WASHINGTON — California Gov. Jerry Brown likened President Donald Trump to a strongman whose goal of walling off the U.S.-Mexico border conjures other infamous barriers from the past.
“The wall, to me, is ominous. It reminds me too much of the Berlin Wall,” Brown said during an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The pointed reference suggested that the president was, like the leaders of communist East Germany several decades ago, trying to restrict the movements of people on both sides, despite all they have in common.
“There’s a lot of odor here of kind of a strongman,” Brown told host Chuck Todd. “I think Americans ought to be very careful when we make radical changes like a 30-foot wall keeping some in and some out.”
Trump made extending the walls that line parts of the nearly 2,000-mile border a central campaign pledge. Companies seeking to build the wall must soon submit concept papers for sloped barriers that are aesthetically pleasing on the U.S. side. It’s still not clear how the administration would pay for the wall.
Brown said that although California would fight “very hard” against the wall, people should not expect a series of knee-jerk lawsuits.
“We’ll be strategic. And we’ll do the right human, and I would even say Christian, thing from my point of view,” Brown said. “You don’t treat human beings like that.”
The governor disputed Trump’s suggestion that immigration was a threat, casting it instead as an asset.
“Look around at many of our industries,” he said, citing the state’s multibillion-dollar agricultural sector and the technological hotbed of Silicon Valley. “Twenty-five percent of the people in California were foreign-born. This is our dynamism.”
Brown, who visited the nation’s capital last week to meet with federal officials, said he’s willing to work with Trump and other Republicans on issues including immigration, health care and, especially, infrastructure.
He called a proposed rail project aimed at relieving traffic congestion between San Francisco and Silicon Valley “a real test” for the president. The plan is opposed by Republicans in California, the governor said.
“Here’s a chance for President Trump to be above the political game. This is about infrastructure,” Brown said. “Does he believe in a shovel-ready construction project that will create American jobs … (and) … is ready to go within a couple of months, or not?”
Asked what Trump could learn from Brown’s predecessor, former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, he said the president could be better at picking his battles.
“Don’t fight everybody,” Brown advised Trump. “And you have to make more allies than enemies. It’s simple. Politics is about addition, not subtraction.”
Brown, who is in his fourth non-consecutive gubernatorial term and will turn 79 next month, said the role of national Democratic Party leader was open for the taking. But it won’t be him, the governor said, because “I’ve run for every office and there’s no more left.”