Jerry Brown, Calif.'s 'Philosopher Prince' From the '70s, Wants to Be Governor Again

"I've been doing things besides just running for office. I've done that more than anyone alive," Brown said. "I've done a lot of things. I've lived in Mexico for several months. I've lived all over South America. What else have I done? I took Linda Ronstadt to Africa once. I went to Calcutta and worked in an orphanage with Mother Theresa. I went to Japan and practiced zen meditation for six months.

"The essence of that is you meditate not on all of your achievements but on the essential emptiness," Brown said. "That is pretty big for a politician. There are no politicians with a sense of their own personal emptiness -- even though most of them are rather empty."

What about California's intractable budget problem?

The impolitic Brown says it's actually "not a problem" if you think about it in relation to the size of the state's economy as a whole.

"We have got a $20 billion deficit," Brown said. "Last week, it was only a $15 billion deficit. The good news is that state wealth is $1.6 trillion. ... So the deficit is only one percent. Any of you can solve a one percent problem. So that is not a problem."

Not Officially the Dem Gov. Candidate, but Brown Has Fundraising in Check

Brown, who is 71 years old, is even making light of his age.

Speaking to an audience of young professionals, which included many who were not yet born when he served as governor, Brown said, "Most people I have run against are dead. The stress is pretty intense. It is intense. I am a very stressful person, and these people running against me may discover that."

Even though Brown has not formally declared himself to be a candidate for governor, his fundraising prowess has cleared the Democratic field, and Whitman is already swinging away at him.

"People in California have had it with career politicians," Whitman told ABC News last week.

In a race against Whitman, a businesswoman who has never before held public office, Brown is beginning to paint her as naive.

"These other people think they know what they are getting into," Brown said. "They don't know. It is really tough."

The mercurial Brown closed his remarks by telling his audience that he will be painted as someone who is "changing all the time."

Rather than deny it, the "Philosopher Prince" seeks to own it.

"One of the things I have been accused of is changing all the time," Brown said. "You will hear that a lot when they take out ads: 'This Brown is constantly changing his mind.'

"Well," he continued, "if you are alive and if you are listening and you are growing, you will change, because the world is changing, and if you still were where you were before, you are dead."

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