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A Closer Look at Citizen Whitman
Posted on Sep 9, 2010
Her Wealth Enabled Her to Use a Private Judge
When it comes to embracing the public judicial processes designed to determine whether wrongs have been committed against others, this was not the first time Whitman sought to avoid involvement. Based on an incident in her past (revealed a few months ago during the primary campaign), one would think that Whitman might be particularly sensitive to society’s interest in fair legal adjudications when a person is accused of assaultive wrongdoing.
In such situations there needs to be an inquiry into the truth of the accusation. And if the allegation is admitted or found to be true, there may be a need for public input about the penalty to be paid or any recompense owed by the transgressing offender. This should be recognized by Whitman of all people since, you see, she has been the target of such an accusation of wrongdoing.
Had her attorneys not arranged for mediation by a private judge, Whitman’s behavior toward the employee in the incident could have been a part of a civil lawsuit in a San Mateo County courtroom. Lawsuits between litigants who cannot afford private judges might be tried before a jury like the one for which Whitman’s services were sought.
The employee, Young Mi Kim, was preparing Whitman for a news media interview that day. Kim, who was not injured in the incident, hired a lawyer and threatened a lawsuit, but the dispute was resolved under the supervision of a private mediator.
People without the means of Meg Whitman to channel their legal disputes into a private system frequently suffer the indignity that the “authorities are involved.”
The point in discussing the Whitman incident is not the distemper shown. Rather, the point is that when such a misdeed was alleged against Whitman, she used her wealth and attorneys to ensure that the public justice system—which utilizes juries and elected judges—played no role in the resolution of legal proceedings conducted secretly behind closed doors.
California voters can all wonder whether, if elected, Whitman will have more confidence in our state’s public judicial system than she had when her own behavior and treasure might have been on trial.
Too Busy to Vote
None of Whitman’s reluctance about personal involvement in California’s judicial processes might have much resonance were it not for another instance of her lack of personal commitment to California public life in a way that has been well documented: Whitman did not vote for many years.
On this score, of course, she is no different from Carly Fiorina, the other high-profile businesswoman running for statewide office—the U.S. Senate seat held by incumbent Barbara Boxer. Millions of Californians, whom they seek to represent, have found the time to vote throughout their lives. However, as aspiring leaders in the business world neither of the two statewide Republican standard-bearers could take a few moments from their busy day to go to a polling place or fill out an absentee ballot for mailing. But now, having earlier shown little interest in the “public service” of voting to select our political leaders, they profess their newly found commitment to public service as one of those leaders.
What Her Choices Reveal About Her Worldview
Whitman does not appear to share the belief that a political leader should share in some kind of kinship of sacrifice with the voters. Whitman’s “nonvoting” record, as well as her avoidance of other public aspects of life such as jury duty, demonstrate that none of these failures to participate are momentary lapses. Instead they demonstrate a solipsistic absorption in her own drive to succeed and a deep-seated indifference to any public service that she believes is beneath her station in life.
Leona Helmsley famously noted that only the “little people pay taxes.” Whitman, it would seem, shares that Helmsley worldview when it comes to similar public obligations of citizenship like serving on juries and voting.
After Whitman obtained her excuse from having to serve as a juror, fortunately—for the people of the state who want to see state laws protecting children from child molesters enforced in courtrooms that require jurors for their function—there were still some “little people” left in the venire from which a jury could be empaneled.
For a number of days in the coming weeks, one of those “little people” will sit in silence in the jury box (in the seat that might have been Whitman’s) listening to the evidence. That juror will be doing so during days of absence from her workplace; or, if she works at home, after patching together a network of relatives and neighbors to care for her children or elderly parents as she reports to the courtroom each day. That little person—who replaced Whitman in the jury box—will be performing the public service that candidate Whitman was too distracted, she herself avowed, to perform. For the juror left behind to serve in Whitman’s place, it too will have been “not a good time for me to give 100 percent” as Whitman complained.
But there will soon come a November Tuesday morning when all California voters—not unlike the juror who had to occupy the seat Whitman avoided this week—will have a chance to decide whether to elect Whitman governor. When that moment comes, perhaps the voters will decide that a history of committed participation versus studied indifference toward the obligations of citizenship in California should be a factor in their decision about how to cast a vote.
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