Polluted politics

$100 million can buy a lot of poison

Speaking of pollution, what about “airwaves” pollution—all those toxic political advertisements filling up our television screens these days? What does it say about Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman, the two super-rich former Silicon Valley CEOs vying for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, that they believe spending millions on nastiness and demagoguery is the best way to win office?

Poizner started it. Seeing he was behind by some 50 points, he tacked hard to the right, embracing Arizona’s controversial illegal-immigration law and beating up on Whitman for her initial—and much warranted—concern about it and her moderation on immigration reform generally. He even accused Whitman, as CEO of eBay, of trafficking in porn.

Whitman has fired back, accusing Poizner of supporting partial-birth and taxpayer-funded abortions, favoring the dismantlement of Proposition 13, supporting Al Gore, and more. She now seems as determined to be fanatically right-wing as he has been.

None of these attacks has much to do with the important problems facing California, and the candidates seem to be doing all they can to avoid the hard choices that must be made if the state is to be set on a healthful course. Thirty-second TV spots don’t lend themselves to in-depth discussions, but the greater problem is that the candidates aren’t appealing to reason, they’re pushing emotional buttons.

The sheer quantity of these ads is staggering. Between them, the candidates have spent upwards of $100 million. That much money can buy a lot of poison.