Jindal: Let the little children come to me so I may use them as props

Screenshot 2015-09-23 08.00.20

By Robert Mann

Imagine this scene at Louisiana’s Governor’s Mansion: “OK, governor, you sit there at the head of the table. Mrs. Jindal, please sit to his right. Wait, let’s get better light on her. Joe, can we get some powder on the governor’s forehead to fix that shine? Now, young man, when your dad bows his head be sure to hold his hand. Don’t look out the window for turtles. Jane, where’s the prop food? We need those green beans, pronto!

“All set? OK, governor, let’s do this. Lights, camera, pray!”

Of course, I don’t know if Gov. Bobby Jindal’s new spot running in Iowa was produced exactly that way (and for you fact-checkers, yes, I know it was created and aired by his “independent” super PAC, “Believe Again,” but it’s essentially his spot).

What we know is that Jindal’s campaign allowed a film crew into the mansion and staged a pre-dinner prayer with his children. Most likely, his staff then posted the raw video on YouTube so that his super PAC could use it in the spot. Voila! No federal campaign rules against coordination were violated since anyone who happened across the public-domain video was free to use it.

It just so happens that “Believe Again” knew where to find this video. Then, the super PAC invited Jindal to speak at one of its events in Iowa. There, Jindal bragged about his Christian faith.  “I wasn’t born a Christian,” he says in the spot. “Took me seven long years to convert at the age of 16.

“I’m unashamed,” Jindal continues. “I’m unembarrassed to tell you that I am a Christian.” My, what a fearless statement to make to an evangelical group in Iowa. Give the man a Bronze Star for the courage to boast about his faith to a room filled with Christians!

Jindal was not finished. The spot turns ominous. “Christian values are under assault right here in America,” Jindal warns, as the audience no doubt glances nervously at the door, waiting for President Barack Obama’s jackbooted thugs to bust up their meeting and haul them off to jail.

Be of good cheer, however, for Jindal had reassuring news: “America’s history is filled with times of spiritual revival right after the hour seemed darkest. Well, the hour seems pretty dark to me right now. We’ve exhausted every alternative. It is time to turn back to God.”

This spot is disturbing, offensive and sacrilegious in several ways.

First, to the uninitiated, when Jindal speaks of America’s “dark” hour, he is not talking about our nation’s sinful tolerance of poverty and racism, our troubling propensity for war or our systematic fouling of God’s earth. He’s talking, instead, about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that he and his frightened disciples believe will prevent them from using their religion as a cloak for anti-gay discrimination. The dog whistle Jindal toots is unambiguous to those tuned to his frequency: The freedom to practice your homophobic bigotry in God’s name is under attack.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

Insulting Muslims, Bobby Jindal misses chance to show maturity, decency

Screenshot of new spot running in Iowa in which Gov. Bobby Jindal discusses his conversion to Christianity
Screenshot of new spot running in Iowa in which Gov. Bobby Jindal discusses his conversion to Christianity
By Robert Mann

Finally, we have presidential candidates willing to level with us and give us the honest, hard truth about the serious threat to our country . . . posed by a Muslim president.

No, I’m not talking about Barack Obama, who is a Christian, no matter what 61 percent of Donald Trump’s supporters might believe. I’m talking about the very real threat of a radical, Sharia-law touting, terrorist-sympathizing Muslim extremist becoming president of the United States.

If you listened to the debate among some Republican presidential candidates in recent days, putting a radical Muslim into the White House is a distinct possibility. Perhaps, but it won’t happen in 2016 (unless Hillary Clinton is a Manchurian/Muslim candidate). And it won’t happen anytime before 2116.

But, hey, it’s never too early to starting warning our great-great grandchildren to keep their eyes open for radical Muslims who’ll run for school board in 2075 with the hope of making it all the way to the White House. Or, as it will then be known, “the White Mosque.”

Perhaps that’s what motivated retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson to opine on the question of a Muslim president last Sunday. “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” Carson said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Later, explaining his comments, Carson said, “Muslims feel that their religion is very much a part of your public life. [That is] inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution.”

Funny, I thought that last statement perfectly described the Christian right. At least, that’s the impression I get from hearing Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee defend Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who cited her Christian faith when she defied a federal court order and denied marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Carson was asked about Muslims after a Trump supporter ranted about Obama as a Muslim and his wacky suspicions about domestic Muslim terrorist training camps. Trump refused to defend Obama and told the supporter he would be looking into the training camps.

Trump’s despicable response to his supporter prompted some Republican candidates to condemn him (and, later, Carson). The outraged did not include Jindal and Huckabee. “Why is it that [Obama] goes to extremes to accommodate Muslim terrorists but shows nothing but disdain for Christians?” Huckabee tweeted.

No one, however, had a more  disappointing response to the “threat” of a Muslim president than Jindal. I present it to you in its entirely, so that you may fully appreciate its absurdity and cravenness:

“This is a dumb game that the press is playing. It is an absurd hypothetical question. But let’s indulge the media for a moment and play their gotcha game.

“If you can find me a Muslim candidate who is a Republican, who will fight hard to protect religious liberty, who will respect the Judeo-Christian heritage of America, who will be committed to destroying ISIS and radical Islam, who will condemn cultures that treat women as second class citizens and who will place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution, then yes, I will be happy to consider voting for him or her.

“If you can’t, I’ll settle for voting for a Christian Governor from Louisiana.”

Yes, instead of condemning Trump and Carson for their odious anti-Muslim bigotry, Jindal – raised Hindu – used the dust-up to remind people that he is now a Christian. That, of course, is the most important lesson to be learned from this, right? Continue reading

Jindal using Louisiana women as pawns in his presidential campaign

By Robert Mann

Not much has been said about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s controversial decision to shut down Louisiana’s McDonald’s franchises after a customer in Mason City, Iowa, allegedly discovered fly larvae on a McDouble she purchased there last month.

The reason you’ve not heard about this controversy is, of course, because Jindal did no such thing. To close a restaurant’s franchises in Louisiana over an alleged health problem in another state would rightly be attacked as a massive overreaction, if not outright lunacy.

In a way, however, this is how Jindal has treated Louisiana’s two Planned Parenthood clinics after the release of surreptitious videos purporting to show an official of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America discussing the alleged “sale” of fetal tissue for medical research.

In fact, the official was discussing reimbursement for consensual, legal tissue donations that are common practice and not unique to Planned Parenthood. None of the officials on the videos has anything to do with the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and neither clinic in New Orleans and Baton Rouge performs abortions.

The facts, however, were trampled in Jindal’s shameless rush to exploit the controversy for political purposes. Jindal summarily canceled Louisiana’s contract with Planned Parenthood, meaning it would no longer provide family planning and health services to poor women under the state’s federally subsidized Medicaid program. Planned Parenthood has sued, asking a federal judge to intervene.

It’s not as if Louisiana doesn’t desperately need the services offered by Planned Parenthood and other Medicaid providers. The organization’s two clinics perform almost 20,000 tests annually for sexually transmitted infections. That’s important for a state, like Louisiana, which leads the nation in gonorrhea cases and is second in chlamydia and third in HIV and syphilis, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Planned Parenthood also provides gynecological exams, contraceptive care, cancer screenings and other wellness services for thousands more low-income individuals.

If the judge rules that Jindal’s actions are legal, those patients must find services elsewhere — if they can. In Baton Rouge, for example, Planned Parenthood has provided services to 60 percent of East Baton Rouge Parish’s contraceptive clients on Medicaid.

“You can’t just cut Planned Parenthood off one day and expect everyone across the city to absorb the patients,” Dr. Stephanie Taylor of LSU’s School of Medicine told The New York Times. “There needs to be time to build the capacity.” Taylor should know. Since 1999, she has consulted with the section on sexually transmitted diseases for Louisiana’s Office of Public Health.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

Some questions for candidates who use faith as a campaign issue


By Robert Mann

Like it or not, it’s now widely accepted that running for public office means not only sharing one’s policy ideas but also professing a deep and abiding faith in God and, usually, Jesus Christ. The Republican presidential candidates each declare they are Christians. For some, that declaration is a regular feature of their stump speeches, pitched as a qualification for higher office.

Look at the polls, and it’s easy to understand why. The Pew Research Center found that 68 percent of evangelicals said political leaders should talk more about their faith. Too many voters are easy marks for slick politicians with a prayer and emotional story about their decision to follow Jesus. As for me, I’m more skeptical. If these candidates ask us to vote for them in part because they are people of faith, aren’t we at least entitled to know how that faith influences their policies?

Gov. Bobby Jindal, who often shares his conversion story with audiences, is among the most vocal in professing his Christian faith. At a prayer rally on the LSU campus last January, Jindal took it a step further. He called for a national spiritual revival. “We can’t just pass a law to fix what ails our country,” Jindal told the evangelical crowd. “We need a spiritual revival to fix what ails our country.” Jindal, presumably, hopes to lead that renewal.

But back to our original question: Assuming that Jindal and the rest are Christians, how much should that matter to us? And what does it mean, in a political context, to profess, “I am a follower of Christ”?

In other words, it’s fine that Jindal found his Christian faith as a teenager after reading a Bible by flashlight in his closet, but what does that tell us about how he lives his faith today? And what, exactly, does Jindal believe his faith obligates him to do as he leads the country’s spiritual revival? We know how Jindal’s Christian faith informs his opinions about same-sex marriage and abortion, but what about matters of justice and attitudes toward the poor, two themes Jesus emphasized above almost all others?

Because Jindal and fellow candidates aggressively tout their Christianity, voters also have every right to question their devotion to two central tenants of the Christian faith long accepted by scripture and tradition — our sacred obligation to the poor and oppressed.

If a candidate brags, “I’m a believer in smaller government and balanced budgets,” it’s reasonable to ask, “Well, then, let’s examine your budgets. Show us the evidence.”

In the same way, when Jindal or another candidate implies that he is qualified because of his faith, it’s fair to respond, as the Apostle James did in his epistle, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.”

The evidence thus far indicates that Jindal is a follower of Jesus, selectively. He seems to care much about piety (something Jesus detested) but less about those whom Jesus called “the least of these.” He talks about his conversion but rarely, if ever, about how God has prompted him to care for the poor, the disabled, the sick, the immigrant and the victim of injustice.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

Jindal wrong about law he says would have stopped Houser from buying gun

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By Robert Mann

Gov. Bobby Jindal said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday that if Lafayette theater shooter John Russell Houser had been involuntarily committed in Louisiana, that information would have been “automatically reported” to the national background check system and he would not have allowed to purchase a gun.

Jindal’s statement is not true. Louisiana law does not require private gun sellers (including those selling firearms at gun shows) to perform a background check before selling a handgun.

In his interview, Jindal told host John Dickerson:

Here in Louisiana, we actually passed tougher laws a couple of years ago, so that, for example, if Houser had been involuntarily committed here in Louisiana, that information would automatically — we would have reported that to the national background check system. He shouldn’t, he wouldn’t have been able to buy a gun; he wouldn’t have been able to go into that pawnshop and buy that gun, as he did in another state. Look, every time this happens, it seems like the person has a history of mental illness. We need to make sure the systems we have in place actually work.

Like I said, in Louisiana, we toughened our laws a couple of years ago. If he had been involuntarily committed here, if he had tried to buy that gun here, he wouldn’t have been allowed to do that.

Jindal is correct that Louisiana did pass such a law, House Bill 717, in 2013. The problem is that this law contains a massive loophole — the private-gun-sale exemption. The law certainly makes it a crime for someone like Houser to own the gun. But it would not have stopped him from buying a weapon at a gun show or from another private seller because there is no background check required in such cases.

Jindal is also wrong about gun sales being automatically reported to the federal gun database. Private gun sales are not covered by this law.

Here’s what the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence says about Louisiana law on gun sales and background checks:

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) [emphasis added] to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.) Continue reading

Jindal’s bad bet: He focused on Iowa, not Louisiana

By Robert Mann

It’s a good bet that our next governor will work hard to distinguish himself from Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose stewardship of the state is widely regarded as unsuccessful, at best, and a disaster, at worst.

Outperforming Jindal, however, is a low bar. Just put the best interests of Louisiana’s people over those of Iowa or South Carolina – and don’t steer the state into virtual bankruptcy – and you’ll have bested Jindal by a mile.

Assuming the Governor’s Office will no longer be a presidential operation, it still won’t be an easy job to guide Louisiana government out of its fiscal mess. But if our new governor wakes up every day thinking of Louisiana, not Iowa, he can begin moving us in the right direction.

Jindal and his advisers clearly thought it wise to use his position as a platform for political stunts. They focused on making national news and flirted with conservative voters in early primary states. Judging by the polls, that strategy flopped. Jindal not only drove Louisiana into a ditch; the politicization of his office has so far yielded him little or nothing. He – and we – got the worst of both worlds.

Perhaps running your state with an emphasis on the well-being of your citizenry and balancing the books without legerdemain isn’t enough to win the affection of GOP voters. But if you’re going to base your presidential campaign on the management of your state’s affairs, you need some tangible accomplishments, not just talking points.

Jindal is in the uneasy position of praying that his poll numbers rise but likely fearing that if they do, national reporters will descend on Baton Rouge and discover his fetid pile of fiscal fertilizer.

I don’t know if he has a better chance than Jindal, but if I were running for president, I’d rather be Ohio Gov. John Kasich, now the 16th Republican candidate in GOP field.

A veteran member of Congress and former chair of the House Budget Committee (he ran the committee the last time the federal budget was balanced), Kasich is equal parts effectiveness and compassion. He’s a fiscal hawk who balanced Ohio’s budgetwhile cutting taxes.

Jindal also cut taxes but did so ineptly. Then, faced with massive deficits, he stuffed his budgets with staggering amounts of one-time money and slashed university budgets. When the one-time money ran out and a $1.6 billion shortfall loomed, he raised taxes by $750 million. A $1 billion shortfall awaits his successor. Jindal’s disgraceful budgetary record will not survive the slightest scrutiny from journalists or GOP fiscal hawks.

While Jindal refused to take Medicaid expansion money under the Affordable Care Act, which would transform the lives of Louisiana’s working poor, Kasich took another route. He initially opposed the health care act, and still wants to repeal it, but has bent to reality and expanded Medicaid in Ohio.

Unlike Jindal, however, Kasich believes government should help the working poor. “You reach out to help people,” Kasich insists. “All are made in the image of God and deserve a chance to be what we are meant to be.” Jindal, by contrast, opposed Medicaid expansion, belittling the poor as freeloaders. “Soon there will be more people riding in the cart than people pulling the cart,” Jindal wrote in 2013. (Jindal also confronted Kasich about Medicaid expansion last spring in a closed-door meeting, accusing him of “hiding behind Jesus.”)

Kasich’s compassionate, practical approach to governing made the Ohio Republican a better governor than Jindal by any objective standard; it might also make him a stronger presidential candidate than Jindal, who boasts of phantom accomplishments (for example, Jindal has not, as he brags, cut Louisiana’s budget 26 percent).

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

Bobby Jindal isn’t going to be the GOP nominee, so what’s he really running for?

Screenshot of Gov. Bobby Jindal on ABC's
Screenshot of Gov. Bobby Jindal on ABC’s “This Week” on May 31, 2015.

By Robert Mann

Gov. Bobby Jindal is stuck at 1 percent or less in almost every national poll. Everything he’s tried over the past year to woo Republicans in Iowa and elsewhere has flopped or been largely ignored. Indeed, Jindal’s chances of capturing the Republican nomination for president in 2016 appear to be the same as my hopes of winning a lifetime achievement award from the Louisiana Republican Party.

Then again, there’s always the possibility that his car might break down on the way to a candidate debate at the very moment a meteor strikes the auditorium and wipes out the GOP field. Alas for Jindal, according to NASA’s Near Earth Object Program, the threat of a large meteor hitting the Earth any time soon is non-existent.

Oh, and he’s probably not going to be invited to the debate, anyway.

So, what’s Jindal’s game? He knows as well as you and me that he won’t be the GOP nominee. So what’s he really running for? Running mate to the eventual nominee? A spot on a Fox News show? Leadership of a Washington think tank or advocacy group?

Whatever is that Jindal wants, it’s safe to say that presidential campaigns – even some of the worst ones – are rarely harmful to the candidate’s bottom line.

Running for president clearly gains failed candidates some stature among a decent part of the populace who are impressed this kind of thing. I, for example, would be quite impressed if you told me you played one season in Major League Baseball — even if you hit .155 and only started five games.

In that way, Jindal is in the big leagues, sort of – but he probably won’t last long and he’ll be lucky if he ever starts a game.

Beyond the stature of forever being known as “a former candidate for president,” there’s the general fame that comes with being a contender in our quadrennial presidential pageant. Even a losing candidate can earn significant name recognition. In 2012, then-U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann and former pizza magnate Herman Cain took turns at the top of the presidential polls before fading or, in Cain’s case, collapsing.

There are, of course, the exceptions that prove the rule: David Duke ran for president in 1992 and later found himself in a federal prison. And former U.S. Sen. John Edwards’ post-campaign life was embroiled in disgrace and a costly fight to stay out of federal prison.

That said, Bachmann, Cain and, now, Donald Trump have proven you don’t have to be a serious candidate for president to derive something lucrative from the process. In the United States, fame and whatever stature comes from competing for president is a form of currency – and the losing candidates have rarely failed to cash in after they’ve dropped out.

After he bombed in 2012, Cain briefly got his own national radio show and then became a Fox News contributor. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman didn’t fare so well in the GOP primaries, but he landed on his feet and now serves as chair of a prestigious foreign affairs think tank, the Atlantic Council. Continue reading