Time has come to stop the constant Jindal-bashing on the editorial pages.
Readers must be growing weary of all the attacks on our esteemed governor’s record, and the pooh-poohing of his presidential prospects. There is a long way to go yet, and we can’t keep sounding the same note.
And we can’t just ignore Jindal, although there is a case for it in fairness, as he has ignored Louisiana while he jets around the country courting the gun-toting evangelical Republicans who will have a big say in the Iowa caucuses and the early primaries.
But election campaigns are mother’s milk to the Fourth Estate, and every move, every fringe candidate, has always rated a ton of ink. In the age of the blog and the tweet, the coverage cannot let up for a minute. Pretending Jindal is not there will not be an option. If he scratches his nose, some hack will get the scoop.
The usual knock is that we cover elections like horse races, but the differences are obvious. The Run for the Roses is two minutes of excitement; the presidential campaign is a frequently tedious slog stretching out for well over a year. Cliches are being massed for the struggle, as candidates throw their hats in the ring and resolve to stay on message. It is a daunting prospect, all the more so for states with a dog in the hunt.
The conventional wisdom is that Jindal has been a disaster as governor and must be delusional to form an exploratory committee for a presidential run. Let us hear no more of that, and look on the bright side.
It is true that, if this were a horse race, the chart would say that Jindal was bereft of early foot. He barely registers in the polls and must figure out pretty soon how to make a move. Fortunately, he has a plan.
Last week, for instance, the Legislature killed a bill that would have sanctioned discrimination by business owners opposed to gay marriage on religious grounds. Jindal promptly sought to enforce the provisions of what was called the Marriage and Conscience Act through an executive order barring the state from imposing penalties when bigotry is motivated by faith.
Jindal declared the bill was not discriminatory, although it expressly was. Words lose their meaning when the zealots invent a threat to religious freedom in the United States. Still, it would be a mistake to say this just confirms Jindal as a mealy-mouthed poseur. What it proves is that he has the flexibility required in a president.
When President Barack Obama issued his executive order on immigration, Jindal called it overreach, an insult to the legislative branch and the people. But he is a quick study and has now emerged with a new respect for the bold exercise of executive power. He is growing in stature before our eyes.
Given the fiscal crisis facing the legislature, the gay marriage row was no more than a trivial distraction in Baton Rouge, but it may assume larger significance in those distant states where Jindal has been haranguing the rubes these many months. For them, Jindal’s anti-gay stance may merely confirm the adherence to biblical principle that has caused him to bear witness to exorcism and advocate creationism on the science curriculum. His fiscal mismanagement may have left the poor of his state without decent health care, but it would take a persnickety Bible scholar to bring that up in the middle of a caucus.
Perhaps Jindal’s flexibility on the issue of executive orders should come as no surprise, for this is not the first time he has managed to adapt his principles to political exigency. The prime example would be Common Core, which he introduced to Louisiana as the salvation of our educational system. But when it became apparent that many moms were scared their kids would flunk if held to national standards, Common Core was transformed into a federal brainwashing conspiracy, and Jindal vowed to cast it out.
There is, however, one issue on which Jindal will not budge. He would never dream of breaking his pledge to block any net tax increase.
His fealty to Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform might be regarded as an abdication of his gubernatorial responsibilities, as the state descends further into financial chaos. But we have given up bashing Jindal. Now, when we call him pig-headed and self-centered, it is just another way of saying he is a born leader.
James Gill’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.