Back in the day, California’s powerful Assembly Speaker Willie Brown set up his girlfriend Kamala Harris in lucrative sinecures that launched her career. When Harris ran for the Senate in 2016, Brown told Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to butt out. Harris is now running for president in 2020, but Brown is dumping her for Hillary Clinton.
“Who should run against Trump? How about Hillary?” read the headline on Brown’s October 5 op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle. It wasn’t really a question, and kingmaker Brown was posing as fight promoter Don King.
“It’s time for Hillary Clinton to come out of retirement, lace up the gloves and get back in the ring with President Trump for what would be the biggest political rematch ever,” Brown wrote. From what he had seen “Clinton is the only candidate short of Barack Obama who has the brains, the battle-tested brawn and the national presence to take out Trump.” With the other candidates, Brown did not exactly come out swinging.
“Bernie Sanders was fading even before his heart started acting up,” Brown wrote, and “Joe Biden has become Trump’s main talking point in the whole Ukraine-China impeachment mess.” Elizabeth Warren “has a following, but it’s not that much broader than Sanders.’” With the rest of the field, Brown pulls his punches, and has nothing to say about former flame Kamala Harris, his previous favorite to KO Trump. As it happens, Willie Brown was hardly her only promoter.
“She’s magnetic, authoritative, warm,” wrote Elizabeth Weil in the May Atlantic. Plus, “Harris’s demographic identity has always been radical. She was San Francisco’s first female district attorney, first black district attorney, first Asian American district attorney.” And in the presidential race she is “in top form,” touting the truth, and “dressed in a dark suit, pearls and black heels.” The clothes themselves are “a smart, cautious play, one that Hillary Clinton, frankly, could have benefited from.”
For Willie Brown, “Hillary is still the smartest of the bunch. She’s also better known than any of the candidates, so she doesn’t need a lot of money.” Most of all “she can take a punch,” and in recent days “she’s come off as funny, smart and natural.” Hillary loved it, and started touting the “rematch” her own self, but Brown’s reviews were mixed.
Attorney Joe Cotchett, Biden’s go-to guy in the Bay Area, told Politico it was “the dumbest column, the worst fucking column ever.” For Cotchett, “every once in a while, Willie gets a stick up his ass, and doesn’t know what to write,” but Brown is seldom at a loss for words.
As Daniel Flynn showed in Cult City: Jim Jones, Harvey Milk, and 10 Days that Shook San Francisco, Willie Brown was a supporter of Jim Jones, whom he compared to Einstein and Martin Luther King. As an assemblyman, Brown wrote to Fidel Castro urging the dictator to welcome Jim Jones, “a close personal friend and highly trusted brother in the struggle for liberation.” Brown also bragged about helping the careers of Harry Bridges fan Nancy Pelosi and Dianne Feinstein, who touted most favored nation status for Communist China, and whose staff harbored a Chinese spy. So in the Senate, Feinstein was something of a Chinese asset.
Several weeks after Brown’s call for Hillary’s “rematch,” the former First Lady and 2016 loser targeted Hawaii Democrat Tulsi Gabbard as a “Russian asset” being groomed for 2020, and Jill Stein was also in Putin’s pocket. Gabbard has been punching back, but Willie Brown is not on record how deployment of the Russia smear might enhance Hillary’s status as the smartest candidate.
She beat Trump by nearly three million votes, Brown noted in his Chronicle piece, and “that’s not bad for one of the worst-run campaigns ever. You’ve got to think that she and the party learned something.” Voters of all denominations might wonder about that.
Democrats learned that Elizabeth Warren’s claim to be a Cherokee were false, yet Warren continues as a presidential candidate. Brown didn’t provide a scorecard for mayor, Pete Buttigieg, “Beto” O’Rourke, Julian Castro, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer or Andrew Yang. Brown also failed to weigh in on the Green New Deal, Medicare For All, and whether impeachment was a smart strategy.
The Democrat kingmaker appears to believe voters should make the call, and he is certain that Hillary Clinton, not Kamala Harris, is the only candidate capable of beating Trump. As Trump likes to say, we’ll see what happens. Meanwhile, Kamala Harris was not Willie Brown’s first case of poontronage.
Never a Billy Dee Williams, Brown was already a grandfather when he hooked up with political fundraiser Carolyn Carpeneti, the knockout blond who bore Brown a daughter in 2001. As Dan Walters of CalMatters noted, non-profit groups and committees controlled by Brown paid Carpeneti $2.3 million over a five-year period. Daughter Sydney Brown is a singer-songwriter, and at a 2018 event she quoted her father’s friend Eugene Duffy that “Willie Brown can herd cats in a rainstorm being chased by Rottweilers.”
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