Tag Archive: Sacramento

“If the Earth slammed into the Sun (or vice versa), what would the president do?” – CNN correspondent

“Guess, we would all fry and die.” – White House Trade Hawk Peter Navarro

Couldn’t believe that Navarro would answer CNN’s hypothetical question Friday about whether President Trump would impose $200 billion in even more tariffs on China, if the next 90 days of trade negotiations go nowhere.

Instead of bobbing, weaving and ducking the question, Navarro answered in the affirmative.

Why Peter, why?

American markets tanked Friday, led by a 558-point decline on the Dow.

The psychology on Wall Street is so negative right now. Traders are selling the bounces instead of buying on the dips. Forget about Buy Low, Sell High.

Why did the White House Press Office allow Navarro take an interview with CNN? Isn’t “prevention” one of the key components of effective crisis communications?

The liberal network openly despises … being nice here … Navarro’s boss (see Jim Acosta antics), and will not do the administration any favors whatsoever (e.g., benefit of the doubt).

Were you media trained, Peter?

Obviously, not.

Why didn’t you coordinate your talking points with Larry Kudlow?

Instead it was administration bad cop, trade hawk (Navarro) contradicting an administration good cop, trade dove (Kudlow), resulting in the media and markets seizing upon … Navarro’s negative response to a hypothetical question (e.g., more tariffs on China).

Shocking or more of the same from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue … or both?

It’s now painfully obvious the happy talking points/tweets emerging from last weekend’s G20 Xi-Trump summit over Argentinian steak were over-done … way over-done.

Earth And Sun Collide?

Can’t tell you how many times Almost DailyBrett has been asked hypothetical questions, posed by the media to generate headlines particularly on slow news days.

If asked by a member of the Capitol Press Corps in Sacramento what my boss would do if the earth did indeed slam into the sun, your author would without doubt take the following approach:

“The earth and the sun vary between 91 million and 94 million miles a part each year, and the earth has been around for 4.543 billion years. We are confident this trend, which is our friend, will continue.”

Always remember, conditions can and most likely change between now and later. If that is indeed the case, why answer a hypothetical?

Here’s an even better answer:

“As a policy, we do not answer hypothetical questions. We will say is that we are cautiously optimistic about our trade negotiations with China. We are not going to prejudge this process.”

Boring? Sure. That’s the point.

Do the markets sell off, putting more pressure on the U.S. negotiators? Not likely.

Are the reporters/correspondents disappointed? Oh well …

Should an administration speak in one voice? Always.

Kudlow and Navarro should not be separate spokesmen with conflicting philosophies on the same question. The Alexander Hamilton-Aaron Burr duel would have gone viral in the 21st Century with the NASDAQ dipping into correction territory.

Kudlow mentions the potential of extending the moratorium on tariffs for another 90 days Friday, if the negotiations are making progress … markets go up.

A little later Friday Navarro confirms the possibility of raising $200 billion in additional tariffs, if the negotiations go nowhere … and the markets are pounded.

Who’s on first?

Maybe, Mr. Art of the Deal wants to deliberately send confusing, ambiguous signals to the Chinese to keep them off guard … Good Cop vs. Bad Cop?

Unfortunately, this latest market selloff and the related overly negative market psychology could have been avoided by simply refusing to answer hypothetical questions, and by an administration speaking in one voice.

Is that too much to ask?








Who do reporters, editors, correspondents and pundits respect the most?

The answer: Fellow reporters, editors, correspondents and pundits.

And seemingly all of them are thinking alike.


Especially during my tenure as a gubernatorial press secretary, the author of Almost DailyBrett was often flabbergasted by the theories developed out of thin air by the media about why A. occurred or why B. happened.

Keep in mind we are talking about the late 1980s, long before ubiquitous mobile devices and 140-character Twitter president-elect proclamations.

In Sacramento, many of these postulations and theories were developed at Frank Fat’s or some other watering hole. Seemingly, the more drinks consumed the closer the media bonded, and a consensus was eventually reached about a budding theory.

The reason this dubious habit is important, is that press secretaries need to be aware of what the media are saying to themselves, and what conclusions they are collectively making. There is better than a 50/50 chance these theories will be brought to your governor’s attention for a response in a news conference or media briefing.

Fast forward to the present day and the insular habit has not changed, but the way these theories and postulations are transmitted among the media has shifted radically … namely Twitter.

Yes, Donald Trump is not the only one using/misusing social media Twitter for 140-character-or-less pontifications and bloviations.

“If Everyone is Thinking Alike, Then Someone Isn’t Thinking.” – General George S. Patton

Gotta love General George.

The conventional thinking to date was that President Harry Truman’s come-from-behind victory over New York Governor Thomas Dewey in 1948 was the greatest upset in presidential campaign history.

Scratch that thought. Last month’s victory by Donald Trump over prohibitive favorite Hillary Clinton shocked the nation, and particularly confounded the-everyone-is-thinking-alike elite media/punditocracy.

Considering that most of them habitat a skinny island east of the Hudson River or are confined within the Beltway, it is easy to understand how prevailing sentiment and conventional wisdom becomes exactly that: prevailing sentiment and conventional wisdom.

As Otto von Bismarck was famously quoted, those who appreciate sausage and the law should see neither of them made. Maybe the same is true for how the elite media/punditocracy reaches consensus of their version of reality.

First: the political class virtually ignores digital democratization. For example, the second (town hall) debate between The Donald and Hillary drew a record 17 million tweets and 92.4 million Facebook likes, posts, comments and shares.

during the town hall debate at Washington University on October 9, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri. This is the second of three presidential debates scheduled prior to the November 8th election.

Town hall debate at Washington University on October 9, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri. This is the second of three presidential debates scheduled prior to the November 8th election.

Conceivably, the elite media had access to a treasure trove of digital input from the public. True not all of it is accurate and relevant, but turning it all aside is a manifestation of arrogance. In their defense, the elite media may ask: ‘Where do you start?’ Almost DailyBrett opines the media should not ignore the anxiety of John and Mary Q. Citizen from Wisconsin, Michigan or Pennsylvania. Angst Matters.

Second: The elite media/punditocracy engages in restricted collusion. Instead of using digital media to access outside sources, they instead employ Twitter and networked laptops and mobile devices to talk exclusively to each other. The most egregious case is when news aggregator Buzz Feed announced the winner of the first 2012 Obama vs. Romney debate, 45 minutes before the closing statements.

And once the debate was over, the media pile-on session ensued to the detriment of President Barack Obama.

Third: The digital democratization crowd contends that more public input via social, mobile and cloud will result in a continuous weakening of Agenda Setting Theory or the notion that elite media (i.e., New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, ABC, CBS, NBC …) not only frame the national agenda, but they actually provide intellectual guidance to a grateful nation.

As it turns out, the opposite was true. Media collusion via digital media actually strengthened, not weakened Agenda Setting Theory.

Fourth: And probably the most important point of all, the Real Clear Politics Right Track/Wrong Track barometer has been consistently below the Mendoza Line. You do not run a “Morning in America” stay-the-course campaign when 32.1 percent believe the country is on the right track and conversely 55.7 percent contend the country is on the wrong track.

Did the elite media really pay attention to the Right Track/Wrong Track barometer? Did they ask the real folks across the fruited plain why they are so disappointed, frustrated and downright angry? Did they question why Hillary Clinton ran a status-quo campaign in a change year?


This is not the first time the author of Almost DailyBrett picked a fight with those who buy ink-by-the-barrel. Let’s face it, the elite media/punditocracy needed to open up their collective ears and listen to the chorus from the hinterland. Instead they mounted their ivory towers and proclaimed that Hillary was the candidate with all of the experience, all of the endorsements, most of the money, and the GOTV operation to win the presidency in a cakewalk.

Upon quiet reflection in the aftermath, these elite reporters and prominent pundits may want to drop the arrogance for a nanosecond or two, and consider the reason why each of them was given two ears and only one mouth.






“Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made.” — Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898)

“It is far easier to beg for forgiveness, than to ask for permission” – Too Many Authors to Count

“Puck em, if they can’t take a joke.” – The Reciprocal to the Above Assertion

After another year enduring a litany of university rules, regulations, statutes, limitations, procedures, restrictions etc. – enough to slow any progress down to molasses – Almost DailyBrett finds it peculiarly refreshing to contemplate how the California State Legislature railroaded through a sweeping civil liability law in 1987 – “The Napkin Deal” — on the morning after the legally mandated last night of session.cocktailnapkin

If a legislative body wants to pull out the plug on the clock on the wall at 11:59 pm on Thursday, September 10 to ensure that every minute thereafter remains … Thursday, September 10, the absolute last day of session … so be it.

Yes, the California Legislature could miraculously make time stop.

For the rest of the world, it was already Friday.

If a legislative body wants to suspend all of its rules, including an orderly committee process, and convene a “committee on the whole” hours after the clock struck midnight on the last day of session … que sera sera.

If a legislative body wants to act upon the design for a comprehensive civil liability agreement – benefitting powerful insurance, medical, manufacturing and of course, trial lawyer special interest lobbies – which is eternally enshrined on a watering hole cloth napkin – that’s how the pot sticker rolls.

As a wise scribe once told a green-behind-the-ears cub reporter, covering the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 1978: “A legislative body can do whatever it damn well pleases.”

That very same cub reporter later moved to Sacramento and listened late into the night on the squawk box in the Office of the Governor as the clock plug was being pulled out of the wall socket in the Assembly chamber. This action could mean one thing, and one thing only: The state legislative leadership was “recessing” to Frank Fat’s.

Frank Fat’s Cloth Napkin

Conceivably every state capital has a watering hole right down the street (not sure about Salt Lake City). And for California’s capital, Sacramento, it’s “Fat’s,” a Chinese restaurant that also serves yummy strip steaks.frankfats

It was here on a hot Central Valley night that Speaker Willie Brown, State Senator Bill Lockyer and others cemented a five-year, civil-liability peace agreement between the cobras and the mongooses (i.e., lawyers, docs, manufacturers and insurers). These mortal enemies were not about to become friends, but at least they were not going to cannibalize each other for a few years.

The trick was to steamroll the later-to-be-written in all of its legal niceties legislative language, which was outlined on the Frank Fat’s cloth napkin, through both houses of the Legislature, and send the resulting bill to my boss, Governor George Deukmejian.

Over the strenuous and legitimate objections of legislators speaking on behalf of consumer groups, asking for delays and hearings, Willie Brown invoked the Rule of 41. Simply translated, if 41 or more state Assembly members (California’s “green” lower house) are ready or compelled to vote “aye” for the provisions on a watering hole napkin … well … a legislative body can do whatever it damn well pleases.

Sue them if you wish.

The watering hole napkin … err legislation .. was now shipped to the upper “pink” house, the state Senate, for the suspension of all rules, convening of a committee as a whole, consumer lobbyists screaming, and the invoking of the Rule of 21 (or more out of 40 senators).

The bill was now being sent in the direction of Governor Deukmejian, who himself served for 16 years in the Legislature (Assembly four years) and (Senate 12 years). He instinctively knew the extraordinary measures that were required to hammer out this kind of deal and get it through both houses of the Legislature (easier said than done).

As was our practice, we held a news conference the morning after the official (and unofficial) close of session to discuss what the Legislature had done, and maybe (or maybe not) to give hints about expected bill signings and of course, vetoes by the “Iron Duke.”

Outraged reporters wanted to know if the governor was offended by the way the Legislature had suspended rules in both houses and rammed through a grand compromise that existed primarily in the form of a watering hole cloth napkin.sausagelaw

With an eye on the constitutionally prescribed separation of powers between the executive branch (e.g., Office of the Governor, state agencies and departments) and the legislative branch (e.g., state Assembly and state Senate), the governor stated his responsibility was to deliberate only on the language that reached his desk.

What did Bismarck say about “sausage” and the “law”?

Sometimes you have to break at least some, if not all the rules, if you want to get anything done.





”It sounds so California. I can’t imagine Idaho having a task force on self-esteem.” — Dr. Roy Christman, retired San Jose State University political science professor

There is no pocket veto in California.

Even though the president can simply stuff an unwanted and undesirable piece of legislation in her or his pocket and forget about it, the California Constitution does not provide that same luxury to the state’s chief executive.

When a bill emerges from California’s Havana-esque one-party Legislature, the governor must either sign it, allow it to be chaptered into law without signature, or veto it with a mandatory explanation message.

Serving in the press office of California Governor George Deukmejian during bill signing in 1986, I was searching through stacks of legislation for the veto message for Assemblyman John Vasconcellos’ self-esteem bill. The governor had vetoed previous iterations of the bill calling for the state to examine the impact of self-esteem or more precisely, the lack of self-esteem.vasco1

Where the heck was this year’s veto message?

Assuming that something was missing, namely a veto message, the author of Almost DailyBrett picked up the phone and called our Legislature unit asking for the constitutionally obligatory why-this-is-a-bad-bill language.

“Ahh … you better come down and see us.”

Are you serious?

Never Assume; You May Be Wrong

Earlier iterations of the Vasconcellos bill called for the creation of an expensive statutory commission with permanent bureaucracy and oodles of high-priced staffers to study and re-study the linkage between the lack or loss of self-esteem and bad things in society (e.g., crime, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, jaywalking … ).

Governor Deukmejian campaigned repeatedly on controlling the “size and scope” of state government. A brand new expansion of state government, namely an eternal self-esteem commission, was not consistent with the governor’s philosophy or rhetoric.

To his credit, Vasconcellos did not retreat from his notion of studying the promotion of self-esteem, but he did drop the idea of a statutory and permanently enshrined Commission on Self-Esteem. In its place after meeting with Governor Deukmejian, he amended the bill to make it a task force on self-esteem, which would issue a report on the subject and then move on into the sunset.

The 1986 bill the governor actually signed, officially created The California Task Force to Promote Self-esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility. There was no veto message, but there was a ton of media coverage.

Man Bites Dog Story

George Deukmejian signing (the late) John Vasconcellos’ self-esteem task force bill was a consummate man-bites-dog story.deukmejian2

My boss, Governor Deukmejian was the counterculture to the counterculture. His biggest vice was jamoca almond fudge. He was from sleepy Long Beach. In contrast, “Vasco” was Mr. Touchy Feely or Mr. Warm and Fuzzy, if you prefer. He was from liberal Bay Area.

It was not rocket science to predict that our press office land lines would light up (no cell phones or Internet back in the Pleistocene). “Let me get this right, George Deukmejian just signed Vasco’s self-esteem bill … Ahh … the same bill he vetoed at least twice … Has the governor been listening to the Grateful Dead?”

There is little doubt that Vasco was familiar with Jerry Garcia and not just for his line of ties. Yours truly never asked the Duke about “Truckin,” Jerry Garcia and The Dead.

After the bill was signed, the governor’s office received a flood of applications to serve on the task force. Garry Trudeau of Doonesbury fame had a field day in the form of series of cartoons about the state’s seemingly wacky self-esteem task force, particularly reinforcing California’s stereotype for those east of the Hudson.selfesteem

The task force was just one more metaphor to add to the notion that all the fruits, nuts and berries flow toward the left coast. Yep, this is the place where highly educated, rich people from Marin, Sonoma, Alameda and (of course) San Francisco Counties don’t vaccinate their kids, and hippy-style natural childbirth is just so natural until the pain kicks in.

After three years the task force issued its report, which reportedly set a state document record with 60,000 reading its conclusions. The task force examined the linkage between self-esteem crime, violence, academic failure and responsible citizenship.

Looking back nearly three decades to Governor Deukmejian signing Vasco’s Self-Esteem Task Force bill, public relations professionals need to always be on guard against drinking their own bath water (e.g., believing their own rhetoric).

Just as important, we should refrain from automatically predicating and assuming. Circumstances change. Bills are amended. And every once in a while, man actually does take a bite out of Bowser.







The series of intensely covered noisy protests at  state capitols in Madison and Columbus brought back vivid memories for me of those who repeatedly threatened during the 1980s to take over the governor’s reception area, yes, the reception area.

During my service as the press secretary to former California Governor George Deukmejian, you could always count on one group or another to take over the governor’s reception area at least once, if not twice a week. Wonder how I ever slept at night?

And if you are thinking that occupying state capitols and governor’s reception areas only impacts GOP chief executives, keep in mind that our Democratic predecessor (successor?) by the name of Jerry Brown installed nicely varnished, but highly uncomfortable benches in the waiting area to discourage long-term visits. These benches were not very forgiving for reclining and sitting tushies.


The Theatre of the Absurd would play out each week in the following fashion. Let’s say a group with a clear (mis)understanding between the responsibilities of the federal and state governments decides to go to Sacramento (of all places) and demand that the US get out of Central America. Hint: Sacramento is nowhere near Washington, D.C. in terms of location, authority or infinite wisdom.

You see there was this irritating guy by the name of Daniel Ortega and his Sandinistas (and just like Jerry Brown, he is still there) that were waving red flags in Nicaragua and getting the executive branch so mad that they even sent a Marine Colonel down to the White House basement to lead the fight against them. What was the name of that colonel? Hmmm…

Anyway, the “US Out of Central America” crowd would call the always receptive and easily excitable Capitol Press Corps in Sacramento and say that they were going to occupy the governor’s reception area if they don’t get to see the governor. Of course, they never called and asked for an appointment in the first place. Details, details.

So the time would come and the protesters would arrive with the cameras and newsies coming along and demand to the always affable and she-has-seen-every-nut-case-more-than-once receptionist Jackie Habacker Grunwald that they must see the governor. Jackie would then ask politely if they had an appointment…”Appointment, we don’t need no stinking appointment.” And then the theatre performance would ensue.

My phone would soon be ringing inside the governor’s press office, about 25 feet away from the reception area and the first of several media calls would breathlessly announce that the governor’s reception area was being taken over.

And I would reply: “Again? How many times has it been this week?”

Reporter: “Will the governor see them?”

Me: “Do they have an appointment?”

Reporter: “So the governor is not going to see them?”

Me: “If he did, what should he do? The presence of US forces overseas is a responsibility of the federal government. Alas, we are just a mere nation-state.”

Reporter: “Well, I guess they are going to seize the reception area.”

Me: “And let me tell you what is going to happen. At five minutes to six, the state police are going to announce that the governor’s office is closing in five minutes and they will ask the protesters to leave…”

Reporter: “Ah…uh…”

Me: “And then at 6 pm, the state police are going to politely announce that the governor’s office is closed, so please depart…”

Reporter” “Ya…”

Me: ”And then at 6:05 pm, the state police will announce that anyone who does not leave will be escorted out, cited and eventually released, which is exactly what the protesters want…and guess what?”

Reporter: “What?”

Me: “You get to cover it all because you are being used.”

Reporter: “Used!”

Me: “And then you will call me next week when the next group comes in and demands to see the governor because of Paraquat spraying of marijuana or whatever, and then they will take over the reception area…and you get to cover that charade as well. Get the picture.”

Even though my attitude was sarcastic and some may even say jaded, the key point is to not overreact because that is what the protesters want. The public will eventually tire of these tactics and tune them out. Stick to your principles and ride it out. And remember when it comes to democracy: it’s a marathon, not a sprint.








Wikipedia defines the term “Ivory Tower” in the following manner:

“The term Ivory Tower originates in the Biblical Song of Solomon (7,4), and was later used as an epithet for Mary. “From the 19th century it has been used to designate a world or atmosphere where intellectuals engage in pursuits that are disconnected from the practical concerns of everyday life. As such, it usually carries pejorative connotations of a willful disconnect from the everyday world; esoteric, over-specialized, or even useless research; and academic elitism, if not outright condescension. In American English usage it is a shorthand for academia or the university, particularly departments of the humanities.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivory_Tower

In short, the term “Ivory Tower” (and by extension those who reside there pontificate and bloviate to the gathering masses below) is not a positive and in fact it can seen as a repudiation and rejection of the academic world.

So what am I getting to, and why should you even care?

The point is that I have left the so-called “real world” for the perceived ivory-tower academic world. As I walk to-and-from University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication classrooms http://jcomm.uoregon.edu/ for lectures and discussions, I have been wondering whether I am also guilty of living in my very own ivory tower.


How’s that and what the heck is the reverse ivory tower effect?

It is very easy for someone who spent nearly two decades in California’s Silicon Valley to think that all of the earth’s innovation resides between Fremont on the East and Palo Alto to the West (okay a few nearby places as well). Undoubtedly, the greatest concentration of engineering talent (at least in the United States) is concentrated right there. So do they rule the roost when it comes to devising the next killer app and the next destructive technology? If you ask them, they would be more than happy to respond in the affirmative.

Years before that, I worked at another Ivory Tower, this one with a dome on top of it. As laughable as it may seem to some, there are those in Sacramento (yes, the capitol of the biggest state in the union) that seriously believe the sun, moon, stars and asteroids revolve around this town that would have little reason for being other than it is the state capitol. And if you think the folks in Sacramento have an Ivory Tower complex, then let’s not even contemplate Washington, D.C. even though many are wondering out loud whether government is permanently Balkanized and broken.


Did I bring my own personal ivory tower by way of Silicon Valley and Sacramento (and other places) to the academic world? Do I think that just based upon my years and years of experience that I can’t learn anything new?

Harry S. Truman said that he distrusted “experts” because if they learned something they wouldn’t be an expert any longer.

One very reassuring event occurred this week in J350 “Principles of Public Relations” (please do not be the next person to ask me if there are really ‘principles’ in ‘public relations’) Professor Kelli Matthews http://www.linkedin.com/in/kellimatthews was teaching almost 100 undergraduates how to write cover letters and resumes, so they could get their careers off the ground. That doesn’t sound like an ivory tower approach to me. In fact, it sounds very practical and incredibly useful in the face of a very bleak employment picture.

Sure beats answering a Silicon Valley engineer’s question about whether the Wall Street Journal would be interested in covering PCI (Peripheral Computer Interconnect) Express. The answer would be “no.”

Pass the ivory tower.

Back in my Sacramento press secretary days, one frequently heard the motto: “When in doubt; declare victory!”

There were oodles of people about, in our case the Democrats in the State Legislature, that were itching to point out every one of our foibles or defeats (real or imagined) to an appreciative Capitol Press Corps. In turn, we wanted to stay within the bounds of the truth and play up the governor’s accomplishments and accolades.

It is apparent from today’s media coverage http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/ap/politics/2009/Oct/09/analysis__he_won__but_for_what_.html that Barack Obama’s team didn’t even know the Prez had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and naturally they were surprised to learn that he won. Macht nichts! It’s time to go out to the Rose Garden and have the audacity to declare victory.


Should he have been a little sheepish since he has only been in office for a little less than nine months, and really has not established that much of a record. Heck, according to the esteemed political commentators at Saturday Night Live, he has no record. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YT5Kl38fSVY

To Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and the White House communications staff, Nobel Prize wins don’t come around everyday. Bill Clinton wanted one so badly, he could almost taste it (no pun intended). Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. Forget about being surprised. It’s time to go out and declare victory as there are plenty in Washington DC who will gladly declare defeat for you. And as Harry Truman once said: “If you need a friend in Washington DC, get a dog.”

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