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Friday, May 6, 2011

Jerry Brown's Legacy Examined in New York Times Magazine

Posted By on Fri, May 6, 2011 at 4:57 PM

click to enlarge Still quirky after all these years
  • Still quirky after all these years

Like clockwork, the New York Times periodically chooses to publish an in-depth profile of some prominent California politician or politicians, usually under the rubric of West Coast "quirkiness" showcased for a national audience. Our state's pols don't always fair well in this exercise. Lieutenant Governor and former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, for example, managed to place his foot directly in his mouth when he told the Times magazine's Mark Leibovich last year that his affair with aide Alex Tourk's wife was "much more benign" than it appeared.

Gov. Jerry Brown is the subject of the latest lengthy Times article, and he manages to acquit himself rather well. Reporter Adam Nagourney highlights the atypical absence of handlers and aides surrounding Brown, and analyses his motivations for returning to the governor's office after leaving it 28 years ago. Nagourney suggests that Brown is trying not only to take a practical, not-running-for-any-higher-office approach to managing the state's intractable problems, but to cement his legacy by succeeding.

He writes:

Should Brown succeed, should he offer a coherent, Democratic response to the march of Republican government-slashing on display this year, his eighth decade might be the one he is remembered for, rather than some earlier years that he would prefer to forget: the failed presidential bids or the isn't-he-weird Governor Moonbeam ridicule that, fairly or not, is the first thing many people (or at least many Easterners) think of when they hear his name today.

So there you have it -- even at this stage in life, Brown, like all politicians, is driven by his own peculiar admixture of egoism and altruism.

You can also check out a video of Nagourney talking about what it was like to cover Brown.

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Peter Jamison


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