The more I see Meg Whitman in action, the more I find myself rooting for her to become the next governor of California. So when Whitman said she'd submit to a lie detector test to prove she had no idea an illegal immigrant was in her home for nine years, I lined up a polygraph expert.
Work with me, Meg. I want to clear your name.
More on the polygraph in a moment. Let's first review the dramatic events of the past week.
Whitman and Jerry Brown hold some key policy differences, and they were on display in Tuesday night's first debate. Brown seemed to have a better grasp of reality that night, but in the days that followed, evidence mounted that Whitman just might be a columnist's dream. As you may recall, the no-nonsense Silicon Valley billionaire has admitted to shoving a former employee, she was caught up in a congressional investigation into Goldman Sachs' cozy arrangements with corporate titans, and she has spent more of her own money to buy public office ($119 million and counting) than anyone in campaign history.
And then came Nannygate. Less than 24 hours after the debate, in which a tough-talking Whitman said the authorities need to go after people who employ illegal immigrants, she had to admit that her former housekeeper was undocumented.
That might well have been an honest mistake on Whitman's part. She hired Nicandra Diaz Santillan through an agency, and Diaz Santillan had papers indicating she was legal. I once went to MacArthur Park, told a guy on the street that I was an illegal immigrant from Spain, and within a couple of hours I had a very realistic fake driver's license for a small fee.
So I don't blame Whitman for hiring Diaz Santillan or for firing her, but still, I've got questions.
Whitman claims she had no idea all those years that Diaz Santillan was undocumented. But the housekeeper's made-for-TV attorney, Gloria Allred, said she could produce a government letter informing Whitman years ago that the maid's name and Social Security number didn't match, a potential tip-off to her immigration status.
Well, said the quick-thinking Whitman, the maid — whom she thought of as a member of her extended family — often brought in the mail and might have intercepted the letter. Was Whitman suggesting, without any evidence, that the maid had committed the federal crime of mail theft?
Then Allred produced a letter from the Social Security office — and lo and behold, it had handwriting on it that looked an awful lot like the handwriting of Whitman's husband, Griff Harsh (and now you know why Whitman didn't take his last name).
"Nicky, please check this. Thanks," the note said.
Dr. Harsh said he didn't recall the letter, but yes, it's possible that was his note.
The poor bloke.
Given the way Whitman first blamed the maid, and the way she blamed Brown in Saturday's contentious second debate, might she next go after her husband?
I'd pay handsomely — though somewhat less than $119 million — to hear their conversations. Dr. Harsh was comfortably anonymous not long ago. Now he's the guy whose wife has burned through enough of their retirement fund to have kick-started the state economy with several hundred small-business loans. And if that wasn't bad enough, he's been dragged into Nannygate, with his mail bandied about on TV.
Whitman says it broke her heart to let the maid go. But Diaz Santillan claims Whitman shorted her on overtime pay for years and then tossed her out like the trash after she fessed up and became a political liability, telling her: "You have never seen me and I have never seen you. Do you understand me?"
Whitman, who opposes a path to legalization for the millions of people in this country cleaning houses like hers, said at a news conference that Diaz Santillan not only lied to her, but she broke the law. If she feels so strongly about it, then why didn't Whitman report her?
Could it be because Whitman understands the complexities of the immigration debate, even if she doesn't have the political courage to discuss them? Yes, the housekeeper lied, and helped create her own nightmare. But Whitman missed a chance to say she'll lead the call for sweeping immigration reform, given the lessons of the illegal immigrant who took care of her family for nine years.
Instead we had Whitman pointing fingers and offering to take a lie detector test, and it occurred to me that four years of Meg-alomaniac (as reader John McCumber called her in a letter to the editor last week) as governor might help me get over the loss of Arnold Schwarzenegger. So I got hold of John Grogan, a Los Angeles private investigator who has conducted thousands of polygraph tests. And he happens to have been following local political news.
"Oh, sure. I'll test Meg Whitman for you," Grogan said before I even explained what I was calling about.
Grogan said he would ask questions such as:
"Did you know she was an illegal alien prior to whatever date?" and, "Were you aware of that letter from Social Security?"
I've already left word with Whitman's people.
Come on, Meg, you said you'd do it. For your sake, let me help.