The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

March 30, 2010
DeVore and Fiorina have a non-debate debate

For a while, at least, Chuck DeVore and Carly Fiorina agreed on most everything.

Appearing on Fox News Channel this evening, two of the three Republicans running for U.S. Senate agreed that Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer is an out-of-touch creature of Washington. She is horrible for California, they said, criticizing her on global warming and Central Valley water. Boxer will go down to defeat in November, they vowed.

Together on stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, DeVore and Fiorina both said they would endorse the other if the other won the June primary, which also includes former U.S. Representative Tom Campbell (who Fox said declined an invitation to take part).

The happy mood soon changed, however.

DeVore, a state Assembly member who is trying to catch up in the polls, tried to outflank Fox host Sean Hannity's admonition that the joint appearance was not meant to be a debate.

DeVore criticized Fiorina, a former Hewlett-Packard CEO, over what he described as her support for President Barack Obama's first Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor.

"Not true," Fiorina shot back, a tight smile on her face.

When DeVore tried to launch another attack, calling himself the only "proven conservative" in the race, she went on to say that they had gone over these charges and countercharges many times before.

Hannity, whom Fiorina praised profusely at the beginning of the segment, came to her rescue. He said the two should obey Reagan's "11th commandment" not to speak ill of a fellow Republican.


March 16, 2010
By all means necessary on health care reform

The latest health care scuffle on Capitol Hill is the possible scenario under which the House wouldn't actually vote up-or-down on the Senate bill. Instead, it would instead pass a bill to fix provisions it doesn't like in the Senate bill, after using a legislative maneuver "deeming" that it passed the underlying bill.

That would ensure approval while allowing Democrats running scared in the November elections to avoid a troublesome vote. But Republicans are screaming bloody murder.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is on the hot seat to keep health care reform alive, is at least tacitly acknowledging that she doesn't have the 216 votes to pass the Senate bill, which is opposed by liberals because it doesn't have a public option and by anti-abortion lawmakers because of less restrictive provisions.

"We will do what is necessary to pass a health care bill to improve quality, lower cost, and make America healthier," she told reporters today.

Representative Tom McClintock of Elk Grove is among the Republicans accusing Pelosi and other Democratic leaders of an abuse of power.

"My constituents have read the Constitution, including the provision that requires both houses to vote on a bill before it can become a law," he said on the House floor today, adding that "if the Democrat majority attempts to impose this law without a direct vote, two things will be obvious to every American.

"First, that the Democrats are ashamed to cast the very 'up-or-down' vote on the health care takeover that the President promised as recently as yesterday. And far more disturbing, that the Congress has now placed itself above the Constitution.

Pelosi bristled at such criticism, and her office released a "fact sheet" asserting that Republicans and Democrats alike had used the parliamentary tool many times.

Asked about the "ferocity" of GOP attacks, she replied, "I didn't hear any of that ferocity when hundreds of times, the Republicans used these methods when they were in power."

She went on to say that Republicans want to focus on process, not substance. "If you want to talk about process, let's talk about the process that the insurance companies use when they say to you: 'You become sick, your insurance is cancelled.' When they say to you: 'You're on the way to an operation but your insurance is rescinded because we just feel like it and we can do it, so we will.' Or what they say when they say to somebody that: 'You have a pre-existing condition and so you cannot have health insurance.' Let's talk about that process. If you want to have some outrage about process, let's apply it to the insurance companies."

March 16, 2010
Legislative leaders get prize for courage -- really

This would go squarely in the category of the further away you are, the better it looks.

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation announced today that former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assemblyman Mike Villines and Sen. Dave Cogdill will receive a 2010 "Profile in Courage" award for "their humane approach to solving the California budget crisis."

The two Democratic leaders and two Republicans will receive the award from Caroline Kennedy at a ceremony May 24 in Boston. Bass said in a statement that she "honored beyond words." Steinberg called it a "tremendous honor," and his statement took a shot at "cynics in our state, and pundits across the nation" who "take their shots at California and our challenges.

"Faced with the most difficult choices and a budget crisis of unprecedented magnitude, these legislative leaders had the courage to negotiate a compromise that they felt was in the public's best interest," Kennedy said in a statement. "They did so knowing they would suffer the wrath of their constituents, powerful interest groups, and their own party members. The members of the Profile in Courage Award Committee chose to herald this story of political courage and bi-partisan compromise with the hope that it will inspire other elected officials facing similar challenges to stand up with courage, to cross party lines, and to do whatever is necessary to better serve the public interest."

But that recitation glosses over the many, many flaws in what the Legislature has done. While they have protected many social service programs, as we have noted repeatedly, they have used every gimmick and dodge in the book to avoid many of the hard decisions on the state budget. That means that when the day of reckoning finally comes -- and it will -- the pain will be even worse.

And that might take some of the shine off the award.

March 11, 2010
Mayor Kevin Johnson, critics make nice on arena report

You never would have known from today's Sacramento City Council meeting that the very legitimacy of the arena task force that made its report was under attack.

Some council members were upset that Mayor Kevin Johnson formed the volunteer group on his own, and complained that it was confusing the public. The spat became part of the drama surrounding his at-times testy relationship with his most vociferous critics that has been on display for all to see.

But today it was all goodness and light. The task force leaders said over and over again that they didn't want to step on any toes and that any decisions were up to the council. And the entire council profusely thanked the task force for its work.

Council member Rob Fong and Johnson even joked with each, much to the amusement of the standing-room-only crowd in the council chambers. Fong mentioned that he had been to Madison Square Garden and TD Garden in Boston, cited as models for combining the arena with a planned transit hub.

"How about those who played there?" kidded Johnson, a former NBA player.

It helped that Johnson reached out, having the task force unveil its recommendations at a public meeting to the entire council, not just to the mayor as originally planned.

And, of course, it helped that the task force came to the conclusion that Fong and another vocal Johnson critic, Sandy Sheedy, wanted: that the city should negotiate first with the group led by developer Gerry Kamilos, who is proposing a three-way land swap in which a new arena would end up in the downtown railyard.

Councilman Steve Cohn said that he was pleasantly surprised at the detail in the task force report and how helpful the information was. As for the bickering over the task force's formation, he said: "I would say it's water under the bridge."

March 10, 2010
Mayor Kevin Johnson's big splash in Washington Post

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson gets the full Style section treatment in today's Washington Post.

The story is lengthy as far as newspapers go these days, and comes with an online photo gallery. It's something of a two-fer: It gives more personal detail of the relationship between Johnson and his  fiancée Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools. It also chronicles Johnson's childhood in Sacramento, his decision to run for mayor and how he's been received in Sacramento.

The power couple told the Post's Wil Haygood that Johnson popped the question after they saw "A Streetcar Named Desire" at the Kennedy Center in Washington, and that their nuptials will be sometime this year -- depending on their busy schedules.

"My true north is here in Sacramento," Johnson told Haygood. "So we'll have a bicoastal marriage for a time. But we're lucky we get a chance to see each other a couple times a month. It's not ideal, but when you're in love, you climb the highest mountain. You know how the song goes."

One part of the story that might raise some eyebrows is Robert Graswich's take on the differences between Johnson and Heather Fargo, whom he unseated in 2008.

"She ran the town like it was Mayberry RFD," Graswich, a former Bee columnist who is now a top aide to Johnson, told Haygood, referring to the little North Carolina town that was the setting for "The Andy Griffith Show."

Graswich chalks up the opposition to Johnson's agenda, including his strong-mayor initiative, to people resistant to change.

"A lot of people," he said, "like Mayberry."

March 3, 2010
Boxer, Feinstein sign on to 'don't ask' repeal

California's two U.S. senators are among about a dozen who introduced a bill today to end "don't ask, don't tell," the 17-year-old policy that prevents gay Americans from serving openly in the armed forces.

"I look forward to ending the discriminatory Don't Ask Don't Tell policy as soon as possible," Sen. Barbara Boxer said in a statement. "We cannot afford to lose the service of dedicated and honorable military personnel, which is happening right now."

"Every American should have the opportunity to serve their country, regardless of race, sex, creed, or sexual orientation," Senator Dianne Feinstein added.

"The criteria for serving one's country should be competence, courage and willingness to serve. When we deny people the chance to serve because of their sexual orientation, we deprive them of their rights of citizenship, and we deprive our armed forces the service of willing and capable Americans."

The Senate bill, which joins a similar bill introduced in the House last year, comes at a crucial time.

Early last month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen told Congress that "don't ask, don't tell" is wrong and should be repealed. But they also laid out a year-long review process before the change would take effect. And since then, however, the military branch chiefs have expressed concern about possible disruptions in the ranks at a time of two wars.

But as the Bee's editorial board said this month, the experience of U.S. allies shows that those worries are overblown.

The next move is up to Congress, which now has bills in both Houses to consider.

"Congress should act quickly to get a bill to Obama's desk," the editorial concluded. "Repeal of this discriminatory, wrongheaded law can't come soon enough."

About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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