Run, Jerry, run!
You have to hand it to Jerry Brown. As a Californian, I was mostly averting my eyes from this year's gubernatorial race. What good could come, I thought, from a depressing showdown between another billionaire with the best talking points money can buy (Meg Whitman), and a retro throwback who was governor in the 1970s -- and only then because his daddy had the job before him. It all seemed like a grim reminder of the cynical wealth and royalty that passes for too much of America's ruling class nowadays.
Then came Tuesday night's first televised debate. And I'll just come out and say it: Jerry Brown was fabulous. The man has more energy at 72 than Whitman seems able to muster at 54. He's funny as hell, quipping that he's a great deal for Californians because he won't be taking a state pension until 80 if he serves two terms, and assuring folks there's no risk of him being distracted by a run for the presidency this time around -- though you bet he'd run again if he were younger. He knows the issues inside and out; where else can you hear a candidate talk about the trajectory of policies based on leadership he himself provided three decades earlier? And he frames them like the sharp pol he is, constantly saying, for example, that Whitman's tax cut for "billionaires and millionaires" would come directly out of the state's underfunded schools.
The big reason to be dubious about Brown is that he's in the pocket of big labor. As Whitman hammered home repeatedly, public employee unions are funding his campaign, meaning Brown will never stare them down to get California's fiscal house in order. But Brown’s reply -- that at his age, he has the "independence" and the desire to do what California needs -- struck a chord. Jerry Brown may be positioned to do a Nixon-to-China on public employee pay and pensions in ways the novice, government-bashing Whitman can't begin to.
My impressions may shift in the end. And Whitman may be imploding, anyway, from fresh charges Wednesday that she employed an illegal immigrant for nearly a decade. But whatever lies ahead, for today, at least, I'm willing to put a little faith in Jerry the Elder.
| September 29, 2010; 6:39 PM ET
Categories: Miller | Tags: Matt Miller
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