Gavin’s Big Splash: Why Clinton Hearts Newsom


002-235Gavin Newsom got a big news splash with his surprise e-blast Tuesday that former President Bill Clinton will headline a. L.A. fundraiser to benefit the S.F. mayor’s campaign for governor.

Who better to raise cash for the lagging Newsom campaign treasury and try to goose the Latino vote than California’s favorite Bubba (who might be able to win the Democratic primary for governor himself.)

Which immediately kicked the Calbuzz Archival Research and Old Guys Are Good for Something Department into gear, pulling our own clips from the 1992 presidential campaign when Jerry Brown attacked Clinton relentlessly and, like a terrier with razor-sharp teeth sunk into Bill’s ankle, refused to let go.

Far be it from us to suggest that the globe-trotting Great Statesman would permit an unworthy feeling — such as an unquenchable, blood-thirst for revenge — to influence his decision to help Brown’s chief rival, but Crusty the General  really did take it to him that year, in a race that got very personal and stayed that way up until the Place Called Hope convention.

Most memorable was this angry, finger-pointing clash between Clinton and Brown a few days before the key Illinois primary, when California’s current attorney general presaged what would come to be known as the Whitewater scandal. (That’s the You Tube link there.)

Brown: He is funneling money to his wife’s law firm for state business, that’s No. 1 . . .
Clinton: I don’t care what you say about me, but you ought to be ashamed of yourself (pointing) for jumping on my wife. You’re not worthy to be on the same platform as my wife . . .
Brown: I tell you something (pointing), Mr. Clinton, don’t try to escape it . . .
Clinton: I did not . . .
Brown: . . . Ralph Nader called me this afternoon, he read me the article from the Washington Post . . .
Clinton: Does that make it true?
Brown: . . . I was shocked by it. . .
Moderator (to Clinton’s rescue): (to Clinton) You’re saying in effect, ‘Governor Brown, That’s garbage and you know it.’ Is that what you’re saying to him?”
Clinton: It is garbage
Moderator: OK, let’s get on to something else. . . It doesn’t sound like Mr. Brown is going to be your vice president . . .

Calbuzz recalls that because Clinton had Secret Service protection and Brown didn’t, the speculation in the press room — when the SS boys got a little nervous — was, “What were they gonna do — shoot Jerry?”


(Footnote to history: The day after the Clinton-Brown set-to, Hillary Clinton jumped into the fray herself, defending not only her integrity while at the Rose Law Firm, but also her feminist right to pursue a career: “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas,” she famously said, in comments that made campaign handlers cringe, and required a new round of damage control among middle class mom voters).

Despite scarce resources — because he limited himself to $100 contributions —  Brown beat Clinton in Maine, Colorado, Vermont, Connecticut, Utah and Nevada during the primaries.

During the New York primary, where he announced his vice-presidential candidate would be the Rev. Jesse Jackson (thereby alienating huge numbers of Jewish voters), Brown portrayed Clinton as part of  a decaying, corrupt political system.

”I know the way the game is played, and I’m making myself available for all the people who haven’t had that advantage and who don’t want to be ripped off any longer and lied to,” Brown told a breakfast gathering of black journalists and publishers, leaning heavily on his Jackson-for-VP gambit to demonstrate his civil rights bona fides.  “I want people to use me as a battering ram to tear down the citadel of arrogance and privilege and corruption.”

”This is a campaign of insurgency,” Brown thundered on the steps of Federal Hall on Wall Street, where George Washington took the presidential oath in 1789. “It’s a campaign to drive the moneylenders out of the temple of power.”

letjerryspeakBy August, it was clear that Clinton had the nomination in the bag. But, trailing in the polls behind George Bush and Ross Perot, he desperately wanted to put on a harmonious convention with a single, controlled message.

Jerry would have none of that. First he was denied a speaking spot but eventually– after much noisy protest — he scored one, but not in prime time.

Still refusing to endorse Clinton, or even to mention him, Brown called on his fellow partisans to “create the power for the powerless, for there is no other reason for a Democratic Party to exist.”

“We have to break the growing and dangerous tie-in of economic and political power,” he said, as his 618 delegates and hundreds of other supporters cheered, clapped and cried. “We have to save our souls as Democrats, return to our roots, listen to our ancestors and once again fight on the side of the people who pay the bills and fight the wars but never come to our receptions.

”Those are the people I want to fight for. I know you want to fight for them. And we have to show it as we walk out of here.”

To say the Clintons were pissed off, is a slight understatement. They were enraged. So, Bill may really, really, really think Gavin is a prince. He may be just crazy about the guy. Or not. If the alternative is Jerry Brown — get out of the way.

PS:  Shhhh! Don’t ask, don’t tell. ‘Cause if you ask who signed the Defense of Marriage Act, someone might tell you that it was Bill Clinton. And that might wreck today’s Gavin Newsom announcement. (HO to Richie Ross).

subscribe to comments RSS

There are 6 comments for this post

  1. avatar Bob Brigham says:

    Anyone who payed attention to this year’s gubernatorial race in Virginia realized Clinton was of little value. If anything, the press mocked the fact nobody turned out to see him campaign.

  2. avatar Silent Sleuth says:

    Well, whether you think Pres. Clinton can draw a crowd or not (I happen to think that he can in CA), there is no doubt that he can be a huge fundraiser for Mr. Newsom.

  3. avatar LA Politico says:

    Don’t think Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and DOMA was much of a hindrance to Hillary Clinton’s support from the LGTB community.

    Wonder why Ross would suggest that? Is he still upset that WJC asked voters to vote No on the Recall, thereby rejecting his client Cruz Bustamante?

  4. avatar gdewar says:

    Excellent recap, guys – I vividly remember that debate and Bill Kurtis trying to keep it under control. Brown’s campaign was by the end a big FU to Clinton and the party establishment of the time, so it’s no surprise Bill endorsed Anyone But Brown.

    The question remains – what exactly is Bill going to do or not do for Gavin?

    If he is going to get on the phones, go to lots of events and so on to raise money, then sure it could help. (although I’d like to see Bill justify DOMA to the gay community).

    But realistically, the ex President isn’t going to do that – he’s a world statesman. Plus, the latest mis-steps by Gavin (making up a phony foster brother at San Quentin, and the overall snotty tone his campaign is taking) aren’t helping, and are signs of an ongoing problem.

  5. avatar joaquinross says:

    LA Politico, on Sep 15, 2003, Cruz and Clinton appeared together at a rally to urge a No on the Recall vote. The ballot consisted of two questions and regardless of how you voted on the Recall question, you were still asked for a second choice for Governor – almost like an IRV election. Cruz’ campaign was always No on the Recall, Yes on Bustamante.

  6. avatar SezMe says:

    As ever, the clever pol, Slick Willy. So he comes out early for the Prince and does some fund raising then disappears. If Newsom wins, Bill takes credit. If Brown wins, the participation of Clinton months and months ago is completely forgotten and no little brown (pun intended) spots show up on Clinton’s coat tails.

    Gawd, that guy is the consummate politician. Love him or hate him, he’s good.

Please, feel free to post your own comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.