Facing pressure to attack, Gov. Jerry Brown explains his measured approach to Trump

When Gov. Jerry Brown landed in Washington on Monday on his mission to raise awareness about the nuclear threat and secure funding for disaster relief in the state, he didn’t strike the tone of defiance many are looking for from the Democrats’ most influential voice in the West.

Brown is taking a noticeably measured approach to the new White House. Even after President Trump has put himself on a path of confrontation with California on so many issues — threatening the state’s sanctuary cities, its landmark fuel mileage standards and its precarious budget — Brown says he’s not going to be pressured by the left into relentlessly attacking the White House.

“I will pursue my own rhetorical paths,” Brown said to reporters Monday after a meeting at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “At least in the spirit of advancing the interest of California, recognizing we are a part of the Union and … we are not going a totallyseparate way. We are distinct. We have a sovereignty. We will pursue that. But we also have a commonality with other states and with the national government. So wherever we are going to find common ground, we are going to do it.”

Brown said "he wouldn’t rule anything out or anything in" when it comes to California’s dealings with Washington. 

"Nothing is all that predictable under the current administration," he said. "That could be a cause for alarm, but also a cause for some optimism and creative possibilities."

Of course, Brown’s motivation for the trip was to bring attention to the threat of a nuclear apocalypse, which he said is as big a danger now as  during the Cold War. But even on that issue he was reluctant to lay blame on Trump, who many disarmament experts say has elevated the potential for doomsday with his loose talk about nuclear weapons and aggressive posture toward other nations that have nuclear capability. 

Asked if the nuclear threat has increased under Trump, Brown said: “I would say it hasn’t been diminished. I don’t want to speculate. It’s a little early.”

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Chris Alexakis