Why Mitt Shouldn’t Choose Bobby Jindal: My Memo to Gov. Romney

Imagine my surprise on Tuesday to hear the voice of Mitt Romney on the phone. Fresh from his triumphant visit to Europe, Romney was calling to say his aides had shown him a few of my recent blog posts about Gov. Bobby Jindal that examined the 1994 article Jindal published about his participation in an apparent exorcism.

Romney

Romney (Photo credit: Talk Radio News Service)

“That’s some strange stuff,” Romney chortled. “Almost as strange and me and my friends down at the temple, baptizing the souls of dead Jews.”

Gov. Romney quickly got to the reason for his call. “A lot of my evangelical Christian supporters are pushing me hard to put Bobby on the ticket,” Romney said. “He’s young, attractive, a minority and the Christian right loves him.”

“That’s all true, governor,” I replied.

“But, I don’t know. It’s risky. He’s young, but maybe too young. Not tested. I don’t want another Sarah Palin on my hands.”

“Don’t worry, governor,” I reassured him, “Jindal can easily answer all the trick questions Katie Couric can throw at him, like, ‘What newspapers do you read?’ and ‘Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?’”

“I know this is unorthodox,” Romney said after a long pause. “But would you be willing to play devil’s advocate for me? Give me a memo with all the reasons I shouldn’t pick Jindal?”

“Sure,” I said. “I’ll give it a shot.”

* * *

MEMORANDUM

August 1, 2012

To: Governor Romney

From: Bob Mann

Reg: Gov. Bobby Jindal

You asked me to provide you a memo in which I should “play devil’s advocate,” detailing all the reasons why you should not choose Gov. Bobby Jindal as your running mate. First, let me make it clear that while I am happy to offer this advice, I do not plan to vote for you in November. Nonetheless, I regard it my patriotic duty to help whenever a president or a potential president asks for my help or advice. So, I am pleased to offer the following reasons why I do not believe you should choose Jindal.

He does not bring you Louisiana. You already have it. One reason to pick a vice president is that he will help you carry a state or a constituency you cannot win otherwise. Jindal is governor of a very reliably Republican state. Louisiana is already in your back pocket. You should choose a governor or senator from of a state you must win, such as Ohio or Florida or Virginia.

He would not help you carry one southern state you do not already have. Just as Louisiana is safely in your column, so is most of rest of the South. Any state where Jindal would have considerable influence is already a state you have. One Southern state you want to carry, Virginia, has a very popular and able governor you might consider. Bob McDonnell can help you carry Virginia; Bobby Jindal cannot.

Not a dependable speaker. If you haven’t seen it already, you should watch several episodes of “30 Rock.” Pay special attention to one character, Kenneth the Page. Then watch Jindal’s speech in February 2009, in response to President Obama’s health care address to Congress. If that disaster of a speech is not enough to raise doubts about Jindal’s strengths as a stump speaker, consider that only last month, in talking about the President’s health reform plan, he slipped and called it “Obameycare.”

He participated in an exorcism and wrote a lengthy magazine article about it. For more information about that, consult my blog post about this. Suffice it to say that I do not believe you will want to spend two weeks of having your campaign dominated by talk of quirky religious practices, his and/or yours.

Lack of transparency. Jindal has talked a good game about ethics and transparency, but he has been among the most secretive governors in Louisiana history. Here’s what the Baton Rouge Advocate said in an editorial: “Upon first taking office as governor, Bobby Jindal promised to expand transparency in state government. Jindal has consistently broken that promise during his years as the state’s chief executive.”

He has a reputation for appointing political hacks and campaign donors to office. You’ve recently been attacking President Obama for his practice of appointing campaign contributors to jobs. Should you put Jindal on the ticket, say goodbye to that line of attack. Jindal has done the same, in spades. He also has a penchant for finding well-paying state jobs for washed-up and defeated state legislators.

He does not tolerate dissent. Jindal seems to surround himself with sycophants. If someone working for Jindal – or even someone in a leadership position in the Legislature — steps out of line and dissents, that person usually loses his or her job. Jindal is clearly not comfortable with dissent. I also wrote a blog post about that, which you may want to read. As I noted, “Strong leaders, of course, aren’t threatened by dissent. Actually, they welcome and encourage it because they recognize what it is — a great way to involve others in improving your organization.” As someone experienced in leading organizations, you will want to surround yourself with people who understand the value of dissent.

There is no Louisiana miracle. Despite what Jindal says, Louisiana’s economy is still sputtering. Corporate and sales tax collections, a good indicator of economic growth for a state, are still very weak. The state still has rising out-migration and weak population growth. Its per capita income is still very low. We have one of the highest poverty rates in the nation and are among the lowest in educational attainment.

He has mishandled his state’s budget. Despite constant talk about getting spending under control, Jindal has presided over years of budget crisis. Each year, Jindal’s budgets are balanced, but only because the state constitution requires it and he depends very heavily on one-time revenue. In this regard, he is clearly not a pure fiscal conservative. To quote the conservative American Spectator: “[F]or the past three years the budget process has been a mad scramble to break piggy banks from Bastrop to Cocodrie in an effort to fund what is now $25.6 billion in state spending. . . . Jindal has the stroke to force through the cuts to balance Louisiana’s budget if he chooses. But the governor has opted for the one-time money instead.”

He has crippled Louisiana’s higher education system. Under Jindal’s watch, higher education funding has been slashed dramatically. The state’s flagship university, LSU, has lost 10 percent of its faculty. Under Jindal, state appropriations for LSU have gone from 60 percent of the university’s budget to less than 40 percent – all in less than four years. While Jindal talks about never approving a tax increase, tuition costs for middle class families have soared. In fact, Jindal has presided over the largest higher education tax increase in Louisiana history.

His voucher plan is about two dozen scandals waiting to happen. Jindal rammed a private school voucher plan through the last session of the legislature. It will deliver millions in public funds to private and religious schools, many of which reject evolution in favor of creationism. While you may find this initially appealing, you should be aware that the program was passed in haste and implemented with even more haste. There are about two dozen scandals waiting to happen as specific schools receiving voucher funds come under media scrutiny. The media revelations so far should cause you concern. The standards for these private schools is also fairly weak, which has already brought Jindal some negative national attention.

I hope this memo has been helpful. I could list several other reasons why you should consider someone else, including the pending destruction, by Jindal, of Louisiana’s public health system. But I believe the points above should be enough to give you the information you need to make an informed decision.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.

* * * *

And then I woke up. I had apparently taken too much melatonin. That stuff really makes me have crazy dreams.

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7 Responses to Why Mitt Shouldn’t Choose Bobby Jindal: My Memo to Gov. Romney

  1. AContrarian says:

    To: Team Mitt
    From: The Committee to Draft Bobby Jindal for Vice President
    Re: The Mann Memo

    Dear Governor,

    Pay no attention to the recent advice you received from our dear friend Bob urging you to keep Bobby Jindal off your ticket. Bob is a great professor, fearless world traveler, acclaimed author and all-around good guy, but on this score he is all wrong.

    1) The state/regional calculation hasn’t been a factor for at least a generation. Obama didn’t need Biden to carry Delaware. Wyoming wasn’t a concern for G.W. Bush. And everyone kept telling Bill Clinton that he needed to balance his ticket with someone from the northeast or West until he picked Al Gore. This election is like 2004 – all about turnout. And nobody who isn’t directly related to Rob Portman or Tim Pawlenty is particularly excited about having them as vice president.

    2) Jindal will never be a great public speaker, but he has improved considerably since his humiliating national debut. All those tours around Louisiana weren’t just about handing out stimulus checks and veterans’ medals; he was practicing for the 2012 convention. And besides, if this election was about who could give the best speech, it wouldn’t even be close.

    3) Most of the people who are turned off by the exorcism are people who wouldn’t vote for a conservative Republican if he was running against Cesar Chavez. America is still a country where six in 10 people believe in “the devil” – a higher percentage than believe in evolution or the idea that people who make over $250,000 a year should keep their low tax rates. If anything, the reports of Jindal’s demon-fighting at Oxford is likely to endear him to many Republican voters, while the media sneering will only reinforce the belief that the media is out to destroy conservative candidates.

    4) Transparency/hackery/lack of dissent. I don’t think anyone voted for Jindal because they thought Louisiana’s government needed more transparency. If they did, I haven’t found them. While the administration’s secrecy is a persistent annoyance to the dwindling band of journalists who file public records requests for a living, the rest of the country sadly doesn’t care. And those who do will not vote for a candidate who is willing to endure months of public scorn to keep his tax returns secret. The same goes for political appointments and Jindal’s tendency to exact switf justice on those who cross him. These issues are simply unlikely to sway the swing voters in Columbus, Ohio and Henderson, Nev., who will decide this election.

    5) The state budget. Now we’re getting somewhere. The state budget has indeed been a mess the last few years, patched together with duct tape and chewing gum only to be torn up and reassembled each December. This might actually matter if the modern GOP was serious about balancing the budget, which it is not. A party that is serious about fiscal discipline would not choose as its standard bearer a man who wants to dramatically lower taxes on the wealthiest Americans, with no clear plan on how to make up the revenue. No, the goal is not a balanced budget. The goal, as Grover Norquist has said, is to shrink government to a size where it can easily be drowned in a bathtub. On this score, Jindal is doing quite well.

    6) Vouchers. You got me there, Bob. There is no telling what might happen once the education dollars once earmarked for public schools starts flowing freely to the private sector, with barely a figleaf of accountability. It probably won’t be pretty. But it’s a good bet that whatever happens won’t happen until long after this election is in the books.

    You left one thing out of your analysis that might dissuade a Republican nominee from picking Jindal: the governor’s continued inability to make nice with the other top Republicans in his midst. It’s not exactly a state secret that Jindal is not on the closest of terms with David Vitter, Jay Dardenne or John Kennedy. This might be something to think about when picking a running mate who might soon be asked to corral recalcitrant senators and representatives into casting a tough vote.

    But look around. In Texas, Indiana, Utah and elsewhere, Republicans have been tossing out compromise-seekers in favor of Tea Party firebrands who have vowed to stick to their principles under any circumstances. The voters are in an angry, bloodthirsty mood. This is no time for compromise. This is a time for drawing sharp contrasts and rallying the faithful. In such a year, you could do a lot worse than Bobby Jindal.

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