Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Jerry Brown: Not Again Please

Below is an email I sent to Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton in response to his column on Jerry Brown, "Once and future governor?", that appeared on Monday, April 20, 2009 at http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-cap20-2009apr20,0,2315392.column.

Dear George,

I offer you my initial reaction to your “Once and future governor?” in Monday’s April 20, 09 Los Angeles Times edition.

I came to California in 1969 at 26 years old to teach at a state university. I voted for Jerry Brown the first time he ran for Governor. As I recall, but you would no doubt recall far more accurately, Brown ran as more or less a traditional liberal Democrat. But once in office we were exposed to the ‘real’ Jerry Brown, or what we thought at the time was the ‘real’ Jerry Brown. With “small is beautiful” as one of his themes, he became Mr. Gadfly (yes, some preferred the title Mr. Moonbeam but for me Gadfly fit far better). He criticized everything while embracing little, challenged all while remaining distant, non-committal and aloof. He seemed to prefer it that way, surrounding himself with some unusual people and some very usual ones, like Gray Davis.

I came to dislike and distrust Jerry Brown and still do. Perhaps he has an underlying philosophy; he certainly has sought to suggest as much but he has never really delivered. His was initially more an aura, of mystery, Zen philosophy, and austerity, than that of a person with a concrete and consistent view of the world, although he seemed to be willing to adopt some identifiable views such as, if I recall correctly, a deep opposition to the death penalty.

But I found him even then and certainly over the years to be a political chameleon. His ‘style’ remained fairly consistent but not his views or positions. And it became impossible to identify the ‘real’ Jerry Brown; there didn’t seem to be one. As he has moved from one political position to another, leader of the Democratic Party in California, if I recall correctly, big city mayor of Oakland, occasional Presidential candidate, and now Attorney General, he has tended to transform himself from one persona to another, advancing plans, agendas and programs often quite at odds with his previous stances, bent or positions.

I understand and accept that people, including politicians, change over time. Surely that has been true for me. But Brown’s changes seem mercurial, superficial and tactical. I decided years ago I would not vote for him again and that remains the case.

In my view, we do not need Jerry Brown as Governor again. While I did not support Obama initially, I supported Hillary, I hesitatingly accepted him as standard bearer once he won the nomination and am glad I did. He is no panacea, but he is a breath of fresh air. His youth concerned me but less so now. We need new leadership in California as well. I do not mean to suggest that youth necessarily begets fresh ideas or that elder individuals are stuck in the past. I’d like to think I bring wisdom and insight to my current position as a lawyer. But I think Jerry Brown will end up simply offering us more Jerry Brown and I think we’d be better off moving on. And, no, I don’t mean to Diane Feinstein. If this state cannot find its way to identifying and selecting new leaders, we’re in real trouble. Oops, we’re already in real trouble, aren’t we!

I hope as the ‘campaign’ for the next Governor of California moves forward you will offer more of your own personal views of the candidates. There is nothing wrong with giving candidates a chance to express themselves through your column but, given your years of political experience, I hope you take a very critical look at all of them. While I have often not agreed with your views (and have written you before to comment), I have come to appreciate your perspective on events and enjoy reading your column.

Donald A. Newman
Long Beach, CA