Prop Zero
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The Chinatown Race: Who Is the Most Cynical of All?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Paramount Pictures
    Jack Nicholson played a private investigator who stumbles onto a chilling scheme involving LA's water supply in 1974's "Chinatown." The movie was so good that director Roman Polanski still gets mobbed whenever he comes back to town...

    Who knows how Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman will govern? Who cares? Forget it, Jake, this campaign is Chinatown, and we ain't getting those answers.

    Since this is a campaign built entirely on cynical manuevering, the only question worth posing is: Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most cynical California gubernatorial candidate of all?

    Let's look at how cynical the two have been in a few different categories.

    PERKS: Brown talks about selling the state plane -- even while flying on a state plane himself, albeit a crummy plane and only 10 times. Whitman, a billionaire who knows her way around a private jet (despite a much talked-about devotion to Southwest Airlines), hammers Brown as if he's the plutocrat she really is.

    MOST CYNICAL? Brown, by the nose of a turboprop.

    PERSONAL WEALTH: Brown and union allies describe Whitman as a queen with big houses, even though Brown himself lives pretty well in the hills of Oakland. Whitman goes after Brown for taking a five-figure pension after a lifetime of service and tries to make him look rich and out of touch when she's a billionaire.

    MOST CYNICAL? Whitman, plus extra credit for chutzpah

    PLAyING THE VICTIM: Whitman claims she's the victim of some supposed avalanche of attacks by "Jerry Brown Inc.", unions that have put up millions that represent only a tiny fraction of what she's spending on attacking them and Brown. Brown, in turn, talks about himself as a victim of her money, even though he's raised more than $20 million himself, much of it from people who have important interests before state government.

    MOST CYNICAL? Whitman narrowly.

    STATISTICAL DISTORTION: Whitman blames Brown for turning a surplus into a deficit during his governorship, leaving out the facts that Prop 13 (which Brown first opposed and which Whitman supports) is responsible for the change and that Brown's creation of a giant surplus helped Prop 13 pass. In turn, Brown's allies have an ad attacking Whitman for raising costs at eBay, which leaves out the crucial fact that the company grew from a start-up to a giant during her time there.

    MOST CYNICAL? Tie. Two giants of cynicism at the top of their games.

    Is this a close race or what?