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Short Takes: Whitman's Press Conference

As a historian of the good, the bad and the downright ugly in politics, the Fix has a long memory about some of the best (read: worst) press conferences in history.

There was the legendary Don Baker's questioning of then Sen. Chuck Robb (D-Va.) outside of a factory in the 1994 Senate race (captured brilliantly in "A Perfect Candidate") that made the word "cloture" famous, Gov. Mark Sanford's (R-S.C.) oddly compelling admission of an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina and then Sen. Bob Torricelli's (D-N.J.) "when did we become such an unforgiving people" press conference when he announced his resignation in the fall of 2002.

Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman's press conference on Saturday -- in which she was repeatedly and pointedly asked why she had never been registered to vote before 2002 and did not answer -- may not be in that hallowed pantheon but it's darn close.

(You can listen to the full press conference here.)

The Sacramento Bee, which broke the Whitman (not) voting story, described the scene this way: "Reporters continued to press a visibly flustered Whitman for a few more minutes on the issue, with several reporters at one point shouting 'Why' at the candidate."

Here's the problem for Whitman. She and her team had obviously decided that they wouldn't say anything more than she has already said about the issue -- a sound strategy to try and cut off the story's oxygen. But in doing so they opened her up to an increasingly skeptical press corps who was dead-set on getting some answers.

That dynamic led to a combative session in which Whitman kept repeating that she should have voted but didn't and reporters seeking to find out (unsuccessfully) why she hadn't done so. At one point, as things were rapidly deteriorating for Whitman, she offered this aside: "I think it doesn't look good, right?"

Um, right.

By Chris Cillizza  |  September 28, 2009; 2:23 PM ET
Categories:  Short Takes  
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Next: The Rising: Chris Doherty, Saving Scranton and 2010

Comments

Meg Whitman's accomplishments and leadership skills far outweigh her voting record. She has the financial savvy to get California back on track and the ability to return prosperity to one of our great states.

Apparently Cillizza has a vendetta against Whitman as he repeatedly writes about her voting record. We KNOW Chris. She did not vote. Now on to her considerable talent and business abilities. Just what California needs.

Posted by: Kansas28 | September 30, 2009 3:24 AM | Report abuse

It's a sure bet that a Palin's with-book will sell a lot of copies to the nasty grimies comprising the corpse of the Republican Party. The faithful buy those things sort of like paying union dues.

But read it? Most doubtful. And why would anyone bother? It'll be wholly predictable. The meany liberal press picked on me, the meany liberal talk show host made fun of the sow daughter, America needs more oil, kill the wildlife off to make room for more Trigs.

Ugh.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 29, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Marvel Comics is publishing Palin's "memoir?" Oh, that's the OTHER Rogue, from "X-Men."

Posted by: justjoeking | September 29, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

joeblotnik49:

I wish that Gov. Sarah Palin would move to California and run -- I heard she enjoyed her stay here in California -- would you vote for her?

http://www.amazon.com/Rogue-Going-Marvel-Comics/dp/B000ZXB3I0/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1254236533&sr=8-4

Posted by: JakeD | September 29, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Maybe Whitman had NO candidates worth a damn to vote for!! Happens a lot these days...

Posted by: joeblotnik49 | September 29, 2009 7:55 AM | Report abuse

I don't equate compelling with admirable. Not at all. I simply said that Sanford seemed human --and Edwards failed that test. On the other hand, Edwards stayed with his wife and kids, like Clinton did. Sanford does not seem to be able to manage that.

==

I'd substitute "candid" for "human." Both men were admitting weakness but where Edwards was rationalizing and guarded Sanford was riding a wave of emotionalism and spilling all, telling millions what most people would have trouble telling their closest confidants. That jus' ain't rat. People are supposed to be able to define boundaries between the intimate and the public and Sanford's borders have fallen.

It's just amazing he's still in office.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 29, 2009 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of "behavior completely outside the norm ..."

Posted by: JakeD

==

Why don't you elaborate, Jake?

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 11:40 PM | Report abuse

I don't equate compelling with admirable. Not at all. I simply said that Sanford seemed human --and Edwards failed that test. On the other hand, Edwards stayed with his wife and kids, like Clinton did. Sanford does not seem to be able to manage that.

Posted by: drindl | September 28, 2009 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of "behavior completely outside the norm ..."

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 7:27 PM | Report abuse

With Edwards I was horrified. I had donated to his campaign and it struck me that had he secured the nomination and this revelation came out during the campaign, he would have ceded the presidency to a doddering and irresponsible old organ grinder and a scathingly stupid woman as his monkey. We would now be deep in an economic depression and probably in at least one new war.

Sanford just made me cringe. To reveal such personal stuff in front of a national audience struck me, and still does, as a man caught in the jaws of anomie, unable to restrain himself, unable to guard his emotions.

And that's not even touching the professional irresponsibility, a governor out of reach. If something catastrophic had happened and his staff urgently needed to find him people could have died searching the Appalachian Trail.

Sanford is sick in the head. His behavior is completely outside the normal spectrum.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Good informational post, CC. Thanks for the knowledge. We thought eBay Meg was bogus. This confirms it.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | September 28, 2009 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Unlike all the phony controversies thrown at Obama, ineffective outside the enraged GOP base, this one has legs. It shows that Whitman regards politics as some sort of lark and that she expects to be entrusted with major executive responsibility without ever having thought much about politics in the past.

I kick myself if I miss some little municipal primary, and I'm not running for office. Whitman wants the governorship without ever having served even in any municipal capacity, which is bad enough, but to expect such a leap without ever having been interested before?

No way.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Do you all equate compelling with admirable? I don't. To me, it means something that is hard to just shrug off. Think about how pretty much all politicians handle this sort of thing. To make it more concrete, think about how John Edwards handled it and think about how Mark Sanford handled it. Neither of them were admirable, but the way Sanford handled it just was so emotional. I wouldn't call it admirable, but it just seemed so real. Put Sanford and Edwards next to each other. Can you possibly tell me you aren't at least a little more ambivalent towards Sanford?

Posted by: DDAWD | September 28, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Well, at least now everyone he disagrees with "only" has a mental illness; I guess that's better than being a racist.

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 6:34 PM | Report abuse

I wish that Gov. Palin would move to California and run!!!

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0909/27671.html

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Um, what I found "compelling" about Sanford's press conference was that he was so rawly emotional -- as I said and wrote at the time. Politicians rarely let their guard that far down and it was something to see

==

Such an *unguarded* revelation as Sanford gave isn't compelling at all, it's indicative of mental illness. It's cringe-inducing.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Also, Chris, do you remember the speech by Jeannine Pirro , the former AG here in Westchester County who was running against Hillary Clinton for NY senator? [ Pirro was nationally known mostly for her husband being convicted of tax evasion and spending time in the slammer while she was still AG]?

She was known here for being telegenic. But in her last speech, a page was missing and she totally froze and blanked out for at least a minute, in a deer in the headlights pose. That was the end of it for her and this will be Meg's end too.

Posted by: drindl | September 28, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

shrink got shrinkrapped, oh dear. Chris, from all the regulars, let me offer an apology for that lame joke, nobody here thinks badly of you.[ Unless you do too much republican cheerleading!] and you know I like you too, shrink.

But I have to say, I found sanford compelling too. Much as I abhor his hypocritical policies, his emotion was touching. Perhaps he is in love for the first time in his life, perhaps he feels real passion for this Argentiinian woman, whom he cannot bring himself to deny, even if it means his career. Which it will.

Posted by: drindl | September 28, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Take the rest of the day off, but don't go shrink. It would be a poorer virtual space without you.

Posted by: trep1 | September 28, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

That would be wonderful!

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I saw that and I had to scratch my head.

Its a bad day for me here.
First he shows me up on the Republican Rising!, then smacks me down for the insulting joke.

I better go before I get banned.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 28, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

shrink2:

Latest "The Rising" is about the DEMOCRATIC mayor of Scranton running for Governor (albeit he was pro-life ; )

Posted by: JakeD | September 28, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Uh oh, it was supposed to be a joke.
I am sorry. I didn't know you were reading
all this (how can you stand it?).

Seriously I am sure you love your wife and child more than you love yourself (all the good guys do!) and you have nothing whatever in common with Mark Sanford.

You are compelling, Mark Sanford? Not so much. His wife will be fine, but I really do feel bad for his sons, I really do.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 28, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Um, what I found "compelling" about Sanford's press conference was that he was so rawly emotional -- as I said and wrote at the time. Politicians rarely let their guard that far down and it was something to see

So, let's save the pop psychology about my marriage for the "Dr. Phil" blog.

Geez.

Posted by: Chris_Cillizza | September 28, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

So others also find something compelling about a guy making a virtue out of destroying the lives of the people who love him. Well I thought it was horrible, nothing compelling whatsoever, just horrible.

I don't go really slow with my eyes at 90 degrees when it is my turn to pass a car wreck.

There have been lots of adjectives applied to Mark Sanford but Chris Cillizza is the first to use "compelling" and Mark Sanford together, I reckon.

Since he hurt no one other than his wife and kids, if I were Mrs. Fix, I would indeed be asking my husband what exactly he found compelling about Governor Sanford's "love story". Maybe its a guy thing?


Posted by: shrink2 | September 28, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

I have to say that I am incredibly happy that Whitman is getting such bad press. Sure she has millions to spend to win, but with all of the free bad press she's getting she'll have to spend millions just to get even. Picking a fight with Governor Schwarzanegger on an issue that the governor does not control (she made it appear that she could) on laying off even more California gov't. employees. Which sounds like getting rid of more corrections officers. I think Whitman is doing herself major headaches on that issue as well as the fact that she's not even a regular voter, don't vote for others but now expects others to vote for her. Hopefully California Republicans will see that she is not someone they want as their next governor. Tom Campbell will not have the resources to really go head to head with Poizner & Whitman, even though he and Whitman have been close in the polls with Poizner lagging behind some. Although, Poizner also has many millions he is going to spend to win. He will be neck & neck with Whitman on spending. Campbell has the support of the Schwarzanegger administration, but not the wealth of the Schwarzanegger/Kennedy clan. I think this is opening the door wide open for Steve Poizner, a proven statewide vote getting winner, to come in and scoop up support here. This election will be long, but this non-voting issue is not going away for Whitman. Her statements stating she will do things that are not in her power as governor makes her look: a.) stupid or B). like a typical politician lying for political advantage. I think perhaps she's a little of both. I'd love to see Steve Poizner win the R nomination.

Posted by: reason5 | September 28, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

"Chris Cillizza found himself attracted to Mark Sanford's "oddly compelling" admission of major mental illness versus terminal narcissism.

So I feel sorry for Chris' child and wife. "

Kind of a low blow, don't you think?

Posted by: DDAWD | September 28, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Chris Cillizza found himself attracted to Mark Sanford's "oddly compelling" admission of major mental illness versus terminal narcissism.

So I feel sorry for Chris' child and wife.

Meanwhile, his bosses set his daily Republican Rising! opinion piece in the Politics part of the web site, as if it were news, not opinion. That is not funny.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 28, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Has Whitman's candidacy come to a close almost even before it begins? Can she really come back from this horror?

It wasn't close to Sanford's presser, but it was bad.

http://www.political-buzz.com/

Posted by: parkerfl1 | September 28, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

She is toast.
We all know it and deep down so does her team. But, they will try and tell her it isn't a big deal so that they all get to keep a job for the next 9 months.

Posted by: AndyR3 | September 28, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

she is now a pinky short of an effective fist bump.

Posted by: angriestdogintheworld | September 28, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

and Corzine.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | September 28, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

As if anyone was going to buy the "CEO politician" after Bush.

Stick to selling iPod accessories, Meg.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 28, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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