Meg muffs it

Life isn’t a PowerPoint presentation

As Meg Whitman is learning, politics is a blood sport. Who could have imagined that this billionaire’s $140 million campaign for governor would be upended—irony of ironies—by the woman who cleaned her toilets and picked up after her kids?

In fairness, nobody outside Whitman’s household knows exactly what occurred there, and there’s nothing to indicate that Whitman and her husband did anything illegal. But it’s safe to say that she hasn’t handled the situation well, beginning with the way she fired Nicky Diaz, her housekeeper of nine years, in 2009. Instead of offering to help this member of her “extended family” straighten out her legal status, Whitman gave her the boot.

Then, for more than a year, while campaigning for governor and pitching a tough-as-nails approach to employers who hire undocumented workers, Whitman sat on her little secret. When the story came out, instead of taking responsibility she tried to blame it on others, including Jerry Brown.

For the first time, this heretofore precisely scripted candidate was forced to deal with an unexpected crisis, and she muffed it. That speaks more clearly about her capabilities than any PowerPoint presentation.

The Fox News Party: Did you know that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., owner of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, has donated $1 million each to the Republican Governors Association and the fervently anti-Obama U.S. Chamber of Commerce? And that, as has noted, every major contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, apart from those currently in office and Mitt Romney, is now a paid commentator on Fox News?

As Paul Krugman points out in his Oct. 3 New York Times column, Fox News has long been part of the Republican political machine, but these days it “seems to have decided that it no longer needs to maintain even the pretense of being nonpartisan.”

Krugman continues: “Something else has changed, too: Increasingly, Fox News has gone from merely supporting Republican candidates to anointing them.” He cites Christine O’Donnell, the wacky Tea Partier who won the G.O.P. Senate primary in Delaware, as the latest darling of Fox News. Indeed, as he says, “the Tea Party movement owes much of its rise to enthusiastic Fox News coverage.”

And, I might add, to its longtime funding by the Koch brothers, Charles and David, oil and natural-gas magnates who are the fourth-richest men in America. Like Murdoch, they see the Tea Party and politicians like Sarah Palin and O’Donnell as a way to cast the G.O.P. as the party of struggling middle-class voters rising up against the system, instead of as the party of Wall Street tycoons and corporate barons.

The interests of the aggrieved Tea Partiers have little in common with those of the corporate billionaires who are secretly funding them and their candidates. For the former, it’s about fixing a broken system; for the latter, it’s about money and power. What the Kochs—who donated $1 million to the Proposition 23 campaign—want is the right to pollute. What Murdoch wants is the power to choose our leaders.