Big Daddy

Big Daddy

Dear Big Daddy,
Is Bob Dutton the biggest wuss in the Legislature?
–Carl in Contra Costa

Dear Carl,
At worst, he ranks 15th, but does it matter? I’m not sure any member of this current crop could beat a gerbil in a cage match. I know it’s not fair comparing amateurs to professionals, but when it comes to mental toughness, our legislators today are a bit less UFC and a bit more toddler past naptime.

That said, the Senate Minority Leader did himself no favors last week when he complained that “Mrs. Brown” yelled at him.

Big mistake Bob: When you have the entirety of what’s left of the press corps enduring yet another go-round of that springtime ritual called the non-budget and you are a major reason why they’ve barely seen their families in months, you have a problem. So it’s not a very good idea to slow-pitch them a story that’s going to make you look like a self-centered, out-of-touch politician.

So here’s the thing, Bob: Lots of people want to yell at you. When you told that story the other week, people weren’t thinking “Poor Bob Dutton.” They were thinking, “I want a piece of that!”

It happened to me all the time and usually with women, too. Big deal.  

Now, of course, it’s really not fair to single you out for this sort of treatment. Lots of electeds on both sides have said and done lots of dumb things in connection with these negotiations, and one can make an argument that both sides have a role in keeping this train wreck going.

Except you brought this on yourself with three key mistakes. First, you called in the whole press corps with a promise of a major announcement, and then didn’t really deliver one — meaning all those newsies had set aside some time for this but didn’t leave with a good story besides the one you accidentally handed them.

Two, you broke a fundamental rule of politics: Never, ever, under any circumstances, ask for sympathy. Even if you have a day worthy of its own country music song, don’t do it. If your dog just left with your wife in your vintage ’63 T-bird and ran over both your legs in the process, remember there are lots of constituents out there who are suffering more and blaming you for it. It’s a game you just can’t win.

Mistake No. 3: Being an older, white, male and Republican, while seemingly challenging “Mrs. Brown’s” right to even be in the room. You talked about Anne Gust Brown like she was a political trophy-wife instead of the top adviser to a governor who happens to be her husband. Bob, you in the GOP like to laud those in business. Well, you were in a room with a woman who was far more successful at business than most legislators.

Here’s some advice from someone who’s been there: Yell back. It’ll make you feel better, you’ll never regret it and the next time, nobody will try to push you around. And since you’re behind closed doors anyway, who’s to know what really happened? Keep your yap closed, hunker down and spin it any way you want. If somebody else blabs, you can always deny it.

Also, don’t rant on for 45 minutes and expect everybody to sit there and take it. Brown said on TV the other day that he would have yelled at you, too. Actually, since he was there, why didn’t he? But I agree with Brown – I would have yelled, too.

And when I yelled, people listened and learned.

Now get out of here.

Want to see more stories like this? Sign up for The Roundup, the free daily newsletter about California politics from the editors of Capitol Weekly. Stay up to date on the news you need to know.

Sign up below, then look for a confirmation email in your inbox.


Support for Capitol Weekly is Provided by: