Aren’t you sick of the negative political campaigns and the misleading TV and radio ads this election season? Not that this season is any different. I find them insulting. They assume that we aren’t capable of thinking for ourselves. They assume that we’ll remember the five second slogan on we saw on TV on election day, instead of reading the ballot measures or doing research on the candidates to make the best decision. Judging from the results of most elections, they may be right.
A recent example is the latest bru-ha-ha involving Meg Whitman, a candidate for governor in California, the former leader of EBay. She’s running against Jerry Brown, a career politician, and the former governor of California.
The latest scandal involves a former household employee of Ms. Whitman, Nicky Diaz. There is some disagreement about what exactly happened, or exactly what it means, or exactly why it matters, but there are some facts everyone seems to agree with. In 2000, Ms. Whitman contacted an employment agency to find a nanny for her children and housekeeper for her home. They referred Ms. Diaz, who was hired for the job. She produced a social security card and California driver’s license, and filled out the appropriate tax forms. The identification Ms. Diaz provided was fraudulent. She was an undocumented worker and not legally permitted to work in the United States. In 2009, about the time Ms. Whitman began running for governor, Ms. Diaz asked Ms. Whitman for help in gaining US citizenship. At that time, the nanny was fired.
Everyone seems to agree on these facts. But there are several sides to the story.
Meg Whitman’s side: Nicky was a valued employee, but she lied to get her job. When it was revealed that she was an illegal alien, and that it was illegal to employ her, her employment was terminated.
I haven’t exactly figured out Nicky Diaz’ side. It seems to be something like “She’s a mean lady who didn’t help me.” In her words: “”I was shocked and hurt that Ms. Whitman would treat me this way after nine years. I realized at that moment that she didn’t appreciate my work. I felt like she was throwing me away like a piece of garbage.””
Gloria Allred, Ms. Diaz’ attorney, has another side. She claims that Ms. Whitman and her husband knew all along that Nicky was illegal, but they kept her on so that they could exploit and abuse her. They only fired her in 2009 because she could become a political embarrassment. As proof of this, she produced a document sent by the Social Security Administration stating that there was a problem with Ms. Diaz’ Social Security number. There is a handwritten note written on the letter, apparently written by Ms. Whitman’s husband, Griff Harsh saying something like “Nicky, would you please look into this.” She claims that Ms. Diaz found lots of letters from Social Security just like this in the family garbage.
I don’t want to get too heavy into the debate. But let’s look at the facts. Both sides agree that the nanny was fired when she came and asked for help getting a green card. This is consistent with Whitman’s claim that this is when she discovered Diaz was illegal. If this is true, Whitman had no legal option but to terminate the employment.
Allred claims that Diaz was employed just so she could be exploited as an undocumented worker. Really? She was paid $23 an hour to be a nanny. How many illegal aliens get $23 an hour? For that matter, how many nanny’s get $23 an hour? The average pay for a nanny in the United States is $13 an hour. This doesn’t sound like exploitation to me. And if she really felt exploited, why didn’t she go back to the employment agency and look for a different position?
Ms. Allred claims that Ms. Whitman must have known about Nicky’s status because she got a letter from Social Security. Um, who has that letter? Nicky Diaz. Is there any evidence that Ms. Whitman ever saw the letter in the first place? And what is Ms. Diaz doing with somebody else’s mail?
Of course there are all the letters that were supposedly put in the trash. Really? Is there any evidence of this? And think about this. Their story was that there was someone inside Whitman’s house for nine years, going through her garbage, and this is the most dirt they could come up with. Not much of a scandal if you ask me.
Finally, the intent of the whole affair is obvious from the timing. Two months before the election. Allred is a life-long liberal, with connections to Jerry Brown going back to his first stint as governor. Not long ago Ms. Allred raised a similar scandal against then gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger, also months before the election. Even if everything Allred claims is true, Ms. Diaz chose the wrong lawyer. Who can believe anything Gloria Allred says with her track record?
Finally, who really cares? Seriously, what difference does it make? Suppose Meg Whitman employed an illegal alien until a year ago. Does that mean she won’t be a good governor?
Oh, but she speaks out against employing illegal aliens. She’s a hypocrite. Maybe. Barak Obama wrote about his experiences with drugs. Is he a hypocrite when he enforces US drug policy? Maybe. Do you want him to stop doing it? Is he a bad president because he does?
But Rick, you say, it goes to character. Seriously, who cares? I don’t care if my governor has character. I care if they do a good job governing. If we eliminate everyone that has ever had a scandal in their past from running for office, who’s left? Not me. You? Anybody you know? It doesn’t leave many people. And those that are left are not there because they’d be good leaders. Probably their left because their more careful about who gets to see their garbage. If someone has never made a mistake in your life, it may be because they’ve never done much of anything. The only people I know who have never had a parking ticket have never owned a car.
But doesn’t character matter? All things being equal, of course it does. But think about it.
When I think about a politician with character, I think of Jimmy Carter. Carter is probably the best ex-president the US has ever seen. He travels to other countries to negotiate peace settlements, to oversee elections, to get US citizens released from foreign prisons. He builds houses for the homeless with his own hands. In all seriousness, while I don’t agree with everything President Carter says and does, I admire and respect the man.
That having been said, I think Jimmy Carter was the worst US president in my lifetime. He is a great person, but was a lousy executive. Even if you don’t agree with me, would you argue that Carter was a better president that Bill Clinton? No? Would you say that Clinton had better character than Carter? If you had to pick one to replace Obama, who would it be? The one with character?
I’m not writing this to endorse Meg Whitman. Her main qualification for governor is her experience as an executive running EBay. And I’m not happy with everything I know about her time there. On the other hand, I’ve met Jerry Brown, and I remember the last time he was governor. With all his time in his many offices, I’ve seen that he’s an excellent politician. But I’ve never seen any evidence that he’s qualified to govern. I do wish there was a better candidate available to choose from. We’re not even left with a choice between the better of the evils. It’s more like a choice between evil or dumb.
I started this rant complaining about negative campaigns, and I only brought up Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown as an example. Nobody likes negative campaigns, but they keep happening, because they work. And there’s really only one way to stop it. Stop listening to them. It’s up to you and me. These tactics work because we fall for it. And they won’t stop until we stop paying attention. If you vote November 2, don’t do it because of some TV commercial you saw that appeals to the lowest common denominator. Don’t do it because of a sound bite from a press conference obviously intended to offend your sensibilities and distract you from the issues. Do some research. Find out where people really stand. And then, based on facts, and not innuendo, vote for the candidates that you honestly believe will do a better job.