Above the Fold Ale: The "pay to play" accusations, which I am hereby dubbing "MeetingGate," dog Gary Herbert for a third day, this time almost entirely because of Gary Herbert.--- Monday, the entire press crowd showed up, especially the KSL TV/Deseret Virtual News, to witness a roast of Herbert by White Men of Varying Importance. By the end, however, the semi-scripted news conference had devolved into some sort of surreal Utah media-political nightmare.
The conference room at the State Republican HQ was jammed with people and god-awful hot. I have no doubt that State GOP chairman Dave Hansen planned it this way to punish the media for this story, because the room was packed with a number of non-reporters before the two dozen White Men of Varying Importance entered the room from a backroom that was, I'm sure air-conditioned. The news conference started immediately with Don Olsen, Herbert's campaign spokesperson, introducing the order of speakers, including Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert.
And there you have it: The News! Herbert had been demoted because of ... oh, dammit. No demotion. Greg Bell is still the second banana. Well, it would have been good, especially if Ellis Ivory had then announced he was the new governor.
The scripted portion of the presser featured the White Men of Varying Importance reinforcing, in hushed tones to belay the seriousness of the situation, that Herbert is a man of great integrity. Then, Herbert himself reinforced it, but only after he prattled on about how optimistic he is for the future of the state. (Note: Nobody is accusing Herbert of lacking optimism.) He also promised to run a clean campaign "focused on the issues," which is exactly what a candidate leading by 30 points in the polls says.
That lasted 15 minutes, but felt like an hour -- honestly, I almost bailed, sensing nothing more than canned statements without questions. But they did take questions, and that's when things got fun.
It began with the first question, when Chris Vanocur tried really, really hard to morph Herbert into Richard Nixon by asking him if he was a crook. Sadly, Herbert did not bite. That followed with a sort-of bombshell from KSL's John Daley, who asked about a $13 million settlement the state gave to the company that lost the bid for the I-15 rebuild in Utah County. It seemed like news to Herbert, who may have primarily proved that, like most executives at the big corporations he seems to admire, he actually has very little idea about the day-to-day operations of the state. (Note: It is advisable to avoid terms like "disengaged" when you are seeking an office that places you at the top of the state's totem pole).
A few minutes later, the questions became downright bizarre when Rod Decker started shouting at Herbert, "Is this what we can expect for the next four years?" (Note: Herbert would only serve two more years if elected, and would have to run in 2012 for a four-year term). It took a few minutes to understand what Decker was asking, although the gist seemed to be, "Why do you give rich people an advantage?" Eventually, Decker began arguing with Fred Lampropolous, and finally, he seemed to actually argue with himself.
Lampropolous, in fact, may have actually been more entertaining that Decker. When reporters continued to press about the $13 million, Lampropolous took over the mic and started railing about a settlement he had to pay because of a business he bought. That morphed into a challenge to reporters to debate tort reform, which was never on the agenda (if there actually was an agenda, which I doubt).
Finally, the presser ended when Lampropolous threw out the word "blackmail" and the reporters jumped a giant chasm to ask if the $13 million was also blackmail. That was, however, after 3-4 assertions by Olsen that they were only going to take one more question.
For the straight news stories, most of which focus on a $13 million settlement, here's links: Trib, AP, and the KSL/DVN
story that also includes links to video of the Herbert presser and Peter Corroon's follow-up presser. Corroon basically stuck to the same whiplash message, in which he emphasizes that he is not actually accusing Herbert of anything, only "raising questions" and trying to discuss "campaign finance reform." Whatever, dude. Watch it with a double espresso, because you'll need it, even though it only lasts 12 minutes.
Also, keep your eyes peeled for a later Open Container post that will be my own half-drunk, heavily reliant on Google "fact check" about this whole scandal.
Political Pocket Rockets: County parties regularly ignore campaign finance laws. Herbert releases more TV ads from White Men of Varying Importance. The Trib gives a summary of a recent Sen. Bob Bennett interview. Weber County commission candidates fight over using county facilities for fundraisers.
Utah Beer: Ogden and Box Elder may ban spice tonight. In related news, a man reportedly got stoned on spice and shot his friends goat. Here's City Weekly editor Jerre Wroble's take on the Beer Fest, which I pretty much agree with.
Leisure Time Lager: A woman recounts her experiences on the Colorado River in the Glen Canyon prior to it filling to create Lake Powell.
Josh's Java: Riley Nelson is a traitor, and I really want him to keep starting until the Aggie game on Oct. 1.
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