‘No Plan’ ad builds on narrative that Brown has no purpose, but (surprise!) takes things out of context

Meg Whitman’s media team, ever on the prowl, digs into the Jerry Brown archives to find a couple of pearls from his vast treasury of quotes — in TV interviews, no less, the elixer of the visual-based reality we live in — to help further along one of the narratives they’ve been building: that he has no plan for pulling California out of its economic disaster.

Aptly, the newest of their statewide TV ads is titled, “No Plan,” and has Brown himself saying, in a pair of interviews in the mid-90s, that he “had no plan for California.” Nicely wrapped up, courtesy of the ever-unbridled Brown.

Here’s the ad:

A slight problem, as always in these 30-second ads, and increasingly and particularly in Whitman’ ads: context.

The first quote is pretty stark. It’s hard to get around the full force of “I had no plan for California.” It sounds like he walked into his first term as governor empty-handed, unprepared and, even more importantly, without purpose.

One person close to Brown conceded that “Jerry occasionally uses language that obscures his meaning. He thinks out loud in that Jesuit-educated way of thinking, where he makes a point not to advance an ideology but to weed out the truth. He likes being bombastic at times.”

The point that Brown was making, said campaign spokesman Sterling Clifford, was that “no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, particularly for first-time candidates. You think you have a plan, and when you’re confronted with the realities of governing, what you had wasn’t workable.

“Legislative teams are a good example.”

Clifford’s last comment referred to Whitman’s widely-panned idea to create legislative teams to tackle various issues, something that committees already do.

Brown’s second remark that suggested he had “no plan,” was referring to his flat-tax proposal he carried as a presidential candidate in 1992.

Here’s part of the quote, in a 1996 interview on CNN’s Crossfire in which he was asked about Republican candidate Steve Forbes’ own flat tax plan, which gives better context to what he was saying:

“But he’ll find out the flat tax is not enough. You need a real plan, something I’ll acknowledge I did not have, Forbes does not have, nor do I think either Clinton or Dole (have). There is a tremendous skepticism out there. People are looking for somebody they can trust who really knows what needs to be done and can communicate the sense that he’s about to do it. Forbes is an early morning glory here where, whom I think will have a very tough time sustaining it.”

As for whether Brown has a plan now, the Brown campaign has not yet released a 48-page splashy photo-heavy marketing circular to match Whitman’s and may never. But it does have an eight point rewneable energy “action plan” that promises to creat a half million jobs, posted on its website.

Whitman spokesman Dan Comstock called the ad 100 percent accurate.

“Jerry Brown has a 40-year career in politics where he has never had a plan. When he ran for governor, he didn’t have a plan. When he ran for President, he didn’t have a plan. When he ran for Mayor, he didn’t have a plan. And now as he runs for governor, Jerry Brown continues to not offer a plan for California. In the words of Jerry Brown, ‘the plan is the process.'”

Steven Harmon