Jerry Brown: wrong word, fair point
No one should ever refer to another person, even privately, as the political equivalent of a for-profit sex worker. For example, Supreme Court Justice Samuel F. Miller was wrong to label Sen. Reverdy Johnson a "political prostitute" in an 1866 letter -- which came to light decades later thanks to the diligence of obscure academics.
And an aide to California Attorney General Jerry Brown's gubernatorial campaign never should have called opponent Meg Whitman a "whore" during an inadvertently extended voice mail on Sept. 7 -- which came to light last week thanks to the miracle of Internet technology.
Now, can we talk?
However insulting and inappropriate their language, Brown and his confederates had a point with respect to the issue underlying this boiler-room outburst. The most urgent matter facing California is the parlous condition of state finances. Those finances cannot be repaired without trimming the pensions of state and local employees.
Yet Whitman, the Republican, has taken a more equivocal position on this issue than Brown, the Democrat. To be specific, she has called for an end to defined-benefit pensions for all new employees, except for those in state public safety. Brown, by contrast, has refused to rule out reform of law enforcement's pensions. And Whitman has been rewarded for this less-than-fully-responsible stance with the endorsement of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association.
She also got the endorsement of the Los Angeles Police Protective League; it was this body's shift to Whitman that alarmed Brown, prompting him to call and leave his now-infamous message-plus. To be sure, the L.A. cops' pensions are a city matter beyond the next governor's purview. But Whitman has strategically stayed neutral on a pending city referendum that would cut L.A. police pensions. The story is fleshed out here, here and here.
The L.A. police union denies any connection, but given the totality of the circumstances, I can see how Brown might leap to the conclusion that Whitman had "cut a secret deal to protect the pensions."
Secret deal or no, Whitman’s position is not as courageous as Brown's. This may or may not mean that her virtue -- er, policy agenda -- is for sale. But it is kind of ironic, considering that a. Brown is the guy who instituted public-sector collective bargaining in the Golden State, and b. Whitman is running as the reformer who can clean up the mess collective bargaining created.
| October 11, 2010; 3:02 PM ET
Categories: Lane | Tags: Charles Lane
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