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Whitman Revives Bill Clinton’s Critique of Jerry Brown

In response to former governor and current attorney general Jerry Brown’s (D-Calif.) positive ad selling his time in office to Californians who might not remember, his challenger for governor, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman (R), is relying on arguments made by — of all people — Bill Clinton.

The Whitman-Clinton pairing is strange, to say the least, but Clinton ran a heated campaign against Brown for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992 and made more than a few damning public remarks about his rival in the process. The new ad that Whitman’s campaign has cut consists almost entirely of a clip from a Clinton-Brown debate at that time:

Both the Whitman and Brown campaigns sparred over the content of the ad today in Politico:

“In 1992, Bill Clinton, CNN and a number of media outlets did a very effective job of exposing Jerry Brown’s real record as governor. Brown is making the same misleading claims today, as he did then.’’ said Whitman in the statement. “The truth is he raised taxes, he left the state with a then-record 11 percent unemployment and he turned the $6 billion surplus into a $1 billion deficit.”

The Brown campaign, in part, attacked CNN, in its response.

“CNN’s numbers were wrong 20 years ago and they haven’t gotten less wrong. Jerry Brown cut taxes by $4 billion, not including Prop. 13. Meg Whitman hasn’t told the truth since this campaign started, and quoting someone else doesn’t make what she says true,” said Brown spokesman Sterling Clifford.

This seems like the kind of debate that could be easily resolved by a deliberate look at the tax code during Brown’s tenure as governor in the seventies and early eighties. As we’ve seen, however, with recent debates in Washington over issues like a cap on carbon emissions, which the GOP has consistently relabeled a tax, the term isn’t as clear as one might think. My guess is that definitional issues might be at stake when both camps are accusing the other of lying, but it’d be nice to see the two campaigns come clean and share their numbers on the issue.

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