Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown delays Paris trip, heads to San Bernardino

California Gov. Jerry Brown is interviewed in the governor’s office in Sacramento on Tuesday, December 1, 2015.
California Gov. Jerry Brown is interviewed in the governor’s office in Sacramento on Tuesday, December 1, 2015. rbenton@sacbee.com

Gov. Jerry Brown postponed his trip to France for international climate talks for one day to travel to San Bernardino on Thursday in the wake of the mass shooting there, his office said.

The rampage at a social services center on Wednesday left 14 people dead.

Brown has been preparing for months for the climate summit outside Paris, where world leaders have convened to negotiate an international climate pact and Brown plans to promote California’s aggressive greenhouse gas emission policies.

The Democratic governor had been scheduled to speak at an event Friday with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He will miss that event but will likely maintain the rest of his nearly week-long schedule in France, with his first appearances now expected on Saturday.

Two suspects in the San Bernardino attacks were killed in a shootout with police.

Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, said Brown, the 77-year-old, fourth-term governor, is most accustomed to appearing in public in the role of a “stern leader,” not “comforter in chief.”

But he said it is “clearly the right decision to delay the trip in order to go to San Bernardino.”

“The governor of a state isn’t just the head of a government, isn’t simply the state’s chief policymaker,” he said. “A governor is a symbolic leader as well, and when the state is suffering through this kind of trauma, it’s the right thing for him to do to show that type of leadership to his constituents.”

Schnur said it is a “tougher call” whether to cancel the France trip entirely.

He said “either decision is defensible.” But because Brown is largely appearing in France in an advocacy role – it is world leaders who are negotiating – Schnur said “he would probably be making a better decision to stay here and remind the people of his state that he wants to help them deal with such a tragic situation.”

Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College, said there is little Brown can do in the aftermath of the attack that would require him to cancel his plans in France entirely.

“As a practical matter, there probably isn’t much he can do in the situation,” Pitney said. “He may want to make a symbolic show of concern, to demonstrate his sorrow. But again, on the ground level, the governor can’t really do that much anyway, so there probably isn’t a reason for him to shift his plans apart from making a visit to San Bernardino.”

Pitney added, “If there were a situation requiring an emergency response – there were ongoing attacks – then things would be quite different.”

Brown on Wednesday canceled that day’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the Capitol and ordered flags lowered.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families and everyone affected by the brutal attack,” Brown said in a statement. “California will spare no effort in bringing these killers to justice.”

While Brown was delaying his trip, members of his administration already were in Paris. Matt Rodriquez, secretary of the state’s Environmental Protection Agency, and Ken Alex, director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research and a senior policy adviser to Brown, flew over on an Air France flight from San Francisco on Wednesday.

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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