The Michael Kinsley definition of politcal gaffe is the accidental telling of an embarrassing truth — and if that’s the case, Jerry Brown committed the ultimate gaffe. Only Brown didn’t commit the gaffe in this campaign; he committed it fifteen years ago in an interview with CNN. Brown told the network that politicians in his experience don’t really have plans for governing, or at least specifically in his own experience. He admitted that he lied in order to win election in 1974, and Meg Whitman pounces on it in this eleventh-hour ad:
Stephen Gutowski has the entire sequence at Eyeblast, along with this transcript:
Interviewer: You said something a moment ago that I have to follow up on and I have to draw you out on. You said you don’t have to lie anymore now that you’re not a politician. What did you lie about when you were governor?
Jerry Brown: It’s all a lie. You’re pretending there’s a plan…
Interviewer: What did you lie about?
Jerry Brown: You run for office and the assumption is “Oh, I know what to do”. You don’t. I didn’t have a plan for California. Clinton doesn’t have a plan. Bush doesn’t have a plan.
Interviewer: You said you had a plan for California and you lied because you didn’t have a plan?
Jerry Brown: You say you’re going to lower taxes, you’re going to put people to work, you’re gonna improve the schools, you’re going to stop crime… crime is up, schools are worse, taxes are higher. I mean be real!
This isn’t exactly a youthful indiscretion. Brown had been out of office for 13 years when he staked his claim at being a liar, and was 57 years old at that time. It probably comes as no surprise to Californians who lived through his terms as Governor (which ended almost 28 years ago) that Brown had no real plan, but it’s another to hear him publicly admit it — as an attack on other politicians. If this race is as close as recent polls indicate, Whitman might push enough people to dump Brown to make a difference with a wide media buy for this ad.