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Opinion: Meg Whitman changes her message on immigration yet again

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So Meg Whitman, who went down to defeat in November’s gubernatorial election, has returned to public view with this message:

‘The immigration rhetoric the Republican Party uses is not helpful.’ What’s more, she said Tuesday at a George W. Bush Institute conference, ‘we as a party are going to have to make some changes, how we think about immigration, and how we talk about immigration.’

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She should know, I guess. She ‘changed’ the way she talked about the subject quite dramatically right in the middle of her campaign. During the GOP primary, when she was wooing conservative voters, she was outspoken in her opposition to illegal immigration. She ran an ad in which former Gov. Pete Wilson (well known for his support of Proposition 187, which would have denied government services to illegal immigrants) said she would be ‘tough as nails’ on the immigration issue. She said that if elected she would ‘prosecute illegal aliens and criminal aliens in all of our cities, in every part of California.’

Then, when she won the GOP primary and had to win votes from the center against a Democratic candidate, she struck an entirely different tone. Plastering billboards across Latino neighborhoods and buying time on Spanish-language radio and TV stations, she decried ‘harsh rhetoric’ on the subject and said that she agreed with much of what Jerry Brown had to say about immigration. She touted her opposition to Proposition 187.

Eventually, her $180-million campaign was crippled by the news that for more than a decade she had employed (and continued to employ) an illegal immigrant housekeeper. Given everything else that had been said in the campaign, voters understandably found that hypocritical.

Whitman is not the first candidate to shift tone in an effort to tailor her message to her audience, or to soften her rhetoric when moving from a primary to a general election. But are we really to be expected to take her seriously now when she offers her opinions on the subject?

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