(Inside California Politics) — Former California Governor Jerry Brown spoke with Inside California Politics co-host Nikki Laurenzo about his thoughts on several topics, including political figures that naturally seek the presidency, and several potential wars that the U.S. may face.

Homelessness in California

The former Democratic governor took a forceful approach to solutions for California’s homelessness problem.

“Well, I think they have to find a way to get enough shelter and then you need a law that says you can’t pitch your tent on the street,” Brown said. “…And then if you go somewhere, if you have any ability, you should have to pay for it in some form of work or some contribution back to your society.”

Brown said he supported Gov. Gavin Newsom’s CARE court, a program of court-ordered treatment for adults who have specified psychotic disorders, but noted potential barriers to the program’s success.

“The CARE court is an excellent first step and the barrier there will be the facilities and the trained personnel,” Brown predicted. “They often say the beds aren’t there… [T]hey mean a place, like a hospital, some kind of a single room occupancy, some kind of a place where people can go.”

“And then you just can’t leave them there,” Brown said. “Maybe some of them you can, but a big number need supervision, they need professional care, they’re out of their minds and you gotta bring them back somehow.”

U.S. War Risks

Brown said that what concerns him most is the potential for the United States to find itself at war with other nations, some of them armed with nuclear weapons.

“Now at the same time we’ve got this problem in Ukraine, we’re talking about defending Taiwan against China,” Brown said. “…Iran is getting closer to building a nuclear weapon and we said we’re going to go stop that. So that could be another war.”

“And then if we have North Korea, if they keep going, we may have to go to war with them,” Brown added. “So you have four potential wars all over the world, and I don’t hear many politicians talking about it. That’s the number one challenge as I see it.”

Brown lamented the aggressive tone of the conversation around China has taken instead of turning to ideas about how to cooperate with the world’s most populous country.

“…There’s some of these Republicans want to say, ‘Did the virus come from an animal or did it come from the lab?’ You know, it doesn’t make any difference,” Brown said.

“What we need to do is to have the vaccines and the technologies to protect ourselves,” Brown continued. “To do that, we need Chinese scientists and we need American scientists, and we need all the resources of the world working on this next threat. Instead, we’re worried about balloons.”

Brown pointed to the suspected Chinese spy balloon as an example of people focusing on something minor when there are more significant issues at hand.

“A war with China…could go nuclear very quickly and we get excited about a damn balloon,” Brown said. “The balloon is not a problem. They have spies. We have spies. They got satellites, they have people hacking into our phones. Our National Security Administration was hacking the phone of Angela Merkel from Germany.”

“So they’re all doing it,” Brown added. “The balloon, I mean, shut up. What we have got to do is we have got to find a way to work things out with China, or we’re going to have a war and if we have a war, America will never be what it is today.” 

Brown lamented that the United States’s political leaders don’t seem interested in de-escalating tensions.

“I just wish these people in Washington would think harder about finding some modus vivendi with these other countries because we got to live on the planet Earth and we got all these nuclear weapons,” Brown said. “…[T]here is a real danger they’re gonna get used one of these days.”

“I think we’re flirting with danger, and I’m afraid there’s a lot of people asleep at the switch.”

Term Limits

Pressed for his thoughts on term limits, the four-term governor (1975-1983 and 2011-2019) said he could see both sides of the argument for and against them.

“If you want people to be in all the time, they think they own the place and you get arrogance,” Brown said. “If you want to keep changing, you know just musical chairs, then you get ignorance. So do you want ignorance or do you want arrogance?”

“…[I]f we’re gonna have term limits, we should once, maybe every 25 years say ‘OK everybody runs, all bets are off. You can’t run this for two years or four years, start over again,'” Brown said. “But the tight term limits of eight years or 10 years, that doesn’t make sense.”

Despite Brown saying that he had previously called for them while running for president, he called Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) “not serious” about his recent push for term limits.

“Well, to get term limits (for Congress) you need a constitutional amendment. He knows that he’s not going to get 2/3 of the Senate and the House and 3/4 of the states, so he can just— with complete impunity— put himself on the soapbox.”

California Governors and their Presidential Ambitions

Brown also offered advice to governors who want to run for president, something he attempted twice between his governorships.

“Well, I have to say running against an incumbent is something you should think long and hard about because I ran against Jimmy Carter and that did not help,” Brown said. “I probably would have been elected to the Senate had I not challenged the President and been away from my job. People said, ‘Hey, we just elected you and here you’re running off to another job.’”

The aspiration to the highest office in the United States is something Brown says all California governors suffer from.

“[I]f you’re governor of California you want to be president,” Brown said.

“They all do… California is such a big complicated place, I think it breeds presidential fever and I think they all have it.”