Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Big Daddy
Well, you’re supposed to know what’s going on. What happened last night?
–Perplexed in Palo Alto

The Beatles were wrong – money CAN buy you love. Not that I listened to the Beatles, I was a Stones’ fan.

Meg Whitman proved it with an $85 million campaign (including at least $70 million of her own money), which propelled her from obscurity to Republican gubernatorial candidate of the nation’s most populous, diverse state and the world’s eighth-largest economy. Heady stuff.

This is spending on a Mike Bloomberg level, this is the real deal. This is spending that tells people, “I want to be president of the United States,” not “I want to be governor of California.” This is spending that puts her on the short list of presidential contenders, and this spending probably will be doubled – or more – for the General Election. Whether she wins in November or not, Whitman won’t be going away. There’s always Feinstein’s Senate seat, right?

Naturally, as a big-tent Democrat, I believe in engaging people of all political beliefs and creeds, male or female, rich or poor.

But I draw the line at Republican women, an odd bunch, at best. I make no apologies. I know they’ve come a  long way since the chicken aspic and the women’s auxiliary, but still. I always associate them with St. John’s knits.

Whitman must be smart – how could she have developed eBay into such a powerhouse if she wasn’t? – but being smart in business and being smart in politics are two different things. Just ask Norton Simon or Al Checchi or Peter Ueberoth or Michael Huffington. You can be good at business and lousy at politics. The exceptions are rare. I was an exception, of course, because politics to me was a business, and I kept my fingers on everybody’s money, public or private.

But top business people are accustomed to giving orders and getting results. They are adept at cutting costs and avoiding taxes and removing workers.

But a political leader has to cajole and wheedle and persuade and schmooze. This is much, much harder than giving orders. Nobody in politics gets everything they want unless they’re very, very lucky, and that goes especially for the governor or president. Everybody has to give up something to somebody. Everybody is accountable to somebody except a nobody. No exceptions here.

So when Whitman tells the public that she’ll cut the state bureaucracy by 40,000 jobs or bust the teachers’ union or reinvent California, I know she’s been eating too much chicken aspic at the Republican women’s auxiliary.

Pass the salt.

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