Something Like the Truth


Bobby Jindal

Jindal and Vitter were adversaries to the bitter end

By Robert Mann

They can barely stand the sight of one another. They have never been political allies. Sometimes, it seemed Louisiana was too small for their outsized egos and ambitions.

How ironic, then, that the political careers of Gov. Bobby Jindal and U.S. Sen. David Vitter should come to abrupt and humiliating conclusions in the same week, only four days apart.

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 10.24.51 AM
U.S. Sen. David Vitter

After spending his five-month official campaign stuck at 2 percent or less in the national polls, Jindal bowed to reality and left the race on Tuesday, Nov. 17. By 10 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 21, Vitter had not only lost the governor’s race to state Rep. John Bel Edwards, he also announced he would not seek re-election to the Senate.

The political aspirations of the two Republicans who had ruled Louisiana politics for much of the past decade were suddenly, just days apart, reduced to ashes.

Screenshot 2015-07-26 16.55.47
Gov. Bobby Jindal

While neither man was primarily responsible for the other’s political demise, they had done nothing to help each other in their respective political pursuits.

For anyone hoping to undermine Jindal in places like Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina, there were plenty of quotes available of Vitter denigrating Jindal’s leadership.

As for Jindal, the fiscal calamity that was his governorship added to the political headwind facing Vitter. While Republicans did well in the state’s Nov. 21 elections, the most important Republican on the ballot – Vitter – went down hard. And it was a defeat partly attributable to disgust with Jindal.

Even as they left the scene, the two men could not resist jabbing each other.

As Jindal ended his presidential campaign, it was immediately assumed that he had chosen the date to undermine any last-minute surge by Vitter. Right at the moment Vitter appeared to find an issue to lure Republicans back to his side – fear over Syrian refugees in Louisiana – Jindal pushed Vitter off the front pages. If Vitter had any momentum going – and it’s not clear that he did – Jindal’s announcement ended it.

He certainly wasn’t sorry to see Jindal drop out of the presidential race, but you can bet Vitter wished Jindal had waited until Sunday, Nov. 22, to announce his decision. Would holding off five more days have killed Jindal?

Continue reading on at this link.


The LSU Board must go


By Robert Mann

Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards will not have the power to fire members of the LSU Board of Supervisors when he takes office in January. The board’s 14 members (all but one extra student member are appointed by the governor) serve staggered, fixed terms.

But that doesn’t mean they should remain in their positions once Edwards becomes governor.

The current board has completely failed the state, the school and its students.

It never defended the school against Gov. Bobby Jindal’s budget cuts that almost devastated the institution. Its members slavishly did Jindal’s bidding at every turn, including approving a contract with dozens of blank pages when turning over the system’s charity hospital in Shreveport to a private foundation chaired by a then-LSU Board member. The results of that irresponsible decision proved politically disastrous, sparking an ugly fight between Jindal’s board and the foundation running the hospitial.

The LSU Board has failed the state so completely that Edwards should ask members to do the decent thing and resign en masse on Jan. 11.

Edwards cannot legally fire state Education Superintendent John White. He’s hired by the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Eduction (BESE). That, however, has not stopped the governor-elect from demanding White’s dismissal or resignation.

He should demand the same of the LSU Board.

Here is what I wrote back in March. I stand by every word.

Next January, after taking his oath of office and calling a special session to clean up Gov. Bobby Jindal’s fiscal mess, our next governor should immediately demand the resignation of every member of the LSU Board of Supervisors.

Appointed by Jindal, the current board not only is unrepresentative of the state (14 wealthy white men and one black woman); its members also abdicated their duty to protect the school. They were silent as mice as Jindal pillaged LSU’s budget.

Like state Education Superintendent John White and some courageous members of the state’s Board of Elementary & Secondary Education, they could have protested Jindal’s misguided policies or publicly challenged his destructive acts. They might have threatened to resign in unison. They did none of that — and for their unforgivable omissions, they should go. All of them.

President F. King Alexander has waged a valiant fight for LSU’s future, as have University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley and some other college leaders. Alexander also has rightly prodded students to protest the threatened $600 million in higher education budget cuts. “Sometimes you don’t have to be so polite,” he told students earlier this month.

This past week at the Baton Rouge Press Club, Alexander repeated that admonition. So I tossed out this notion to him: It’s good for students to lobby legislators, many who are finally willing to raise taxes for higher education but whose legislation Jindal will probably veto. You have 15 bosses (the LSU board) who are close to Jindal. Why don’t they stop being so subservient and urge the governor to do more for higher education?

In response, Alexander shared an astonishing story that underscores my argument that this group must go. Alexander said that after he described the dire budgetary situation at the board’s January meeting, some alarmed members sought an appointment with Jindal. An LSU spokesperson told me that board members Ann Duplessis, James Moore, Raymond Lasseigne, Rolfe McCollister and Blake Chatelain joined Alexander for a meeting with Jindal on Feb. 4.

On its face, that’s a positive development. But step back for a moment and consider this disturbing scene: After five years of deep, damaging cuts, these board members apparently did not understand the serious threat to the university until Alexander made what one reporter described as an “impassioned speech — detailing the threat with campuses facing 40 percent reductions in state funding.”

Do they read the papers? Did they assume that Jindal also does not keep abreast of the news? I’m glad they privately urged Jindal to stop the cuts, but aren’t they five years too late? Speaking of little and late, good luck finding any LSU board member who has publicly condemned the looming demolition of Louisiana higher education.

Continue reading on at this link.

This is why David Vitter lost


Screenshot 2015-11-06 15.50.55
Screenshot from John Bel Edwards spot.


By Robert Mann

“Politicians, like generals, have a tendency to fight the last war.” — John Bolton

Perhaps it was latent disgust at U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s 2007 prostitution scandal. Maybe his vicious attacks against his Republican opponents backfired and split the Louisiana GOP. Perhaps Vitter finally ran up against a potent, well-funded Democratic opponent at exactly the wrong time.

The pundits will offer these and other plausible theories about how Louisiana Democratic Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards defied enormous odds in Saturday’s election and vanquished Vitter, a Republican and the once-prohibitive favorite.

Each theory is probably valid and a piece of the crazy puzzle that resulted in Edwards’ improbable victory. My analysis, however, is simple. It’s about how Vitter and his aides incorrectly analyzed the race more than a year ago.

I believe that Vitter lost to Edwards for the same reason the United States lost the Vietnam War to Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Cong. Like the hapless U.S. generals and their Pentagon bosses in the 1960s, Vitter made several fatal miscalculations: First, he underestimated and misunderstood his opponent. And he fought with once-successful, but now-outdated, strategies from previous campaigns. (Full disclosure: Last spring, I would not have disputed Vitter’s strategy. In fact, I wrote that it would probably work.)

In his book On War, the Prussian general and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz observed that the “first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish . . . the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its true nature. This is the first of all strategic questions and the most comprehensive.”

Most Vietnam War historians agree that the U.S. military ignored Clausewitz’s wisdom. We badly misjudged the Vietcong, underestimated its strength and tenacity and misinterpreted the very nature of the war we were fighting. The U.S. confronted a well-armed insurgency with a conventional strategy of conquering and holding territory. Put simply, our generals employed World War II and Korean War-style tactics to fight an insurgency in South Vietnam that was not about territory but hearts and minds.

We lost because we did not know what kind of war we were fighting.

Clausewitz’s advice on war applies to politics, as well. Vitter did not know what kind of campaign he was running. In fighting his Democratic opponent, he made the same mistakes as the U.S. generals in Vietnam 50 years ago. He did not adapt to new circumstances. Simply put, Vitter fought “the last war.”

Based on earlier, successful campaigns, Vitter assumed he would easily win so long as he faced a Democrat in Saturday’s runoff (Louisiana has an open election system in which Democrats and Republicans are on the same ballot in a non-partisan primary). As he hoped, Vitter got Edwards as his runoff opponent, after he savagely attacked and eliminated his two Republican opponents.

Vitter’s experience told him that from there, victory was a simple matter of raising as much money as possible and using it to run spots attacking Edwards as an Obama clone. As he had done in the past, Vitter planned to make the election a simple referendum on Obama. Based upon his easy victory in 2010, Vitter also likely assumed that his prostitution scandal was no longer an issue.

If that’s what Vitter thought about this governor’s race (and all the available evidence suggests that he did), he badly miscalculated.

Hard as he tried this election, he never made the race about Obama. Instead, to his dismay, the campaign became a referendum on Vitter – his judgment, ethics and character. The prostitution scandal that Vitter assumed was resolved became, instead, a central theme of the race.

Continue reading on at this link.

Jindal wanted to run for president in the worst way. And he did.

Jindal gun photo

By Robert Mann

Is it really news that the nation’s least popular and most inept governor, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, also ran one of the worst presidential campaigns in American history?

Hardly. Anyone with a passing knowledge of Louisiana politics could have told you two years ago that Jindal’s presidential campaign was doomed. When he dropped out of the race on Tuesday, was anyone even remotely surprised?

In fact, if I may boast for a moment, his failure is what I predicted in my New Orleans Times-Picayune column in July 2013, a year before Jindal announced for president:

[Jindal] doesn’t realize it yet, but it will be a preposterous adventure. He will never be president because he’s simply an awful candidate. Ever since revealing a burning desire for a role on the national stage, he’s mostly reenacted various versions of a Wile E. Coyote impression. Jindal seeks attention, presents what he thinks is a supremely clever speech or column and, Boom!, the whole thing blows up. Smoking and hair singed, he slinks back to Baton Rouge to plot his next humiliating appearance before another befuddled audience.

Instead of wasting most of the last four years chasing the impossible dream, many in Louisiana believe Jindal’s time would have been better spent governing Louisiana. Instead, in his absence, the state veered into the ditch.

Louisiana’s budget is in such disarray that it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want his job. The state faces a crippling $500 million budget shortfall in the current fiscal year. The new governor who takes over in January must immediately deal with a massive budget crisis while also trying to close an estimated $700 million shortfall for the fiscal year that begins in July 2016. Jindal’s fiscal mismanagement is only one reason his job approval rating in a recent poll was a mere 20 percent.

Throughout the five months of his official campaign, Jindal was never a factor. In fact, it’s possible that the first time some voters heard about his presidential campaign was when they read that he had dropped out. Jindal will be lucky to be a footnote in the history of the 2016 race. Even so, his failed effort might contain a few important lessons about the challenges of running for president, in general, and the current political environment, in particular.

The 2016 race is not favorable ground for governors, especially failed governors. The Republican electorate is in an ugly mood. GOP voters aren’t enamored with political insiders and career politicians, which is to state the obvious. Donald Trump and Ben Carson wouldn’t be leading the GOP field if voters were looking for political experience. Jindal’s problem, however, was compounded by the fact that his record as governor was, by almost every measure, an abject failure.

Continue reading on at this link.

How a David Vitter loss could hurt Bobby Jindal


By Robert Mann

As he no doubt celebrates Sen. David Vitter’s political struggles, Gov. Bobby Jindal probably has mixed feelings. Sure, he and his staff despise Vitter. There’s been no love lost between the two men and their aides for the past eight years.

Jindal and Vitter have never been close. Jindal declined to endorse Vitter in 2010 in the aftermath of his 2007 prostitution scandal. “Voters can make up their own mind,” he said at the time. Throughout his second term, Vitter has been a constant critic of Jindal, as he noted in Monday night’s debate on Louisiana Public Broadcasting. “I’ve publicly fought and butted heads with Bobby Jindal on many important issues,” Vitter said.

Vitter has certainly done nothing to help Jindal as he campaigns for president, and Jindal remains conspicuously absent from Vitter’s campaign for governor. It’s clear that Jindal won’t endorse Vitter, even if Vitter wanted his endorsement (which he doesn’t).

The reasons why Jindal won’t help Vitter in the governor’s race are as complicated as the two men’s stormy relationship. It’s not that Jindal doesn’t want Vitter to lose. A large part of Jindal would surely love nothing more than to see the state’s senior U.S. senator go down to a crushing defeat on Nov. 21. If Vitter loses the governor’s race to Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards, Jindal knows that Vitter’s political career may be over.

Vitter might run for re-election to the Senate in 2016, but Republican leaders in Louisiana and Washington might also urge him to step aside, lest a politically crippled Vitter hand the seat to a Democratic challenger. The only person happier than Louisiana’s Democrats at that outcome would be Bobby Jindal. Continue reading “How a David Vitter loss could hurt Bobby Jindal”

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

Screenshot 2015-09-23 08.00.20

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!

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

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. Continue reading “Insulting Muslims, Bobby Jindal misses chance to show maturity, decency”

Jindal using Louisiana women as pawns in his presidential campaign

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. Continue reading “Jindal using Louisiana women as pawns in his presidential campaign”

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 at this link.

Create a free website or blog at | The Baskerville Theme.

Up ↑


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,491 other followers

%d bloggers like this: