GQ interviews Jerry Brown

I certainly don't want Meg Whitman to be California's next governor.

But I've always been a little dubious about Jerry Brown, too.

I've never had a good reason for that. I think it stemmed primarily from hearing my parents say, when I was a kid and he was governor the first time, that he was “flaky.” I didn't know what that meant, and when I asked them, as I recall, they were hard-put to explain what they meant by it; but I kinda think it was a widely shared idea, given the popularity of Mike Royko's nickname for Brown, “Governor Moonbeam.”

Anyway, so I've been mildly dubious for no good reason. But now I've read a new interview with Brown from GQ (by Wil S. Hylton), and boy does it not make Brown look good.

Brown starts off badly, vaguely implying that the reason he waited so long to declare his candidacy was that he was hoping Gavin Newsom would run so Brown wouldn't have to, which I think is ridiculous; if Brown didn't know that his not-yet-candidacy was crowding out other potential candidates, then he wasn't paying attention to the news or the polls.

Later in the interview, Brown also suggests that he doesn't believe there's such a thing as “the spirit of the law”; he sidesteps a question about what the intent of the gubernatorial term-limits law was; he claims that Prop 13 was good for California's finances; he sidesteps three consecutive questions about illegal immigration before finally saying what he should've said in the first place, that he supports comprehensive reform with a “path to citizenship”; he responds to a question about hypocrisy and illegal labor by saying that “Contradiction is inherent in human nature”; and he goes into a whole long contentious argument about Prop 8 in which he seems to be incapable of just straightforwardly saying that it's wrong or bad.

And then he isn't sure what Prop 19 is (legalizing marijuana), and he refuses to say that he opposes legalization, just before he explicitly says “I don't support the legalization of drugs.” He then refuses to give a clear answer on why pot is different from alcohol, and he implies that even though he's supposed to support the law, he might try to find a way to challenge Prop 19 (as he did with Prop 8) if it passes.

And so on. There's more.

I'm leaving out the parts where he does give some clear and straightforward answers on some topics, like why Whitman wouldn't do a good job as governor. But the interview overall left me with two impressions:

  1. The interviewer is pretty cool. Most of the time when I see American journalists interviewing politicians, they ask one question per topic, and the politician dodges, and the journalist moves on. This guy Hylton keeps pushing, and even argues about what Brown has and hasn't said or done in the past.
  2. Brown comes across as arrogant and condescending, and not as liberal as I'd like, and he doesn't seem willing to admit that things he did thirty years ago may've been mistakes (even when they're widely considered to have been mistakes by California liberals). Like most politicians, he appears more comfortable with big-picture generalities and extremely carefully phrased over-specific statements on touchy topics than with actually saying what he believes, what his goals are, or what he would do if elected.

He's still clearly better (by my standards and beliefs) than Whitman. But the interview really doesn't make me want to support him.

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