Whitman calls out SF and immigrants, and karma calls back

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The gubernatorial debate highlighted stark contrasts over immigration, taxes, independence, and qualification for public office.

During last night's gubernatorial debate, Republican nominee Meg Whitman bashed “illegal” immigrants and singled out San Francisco as the state's worst coddler of those without proper immigration papers. But today, it was revealed that Whitman employed an undocumented Mexican immigrant as her housekeeper and nanny from 2000 until last year. Ah, karma, the great leveler.

After being asked what California should do about immigration issues, Democratic nominee Jerry Brown gave a reasonable answer that should have appeal to people of all political stripes, calling for halting illegal immigration by securing the border with fences and modern technology that electronically verifies the status of visitors, but bringing the state's 2 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows by creating a way for them to achieve legal residency status.

“We can't just round them up and deport them like they did in Eastern Europe,” Brown said, an incendiary analogy that was nonetheless true, reminding voters of the police state implications of the right-wing approach to the immigration issue.

Yet Whitman then essentially called for doing just that with increased enforcement, albeit with a slightly more polished approach than most angry nativists, saying the presence of “illegal immigrants” was a serious threat to California. “We have got to eliminate sanctuary cities,” Whitman said, naming San Francisco as the worst culprit, and saying, “We have to hold employers accountable for hiring undocumented workers.”

So should Whitman be held accountable for employing Nicandra Diaz-Santillan for almost a decade? Maybe not to legal authorities, but certainly to voters who will now question her integrity and whether she has been hypocritically grandstanding on such a politically divisive issue.

Whitman's excuse is that she didn't know her housekeeper was undocumented because she was provided false paperwork, an excuse that most California employers could also offer, showing just how ridiculous Whitman is for pretending that being “tough” can solve this “problem.”

That was one of many Whitman forays into fantasyland, such as equating with “independence” a campaign funded almost entirely with her Wall Street windfalls, one she is using to advocate for aggressively cutting taxes on big business and the rich. And then pretending that's somehow a plan to close the state's massive budget deficit. Pure nonsense.

By contrast, Brown seemed firmly grounded in reality, leveling with viewers that the state faces difficult problems that will require hard work and experience fighting with the “sharks in Sacramento” and calling for “the powerful to sacrifice first.” On the whole, the debate made clear the stark differences between these two candidates, which is perhaps the best we can hope for during a dismal political year.