Booby J and the other GOP guvs may do artful "political theater," but that's not the same thing as artful governing
Breakfast with Booby: Even sitting down, as Governor Booby was here at the Christian Science Monitor's breakfast on Monday, it's easy to slip on political banana peels.
"Some of the [Republican] party’s most promising candidates are governors or former governors running on their executive experience. But their experience isn’t always a good advertisement for the limited-government policies they promote."
-- Dana Milbank, in his Tuesday Washington Post
column, "Bobby Jindal's unpleasant record"
column, "Bobby Jindal's unpleasant record"
Poor Booby Jindal! When he came to national attention, it was as, not just a Republican rising star, but as a policy genius, the smartest of the Republican rising stars. Then the nation started getting glimpses of him, and it sure looked as if, whatever technocratic expertise he may have accumulated, he's a boob.
It became important to keep in mind that the terms "smartest of the Republican rising stars" and "boob" are in no way mutually exclusive. Same deal with that other famous "rising" GOP policy wonk, Paul Ryan, who demonstrates every time he opens his mouth or puts out a press release that you can be the smartest Republican on Capitol Hill and still be a boob.
This week poor Booby, in his attempt to position himself favorably for the 2016 GOP presidential smackdown, came to Washington and had the misfortune to run into the sharp quill pen of the Washington Post's Dana Milbank, who noted:
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal took his presidential campaign-in-waiting to Washington on Monday trailed by an unwelcome, unsavory and downright unpleasant companion: his record."This is likely to be a problem," Dana wrote, "for Jindal and several other Republican presidential hopefuls," which led to the quote I've put atop this post:
The interloper followed the Louisiana Republican into the St. Regis Hotel and crashed his breakfast meeting with three dozen reporters, at which Jindal planned to make the case to do for America what he did for Louisiana.
Dave Cook of the Christian Science Monitor, the breakfast host, quickly acknowledged the presence of Jindal’s uninvited guest by pointing out that, for all of Jindal’s claims that he’s a champion of education, a study found that public universities in Louisiana had suffered the deepest cuts per student in the nation under Jindal.
The governor replied by talking about teacher salaries, taxes, state credit upgrades, the state payroll, private-sector job growth — just about everything other than what he had been asked about.
Alexis Simendinger of RealClearPolitics made another reference to Jindal’s unwanted but omnipresent sidekick by observing that he had taken the state from a billion-dollar surplus to a $1.6 billion budget deficit.
Jindal responded with a four-minute filibuster, repeating his points about the state payroll, credit upgrades and private-sector job growth. For good measure, he tossed in statistics about graduation rates, official ethics, population growth — even low-birth-weight babies spending less time in neonatal intensive-care units. “Great for those babies, great for taxpayers,” Jindal said.
It was the equivalent of a homeowner dismissing the significance of his foreclosure by noting that he had done a fine job tending the flower beds.
Some of the party’s most promising candidates are governors or former governors running on their executive experience. But their experience isn’t always a good advertisement for the limited-government policies they promote.
NJ GOV. KRIS KRISPY? COME ON DOWN!
You may have noticed that the more NJ Fats behaves like an actual presidential candidate, the more problematic the results. As if he didn't have a big enough built-in problem with what I think we have to call the extreme far-right-wingers in his party, who consider him a pinko liberal, he's embarrassing himself to the party hacks who thought of him as a potential savior -- someone who, if he could somehow slither through the nominating process controlled by the party's faithful crackpots 'n' thugs, he might actually be able to attract votes outside the Party Faithful Compound.
But even if the Krispyman could do a better job of keeping his big foot out of his Ralph Kramden-size big mouth, Kris like Booby has the problem of his record, as a governor "who has seen his state’s credit rating downgraded eight times and who has presided over a state debt that reached a record-high $78 billion while unemployment is above the national average."
WI GOV. SCOTT WALKER? COME ON DOWN!
If you read the normal Village political organs, what you see is how Governor "Beam Me Up" Scotty has positioned himself as the triumphant scourge of public-employee unions, which for real Americans is supposed to (and to a large extent does) translate as "all those bad people who are everything that's wrong with America." Less often mentioned in the Village panegyrics is his position as chief fluffer for the Far-Right-Wing Billionaires of America, except sometimes insofar as his kissy-face relationship with the Koch Bros. may make campaign funds a bit easier to raise. (Yeah, just a bit.)
The governor's media fluffers are less apt to wave at Governor Scotty's unwelcome guest, his record, as a governor who "led his state to a projected $2.2 billion deficit while Wisconsin’s wage and job growth sag below the national average." Hmm. It's hard to whip up a pithy campaign slogan out of that.
STILL, THIS IS GOV. BOOBY'S WEEK IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Dana allows that among the 2016 GOP hopefuls who are or have been governors,
Indiana’s Mike Pence and Ohio’s John Kasich have more impressive stories to tell. Rick Perry presided over a big boom in Texas during his 14 years as governor, but his tenure has left him with other things, too, including an indictment. Former governors Jeb Bush (Fla.) and Mike Huckabee (Ark.) don’t have current records to sell.But this is Governor Booby's week, and there may be lessons in what happens when the slow-footed media emerge from their slumber and start poking around. "Louisiana’s travails are particularly problematic," Dana wrote, "because they have been caused in large part by Jindal’s tax cuts,"
which, along with declining oil revenue, blew such a hole in the state budget that even huge spending cuts haven’t made up the gap. In the last few days, articles in the New York Times and Politico have detailed Louisiana’s fiscal travails, including a possible 40 percent operating-budget cut at Louisiana State University and an increase in tuition at public universities of 90 percent during Jindal’s time in office. Jindal has already raided state reserve funds and resorted to the sort of budget-keeping gimmicks that he once criticized.If Governor Booby is serious about this business of being president, and if media types continue asking him these awkward questions, there will come a time when he's going to have to have better answers, or just plain answers -- even in a political theater that is, well, largely political theater.
Jindal ate up the first 15 minutes of Monday’s hour-long breakfast with an extensive preamble about an education reform policy he is proposing for the nation. But his record quickly intruded. “Is there some irony in your talking about ramping up education while you’re cutting it in Louisiana?” Cook inquired.
The governor ignored the specific question — about Jindal’s cuts to per-student spending for higher ed being the deepest in the nation — and instead delivered a sermon that included a boast about “eight credit upgrades” for the state and the “strongest credit rating we’ve seen in decades.”
Unmentioned: That just last week, Moody’s issued a “credit negative” report on Louisiana and said its problems have been intensified by its reliance on $1 billion in temporary patchwork funding being used to prop up the budget this year. The Republican state treasurer, John Kennedy, protested “budget gimmicks” and years of being “fiscally irresponsible.”
Minutes later, when Simendinger asked Jindal to explain why the big state deficit “qualifies you to run for president,” the governor replied with a string of non-sequiturs.
“In New Orleans, 90 percent of our kids are in charter schools.”
“It used to take 10 days to get a prescription if you were uninsured in Baton Rouge, and now it takes 10 minutes.”
“In ethics rankings we were bottom five for legislative disclosure, and now we’re in the top five.”
A while later, he joked, “And that’s the short answer.”
No, governor, that’s a non-answer.
As it happens, I only just noticed that Dana Milbank's standard WaPo biographical tag says that he "writes about political theater in the nation's capital," which seems to me charmingly descriptive, and perhaps also describes why I've become such a fan of his coverage of the scene. His writing tends to start with going out and observing at close range what the (largely comic) actors in our nation's political theater are actually saying and doing.
Naturally, they don't like this one bit. And I thought this might be worth talking about a little, especially at the time when Jon Stewart has made the big decision to call it a gig after 17 years of Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Because Jon S has also been eerily good at showing us what the buttwipes who people American political theater -- and their media fluffers -- have been saying and doing. And can you believe, those buttwipes and the buttwipe fluffers haven't liked this one bit either.
Maybe we'll come back to this tomorrow.