Dan Walters

Jerry Brown endorses Hillary Clinton despite 1992 duel with Bill

Bill Clinton versus Jerry Brown

This video features an heated debate between Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown during the 1992 Democratic Primaries. Things get personal when Brown attacks Hillary.
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This video features an heated debate between Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown during the 1992 Democratic Primaries. Things get personal when Brown attacks Hillary.

Who’d a thunk?

Twenty-four years ago, as Bill Clinton was sewing up the Democratic presidential nomination, he still had to contend with an annoying rival who preached left-wing populism and reminded everyone constantly of Clinton’s ethical shortcomings.

Today, Clinton’s wife, Hillary, is very close to nailing down the Democratic nomination but still has a rival who preaches left-wing populism and dwells on her ethical shortcomings.

However, on Tuesday, Bill Clinton’s pesky 1992 foe, Gov. Jerry Brown, endorsed Hillary Clinton eight days before a decisive California primary, saying – with irony dripping from every syllable – “This is no time for Democrats to keep fighting each other.”

Brown’s “open letter to California Democrats and independents” praised Sen. Bernie Sanders’ never-say-die campaign against Hillary Clinton for his populist message and noted, “In 1992 I attempted a similar campaign.”

But, the governor said, “Hillary Clinton has convincingly made the case that she knows how to get things done and has the tenacity and skill to advance the Democratic agenda.”

He then launched a critical litany about Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, on climate change and immigration, and concluded, “Next January, I want to be sure that it is Hillary Clinton who takes the oath of office, not Donald Trump.”

In 1992, Brown, like Sanders today, refused to cede the nomination even after it became obvious that he had almost no chance of prevailing, and that, coupled with the infamously intemperate debate between him and Bill Clinton, led to a years-long feud.

Just two years ago, The Washington Post assembled a word-and-video website of “the greatest moments” in the 1992 Brown-Clinton duel, implicitly cheering for a 2016 rematch.

However, Brown refused to take the bait, even though he said at one point that were he 10 years younger, he’d be making his fourth run for the White House.

Brown’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton came just a few days after he and Bill Clinton had a lengthy private chat in the governor’s mansion. And it inevitably raises speculation about what it might mean for Brown, who has 2 1/2 years left in his last term as governor.

If it’s anything tangible, it might be something that advances the two causes that Brown has pursued so ardently, what he described in Tuesday’s statement as “an existential threat from climate change and the spread of nuclear weapons,” adding, “a new cold war is on the horizon.”

Brown has been traveling extensively to speak on both issues, and it wouldn’t be surprising if a new President Clinton would ask a certain retiring governor of California to become, say, a global ambassador on climate change, representing the United States at the conferences on the issue that seem to pop up every few months somewhere in the world.

It would be an opportunity for Brown to remain in the public eye after his governorship ends and add at least a few paragraphs to history’s account of his political career.

It certainly would beat just hanging out in Colusa County.

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