Jerry Brown talks about his past, drops hints about his future

Gov. Jerry Brown, who is known to break out the occasional Latin phrase during stump speeches and news conferences, said he liked the language because “it’s obscure and makes you smarter than everybody.”

The quip came during a free-flowing speech to about 1,000 state business leaders and others at a breakfast hosted by the  California Chamber of Commerce that also covered Brown's rebellious youth, his wife's management of his career, his presidential ambitions and the state budget.

Brown downplayed differences in economic forecasts about the state future between his department of finance and the state's legislative analyst, which recently estimated the state will have $2.8 billion more to spend next year than Brown's team is predicting.

"One thing we know about economists, they can't predict the future," Brown said, calling the differences between the two predictions relatively insignificant.

The rest of the speech was vintage Brown, with the governor riffing on a series of topics, both personal and political, in an almost stream of consciousness.

"The new comes out of the random," Brown said, as the crowd munched on fresh fruit and quiche. "I'm not going to explain that. That's a Jerry Brownism."

(The quote actually comes from anthropologist Gregory Bateson, whom Brown appointed to the UC Board of Regents in 1980 and inducted into the California Hall of Fame this year.)

The governor credited his wife, Anne, for his recent political success, albeit in terms that would make a grammar teacher shiver. "My wife manages me. That's why I'm doing so good now," he said.

He also mentioned he was once kicked out of school for being "willfully defiant," but said he was let back in the next day because his father was attorney general at the time.

Brown's speech to some of the state's top business leaders came less than 48 hours after his commencement address at UC Berkeley on Monday, in which he quoted a professor, Sheldon Wolin, who has railed against corporate power.

Such is the duality of Brown, who has proved deft at moving between audiences throughout his more than four decades in public life.

Brown reflected on those years, noting his past presidential primary victories. "Time is kind of running out on that one," Brown said, before hinting strongly that he would seek reelection in 2014. "I guess I'll just have to stay and do the work of being governor."