Why does Whiman want to be guv?

March 24, 2010

In all seriousness, will someone please tell me why Meg Whitman wants to be governor of California? She’s spending money on the race like she just won the lottery, and yet she’s behaving like someone who just learned about politics and elections and our three branches of government last Tuesday.

To wit: I have in front of me two newspaper articles, each published March 24. The first, from The Los Angeles Times, says the eBay executive has spent $358,439 a day on her race for governor – an astounding $27.2 million so far, and we’re still nearly three months out from the primary election. The second article, which ran in the San Jose Mercury News, says Whitman is apparently reneging on her challenge to fellow candidates Steve Poizner and Jerry Brown to release 25 years of personal tax returns.

Spending gobs of money on a political election is hardly new. Republican Bill Simon did it in 2002. Ditto Democrat Al Checchi in 1998. Neither got very far. But what’s new with Whitman is that her money actually seems to be working.

“She’s spending her money much more smartly than Checchi did,” Democratic consultant Garry South told the Times. “The proof’s in the pudding. She’s got a huge lead over Poizner and now is leading… Brown.”

And that brings us to the tax returns thing – an absurd issue Whitman herself created by daring the other candidates to release their returns. It’s a bone-headed attempt to fix a bone-headed mistake that wasn’t actually a mistake. Once documents are dangled before the public, withdrawing them becomes campaign suicide.

Then again, the cynic in me says Whitman simply forgot her Machiavelli: “A wise ruler ought never to keep faith when by doing so it would be against his interests.”

Yes, that’s an apology for tyranny, but since when are modern political campaigns truly democratic endeavors? Does anything like a majority of the electorate gather together in Socratic-style dialogues to debate the legitimate issues of the day, or do we all sit around the television and see which slick commercial first burrows its way into our subconscious?

Which, in turn, leads me to ask why Whitman, a successful corporate executive with more money than God, would want to be governor of our rapidly disintegrating state government. Public debt is out of control. Public employee unions smash any and all attempts to rein in public employee pensions. Public schools – including our vaunted University of California – are shadows of what they were a generation ago. Who in their right mind would want to step into that?

Of course, that question is perfectly valid for Brown and Poizner. Indeed, why anyone would want to be California’s governor mystifies me. I mean, look at Arnold Schwarzenegger, the current officeholder. He thrust aside the bones of his recalled predecessor back in 2004 with grand pronouncements of “blowing up boxes” and remaking state government into an efficient, transparent machine.

Since then unemployment – as well as the budget deficit – have skyrocketed. In fact, things are arguably worse than back when the hated Gray Davis was in office. Of course, Schwarzenegger seems to be taking these things in stride.

“This week I want to ask all of you a question,” Schwarzenegger said in his March 19 Weekly Radio Address. “What if I told you that with one simple action, that will take only ten minutes of your time, you can help rebuild your local roads and highways, bolster your community’s police and fire protection and invest more in your child’s school? That sounds almost too good to be true doesn’t it? Well, it’s not.”

Yes, Schwarzenegger was talking about the National Census, which might just be the furthest thing from everyone’s mind right now.

Then again, he has that option. Though when things are still this bad a year from now, Governor Whitman/Poizner/Brown will have to find some other banal subject in their attempt to distract us from our true troubles, and their complicity in those troubles.

–Anthony Pignataro

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  1. EastBayLarry
    EastBayLarry 26 March, 2010, 08:11

    Given Megs’ fondness for self-proclaimed “revolutionary communists”, i.e. Van Jones, perhaps she sees herself as the future communist dictator of the remade California directorate.

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  2. Kanani
    Kanani 27 March, 2010, 11:13

    Okay, she started eBay. Cool. It’s a big company. Cool. They let people sell things, some becoming entrepreneurs. Cool. And I say cool, because that’s about as reflective as anyone gets when it comes to the tech industry.
    But then, really…. despite her huge expenditures, there’s nothing much else impressive about Meg Whitman.
    It’s Silicon Valley wealth, looking for a new game. Sort of like Carly Fiorina.
    Meg and Carly are the Silicon Valley versions of Arnold.

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