A new book coming out this week gives some insight into Gov. Bobby Jindal’s background and his ultimately unsuccessful run for president.
“The Wilderness: Deep Inside the Republican Party’s Combative, Contentious, Chaotic Quest to Take Back the White House” by Buzzfeed reporter McKay Coppins will be released Tuesday. It takes readers deep inside the crowded roster of GOP presidential hopefuls.
Jindal ended his campaign Nov. 17, but several chapters of Coppins’ book contain stories about him — both his political career and his childhood in Baton Rouge.
It’s well known that Jindal renamed himself at the age of 4 after the youngest Brady Bunch son, but there were also some ’80s pop icons who influenced his life, according to Coppins’ sources.
“He wore suits to school, sometimes accompanied by a bow tie with a dollar bill pattern, and carried a briefcase through the halls instead of a backpack,” Coppins writes. “When Oliver Stone’s blockbuster movie ‘Wall Street’ came out in 1987, Jindal memorized and frequently quoted from the triumphalist pro-capitalism speech that cutthroat investor Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, delivers to shareholders of a troubled paper company.”
Jindal’s campaign advisers and the Governor’s Office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the new book.
Jindal has, himself, written two books — the most recent a history book meant to highlight conservative lessons and stake out Jindal’s case for the presidency. His first book focused on leadership lessons.
“The Wilderness” focuses more on personality, retelling anecdotes about how Jindal developed his “smartest guy in the room” attitude (and how that led to a new rule at Baton Rouge Magnet High School), and how he tried to regroup and rebuild himself from a disastrous performance of the 2009 State of the Union rebuttal.
On former GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, the book claims Jindal spent the final weeks of the 2012 campaign “inside the Romney campaign bubble” and missed the warning signs that he was heading to defeat. It also recounts Jindal’s frustration over dealing with Romney on a tour of areas ravaged by Hurricane Isaac in 2012. Romney, the book claims, criticized to Jindal the Louisiana residents they were visiting because they lived in areas prone to flooding.
“The episode had left Jindal with the distinct sense that the GOP’s standard-bearer, while certainly ‘smart,’ was not exactly brimming with social intelligence,” Coppins writes.
The book takes a deep dive into Jindal’s conversion from Hinduism to Christianity.
As a teen, Jindal spent several weeks meeting with a youth pastor from The Chapel on the Campus near LSU. Coppins writes how Jindal was initially skeptical of the religion he would go on to embrace and defend on the campaign trail. When first told of the story of Noah’s Ark, Jindal’s reaction was: “Wait: I thought that was a Disney movie,” according to the book.
When a youth pastor showed him the story in the Bible, Jindal, the book claims, asked, “in all sincerity,” if the Little Mermaid was also in the Bible.
A car wreck, in which Jindal’s head crashed through the windshield of his father’s Toyota Corolla ultimately led to his confession to his parents that he was converting to Christianity, and Jindal considered LSU his “back-up school” if his Indian parents decided not to pay for his tuition at Brown University.
The book describes the harsh fallout over his religious conversion: “He was told he was not allowed to attend church, read the Bible, or even talk to any of his Christian friends anymore, and that he would be expected home every day within fifteen minutes of school ending,” Coppins writes. “He was forbidden from participating in any activities outside his academic work, and was strictly instructed not to talk to any family members about his spiritual dalliance.”
- Opus Dei: Was Jindal a part of the Catholic group immortalized (and fictionalized) in The Da Vinci Code? It’s unclear, but The Wilderness makes a case for how it could have happened, given the wave of Catholicism at Brown while he was there.
- The exorcism: Jindal has written about an event that took place in college that has since been described as an exorcism. Coppins’ book provides a bit of postscript to it, claiming: “The events of that night toppled the emotional barrier between Jindal and Susan. The next year, they traveled to Europe together as a couple, falling in love as they took in a Viennese opera and walked the streets of southern France.”
- Jindal’s switch from planning to become a doctor to taking up politics: He “reason(ed) that he would be able to help millions in government as opposed to treating sick people one by one.”
The book offers a rare glimpse into normally press-avoiding Jindal’s meteoric rise through the political ranks — only to come up short as an also-ran candidate in a crowded Republican field this year. It documents what Jindal did after he lost the 2003 gubernatorial race to Kathleen Blanco, how he eventually teamed up with Timmy Teepell (thanks to that youth pastor he counseled with as a teen) and his shift from bookish wonk to fire-breathing conservative on the campaign trial.
It also includes this gem about Jindal’s apparent response to questions surrounding the sexuality of then-Newark, New Jersey, Mayor, now U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, who was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford the same time as Jindal: “If that’s true then he had a lot of beards. He was really overcompensating.”