I haven’t had the opportunity to write something like this in a while now, so it feels sort of strange. But here goes.
Good for you, Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Not for championing any in a long list of policies clearly aimed at impressing right-wing presidential primary voters instead of helping Louisiana. Not for supporting the teaching of creationism in public schools, or refusing to accept federal money to expand Medicaid, or rejecting budget fixes that may actually raise badly needed revenue, or endorsing a constitutional amendment to stop the inevitable acceptance of same-sex marriage, or inciting a boycott of the upcoming PARCC test just to once again flaunt his anti-Common Core bona fides.
And certainly not for pushing a discredited argument that radical Muslim “no-go zones” exist in Europe and could be coming to America, a view that Michael Gerson, a Washington Post columnist and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, described in a recent column as cartoonish.
No, I’m talking about Jindal’s forceful, unequivocal endorsement of vaccination amid a frightening measles outbreak in California and renewed fears that the anti-vaccine movement is undermining efforts to control the disease’s spread.
In a prepared statement, Jindal, a former state health secretary, said he has “no reservations about whether or not it is a good idea and desirable for all children to be vaccinated.”
“There is a lot of fear mongering out there on this,” Jindal continued. “I think it is irresponsible for leaders to undermine the public’s confidence in vaccinations that have been tested and proven to protect public health. Science supports them, and they keep our children safe from potentially deadly but preventable diseases. Personally, I would not send my kids to a school that did not require vaccinations. Vaccinations are important. I urge every parent to get them. Every one.”
What a pleasant surprise it was to see him come down decisively on the side of common sense. What a relief to hear him embrace public health and science rather than coddle the conspiracy theorists who equate mandatory vaccinations with government overreach and cling to debunked suspicions that vaccines cause more harm than good. How refreshing not to have to listen to another tired lecture about how parents know best, his go-to platitude when questioned over his opposition to school accountability measures he once championed.
What a nice change from the way he’s been handling a whole host of issues lately.
Now, it could well be that he did it for political reasons. Jindal’s statement came relatively late in the controversy, after potential GOP rivals Chris Christie and Rand Paul had been widely excoriated for suggesting decisions over whether to vaccinate children are little more than a matter of parental choice. By the time he spoke, everyone knew which way the wind was blowing on this issue.
Or maybe he really believes what he said. Nothing wrong with that.
I remember this Bobby Jindal, the guy who used to be more interested in problem-solving than purity, the proud conservative who also sought common ground rather than turning every issue into an ideological standoff.
The new governor who, for example, tried to stop the Legislature from repealing the Stelly income tax increases during a time of plenty, because he understood that the state’s bottom line wouldn’t be able to take the hit once all that hurricane recovery money stopped flowing.
Don’t forget that it was all those new post-term limits lawmakers elected along with Jindal in 2007 who campaigned on that issue, while Jindal initially stayed silent. Only after they threatened to eliminate the state income tax entirely did Jindal agree to repeal the Stelly increases. While he now trumpets signing the biggest tax cut in Louisiana history, his goal at the time was simply to head off something even worse.
I think a lot of people who voted for him thought that’s the governor they would get, not the guy who seems like he’d take any position, no matter how shortsighted or irresponsible, just to stand out.
I kind of like this Bobby Jindal, the one who showed up unexpectedly this week after such a long time away. Maybe, if we ask really nicely, we can get him to stick around for a bit.