Diving Into the Mind of Jerry Brown
Welcome to it's all political. The San Francisco Chronicle is political podcast. I'm Joe Garafolo the chronicle senior political writer and today on the podcast. We're looking back at Gerry. Brown California only four term governor and three time failed presidential candidate and mayor of Oakland. Oh an attorney. General to a new limited series produced by Katie is looking beyond his twelve campaigns in a show they call the political political bind of Jerry Brown. It's on Wednesdays at eight o'clock on cake. Ud through the month of January. It's available as a podcast that you convince yes. I'm plugging another the podcast here. That's because my friends Scott Shafer and Guy Marzorati of Patriot. He spent forty hours with Brown at his collusive ranch. And they came up with a series that that is fascinating to listen to whether you're a native Californian who grew up with Jerry Brown for newcomer. Who knows all the cliches about him? Dating Linda Ronstadt and Dan being called Governor Moon next we dive into the political mind of Jerry Brown with Scott Shafer and Guy Marzorati Scott Shafer Guy Marzorati. Welcome to it's all political. I would say welcome to the city of Saint Francis but we just six blocks the way all right so you guys sat down for forty hours of interviews with Jerry Brown I've listened to I think a bunch of episode six of them you did eight in total correct and And I love this. I gotTa say I'M GONNA shamelessly plugged because they expose the listener to the Jerry Brown that we reporters get to see a guy very funny a bit cranky always up fern argument and very nakedly politically savvy and in fact what what comes across here is It's how we kind of fluctuates from being sort of very idealistic about politics from his You know religious religious training almost to being just shamelessly politically opportunistic. And and he's so open about it. Here's what struck you totally. I mean from the very very first race. I mean when he ran statewide actually even before that he ran for the Community College District Board in Los Angeles and he was just wanted to test the name Brown because his data. Data's kicked out of office a few years later. So he's checking to see like is the name Jerry Brown or Edmund G Brown still a good one it was and then he ran. He manages to run as an outsider. Running thing for secretary of state talking about money and politics you know being a reformer and that's a good trick you know when Your Dad's been the governor for eight years and your name is Edmund g brown junior and you managed to run as an outsider right and did that and he was always talking of two things that come through in the podcast as he talks about and they both involve I versions versions of I one is the but for I and one is having a good I let's talk about When his What he means spy but for I which seems to be his governing principle when he's in When his first round governor right so this is as he's taking office in nineteen seventy five five with a real limit on what he views? The governor can actually do he. He described the government Sacramento kind of like a machine. He called the state. BUREAUCRATS GNOMES was basically. The GNOMES are in there so you kind of move in the lovers. So what what wouldn't be done but for me. What basically could I take on that? If I wasn't here wouldn't get done. And the first thing we highlight alight is just the governor's image and this is something. He took so much from Ronald Reagan. which is I have the power to kind of shape this image that more than any bill more than any executive order huber? We're gonNA notice things like I'm giving up the limousine for a bloop limit. I'm giving up. The governor's Mansion Selena lost. These are the kind of frugal gestures. That I think we'll breakthrough and at the time and did break through and kind of gave him an image that went beyond the state of California and he's very cognizant of optics all the time from a very young age and where. Where does that come from? Well Gosh I mean I think growing up in and around politics and being an astute observer. I mean. It's interesting because when he was a kid you know we be the conversations we have with him. We're SORTA chronological and so we talked to them about being a kid growing up in San Francisco is data's the DA and then the attorney general and he claimed that politics was not talked about in the house. It that was not part of the family dinner conversation for example and initially. He didn't really want to get into politics. He went into the seminary admitting to be a Jesuit priest and at some point like the light just goes off. He was actually in the governor's mansion his dad was governor up in Sacramento and he was studying for the bar. examinee overheard this conversation with his dad and Jess unruh the speaker who wanted to run For for the for Governor instead of Pat Brown he the light just went off he just said I wanna be. I WANNA be Governor one day and also we were talking about about image Jerry Brown. He's old enough to have lived through politics becoming an optical game right like when Pat Brown was running for district attorney of of San Francisco. You is making speeches on the Radio Radio and Publishing Position Papers Jerry Brown watched kind of the transformation of politics into this era. Where you've got to look good? And he talked again and again about how good Ronald Reagan looked on television. And what Nice suits used to wear that all was really thinking in really around the nineteen sixty six election when Ronald Reagan beat his father. And I think you go back and watch those debates it. It is like watching a politician from a new era of versus kind of the old guard. Just in the way that they're presenting him with Jerry Brown took off from that. Yeah and I was is Also I love hearing Jerry talk about his childhood because he rarely talks about it and he still very uncomfortable about talking about the several times. and which it in your interviews with them you try to get him to talk about his feelings and his Impressions of things. How did that go? He makes fun one of you like he'll say oh. You want me to talk now about how I feel. You want me to emotes you know. And and he really has very resistant to that And didn't really get into it much it all the first time. We sat down. The very first thing we talked about was his childhood and it was like after this first session guy in our like. Oh my God. This isn't going to work. He's just WanNa talk to us and then he warmed warmed up and we actually circled back much later to talk about his dad and the influences on so he did warm up and he was much more I think forthcoming that said he is. He's he's much more intellectual I think we we know that he's not. He's not someone who talks about his emotions are as feelings and He gets emotional. He gets passionate for sure but it's also usually about ideas shoes contained within politics. I mean it's interesting. You go back. Pat Brown did a similar oral history with the Bancroft Library. That is full of. I made this decision. I was so depressed oppressed by the reaction I got and I felt so bad and I had this relationship you get none of Jerry Brown is it's all intellectual it's all really contained within as you say the political mind. Well it's which was fasting because you use a lot of those archival clips. I'm guessing from a specially from Pat Brown when he talks about the Carol Trestman. c'mon execution and how he wrestled with that and we don't get a lot of wrestling from Jerry. We do get a couple of insights that were thought. Were really interesting. This thing about When he shows some vulnerability and surprisingly the one thing that he's expressed some regrets about are the medfly? Ed Fly how we reacted to the medfly refreshes on what the medfly was for the listening. Well it really resonated for me because I moved to California in in nineteen eighty one and that was exactly when he was wrestling with this thing and there was this pest this Mediterranean fruit fly. That was infesting fruit trees and other kinds of crops and so the growers in California really wanted to get rid of it it was it was threatening their livelihood and the produce and all the other products that come out of the Central Valley and in particular down in and was now silicon valley. There were all these trees and and there was a lot of pressure to spray malathion and Jerry Brown. A resisted resisted resisted and then finally after a lot of timing and hiring. The Reagan administration threatened to boycott California produce and he acknowledged. That was a good move. You know that was a smart political move because it forced him to do it and and he actually I think I believe he went down and slept down there that night and Los Gatos while they were spraying to be with the people but looking back on it I think of all the things he talked with us about to me. That seemed like the one he wishes he could do over because he realized it. It was really problematic. Damaged his his his reputation in a way that I think lingered when he ran for the US Senate in Nineteen eighty-two against Wilson. Of course he lost that election. I think by that time people just thought this guy is just so disorganized. He's not at all Does Not make a decision. He's not decisive and and I think he really feels thinks about as thought about that. A Lot Speaking of Disorganized and and when he talks when you talk to people about his first term You know you have Him there's a lot of chaos and the and the administration they're people don't know what to do who You know they say well. Jerry WANNA be philosopher King and then we're supposed to figure out what to do with new guy you referred to the gnomes earlier it made me think of a current governor we have. It's with a Gavin newsom. We were I was on your show a couple of weeks ago. We're talking about this and do you get the sense sense that now newsom has a much more professional team They are he's also been a much more seasoned politician Jerry Brown and who came from you know from the Secretary of State's office office with thirty parallels here between year one of Gavin newsom in year one or two of Jerry Brown totally and I think even beyond just the governor's themselves when you talk about bringing in in teams up into the legislature functions. So much as there's so much stored history there and when you bring in people who haven't worked in the capital having worked in state government as both Jerry Brown on and gathered newsom did there is a huge learning curve of just kind of figuring out relationships with the legislature. They're both they're in similar places in that you know when Jerry Brown arrived in nineteen seventy five all the the state legislators this before term would term limits. They're all older than him. I mean there's they worked with his dad and I think there's a huge learning curve. Just deciding how do we how does our administration creation work. How do we work with the legislature? And what are we prioritize me. Jerry Brown was someone who once he got into an issue. He was all in on that and oftentimes in state government. It's hard to do that. There's so many things happening and and it's hard to really dedicate yourself especially when you don't have an real organization setup. Gray Davis told us. He didn't even have a scheduler when he was governor. Shall we and another parallel. I would say you know. I think I think Jerry Brown some critical of of the current governor. Because he's always out and about he's tweeting. He's appearing in places uses. That was very much jerry. Brown nineteen seventy five. He was very much spontaneous. He was running for president. And we all know Gavin newsom wants to be president at some point and it's just like chomping at the bid would love to be out there all excited about going to Iowa to campaign for college so you know it's interesting yes. I think there are a lot of parallels between Jerry Brown one point zero. Oh and this current first year or so of governors and the one of the more. The funnier bits is when you talk about his first run for president where he decided literally really at what. Five o'clock on a Friday afternoon Gray Davis the former governor who was then his chief of staff really didn't know about it either. Just kind of said well. I guess I'm running. I mean I mean that's insane and it was march. It was march of the year of the election. There was four and by the time he started campaigning. Four months of primaries already over. I mean that's just like unthinkable in today's political climate. When you have these runs that are meticulously planned years in advance? He I think he kind of looked around and felt. Like I've done what I wanted to do here in Sacramento. So let's just try it. Let's do it and it was almost from the beginning. mathematically there is no chance he was going to be Jimmy Carter just based on the delegates but he felt like yeah. Why not? Let's do it in for a while while he really had a really good run. He didn't have a plan of course to win the nomination Nancy Pelosi helped him win Maryland which we talk about in appearance but he didn't really have a long term plan for anything he would literally. We heard from people that work with him he would come in in the morning. Look at the papers and then decide. Oh here's an issue that's playing out. Let's jump on that you know. It was very spontaneous. Genius is funny because Kathleen Brown at sister told us you know. If he had married and Gus Brown his wife earlier he would have been present. Yes Joe trippy told me that. Also years ago when I did a a profile on on an and she makes appearance I've not heard these episodes but she you sit down and I heard bits of her but she sit down talk with her yes she was up there every day. We were up up there She wasn't there she would be off. You know in the gardener doing something whatever she was up to but we did sit down with her the last day we were there and she really brought about a sea change both for for him personally of course but it's up professionally. As well she brought order focus timeliness and the discipline to an operation. That was not known for that right. And and and and and I imagine in the later episode. You'll get into how much he matured between a one point. Zero and two point Oh Inbetween one point zero and two you point out. Jerry Brown was the governor of my city of Oakland and I just as I was moving there and he made a couple of key decisions which you cover are here about Moving people downtown and and but you also call him out for You know he's definitely changed the face of Oakland but ah the downside is. He changed the face of Oakland. It is Many people say that led to the exodus of African Americans An Oakland But he seems that those are the warmest feelings he has in. The series is about Oakland. Why why is that well a couple of things one I think he felt like he could make a difference immediately? He could walk out of his office and walk over to the Planning Department as he did on behalf of Willie Brown and he tells that story and have a real impact he could go out to a restaurant and talked. Talk to constituents you know when you're up in Sacramento with whether you're a legislator or the governor you're pretty removed people don't have access to you but he had very little security detail he would go out and about in Oakland and people could get angry if they wanted and they did they come up to him yell at him and he would listen and he could he could say let's build housing then he could see the construction crates. You know it was a very direct correct you do this. And it gets done and the flip side of that and as you'll hear in the Oakland episode some really biting criticism from current mayor who was on Jerry Brown staff when he was mayor that you know getting closer to a lot of these issues riding along with cops it may have gotten him too close to the point where he fell in the case of public safety so aligned with the Oakland Police Department that went scandal like the riders hit in two thousand. He was only you know he took their side. And it's still to this day. I think pretty defensive about his relationship nations with the Oakland Police Department and the issues that they dealt with When he was mayor and in the San Juan I think very deep down? He also appreciates what police do you know. And first responders generally does does see I hate those are tough streets and he uses some pretty colorful language to describe the kinds of things that they see and phase out on the streets as you know. PD members I was. I was surprised to hear the libby criticism of especially because Jerry He basically pushed over the line in her. First run with the late with very very late. Endorsement But so I was. I was surprised to hear her. call him out like that. So yeah and I would say I think there's so much speculation at the time and in the sense that. Oh you know his alignment with Oakland. Police Department is is really just leading up to his running. For Attorney General. This is a political move but I think in the interview the Oakland interviews. He didn't give the sense that this was just a political catalyst. I think he really believed in the mission of the Oakland Police Department and you know took their side when it came to these debates about use of force on. He was very passionate about any criticism at the time. And you alluded to the job that you know. He was focused on building market rate housing affordable housing. And he wanted the reason was he wanted to revitalize downtown and as he told us if you bring quote unquote poor people downtown. They don't have money to spend on other things. They're not gonNA go shopping and I could go to restaurants. I mean those are things that I think were very you know. Certainly his honest belief but I think for some people are going to hear that. What what I heard that I was like? Wow No politician say that that would be says it in a very indelicate look at ways we say more conversation about the political mind Jerry Brown after this short break and and now here's more of my conversation about the political mind of Jerry Brown he also you're talking about is sort of transformation from again. He's it's just making nakedly political He was a reformer. You know when he when he ran for the school district there the College College Board in Los Angeles and then the secretary of state and then you know later life is like well transparency. That's kind of overrated. Let's play a little clip of the Trans Jerry talking about how transparency man. Whatever of course will make it transparent? Everybody sees the money flowing and makes feel worse so the press loves transparency currency. Because you get out of it and you get a sell papers. We've all heard politicians demand more transparency around money and politics arguing that it will restore store public confidence. It has the exact opposite effect. Because reels. All the foibles and flaws in works of the system and it just undermines is conference all the more. So that's a product. What the hell's up with that? I mean I can't believe he. I think he was saying that because he I mean he wrote the political reform political political reform act and then later in life of course We hasten to add that the governor's never really released as I was going to say exactly. So what's good for the goose. Maybe not so much for the Gander. Yeah I think what he was saying. There was only inspires cynicism about politics. People see all the money. And you know who's how the lobbyists research funding all the politicians and you know basically a quid pro quo for things. Even though you can't do that legally I think that's what you're saying. But he's also as governor. Yeah he was did not embrace additional additional reforms particularly like for example for example. Maybe this is not a good example. But he vetoed the bill to force trump to release his own tax. Yes yes which in turn you know. In the end. He turned out to be right. It was not constitutional but you know he was not a big advocate and later in Jerry Brown two point Oh for transparency. But this thing you'll get throughout the series I think there's he's a rare politician Titian who will step back and question things that he had assumed early in his career in something like transparency and political reform falls into this. I think so many politicians if they've put put their name on something it's like you're riding or dying with it and I think he's had the experience and just the mind the intellect to step back and say you know I really held this belief strongly. is that true or is is disclosure. Good is transparency. Good now you could say there's a Lotta cynicism involved. He was making these reform runs while he was trying to get higher office. Whether but it was the governor's office where the president also was willing to take money from say the oil companies or business right to get prop thirty pass the tax increase that really saved the school from really massive deep cuts. And you know his he would say look. Yeah well I'll take their money if they want to help me pass a tax to keep the schools funded. Sure I'll do that. It doesn't mean they're going to influence my thinking about safe fracking. Although there were still did yes the Also WanNa play clip about how he's how his feelings are about. Political campaigns campaigns have changed. Let's hear an exit from the show. Brown used his ability to think for himself in that two thousand six run for attorney. General Brown refused to hire a team of political consultants. He doesn't go along with conventional wisdom. He's built up a body of experience that has guided him in terms of what he thinks is important. And I'm not Steve Glaeser. He's a state senator. Now was one of the few advisors who brown did lean on for help over the years he has over time Kinda disdains stains the tapestry and the conventional view of political engagement and has kind of carved his own path Brown says that when he entered politics the people had a personal connection to the campaigns. They worked on the campaigns with more. Or like a 'cause we're all working. We believed in the political business of of paid people who that is their life profession. I think that was much less in the sixties and seventies in the last few decades candidates have relied more more and more on a class of political consultants to help them manage and message their campaigns. Now Mercer you run a campaign the UN Sivy else camping you resist that. I do still feel a little uncomfortable. That Brown says he liked to take more control of his campaigns than most candidates there are horses and their jockeys and horse although I like to be a jockey at the same time so what. What do you think's behind that? Because he does have Jerry does have the the fact that California's top political consultants working for him But it is as tight group. I mean that. The group Ran Governor's campaign in twenty. Ten was Glazer Zor and his wife and a couple other folks but that it was a small group and they had an office in Oakland and the a lot of volunteers but yeah but his big campaign operation at the top was a smith. You know his that firm as a CNN as it was called at the time they also had Gavin. NEWSOM as a client. Kamala Harris Chris Libby chef at Lea- so I think he saw that whole operation. You know in the holiday parties with all the you know all the different candidates. They're like what are they really believe in you know they they just taking my money or do they believe in me. I think even when I if I remember right when we recorded the interview. Dan Newman was in the room and he is health brown over the years. I think he likes just you know poking jabs at people in pointing out the fact that look whatever you guys know. I've knew that twenty ten years before like he's been in the game much longer than a lot of the consultants that run running game in California today and I think he you know he likes to keep his circle tight and really own political adviser he even mentioned while he was attorney. General he said you know subsequent attorney the general they hire a lot of political consultants to help them handle the policy and politics out of the job. I didn't need that. I I have my own mind in that regard right and so I think he really relied on an Dan who brought the organization and the staffing and then he thought everything else. I can handle unless I forget. Jerry Brown is famously. CHEAP FRUGAL FRUGAL. Fifty a million boxes and other people's plates when he goes at the dinner with that is In fact in fact at one of those Christmas parties I I was talking with the governor and he was showing me photos as he was the the ranch Qaluza. And I think you're going to be back in six months. You'RE NOT GONNA hate it. They're gonNA hate eight at their own and so you spend a lot of time up there. Give us paint us a little bit of Kim Restaurants. That's it yeah others so what does the. What's the scene like there? Well it's beautiful. It is beautiful but it's very remote. I mean so you know the town nearest town Williams which is right off the I five and so so. That's where we stayed at the lovely Zillah Motel And then it's another fifteen twenty minutes to his home and so you go through twenty and then there's another like fifteen minutes of winding road road and you've got a little creek on one side and the hills and mountains and animals on the hills grazing and then as he says. You know if you put in my address in Yahoo maps. You'RE GONNA go right by my house and keep keep going Lake County. It's just so remote that it's not easy to find. Yeah he's got a Po box. I don't think he actually has an address But you know it's very it's a steer but it's beautiful you know it's all would Would that we sat every time. We went up there at this long communal table. That was solid wood He was growing tomatoes in the backyard. Kyar D- He has a composter that he put stuff in He you know they're all they're doing of course the recycling all that stuff but you know there's no one really around. I mean one day in the middle of a neighbor knocked on the door clearly knows everybody around there. He likes to talk with them about the history of the land. And you know. He's very focused on his own family. History told there's one point that he wished his great grandfather had kept a diary of what life was like. But you know he would talk about. Oh Yeah Oh the stagecoach. Choose to stop over there and there was a hotel over there. I ought to be clear. He's not isolated from the political world. He's still I mean there would be times he would kind of cut off the interviews and say hey I have a call with zone Perry Phil Perry or you go back on the board of the Oakland Military Institute. I've a call on that and I want I. Have you know meeting with the President of Arizona State or someone coming up for this. UC Climate Initiative. So he still still has a lot of things that this is kind of like mission control where he's having his calls out to the world from Lusa actually joked with him about. Maybe you could run for supervisor of Glue County or Mayor Be Mayor Williams and one thing he told us which I don't remember we actually put it in the In the in the podcast but He thought about running for State School Superintendent after he left. The governor's office. He's clearly not done. He's still thinking about what he could. Do you know how he can make a difference. So you've you've known him for many years now twenty and fifteen eighteen twenty years. You've certainly back to before he was mayor. Yeah what did you learn about him that you didn't already know well. There are some real like specific things like he had. I thought about running for mayor of Los Angeles. That was that was nice. I thought about running for mayor of San Francisco and the way he settled on Oakland. You know it wasn't quite as organic as some people thought. It was the fact that he considered an endorsing proposition. Thirteen the property tax measure which he later did that. One Eighty and people thought he did endorse I said he was so masterful in embracing it implementing it the Howard Jarvis actually cut an ad for his career election campaign So there was that and I you know I think there are also moments of real I hesitate to use this works. I don't WANNA make. It seem like it was more than it was but he his relationship with an you know is is he clue. Do they really love each other. And you moments where I saw there was one day where in this wasn't recorded or anything. But she was driving into town and they only have one car and so she said well. I'm going into town Jerry. I'll see you later. And he just looked up battering said I'm GonNa miss you and it was so sweet you know and so there was that side of him that I don't think a lot of people get to pretty much And then just incredible. You know encyclopedic knowledge of politics and how he thinks about every decision every issue in great great detail great depth So this is going to be. This is going to be airing on the radio on K. K. D. as well Wednesday nights at throughout the month of January at Eight o'clock but you can Listen to the entire you can. Binge listened to the PODCAST. Yes well and you have a live event on go ahead. Yes we're going to be with the governor redoing onstage interview with him at the herbst theatre in San Francisco Monday night January thirteenth starts. I think at seven o'clock and if you want tickets you can go to dot org slash events. And so what. What did he think of it does he? Have you get any feedback on these series from the governor. He hasn't heard it yet well. He hasn't hurt damage. Control Control. No No aditorial editorial control. Actually that was. It was an interesting so we started this project as an oral history with the Bancroft Library and usually the subject of oral histories are able to edit and he will be able to edit his oral history the truth bankrupt but then we had this other group where we take all the tape from interviews and do what we want with it. So that's how we came with the series and if you WanNa find out what he thought of it Monday night when we met with him but at the beginning before in the governor's mansion before he left office. You know we told him we're GONNA WE'RE GONNA talk with you for thirty forty hours number talk with other people to get their perspectives on your life in. And he just said why do you do that. They don't have the right perspective. I do so. We'll see what he thinks. That is as I said. My some of my favorite fair parts of this are the is when he argues with you about the questions that you're asking. We left that we could cut that out. That was so fun it is Oh Jerry Brown. Oh it is very Jerry Brown guys. Thanks thanks for being on. It's all political congrats on the on the series and it's a fine. I commend it to all even though this was the first ever. Someone else's love asked. Yes I'd like to thank you all for listening today. I'd like to thank Scott and guy for walking eight blocks to be on. The podcast I know is a huge sacrifice for them. I'd I'd like to thank the King King and the crate one Karen Creighton for producing today's episode and remember whether you're shamelessly running for every office in the state eight of California or living off the grid in the middle of nowhere and Palooza county. It's all political. It's all political as part of the San Francisco. Chronicle podcast network. Audrey Cooper is our editor in chief our music our theme music that we have is cattle. Call that's written by Randy Clark and performed by Randy Clark and Co saw. Aw if you'd like this show subscribe rate and review it on apple podcasts or wherever you listen for more great journalism like this. Subscribe up to the San Francisco. Chronicle at San Francisco Chronicle Dot com slash subscribe. You can find me on twitter at Joe Garre fully thanks thanks.