Will Alabama be example or warning to Louisiana leaders on same-sex marriage?

By Robert Mann

Louisiana gay rights activists are understandably saddened that Alabama has achieved marriage equality while Louisiana remains one of the 13 states where same-sex marriage remains illegal. “What about Louisiana?” someone grumbled on Equality Louisiana’s Facebook page. “Why is our state always behind?”

I appreciate the frustration, but I’m grateful the Yellowhammer State went first. If Louisiana’s leaders pay attention to events in Alabama, the next week or two will be instructive when same-sex marriage is finally legalized here (most likely this summer).

The questions in Alabama are simple: After a federal judge has declared Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, will its leaders honor the rule of law or will they impose their religious beliefs on citizens in defiance of the Supreme Court? Do they believe human rights are a matter of prevailing public opinion and Biblical interpretation or do they recognize the primacy of the U.S. Constitution?

So far, the answers are mixed for a state that gave us momentous civil rights protests (Selma, Montgomery and Birmingham) and some of the nation’s most infamous racists (George Wallace and Bull Connor). Some Alabama officials have obeyed the federal order — a decision the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stay — and have awarded marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Earlier this past week, 19 of 67 counties were obeying the federal court.

In doing so, those officials disregarded Alabama’s Republican chief justice, Roy Moore, who prohibited the state’s probate judges from issuing those licenses.

Defiance of federal courts is Moore’s shtick. In 2003, his flouting of a federal court order prohibiting display of the Ten Commandments at the state’s judicial building got him bounced from the state’s Supreme Court. He clawed his way back onto the court in 2012 and is now itching for another dramatic showdown with the feds.

Moore may have most Alabamians with him on the question of whether the Bible sanctions gay marriage. That doesn’t mean those same citizens will ultimately affirm his brazen defiance of the rule of law. Any state wishing to attract jobs and tourists should probably be advertising its business climate and lovely beaches, not the bigotry and lawlessness of its chief justice and local officials.

That’s what Gov. Bobby Jindal, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, state legislators and parish clerks of court might consider before they imitate Moore. It’s what the various candidates for governor should ponder, as well, because the ultimate Supreme Court decision will come during this year’s race to replace Jindal.

It’s a safe bet that our gubernatorial debates will not feature high-minded discourse about the primacy of the Constitution. And Jindal, running for president, will demagogue this issue with relish (after all, we can’t let Alabama best us in football and interposition).

What those candidates and other public officials say and do will determine if Louisiana is viewed, like Alabama, as a state living in the pre-civil rights past or if it respects the law and resides in the 21st century.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

The concession speech Jindal won’t give, but which could salvage his legacy

Screen shot of Gov. Bobby Jindal speaking to the American Enterprise Institute in October 2014.
Screen shot of Gov. Bobby Jindal speaking to the American Enterprise Institute in October 2014.

By Robert Mann

Here’s how Gov. Bobby Jindal’s presidential campaign will probably end: he will finish sixth or seventh in the Iowa caucuses about this time next year. Almost broke, he will forgo the New Hampshire primary (that state allows crossover voting, so he stands little chance there).

He will then limp into South Carolina. There, his dreams for the White House will meet their humiliating end. He will be crushed again. After a day or two, he will hold a press conference in Tallahassee (or Madison) in which he will throw his support and his zero delegates to Jeb Bush (or Scott Walker).

Jindal’s reputation, already in shreds in Louisiana because of his disastrous handling of the state’s finances, will sink to its lowest level. He’ll be out of office by then, so it won’t make much difference to voters who are celebrating the end of his wretched tenure. David Vitter or Jay Dardenne will be governor by then, working furiously to clean up the stinking fiscal mess that Jindal left behind.

The narrative about Jindal will be about what it is now, only almost every person in the state will ascribe to it: in hapless pursuit of the presidency, Jindal ignored Louisiana’s problems because the solutions to those problems conflicted with his national ambitions.

Jindal refused to lead and he allowed the state to go under. When the state needed him most, during the 2015 legislative session, he was never around. On rare occasions he appeared in Baton Rouge, his presence was a hindrance. He did nothing to help the state. Every Machiavellian move was made with Iowa and South Carolina in mind.

People will say that Jindal left Louisiana far worse than he found it. Many will say – and some of them will be prominent Republicans – that Jindal was the worst governor in Louisiana history.

The overriding narrative will be that Bobby Jindal sacrificed Louisiana on the altar of his presidential ambitions.

By March or April of 2016, Jindal will be back in Baton Rouge, living in temporary housing and sulking – trying to figure out what to do next with his life and career.

His political Svengali, Timmy Teepell – who is today telling him he has a real chance to win the GOP nomination – will be busy counting all the money he made off Jindal’s embarrassing, quixotic quest for the White House. (Smiling, Teepell will think to himself: “Dang, I was right. You can make a lot of money off a losing presidential campaign.”)

That’s one way Jindal’s presidential campaign can end – and it’s the most likely outcome.

But, there is another way Jindal could give up his presidential hopes.

This way would give him a chance to salvage something of his reputation and, more important, it might do some good for his state.

Jindal won’t take this route, of course, but if he did, it would transform his political stock, in Louisiana and beyond. While it wouldn’t earn him the presidential nomination, it could repair what’s left of his reputation in Louisiana and it might even make him a viable candidate for a cabinet post, if Bush or Walker should defeat Hillary Clinton in November 2016.

The scenario that Jindal will never choose would involve Jindal delivering a speech in the next week or two in the press conference room on the fourth floor of the State Capitol. During that press conference, Jindal would say something like this:

It’s no secret that I’ve wanted to be president and that I thought I had the qualifications for that difficult job.

Our country desperately needs a president who is willing to take on radical Islam, defeat it and send its murderous adherents straight to hell.

Our country needs a president who knows how to spark an economic rebirth in this country for the beleaguered middle-class.

Our country needs a president who can enact a responsible and effective health care plan.  Continue reading

Self-Parody: American Family Assn radio host attacks ‘Islamists’ for making ‘rules for everybody else’

Screen shot of Bryan Fischer, radio show host for the American Family Association
Screen shot of Bryan Fischer, radio show host for the American Family Association

By Robert Mann

As someone observed on Twitter Saturday night, “if you poke at hate enough with a stick, the hate will eventually pour out.” That is exactly what I had done earlier in the day after Bryan Fischer, host of a national radio show for the American Family Association, tweeted the following:

Fischer, you may recall, is a former senior executive of the American Family Association, the group that Gov. Bobby Jindal recruited last month to sponsor his controversial prayer rally at LSU. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers the AFA a hate group. Last month, Fischer’s execrable statements about gays became such an embarrassment, the group  sacked him.

Jindal, however, has never denounced Fischer or the AFA and its hate speech. And, curiously, Fischer’s hateful attacks on gays were not loathsome enough to cost him his AFA-sponsored radio show.

So, when I saw Fischer’s tweet, I decided to poke him and see what might happen:

What followed was a remarkable exchange which surprised me, but which also proved my Twitter friend correct. If you poke at the hate, the hate will eventually pour out.

Read the entire exchange with Fischer at this link.

Are falling oil prices to blame for Jindal’s budget disaster?

By Robert Mann

To hear Gov. Bobby Jindal tell it, Louisiana’s projected $1.6 billion shortfall is due almost entirely to falling oil prices. In other words, it’s not his fault. Louisiana’s looming fiscal disaster is out of his control.

From the New York Times in a story published Friday:

In a phone interview, Mr. Jindal defended his record, attributing “the vast majority” of the shortfall to the downturn in oil prices and insisting that a shrunken state government was the goal, not an unfortunate side effect.

“Vast majority”? That would mean that Jindal claims more than $800 million of the anticipated shortfall for the next fiscal year is because of falling oil prices.

There is only one problem with Jindal’s story. Back in August 2014, fiscal experts were already projecting a massive, $1.2 billion budget shortfall.

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 10.34.33 AM

 

Here’s how the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported the news in a story on Aug. 14:

Louisiana state lawmakers got their first glimpse Thursday of next year’s budget gap that they’ll have to close, and it’s another hefty shortfall: $1.2 billion.

The grim news, delivered to the joint legislative budget committee, barely raised eyebrows at the committee hearing, after more than six years of such disappointing financial forecasts.

The shortfall is projected for the 2015-16 fiscal year that begins July 1. Gov. Bobby Jindal and lawmakers will decide in next year’s legislative session how to address the hole. Continue reading

Seven proposed reforms for Louisiana higher education

LSU_Memorial_Tower_2

By Robert Mann

It’s no secret that Louisiana higher education, once a stable ship, is a leaky rust bucket. Swamped by budgetary storms, battered by unwise tax cuts and discounted by feckless state leaders unwilling to invest in a 21st century workforce, our state’s universities are sinking fast.

As legislators anticipate a state budget shortfall as high as $1.6 billion, the coming budget year won’t involve giving the ship new sails or even a new coat of paint; it’s about what they must do before it vanishes below the waves.

Some lawmakers say they might find enough temporary revenue (by repealing or suspending some corporation tax exemptions) to prevent a total collapse. But don’t expect them — in an election year — to raise the taxes necessary to  fund higher education adequately for the long haul.

The budget disaster is so dire that college leaders, facing $350 million in cuts to their institutions, would probably praise Gov. Bobby Jindal if he slashed their budgets by “only” $100 million.

While colleges desperately need new money and students need relief from rising tuition, there are other ways to shore up higher education. Jindal, legislators and higher education leaders could take some important steps now. Most do not involve finding new revenue. Here are my seven suggestions for righting the ship:

Louisiana universities must re-establish their political power. For decades, no one at the Capitol has been afraid of anyone representing a university. Few legislators tremble at the prospect of nonexistent hordes of angry college faculty, students and alumni. College leaders have failed to educate the public about the value of their institutions to the state and its economy. It’s past time for them to speak out forcefully, show some courage and behave as leaders, not functionaries for Jindal. They might even consult the Louisiana State Police, which recently won a 20 percent pay raise for its troopers, whom legislators appear to respect.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.

Bobby Jindal and David Duke may be different fish, but they swim in the same fetid pond

By Robert Mann

What do former KKK leader David Duke and Gov. Bobby Jindal have in common? They have both used the same language to describe and demean Louisiana’s working poor.

In April 2013, Jindal wrote an op-ed in the Baton Rouge Business Report, explaining why he refuses to expand Medicaid for the state’s working poor under provisions of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

By expanding President Obama’s healthcare law, 41 percent of Louisiana’s population would be dumped into Medicaid. Soon there will be more people riding in the cart than people pulling the cart. The President is gradually turning the world’s greatest health care system into the world’s largest welfare system. The left has been very clear—their end goal here is to make all healthcare in America government health care. [emphasis added]

A few months later, in another op-ed on NOLA.com, Jindal wrote, “we should design our policies so that more people are pulling the cart than riding in the cart.”

At the time, I wrote that while I did not believe Jindal is a racist, I do “believe that Jindal and some opponents of Medicaid expansion are employing nasty racial stereotypes and ugly coded language to defeat it.”

What has always bothered me most about Jindal’s opposition to Medicaid expansion is the demeaning way that he has spoken about these hardworking individuals who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid under current state law, but earn too little to qualify for Obamacare. They are families caught in the middle, without health insurance and, as far as Jindal is concerned, without dignity.

Continue reading

The day Bobby Jindal told the truth about his health care proposal

By Robert Mann

Let’s be honest. Gov. Bobby Jindal’s best quality is not honesty. For years, he’s peddled fictional accounts of his fiscal conservatism, his devotion to education reform, his commitment to religious liberty, his concern about the state’s environment and his belief in government transparency.

When Jindal is talking, he’s usually spinning, which is why I was shocked to read that Jindal had spoken the truth about his ideas for the nation’s health care system. Of course, when I realized that Jindal’s remarks were made in private, it all made sense.

As described in a new book by conservative author Philip Klein, Jindal met last April in Washington, D.C., with a group of conservative journalists and policy experts. He was there to tout an Obamacare alternative created by his pre-presidential campaign organization, America Next. (Jindal’s proposal is an “alternative” to Obamacare in the same way that the Cliff’s Notes version of “War and Peace” is an alternative to Tolstoy’s original work.)

As the group peppered Jindal with questions about his health care proposal, Jindal reportedly paid President Obama an unexpected compliment. Jindal said Obama had been willing, as Klein wrote, “to pay a political price to advance his agenda and [Jindal] said Republicans needed to be willing to do the same.” Obama was willing to risk losing the Congress and derailing his other important legislative priorities. “He said Republicans should be thinking the same way and [be] willing to risk political blowback to repeal Obamacare and push a market-based alternative,” Klein reported, ignoring the fact that Obamacare is, in fact, market based.

And what bold, politically risky proposal did Jindal proffer? Why, Jindal suggested Republicans abandon the notion that every American deserves decent and affordable health insurance coverage.

“If we start with the premise that we’ve gotta give every single person a card,” Jindal reportedly said, “and that’s the only way we can be successful, we’re done. We’ve adopted their metric of success … if the metric of success is gonna be which plan can say ‘we’ve given people more cards,’ they always win.”

Oh, the shame of helping people to get health insurance! How do those dastardly Democrats sleep at night?

Jindal does seem quite eager to revoke those insurance cards. “I do think it’s a mistake if we argue we can’t take back what Obama has already given,” Jindal told the conservative group.

Continue reading on NOLA.com at this link.