Hillary Clinton on Monday got an earful from die-hard supporters of former California Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., who interrupted her pleas for unity with chants of "Let Jerry speak."
Her response brought cheers from her husband's supporters in the huge California delegation, which presumably knows the former governor's style better than any other contingent at the Democratic convention.
As Brown delegates waved signs reading "We the People" and "If Jerry Doesn't Speak, We Don't Vote," the prospective nominee's wife pointedly declared: "You know, I've never known Jerry not to speak when he wants to speak. He's always speaking, near as I can tell."
Indeed, Brown has been speaking wherever he can find an audience in this convention city--at a transition residence for the homeless, where he spent Sunday night; at a Harlem soup kitchen, where he helped cook and serve up chicken to the poor on Monday; and at a rousing rally of roughly 350 of his 614 delegates later in the day.
Brown also says he plans to speak Wednesday night in Madison Square Garden as his name is placed in nomination, the climactic act of his unorthodox campaign.
And beyond that--after all the votes are cast in November--Brown says he will continue to speak as "a voice for the voiceless," keeping his 800 telephone number and as much of his grass-roots organization as will stay with him.
But first Brown must get through this week without seeming like an appeaser before the eager followers who adamantly agreed with his anti-Establishment, "take back America" message and labored for him in the primaries.
At the same time, he must not totally destroy his remaining links to the Democratic Establishment by being viewed as a spoilsport who refused to support the man who beat him for the nomination, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton.
As the convention opened Monday night, Brown's California delegates boisterously showed that they would not surrender quietly. They blew whistles, rang bells and attempted to drown out the opening speeches with their chants of "Let Jerry speak."
"You're coming in second, you might as well give the guy coming in first a little trouble," said Bob Mulholland, the party's state political director and a Brown delegate. "It beats having a bunch of people on the floor reading books."
Clinton bluntly told a TV interviewer Monday that Brown "can't participate in this (nominating) process, ask for the benefits of it and then not support the outcome. So I want Gov. Brown to endorse Al Gore and me and support our campaign."
Clinton said "we're working hard" at "negotiating" with Brown for his support and "I'm hopeful."
And what difference does it make whether the political gadfly endorses Clinton? Leaders of the Arkansas governor's campaign, including California party Chairman Phil Angelides, point out that Brown got 4 million votes during the primaries, many of them from disaffected people who otherwise may not have gone to the polls, and that the Democratic ticket will need all the strength it can muster to win in November.
As for Brown, he brought his delegates to their feet in an old theater near the Garden on Monday by declaring that "there's a third way," as opposed to endorsing or not endorsing Clinton. "A third way," he said, "is to take the party to higher ground, to make the candidate better, to make the platform better, to make the system better, to make the country better. . . ."
As the delegates drowned him out with their new rallying cry, Brown proclaimed: "Unity yes, uniformity no."
The Democratic hierarchy, he lamented, "now defines dissent as somewhere between nuisance and rhetorical terrorism."
Brown, however, has been dropping strong hints that he will endorse Clinton by Labor Day, if not before.
Hillary Clinton was trying to speed up the process--especially for Brown's followers--when she stood before the California delegation Monday morning at its convention hotel, the Grand Hyatt.
Calling California "the most important state" in the election because it will offer the most electoral votes, she started out graciously by calling Brown "an old friend" of her husband's, one who had "made very important contributions to this campaign."
However, the Brown signs already were up as some delegates began chanting, "Let Jerry speak."
Later, one of Brown's California campaign leaders, attorney John Geesman from Orinda, said "the (convention) TV audience will hear over and over again--'Let Jerry speak.' "
This could involve a controversy that doesn't exist. Although the Clinton camp and Democratic Party Chairman Ronald H. Brown clearly do not want Brown to speak unless he endorses the party ticket, the Californian has figured out a way to do it anyway: Just use the time allotted to his campaign for placing his name in nomination. The convention would have to change the rules to deny him that right.
And Clinton's communications director, George Stephanopoulos, indicated on Monday that the Arkansas governor was resigned to the inevitable.
"It's clear Gov. Brown can speak if he wants to," the adviser said.
Here are today's main events at the Democratic convention:
--Call to order
--Presentation on AIDS by Bob Hattoy and Elizabeth Glaser. Hattoy has AIDS, and Glaser has the AIDS virus.
--Introduction of former President Jimmy Carter by former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young
--Remarks by Carter
--Presentation on opportunity by the Rev. Jesse Jackson
--Other presentations: California state Treasurer Kathleen Brown, Oregon Gov. Barbara Roberts, District of Columbia Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly, Rep. Patricia Schroeder of Colorado
All times Pacific Daylight.
C-SPAN: 1 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.
CNN: 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
PBS: 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
ABC, NBC: 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Source: Democratic National Committee