Though the two men are ideological opposites, Bobby Jindal and Mitch Landrieu have taken similar paths to high office.
Both Jindal and Landrieu were darlings of Louisiana media, portrayed as energetic and dynamic reformers.
Their respective elections also marked a departure from the demographic norm: Jindal becoming the first non-white elected governor in Louisiana history while Landrieu was the first white elected mayor in the black-majority city since his father left City Hall in the 1970’s.
Both “batted” cleanup after Hurricane Katrina, succeeding officials who were in power at the time of the destructive storm and had their tenures negatively defined by it.
Also Jindal and Landrieu lost previous elections against the very people they replaced.
And, for a period of two years, Jindal and Landrieu were respectively the number one and two officials in the state. In fact it was Landrieu’s largely unchallenged re-election as lieutenant governor that precluded Jindal from serious consideration as John McCain’s running mate on the 2008 Republican ticket.
The big difference was their ambitions.
Jindal would always dismiss White House speculation with his oft-repeated “I have the job I want” line.
Granted nobody believed that as a Jindal presidential candidacy was more a matter of when than if. And for a time Louisiana voters were largely at peace with Jindal using the governor’s mansion as a spring board to the White House, re-electing him by a landslide in 2011.
But people’s patience with Jindal’s ambitions changed when the bottom dropped out of the budget and he seemed more concerned with Iowa’s caucuses than Louisiana’s problems.
Louisiana Democrats mocked Jindal’s absenteeism, issuing “Where’s Bobby?” bumper stickers.
It might be time for the Louisiana GOP to return the favor with “Where’s Mitch?” bumper stickers, as it seems Louisiana has another improbable presidential aspirant.
Nobody thought Landrieu harbored any kind of serious national ambitions, unlike Jindal’s three campaigns for governor.
But then again Mitch Landrieu never ran on taking down Civil War statues in any of his four (1994, 2006, 2010, and 2014) runs for mayor of New Orleans.
Termed out as mayor with no chance at securing a charter amendment to snag another four years, most politicos assumed Landrieu was waiting for an appointment by the next Democratic president.
Mitch could have followed in his father’s footsteps as HUD Secretary or been tapped for an ambassadorship like Chep Morrison.
It was assumed that the entire Confederate statue outcry was invented by Landrieu in the summer of 2015 to raise his national profile to garner one of these political plums from the anticipated Hillary Clinton Administration.
But nobody counted on America Being Made Great Again!
After Donald Trump’s election removing the monuments, which would have been left to his successor in the event he received a Washington job, became a crusade for Landrieu.
Landrieu had three of the Civil War monuments removed in the dead of night, but General Lee’s statue would be ostentatiously plucked from atop the busy traffic circle in the middle of a work day so the mayor could gush to the national news.
This was Landrieu’s national political “coming out.”
As intended the mayor’s speech went “viral” and shortly thereafter his name entered the conversation of potential Democratic presidential candidates, which the mayor perhaps disingenuously dismissed on various national media outlets.
After all, if the mayor didn’t have national aspirations, then why was the mayor of America’s 49th most populous city talking to national media about a local matter?
That was May.
In June, Landrieu assumed the leadership of the US Conference of Mayors, leading to more national press.
Starting to notice a pattern?
And then this past week, Landrieu delivered a major speech about the “existential threat” to New Orleans.
Would that be the city’s 365 shootings in 2017?
Church officials being rolled in the French Quarter a block away from their hotel?
Families having their cars shot up on I-10 in New Orleans East?
Thugs in a stolen vehicle leading police on a 90 mph, 7-mile car chase across the city?
A woman being robbed on Canal Street by a man wielding a large rock? (No, I’m not making this up)
A barmaid being pistol-whipped by a male teenager wearing a wig and a bra in the St. Roch area? (see the above)
Perhaps most embarrassingly, on the same morning of the rock-mugging, a man was robbed at gunpoint in Duncan Plaza.
To clarify, Duncan Plaza is the official name for the park that is in front of City Hall. The local media was being far too charitable with that description of the robbery’s location.
That’s right, criminals are now so brazen in New Orleans that they are holding up folks a block away from the mayor’s office.
Nope, according to Mitch Landrieu that great threat to New Orleans and its fragile tourism-based economy isn’t wanton thuggery but climate change.
Landrieu has less than a year left in office and stopping the rise of oceans is now his focus.
I suspect there will be much more to write about on this matter in the remaining months of the mayor’s term and perhaps on other issues important to the national left but unrelated to improving the quality of life of New Orleans residents.
Louisianans are watching history repeat itself within a presidential cycle, first with Jindal now with Landrieu.
And New Orleans is now the city that care and its mayor forgot.
May the mayor enjoy the same fortune as our former governor did in a similar endeavor.