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Jerry Brown, California's comeback king

January 24, 2013|By Paul Whitefield
  • Lawmakers applaud Gov. Jerry Brown as he enters the Assembly chamber to give his State of the State address.
Lawmakers applaud Gov. Jerry Brown as he enters the Assembly chamber to… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

“Two years ago they were writing our obituary. Well, it didn’t happen. California is back.”

That’s our governor talking. And he’s right.

Gov. Jerry Brown delivered his 11th State of the State address Thursday, and as usual, it was as eclectic as its speaker.

As The Times reported, Brown “cited Irish poet William Butler Yeats on education, French writer Montaigne on laws, and the biblical story of Joseph and the Pharaoh on financial discipline.”

He even defended his bullet-train project -- a too-expensive, too-complicated boondoggle if ever there was one -- by quoting from the children’s classic “The Little Engine That Could”:  “I think I can, I think I can. And over the mountain the little engine went. We’re going to get over that mountain.”

Is this guy some kind of governor, or what?  

Especially given that our last governor was fond of quoting, well, himself, sort of -- or at least himself as the characters he played in the movies. (Don’t know about you, but I prefer real action over Hollywood hype.)

Of course, Brown’s a politician, so he’s not immune to hype. He also said that in making its comeback, “California did the impossible.”  

Whoa, there, easy, governor. We -- and you -- have done good, sure, but we ain’t out of the woods yet.

Still, Brown spelled out the challenges ahead, hitting all the right notes. Like this on spending:

“We have promises to keep. And the most important one we made to the people if Proposition 30 passed: that we would guard jealously the money…. Fiscal discipline is not the enemy of our good intentions but the basis for realizing them.”

And fending off potential criticism from small-government types, he had these remarkable observations:

"What we need to do for our future will require more than producing hundreds of new laws each year…. [And he warned of the dangers of] constantly expanding the coercive power of government by adding each year so many minute prescriptions to our already detailed and turgid legal system.”

Now, I’ve gotta admit, any politician who dares to use the phrase “turgid legal system” in a speech has my vote forever.

OK, it’s true: I’m not an impartial observer of the governor, having written recently that he should make a run for president when his term expires.

But if you’re the parent of college-age kids, as I am, you gotta love it when he said: “I will not let the students become the default financiers of our colleges and universities.”

Sure, there are those who look at California and see economic ruin brought on by high taxes, a bad business climate, onerous regulations, too many illegal immigrants.  

But they’re wrong. They are, to steal a famous quote, “nattering nabobs of negativism.”

California is back. And like it or not, that’s in no small measure because of Jerry Brown.

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