Dear Big Daddy,
The Jerry Brown Era Redux is fast upon us. What do you think?
–Bemused in Buelton
For one thing, I hope it’s more fun than the first time around. He was insufferable then – somehow, this turned into “bright,” “quirky” and “challenging” in the press – and my guess is that he hasn’t changed much. Except for the hair.
One thing that hasn’t changed is his penchant for surprises.
I hate surprises. I don’t like being taken off-guard. I don’t like finding out something I should have known long before. Partly, it’s because I’m paranoid, but mainly it’s because I dealt with money for so many years. And when you handle, protect and grow someone else’s money, you don’t like surprises. I didn’t when I was speaker and I didn’t when I was treasurer. I don’t mind them now, but that’s because I’m dead, not because I mellowed.
So when Brown says odd things like he may not have a chief of staff or that he’ll live in Oakland, I get worried. A good rule of politics is never, ever say odd things. It’ll come back to bite you. Who am I, you ask, to give strategy advice to a guy who’s been elected governor three times, when I’ve never been elected governor once.
And this rule, like so many others, is broken by Jerry Brown on a regular basis. If you’re wondering how he can be such a successful politician while still breaking Big Daddy’s cardinal rules, let me point you to the 1976 presidential race, the 1980 presidential race, the 1982 U.S. Senate race.
The truth is, a monkey could have run for governor of California under the Democratic banner and beaten Meg Whitman. And the monkey would have had better hair than either Brown or Whitman. And probably a more coherent job-creation plan.
Brown is a stylistic pugilist, jabbing from the stump or the press conference lectern at every turn.
But he is also the personification of short attention span theater, hummingbird-like in his penchant for intellectual wandering. I know our esteemed governor-elect probably is used to being treated as the most interesting man in the room. Personally, I could care less.
But I’ve already put in to Santa Claus, hoping he might stick a bottle or two of Ritalin in the new governor’s stocking on the off chance that Jerry Brown’s redemption tour leads to some kind of legislative accomplishment.
You go ahead and hold your breath.
The truth is, Jerry Brown has a natural ceiling, and that ceiling is the one in the California governor’s office.
So cross your fingers, kiss your children goodbye and fasten your seat belts. Looks like we’re getting ready for another spin on Mr. Brown’s wild ride.