Abraham Lincoln's famous words to commemorate the national cemetery under construction at Gettysburg.
Then along came Willie Brown to turn democracy into a rigged game.
Not him alone, of course. You could say the system has been gamed from the get-go. Today U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, for example, leads his party in let's-filibuster-every-appointment-President-Obama-proposes-because-we-want-him-to-fail-at-every-step-and-serving-our-own-constituents-is-so-boring. Corrupt Democrats, reasoning rightly that their voters have forgotten they exist, take the under-the-table money and run, again, on their records.
Willie Brown, though, was the Grand Master.
He was Tip O'Neill "all politics is local" old school. He was good to San Francisco and The City loved him back, returning him many times to state office where his game board was set up to his deft maneuver.
The Assembly speaker learned from another Grand Master, former speaker and state treasurer Jesse Unruh who once said of lobbyists, "If you can't eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women and
then vote against them, you have no business being up here."
Brown shook off almost every controversy that followed him. President Reagan had nothing on the Assembly speaker. Willie Brown's Teflon™© was weapons grade.
Accused by open-government activists of holding secret lawmaker meetings, Brown admitted to it and essentially told the public, "So what?" I took it a step further with this cartoon and put Brown in Lincoln's place; I figured this is a good week to post it. If he saw the cartoon at all, Brown might have smiled. Plink! See, not a scratch!
Only term limits could defeat Brown, who was the poster child for the term-limit initiative movement. Even then Brown bounced back as mayor of San Francisco, giving The City its very model of swagger and bravado and fedora-capped style. His nickname: Da Mayor.
The state has named the western span of the Bay Bridge — the older stretch that connects The City with Treasure Island — the Willie L. Brown Jr. Bridge.