Sunday, August 07, 2011

Jerry Brown on the budget impasses in Washington and California (1 of 2)

California Gov. Jerry Brown sat for an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley last week. This was an early report on it: Calif. Gov. worried about debt crisis CNN 08/05/2011

Here is the full interview in video (2 parts): The full Jerry Brown interview [online exclusive]. A very truncated transcript is also available: Calif. Gov.: Raise taxes or 'retrench' 08/07/2011. A longer but still incomplete one is available at State of the Union with Candy Crowley 08/07/2011.

Jerry addresses quite a few national issues in this interview, something he has been restrained about doing during his gubernatorial campaign last year and his governorship this year. "The Washington of today is suffering and experiencing a governability crisis," he tells Crowley.

I'm continually fascinating by seeing our star pundits unsuccessfully try to understand what Jerry is saying to them in plain English. Candy Crowley is as clueless as most TV pundits, which means she also is obsessed with political "horserace" items. And yet, with any other public figure of Jerry's stature, the headline on this would have been "Jerry Brown hints at 2012 Presidential run."

I don't think that he is likely to do that. But Jerry knows his way around politics. And he knows, even if Candy Crowley doesn't, that a California Democratic Governor talking this way about national issues is implicitly threatening to challenge or back a challenge to the incumbent Democratic President. Although he aims his criticism primarily at Republicans and puts his comments about President Obama in terms of helpful advice, it's very clear that he's highly critical of the way Obama is handling the Presidency. Or, more accurately, failing to do so. He says starting around 3:00 in Part 1:

I would say that the Republicans are gearing up to destroy the President, that the President will have to respond in a very powerful way, and the result for the country could be calamitous.

CROWLEY: Well, I want to ask you about the President. But first let me ask you, just following up on that, ... what does his response have to be? ...

JERRY: He has to be authentic, he has to be powerful, he has to lay out a clear alternative, and run a risk that may not work out for him. Because the, the society is in the mood where it wants a lot of things but it's not willing to pay for 'em. [my transcript version there; the CNN transcript really cleans up Crowley's fumbling attempt to formulate the question]

Knowing that Jerry in these situations chooses his words very carefully, it's notable that he goes on to say to talk about debt by using the word "leverage." The amount of "leverage" represented by the national debt would be reduced if the GDP grew substantially, even if the debt also grew. He later goes on to advocate additional federal borrowing for "Rooseveltian" stimulus, so he's not talking about a need for immediate cutbacks of federal debt. He is talking like an economically literate leader, in other words.

In Part 1 around 7:00, Jerry says some things about the banksters that they and Candy Crowley no doubt find uncivil:

But we [in California] can't overcome the ravages of the greed, the lack of regulation and the, the, the hubris and blindness of Wall Street and the regulators. The people who were in charge of this country ran it into the ground. Through the promiscuous mortgages, the securitized mortgage products that were rated far better than they were.

We suffered a real bank robbery from those who handled our mortgage banking and our investment banking. And we're, and the ordinary people are now paying. Many of the people who caused it didn't, didn't suffer anything. And I think that's where Obama has to keep the light on how we got here. And shouldn't be bonus time for the perpetrators of the greatest devastation to America since the Great Depression.
This is obviously a very different message than we hear President Obama delivering when he tells us that the Emancipation Proclamation was mainly about compromising with slaveowners. It also didn't make the cut on the broadcast segment or the online transcript.

Jerry also had a memorable historical observation. Here's the CNN transcript version:

CROWLEY: I sense that you are angry?

BROWN: No, I am not angry. I am just alarmed at where America is. So I would just say, we better be very careful where we're going, and I hope that we watch it, we being the congress and the president.

And the president is the one that really has the most opportunity to turn this around.
The trancript shows no elipsis there. But the video at 10:35, Part 2 shows him saying (part omitted from the CNN transcript in italics):

No, I'm not angry. I'm just, I'm alarmed at, uh, at, uh, where America is. I mean, we, you know, you look back at history and all the elites, the ruling families of Europe in 1914 were feeling pretty good about themselves. And yet, it wasn't just a few months into the summer when they began what was an absolute catastrophe. So blindness is compatable with good breeding, good education and good relationships. Well, we don't even have that now in much of Washington.

So I would just say, we better be very careful where we're going, and I hope that we watch it, we being the Congress and the President. And the president is the one that really has the most opportunity to turn this around.
Given our pundit's obsession with horserace question, you would think that Jerry's reference to "we being the Congress and the President" would have been enough for even the dimmest reporter to remark on it.

But Crowley's cluelessness is most on display at around 7:15 in Part 1, when she asks, "Now, I don't want to get into anything too philosophical. But then, don't you end up with a one-party government? And is that a good thing?" We can't see Jerry's face as she's framing the question. But he seems to have been enough of a gentleman and enough of a pro at this kind of interview not to reflect in his expressions what he must surely have been thinking, i.e., something along the lines of, "Lord, you are as dumb as dirt." From the posted transcript, in an earlier segment of the show, Crowley uses "one-rule party" - she may have meant one-party rule, but who knows? - to refer to one of the two major parties having majorities in both Houses of Congress and also holding the Presidency. Not what the phrase "one-party government" conjures up to me.

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