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Meg Whitman Explains Her Flaws To NPR

Oct 26, 2010

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If you hadn't been paying attention to California governor's race and wanted to get a sense of where Meg Whitman's high-priced effort had stumbled, listening to All Things Considered co-host Michele Norris' interview with the Republican billionaire would provide a good summary.

The interview starts with the former eBay CEO explaining why she decided to run an ad in which she says into the camera:

I know many of you see this election as an unhappy choice between a long-time politician with no plan for the future and a billionaire with no government experience...

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of her own candidacy, Michele noted. To which Whitman said she was just acknowledging what voters were telling her and her campaign. She decided to take that negative and deal with it frontally.

I decided to call a spade a spade and make the case about why they should vote for me. And we've gotten very good feedback on this ad because it's honest.

Next came Michele's questions about why Whitman didn't vote for years. She sounded like a candidate who knew there was really no good answer for this question when you're asking people to go to the trouble of voting for you.

The truth is, my voting record is not perfect by any means... I did not vote as often as I should have. I'm not proud of that. I take full accountability for it and I apologize to the voters of California.

Then Michele asked about all the money Whitman has spent on the race, $140 million and counting. Is she concerned that it might make her seem out of touch at a time when so many voters are tossing quarters around like manhole covers?

This is all money I earned. And I am making an investment in the future of California. And I'm putting my money where my mouth is. I believe I can turn this state around with help from lots of other people...

Whitman had to know it was coming. Michele asked her about the event that's drawn by far the most attention in her campaign, her former long-time housekeeper who was illegal. What did she learn from it? Michele asked.

Whitman responded with the same answer she gave during her news conference after the controversy first erupted. It was the Democrats' fault. She didn't specifically blame the campaign of her Democratic opponent, Jerry Brown, as she has in the past.

WHITMAN: I'll tell you what. I think this was a political stunt, Michele, I really do.

Michele interrupted her "stunt" talking point.

MICHELE: The stunt aside. Set that aside. I'm curious about your assessment of how you handled this allegation. How you explained it and the question about whether you actually did know of her status.

WHITMAN: OK, so the absolute truth is we had no idea that Nicky was here illegally. We were very saddened. She was a great employee. But it's illegal to hire illegal immigrants in California. So we had to let her go... It's a tragedy because I really believe this is a political stunt. And these kinds of issues in politics is what turns people off to politics...

What was unclear from Whitman's answer was whether she was talking about voters, the candidates who wind up having their personal dirty laundry aired, or both.

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