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Jerry Brown's eccentric campaign and the coming mudfest

by Bob Morris, published

Jerry Brown got the general election for governor off to an exciting start by comparing Meg Whitman’s campaign to saturation propaganda by Nazi minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels, further adding that “Goebbels took control of the world.”

He followed that with a startling non sequitur, adding “She wants to be president. That’s her ambition.” Well, so did Hillary Clinton. So what? 

Brown also said Whitman lives in a “bubble of private jets, political consultants and security guards.”  Well then, I assume Brown must not be using any such campaign accoutrements himself otherwise it would have been downright hypocritical of him to say that.

However, he also says her 46-page magazine detailing a vision for the state is empty fluff. He’s probably correct. Based on her website, Whitman says she wants to grow the economy, cut taxes, fix education, and stop the bickering in Sacramento – all without any specific plans. Nor does she say how she will stop the ever-escalating budget crisis. Nope, she barely even alludes to it, much less how to fix it. 

But Brown’s website is even worse and still has nothing about the budget crisis. Bizarrely, the rotating banner on the home page says “Even though I am California’s ‘top cop,’ 2 of my tires were stolen. No matter. I got 2 new ones and I’m rolling again!” Huh?

Jerry Brown may be the old fox of California politics and adept at flying around, under, and through conventional political radar, but all of this is seeming a bit, well, eccentric. Sure, he might be trying to goad Whitman into an outburst of anger he could exploit, a fine and time-honored tactic, but it’s hardly a given this will translate into votes. 

“It's time for Jerry Brown to give in and get specific” says respected political reporter George Skelton at the Los Angeles Times, adding that Whitman’s plans are indeed vague and impractical but that Brown needs to come up with his own, and soon. 

Calbuzz echoes his sentiments, adding that Brown needs to grab swing votes by sliming Whitman over her decidedly icky Goldman Sachs ties, bashing her for continually flip-flopping on issues, and explain what his platform is in clear, understandable terms. 

Whitman of course will be doing her best to attack Brown by associating him with San Francisco tax-and-spend, tree-hugging liberals, even though during his tenure as mayor of Oakland he took some decidedly non-liberal stances. Plus she’s using that old stand-by for a candidate who wants to be an elected politician but hasn’t been so yet – attacking politicians with actual experience as career politicians, as though that’s an insult, and hoping we forget that’s what they want to be too.

Also, could we please put to rest the misconception that running a government is like running a business? It’s not. The skills sets are quite different. Running eBay does not mean you are automatically qualified to manage a state. In corporations, things can be done privately. Not so in government, which is public and where all manner of special interest groups can jump in when you least expect or want them. You can’t order them to shut up either, like a CEO can to a rebel faction within the company. 

Unfortunately, the governor’s race is looking more and more like a gigantic mudfest, where Brown and Whitman attack, slime, and denigrate each other using innuendo and misdirection. This does a disservice to voters, especially in these perilous economic times when California is facing a serious and immediate financial crisis unlike anything it’s faced before.

All of the easy budget cuts and most of the hard ones have already been made. Yet the state remains billions short. The candidates for governor need to address this, giving their specific solutions and ideas.

But, what we’ll probably get instead is endless attack ads and no real discussion of the issues.

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