Bill Whalen

Virginia Hobbs Carpenter Fellow in Journalism

Bill Whalen, the Virginia Hobbs Carpenter Fellow in Journalism and a Hoover Institution research fellow since 1999, writes and comments on campaigns, elections and governance with an emphasis on California and America’s political landscapes.

Whalen is a columnist for the Sacramento Bee and writes on politics and current events for His commentary can also be seen on the opinion pages of the Wall Street JournalReal Clear Politics, Los Angeles Times and the Fox News’ website.

Whalen has been a guest political analyst on the Fox News Channel, MSNBC and CNN. He’s also a regular guest on the nationally syndicated radio shows hosted by John Batchelor, Larry Kudlow, Lars Larson and the Bay Area’s Michael Krasny.

Whalen has served as a media consultant for California political hopefuls and aspiring policy leaders. His past clients have included former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, former congressman Tom Campbell and former Los Angeles mayor Richard J. Riordan.

Prior to joining the Hoover Institution, Whalen served as chief speechwriter and director of public affairs for former California governor Pete Wilson. In that capacity, he was responsible for the governor's annual State of the State address, as well as other major policy addresses.

Before moving to California, Whalen was a political correspondent for Insight Magazine, the national newsweekly and sister publication of the Washington Times, where he was honored for his profiles and analysis of candidates, campaigns, Congress, and the White House. During those years, Whalen also appeared frequently on C-SPAN, National Public Radio, and CNBC.

In addition to his time in Washington as a political journalist, Whalen served as a speechwriter for the Bush-Quayle reelection campaign and was a senior associate with the public relations firm Robinson-Lake/Sawyer-Miller, offering media and political advice for domestic and foreign clientele.

Whalen currently resides in Palo Alto, California.

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Recent Commentary

John McCain
Analysis and Commentary

Some Caution, Please, Before We Go Too Far With McCain Tributes

by Bill Whalenvia Forbes
Saturday, September 1, 2018

On Sunday, John McCain will be laid to rest in a private ceremony on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy, his cherished alma mater. On Monday, we’ll begin the debate over how to properly honor the storied naval aviator/prisoner-of-war, also known to the nation as a 36-year veteran of Capitol Hill and two-time presidential candidate.

The StateAnalysis and Commentary

The Blue Wave Rules In California—Even When Choosing A State Sport

by Bill Whalenvia California on Your Mind
Thursday, August 30, 2018

Rest assured that California’s state legislature is on the job and hard at work, settling such thorny matters as . . . deciding which athletic endeavor to designate as California’s “state sport.”

Analysis and Commentary

If Bill Clinton Had Taken The High Road, Would The Road Be Different For Trump And Republicans?

by Bill Whalenvia Forbes
Saturday, August 25, 2018

Some dates are etched in the American landscape: December 7, November 22, September 11, July 4. Still other events beg the question of “what if.” Does JFK survive his visit to Dallas if the bubble-top stays atop the presidential limo? Do the final chapters of the Cold War play out the same if Ronald Reagan doesn’t recover from an assassination attempt?


Here’s One Wise Man Who California’S Next Governor Should Listen To

by Bill Whalen featuring George P. Shultzvia Sacramento Bee
Thursday, August 23, 2018

Taking a page from Mark Twain, who supposedly espoused “making your vocation your vacation,’ I had a holiday of sorts this week: Interviewing former Secretary of State George Shultz for a podcast at a Hoover Institution policy boot camp for college students.

IntroductionAnalysis and CommentaryEureka

After Nearly Twenty-Five Years In California’s Spotlight, Some Perspective On Immigration And The Golden State

by Bill Whalenvia Eureka
Thursday, August 23, 2018

An East Coaster in my upbringing and early career, I first arrived in California in 1994—an unremarkable occurrence in a year that otherwise was chock-full of news in the Golden State.


A Big State—And Plenty Of California Democrats With Big Presidential Ambitions

by Bill Whalenvia California on Your Mind
Thursday, August 23, 2018

Is it possible to be both oversized and undersized at the same time? California’s role in presidential elections proves that, yes, it is.


Is Ed Muskie Running In 2020? Say It Ain't So, Joe

by Bill Whalenvia Forbes
Monday, August 20, 2018

Joe Biden has been a busy man of late. The former vice president is meddling in this year’s elections – that includes handing out endorsements in presidential battleground states.


August In Sacramento—Jerry Brown’s Game, Jerry Brown’s Rules

by Bill Whalenvia California on Your Mind
Thursday, August 16, 2018

With all due respect to T.S. Eliot and his grim assessment of April, it’s August in Sacramento that can be “the cruelest month” for ambitious lawmakers.


Go Ahead And The Change The Electoral College, But There's Still A Trump Presidency

by Bill Whalenvia Forbes
Sunday, August 12, 2018

There are those Russophobes who’ll forever be convinced that the American election system was compromised and the outcome altered in 2016 – and still others who believe the system is broken and in need of repair.


Want A Lot Of Debates Between Gavin Newsom And John Cox? Fat Chance

by Bill Whalenvia Sacramento Bee
Thursday, August 9, 2018

California’s suffering through a frustrating election-year ritual: the two gubernatorial candidates debating over how many times they’re willing to debate. In this Sacramento Bee column, I offer a fix: local media should take the lead and announce four debates – one in Sacramento on taxes and budgets; one in San Francisco on housing and the economy; one in Los Angeles on inclusiveness; one in the Central Valley on the environment and land management.