Debra J. Saunders

To be fair, Brown has doled out a few specifics. He says he opposes tax increases unless the voters approve them. He wants to raise employees' share of pension contributions and end pension "spiking." These are hardly earth-shaking positions, however, given that six state employee unions already have agreed to these changes.

Brown also told the paper that he would begin corralling lawmakers and interested parties into budget talks as soon as he was elected.

"I'm talking about hundreds and hundreds of hours" of meetings, he explained, in order to "charm" -- if he does say so himself -- "and engage and listen." By March 15, he would expect to have a consensus and a measure that would meet the deadline for a special election. The idea presents "the only path forward."

Problem: Schwarzenegger tried a similar gambit in 2005, when he put three measures on the ballot designed to reform government and endorsed a fourth. Voters overwhelmingly rejected all four propositions; the difference is that the governator bypassed the Legislature, but many no-voters said they resented being asked to do the job they sent politicians to Sacramento to do.

After he lost at the ballot box, Schwarzenegger found himself in the race, but out of gas.

So Team Guru already is walking back that brainstorm. Thursday, quoth Clifford, "The pathway is to work toward a legislative agreement first."

That's a relief -- but Brown has not walked back enough. He says that he won't raises taxes unless voters approve them. He no doubt wants voters to believe that means he won't raise taxes.

Do not be fooled. Voters rejected last year's ballot measure -- approved by the Legislature and the governor -- that included modest (if painful) broad-based tax increases, but they'll always go for sin taxes, taxes on other (richer) people, evil corporations and levies promising to fund pet causes. Brown's voter-approval pledge is a promise of dysfunction.

In Jerry-ese, you could say: "That is not a viable way to get from where we are to where we have to go." Or as he also told the Chronicle, "There's no way forward, except leadership."

Debra J. Saunders

TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Debra Saunders' column. Sign up today and receive daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.