Jerry Brown Doubles Down vs. CNBC

Jerry Brown’s appearance on CNBC yesterday to explain the state’s lawsuit against State Street Bank turned into a battle between Brown, playing the role of a latter-day William Jennings Bryan in taking on the “Eastern financial elite,” and the CNBC anchors who were very clearly playing their role as defenders of the Wall Street orthodoxy. Brown’s combativeness earned him some favorable press, including from the folks at Calbuzz.

Now Brown seems set to milk this for all it’s worth, as he steps up his attack on CNBC at the Huffington Post:

If street thugs were to hold up a convenience store and drive off with $1 million, it would be national news. But when a venerable Boston bank rips off California’s two largest pension funds for $56 million, it’s business-as-usual — at least to the anchors of CNBC….

But, in a commentary post today, CNBC anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera sneered at California’s effort to recover $200 million in damages and penalties, using a made-up quote from Elliot Spitzer to call it “quaint.”

This follows an interview Tuesday that was straight out of the Daily Show. CNBC invited me on to talk about the case, and then Caruso-Cabrera asked why I would come on the air to talk about it.

Her co-anchors seemed to have no problem with the rip-off (“as long as they quoted you a dollar and you paid the dollar, what do you care what they got it for”) and questioned the integrity of the whistle-blowers (“that whistle-blower — is that a private law firm that you guys have hired to do this for you?”) Unbelievable. And for the record, the whistle-blowers are industry insiders who have yet to be named.

The tone and substance of the interview are symptomatic of the Eastern financial elite, who think that $200 million is small potatoes, and big business should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Jerry Brown has a knack for understanding which way the political winds blow, and ensuring he blows with them. Public anger at the Wall Street elite, which as Calitics alum David Dayen noted are now having British Lords explain that we all must “tolerate the inequality”, is rising fast. It’s smart politics to join the populist attack on Wall Street, and there’s no fatter target than their apologists on CNBC, which is the Fox News of the financial world and has about as corrosive an effect on our discourse and politics as does Fox Noise.

It also helps Brown solidify the belief – mistaken, in my view – that he is an inherently progressive person. Today’s Sacramento Bee carries an article looking back at Brown’s days as a host for KPFA, Berkeley’s legendary left-wing radio station, in the 1990s. Brown uttered some fairly progressive things at the time, including an attack on prisons.

Garry South seems to think these excerpts would hurt Brown, but I think they’ll only help him. Brown’s KPFA comments help reinforce the widespread notion among many Democrats that Brown is somehow a deeply progressive person – that the Jerry Brown of 1975 and of 1995 will be the Governor Brown of 2010.

Of course, as we know, the Jerry Brown of 2009 is not a supporter of prison reform (he strongly opposed Prop 5 last year and has joined Arnold Schwarzenegger in trying to remove federal oversight of state prison health care). He refuses to countenance tax increases, and has even called for new tax cuts.

Anything that distracts attention from those decidedly anti-progressive positions helps Brown maintain the support of progressive Dems who see him as someone who shares their values.

It certainly helps that Brown still is as media-savvy as anyone. So it makes perfect sense for Brown to continue to play the populist against the banks. It is very much the right thing to do from a policy perspective, and is only going to help his cause in the Democratic primary.

10 thoughts on “Jerry Brown Doubles Down vs. CNBC”

  1. …you are entitled to be anti-Brown but…

    …why don’t you get Gavin on the record here?


  2. When’s that fabulous candidate going to ride in on her white horse so I can vote for Governor without holding my nose?  Jackie Speier? Hilda Solis?  Please!

  3. …which is what led the LAT, SacramentoBee, SF Chronicle, SJ Mercury News, etc., to be against it, as well as Martin Sheen, Dianne Feinstein, Gray Davis, and 32 district attorneys.  And Jerry Brown.

  4. I honestly don’t give a hoot if someone is “progressive” or not. The word “progressive” has absolutely no meaning in political discourse anymore, because everyone says they are one, and yet no one in office ever performs as one.

    I love how some people love to bash on Jerry Brown because he’s “old” or because he’s politically savvy. I guess before 2003, politics didn’t matter and any of us who were around before then are just all ready for the ash heap of history.

    This state is seriously fucked up, for a variety of reasons, many of which we can all agree on. But it will not be turned around by fancy “talk” that makes political partisans feel better about themselves. We need people in office who aren’t looking at the next job or looking to play safe to placate the lobbyists and the powerful special interests, and we need people who keep their word and have a record of doing something.

    Brown’s record on that is good and not so good. There’s no doubt he’s always adapted to the times he lives in, which to me is better than simply sounding great when one has time to rehearse, but when pressed to make hard decisions, can’t do it lest he make his financial backers upset.

    We can all whine about how we need another candidate, and I would not mind a real primary, not a repeat of the milquetoast primary we had in 2006 that ensured two poor candidates battled it out and we ended up with 4 more years of Governor Asshat. But at the same time, people need to stop being impressed with pretty faces and slick talk, and need to do some homework and demand real accountability. Until that happens elections esp, on our side will be nothing more than political wankery, and when these folks get elected it’ll be bullshit as usual and the state will continue to slide.

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