Sunday, March 6, 2011

Governor Brown Redux: The Iceman Melteth

MoDo does Moonbeam:

If you want to dish on tiger blood and Adonis DNA, go elsewhere. In the fantastic, monastic world of Jerry Brown, the talk veers toward Wittgenstein, the collapse of the Habsburg Empire and preventing the collapse of the American empire.

“We’ve got to hunker down,” he says. “We’ve got to get more discipline. We don’t have a lot of time, and we’re an aging white society for the most part, and we need to get our act together.”

The shock of dark hair is gone, but Jerry Brown is still Jerry Brown. The prickliness, bluntness, questioning, calculating. That against-the-grain attitude; disdain for materialism, emptiness and politics as usual; that Jesuit-Buddhist outlook.

Less Jesuit and more Buddhist these days, I hope.

In the old days, he tried to get people to accept their limits when they didn’t think there were limits; now that they’ve learned the hard way that there are, his gospel sells well.

He’s pondering putting a drinking tent outside the Statehouse to replace Arnold Schwarzenegger’s smoking tent (which the ex-Governator took with him, along with his Conan the Barbarian sword).

If the legislators approve his plan, a mix of spending cuts and tax extensions, the big test will be a referendum on it in June. If his plan passes, California could become the laboratory for how to do things right, the anti-Wisconsin (Yay! My em). It is remarkable to watch the governors on two coasts, Brown and Andrew Cuomo, both sons of iconic liberal governors, boldly go against the grain to do what works today. They are eliminating or reforming many of their dads’ hallmark programs.

He was a precursor to the Tea Party, and he admits he tends to be a “tear-it-apart guy.” “But I feel I’m in a more constructive mode at this time of my life,” he said. “I understand hostility and alienation from the soulless bureaucratic state, but the Tea Party is a tear-it-apart group. We have to have continuity along with change if we’re going to hold the place together.”

After watching Meg Whitman squander $178.5 million of her own money, Californians seem to be getting a kick out of Brown’s cheap side. With his gift for symbolism or, some say, gimmickry, he froze state hiring, banned official cellphones and barred state agencies from giving out swag — coffee mugs, hats and cups. He flies commercial, often solo, on Southwest Airlines, with a senior citizen discount.

“It’s a message,” he says. “The medium is the message.”

Was he cheap as a child? “During World War II, to get butter, we had little ration tickets,” he says. “I thought it was kind of fun.” His uncle Frank, he says, was so tight he had a pay phone in his house.

On his way out, he grabs an apple and a banana. They’re free.

My kinda guy!

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