Bobby Jindal’s awful, horrible, very bad poll


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By Robert Mann

There probably was a time when Gov. Bobby Jindal and his aides believed they could ignore Louisiana as Jindal ramped up his 2016 presidential campaign. I can hear his advisors telling him, “As long as you’re feeding them red meat in Iowa and New Hampshire, no one will care about what you did in Louisiana.”

Well, the consequences of Jindal’s inattention to his home state crashed headlong into his presidential hopes on Tuesday, when Public Policy Polling (PPP) released a wide-ranging survey of 1,141 likely voters, conducted Sept. 25-28.

The survey doesn’t test how Jindal might do in the presidential primaries outside Louisiana. But it does suggest, if not prove, that as a party nominee Jindal would have difficulty carrying his own state against Hillary Clinton. Perhaps that’s because Jindal’s job approval rating is a dismal 34 percent. He’d lose to Edwin Edwards in a hypothetical governor’s race and a large majority say they wish he wouldn’t run for president. And, if he should he become the GOP vice presidential nominee , a strong plurality said Jindal’s presence on the ticket would make them less likely to support the Republican ticket.

In all, it’s a disastrous poll for Jindal.

Fifty-five percent of voters disapprove of Jindal’s job performance. Only 34 percent approve the job he’s doing. And those aren’t just liberal Democrats. Jindal’s performance gets poor ratings from 40 percent of those who describe themselves at “somewhat conservative” and 38 percent of those who consider themselves “very conservative.”

In the survey, potential GOP presidential hopefuls like senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and former governors Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush each outpolled Hillary Clinton in Louisiana in a hypothetical 2016 matchup. Only Jindal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie finished behind Clinton.

For example, Bush outpolled Clinton 49-41, while Huckabee outpaced her 50-43. Matched with Jindal, however, Clinton finished a point ahead, 46-45.

Louisiana’s voters are overwhelmingly opposed to a Jindal presidential campaign. Only 20 percent of those surveyed like the idea. Sixty-eight percent say he should not run.

If Jindal were the vice presidential nominee, only 28 percent of Louisiana voters surveyed said that would make them more likely to vote for the Republican candidate. Forty-two percent said it would make them less likely to vote Republican. In other words, Jindal might not be able to accomplish the first duty of a vice presidential nominee — carry his or her own state.

In a matchup with Edwin Edwards — who recently finished an eight-year prison sentence on federal racketeering charges — Jindal comes up short. Asked whom they would rather have as governor, Jindal or Edwards, voters chose a felon by a 47 percent to 43 percent margin.

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How gullible does Bobby Jindal think we are?

Gov. Bobby Jindal

Gov. Bobby Jindal

 By Robert Mann

Why is it when I hear Gov. Bobby Jindal and his aides talking, I often wonder, “Just how gullible do they think we are?”

One recent example of Jindal’s belief in our collective stupidity occurred last Monday in response to Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s even-handed report on Common Core’s education standards. Forty-six states embraced Common Core in some form, but detractors on the right and left vigorously oppose them.

Purpera tried to provide legislators with some clarity. Too bad that wasn’t also Jindal’s goal.

Jindal long championed Common Core, but reversed himself earlier this year. The standards, which he and other governors devised, are now, in his words, “the latest effort by big government disciples to strip away state rights and put Washington, D.C., in control of everything.”

“The standards tell education authorities, teachers, parents, and the general public what skills students should acquire as they move from grade to grade but do not dictate how teachers should teach those skills,” Purpera’s report concluded. “Standards are not the same thing as curricula, textbooks, lesson plans, or classroom activities and assignments.”

Purpera’s assessment isn’t remarkable. It’s a view Jindal once held. What’s remarkable, however, is how Jindal dishonestly twisted Perpera’s words. Of the report, Jindal said on Twitter, “Legislative report shows CommonCore is curriculum & Washington D.C. is driving what our children are taught @ school.”

Jindal’s assistant chief of staff, meanwhile, also seems to think we’re stupid. “We appreciate the Legislative Auditor’s report as it confirms what parents, educators, legislators and the Governor have been saying all along – standards drive curriculum,” Stafford Palmieri said in a written statement.

That’s not only false; it’s the opposite of what Perpera wrote. Jindal’s tweet and Palmieri’s statement were blatant, outrageous distortions.

Turns out that this variety of smarmy, shameless reliance on our ignorance is the approach Jindal and his commissioner of administration, Kristy Nichols, have also adopted in recent months to explain their alarming raid of a reserve fund for the state’s Office of Group Benefits (OGB). That agency provides health care insurance for 230,000 state workers and retirees.

Jindal and legislators privatized the program and outsourced its functions to Blue Cross Blue Shield in 2012. Privatization was a solution in search of a problem. At the time, OGB had a $500 million reserve account, a healthy amount to protect state workers from fluctuations in the health care market.

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A story of death and amazing grace

Oshea Israel and Mary Johnson

Oshea Israel and Mary Johnson

By Robert Mann

Few of us can fathom the emotional scene that unfolded in a Baton Rouge courtroom on Sept. 9. A judge handed down a prison sentence to Michael A. Rushing for the 2012 rape and kidnapping of a 22-year-old Baton Rouge woman, as well as for the 2000 rape and kidnapping of a 14-year-old girl.

Rushing received 40 years, but he also received forgiveness. The now-24-year-old rape victim embraced Rushing’s wife and forgave Rushing for his despicable act.

This poignant story prompted me to ask, What is my own capacity for forgiveness?

For example, could I forgive a man who murdered or raped one of my children? I don’t know that I could, but that question led to me to another remarkable woman whose capacity for love and forgiveness should humble us all.

In 2005, Mary Johnson didn’t know what to expect when she went to Minnesota’s Stillwater Prison to see the man, Oshea Israel, who was serving a 25-year sentence for the 1993 murder of her 20-year-old son, Laramiun Byrd.

The meeting went well. They shared their stories. Finally, in a moment of grace, Johnson said, “I forgive you from the bottom of my heart.” As they parted that day, Israel asked Johnson if he could give her a hug. Johnson began to cry and started to fall. “The initial thing to do was just try and hold you up as best I can, just hug you like I would my own mother,” Israel recalled to Johnson in a joint interview for “Story Corps” in 2011.

“After you left the room,” Johnson told Israel, “I began to say, ‘I just hugged the man that murdered my son.’ And I instantly knew that all that anger and the animosity, all the stuff I had in my heart for 12 years for you — I knew it was over, that I had totally forgiven you.”

When Israel gained his freedom in 2010, Johnson was waiting for him. For three years, Israel lived next door to her. A friendship, forged during subsequent prison visits, was solid and deep. Johnson now says her son’s murderer is “my spiritual son.”

Intrigued and awed by their story of supernatural love (which I discovered on the “Story Corps” website), I phoned Johnson to learn more about how she has redeemed the tragic events of 1993. Beyond her miraculous friendship with Israel, Johnson, 62, is devoted to bringing together the mothers of murdered children and the mothers of children who have committed murder. Through her organization “From Death to Life,” two “healing groups” of mothers – separate now, but soon to merge – meet at Minneapolis’ St. Jane House several times each month.

She will not compare her pain to theirs. “Pain is pain. Grief is grief. Loss is loss,” she told me, speaking of the mothers whose sons are alive but in prison. “I can’t say that my pain is greater because my son is gone. She’s lost her child, too, but he’s in prison. That’s the only difference.”

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The strange death of Victor White and the strange dearth of national news about it

By Robert Mann

It’s been more than a month since the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., captivated the nation. It started with the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of Michael Brown in the majority-black suburb of St. Louis. Brown, a 18-year-old black man, died at the hands of a white Ferguson police officer who shot him six times after a street confrontation.

Thank God for the news media that remain focused on the investigation into the shooting, as well as the continuing protests.

Were it not for the national attention, local authorities might have escaped scrutiny. Instead, the coverage forced Attorney General Eric Holder to order a federal civil rights investigation into Brown’s death.

Bravo to the black residents of Ferguson, whose long days of massive protests focused the nation on their years of harassment by the city’s predominantly white police force.

Meanwhile, 740 miles to the south, the good people of New Iberia, La., must wonder if they should start a riot to get the national media to pay attention to what happened in their town on the night of March 2.

In many ways, the tragic events in Iberia Parish are no less shocking and even more perplexing than whatever occurred in Ferguson.

Here’s what happened: After stopping and searching 22-year-old Victor White III, an Iberia Parish sheriff’s deputy arrested him for cocaine possession. The deputy allegedly found the drug on White after searching him a second time. White’s wrists were handcuffed behind his back and he was placed in the rear seat of the patrol car.

Shortly after arriving at the sheriff’s office, however, he was dead from a gunshot wound.

The first official report of the incident, a statement by the Louisiana State Police, claimed White “became uncooperative and refused to exit the deputy’s patrol car.” As the deputy called for backup, the State Police said, “White produced a handgun and fired one round striking himself in the back.”

From there, it devolved into a jumble of official contradictions and confounding questions.

Iberia Parish Coroner Dr. Carl Ditch, in a report released in August, disputed parts of the initial State Police report. White had been shot through his lateral right chest, Ditch said. Yet, he concluded that White had committed suicide.

You read that correctly.

The coroner determined that a left-handed man, hands shackled behind his back in the rear of a police cruiser, found a gun, contorted his body Houdini-style and shot himself between his right breast and right armpit.

How he supposedly obtained this gun has not been explained. How a deputy might have searched White twice, found cocaine, but never detected a gun, has not been explained. How a gun might have ended up in the back of a police car has not been explained. Why authorities originally said White was uncooperative, but later changed their story and did not mention it, has not been explained. Why authorities never tested White’s hands and clothing for gunpowder residue has not been explained.  (His clothes reportedly were destroyed.)

Most perplexing, of course, is how White managed to shoot himself in the chest. This has not been explained. A State Police report was completed in recent days but has not yet been made public.

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Louisiana Democrats’ big favor for David Vitter

U.S. Sen. David Vitter

U.S. Sen. David Vitter

By Robert Mann

When Louisiana Democrats try to defeat Sen. David Vitter for governor next year, they’ll almost certainly roll out the fact that Vitter was embroiled in a very public and humiliating prostitution scandal in 2007.

In some fashion, they’ll ask the state’s voters, “Do you want someone as sleazy as David Vitter as your governor?” It’s not a bad question and it might cause some voters to pause before handing over the Governor’s Mansion to someone like Vitter.

Until this week, we didn’t know what the Republican response to that question might be. But now we do.

They will rightly shoot back, “This from the party that endorsed Edwin Edwards, an unrepentant felon, for Congress last year?”

It’s a good rejoinder that wouldn’t have been available to the GOP until Monday, when the Democratic State Central Committee overwhelming embraced Edwards, a sure loser in the race to represent the 24th most Republican district in the United States Congress.

But the Democrats endorsed the old crook anyway, taking a nostalgic stroll down Corruption Lane. They’d apparently rather revel in the good old days of Democratic cronyism. They’d rather embrace a disgraceful felon like Edwards than consider what it might take to rehabilitate their dying party.

By the way, the embrace of Edwards not only deprives the Democratic Party of any high moral ground in next year’s governor’s race; it also makes it much harder for Democratic leaders to credibly attack the cronyism in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.

The party’s endorsement won’t help Edwards get elected to Congress, but it sure might help David Vitter get elected governor.

The sad demise of the Louisiana Democratic Party

Former Gov. Edwin Edwards last March at the Baton Rouge Press Club (Photo by Robert Mann)

Former Gov. Edwin Edwards last March at the Baton Rouge Press Club (Photo by Robert Mann)

By Robert Mann

I’ve been around politics long enough to know that elections are usually choices between the lesser of two, or many, evils. There is no perfect candidate, just as there is no perfect spouse, friend or job. Most of life, in fact, is a series of choices among imperfect options.

Yet, there are certainly completely unacceptable candidates for public office, just as there are individuals totally unsuited for marriage or friendship.

When it comes to political candidates, former Gov. Edwin Edwards is unacceptable in almost every way.

That’s why it was so disappointing to learn that the state’s Democratic State Central Committee had overwhelmingly endorsed Edwards for Congress on Monday. In embracing Edwards’ campaign, the state’s Democrats endorsed someone who represents the worst of the state’s political history – a sorry legacy of corruption that has now sullied their party and finally persuaded me to change my party registration.

It’s not just that Edwards spent eight years moldering in a federal prison after being convicted on 17 counts of racketeering, extortion, fraud and conspiracy.

It’s not just that he’s 87 years old and probably not up to the physical challenge of representing the district while commuting each week to Washington. (I actually believe that Edwards’ greatest fear is that he might win.)

It’s not just that over a lifetime in politics he demonstrated no concern for ethical behavior (this is, after all, the man who once boasted to “60 Minutes” about selling seats on the state’s Mineral Board).

It’s not just that his candidacy seems to be driven primarily by an insatiable appetite for attention and an acute hunger for acceptance after his very public humiliation.

It’s not just that his election would further embarrass a state that really should stop reminding the nation how much we tolerate corruption.

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LBJ’s Mad Men and the Ad that Changed American Politics

Daisy Girl 2

By Robert Mann

Fifty years ago – on the night of Monday, Sept. 7, 1964 – an innocent little girl plucking flower petals in a sun-splashed field helped usher in a revolution in American political advertising. The 60-second television spot that featured her disjointed counting exploded, literally and figuratively, all notions of what it meant to effectively persuade voters with paid political advertising.

The little girl counted as she plucked flower petals. Unseen birds chirped happily. As her counting ended, viewers suddenly heard a mission control announcer begin a countdown. As he neared zero, the girl’s image froze as the camera zoomed into her right eye until her pupil filled the screen and was replaced by a nuclear blast and mushroom cloud. As the apocalyptic scene unfolded, President Lyndon Johnson’s reedy drawl entered the spot, ending with the admonition, “we must either love each other or we must die.”

The so-called “Daisy Girl” spot created by Johnson’s New York advertising firm aired only once as a paid commercial during the 1964 presidential campaign. An estimated 50 million voters saw it during NBC’s “Monday Night at the Movies” – the film was “David and Bathsheba.” Another 50 million or more saw it again, or for the first time, later that week when the three television networks aired the unique, powerful spot in their newscasts.

The spot, created by the ad firm Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB), was actually called “Peace, Little Girl,” but its message was anything but peaceful. It was a fierce assault on Johnson’s Republican opponent, Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona. It was as clever and creative as any attack ad ever produced in American politics. Its images were arresting and unexpected and its message – Johnson was a man of peace, Goldwater would destroy the world – was abundantly clear.

Without showing his image or even speaking his name, DDB masterfully evoked the widespread fears about a potential Goldwater presidency. The Republican candidate’s remarkable absence was the essence of its brilliance, and the reason it and the other DDB spots that followed transformed political advertising: These spots had such a powerful impact not for what they said, but what did not require words at all.

For years, Goldwater had spoken recklessly about nuclear war and nuclear weaponry. He had opposed the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. He had called the nuclear bomb “merely another weapon” in America’s arsenal. When President John F. Kennedy had declared America’s intent to send men to the moon, Goldwater responded, “I don’t want to hit the moon. I want to lob one [presumably a nuclear missile] into the men’s room of the Kremlin and make sure I hit it.” He favored giving NATO commanders in Western Europe authority to use tactical nuclear weapons without White House approval.

Most famously, the Arizona senator had accepted his party’s nomination in San Francisco that July, where he declared, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” Technically, he might have been correct about relentlessly defending freedom, but his unfortunate words gave Johnson and his team further ammunition – and license – to brand their opponent a warmonger.

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