Puppets and Presidents in California's gubernatorial race

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September 15, 2010

By Eileen McGuire-Mahony

Ballotpedia News
If Californian elections didn't already command national scrutiny, Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown would be getting attention anyway. With under seven weeks left to Election Day, both gubernatorial hopefuls are running a fresh round of attack ads. Whitman's first volley goes back to 1992, when Brown was running for the Presidency. In an interview with C-SPAN, the-governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton criticized Brown's record and quoted a CNN report to back up his charges. The footage, showing Clinton arguing that Brown's record on fiscal management and taxation were lacking, makes up the core of Whitman's add.[1]

More recently, Clinton endorsed San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in the opening round of California's gubernatorial contest. Newsom later dropped out and refiled to run as lieutenant governor, a primary he won - making him Jerry Brown's running mate.

Brown's immediate response to seeing an old political rival's words brought back was to utter a comment that amounted to a play on words on Clinton's infamous, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" denial of the Lewinsky scandal, an assertion the President later had to take back.[2] In amateur video shot at a September 12th campaign event, Brown then followed up the quip with the rather damning, "I mean, Clinton's a nice guy, but who said he always told the truth?"

Nearly as soon as he'd said it, Brown apologized.[3] However, that Brown directed the jab not at his current opponent but at a man he faced two decades ago raised eyebrows. Such infighting, along with Whitman's lead in recent polls, may be a sign of things to come.

As for the CNN study that Clinton relied on in the 1992 clip, its accuracy has been questioned over the issue of what year was used as the "base year" for fiscal calculations in assessing Brown's performance. Whitman's camp, however, says Clinton's point was valid then and now, insisting, "Absolutely not, the essential elements of that ad are absolutely true."[4] The author of the paper, Brooks Jackson, admitted there was a mistake with some of the historical tax charts used to arrive at come of the paper's conclusions but also held that many of the criticisms were correct.[5]

In political circles, it's felt that Jerry Brown and Bill Clinton had a testy relationship at best.[6] However, Clinton has publicly stated in recent days that he and Brown long since put the 1992 Presidential season behind them and are now friends. In a much more tangible gesture, the former President formally endorsed Brown's gubernatorial bid on September 14th. Remarking, in part, "he would be an excellent governor at a time when California needs his creativity and fiscal prudence," Clinton made no reference to the Whitman ad or to Brown's own comments.

Whitman has responded to Brown's public demand that she take down the ad with an equally public refusal. The next move came from Brown's campaign, who had a pair of 15-second spots out by the end of the day on September 14th likening Whitman to Pinocchio, with a penchant for lying and an ever-growing nose.[7] That the ads are direct responses to Whitman's ad has been made clear by the Brown campaign.

Whitman's only response has come through campaign spokesman Andrea Jones-Rivera, who commented, "Jerry Brown is doing exactly what a 40-year career politician would do: Run from his real record and launch character attacks."[8]

On Jerry Brown's YouTube Channel, the two 'Pinocchio' ads together have garnered a little over 16,000 views. Meg Whitman's ad using the Bill Clinton clip is nearing 30,000 views.

See also