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March 29, 2014
Jack Ohman: The next U.S. president might be closer than you think

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(March 29 - By Jack Ohman)

I think Gov. Jerry Brown will be the 45th president of the United States.

I know.

I ran this by one of my friends who is Deeply Knowledgeable About This Sort of Thing, and he snorted. And yet, here's my thinking.

Brown has gotten, shall we say, a lot of positive coverage from The New York Times in the past few months. Last Sunday, Maureen Dowd, who gushed over Obama in 2007, could barely muster a question tougher than asking Brown if he had ever smoked marijuana.

He declined to state, but he did note in response that he was running the world's eighth-largest economy.

Dude. Heavy.

Last August, Adam Nagourney wrote an extremely positive front-page piece in The New York Times about our governor with the headline, "Brown Cheered in Second Act, at Least So Far." A few weeks ago, there was another very positive article by the NYT's Jennifer Medina about Brown's re-election that our governor could have written himself.

Some nice articles in The New York Times don't necessarily mean anything. Lots of politicians have articles written about them in The New York Times. And, as an Oregon/Minnesota rube myself, I get swept up so easily. Go Blazers/Twins.

Dowd asked Brown if he was "ready" for Hillary Clinton. After reciting her qualifications - rather drily, I thought - Brown said he "didn't see anyone challenging her at this point." But there was a fascinating little quip of his in the Dowd column I couldn't quite expunge from my brain:

"In retrospect, when we've seen all the presidents that came afterwards, certainly, (Bill) Clinton has handled his job with a skill that hasn't been matched since."

OK. We've only had two presidents since Clinton. You know who they are. The one guy and the current guy.

Now, if you were Jerry Brown, and you were thinking you might be interested in running for president, well, of course you're beat on the board if Hillary Clinton runs. Duh.

But what if no one has to challenge her?

What if Hillary Clinton doesn't run?

And, wow, I would think that Brown's bridge-building (not the Bay Bridge) with Bill Clinton might easily start with a nice little pit stop on Barack Obama's leg.

I am beginning to think that Hillary won't run. I can't put my finger on it, but I think she just doesn't look all that energetic. As a friend of mine said the other day, "If you were going to run for president, would you leave as secretary of state with the statement that you were 'tired'?"

No. I don't believe that you would.

Wouldn't you like to be Jerry Brown for 2016? OK, he's 75. So what? He's a kicky 75, and his father lived to be 91. He's the governor of the biggest state in the union. He now has the national reputation as not a flake (the train notwithstanding) but as a senior statesman. Baby boomers would relate nostalgically and well to another name brand from their generation. Younger voters would see a reverse hip appeal to Brown - like a character from their fave comic, Doonesbury, the Rev. Scot Sloan, "the hip (young) priest who can talk to kids."

Foreign policy experience? It's California, baby. We are foreign policy.

Let's look at the potential challengers. Vice President Joe Biden?

He'd be tied to President Obama, and he's not polling that great now.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo? He'd love coverage in his hometown paper half as favorable as what Brown gets. Gov. Martin O'Malley? Gov. Deval Patrick? Sen. Elizabeth Warren? Puny states. Lacking in experience. No appeal outside their regions. If I were a New Hampshire primary strategist, I would love Brown's neo-cheap appeal there. If I were an Iowa caucuses strategist, I would like Brown's offbeat non-slickness. If I were a Super Tuesday strategist, I would like a Western governor who said no to his more-liberal Legislature.

I know, right?

Then, give Brown the nomination. Throw in his appealing Michigan GOP royalty family wife, Anne, and their little dog, my pretty.

Then, put him up against Sen. Rand Paul. Or Rep. Paul Ryan. Or Rand Paul Ryan. Or now-deflated Gov. Chris Christie. Or any of them.

I also have to say the one person in the whole wide world I wouldn't want to debate is Jerry Brown.

Sutter, raise your right paw and repeat after me ...

My friend who is Deeply Knowledgeable About This Sort of Thing just read this, snorted again, and says get ready for Hillary Clinton.

Jack Ohman is The Bee's editorial cartoonist.



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