Poizner Attack on Whitman Was Negative but NOT Dirty


There are strategic and tactical reasons to question whether it’s a smart move for Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner to attack former eBay CEO Meg Whitman this early in the Republican primary race for governor. But Poizner’s fusillade was NOT dirty.

You can call it negative, tough, slashing, brutal, whatever, but we strongly disagree with this characterization on the very fine SacB site Capitol Alert: “With still more than 400 days until votes are cast, the GOP primary for governor is already starting to get dirty.”

No it’s not. Dirty is where you lie about your opponent, use below-the-belt personal information, make unfair charges, distort their record, etc. We don’t like dirty campaigning and when we see it, we’ll throw a red flag. But by holding Whitman’s leadership at eBay up to scrutiny, Poizner has done nothing dirty. It’s especially appropriate when a candidate comes out of the business world — and Poizner’s business background is fair game, too — because that’s the candidate’s record.

A political campaign for governor of California is not a dinner party. It’s a rough and tumble affair in which candidates should not be demonized by goody-twoshoes, holier-than-thou commentary or news reports. People are so cynical about politics already and it’s so easy to use a charge of “dirty campaigning” in a TV ad, that it’s important for those of us on the sidelines to make distinctions between dirty and slimy campaign tactics and legitimate, tough, negative campaigning.

We’re just sayin’.

subscribe to comments RSS

There are 4 comments for this post

  1. avatar Anonymous says:

    Agreed! This is such an important point for reporters and writers. I would expect the “dirty campaigning” label to be thrown out in ignorance by some airhead bimbo local TV news reporter, but CapitolAlert? Really?

    Let’s be clear that Whitman’s record in business is fair game for assessment and criticism — not only did she put it in play first, but more importantly, it is the ONLY qualification she is bringing to the office. Rather than criticizing Poizner, the Bee should have thanked him for starting to dive into the substantive qualifications of his fellow candidates, and then started reporting on his business activities too.

    But the Bee’s snarky blog-article is reflective of a sort of arrogant cynicism that consumes many political reporters. They think “hmmm, rather than doing the harder work of assessing the veracity of a charge, I’ll just dump a pile of he-said/she-said quotes, get the requisite witty, pithy quote from Schnur/Quinn/Jeffe/et al, add an intro paragraph about the nasty and dirty campaign, and call it reporting! I’ll be home in time for dinner!”


    Memo to the Bee’s normally adept political editors: We need more hard news reporting, and a lot more of what the lawyers call “discovery” on these candidates. What we don’t need is a bunch of shallow, pedestrian “horse race” and “hey, there’s a new poll out” articles.

  2. avatar Bill Bradley says:

    One of the problems is nobody is paying attention, as well as the freeze-dried coverage you refer to.

    I’ve followed the Skype adventure in Whitman-era eBay. Among other things, I was an early Skype adopter … “Hello, hello, I can hear you, can you hear me?”

    I still have the headset under my desk somewhere.

    There’s been nothing dirty in the “race” so far.

    An abundance of “clever” snark, but it’s all been quite blah and mostly meaningless.

  3. avatar John Seiler says:

    After the twin GOP disasters of Arnold and Bush, the Republican will get wiped out next year. So this is a sideshow.

  4. avatar Anonymous says:

    I think Poizner and Whitman should use their money on something more productive than run for Governor. First, GOP registration is at 31%. Neither of them are “red-meat” Republicans, so the GOP turnout machine will probably underperform. Second, all of the past red-meat campaigns have built up long term resentments in communities that have growing demographics. Their hatred campaigns are like dioxins–it accumulates in the fatty tissues and just doesn’t go away.

    I don’t believe that the Democrats have the capacity to screw things up badly enough to elect a Republican.

Please, feel free to post your own comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.