Thomas Sowell
In an election year, this is the time for an "October surprise"-- some sensational, and usually irrelevant, revelation to distract the voters from serious issues. This year, there are October surprises from coast to coast. There are a lot of incumbents who don't want to discuss serious issues-- especially their own track records.

This year's October surprise that is getting the biggest play in the media is the revelation that California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman once employed a housekeeper-- at $23 an hour -- who turned out to be an illegal immigrant. It is great political theater, with activist lawyer Gloria Allred putting her arm protectively around the unhappy-looking woman.

But why anyone should be unhappy at getting $23 an hour for housekeeping is by no means clear. Maybe she is unhappy because Meg Whitman fired her when she learned that her housekeeper was an illegal immigrant, despite false documents that indicated she was legal when she was hired.

What is Meg Whitman supposed to be guilty of? Not being able to tell false documents from real ones? Is that what voters are supposed to use to determine who to vote for as governor of California? A far more important question is whether voters can tell false issues from real ones.

October surprises are especially phony when they are used on behalf of someone with a long track record in government, like Jerry Brown, who has held government jobs ranging from state attorney general to mayor of Oakland to governor of the state.

What did Jerry Brown do the last time he was governor? That ought to tell us a lot more than whether Meg Whitman is a document expert. She is not running for a job as a document expert.

One appointment by Governor Jerry Brown ought to tell us a lot about his ideology. His most famous-- or infamous-- appointment was making Rose Bird chief justice of the California supreme court.

She over-ruled 64 consecutive death penalty verdicts and upheld none. Apparently no judge or jury could ever give a murderer a trial perfect enough to suit Rose Bird.

To hear Rose Bird and her supporters tell it, she was just "upholding the law." But, fortunately, the California voters saw right through that pretense, and realized that she was doing just the opposite-- imposing her own personal opposition to the death penalty in the guise of interpreting the law. No California chief justice appointee had ever been voted off the bench by the voters before Rose Bird, but she was roundly defeated when 67 percent of the voters voted against her in a confirmation election required by California law.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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