Commentary Magazine


Whitman Skewers Brown

I don’t often agree with Mark Halperin’s political take, which is often indistinguishable from the Democratic talking points of the day. But it’s hard to quibble with his observation that the Meg Whitman ad using Bill Clinton to skewer Jerry Brown’s tax record as governor is “probably the best TV spot by any campaign all cycle.” It does three things that a devastating political ad must do.

First, it uses a well-known figure not obviously aligned with the candidate to attack her opponent (i.e., get a credible, independent critic). Second, it drills down on an issue central to the campaign (taxes) while also hitting the opponent on character. And finally, it’s not an obvious out-of-context clip. By allowing Clinton to speak at length (he was a fast talker!), Whitman avoids the charge that her ad is a “hatchet” job.

And sure enough, Whitman has Brown running in circles, forcing him to apologize to Clinton (whom Brown attacked when the ad was released).

Some observers questioned Whitman’s street smarts and political skill when the eBay CEO announced her run. She has shown, unlike her opponent (whose fondness for Nazi analogies got him in hot water earlier in the race), that she knows how to handle herself and tie her opponent in knots. The race remains close, but if this keeps up, California will get to test the proposition that government should be run more like a business. A successful one, we hope.