The Citizen

SACRAMENTO Willie Brown sounds like a politician with no interest in ever running for election. In fact, he told members of the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco five times Tuesday evening he had no intention of running for office, although he said he might think about accepting a bid to the Supreme Court if Elena Kagan’s nomination falls short under one condition. “Only if they took Clarence Thomas off,” he said.

The San Francisco sage of California politics took humorous potshots at nearly ever current moving target running for office while offering his view of a worsening state economy–term limits are the problem, he says.

Brown believes the other famous Brown across the Bay, Jerry, will win a second go-around in the governor’s mansion and believes Republican Meg Whitman has squandered major financial resources against State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. Some polls now have Whitman up 2 points over Poizner from a high at one time of 49.  Brown joked Poizner’s campaign probably put out the prior poll to enhance the impression of a monumental comeback, but sees the race getting even tighter. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Poizner wins,” said Brown, “but I have great respect for [Whitman’s] $150 million.”

At one point, Brown needled Jerry’s Brown lack of youthful good looks, while boasting of the beauty of current San Francisco District Attorney and Attorney General candidate Kamala Harris and the dashing Mayor Gavin Newsom. “It sure helps to be attractive,” he said. Brown received his loudest round of laughter when he said Jerry Brown and Poizner look physically similar. “They both look like they were sired by Alan Cranston,” Brown said referencing the long-time former U.S. Senator from California.

Jerry Brown’s road to victory will be much simpler for him rather than his opponents, said Brown, since most of the Democratic hopefuls bowed out of the race early. “Jerry just sat back in Oakland and waited for everyone to die and hope he would go to heaven,” said Brown who believes Jerry’s age will be a strong target for the Republican nominee to exploit. Another, interestingly, may be his sister’s employment with Goldman Sachs. Brown’s sister, Kathleen, who lost the 1994 gubernatorial race to Pete Wilson is a senior advisor for Goldman Sachs’s Western region. “If she were my sister, she would be resigning,” joked Brown.

Brown offered other provocative politics insights Tuesday night:

  • Contrary to conventional wisdom, Brown says the loss of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat to Republican upstart Scott Brown (“not a relative,” said Brown) is the main reason Democrats were able to pass health care reform last March. “It dampened the aggressiveness of the Progressive side of the Democratic Party. They knew they had to scale back on whatever they were demanding to place in that health care bill.”
  • “Mr. Obama made the wrong decison in allowing the Congress to be the leaders in solving health care,” he said. “There too many divergent views among the 535 people that make the Congress and Senate.” 
  • “If the health care issue had been resolved in February to May of last year, there would not have been the opportunity for the freightening demonstrations that occurred as members of Congress returned to their home for purposes of addressing their constituency.”
  • Democrats will retain a majority in Congress and the Senate.
  • Obama has performed “reasonably well.”
  • Newsom’s campaign for the Democratic nomination lieutenant governor will be “a walk in the park” over Janice Hahn. Brown says Hahn is not well-liked in Los Angeles and may perform better in Northern California than her home region. A general election victory for Newsom is likely, too, but Brown mocked him saying, “He’ll have to actually work for it.”
  • Tea Party demonstrators are part of “Old America,” says Brown. “From back when there was less diversity and less intelligence.”
  • Term limits are the problem with gridlock in the state Legislature. Because time in Sacramento is fleeting, no particular expertise in solving problems is needed, he says. “Every single member there is doing something to highlight their career.”