Senatorial Candidate Meg Whitman in Freak Accident
California gubernatorial candidate, billionaire and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman was killed Saturday in a gruesome accident at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park during a campaign event, bringing to an end a tough campaign and a tough corporate executive-turned-politician. She was 54.
The Republican candidate was torn asunder when she became entangled in the tether lines of two animals, an African elephant and a domestic donkey. The animals had been positioned for a photo opportunity at a Whitman rally that had attracted hundreds of gun rights and anti-illegal immigration activists, and a smattering of Chanel-clad businesswomen.
Park employee Juanita Calderon, a shaved-ice vendor and college student, recounted the horrific incident.
“Whitman is telling this crowd of white people that she doesn’t own a gun, but if she did, gun control fanatics would have to take it out of her cold, dead hands. And then all these people cheer, and some NRA nut — he’s wearing a t-shirt that says ‘You name it, I hunt it’ — he fires a shot in the air, and the elephant and the donkey go crazy! And Whitman is trying to placate them, but she’s caught in their ropes. And then, well, it was just horrible, really gross! And as security is carting the shooter off, he’s yelling, ‘It wasn’t me! It’s the gun’s fault — hair trigger! — the gun did it!’ And then the paramedics show up, but they just stand around kicking the Astroturf, because there’s really nothing they can do, because she’s, like, in pieces.”
The sudden end to Whitman’s campaign has left California Democrats stunned and relieved. Charles Garnier, a spokesperson for Jerry Brown, Democratic gubernatorial nominee and former Jesuit seminarian, said by phone that Brown was not available for comment, but offered the candidate’s condolences.
“He’s at church making a novena for her soul, and he sends his heartfelt condolences to her family and campaign staff. … Guess she won’t be a whore for the unions anymore, cutting deals for endorsements. Uh, hey! Am I still on the call? Oh, shi—! Hey man, don’t print that! What’s the real story here: Whitman’s swapping endorsements with unions to save their fat pensions while she cuts everyone else’s or my sexist comment? Well? Well? Oh, you guys’ll just go for the juice, but the union pension deals are the story. It’s the pension deals, you whores! But, no, Whitman won’t talk about that. She’ll just play the victim, like she’s never used the word herself. Whore, whore, whore! Oh, but, yeah, she’s dead. Never mind. Bye.”As news of Whitman’s death reached the public, reactions revealed mixed opinions of her, her candidacy and her legacy — even at an impromptu memorial Saturday evening, outside her home in exclusive Atherton, California.
There, a consultant to California’s troubled Republican Party, who spoke on condition of anonymity from behind a hedgerow of oleanders, suggested Whitman’s faulty campaign was symbolic of the party’s schism between extreme conservatives and moderates.
“Meg didn’t understand how to finesse the duality of the party or of independent voters — she needed them most. But she tried to placate our loonies by opposing gay marriage, while she supported gay adoptions. She wanted to put limits on abortions, but she supported public funding. She hit her Republican primary opponent for supporting Democrats but she contributed to Senator Barbara Boxer and endorsed her in ’03. Meg was kind of bipolar, but voters are more schizophrenic, and she ended up antagonizing everyone. We all play to the factions, but she jumped in before she understood her target base. That kind of naïveté is as toxic as these oleanders. And, wow, quartered by an elephant and a donkey; it’s grotesquely poetic.”Mourner and eBay Distinguished Engineer Mortimer Snerd begrudgingly acknowledged Whitman’s business acumen, but took issue with her forceful style.
“Yep, yep, she was a pretty good corporate leader type — except for the outsourcing and shady stock deals — sure enough. But she was always pushing people with her big CEO shove as though we were her puppets. May as well have tried putting a dictator in the governor’s seat. Yep, always pushing — just like Elaine on Seinfeld, except more hostile, and Meg danced pretty weird, too. Anyway, I guess someone finally pushed back, yep. Or, in this case, it was pulled back. That’d be Karma, for sure.”
Despite her critics, Whitman was widely recognized for her keen ability to acknowledge mistakes while shifting gears mid-spin. Her campaign staff began referring to her as the “Non Sequitur Nabob” when she became plagued with questions about her repeated failure to vote in public elections.
"I'm not proud of my voting record, and I have apologized for it, and tonight I apologize to everyone in California. It was not the right thing to do and no one is more embarrassed by it than me, and if I could change history, I would. But what I can do is tell voters about how I believe we can turn this state around. This state is in an enormous mess. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for different results.”It is not yet clear if Whitman’s death will bring an end to the tenth-hour attack from publicist and attorney Gloria Allred, targeting Whitman’s illegal hiring and inopportune firing of an undocumented immigrant housekeeper. According to The Bay Citizen, a “very informal survey” of the “average Jo” on the street, conducted before Whitman’s death, revealed that “few people” had heard about the MegsMaidGate scandal — a very informal response rate that matched the number of respondents who had actually heard of Whitman, despite her substantial investment in her campaign.
Indeed, of the $138 million in expenditures reported by the campaign, $119 million came from Whitman's personal fortune, a figure that seems to belie her statement at the September 28 debate between Whitman and Brown.
“I don't think you can buy elections. I think Californians are too smart."Whatever Whitman’s ultimate legacy, her final gesture was one of generosity. A rumor that half of Whitman’s billion-dollar fortune will go to a new shelter for Atherton’s battered spouses and household employees was confirmed late last night by Atherton Mayor Kathy McKlite.
“You’d be surprised how much domestic violence our little community sees,” McKlite said by phone. “Abuse occurs in every socioeconomic category, but we really can’t expect our people to head to a shelter in Menlo Park! This bequest is a fitting legacy for Meg, given, well, things it’s not seemly to mention. Nonetheless, it’s wonderful to see some of Meg’s money go to a truly worthy cause!”Love, K-B
Note: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. And you can help.
©2010 Kit-Bacon Gressitt
Crossposted at San Diego Gay and Lesbian News.
The catsup and voting record photos are from Meg 2010 Facebook page; the debate photo is from the UC Davis debate website.