There are doubtless many reasons why Meg Whitman won’t accept Jerry Brown’s invite to 10 town halls around the state – strategy, scheduling and skittishness, for starters.
While she’s now agreed to one cheesy debate a couple weeks before the election, eMeg’s unwillingness to commit to more clearly derives from the knowledge that, in a sustained series of match-ups, she’s simply got no answer for Brown’s Zen Jesuit epistemological style.
Which was on full display the day after the primary in an interview conducted by ABC’s Diane Sawyer who, among other things, elicited this improvisational analysis of the deeper meaning of politics:
Well, at the end of the day, what really is this all about? The fundamental quest is: How do we touch our spirituality? How do we touch that innermost part of our being? And how are we open to that same thing in other people?
That’s the intimacy, the spirituality, that you don’t normally find in politics.But it’s the other side. After everything quiets down, you’re still yourself. And there’s still life and death. When I was studying in Japan, before you’d mediate … in the evening, someone would hit a block a few times. And then someone would intone: ‘Life and death is a serious matter. Time waits for no man. Do your best.’ And that, I think, could be the spirit of this campaign.
When does eMeg leave for Iowa? Lost amid the well deserved criticism Brown is taking over the comparison he drew between Whitman and Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels are some other comments he made during his “jogging talk” conversation with Doug Sovern of KCBS: his recycling of the Calbuzz theory that eMeg’s pursuit of the governorship is really about her desire to be president.
She wants to be president. That’s her ambition, the first woman president. That’s what this is all about.
For those who want in on the ground floor of this deal, there’s already a Meg Whitman for President 2012 (four years too early in our view) Facebook page. Remember you read it here first.
Politics of pensions: To date, Brown has spent much time talking about issues that are of great interest to him – town hall meetings, Meg’s massive financial advantage in the campaign, his alleged roots in the “mean streets” of Oakland – but not so much about things that might actually affect actual voters – say, jobs, the economy or some specific ideas for dealing with the sorry state of the state’s finances.
On the latter point, Brown at some stage is going to have find a way to address the festering problem of public employee pensions: while his allies in labor would no doubt much prefer that he didn’t, there is growing resentment about the disconnect between the cushy retirement benefits that many government workers receive and the cat food prospects available to what you like to call your ordinary people.
Exhibit A: voters this week in San Francisco – the only city where people actually like paying taxes – approved a ballot measure that requires increased contributions from new public workers and that begins to address the scandal of “spiking” pensions by which benefits are pegged to often inflated salaries earned in the last year on the job.
Governor Schwarzmuscle has already made pension reform a centerpiece of this year’s budget battle, ensuring it will be a high-profile issue for months, at a time when reporters around the state – most notably Dan Borenstein and Ed Mendel – keep churning out reporting on excesses, and eMeg hammers on the problem every time she gives a speech.
That’s not to mention the related outrage that many labor agreements detailing pension benefits are top secret in jurisdictions around the state, as noted by the First Amendment Coalition:
Public unions in California turned distrustful of voters and ambivalent about government transparency. In the mid-1990s unions backed improvements to the Brown Act, California’s open meeting law, but also inserted a provision assuring that the public would have no access to collective bargaining agreements negotiated by cities and counties—often representing 70% or more of their total operating budgets—until after the agreements are signed.
What happens when voters and the press have no opportunity to question elected officials about how they propose to pay for a lower retirement age, health care for retirees’ dependents, richer pension formulas and the like? The officials make contractual promises that are unaffordable, unsustainable (and, in general, don’t come due until after those elected officials have left office). In the case of Vallejo, in northern California, this veil of secrecy, and the symbiotic relationship it fosters, has led to municipal bankruptcy.
Memo to Jerry: Add pensions to “Jogging Talk” file.
Press Clips: Don’t miss Tony Quinn’s excellent analysis of the right-wing’s historic primary losses. Karen Tumulty is worth reading on why CEOs struggle as electeds. Dan Walters takes the first stab at sorting out the Meg-Jerry exchange on Brown’s first incarnation budget record.
John Myers cuts to the heart of the eMeg-Krusty leadership argument. Lance Williams offers a post-Prop. 14 historic look at non-partisan voting in California. Rep. Anthony Wiener gets gored by a goat.