Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., who plans to base his anticipated presidential campaign on supposed "lack of leadership" by Jimmy Carter, is learning the hard way that he may have leadership problems of his own.
While Carter was busy securing an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, Brown last week was hit by a series of reversals that threatened to ground his national campaign before it really starts.
"Politically, it was the worst week Jerry ever had," acknowledged a Brown intimate who up to now has been portraying Carter as a "bungler" whose skills did not match the California governor's.
First, Brown suffered an unexpected reversal when Standard Oil of Ohio abruptly canceled its plans for a mammoth storage terminal in Long Beach Harbor, blaming the Brown administration for lengthy regulatory delays in approving the project.
Then, the lone defender of nuclear power on Brown's hand-picked California Energy Commission resigned with another sharp attack on the state administration. Commissioner Alan Pasternak said that the commission's refusal to site new power plants had created a dependence on foreign oil that was making California and the nation "increasingly vulnerable to supply interruptions, shortages and rising prices."
Finally, at week's end, it was disclosed that State Finance Director Richard T. Silberman, a key Brown aide, had arranged for a $10,000 loan to a political candidate from Allen Glick, a Las Vegas casino owner under FBI investigation for purported ties to the Chicago underworld syndicate.
Silberman, the millionaire founder of the Jack-in-the-Box chain and Brown's chief link to the California business community, acknowledged that he had secured the loan from Glick to the unsuccessful 1978 reelection campaign of then-Lt. Gov. Mervyn Dymally.
No sooner had Silberman apologized for this action then it was learned that he had secured a questionable $5,000 contribution for Dymally - this one from La Costa Land Development Co., which also is under investigation for purported under-world connections.
Brown was furious. He called Silberman aside and reprimanded him for arranging the payments.
"He feels that I have not used prudent judgment," Silberman said after the meeting.
While Silberman said he would not resign and was not asked to, the disclosures probably limited any future usefulness he would have in raising funds for a Brown presidential campaign.
There are other storm signals on the horizon for the 40-year-old governor, who already has been buffeted by the California legislature's rejection of his proposal to balance the federal budget by constitutional amendment.
A bill to abolish Brown's Energy Commission is making better headway than expected in the legislature, spurred by a recent court decision which stripped the state of nuclear waste disposal authority on grounds it had been preempted by the federal government. In the wake of the Sohio Terminal cancellation, legislators seem uncertain whether California will continue to enjoy the non-nuclear energy abundance which Brown has promised.
One Brown foe in his own party, Democratic Sen. Alfred E. Alquist, called the governor "the ayatollah of California" and rapped him for "consistent anti-energy policies."
None of these events, even the cancellation of the Sohio project, has necessarily removed Brown from presidential contention. But taken together they have made the governor appear confused, uncertain and on the political defensive for the first time since he was elected in 1974.
Brown's appeal, in his own words, has been that he offered "leadership" at a time when it often appears to be lacking in the national political arena. The events of the past seven days have made him appear vulnerable and uninformed on his chosen political ground.