Tag Archives: Steve Schmidt

The Worst And The Dimmest

It was inevitable.  Fresh off of trying to bust the Writer’s Guild union, Chris Lehane is moving on from that “success” to where he’s always wanted to be – safe in the arms of his Republican pals.

With no end in sight to the state’s flurry of ballot initiatives and the state likely to hold a special election this year, top Republican adviser Steve Schmidt and Democratic strategist Chris Lehane are among several California heavyweights forming a new firm solely designed to work on ballot-box campaigns.

Schmidt ran Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s re-election drive, while Lehane worked in the Clinton White House and defeated a GOP attempt to change California’s electoral college system.

The new firm, LFM Campaigns, also will include:

— Democratic consultant Ace Smith, who was Hillary Clinton’s California presidential campaign chairman and serves as an adviser to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a potential gubernatorial candidate

— Republican strategist Adam Mendelsohn, adviser to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the governor’s former communications director

— Mark Fabiani, Lehane’s longtime business partner and a former communications aide to President Clinton

“If you look at the history of proposition work, the ones that have been most successful from a strategic perspective are those that have crossed party lines or have been seen as bipartisan,” Lehane said.

There’s a Murderer’s Row of willing stooges.

And people wonder why the state is perpetually in crisis.  With consultants like these…

Think about the timing, too.  Right now, when ballot-box budgeting is crippling the state with unworkable burdens and all energies should be focused on untangling the structural traps that make the state ungovernable, Lehane and co. happily flit around, taking corporate money for “bipartisan” ballot measures that will do precisely the opposite.

The sickest thing is that these are the people Democratic lawmakers still think it makes sense to listen to.  California Democratic Party money has poured into their pockets.  The consultant class of hired guns in Sacramento may be the biggest contributor to the permanent crisis mode in which we find ourselves.  Hope that “bipartisan” cash satisfies you while the state burns, fellas.

Campaign 2010 Odds and Ends

Just because it’s never too early to get a campaign fix, here are a few items that amused, exasperated and provoked me the past few days.

• Topline political commentators still have no idea what they’re talking about concerning Barbara Boxer’s race for Senate in 2010.  Chris Cillizza seems to think that Boxer is vulnerable to a challenge by Arnold Schwarzenegger.  First of all, her approval ratings are BETTER than Arnold’s.  Second, there’s no way he can win a Republican primary after having advocated for tax increases.  His positions on health care reform and global warming and Prop. 8 don’t help either, but in particular the tax position is untenable in a closed Republican primary.  Chuck DeVore would slaughter him in a straight-up one-on-one matchup.  The Yacht Party isn’t going to line up behind Schwarzenegger.  It’s just not going to happen. And Arnold knows it, which is why he won’t run.

• As for Schwarzenegger’s successor, the great hope of the Republican Party, former eBay executive Meg Whitman, has already lost top political operatives Steve Schmidt and Adam Mendelsohn before she’s even announced for the position.  FAIL.  Although, given Schmidt’s performance on John McCain’s campaign, I’m not sure you want his help.  I think it’s important for Democrats to make Schmidt absolute poison for any California Republican seeking to hire him.

• Meanwhile, Jerry Brown, angling for the Governor’s office for a third term, is getting fund-raising help from Gray Davis.  See above re: poison.

• Glenn Greenwald has been tracking Dianne Feinstein’s presumed backpedaling and vagueness regarding torture and forcing all branches of government to comply with the Army Field Manual on interrogations.  This bears a lot of watching.  Feinstein’s equivocations and turnarounds against her constituents are so perfunctory now as to be banal, but if she thinks she can get away with wavering on torture and still try to win votes, she’s just flat wrong.

• This article at Swing State Project posits that Obama won 4 Congressional districts in California currently held by Republicans – Gallegly (CA-24); Dreier (CA-26); Bono-Mack (CA-45); Bilbray (CA-50).  He bases this on assumptions from the county-level data, assumptions which I’m not sure can be made.  Anecdotally, I heard Obama carried CA-48, so if anything the diarist may be undercounting this.  Once all the data is received, we’ll have a full report, but I find this too speculative to be worthy of comment.

• I should also note that Steve Poizer already has a campaign website up for the 2010 Governor’s race.  Only 547 days until the primary, it helpfully informs.

Steve Schmidt as the McCain Campaign Embarrasses McCain

( – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

For some unknown reason, Sunday’s New York Time begins a puff piece on Steve Schmidt with this anecdote:

ST. PAUL – It was what aides to Senator John McCain describe as probably the worst night of his campaign. As Senator Barack Obama claimed the Democratic nomination before a cheering sea of faces on national television, Mr. McCain countered with a lackluster speech in a half-empty hall, posed in front of a pea-green screen that became fodder for late-night comedy.

Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser to Mr. McCain who worked on President Bush’s campaign in 2004, could barely hide his fury in the coming days, as he announced – to anyone who would listen – that he would personally make certain the McCain campaign would never again embarrass Mr. McCain.

“Fun Steve is dead,” Mr. Schmidt said.

Unbeknown to NYT scribes Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg, fun lived on, in fact in far funnier terms just last Thursday as the McCain campaign embarrassed McCain even better — during the largest audience of his career. Fun Steve made many laugh. According to Politicker CA the, “Democratic side of the California political blogosphere exploded with delight Friday afternoon as word of an embarrassing gaffe in Sen. John McCain’s acceptance speech Thursday at the Republican National Convention spread.”

Hell, even the NYT Times headlined (Friday), “McCain and the Green Screen” while The Oregonian headlined, “GOP oops?: McCain’s rematch with the green screen”, and CNN went with, “Seeing Green during McCain’s speech”. It was also picked up from The LA Times to Contra Costa Times to Hartford Courant to Boston Globe to friggin Agence France-Presse. Ouch all around.

Steve Schmidt Has Lost the Media Game

(Why does the media hate Palin? That must be what it is! – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

When Steve Schmidt stopped working for Dick Cheney to come back to California and manage Arnold Schwarzenegger’s re-election, Carla Marinucci had a page B1 story on Schmidt which quoted Garry South as saying, “He’s been sitting on Karl Rove’s lap for the last five years.” And Bob Mulholland offered, “This guy has Cheney tattoos all over him.”

Yet by the time Schmidt went on to be the latest to take over John McCain’s campaign, he seemed to be walking on water with the press. The story announcing the move, again by Carla Marinucci, appeared on the front page. This time, the first quote was from his business partner saying it was a “good move” followed by quotes from a Republican. Finally, a token Democrat was quoted as saying all Democrats “respect his ability.” It was pure puff, no mention of him lying about taxes all through the gubernatorial campaign. No mention this time of his engineering of the Martha Alito crying stagecraft. No mention of the disarray in the McCain campaign. Just puff.

However, that relationship with the press went to hell the past few days.  

According to Joe Klein, Schmidt’s strategy is disgraceful:

Steve Schmidt has decided, for tactical reasons, to slime the press.


But the media coverage of the Palin story has been well within the bounds of responsibility. Schmidt is trying to make it seem otherwise, a desperate tactic.

There is a tendency in the media to kick ourselves, cringe and withdraw, when we are criticized. But I hope my colleagues stand strong in this case: it is important for the public to know that Palin raised taxes as governor, supported the Bridge to Nowhere before she opposed it, pursued pork-barrel projects as mayor, tried to ban books at the local library and thinks the war in Iraq is “a task from God.” The attempts by the McCain campaign to bully us into not reporting such things are not only stupidly aggressive, but unprofessional in the extreme.

How bad was this decision? An “insider and longtime friend” of Talking Points Memo said:

Campbell Brown isn’t the story – people are underestimating her, as they always have. No, the story is that Tucker Bounds went on national television without material to answer what is maybe the simplest, most straightforward follow-up question any reporter can ask: “What’s your evidence for that assertion?” And I suspect that the reason they canceled Larry King is not to punish CNN (it doesn’t work that way) it’s that they still couldn’t come up with an answer to the question by the time his show aired.

Now look at this comment from McCain honcho Steve Schmidt to Katie Couric last night: “Members of this campaign went to off-the-record lunches with reporters today, and they were asked if she would do paternity tests to prove paternity for her last child. Smear after smear after smear, and it’s disgraceful and it’s wrong. And the American people are going to reject it overwhelmingly when they see her.”

First of all, that’s the first time I’ve heard anyone in the campaign/political press throw out the notion of paternity tests. So Schmidt is to blame for bringing that issue into the mainstream. If anyone is smearing the candidate, it’s Schmidt. This is as cynical a tactic as I’ve ever seen in politics.

Secondly, how can it be a “smear” if it was during an off the record lunch with McCain campaign aides?

Thirdly, hey, colleagues, you’re on notice: Steve Schmidt does not respect “off the record.” Watch your backs, my friends.

Will the press do their job, or cave to Schmidt?

UPDATE: Brian Williams read part of Joe Klein post cited above in the post-game show on MSNBC. Seems like a clear choice for the press, will be interesting to see who does what.

UPDATE II: Tomorrow’s New York Times:

The convention has already included some of the most intense attacks against journalists by a campaign in memory, with Mr. McCain’s aides accusing them of biased, sexist and generally unfair coverage of his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.

In the first three days here, Mr. McCain’s aides have sent out news releases criticizing individual reporters for their coverage. They have canceled an interview with Larry King of CNN to protest what they viewed as unfair questioning of a spokesman by Campbell Brown. They have dismissed as “fiction” an article in The New York Times about the process of vetting Ms. Palin. And Mr. McCain’s chief strategist, Steve Schmidt, has accused journalists here of pursuing a “mission to destroy” Ms. Palin with “a new level of viciousness.”


A former McCain strategist, Mike Murphy, agreed, saying, “The greatest of McCain is no cynicism, and it is cynical.”

Will the corporate media roll over?

The continuing lunacy of Bill Bradley

So now, with the election over, it’s time for our favorite unemployed journalist to say this:

A get out the vote operation is effective only on the margins. If you are in a close race, it can make the difference. This is why Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger raised $20 million for it, anticipating at the beginning of this year that he would be in a close race against a Democratic candidate. Which of course did not happen. The point is, unless a candidate is right there in the ballpark in a close race, GOTV doesn’t make much difference. Aside from Schwarzenegger and new Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, the moderate Silicon Valley entrepreneur, California Republicans simply don’t have many good candidates.

This, of course, comes two months after Bradley’s long and glowing post about that same GOTV operation, called “Schwarzenegger’s Secret Weapon,” which couldn’t be more fawning about the super-duper high-tech facility (complete with video evidence!) that will “turn out a vote not only for Schwarzenegger, but also for his ticket mates.”  This blowjob of an article practically gives the whole state to Republicans, and glorifies Arnold’s campaign manager Steve Schmidt as the architect of the surefire GOP statewide resurgence.  Now, suddenly, when it fails, it wasn’t that important to begin with.

I’m telling you, there’s no bigger tool in politics than this guy.

Bush’s Brain

Cross posted at CAProgressive.com:

I want to take a second and write about Karl Rove. He is a seen as a savior of the right and is hated by the left. Some may ask though, this is a site about California politics why are you talking about a White House staffer?

The answer to that is simple. The Republican party, from the top to the bottom is controlled and dictated by Rove. From the phone jamming in New Hampshire, to the tampering of machines and manufacturing of lines in Ohio to voter fraud here in California is all orchestrated by the man that holds significant power in the George W. Bush White House. In fact protégés of Karl Rove, Steve Schmidt, Matthew Dowd and gang have all been brought in to run the Ahnold campaign.

James Moore and Wayne Slater, two reporters for the Dallas Morning News, who know Rove quite well from his days in Texas wrote the best selling book Bush’s Brain. They have now come out with a new book titled “The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power.”

According to Publishers Weekly (hat tip: TG at Political Wire) this book is a “bold follow-up to journalists Moore and Slater’s bestseller, Bush’s Brain, takes a provocative look at how Karl Rove used George Bush’s various campaigns and presidency to engineer nothing less than the assertion of a long-term Republican hegemony and the complete dismantling of the Democratic Party.”

The argument that Rove is a danger to democracy is not an argument that will sell on a mass level, but it is a reminder of what we are working against and should prove as motivation to stay active, strong and willing to fight to November.

Arnold’s Bush Team

(cross-posted on BetterCA and DailyKos)

Arnold wants to win re-election and will do just about anything to do so.  Just look at who he hired to run his campaign, the Bush/Cheney team who managed turn a war hero into a flip-flopper and an draft dodger into a tough leader.  The Merc does a great job profiling these imports and their hardball tactics.

Steve Schmidt, campaign manager: [snip]

Schmidt ran Bush’s re-election war room and rapid response team — which provides immediate responses to opponents’ assertions — during the Democratic National Convention, has served as Vice President Dick Cheney’s spokesman, and was a member of Karl Rove’s inner circle.

As the rapid response guy for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, he was responsible for creating sympathy for Alito by pounding home the image of his sobbing wife during tough grilling.

The man is getting paid an amazing $52,000 a month.  In contrast. Cathy Calfo, Angelides campaign manager is earning $15,000.  I guess bullets are expensive.

Matthew Dowd, chief strategist: The man who plotted strategy for Bush’s 2004 re-election, Dowd is close to Rove — the two once taught a class together on campaigning as political opponents, before Dowd joined Rove’s Texas shop in 1998.

Dowd is known for his successful microtargeting strategy and advertising on cable TV.

Alex Castellanos, political advertising: Considered the Republican Party’s ultimate political hit man, Castellanos is best known for producing searing negative ads. His 1990 “White Hands” ad is considered one of the most racially divisive in campaign history. It featured an angry white worker crumpling up a job-rejection notice after losing it “because they had to give it to a minority.”

Castellanos is also the guy responsible for the subliminal “rats” ad in 2000.  The GOP had an ad up attacking Gore’s prescription drug campaign and for 1/30th of a second the word “rats” flashed across the screen.  At the time Castellanos denied that he put it in there.  However, even after it was brought to his attention, he continued to run the ad as is for another two weeks, before finally yanking it.

The governor has tried to stay away from the unpopular president as much as possible.  Instead, he has hired Bush’s brain trust.  These are the guys who worked for one of the most divisive administrations in history.  Their record of lowest common denominator politics is deplorable.

Salon writes:

Over the years Castellanos has produced a trail of caustic ads either pulled off the air, like the Bush spot in Florida, or judged by his own Republican clients to be too misleading or biting for public consumption. Yet today, because of his expertise at the negative, he has been given a central role in the Bush campaign.

Steve Schmit, learned from one of the most successful campaign operatives, Karl Rove.  Rove was not successful because he runs positive campaigns.  Rove’s strategy usually consists “of taking your own weakness and turning it into your opponent’s weakness instead, through relentless misrepresentation of facts.”  Do not be surprised to see this strategy crop up at some point in the race.

Schmidt seems to have adapted a Castellanos strategy: it is true because I say so.  Evidently accoriding to Castellanos, false advertising is “freedom and democracy on display”.

“You know, ultimately all this messy stuff we have in politics, all this conflict, all this chaos — by another name, it’s freedom. And I think that a country that has fought so hard to earn its freedom and keep its freedom shouldn’t give an ounce of it away,” he once said on a 1998 documentary broadcast on PBS. “If you take all the negative aspects out of politics, if you take all the divisiveness out of politics, what you’re left with is, is very bland, unimaginative oatmeal.”

I guess you can twist the flag into just about anything.  Personally, I would much rather have a debate over the issues and a vibrant Democracy, rather than discourage participation with false advertising.

This is the stellar team that Arnold has put together.  This cycle is not going to be pretty.  They will stop at nothing to get Arnold re-elected and that is just the way he wants it.  This is the Bush legacy in all its glory.

California News Roundup, 4/7/06

Today’s California News Roundup is on the flip. Teasers: Schmidt spins, Salmon season chopped, immigration mess, telco infrastructure in California, Angelides interviewed.

Schmidt Spins

  • John Myers’ Capital Notes notes that Schmidt said both that the election will not be a referendum on Schwarzenegger and that Schwarzenegger will run on his record. Newspeak is alive and well in the Schwarzenegger campaign.
  • This AP article running on Inside Bay Area focuses more on the contrast between the Schwarzenegger team’s Bush-Cheney roots and their insistence that Arnold is not that closely tied to Bush.
  • Daniel Weintraub notes the number of attacks on Westly and the promise of negative campaigning, though without personal attacks from the Schwarzenegger campaign. That’s a promise, but not the promise it appears to be. The swiftboating of John Kerry was not done by BC04, though they didn’t stop it. Expect whisper campaigns and third party ads from people like the US Chamber of Commerce to do Schwarzenegger’s dirty work.
  • Oh, and Carla Marinucci does some steno work.

Everything Else

  • The Pacific Coast salmon season will be drastically cut back this year, based on the decimation of the Klamath coho run by excessive damming and agricultural water use. At least it’s not closed, and there may be some remedies over the next few years. Local ocean-caught salmon will be expensive this year, but if you can afford it, support the local fisheries. Farm-raised salmon is not the same thing, and it’s not particularly good for the environment. Tom Stienstra has the rules for anglers. [Side note: the best coverage on this issue today was from the LA Times — not a fishing town paper. Odd, that.]
  • Something’s happening in the Senate on immigration. But nobody seems to know what. The SacBee says the bill is tanking. Knight Ridder (through the CC Times) seems more optimistic, but the quotes from the deport-them-all wing of the Republican Party are not encouraging. Either way, the proposal sounds like a mess, dividing up immigrants without a documented date of entry into different groups by length of stay with different citizenship tracks. And even if it passes the Senate in some form, it will go to conference committee, where the radical House Republicans will remake the bill in their image. Whatever happens, more marches are coming.
  • Fabian Núñez introduces a bill to allow telcos to compete with cable companies for television services. It sounds like a good idea — more competition and all that — but the devil is in the details (some of which are laid out in the linked article.
  • The OC Register has an AP syndication of an interview with Phil Angelides on a number of issues, with requisite counter-quotes from Westly’s campaign and former Bush adviser Steve Schmidt, now running Schwarzenegger’s campaign.
  • Steve Westly will be returning $15,000 in campaign contributions raised by a VC fund he later recommended to CalPERS.
  • The Chronicle has a brief piece on the upcoming renewal (one hopes) of certain portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The three provisions up (1) require federal approval of new voting procedures in jurisdictions with histories of discrimination, (2) require federal observers in jurisdictions where there’s been intimidation of minority voters, and (3) require bilingual ballots in areas with substantial non-English speakers. These provisions affect different California counties to different degrees, but pretty much every county has the bilingual ballot requirement.
  • A new form of Generic Dan Walters Column may have been spotted: Structural Problem X exists. Blame Union Y for it, even though the problem results largely from the anti-government constitutional amendments passed in the seventies and eighties. Today, X = School Funding, and Y = the California Teachers Association.
  • This not important to anyone but me, but the Red Vic will now be allowed to sell beer.

News Roundup 3/25/06

Today’s news roundup on the flip. Teasers: Piggy banks at the trough, the profitability of being a Rovian acolyte, employment up, housing down, gas prices up, and minor skirmishes in the culture war.

  • Let’s lead with this excellent SacBee graphic explaining the current gubernatorial race for cash.
  • Steve Schmidt, leader of the Schwarzenegger Bush-style, Rove-educated campaign team, is raking it in. Who says crime doesn’t pay? (On a side note, the Republican Flash Report thinks both the paycheck and Steve Schmidt are just ducky.)
  • In economic news, jobs are up across the state, but most of our growth has been in home construction and related industries. Home sales are slowing, as everyone knew they eventually would, so clearly that’s not a sustainable model. Silicon Valley is doing fairly well, but the lack of investment in affordable housing, transportation and education is a looming problem.
  • Just in time for the summer driving season, gas prices are edging up.
  • On the culture war front, a whole bunch of fundamentalist teens have descended on San Francisco for some kind of rally against worldliness. I hope they’re staying in hotels — their money spends just fine, I reckon. The targets of complaint called out in the article include MySpace and the sexualization of pop culture. I keep waiting for these folks to realize that Rupert Murdoch, their nominal ally, owns the sex-saturated Fox Channel and now MySpace. Update: Apparently, Fox News is a bit sex-saturated as well. I can’t wait for the protests from the fundamentalists.
  • On the serious side, there’s been a small victory for the equal treatment of gay Americans. Though I’m no fan of Proposition 13, it allows a surviving spouse to inherit property without triggering a reassessment. That benefit has been extended to registered domestic partners.