Whore-Gate: Who's in Bed With Jerry Brown?

There is a story, probably apocryphal, often told about Winston Churchill. It’s the one in which he’s in conversation with an aristocratic woman, to whom he makes a proposal. “Madam,” he says, “would you sleep with me for five million pounds?”

“I suppose I would,” says the woman. “We would have to discuss the terms, of course.”

“Would you sleep with me for five pounds?” asks Churchill.

The woman is insulted. “What kind of woman do you think I am?” she asks.

“We’ve already established that,” Churchill says. “Now we’re haggling about the price.”

Apocryphal or not, the story illustrates a common human foible: For many people, perhaps most people, there are few deeds so repugnant as to preclude their consideration given the promise of sufficient reward. Everyone, as the saying goes, has his price.

If that’s the case, are we all not whores?

“Tut, tut, Dunphy,” you say. “Strong language there.”

Maybe so, but the word “whore” has been much in the news lately here in California, owing to an off-color remark made by someone on gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown’s staff and inadvertently captured for posterity on voicemail. Ah, the blessings of modern communication technology. It allows a candidate to reach out and grub for endorsements from anywhere, and if the target of said grubbing isn’t around to answer the phone or perhaps is screening his calls and is not in the mood to talk politics, the candidate can leave his rambling and incoherent appeal on voicemail in the hope that the grubee will call back with the good news the candidate hopes to hear.

But those blessings are mixed, aren’t they. The candidate must master the machinery lest the machinery master him. He must learn to terminate the call before engaging in chitchat with his retinue, especially if a member of that retinue is in the habit of referring to the candidate’s rival as a whore.

One can imagine the scene in the Brown campaign office. Brown makes the call to Scott Rate, a member of the board of directors for the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the labor union that represents rank-and-file LAPD officers. (Full disclosure: I am a longtime member of the LAPPL.) Brown gets Rate’s voicemail and leaves a message making a play for the League’s endorsement, demeaning the head of another law enforcement association in the process. Brown concludes the call, or rather thinks he does, and then goes on to discuss Meg Whitman’s position on law enforcement pensions.