Primaries are over in the California governor's race, and with these initial contests past, I'm sure that we can expect the two contenders, Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican Meg Whitman to gently roll out their campaigns by re-introducing themselves to the electorate and highlighting the positive features of their policies and biography. Right?
Taking a page out of the playbook normally reserved for Glenn Beck, Jerry Brown, the Democratic nominee for California Governor (and a former governor himself), recently compared his opponent, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, to a Nazi.
And not just any Nazi -- chief Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
Oh for crying out loud! I had hoped that we could have at least gotten a week past the primary before the race took a turn for the reductio ad Hitlerum. But apparently Jerry Brown ran into San Francisco KCBS reporter Doug Sovern on a bike trail and now this has happened:
Brown boasted about his legendary frugality. "I've only spent $200,000 so far. I have 20 million in the bank. I'm saving up for her." It's true -- his stay-on-the-sidelines, bare-bones primary run cost him almost nothing, at least in California political terms. But he also fretted about the impact of all those eBay dollars in Whitman's very deep pockets. "You know, by the time she's done with me, two months from now, I'll be a child-molesting..." He let the line trail off. "She'll have people believing whatever she wants about me.
"It's like Goebbels," referring to Hitler's notorious minister of propaganda. "Goebbels invented this kind of propaganda. He took control of the whole world. She wants to be president. That's her ambition, the first woman president. That's what this is all about."
Uhm...frugality aside, I think maybe Brown should rethink his whole "I will thwart the ambitions of the would-be first female President" approach to the campaign. You know...along with the Goebbels comparisons.
If there is irony here, it's that Brown has now defanged an issue related to Whitman's past that California Democrats may have very well tried to make a stink about for a couple days worth of newscycle wins. The story is related to Whitman's tenure at eBay and the trafficking of Nazi paraphernalia that occurred on its pages. An excerpt from a 2004 story in Fortune magazine that's been making the rounds:
[Whitman] struggled most over her decision to ban Nazi memorabilia. Three years ago Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz, an eBay director at the time, returned from a trip to Auschwitz and passionately urged Whitman to take Nazi items off the site. The debate inside the company was intense. As some execs and board members clung to eBay's libertarian ethos, Whitman recalls, "I finally said, 'Okay, I know, but I can't stand this.' " She banned all Nazi items except documents, coins, and copies of historical books like Mein Kampf. "This decision doesn't yield to analysis," she says. "It's a judgment call. There has to be one person making the decision, and it's the CEO."
During the primary campaign, Whitman's opponent, Steve Poizner, did his best to make hay of the fact that eBay did brisk trade in pornography. In an ad, Poizner told voters that Whitman set up a "separate division" of eBay that "only sells porn" which "under Whitman's leadership" became "one of the largest on the internet." The reality is a lot less sexy: Whitman simply stove-piped pornographic material to an "Adults Only" section, so that eBay users didn't have to wade through such products if they didn't want to.
That line of attack didn't yield much in the way of results for Poizner, but that's not deterred Nick Velasquez -- a Democratic operative who is identified as the project director of the California Accountability Project, which was launched in February with the sole purpose of putting "out information they think will be harmful to Republican gubernatorial hopefuls Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner" -- from tweeting up a storm today about Meg Whitman and eBay and Nazi paraphernalia.
As a line of attack, it's a pretty pulpy bit of sensationalism. But it's certainly undercut now by former Gov. Brown popping off at random reporters, making stupid Goebbels comparisons.