Is there a more redundant headline this season than “Candidates spar at debate”?
That certainly was true in the third and, most probably final debate between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman.
What was still missing was exactly how either candidate would fix the state’s crippling budget deficits, but was anyone expecting a power point presentation?
To be fair, much of the debate focused on jobs, but there was also little on exactly that would be done.
I’ll admit what I was waiting for in this encounter was what, if anything, would be said about the whole “whore” flap, after a tape was released last week in which someone from Brown’s team referred to Whitman by that term. When moderator Tom Brokaw compared it to the “n-word,” Brown said, “I do not agree with that comparison,” to some audience groans, before noting that Pete Wilson, the former governor and chair of Whitman’s campaign, had used the term to refer to Congress.
Prodded by Brokaw, Brown offered an apology, but Whitman didn’t accept.
“It”s not just me but the people of California who deserve better than slurs.” Brown then said he wondered whether it was legal to record the conversation — referring to the state’s requirement of two-party consent to tape conversations. Except this was a conversation picked up after Brown left a message on an answering machine and either he or someone in his camp didn’t check to see that they had actually hung up the phone. He would have been better off just apologizing and leaving the rest unsaid. Still unknown: Who exactly called Whitman the “w-word”? Brown’s wife?
Whitman apologized, again, for her voting record, but not for the $120 million she has spent, more than any other individual has spent on a race. She said it will allow her to be “independent.”
Brown was feistier than in previous debates, even to the point of anger, ready to needle Whitman for her handling of her undocumented maid. “After working for her for nine years, she didn’t even get her a lawyer,” he said. Whitman was more confident and focused, particularly when it came to hammering home the message that her opponent is a career politician. “You have been part of the war on jobs for 40 years,” she said.
Whitman probably gained more than Brown in the debate, if only because of lackluster reviews of her two previous encounters and the not-so-great response by Brown to the “w-question.” Whether this makes a hill of difference is another story. After all, isn’t this supposed to be about jobs?
The debate itself more pointed and polished than previous ones, largely due to the presence of Brokaw, who got his start in local news in Los Angeles. Tonight he was a crutches, because of an accident on his Wyoming ranch. Referring to California, he said, “We’re both broken at the moment. The difference is that I hope to be repaired by the end of the year.”
Obama’s Visit: Curiously, Brown was much more positive about President Obama than Whitman was about Sarah Palin. Obama and Palin each are trekking to California in the next 10 days. Brown says he will campaign with Obama when he’s in the Golden State on Oct. 21 and 22. Whitman, however, is not campaigning with Palin at an Orange County rally this weekend. When asked about her at the debate, she noted, “She has a real following in the Republican Party, but you know that I have actually supported other presidential nominees in our party.” It was a non sequitur, as Palin was running as the vice presidential nominee in 2008, and never ran for president. But Whitman did support Mitt Romney, who could be one of Palin’s 2012 rivals if she gets in the race.
Obama’s Visit II: Obama will be at USC for a rally on Oct. 22, as well as a fund raising reception on the campus for the Democratic National Committee. First Lady Michelle Obama will be in Los Angeles for three fund raising events on Oct. 26 and 27, including an event at the home of James Lassiter and another at the Wilshire Ebell Theater.
Rahm to Town: Also in the works is an Oct. 25 Los Angeles fund raiser for Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago mayoral bid.
Franken Raises: Al Franken is billed as the special guest for a joint fund raiser on Oct. 20 for Barbara Boxer, Richard Blumenthal, Michael Bennet and Robin Carnahan. The event will be at the Bel Air home of Jamie and Chuck Meyer, with tickets starting at $1,000 per person.
Colbert’s Faith: Stephen Colbert may skewer religious leaders, but some scholars see the Comedy Central host as a potent evangelist.
Taking on Critics: Jack Black and America Ferrara appear in a new video, “Liars for Hire,” countering the Chamber of Commerce claims about the new healthcare law. The project was done for Health Care for America Now!