Brown's Wizard of Oz Act Is Getting Old

The real news of Gov. Jerry Brown's press conference (you can watch it here) Thursday morning -- his first in two months -- was not in anything he said but in the attitude of the Sacramento press corps.

Reporters very clearly were challenging, robustly and less than politely, almost every single thing he had to say.

This is a change.

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For the first six months of his administration, the press had seen Brown as a more accessible, more verbally deft improvement on former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Brown has gotten favorable, respectful coverage of his efforts -- even though he focused on a narrow budget proposal that had a Schwarzeneggerian temporary tax cut at its core and even though he refused to address the state's fundamental problem: a governing system that doesn't work. (Brown's position was that he could make it work).

Many of Brown's best lines are clever quotes, often drawn from philosophy or history, that are really dodges, a way of extricating himself from trouble by causing the questioner to stop and think (and look up the quote on Google).

But the press wasn't slowing down after his one-liners Thursday.

KQED Radio's John Myers, who has become a leader among California journalists, asked so many follow-ups that Brown cut him off and told him he had already asked too many questions.

When another reporter pressed him for specifics and numbers on his jobs and corporate tax legislation, Brown went for a dodge, calling her demand for numbers "the fallacy of misplaced concreteness."

(This fallacy, sometimes known as reification, refers to the mistake of treating the abstract as though it were real; it was developed by British mathematician turned philosopher Alfred North Whitehead).

Brown looked ill at ease at times.

He continued to defend his budget as an honest document -- even though it is full of phony assumptions and holes.

He refused to answer most specific questions, both about jobs policy and other kinds of legislation.

Yes, there are good strategic, reasons for not getting into specifics. But Brown has dodged the big specific questions facing California for so long that his political persona has started to resemble a Wizard of Oz act.

This shtick is getting old.

Photoshopped illustration by Olsen Ebright

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