To call Gov. Bobby Jindal disingenuous would be to belabor the obvious. The evidence is there in plain view for everyone to see: his painfully patronizing platitudes, designed to appeal to his ever-shrinking core base, induce involuntary winces of embarrassment not only from his critics, of which there are many, but from objective observers as well.
But now it turns out that Jindal is trying his best to out-imitate Attorney General Buddy Caldwell as he heads into his final year as governor.
Caldwell, as some still may not know, was probably best known for his Elvis impersonation before being elected as the state’s highest legal counsel.
Jindal, not to be outdone, has set about impersonating everyone in sight, beginning on that fateful night in 2009 with his pitiful attempt at a Reagan-esque response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Woefully inept as a polished speaker, that performance was universally panned and his status as a rising star in the Republican Party appeared to have been prematurely snuffed out.
But Jindal is nothing if not resilient. Seemingly oblivious to critics, he has spent the ensuing six years doggedly trying to re-claim his status among the Michelle Malkins and Rush Limbaughs as the nation’s savior.
To do that required his forcing the media to give him ink in the daily newspapers and face time before the unblinking eye of network cameras. The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill did just that and he took full advantage. He grabbed every opportunity to express his concern on the nightly news. Of course, when the national media ignored that growing sinkhole that threatened only a few homes in Assumption Parish, so did Jindal. The fact that local media gave the hole that was swallowing entire trees ample coverage was insignificant since that could not enhance his national image, so one quick trip long after the sinkhole first developed had to suffice for someone so bent on burnishing his presidential image. In a way, it was reflective of the way George W. Bush had to be goaded into doing a flyover of the carnage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina and to rush through the photo opt with “heckuva job, Brownie.”
And then there was Jindal near the end of his first term and already running for re-election as he traversed the state handing out those cherished veterans’ pins in appreciation of those who had served the country in the armed forces.
A great gesture, right? Also reminiscent of President George Bush the First in his 1990 run-up to his 1992 re-election campaign when he was handing out those “Thousand Points of Light” awards to such people as Sam Walton and about 5,000 others.
But the most blatantly transparent rip-off of another’s idea by this governor, who can never be accused of originality, came with his Jan. 24 Prayerpalooza at the Maravich Assembly Center on the LSU campus.
That event, which crammed all of 3,000 attendees into the 18,000-seat P-Mac, was a direct clone of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s event, The Response, held four years ago in Houston’s Reliant Stadium. Perry, you may recall, announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination only days after that rally.
Jindal might be wise not to base his decision to seek the nomination on his rally, which drew only about 10 percent of the 30,000 who attended the Houston rally despite (or perhaps because of) the participation of Cindy Jacobs.
Understandably, Jindal and his supporters have played down her part in this year’s event, even going so far as to take down the video that featured her endorsement of the Baton Rouge rally while all the other promotional videos were retained.
Jacobs apparently is a bit much even for Jindal. All she has ever done is suggest that her child’s stomach ache once prevented the assassination of President Reagan; that she could foresee terrorist attacks and prevent coups; that birds died and fell from the sky because of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and that she had the power to raise the dead.
Undaunted, his weekly Team Jindal email blast described Jindal as “speaking to a crowd of thousands” at the prayer fest. While we do concede that the 3,000 in attendance did, in fact, constitute “thousands,” by purposely failing to mention the actual head count, Team Jindal was implying that the crowd numbered in the tens of thousands. Laughable as that may be, it is nevertheless a disturbing trait of this administration to parse words so as to convey the message that all is well in the land of Jindal.
And then there is the subtle, under-the-radar form of imitation that may have escaped observers’ attention: Jindal’s channeling of the later Gov. Earl K. Long.
Earl, many will recall, once said, “Someday the people of Louisiana are gonna get good government and they ain’t gonna like it.”
Prophetic words from a man who also once said, when asked by a legislator whether ideals had any role in politics, “Hell yes, I think you should use ideals or any other g—d— thing you can get your hands on.”
Louisiana history buffs (and those of us old enough to remember the events vividly) are aware that ol’ Earl’s train left the tracks during 1959, his final year in office. He was in and out of mental institutions and had an affair with stripper Blaze Starr that grabbed national headlines. He even cut a deal with former Gov. James A. Noe of Monroe to have Noe run for governor and Earl for lieutenant governor on Noe’s ticket. (Yes, candidates ran on tickets, from governor all the way down to comptroller of voting machines, back then.) The deal was for Noe to get elected, take office, and resign, allowing Earl to become governor. Up until the first term of former Gov. John McKeithen, a Louisiana governor could not serve consecutive terms, thus necessitating the flim-flammery. Noe and Long even had LSU All-American Billy Cannon campaigning with them under the banner of “The Noe Team is the Go Team.” The problem with that slogan, which no one apparently caught, was that Cannon, played under the system of former head coach Paul Dietzel in which LSU actually had three separate teams—the Go Team (which played offense only), the Chinese Bandits (exclusively defense) and the White Team (both offense and defense). Cannon played on the White Team.
That was the same election in which arch segregationist Willie Rainach, a state representative from Homer in Claiborne Parish, ran third behind New Orleans Mayor deLesseps “Chep” Morrison and former Gov. Jimmie Davis. The Noe-Long team finished out of the money with Noe failing even to carry his own precinct in Monroe and Davis went on to defeat Morrison in the runoff election.
So now, we have the gubernatorial train barreling headlong toward a similar mental derailment. Jindal, caught up in the throes of delusions of grandeur (some would say delusions of mediocrity) that leave him convinced he is presidential timber, apparently feels his repeated budget fiascos are of little consequence. He has abandoned any vestiges of leadership except where it might appeal to his support base, which probably explains his actions with Common Core.
For it before he was against it (another imitation: remember John Kerry’s position switch on the Iraq war), Jindal issued an executive order declaring that parents should be able to opt their children out of taking the Common Core standardized tests this year.
Besides putting Jindal at odds with the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the order calls into question the status of a couple of state contracts with a testing firm totaling $117 million.
Data Recognition Corp. (DRC) has contracts of $68.8 million and $48.2 million, both of which expire on June 30 of this year, that call for DRC to develop test forms, printing and distributing and collecting materials, scoring and reporting test results. It is unclear how much, if any of those contracts, are for Common Core testing, but if that is included in the contracts and the executive order is implemented, litigation is almost certain to follow. (And we know how well Jindal, represented by attorney Jimmy Faircloth, has fared in courtroom appearances.)
A pattern of irrational behavior on Jindal’s part is beginning to emerge as he flails away at attempts to grab onto some issue which will resonate with voters—even at the cost of abandoning the post to which he was elected by the people of Louisiana.
Jindal received the Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) at its 2011 national convention in New Orleans. But as he systematically tears down the programs designed to help the less fortunate among us, he ignores the philosophy of the man for whom that award was named. It was Jefferson who said, “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.” That sentiment was echoed more than a century later by President Harry Truman: “The whole purpose of government is to see that the little fellow who has no special interest gets a fair deal.”
There is no question that Jindal is an intelligent man. But intelligence alone cannot overcome the avalanche of problems besetting our state and that appears to be the one lesson which has thus far escaped him.
Perhaps A.E. Wiggin, the character from the novel Ender’s Game, said it best: “Intelligence appears to be the thing that enables a man to get along without education. Education appears to be the thing that enables a man to get along without the use of his intelligence.”