Brown, holding forth

 It’s an axiom that if you get Jerry Brown to talk long enough, you’ll end up with mind-stretching stuff, or at least the kind of material that his opponents will try to use to resurrect the specter of Governor Moonbeam.

Brown stopped by the press briefing room for a midafternoon chat Friday with some press folks at the Los Angeles Marriott on the first day of the state Democratic Party’s annual convention. Here are some passages:

Brown, in responding to a question about whether fundamental reform is necessary in California’s government:

“I’m wary about fundamental changes. Have you ever tried fundamental change yourself? I have and it doesn’t work very well. Fundamental change of oneself, one’s body, one’s spirit, or in the body politics is a mistake. I think incremental change consistently worked on is the way forward.”

I didn’t get to ask what fundamental change he tried that didn’t work, but my first thought was the Buddhist Temple he lived at for months during the 1980s. But the key message was his conservativek minimalist approach to change — in keeping with his view of government.

Brown spoke with a liberal’s expansive heart on education, saying that overcoming failing schools begins with addressing economic inequities  — not stricter testing standards.

“If you go to a place where there’s a single parent where they’re making in a year what some of the candidates are paying their consultants in a week — these families are in distress and these kids show up and they don’t have a big appetite for algebra or chemistry and that is difficult. Where, as a family that has a good solid job and a future and a pension, health care, they’re doing a lot better.

“It’s a myth,” he continued, “to say you can increase inequality, you can export millions of jobs and then, through a testing regime, you can reverse the devastation of joblessness. (Understanding this is) something the Democratic party has always stood for … and that certainly would be my spirit.

“There’s a lot of stress out there, and that’s what we’ve got to deal with. It means you need good jobs. You can’t try to weaken the trade union movement. They’re an important player. You need to have a vibrant public sector within a very vibrant private sector. That’s really my theme.”

Brown might veer from Democratic leadership, which is pushing the ballot measure that would eliminate the two-thirds vote on budgets. He already opposes, as do Democratic leaders, eliminating a two-thirds vote on taxes.

“If you have the majority to spend, but two-thirds to raise revenue, will that exacerbate our problems?” he asked. “I kind of like the idea. I see the attractiveness. But … if you lower one but don’t lower the other, you can increase spending.”

On whether he should start spending money now on campaign ads:

“I can tell you September and October are key months in the campaign. I can tell you that and you can write it down in your book and you can feel very confident that what I say is true. Now does that mean that something that happens in May might not (have an impact on the race)? No.”

And, here’s an echange between a reporter and Brown on whether he harkened back to the past too often:

“Is there a fine line between talking about your experience?”

“Yes, there’s a fine line, and we’ve probably exceeded it. I won’t talk anymore about it. Thanks for reminding me.”

For more on the Democratic convention, here’s my story.

Steven Harmon