Thursday, April 23, 2009

Poppies and vanilla: Meg Whitman's inauspicious opening

Jim Geraghty says the idea of running a state like a business doesn't fit the times.

Despite the impressive résumé, Whitman has not yet set the California political world afire. At the state Republican convention she had the slickest pamphlets and the biggest booth, but her speech was described as “vanilla.” Her campaign offers the thoroughly generic slogan, “A New California.” While she has some relatively detailed plans, one of her main themes is that California’s government should be run more like a business. The mood may change by fall of 2010, but right now Whitman is celebrating the virtues of business at exactly the wrong moment: a time of populist rage. The approach is either brave — throwing cold water on a wildfire of unthinking anti-business fury — or astonishingly tone-deaf.

(ea) And what's with the poppies?

A highly regarded GOP Internet consultant, who indicated he didn’t want to trash Whitman, said he was underwhelmed by her website. “All I see is her odd poppy flower logo coupled with vague and dreamy rhetoric. Is it just me, or is that just utterly tone deaf? People are losing their jobs and their homes. They want specifics and solutions, not a tourism brochure.”

(A section of Whitman’s site explains, “As the state flower, the California poppy represents all that Meg values about California: prosperity, renewal, unity. . . . Early settlers saw poppy-covered hills and believed they had found the Golden State. . . . That’s why you’ll see so many references to California poppies on Meg 2010.”)