Meg Whitman

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com The Sacramento Bee
Published: Monday, Feb. 15, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Meg Whitman says she can balance the deficit-ridden state budget and otherwise restore effective governance to California, citing her long experience as a top corporate executive, including a stint as CEO of eBay.

However, she won’t tell us how she’d do it, other than a vague pledge to eliminate tens of thousands of state workers, which probably would be impossible. Even if she could, it wouldn’t come anywhere close to bridging the immense gap between income and outgo.

What makes Whitman’s oft-repeated claims even less assuring is that she refuses to allow California political journalists to talk to her about them.

Whitman had a news conference a year ago after making a speech to the Republican state convention in which she condemned the temporary taxes that the Legislature had just enacted as “devastating.” But she dodged reporters’ questions about it and then fled the room.

Charitably, she was new to the political arena then and perhaps unprepared. A year later, however, she’s still wrapped in an impenetrable cocoon.

Whitman has almost no contact with reporters who know something about the budget and could ask knowledgeable questions. She makes set-piece appearances before friendly audiences and shows up on radio and television shows – mostly out of state – with conservative hosts with softball questions.

Just a few days ago, Whitman imperiously ignored a reporter who attempted to question her before a closed-door speech to a business group in Sacramento.

Whitman’s rival for the Republican nomination, Steve Poizner, has not offered a comprehensive approach to the budget crisis either, nor has the Democratic candidate, Jerry Brown. But neither have they ducked the media, holding numerous news conferences and interviews.

Tellingly, too, Whitman has shunned almost all debates, including one that the Republican Party wanted to stage at its upcoming state convention, although she and Poizner will appear before a gathering of fat-cat Republicans in Orange County soon thereafter.

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