Politics isn't pretty, even if many of the youthful (read: naive) supporters of Obama thought so. They know that in Chicago and New York. The should know it in California, but they keep forgetting it (which is, I guess, part of the state's charm to many people).
Back in 2000, when George W. Bush's political team and GOP activists defeated Al Gore's team in the Florida election debacle, writer Molly Ivins quipped, "These Gore people have no idea how to steal an election. What happened to the Democrats? They used to have some skill at this."
When the Tea Party and the Republican Party made a mockery of the congressional town hall meetings two Augusts ago, I was stunned that the Democrats were completely taken by surprise and seemed unable to stand up to the political thugs who were derailing the public health-care debate. Only Rep. Barney Frank, bless 'im, slapped them back with the force they deserved.
Now in California, we have an "October surprise" sprung on billionaire GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, in which a former housekeeper is claiming that Meg knew the housekeeper was an illegal alien when she worked for the zillionaire for nine years. Whitman not only says that's not true, but she blames her opponent, Democrat Jerry Brown, for pushing the story.
My thought: I kind of hope Brown is behind it. Or, at least, I hope the Brown campaign has the political toughness to be capable of playing hardball with Whitman's camp, which has been slandering Brown and his supporters for months.
What? you say. Aren't you Mr. Good Government? Yes, and thank you for remembering. But this isn't a case of the housekeeper's story being totally manufactured; both sides agree on large parts of it, and frankly my interpretation is that it's probably not as bad as the housekeeper (or her celebrity-hunting lawyer) alleges, but it's certainly not as good as Whitman and her money-machine claim. In fact, the only thing that makes me think the Brown camp might have had anything to do with it is that it extremely conveniently broke in the news the week before the Brown-Whitman debate on Spanish-language media. Yes, it could have happened that way without Brown's fingerprints, but it does seem a bit suspicious. Then again, Whitman has repeatedly failed to offer any evidence of her claim that the Brownies are behind the story, so Whitman's reckless allegations might end up being Brown's biggest defense.
But regardless of who pushed the story, it serves Brown's needs. Even if it doesn't dramatically dent Whitman's already thin support among Hispanic voters, it has derailed her message for at least a week and likely for a bit more. She has had to go on the defensive, instead of speaking her robotically repetitive talking points about her gubernatorial plans.
So, whether the state Democrats have rediscovered how to play hardball, or if it was just good timing, or even if there is no direct wrongdoing proved by Meg Whitman, this story has served a higher purpose.