Had events taken another turn, perhaps Gov. Bobby Jindal would have been among those upstaged at the Republican National Convention by Clint Eastwood on last Wednesday.
The tragic severity of the storm was not welcome to anyone, but it certainly did have the political benefit of keeping the governor on his job and away from the forgettable — except for Eastwood and the empty chair — convention in Tampa.
Jindal, of course, would have been happier as a steward of his state not to have benefited from hurricanes and an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But more than a few commentators picked up on the fact that storms have been helpful in the purely political sense of timing for Jindal for several years.
In the wake of a disastrous decision not to fight a pay raise bill for legislators, Jindal was forced to recant his decision and veto the bill in the summer of 2008. It was an existential crisis for the new administration, because Jiindal campaigned as a reformer and would have been perceived as another Capitol insider had he gone along with the raise.
Along came Hurricane Gustav and then that storm was followed by Ike. The public approved of Jindal’s vigorous response. The pay raise fiasco receded into memory.
In 2010, the oil leak that hit the Gulf of Mexico also gave the governor an opportunity to polish his emergency management credentials. All this provoked his theme for a campaign-style memoir, at age 40, named “Leadership and Crisis.”
And now, there is Isaac. Was the timing good or bad?
Jindal has sought the national spotlight. He remains a good draw for GOP audiences and was invited to speak at the Republican National Convention before Isaac. A solid performance at the GOP convention would have gone a long way toward putting behind Jindal his poorly received response to President Barack Obama in 2009.
But, Jindal cancelled his speech to guide Louisiana preparations for Isaac.
If the convention speaking opportunity was taken away by Isaac, it hardly forecloses a political future for Jindal. It does not hurt if the governor got a lot of positive attention on his own, in his element, while others were giving purely political speeches.
And other convention attendees did not have the chance to host the new GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, as well as Obama in the state to assess damages.
As Isaac’s aftermath is dealt with, the governor can be a surrogate for Romney this fall.
All that said, what Isaac has wrought is something that the governor seems to have an instinctive aversion to: a pause. The Isaac crisis is not one from which one moves on quickly.
Yes, there will be national campaign events to speak at from time to time, but the governor is hardly in a position to move on from Isaac, the way that he was able to do after Gustav and Ike. Widespread flooding has a way of providing a lingering demand from constituents for assistance, not just the relative short-term debris pickup that previous storms required. Jindal could consult former Gov. Kathleen Blanco on the unfortunate political longevity of a flood event.
After five years in office, Jindal owns Isaac — just as much as Isaac owned his schedule last week.
Lanny Keller is an editorial writer for The Advocate. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.