When former President Bill Clinton officially endorses San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for governor today, the question on many people's minds will be: Is this about Newsom, or Jerry Brown?
Clinton and Brown's decades-long feud is, after all, one of the Democratic Party's nastiest, starting when they both sought the party's presidential nomination in 1992.
Seventeen years later, the former California governor has opened an exploratory committee for a possible gubernatorial run, and Clinton's endorsement has set off speculation about a redux of the fight.
Newsom discounted such talk in an interview with The Sacramento Bee conducted shortly after the endorsement was announced last month. He said Clinton's endorsement some nine months before the primary showed the strength of the ex-president's support.
"I don't know that Bill Clinton is that petty," Newsom said. "This guy has been attacked not just by Jerry Brown but by the best of them. And I'm not sure he thinks about those things."
The Clinton-Brown war of words exploded during a debate in the 1992 race when Brown accused then-Gov. Clinton of "funneling money to his wife's law firm for state business."
Clinton shot back, "I don't care what you say about me, but you ought to be ashamed of yourself for jumping all over my wife. You're not worthy being on the same platform as my wife."
After Clinton became president, Brown regularly skewered him for everything from violating civil liberties in his crime bill to selling out the Democratic Party to corporate interests.
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