Brown's counterpoint to Kennedy's attack on the president's personal performance was delivered the following morning, in his announcement at Washington's National Press Club. "The deficiency is not in a particular person," he insisted, "it is in the policies and premises that undergird" the government's current approach to the economy. He added later, to considerable applause, "I don't need to indulge myself in negative commentary on my two opponents."
Brown's strategy is, as usual, quite clever. Knowing he is not considered by the public to be in a league with the heavyweights he contends against, he is attempting to become the consummate counter-puncher. If overshadowed by the announcement of Kennedy's candidacy, he counters by stepping into the spotlight of public attention that the senator's announcement inevitably creates. With the stark light of public scrutiny still on Kennedy's fuzzy solutions for economic recovery, Brown comes forward with specific prescriptions in hand. With Kennedy still reeling from the effects of his extemporaneous inadequacies on CBS, Brown performed at his announcement at flawlessly as an articulate professor of political economics.
In the aftermath of a disastrous month of fund-raising, owing to Kennedy's entry into the race, Brown had little choice. "He has said he is going to run a guerilla campaign if he has to," says one of Brown's ranking campaign aides. But not rancorous guerilla warfare. "We have an obligation to run an honorable campaign," says the aide. The Obligation is not to any altruistic standard per se. It's to Jerry Brown's future, since, as the aid put it, "He's going to be around for a while."
"His objectives are probably not to get nominated, but to be out there for 1984," speculates Republican pollster Robert Teeter. "I think the real qualification is to get into that league (the presidency) is seniority."
If Jerry Brown has such limited expectations for his candidacy, he is a wise view, for the likelihood is that the atavistic Democratic left will be more emotionally touched by the humanism of yesteryear than it will be by the rationalism Jerry Brown is currently applying to the presidential debate.
In the meantime, Brown will keep jabbing away, hoping for an opening, aware that public cynicism over a deeply personal bout between the president and Kennedy may leave him politically unscarred and perhaps an appealing alternative. It brings to mind the admonition of a British announcer, who, many years ago, was broadcasting a fight between the fumbling Randy Turpin and the incomparable Sugar Ray Robinson. Frustrated by Robinson's surpassing advantage in the bout, the announcer finally exclaimed, "Out fox 'im, don't box 'im, guvnah."
Which is precisely what "the guvnah" did last week in round one.