Today's California Women's Conference included a 2010 election first: Governor Schwarzenegger conversing with Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown, the two people who are vying to replace him.
Matt Lauer moderated the discussion, which started out affably enough. Everyone paid tribute to their moms (this is, after all, the Women's Conference) and spouses. All the participants acknowledged the very real problems plaguing California right now: unemployment, education, Sacramento gridlock.
Whitman predictably blamed the GOP boogey-man "special interests," which is code for "unions" -- never big business. Brown talked about his days at a seminary a penchant for turning order into chaos (no, I didn't quite follow that either, but that's vintage Brown).
The bottom line is that no one really expected this session to be newsworthy. It turned out to be a delicious bit of political theater.
Apparently, Matt Lauer had other ideas. After all, the entire country knows that Whitman has spent a year - and a fortune - campaigning for this office.
The election is in one week. Lauer wondered if the candidates could be persuaded to get their campaigns and surrogates to pull all of their negative ads and spend the next six days just airing positive ones stating their qualifications and positions?
The audience exploded with applause, and if you've spent any time watching television here over the last few weeks, you'd understand why. This has been the meannest election cycle I can remember, and just when you think you've heard the nastiest ad a worse one comes along.
"Sometimes negativity is in the eye of the beholder," Brown said, almost making it a "define 'the'" moment. But then he relented. "If Meg agrees, we can talk about it."
Huge applause. Lauer looked expectedly at Whitman for a response.
"I will take down any ads that can be construed as a negative attack," she said. "But I don't think we can take down the ads that talk about where Gov. Brown is on the issues."
Um, well. Maybe that's what Brown meant about negativity being in the eye of the beholder. Because most of those issue ads distort Brown's stands and record.
Lauer persisted, to the point where the session was about to end. That's when Schwarzenegger pointed out that he and Maria Shriver were hosting this little party. "Don't schvitz about the time," he said.
But the session ended without agreement. Brown scored major points by being willing to pull the negative ads.
In conclusion, Schwarzenegger talked about despite California's problems, it is still the Golden State. Whitman concurred, saying that she moved here 30 years ago because she fell in love with California, and that we could have that state again.
Brown laughed. "That sounds like my next new ad," he said. "Meg moves to California 30 years ago. And who was Governor then?"
It would be positive.