Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gov. Jerry Brown could learn a lesson from 'Lincoln'

The film shows that messy deal-making is often needed to solve complex and divisive problems. And California has a raft of them. 


Abraham Lincoln (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) walks through the corridors

 of the White House in this scene from director Steven Spielberg's movie "Lincoln." (DreamWorks)

 SACRAMENTO — The movie "Lincoln" should be required viewing for all elected chief executives from president to mayor, and especially for California's governor.

Especially our governor because California has so many perplexing, polarizing problems that urgently need fixing: an outdated, inefficient tax system; a business regulatory sump; deteriorating public schools and universities; and a crumbling infrastructure, including state waterworks.

For starters "Lincoln," directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th president, shows how great public deeds can be achieved in the real world of American democracy.

In fact, make "Lincoln" required viewing for all legislators, from Congress to state capitals to city councils.

Moreover, every voter should see it — at least those idealists who cling to the misguided notion that politicians must be pure and not truly representative of the people who elect them; that they should be angelic, not human.

Politicians — even the most dedicated and well-intentioned — are torn by conflicting cross-currents of human nature. It's rare that anything momentous is achieved by an easily cobbled consensus. There are always potential winners and losers at one another's throats.

Sometimes an inducement needs to be dangled to persuade a hesitant — often scared — lawmaker to cast a difficult vote. OK, call it a payoff.

"Lincoln" is about the Great Emancipator's tenacious fight to prod Congress into passing the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery before the Civil War ends. After peace arrives, the pressure will be off, he fears. His Emancipation Proclamation had covered only rebel states and might not even hold up constitutionally after the war.

Lincoln is short 20 Democratic votes in a lame-duck session of the House of Representatives. Advisors say it's too risky to push ahead, that it could cost him his popularity.

"We can find 20 votes," the president says confidently, and notes that dozens of Democrats lost their seats in the recent election. They'll be "Democrats looking for jobs" when the current session ends, he notes. Offer them.

Finally, Lincoln gets within two votes, but his aides and hired lobbyists are losing hope. The impatient president is sitting with them and slaps the table. "I can't listen to this anymore," he yells. He wants those votes this week. "Now get the hell out of here and get 'em." Asked how, he stands, stretching his 6-foot, 4-inch frame, and lectures them about presidential politics.

Here, I'll quote from Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Lincoln." The movie was based, in part, on the book, and uses this quote from Lincoln exhorting his naysaying help:
"I am President of the United States, clothed with great power. The abolition of slavery by constitutional provision settles the fate, for all coming time, not only of the millions now in bondage, but of unborn millions to come — a measure of such importance that those two votes must be procured.

"I leave it to you to determine how it shall be done. But remember that I am President of the United States, clothed in immense power, and I expect you to procure those votes."

Goodwin continues: "It was clear to his emissaries that his powers extended to plum assignments, pardons, campaign contributions and government jobs for relatives and friends of faithful members."

One Democrat changed his vote, Goodwin writes, and later "was given the lucrative post of Navy agent in New York."

In the movie, a couple regains ownership of a toll road, which had been confiscated by a Union commander, after they persuade their congressman to vote for the amendment.

A Democratic congressman is told he'll lose his seat unless he supports the amendment. He votes yes.
Satchels of greenbacks are passed to persuadable congressmen.
It's "shady work," notes Secretary of State William Seward (David Strathairn).
After the amendment passes, abolitionist Rep. Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones) remarks that the measure succeeds because of "corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America."

Much of what Lincoln and his lieutenants pulled may be illegal today in California.
Hinting, winking, speaking in code are all legal. Offering a quid pro quo — something of value for a vote — is not. That's bribery.
In the 1980s, the FBI conducted a Sacramento sting that led to 14 convictions involving political payoffs. Five of those nabbed were lawmakers.
"In this day and age, you have to be careful," says political attorney Steve Merksamer, chief of staff to former Gov. George Deukmejian. "That's not to say that governors, when in the process of building Cabinets or making other appointments, don't have feelings and don't remember who were nasty to them — as well as people who have been responsive to their leadership.

"That's just human nature."
Same thing with bill signings and vetoes. Reward friends and punish enemies.
Gov. Jerry Brown's father, legendary Gov. Pat Brown, was a master of deal-making. It's how he got the state water project built.

Key jobs and judgeships were paid out. Some small recreational lakes were built to satisfy one influential assemblywoman.

Jerry Brown has been much less of a deal maker, perhaps still rebelling against his dad's old-fashioned politics.

Last year, Brown failed to cut a deal with Republicans to place a proposed tax extension on the ballot. Each side blamed the other. The end result was that the governor hit up special interests for millions of dollars to collect voter signatures for the tax increase Californians ultimately passed.

Brown did see the movie, calling it "extraordinary." He was particularly impressed with Lincoln's "preternatural skill" in working the congressmen. Let's hope the governor picked up a few pointers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Opinion: GOP is still not serious about immigration reform

U.S Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) (L) and Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) (R) listen during a news conference November 27, 2012 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Senator Hutchison and Kyl held a news conference to discuss immigration reform.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The ability of the GOP to develop a long-term strategy to grow the party appears to be in crisis. The party which was once confident about its own values has grown perpetually concerned about its ability to diversify its appeal.

Over the last decade, the GOP strategy to win elections has been basically this: limit the participation of minorities through onerous registration and voting laws, and do anything possible to obstruct the political integration of the growing Latino population. But if blowhards like Rush Limbaugh were so sure of the universal appeal of their message, immigration reform and voting laws would be a non-issue.

Perhaps it is because their message isn’t so universal, and instead panders to a specific group of voters that they are so concerned about immigration reform. The GOP talking heads love to rail against ethnic pandering, yet when ninety percent of your voters are non-Hispanic white and your most reliable voter base is the retirement community, cultural pandering is exactly what you are doing.

Nowhere is this pandering more evident than when the GOP is forced to confront immigration reform. The fight over immigration reform began with a whimper yesterday when lame duck Senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona presented an alternative to the Dream Act that would offer legal status to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children, but differed in that it would not provide beneficiaries with a pathway to citizenship.

It is not clear what purpose yesterday’s event served but to reaffirm in the minds of Latinos that the GOP is fundamentally unserious about immigration reform.

The Democrats are expected to lay out their own framework for immigration reform today, which will be broader in scope and address the problems with our immigration system that impacts more than just Dreamers. Given the political climate, the Democrats are right to focus the discussion on comprehensive reform, but it seems that the GOP response will be once again to limit the discussion to variations of the Dream Act.

Which is odd given that just last week, Republicans such as Carlos Gutierrez formed a super-PAC to help shape the immigration debate for the party. Apparently, someone forgot to tell Mrs. Hutchinson and Mr. Kyl. Perhaps Senator Rubio, who is still working on his own version of the Dream Act is coordinating with Mr. Gutierrez.

The fight over whether we have a piecemeal approach or a comprehensive solution will be the center of the battle over immigration reform. President Obama has indicated that he is committed to comprehensive reform that addresses family cohesion, status normalization and the economic needs of the country, but there is no indication by any Republicans that they are committed to this.

The GOP should be called out on this, and since Mr. Gutierrez has volunteered to be the face of Latino outreach for the party, perhaps he should be the one to answer questions about the lack of seriousness coming from his people.

None of this is very encouraging if you are a Republican who views this issue as an important first step in building a party for the future. So far there has been much talk about toning down the assault on Latinos by the GOP, but sending out lame duck Senators to get the ball rolling with proposals that are non-starters is probably not a good way to begin.

If the GOP plans on being serious about winning over Latino voters they should stop promoting half-baked approaches to immigration reform that display an utter lack of confidence in its ability to broaden the party’s appeal. The GOP claims that its values are based on the universality of the founding principles of the country, but if that were true, the stonewalling we’re seeing by Hutchinson and Kyl wouldn’t make such a mockery of that belief.

Stephen A. Nuño, Ph.D., NBC Latino contributor and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University. He is currently writing a book on Republican outreach into the Latino Community.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Romney: Obama won because of “gifts” he gave Latinos, blacks and young voters

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sarah Westwood: Advice From a Lonely College Republican

If the election results told us anything, it's that the GOP has some serious soul searching to do. On paper, Mitt Romney's history of accomplishment towered over President Obama's train wreck of a record, so his loss seemed nearly inexplicable. But Mr. Obama carried his key groups so easily that Republicans should give him props for such a feat— and start taking notes.

In politics, as in life, perception is key. The Chicago machine and the Democratic National Committee as a whole have perfected the art of marketing, even when they've got nothing to sell. They're like a used-car salesman who pushes lemons on unsuspecting drivers and never gets caught. Democrats can home in on Latinos, blacks, single women, young voters—and have them chanting "Four more years!" before they know what hit them.

I happen to be one of the latter, a college student at a time when youth is a hot political commodity. Most kids my age bristle at the word "conservative," and I don't blame them. The right has done nothing to welcome young people.

If Republicans hope to win in 2016 and beyond, they need to change everything about the way they sell themselves. They're viewed by the 18-24 set as the "party of the rich" and as social bigots. That harsh, flawed opinion could be rectified if Republicans started presenting their positions in a different way. The GOP is like a supermodel who has been doing photo shoots under fluorescent bulbs without any makeup. But fix the lighting, dab on some foundation and highlight her good side, and she can take the most attractive picture.

My age group is one pocket of voters who Republicans should be carrying with ease. Youth is all about rebellion and freedom and independence—things the Democratic Party preaches but doesn't deliver. Behind their clever one-liners lurks a government shackle waiting to be slapped onto the wrists of every young voter they ensnare.

The left proudly shouts "stick it to the rich," which naturally draws the rambunctious college crowd into its fold. But Democrats fail to mention how broadly they define the rich—or that in reality, they want to dip into everyone's wallets, not just Bill Gates's.

Shame on Republicans for not seizing the opportunity this time around. They could so easily define their brand as the true advocate of rebellion; a "stick it to the government" movement in the spirit of the 1960s hippie wave.

It wouldn't be a smoke-and-mirrors, bait-and-switch trick either, like what goes on across the aisle. Republicans truly are the party of a less intrusive ruling class. Frame the Republican fundamentals—tax less, spend less—as a fresh populist approach instead of Grandpa's adage, and the party is back in business.

Another leg up that the left has is its claim to the moral high ground. The party of pro-choice, pro-gay has such a hold on young people because those are issues they can care about easily. Not many 20-year-olds can hold a coherent conversation about Social Security reform or double taxation, but all of them can argue passionately for gay rights.

As a member of this all-important demographic, I know that neither I nor (almost) anybody else coming of age today supports the Republican social agenda. That's the way the country is moving—so just deal with it. Modernize and prioritize.

Though it may be painful, though it may be costly at the polls in the short run, Republicans don't have a future unless they break up with the religious right and the gay-bashing, Bible-thumping fringe that gives the party such a bad rap with every young voter. By fighting to legally ban abortion, the party undercuts the potential to paint itself as a rebel against the governmental-control machine.

Embracing a more liberal social agenda doesn't require anyone to abandon her own personal values; it's possible to keep faith and the party too. But the evangelical set essentially hijacked the Republican Party in the 1970s; now we need to take it back. Thawing the icy attitude of our most vocal, radical voices—including the raucous right (a la Limbaugh)—could let a fatally fractured party put the pieces together again.

The GOP won't survive if it doesn't start courting young voters. Simple math dictates that the Republican Party can wrest power away from the left only if it builds an army of fresh young members into its base. Democrats are the ones doing that now.

Ms. Westwood will be a sophomore at George Washington University in January.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Exclusive Podcast Interview: Secretary Julian Castro & Congressman Joaquin Castro

Congressman Joaquin Castro & Secretary Julian Castro

The Castro brothers, Joaquin and Julian, interview exclusively for Jimmy's Politico about the impact of Latinos in America!

Exclusive Interview: Sen Dog of Cypress Hill and Election Day!

Sen Dog of Cypress Hill interviewing for Jimmy's Politico!

In an exclusive interview for Jimmy's Politico, Sen Dog of Cypress Hill talks about the impact of Latinos in America and gives a strong message to Latino youth.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Opinion: Don’t be a fool, vote

Opinion: Don’t be a fool, vote

Some argue that neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney deserve your vote on Tuesday.
But you are a fool if you consciously decide not to vote for president on Tuesday. You are a fool because this is your country and this is a democracy, and to abstain from making a choice for president is cowardly. If you feel you have been disrespected, then you know nothing about politics and you are just being a whiny baby. Grow up.

You are a fool because Latinos have shed blood in every war since the Revolution and the Civil War to protect this right to vote. Honor your ancestors with the courage of taking part in the basic democratic function of determining the pathway for your posterity.

You are a fool because our culture runs through the veins of this country. The oldest European city of this country is Spanish, St. Augustine in Florida, and when it was established, the largest city on the continent was a city built by Latino sweat and blood, Mexico City. Unlike Jamestown, St. Augustine still stands, and Mexico City is still the largest city on the continent. Be proud. This is your land.

You are a fool if you do not vote for president because you are perfectly capable of understanding the differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney outside of the narrow issue of immigration, and within the broader scope of what is the best direction for Latinos in general.

You are a fool if you do not vote for president because if you think you are being disrespected now; wait until future candidates discover you are the type to expect the dignity of genuine attention without exhibiting the capacity to make a difficult decision.

You are a fool if you do not vote for president because the direction of our health care policy is a live or die issue for Latinos. Both candidates have staked a clear position on this issue. If you are too consumed by your own narcissistic feelings about respect to act like a grown up, then by all means, self deport to an uninhabited island where you can live in the comfort of your own empty voice.

You are a fool if you do not vote because there are people who would love it if you did not vote, and in fact are working diligently to help you along with your sophomoric little protest. A cottage industry has been built around creating a facade of voter fraud to justify laws that will be used against you at the ballot box. Your right to vote is being fought over at the federal level because of laws that help prevent these assaults, like the Voting Rights Act.

Who do you think appoints the Attorney General who will defend your right to vote?
You are a fool if you do not vote for president because the ability to make decisions about birth control disproportionately affects Latinas, who are poorer and have less access to resources that help them exercise their reproductive rights. Who do you think will appoint the Supreme Court Justices that will defend this right and help ensure that our family and friends have access to safe medical procedures?

You are a fool if you do not vote because our Latino sons and daughters, right now, are risking their lives abroad for our country. They are in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Europe. Latinos are standing guard for you. The least you can do is help decide who their Commander in Chief will be.

Don’t be a fool on Tuesday. Vote for president.

Stephen A. Nuño, Ph.D., NBC Latino contributor and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University. He is currently writing a book on Republican outreach into the Latino Community.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sergio Romo wears 'I just look illegal' shirt at S.F. Giants parade

Los Angeles Times article, October 31, 2012

San Francisco Giants pitcher Sergio Romo made a political statement with his T-shirt "I just look illegal." Credit: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images
It was a typical championship parade for the San Francisco Giants: confetti fell to the streets, players waved and the crowd in orange and black roared.
Talk back LA
But pitcher Sergio Romo's T-shirt -- which said, "I Just Look Illegal" -- may be the most talked-about part of the celebration.

As The Times' Dylan Hernandez wrote last week, Romo was raised in Brawley, Calif., a small farming community about 20 miles north of the Mexican border. His parents, who met in Brawley, were born in Mexico.

For many of the city's residents, Hernandez writes, Romo represents "the latest link in a chain of baseball players that dates back to the 1930s."

Many of these players would cross the Mexican border on weekends to compete in adult leagues in the city of Mexicali. Promising young players would be invited to play shortly after they entered high school. In this way, a devotion to the game was passed from one generation to the next.
So when pitcher Sid Monge broke in with the Angels in 1975, many of the players in town felt he took part of them to the major leagues with him. They felt the same way about Rudy Seanez, who played 17 big league seasons with nine teams, including the Dodgers. And now they feel like that about Romo.

"Everybody has a little story about Rudy, Sergio and Sid," said Rusty Garcia, who was Seanez's pitching coach at Brawley Union High.
Romo is remembered as the child who used to tag along with his father on weekends to Mexicali. Memories of those days were shared over lunch recently at Las Chabelas, where six men gathered at a back table to trade stories.

"Remember how much of a pain he was?" Reyes asked the others. "Sergio was so hyper when he was a little kid."

Romo's shirt quickly drew reaction on Twitter as images of his shirt circulated. See some of the comments below and tell us what you think: