Willie Brown opines on Obama v. Clinton, 49ers

Former San Francisco Mayor and Assembly Speaker Willie Brown talked to the Bay Area Council‘s 2008 Outlook Conference today, aboard the U.S.S. Hornet in Alameda, about the presidential race.

On Barack Obama‘s controversial comments at an April 6 fundraiser in San Francisco, suggesting working-class people are bitter about their economic lot and “cling to guns and religion” as a result, Brown said this “frankly was probably an accurate comment.” But he said Obama should’ve realized a poor choice of words to express his sentiment, even if spoken before a small, no-press crowd in a private home in California, could be broadcast worldwide.
Brown said the race for the Democratic nomination is “still open season… At the moment, I don’t think you can pick a winner.” But “if you were a betting person, at this stage of the game, you’d have to be on Obama,” who is in the lead after coming from behind a presumptive frontrunner, and who offers a vibrant, future-oriented message.

Brown said he thought when the race began that if Hillary Clinton remained respectful of Obama and her other rivals for the nomination, she would win. “I did not beleive it made any sense to assume that instead of primary campaigns there would be coronations.” Obama, he said, has proved to be “a fabulous, qualified human being who also has lots of flavor about him;” his campaign proved to be savvy by not immediately gravitating to traditionally black forums and communities, but rather appealing from the start to as broad a demographic base as possible.

A ticket with both Clinton and Obama is “not possible at all,” Brown opined; their policies and approaches to politics are too different. “Obama is really part of a whole new thing that’s going on out there in the world of politics.”

More from Willie Brown, though not about the presidential race, after the jump…

Brown said he regrets not having overhauled San Francisco’s lousy taxi-medallion system before leaving the mayor’s office, “nor should I have trusted successors to hold onto the Niners – I should’ve built that damn stadium when the voters approved it back in ’97.”

He said he doesn’t believe Santa Clara voters will approve a plan to build a stadium for the 49ers down there –putting up $250 million of public financing is a hard pill to swallow, “and if you say 250, you know it’s 350 or more” – but he also doesn’t believe a proposal for a new stadium at San Francisco’s old Hunters Point Naval Shipyard will work out. “Trying to get to a stadium out in the shipyard is like trying to find this damned boat,” he said, gesturing to the U.S.S. Hornet’s deck beneath his feet — the car and mass-transit access just isn’t there, and would cost too much to build.

Still, he wants the 49ers to continue playing somewhere in San Francisco, he said. “We ought to steal the (Golden State) Warriors if we can,” he added, noting the city relies on entertainment and recreation, not manufacturing, for much of its economy. “We don’t make anything. We make martinis.”

And Brown said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a tough row to hoe in dealing with the current state budget crisis “because he’s playing with two houses made up of term-limit children — ah, term-limit persons… There’s no time to build relationships across the party lines, there’s no time to unplug the campaign apparatus… We didn’t do that when we were there all those years.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • David

    Mr. Brown continues to be one of the smartest politicans in California— It is unfortunate that the stadium for the 49er was not constructed in the city.