Mourners turned out today in Kyrgyzstan’s capital city of Bishkek to honor those who died in Wednesday’s uprising which led to the sudden replacement of the government. The new government says it will keep the U.S. base there open, and welcomes assistance from Russia.
** ABOUT THAT DISAPPEARED CALIFORNIA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ATTACK AD AGAINST JERRY BROWN. On Tuesday, the California Chamber of Commerce launched a purported educational TV ad and web site on the issues. What they really were about was attacking Attorney General Jerry Brown, the de facto Democratic nominee for governor.
Late yesterday came word that the Chamber, following an outcry on its board of directors and much public controversy, was pulling the ad. It promptly disappeared from the attack web site launched only two days before.
This morning I was informed by an NWN poster that the TV ad was still running, and so I called current Chamber president Allan Zaremberg. He was not in, at 8:30 in the morning. But his assistant insisted that the order had been issued for the ad to come down.
There are many questions that remain about this episode, which is one of the most fraudulent efforts in my memory of California’s political history. And I have a long memory.
The Chamber refuses to say who actually created the ad, which looks nothing like an educational effort — the only thing legally allowed for a non-profit corporation — and looks very much like the work of a standard hyper-partisan political hack.
The ad buy, in excess of one million dollars, was reportedly placed by the Washington, D.C. area firm Mentzer Media. And what we know about Mentzer is that it was the media buying firm used by the notorious Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in their famously distorted attack ads against 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. That was the smear campaign which made out a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran to be a coward.
Which makes sense, as this is a Swift Boat type attack.
We also know that, as my sources have told me, former Governor Pete Wilson, chairman of billionaire Meg Whitman’s Republican gubernatorial campaign and a member of the Chamber board of directors, was involved in this anti-Brown attack project from start to finish.
Actually, Wilson owes his entire career to a Jerry Brown mistake. Had Brown not foolishly run for president in 1980, he would have beaten Wilson or any other Republican for the U.S. Senate in 1982 and we would likely be having a very different discussion.
Now Wilson, in an interview with a very young reporter for the Sacramento Bee, who does not know the history and players involved, denied it. I’m told that Wilson is lying. Wilson also claimed that the ad was not an attack ad, but an educational effort within the law governing non-profit organizations. Yet he claimed not to have seen the ad. Which would have made him about the only person in California politics not to have seen it.
Incidentally, what has gone unreported anywhere else is that current Chamber of Commerce president Zaremberg was a top aide to Wilson during his governorship. Yet we are supposed to believe Wilson’s amusing assertion that he and Zaremberg never discussed this project.
We also know that Wilson’s colleague in the Whitman campaign, Whitman chief strategist Mike Murphy, bragged about the ad on Twitter, describing it as anything but an educational effort: “Cal Chamber runs TV ad to remind voters of Jerry Brown’s 35 yr record of fiscal disaster. Large media buy.”
Murphy lacks a certain subtlety. Before he was dismissed as Schwarzenegger’s chief strategist, Murphy, as I revealed some years ago, embarrassed the governor by using his picture as a logo on every page of his pitches for corporate clients.
The real reason to have tried to run this ad under the false rubric of an educational effort was to evade the law requiring disclosure of its true funders.
I’m told that Zaremberg, who is not talking about this, agreed to pull the ad on Wednesday night after the public controversy broke and Brown and his wife Anne Gust, former top executive for The Gap, phoned many Chamber of Commerce board members to protest. But then he delayed for another day.
What was going on behind the scenes? The Whitman campaign, not surprisingly, and ex-Governor Wilson, wanted the attack ad to run. They pressured former Wilson aide Zaremberg, the current president of the Chamber.
But the situation stank to high heaven, and could not last. So now the ad is gone. It is so gone that it is no longer on the “educational” web site set up by the Chamber to attack Jerry Brown. Although all the rest of the anti-Brown attack material is there, continuing to give the lie to its purported “educational” purpose. But I’ve found it, and you can watch it here, if you are so inclined.
If you’re offended by watching this sort of thing, I have the script, which I’ll deconstruct for you.
California has lost one million jobs
We’re $200 billion in debt
And Jerry Brown has a 35-year record of higher spending and taxes
Governor Brown opposed Prop 13
Spending increased 163%
He turned a budget surplus into a massive deficit
Mayor Brown, taxes went up
Spending increased 60%
And jobs vanished
Go to enoughspending.com to tell Brown
Enough is enough on higher taxes and spending.
Let’s take it one line at a time.
“California has lost one million jobs.”
This is a false charge. Brown has nothing to do with this, which comes on the watch of Chamber ally Arnold Schwarzenegger (Zaremberg has been a political ally of Arnold’s, and is eager to find a new Republican patron in the form of his old boss Wilson’s candidate, billionaire Meg Whitman).
“We’re $200 billion in debt.”
This is a false charge. $200 billion? California has a $20 billion budget deficit. Brown has no responsibility for this. This comes on the watch of Chamber ally Schwarzenegger, not that he is actually responsible for this, either.
Ironically, while Schwarzenegger cannot be blamed for all this, the people surrounding him at the top when he adopted fateful fiscal policies in 2004 and 2005 are now at the top of the Whitman campaign.
“And Jerry Brown has a 35-year record of higher spending and taxes.”
This is a false charge. In his first go-round as governor, Brown was the only governor in the modern era to avoid general tax increases. Wilson enacted some of the biggest tax increases in California history.
“Governor Brown opposed Prop 13.”
This is a serious distortion of reality. Brown implemented Proposition 13 so well that its author, Howard Jarvis, endorsed him for re-election, cut a TV ad promoting his candidacy, and voted for him. Which the lobbyist running the “Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association,” a business venture, can’t seem to articulate.
Those who opposed Prop 13 included, yes, the California Chamber of Commerce, sponsor of this “educational” ad, and Whitman campaign chairman Pete Wilson.
“Spending increased 163%.”
This is a serious distortion of reality. Brown was a fiscally conservative governor, so much so that he was attacked by unions and liberals. Increases in spending were due to California being a high-growth state, and to the need to bail out schools and local governments after the passage of, yes, Prop 13.
“He turned a budget surplus into a massive deficit.”
This is a false statement. When Brown came into office as governor, he created one of the biggest budget surpluses in the history of California through his frugal policies. He then used that surplus to bail out schools and local governments in the aftermath of Prop 13. But that did not create a relatively minor deficit. That came with the national recession at the end of his second term, presided over by then President Ronald Reagan.
“Mayor Brown, taxes went up.”
This is a serious distortion of reality. The people of Oakland voted to increase taxes to pay for needed services, notably in public safety.
“Spending increased 60%.”
This is a serious distortion of reality. Oakland is one of the toughest cities in America, long beset by crime. Brown attacked crime in a myriad of ways. The voters wanted those increases in government, and Brown twice won landslide elections as mayor.
“And jobs vanished.”
This is a false statement.
“Go to enoughspending.com to tell Brown
“Enough is enough on higher taxes and spending.”
And so much for the TV ad and web site being an “educational” effort. The ad solicits its viewers to attack Brown for this false and distorted version of his policies.
To sum up, this effort is shot through with dishonesty, from start to finish.
Its origins are dishonest, its presentation is dishonest, and its substance is dishonest.
The ad was illegal. A non-profit can’t run TV attack ads. And the true funding sources for this ad and web site must be disclosed.
Now that the ad has been pulled, the true sources of its funding need to be established and the Chamber leadership which went forward with this backfiring project needs to be held to account.
** OUR MAN IN KABUL. Let me be clear. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is a nightmare, a slow-motion train wreck. Yet he is all there is, when it comes to a benighted nation-building exercise for the whole of Afghanistan. For two reasons. He is in place. And he is (majority) Pashtun.
(Not that nation building is at all necessary.) As I may have mentioned on one or two occasions …
Given that, here we go with the press pool report from Air Force One:
April 9, 2010
AF1 was wheels down at 12:48 p.m. local time. Your pool learned about Justice Stevens’s retirement about an hour before landing from watching CNN and sent a request for Robert Gibbs to come back. He did not. We learned about the planned Potus statement back at the White House from a Twitter tweet.
Earlier during the flight, Jim Jones and Denis McDonough came back to brief your pool on the dinner with Central and Eastern European leaders last night and to take questions on other foreign policy issues. A transcript has already gone out, so you should have that. Quick highlights, if they’re helpful:
– Potus sent President Karzai a letter this week (perhaps yesterday or day before) thanking him for hosting his recent visit and recommitting to the relationship, though not directly mentioning Karzai’s recent anti-Western speeches. Jones said both sides “ought to calm the rhetoric” and declared that “this matter is really behind us now.” McDonough said Karzai’s visit in May is “absolutely” still on.
– Jones said “we’ll be sorry” Prime Minister Netanyahu won’t be coming to the nuclear summit but “the Israelis did not want to be a catalyst for changing the theme of the summit.” Asked if the relationship is in crisis, he said it is “ongoing and fine and continuous.”
– Jones said “there are ongoing discussions” about the United States putting forth its own concrete Middle East peace plan but “we’ve not taken any decision to jumpstart any dramatic shift in our strategy” and “we don’t intend to surprise anybody at any time.”
– Jones had little to say about Kyrgyzstan, noting that information was still fluid, but he reiterated that “obviously Manas is a very important air base for our operations in Afghanistan.”
U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, one of the minority bloc liberals on the court, announced this morning that he will retire. Stevens, who turns 90 this month, will be replaced by President Barack Obama’s second appointee.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is returning to Washington today following his signing in Prague of an historic nuclear weapons reduction treaty with Russia and related summitry with Eastern and Central European leaders.
Obama held a bilateral meeting with Czech President Vaclav Klaus and then departed Prague on Air Force One en route to Andrews Air Force Base.
At 10:05 AM Pacific, Obama lands at Andrews Air Force Base, where he boards Marine One.
At 10:20 AM Pacific, Obama lands on the South Lawn of the White House.
Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden is in Pennsylvania today, promoting the economic recovery act and campaigning for Democratic Congressman Bob Brady in Philadelphia.
Obama is in the midst of a nine-day period of intense focus on nuclear weapons. In addition to the Prague summit today, Obama will host an international summit next week in Washington bringing together the leaders of nearly 50 nations to discuss global nuclear security and non-proliferation.
Following the treaty signing, Medvedev introduced a few not unexpected wrinkles.
First, Medvedev called for an American/Russian partnership in the development of a global ballistic missile defense system.
Then he said that the just-signed treaty will be nullified if U.S. ballistic missile defense development appears aimed at Russia.
Current anti-missile programs envisioned for Eastern and Central Europe use a threat from Iran as their rationale.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and Kyrgyzstan.
The political situation in Iraq remains unresolved following the March 7th parliamentary elections. But the currently ruling Shiite party headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which lost to the secular Sunni list headed by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, says it will form a coalition with another Shiite party backed by Iran and the principal Kurdish party.
The sudden revolution in Kyrgyzstan, which seems to have begun on Tuesday in the rather remote region of Talas, and quickly reached major flash point status yesterday, resulted in opposition leaders declaring an interim government yesterday. This appears to be a secular revolution. Kyrgyzstan is Islamic, but not Islamist. New elections are to take place in six months.
The interim leader of that government, former Foreign Minister Roza Otunbayeva, says that previous international accords will be honored by the new government. Which appears to include the Manas Air Base, which is central to U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. I don’t know that this includes a second U.S. base there, an anti-terrorism center just announced last month.
But this declaration is probably not to be taken seriously.
Meanwhile, the new deputy premier says that he thinks Russian peacekeepers may be necessary to keep order.
Coming up … a column on Russia’s latest moves vis a vis Obama, nuclear weapons, Iran, and the “post-Soviet space.”
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles today.
He has no scheduled public events.
Schwarzenegger will hold private talks.
** OBAMA’S BIG NEW AFPAK PROBLEMS. As President Barack Obama turns his attention to nuclear weapons, his AfPak strategy appears to be going south, even as polling shows his approach to be popular at home. That would be so even if Kyrgyzstan, home to the last remaining U.S. base in Central Asia, had not just experienced a sudden revolution in which the new powers appear to be opponents of the U.S. military presence in their country.
Obama has a big new nuclear weapons reduction treaty with Russia, signed Thursday in Prague. He’s announced a new nuclear strategy for the U.S., which narrows the conditions under which nuclear weapons would be used. Next week, he hosts the heads of state of nearly 50 countries in Washington to discuss stronger international controls on nuclear weapons technology. All to the good.
Meanwhile, however, his surprise visit to Afghanistan on March 28th, heavy on drama, seems to be coming up very short on substance. … From my April 7th column.
** 10 KEY THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE HIGH-STAKES CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S RACE: WHAT IT MEANS FOR BROWN, WHITMAN, POIZNER, ROMNEY, AND OBAMA. The California governor’s race has huge national implications. On the one hand, California is the lynchpin of President Barack Obama’s political coalition, its electoral votes providing one-fifth of those needed to win the White House. On the other hand, the hand-picked candidate of Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney, billionaire Meg Whitman, is already shattering all spending records in her bid to win the governorship. …
It’s a very big race with very big national implications. If she’s the Republican nominee, Whitman will spend more money than any non-presidential candidate in America history. It’s an audacious move by corporate conservative Republicans associated with Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney to snatch the California governorship and place it in the hands of a staunch opponent of Barack Obama. (Schwarzenegger has become a big ally of Obama.)
There is much to watch and much to consider with this race. … From my April 1st column.
** 24: DOWN FOR THE COUNT? … From my March 30th column.
** NANCY PELOSI’S TRIUMPH: A LONG TIME COMING. … From my March 25th column.
** THE GHOST(S): OF TONY BLAIR, ROMAN POLANSKI, AND A WAR ON TERROR. … From my March 22nd essay.
** THE MITT & MEG SHOW: “TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS” … From my March 17th column.
** MEG WHITMAN’S NEW! IMPROVED! POST-JOURNALISM! POLITICS. … From my March 12th column.
** IS MEG WHITMAN LIKE ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER? YES (IN THE WRONG WAYS) … From my March 9th column.
** IS OBAMA’S AFPAK STRATEGY ACTUALLY WORKING? … From my March 5th column.
** THE CALIFORNIA AS FIRST “FAILED STATE” DEBATE: SCHWARZENEGGER, DAVIS, WHITMAN, AND JERRY BROWN. … From my March 2nd column.
** THE BAND OF THE DECADE: THE BEATLES?! … From my January 1st, 2010 essay.
** HOW JERRY BROWN CLEARED THE DEMOCRATIC FIELD FOR GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA. … From my December 9th, 2009 column.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th, 2009 Huffington Post column.
** HELP FOR HAITI.
Golfer Tiger Woods, following as tumultuous a spate of coverage as one can imagine, is close to the lead after the first round of the Masters.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the Russia Today channel. You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti. While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in two wars in the region, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Al Jazeera is very influential and more than a bit controversial. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, 2008, crude oil is trading around $86 per barrel.
This is up about $52 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
Oil prices have risen in the past week due to speculation and more heartening signs of economic recovery, including the biggest growth in U.S. employment in three years and increased manufacturing activity in the U.S., Japan, and China.
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