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Jerry Brown plays presidential commentator -- but not candidate -- on 'Meet the Press'

Jerry Brown plays presidential commentator -- but not candidate -- on 'Meet the Press'
Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a news conference about transportation in Oakland on Wednesday, Aug. 19. (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown talked presidential politics on NBC's “Meet the Press” on Sunday, sounding off on Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' candidacy, Hillary Rodham Clinton's emails and the odds that Vice President Joe Biden will enter the race.

The governor, who has run for president as an outsider himself, said Sanders is "running as the critic of the status quo." Given the federal government's low approval ratings, Brown said, "that means there's always an opening for the critic, for the outsider. And that's certainly what Sanders is doing."

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Brown said in extra footage posted online that Donald Trump, the real estate magnate seeking the Republican nomination, is “also one of these outsider types.”

The governor said Trump once gave him a ride on his jet; Brown remembered admiring a Renoir painting hanging in the plane's cabin.

"If I had $10 billion, I'd probably be a lot more confident of myself than I am," Brown said. "So maybe his money breeds a certain amount of confidence that bleeds over into disdain and the kind of performance that he's rendering."

In the pre-taped interview, which NBC released a portion of Friday, Brown said the controversy over Clinton's emails was “almost like a vampire” and that the presidential candidate needs to “find a stake and put it right through the heart.”

"I have a hard time figuring out why is it such a big deal," he said. "But it is. And she'll have to use her best imagination and adroitness to deal with it."

Brown declined to predict whether Clinton would be the Democratic nominee, citing the "vagaries of politics."

"I don't make these expectations," he said. "I think she's a good person. She's got a lot of experience."

The governor hedged when asked whether Biden should make a bid for the presidency.

"All I can say is, if I were Hillary, I would say, 'Don't jump in,'" Brown said. "If I were Joe Biden, I'd probably give it very serious consideration."

"Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd introduced the governor as someone who "knows a thing or two about running for president himself." Brown has run three times, most recently in 1992, when he faced off with Bill Clinton in the primary.

Brown said — again — that he wasn't going to seek the White House next year, calling his current job "completely absorbing and challenging."

"I've got a lot to do in California," he said. "We have got fires that are burning, we have this budget still to be kept in check."

Brown also responded to criticism of drought policies from Carly Fiorina, the former business executive who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. senator in California and is now running for president as a Republican.

"I've never heard of such utter ignorance," Brown said. "Building a dam won't do a damn thing about fires or climate change or the absence of moisture in the ground and vegetation."

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He added that Republicans "better do eighth-grade science before they make any more utterances."

“That's a lot of insults,” Fiorina said in response, reiterating that more reservoirs would help California fight wildfires and withstand the drought.

chris.megerian@latimes.com

Follow @chrismegerian for more updates from Sacramento.

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