Weekly's Bill Bradley. This seems like a no-brainer--it's less humiliating to get 2 percent of the vote after dropping out than 3 percent staying in. But Bradley notes the irony of Huffington rallying to Gray Davis' side after savaging Davis for many of the same sins (e.g. favors to special interest contributors) that Arnold Schwarzenegger has complained about. According to Bradley,this is Huffington's fourth position on the recall:
In a column published before her surprise entry into the governor's race, Huffington looked with favor on the recall, despite the right-wing fingerprints on its origins. But after entering the race, she came out against the recall. Later in her campaign, she endorsed the recall. Now she will again be opposed to the recall.
[She announced her withdrawal a few minutes before this post, actually. Her statement is here.] ... More: Here's Arianna's pre-election column on the recall that she now says she's devoting "all my time and energy in the remaining week to defeating." Key anti-Davis passage:
California's recall provision was added to the state constitution in 1911, one of a host of progressive era reforms designed to put more power in the hands of voters, and less in the hands of powerful corporations, such as the Southern Pacific Railroad, and the political bosses that did their bidding. Big money is once again calling the tune in California -- Davis never met a check-wielding lobbyist he didn't cozy up to -- and it appears that disgruntled voters will use the recall to break through the special interest din and let their voices be heard. Why did Arianna decide to fall in line behind a politician who might have been the model for Warren Beatty's corrupt Bulworth? (For that matter, why is Warren Beatty finagling behind the scenes for a politician who might have been the model for Warren Beatty's corrupt Bulworth?) Some of Arianna's erstwhile supporters are disillusioned, complaining she's sacrificed her stance as an independent reformer in order to stay in the good graces of her West Side Los Angeles liberal Democratic buddies. I have a different theory: She wants to run for the U.S. Senate someday and could use as much Democratic support as possible. That would also explain her ill-considered attempt to "nationalize' the recall race with off-point anti-Bush rhetoric (rhetoric emphasized again in her withdrawal statement). ... If she doesn't run for Senate, I'd expect her to try to seek a larger, national stage in some way. Schwarzenegger didn't get big, California got smaller! ... Third possible explanation: He said he wanted to stuff her head in a toilet! ... Bonus dueling Arianna quotes: So, however corrupt the parentage of the recall, it offers Californians a golden opportunity to send a historic message: that it's time to reorder our policy priorities and get back to serving the people. -- July 9, 2003. From the beginning of my campaign I have said that I opposed the recall on principle. But she sure livened up the debates. ... 6:12 P.M.
California's recall provision was added to the state constitution in 1911, one of a host of progressive era reforms designed to put more power in the hands of voters, and less in the hands of powerful corporations, such as the Southern Pacific Railroad, and the political bosses that did their bidding.
Big money is once again calling the tune in California -- Davis never met a check-wielding lobbyist he didn't cozy up to -- and it appears that disgruntled voters will use the recall to break through the special interest din and let their voices be heard.
Why did Arianna decide to fall in line behind a politician who might have been the model for Warren Beatty's corrupt Bulworth? (For that matter, why is Warren Beatty finagling behind the scenes for a politician who might have been the model for Warren Beatty's corrupt Bulworth?) Some of Arianna's erstwhile supporters are disillusioned, complaining she's sacrificed her stance as an independent reformer in order to stay in the good graces of her West Side Los Angeles liberal Democratic buddies. I have a different theory: She wants to run for the U.S. Senate someday and could use as much Democratic support as possible. That would also explain her ill-considered attempt to "nationalize' the recall race with off-point anti-Bush rhetoric (rhetoric emphasized again in her withdrawal statement). ... If she doesn't run for Senate, I'd expect her to try to seek a larger, national stage in some way. Schwarzenegger didn't get big, California got smaller! ... Third possible explanation: He said he wanted to stuff her head in a toilet! ...
Bonus dueling Arianna quotes:
So, however corrupt the parentage of the recall, it offers Californians a golden opportunity to send a historic message: that it's time to reorder our policy priorities and get back to serving the people.
-- July 9, 2003.
From the beginning of my campaign I have said that I opposed the recall on principle.
But she sure livened up the debates. ... 6:12 P.M.
****BREAKING POLL LEAK****--the Trend is at Hand: Democratic party officials are trashing the Gallup/USAT/CNN poll that showed Schwarzenegger ahead, but kausfiles hears (from a seemingly reliable source of untested pedigree) that the new Los Angeles Times poll will also deliver bad news to those confident Gray Davis aides tomorrow--it will confirm the pro-Arnold trend in the Gallup poll, if not the large margins. ...The Times poll has previously been the survey most favorable to Gov. Davis. .. 5:38 P.M. Update: The poll's here.
Antidote to the L.A. Times: TheSacramento Bee'sDan Walters calmly assesses the recall race without having to accept erroneous in-house polls, "confident" spin from the Davis camp, or a PC pro-Bustamante bias. And, somehow, the "fog of doubt" that afflicts the Times dissipates. .. 12:01 P.M.
Unexpectedly credulous Hispanic Hype from WaPo: I have no doubt Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante is very popular in the agriculture-centered Latino precincts along Highway 99. But today's WaPo wildly overplays his prospects:
Lt. Gov. Cruz M. Bustamante, the only prominent Democrat on California's epic recall ballot, and a native son of this heartland where Mexican immigrants have long toiled in the fields, soon could become the state's first Latino governor in more than 125 years. [Emphasis added]
And Arianna Huffington soon could become the state's first Greek governor. But that's not likely to happen either. WaPo's own lede story today reports that "California's recall election appears more and more to be a two-man race." Bustamante is not one of the two men. ... More from WaPo:
Earlier in the recall campaign, some political analysts predicted that Schwarzenegger might win significant support from Latinos, in part because his action films are popular with young Latino males. Schwarzenegger also has tried to captivate Latinos by stressing his own experience decades ago as an immigrant from Austria.
But whatever hope Schwarzenegger had of winning a large share of the Latino may have been lost when former California governor Pete Wilson (R), a chairman of his campaign, revealed last month that the actor voted for Proposition 187. [Emphasis added]
Reporter Rene Sanchez cites a survey from the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute in which Schwarzenegger gets only 13% to Bustamante's 57%. But the survey explicitly says it "was not constructed to illustrate the potential outcome of a statewide vote." In particular, a) it doesn't appear to attempt to separate out likely voters from registered voters, and b) the Bustamante v. Schwarzenegger horse-race question is the 26th question asked, after respondents have been influenced by a series of queries about Prop 54 (the controversial racial privacy initiative) and about lightning-rod non-candidates Ward Connerly and Pete Wilson. The L.A. Times poll taken about the same time--hardly a Schwarzenegger-friendly survey--showed him getting about 29 percent of the Latino vote (greater than his share among whites) to Bustamante's 47 percent. The Field poll showed him with 26 percent to Bustamante's 36 percent. I'd say that's "significant support" among Latinos for Schwarzenegger, even a "large share"--though not a plurality. Update: In the latest LAT poll Schwarzenegger gets 24 percent of Latino votes--still almost twice Sanchez's figure.
Sanchez's story smells like a piece that has either been in the queue for three weeks--or whose thesis was decided at a desk somewhere with facts inserted as required, and which was published without much thought as to whether the finished product was actually convincing. ... 2:39 A.M.
Monday, September 29, 2003
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.
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.]