But moderator Matt Lauer elevated the relaxed soft talk by putting the candidates on the spot: From now until Nov. 2, would they pull all their negative ads? “There has been enough talk about slurs and housekeepers,” he said.
The audience cheered at the suggestion, and Schwarzenegger, sitting in the middle of the two candidates, clapped. Whitman smiled, then stared at Brown.
“I would like to take out all my ads and save money money,” Brown quipped, before answering, “Sometimes negative is in the eye of the beholder.” When Lauer argued that you can call ’em when you see them, Brown then said, “If Meg wants to do that, I will do that.”
But Whitman didn’t agree.
“Character attacks, the attacks of personal destruction, are very different than a debate on the issues,” she said.
Lauer pressed on, telling them that they would have 24 hours to pull the ads.
“If we do it together, no problem,” Brown said.
“I think it is important because I am new to politics. People need to know where I stand and that Jerry Brown has been in politics for 40 years.”
There were boos in the audience.
Eventually, Whitman agreed to talk further, off stage, and Brown and Schwarzenegger chimed in that negotiating in front of everyone may not be the best thing.
“I can already see the political spinmeisters in the back and the advisers going nuts,” he said.
Schwarzenegger, who is not endorsing either candidate, has been somewhat of a punching bag in the campaign, but he was gracious on stage, saying that the state has the “two best candidates” running this year.
He did disagree with one of Whitman’s remarks, that “California is going to be a golden state again.”
“California is a golden state,” he said.
Photo from the Women’s Conference: Whitman, Schwarzenegger and Brown. Photo from Brown campaign: Jerry Brown and Robert Redford at the Women’s Conference.