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Daniel Weintraub

California Insider

A Weblog by
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

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« September 17, 2003 | | September 19, 2003 »
September 18, 2003

Question time

AP has moved a story saying Bustamante, McClintock, Camejo and Hufffington are drafting a letter in which they will threaten to boycot next week's debate unless the sponsors drop 12 questions submitted by the public and already released and use a traditional format instead. It's not clear from the story whether the letter will really come together. There seems to be some question whether all the candidates are really willing to threaten to drop out. Stan Statham, president of the California Broadcasters Assn, says the format will not change.

A couple of things:

1. Schwarzenegger has already said they he would be happy to debate next Wednesday whether the questions are released in advance, or not.

2. The candidates, and to some extent the press, don't seem to understand that this is designed as a free-wheeling debate. The questions will be openers. After the first response, all the candidates get to jump in with rebuttal, followups, comment or whatever they like. The four who are complaining can spend all 90 minutes peppering Arnold with questions if they like. This would seem to hold the potential to be superior to any of the previous debates.

Disclosure: The idea of releasing the questions in advance was mine, and it was intended to engage the public in a discussion of the issues in advance of the debate, increasing expectations for the candidates to answer in more than sound bites.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:53 PM

I thought the GOP convention ended

At his press conference today on political reform, Arnold Schwarzenegger was asked a question he had to have expected, about the casino Indian tribes bankrolling commercials for Tom McClintock. The question gave Arnold the perfect opening to talk directly to the voters about the very issue he was discussing while at the same time taking a swipe at his last remaining major Republican opponent. He could have used the moment to say how this showed that the Indians have become the biggest, baddest special interest in Sacramento, and that by helping McClintock and Bustamante both they were playing a cynical game and proving that he, Schwarzenegger, is the man the special interests fear most. Instead, he gave reporters, and by extension readers and television viewers, a political consultant’s answer questioning McClintock’s loyalty to the Republican Party. Maybe it’s just me. But every time I hear a candidate talk about party loyalty, I want to tune him or her out. I don’t really care, ok? I care about the state, its problems, its future. I do not care whether Arnold thinks McClintock is a good Republican or a bad Republican. That’s not what this election is about. Here’s the quote:

“On what side is he on? Is he on the side of the Republicans, does he represent the Republicans, or does he represent Bustamante. Because he is taking money from the same Indian tribes that are financing (Bustamante’s) commercials, his TV spots and all that. He knows they are financing him not because they want him to be governor. They just want to interfere with the process so Bustamante wins. He has to decide which side he is on.”

Posted by dweintraub at 5:07 PM

Schwarzenegger's political reform plan

While the court battle and the debate over debates rages on, Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to burnish his policy credentials. His latest is a wide-ranging and detailed plan to clean up Sacramento with measures on open records, campaign fundraising, and redistricting. The plan would:

--Make access to public records a right of the people under the state constitution, covering both the legislative and executive branch and, like a model sunshine law in Florida, make public the appointments schedule of the governor and every other state official, drafts of state documents and internal e-mails.

--Ban political fundraising between the time the governor proposes a budget in January and signs one later in the year. Lately that’s been anytime between July and September. But Schwarzenegger aides said he also plans to overhaul the budget process in a way that would shorten the deliberation time-frame to between January and early May.

--Require immediate disclosure on the Internet of all campaign contributions and make willful violations of campaign finance laws a felony punishable by one year in prison.

--Take the job of drawing district lines out of the hands of the Legislature and give it to a three-person panel of retired judges chosen by lottery under the direction of the state Judicial Council.

Schwarzenegger also said he would not sign any bill that did not receive a full hearing by a policy committee in the Legislature prior to passage, a limitation aimed at ending the practice of “gut-and-amends” through which lawmakers strip bills of all their contents at the last minute and replace them with entirely new provisions that are passed without public scrutiny.

“There is no such thing,” Schwarzenegger said at a Sacramento press conference, “as democracy in the dark.”

If the past is any indication, most of these measures would have trouble getting through the state Legislature. But Schwarzengger has said before that he would be willing to go over the heads of lawmakers and take issues directly to the people on the ballot. Presumably he would be willing to do that with these proposals as well.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:33 PM

No safety net

Arnold Schwarzenegger took some more well deserved hits last night from his four remaining major opponents, all of whom participated in an LA Press Club debate in Los Angeles while Arnold was across the street chatting with Larry King, live. By ducking these debates, Schwarzenegger has managed to make his lack of substance The Issue in the campaign, at least as it’s reported in the mainstream press and on television. By agreeing only to the debate in which the questions have been released to the public in advance, he has reinforced the notion that he is an amateur who can’t handle the pressure of speaking off-the-cuff about the important issues facing the state. In truth, Schwarzenegger has been more accessible than Bustamante of late, and more detailed than McClintock. He just hasn’t wanted to share the stage with his opponents. And that, more than his desire to avoid serious discussion, might be the key behind his risky strategy. Schwarzenegger knows that if he shows up for these debates he will only elevate the stature of his opponents, who will piggyback on his fame to get attention for their own platforms. He thinks that by getting his message out on Larry King and Oprah and Howard Stern, he is reaching as many voters, or more, as he would by debating, and he is doing so in a friendly format where he can control the conversation. But his failure to debate has itself become such a big issue in the campaign that it is now a distraction that is undercutting his campaign. It has also put tremendous pressure on him to do well in next Wednesday’s affair, which will be the most-watched political event in California history. If he pulls it off, he could exceed the expectations of voters who have been told he has nothing of substance to offer, and that alone could rocket him to the head of the pack. But if he falters, he’s got no safety net to catch him, and it could be fatal.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:24 AM

Odd man out could be lucky one

If the Indian gaming money does for McClintock what it did for Bustamante, this race might be over -- with Schwarzenegger the runaway winner. After weeks of bad publicity surrounding his effort to accept huge contributions from the casinos despite state law limiting donations to $21,200, Bustamante has seen his negatives skyrocket toward 50 percent and his standing in the horserace polls decline. Now McClintock stands to be the beneficiary of at least $1 million in television advertising, perhaps more, paid for my the same Morongo Band that already has contributed to Cruz. You could say they are hedging their bets by backing various major candidates with whom they agree on gambling issues. You could also say they are using McClintock as a tool to undercut support for Schwarzenegger and elect Bustamante governor. If Schwarzenegger can get that message out, it could help him on two scores. First, it shows conservative Republicans that McClintock really is a spoiler in the race. Why else would the tribes that clearly prefer Democrat Bustamante support McClintock so generously? Second, the big spending fits into Schwarzenegger’s theme that the “special interests” are taking over Sacramento. There is no bigger donor these days than the casino tribes, and here they are playing on both sides in the race for governor. Even though the money being spent for McClintock isn’t going directly into his coffers, it’s still meant to help him, or Cruz. And the whole thing looks dirty. If Schwarzenegger can’t turn all of this to his own advantage, he probably doesn’t deserve to win.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:08 AM

Get connected

California Connected, a public affairs show on politics and policy in the Golden State that sometimes employs me as an analyst, is airing a special, hourlong show on the recall tonight at 8 p.m. on 10 stations in seven markets. If the show is up to their usual standards, it will be well-worth viewing. And unless I end up on the cutting-room floor, I will appear as an unpaid interviewee in a profile piece on Gray Davis.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:37 AM

Stand on a car with a bullhorn?

Growing increasingly irritated with Schwarzenegger's refusal to share a stage with them, the other major candidates, goaded by Bustamante, threaten to walk out of next Wednesday's debate at which Arnold has promised to appear and do their own outside the hall. The story is here in the Chronicle.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:32 AM

400,000 votes already cast

Halting the recall election would void 400,000 votes already cast, state officials say in their brief to the court. The story is here in the Bee.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:15 AM

Hedging their bets

A major Southern California casino tribe that has already contributed to Cruz Bustamante is preparing to launch a statewide television ad campaign on behalf of Tom McClintock. Schwarzenegger supporters say it's a dirty trick. The story is here, in the Bee.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:13 AM

Jay Leno's cars

Eleventh in Line is the first blogger I know of to answer the 12 recall debate questions online. She is a 22-year-old, libertarian-leaning Harry Potter fan from Long Beach who admits that 90 percent of what she would do the public wouldn't accept and 50 percent probably "wouldn't work." But I like her initiative. Others?

While we are at it, I've been juggling correspondence from some folks who say the candidate sphere is full of good ideas on balancing the budget. Any candidates out there who want to submit their ideas, feel free. I'll give you ink here.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:07 AM



At Crossroads, a panel of experts and the public debate the future of health care in California. We'd like you to join the conversation.

Daniel Weintraub


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