It’s hard to feel sorry for Meg Whitman, who pretended to be hurt by the surprise discovery, made public by professional ferret Gloria Allred, of Meg’s former nanny, Nicky Santillan, an illegal alien when she workd for Whitman. The maid’s own tearful appearance before TV cameras, via the widely-respected investigative program, TMZ, was slightly more genuine than Meg’s retaliatory press conference. Actually that part was not only sort of amusing but precisely in character: the television is the weapon of choice in California politics, and money provides most of the ammunition. But there’s nothing like a well-timed revelation to temporarily stun an opponent and shake up the opinion polls.
Meg has, with a full month to go, already made television impossible to watch from San Diego to Crescent City through a process of media saturation unlike anything in political memory. Even the Republican primary in June lay a heavy burden of propaganda on the public at large.
Jerry Brown, a respectable enough politician who grew up in the Governor’s Mansion on 16th street in midtown Sacramento, is hardly the witless loser Meg claims he is. Jerry is, in fact, in spite of certain glaring weaknesses, the one politician I know of who almost always speaks plainly and refuses to cater to fickle public opinion. Listening to his public utterances, in fact, one is reminded of famous statesmen.
He has dealt with the Whitman media campaign by deflecting its clumsy energy outward, like a martial artist fending off overwhelming force, but even the most optimistic voter can see that what he lacks in charisma is not compensated for by a bold platform like Meg’s Powerpoint commercial. Brown offers no such clear proposal, instead he volunteers only to do the best he can under the circumstances. Needless to say, voters are hardly ecstatic with either candidate.
It might be because I was young myself at the time, but when I fondly recall the Brown governorship, it’s hard to take Meg’s evaluation of his character that seriously. In high school, we not only had all the books and microscopes we needed, but there were state-funded programs where students could work, on or off campus, for wages paid at least in part out of public funds. They did meaningful work like auto repair and maintenance, got paid, and apparently made out like bandits until finally brought under control by Prop. 13. I myself cut huckleberries with Jake Reed and built a greenhouse with Terry Thompson on afternoons and weekends as part of yet another program offered to our forestry class by the county schools. Without that money it might have taken us years longer to become wage slaves.
We had a Democrat president and Jerry Brown, lurching up and down L street in his Plymouth, dating Linda Ronstadt. and seeking to provide leadership to people prone to madness like the disco dancing craze and, later, the gilt and selfishness of the Reagan era.
Most people I know measure the decline of our standard of living from Reagan’s inauguration. I know I never made so much actual value for an hour of labor nor got as much for it after that.
Meg makes a case for herself as a shrewd fiscal manager, but the fact is Arnold Ziffel could have figured out how to ride the wave of advancing internet technology by making it easy and efficient for people to buy and sell items without putting on their pants. Her mind-boggling fortune could only have been acquired because she kept the money that might have been shared more democratically among the legions of Ebay employees her brilliance had provided jobs for. Plainly, based on his past performance, Jerry Brown would have either introduced profit sharing or redirected some of that fortune to the public good before allowing himself to accumulate $150,000,000 to spend on television commercials.
Though we are mildly surprised by the less than coincidental manifestation of the Nicky, whose charge was not that Meg employed an illegal alien per se, but that she was a cruel employer, we are far from shocked. That sort of allegation isn’t much of a scandal. We all know the rich like to throw their weight around, and Meg’s supporters are more likely than you and I to support that kind of thing. For a menial to blubber about it years later won’t change the outcome of an election where, the last time I looked, both known candidates were polling less than 40% approval.
Third party, anyone?