The race for the governor’s mansion in California has been underscored by scandal, personal attacks, and dirty politics, and according to The Washington Post, that trend continued on Tuesday during the gubernatorial debates.
Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman unleashed a series of personal attacks that overshadowed their proposals for dealing with the problems of an economically depressed state whose government is barely functional.
Their most acidic exchange came over a recent revelation that someone in Brown’s campaign had called Whitman a “whore” in a private conversation, inadvertently recorded when Brown was leaving a voice mail message for a union official.
As much as the Washington Post decries these tactics, implying the usage of unnecessary, negative politics, is it not fair for Whitman to lash out against a man who purportedly called her a whore? Whether the words came from Jerry Brown’s mouth or one of his assistants, the fact remains that the words were spoken. So I think it is ridiculous to expect a woman to ignore being tagged with a derrogatory term. Furthermore, someone close to the Brown campaign did indeed call Whitman a whore; therefore, it is only logically that Brown should apologize, if not for himself then on the behalf of a member of his campaign. This necessity is not political. It is common courtesy. An apology would be representative of an admiral set of values held by Brown and his campaign, and there are absolutely no negative political ramifications for doing so. In no way does this expected apology require Jerry Brown to indict himself as the criminal, and therefore, become the recipient of voter disgust.
Of course, it is possible that Brown was the man who called Meg Whitman a whore. Yet, even in this case, it would still be beneficial for him to pin the comments on a member of his staff, fire that person, and speak about his vast respect for women and the disgust over his affiliate’s comments.
Instead we get a very weak apology in response to the moderator Tom Brokaw’s question on the issue:
BROKAW: Mr. Brown you did attempt to reach out to the police union. The telephone message was left on. It’s now a notorious part of this campaign. In which somebody in your campaign referred to Ms. Whitman as a “whore.” A campaign spokesman then described that as “salty language” and apologized after a fashion. We’ve heard no outrage from you about the use of that kind of language which to many women is the same as calling an African-American the n-word. Have you been in charge of the investigation in your campaign to find out who is responsible for using that phrase?
BROWN: I don’t agree with that comparison, number one. Number two, this is a five week old private conversation…
BROWN: …picked up on a cellphone, uh, with a garbled transmission. Very hard to detect who it is. This is not, I don’t want to get into the term and how it’s used. But I will say the campaign apologized promptly and I affirm that apology tonight.
BROKAW: You’re repeating it to Ms. Whitman?
BROWN: Yes I am. I do. I, it’s unfortunate. I’m sorry it happened. I apologize.
Translation: “sorry….but it’s really not a big deal to call you a whore, Meg.”
Furthermore, he dismisses a valid argument posited by Brokaw that the insult is akin to a racial slur. His entire “apology” downplays an episode that is not only deeply offensive to Meg Whitman, but to every woman in his state. Whitman responded as such:
WHITMAN: So Jerry, it’s not just me, it’s the people of California who deserve better than slurs and personal attacks. That’s not what California is about. It is not our better selves. And I, um, think people know exact…I think every Californian, and especially women, know exactly what’s going on here. And that is a deeply offensive term to women.
Washington Post analysis labels the debate as having “much heat, little light.” While I would agree it was largely personally based, I feel as though the discussion was instigated by Brokaw’s question, and because of this instigation and the “tepid apology” by Jerry Brown, Whitman had every right to berate the man. If anything, the blame for the personal focus of the debate should be laid at the feet of the moderator who initiated it, not spun to accuse the Whitman of dirty tactics.
Furthermore, the Post describes Whitman’s criticism of Brown’s leadership and poor policy as “non-substantive” debate:
But those were far from the only heated moments. Over and over again, Whitman portrayed Brown as an example of failed leadership, and a politician who is beholden to public employee unions.
Is this issue not an important one? If a man has displayed a failure to lead his state appropriately and has been influenced by liberal special interest groups, should he not be called out on it? Perhaps the Washington Post would view Whitman’s attack as non-issue based, but this criticism is a central focus of the entire spectrum of the midterm elections. The American people are revolting against failed establishment leaders and politicians looking out for their own interests above those of their constituents.
The media needs to understand what the public cares about, and the fact of the matter is, a large number of people in this country are angry with the slur used by the Brown campaign. They are also angry with irresponsible politicians beholden to special interests. Sorry, media, if we don’t like you telling us what to think. We can decide what is important on our own, thank you very much.