Posts Tagged ‘CA Governor’

The Philosopher King Returns

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

I love this speech.

Jerry’s no Obama with a teleprompter, but through all of that “bumbling” shines some honesty and humility.

We elect politicians to balance budgets and run government, but it doesn’t hurt to have someone who understands that the bitter partisanship and gamesmanship that is endemic to our political system is just a symptom of a spiritual crisis that  plaques the country.

How’s that for touchy-feely?

Shine On You Crazy Diamond.

Jerry Brown Swims Against the Republican Tide

Friday, October 29th, 2010

A number of new polls out in the past week and a half show that California voters may be bucking the national trend by voting Democratic at the top of the ticket.

A raft of new polling has been released in the past two weeks, and almost all polling has shown significant bounces for Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer. Brown is up by margins ranging from 7-10 and Boxer leads Fiorina by margins from 3-7. Brown is at or over 50% in most polls, while Boxer is close to that mark.

Obviously there are different dynamics at play in the two races, but one theme is constant: Republicans in California almost always have to tack too far to the right in order to win in an increasingly smaller and more conservative Republican party and then can’t win in general elections. This dynamic is exacerbated by racial divisions between a Republican party electorate which insists on a hard line when it comes to illegal immigration and a general election electorate in which Latinos play the role of an increasingly important swing demographic.

Looking specifically at Governors race, Whitman’s campaign has had a rough few weeks. When it’s all over, I think we’ll look back and see the breaking of the scandal with eMeg’s maid as a turning point.  The contrast between her defending the “tough as nails” positions on illegal immigration she had to take in order to win the nomination and the fact that she employed an illegal immigrant was striking. The fact that she had to defend that contradiction in a debate the next week was icing on the cake and her ham handed attempts to do so were like a cherry on top.    

The nature of California campaigns is that they are lean heavily on the strength of ad campaigns, so it’s not surprising the the final story lines of the campaign can be tracked by trends in political ads. Whitman blanketed the airwaves for almost a year straight, spending almost $150 million of her own money on the race. One Brown supporter joked that Whitman was on his TV every time he turned it on and that one time his TV actually turned itself on and Whitman was on it. After a year straight of constant Whitman commercials, people tended to just tune out every time her face came on the screen. 

Whitman’s diminishing returns from the saturation campaign were exacerbated by the fact that Jerry Brown was an unlikely person to tag with the “just another career Democratic politician in hock to the unions” label. California’s are familiar with Brown and he is known as an eccentric and an iconoclast, not just another career politician. Brown wasn’t able to match Whitman on the air until Labor Day and the fact that they were neck and neck at that point didn’t bode well for eMeg.

Brown’s ads down the stretch have also been particularly effective at using Whitman’s words against her. One shows Whitman offering the exact same rationale for her campaign that unpopular Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger gave for his. The most recent ad has been called Brown’s coup de gras by Chris Matthews, following Meg Whitman’s oft repeated statement that when she and her husband moved to California thirty years ago, anything was possible, with a reminder that the Governor at that time was…none other than Jerry Brown.

In the meantime, Whitman belatedly realized that her image was increasingly frosty and decided that the last two weeks of the campaign would be a good time to introduce herself to the California electorate. Except that the California electorate already knew her. She’s the lady who’se been on their TV every hour of every day for the past year…and the lady who campaigned as tough on immigration…but harbored an illegal immigrant in her own house.   

This weekend, Whitman may have suffered the ultimate indignity of the campaign when the woman running to become the first woman Governor of California was booed at the Women’s Forum after she refused Matt Lauer’s suggestion to halt all negative ads for the last week of the campaign. As Calbuzz pointed out, with a 10 point lead and one week to go, Jerry Brown was able to take the high road, volunteering to take his negative ads off the TV if Whitman would do the same.

I don’t want to jinx anything, cause anything could happen, but as another great Californian used to say, the eggs are coolin, the jello’s jigglin and the butter’s gettin hard.

It may be time to put this one in the refrigerator.

My Day in Jerry Brown’s Entourage

Monday, October 18th, 2010

This profile on Jerry Brown brought back memories of the day that I spent with the former Governor in the mid 90′s.

I met Governor Brown through his longtime friend and advisor Jacques Barzaghi, a friend of my uncle’s. It was the summer of 1995, I had just graduated from college and was visiting my aunt and uncle in New York. They were invited to Barzaghi’s wedding (I believe that this was number 5 out of 7) and they invited me to tag along to the party. At the time, there was talk that Brown was going to run for office again and I spoke to Jacques that night and told him that I would be interested in meeting Jerry Brown and seeing if I could help them in any way.

A few months later, I was back in the Bay Area and setup a time to meet with Barzaghi and Brown. Brown had purchased a large building in the Jack London Square neighborhood, a formerly vibrant area of town which had fallen on hard times. In the new building, they had built a communal living space and started a non-profit organization called We the People, whose mission is listed as bringing “together philosophers, artists and activists to discuss and plan ways to work change.”

I dressed nicely and had a copy of my resume in my hand when I walked in the door. Jacques introduced me to the Governor, who was busy with some other things at the time and Jacques and I stepped out onto the patio to talk. I told him that I was interested in politics, had some experience with it, and wanted to help them out if they were considering a run. Barzaghi was dismissive of the idea. You don’t make change by winning elections, he said. He was talking about the market that they had plans to build and said, in his thick French accent, that change is made by having a market “where people can go and not experience racism,” and that this social change of individuals would create real political change. By this time, Brown had joined us on the patio and he chimed in: “it’s a Buddhist idea.”

We talked for a little while longer and then they put me to work stuffing envelopes. They mentioned that Brown needed to go to Berkely to broadcast his We the People radio show on KPFA and I asked if I could come along. They indicated that that would be fine, but about an hour later I heard them getting ready to leave and reminded them that I had planned to go along with them.

“Oh sure,” said the Governor, “let’s go.”

I walked outside, expecting to be with an entourage but it was just Jerry and me. We headed to his car. I’m not good on cars, but this was an old American beater. Like a Lincoln Continental or a Pontiac.

Just as I was about to get into the passenger’s seat, Brown asked: “Do you drive?

“Yes,” I answered.

“Good. You drive, I’ll read,” said the Governor and threw me the keys to his car.

Brown was scheduled to interview bell hooks, an English professor and teacher at USC’s Ethnic Studies Department who has written over 30 books (mostly focused on race and gender), and he was clearly behind on his research. He buried his head in her most recent book and gave me directions from the passenger seat while he highlighted passages. I had no idea where I was going, and every once in a while the Governor would look up: “Turn Right… Get in the left lane… Get on the freeway to the left.” I was wired as I drove the 880 to the 80. This was not what I had expected to be doing when I woke up this morning, but it sure as hell was fun.

We were running late, so the Governor had me drop him off at the radio station and said to park the car in the supermarket parking lot. When I got there, the security guard at the market gave me a hard time about parking in the lot.

“Um, I’m with Jerry Brown” I told him, but he was not impressed.

“I don’t care who you’re with, you can’t park here” he said.

“I’ll be right back,” I yelled at him as I walked across the street to KPFA.

Jerry asked if I parked the car and I told him about the security guard.

“Did you tell him who you’re with?” he asked.

I headed back to the parking lot and found some street parking for the Governors car before I headed back to KPFA. In the station, the Governor was already on the air, so I was waiting in the foyer of the radio station and this excitable young guy started up a conversation with me. He was going on about Jerry Brown and asked if I knew about him.

“Sure,” I said. “I came here with him.”

“You’re in Jerry Brown’s Entourage?” he said incredulously.

Yeah, I laughed to myself. Today I am Jerry Brown’s entourage.

That was fifteen years ago. By the time Brown was running for Mayor of Oakland in 1998 I had a corporate job in the City and missed out on the campaign. After the election, he served as mayor for 8 years. In 2004, Jacques was fired by Jerry Brown after police responded to a call about a domestic dispute at his home in Oakland. This episode followed a suspension for sexual harassment in 2001 and seems to have been the last straw for Brown.  Brown went on to become California’s Attorney General,  a post he’s held for the past four years.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Jerry Brown may be the the most complicated politician in the world. He combines a philosopher’s mind with a lifetime of experience getting things done in politics. Throgout his life he has defied easy characterization. While he has been attacked as a left wing liberal on social issues, he had a very fiscally conservative record as governor. He is famous for saying that California had entered an “era of limits” when he was governor and was called “more of a fiscal conservative than Ronald Reagan” by a prominent conservative commentator. In 1978 when he ran for re-election he even carried Republican Orange County. As mayor of Oakland, he presided over a very sucessful urban revitalization program that pitted him against many entrenched political interests and brought new investment into the city of Oakland. As California Attorney General he claims to have defended the death penalty “over 100 times” even though he is personally opposed to it.

It’s difficult to say exactly where Jerry Brown would take the state if he were elected for his third term as Governor. Part of the problem with a record as varied as Brown’s is that it makes him difficult to pin down, and campaigns full of political posturing don’t necessarily help to clarify these issues. But it’s clear that California’s political process is fatally flawed and desperately needs new ideas. Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking, but Jerry Brown just might bring to the table the perfect mix of new ideas and the political experience to actually enact those ideas for California.

Splice Today: Jerry Brown, The Most Complicated Politician Alive

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Great piece from on Jerry Brown’s unlikely political career.

Bobblehead Meg

Saturday, October 16th, 2010


eMeg vs. Gandalf

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Wanted to give a little plug to the website for their coverage of the California Governor’s race. As their About Page indicates, Calbuzz’s website  is run by two veteran California political reporters, Phil Trounstine and Jerry Roberts.

This little piece on the Whoregate kerfuffle is typical of their irreverent, but still substantial coverage. I prefer the more regal “Gandalf” for Governor Brown, but that Krusty the Clown image is pretty spot on as well.