Keller Diatribe Exemplifies Advocate’s Ongoing Decline

An opinion piece appearing today by the Baton Rouge Advocate’s Lanny Keller castigates Gov. Bobby Jindal for what Keller calls “partisan” behavior in refusing to adequately defend Sen. Mary Landrieu for her actions in conducting the Louisiana Purchase vote on health care back in December.

Keller, who once worked for Dave Treen and Bob Livingston, has for the last 7-10 years been a relatively consistent spokesman for the state’s Democrat party when writing his “Inside Report” entries, but today’s screed doesn’t even rise to the level of regular commentary – it might as well have come from the offices of newly-installed state Dem party chair Buddy Leach. Based on recent frothing state Democrat releases about how Sen. David Vitter should have endorsed a lynch mob for James O’Keefe or how the state should have sued the NFL over the Who Dat controversy, Keller’s latest offering would fit right in.

Keller’s thesis, to the extent one appears in his column, is that Jindal is carrying water for the far right by not offering a sufficient lifeline to Landrieu for her health-care vote. This constitutes extremely bizarre reasoning, but to analyze it requires reciting Keller’s words…

Way back on Nov. 20, Gov. Bobby Jindal said what he thought without regard to the political consequences. This rare event occurred on CNN, when he was interviewed about criticism of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., for pushing a fix of Louisiana’s Medicaid funding problem via an amendment to the giant Senate health-care bill.

Jindal said he opposed the Democratic health-care bill but he went further to extend an olive branch to Landrieu. “The bill is awful, but it’s unfair to criticize Sen. Landrieu or the rest of our delegation for fighting to correct this injustice to Louisiana. Our entire delegation is working together across party lines to correct this flawed formula.”

That was then.

Since, Republican party leaders — not just professional blowhards such as Rush Limbaugh, or cranks of the Tea Party movement — have bayed like hounds about the “Louisiana Purchase,” in which Landrieu cast a key vote to advance the health bill in what they say was an exchange for money for her state.

Keller starts off praising Jindal for his initial statement acknowledging that something needed to be done to fix the FMAP formula, which because of a glitch in how it measured per-capita income for Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina showers the state with hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid bills. Apparently, he misses the part in Jindal’s statement where he calls the bill that Landrieu chose to vote for “awful,” which is not a particularly diplomatic or kind characterization of her judgement in supporting it.

Then he chooses to call Rush Limbaugh, whose audience is growing as the Advocate’s readership shrinks, a blowhard and the Tea Party movement “cranks.” On the latter, Keller probably ought to do a little research before making such an asinine, ill-advised accusation – those “cranks” have a better national image than does either political party and the demise of last year’s bond proposal in Baton Rouge, engineered by “cranks” from the Baton Rouge Tea Party, proved that Keller’s paper was quite completely out of tune with the community it serves. The Advocate backed the proposal, which had already been rejected by the voters the previous year largely because it included $230 million for a theme park located on land which needed $40 million in site improvements and lacked a clear title, and saw its position drummed by a 65-35 count. This despite a disparity in spending favoring the proposal by some 50-1.

So before Keller goes around calling the Tea Party movement a bunch of cranks again, he should think twice. As noted:

Governor Jindal appears to be much more in touch with the people of Louisiana than Mr. Keller. This is a state that gave President Obama an underwhelming 39% of the vote. The ObamaCare legislation polls less than 30% here and Mary Landrieu’s antics in support of the dying health proposal have contributed to her serious unpopularity as evidenced by an active recall. The name calling and negativity expressed by Mr. Keller offer an insider elitist slant and a totally out of touch view of the political reality in our state today.

By insulting Limbaugh listeners and Tea Party supporters Mr. Keller has probably unwittingly alienated the vast majority of The Advocate readership.

But Keller is just getting started. Following a statement about how those who have decried Landrieu’s Louisiana Purchase as political prostitution have created a “pungent” debate – as though heated language in American or Louisiana politics is somehow a new thing – he takes up for Landrieu’s embarrassing and loopy emotionalist diatribe on the Senate floor last week:

Landrieu is deeply aggrieved, and said so on the Senate floor Thursday. She outlined how many times the governor and the delegation had asked her to fix the Medicaid formula. She bitterly decried Jindal’s silence while the GOP attack-dog apparatus turned on her.

“It takes more than intelligence to be a public official; it takes more than a fancy résumé; it takes guts,” she said, transparently about Jindal. “Some people have more guts than others.”

In other words, because Landrieu was “deeply aggrieved,” it’s acceptable for her to call the governor gutless for his silence.

This line of thinking, if it can be charitably described as such, is deficient on a few levels.

First, the fact that Jindal had been after Landrieu to do something about the FMAP formula for ten months or more before she finally did act on the issue is most certainly not an argument for her having inserted that $300 million fix into the health care bill. What it is an argument for, in fact, is Landrieu’s inefficiency and incompetence in getting things done for the state when she is in position due to a chummy relationship with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to have some influence. How many bills went through the Senate before health care came up? How hard should it have been to get that $300 million inserted into the $800 billion stimulus bill, or the $400 billion omnibus? Given the righteousness of the cause where the FMAP formula issue is concerned, why couldn’t Landrieu bring a bill to the floor on her own? Don’t Democrats have a soft spot for Louisiana and New Orleans thanks to the incompetence of the Bush administration in managing the response to Hurricane Katrina?

It certainly wasn’t in Jindal’s interest, or the state of Louisiana’s interest for that matter, to call Landrieu out for her inability to get some relief on the FMAP formula. That’s why the governor called for bipartisanship among the state’s congressional delegation on this issue, and generally speaking that’s precisely what has come about. As such, the smart move was to thank Landrieu for her efforts on FMAP while deriding the overall bill she voted for, and to do so in a manner which left the state’s senior senator to fend for herself on a vote the governor would not have made.

After all, had Landrieu done a good job with FMAP it would have been already dispensed with and she wouldn’t have had to “sell” her vote on the health care bill (a misnomer in our opinion; Landrieu was going to vote for that bill given any possible justification for doing so). It’s hard to understand how Jindal is somehow obligated to go further to bail her out for her better-late-than-never action on FMAP while voting in favor of a bill which will reportedly stick Louisiana with some $1 billion in additional Medicaid costs on a yearly basis. Yet that appears to be Keller’s position. He continues:

A couple of hours later, Jindal faced the press corps in Baton Rouge on an unrelated bill. Asked about Landrieu’s speech, he repeated the new party line — literally. He would not say a word in defense of Landrieu or in criticism of his own party’s extremists. He repeated, and repeated again, and repeated again, his boilerplate.

“I have been consistent about this. I was against the bill with or without the amendment.”

The mantra was repeated, and repeated. It was, ironically given the subject matter, punctuated with statements about bipartisanship. “What is important is not the finger-pointing or the name-calling, but that the delegation work across party lines and across chambers to get this done,” Jindal said.

He never got near the “L” word — Landrieu.

How this is a change in the “party line” Keller doesn’t enumerate. And how silence is somehow partisan isn’t explained, either.

What’s wrong with what Jindal said on Nov. 20? Nothing. It’s a perfectly reasonable defense of a colleague with whom he disagrees but who took a path toward one of Jindal’s key objectives that the governor himself would not have taken.

Civility, in other words. Given the hostility of the national party to the “Louisiana Purchase,” civility is no longer operative.

No one in Louisiana would bat an eyelid if Jindal made the same kind of statement about Landrieu today that he made in November.

Nobody but Keller and the fire-breathers at the state Democrat Party batted an eyelid about Jindal’s statement last week, either. What does he expect Jindal to do, ride in on a white horse and slay the evil conservatives who happen to be in a substantial majority regarding Landrieu’s antics?

Apparently so:

He’s clear on his position against the health-care bill; it’s clear he needs Landrieu’s assistance on all sorts of issues, because of her seniority in the Senate majority.

His willingness to toe the national party line makes him appear little more than a marionette to the Limbaughs of the world.

There is something deeply phony about the way such an intelligent man contorts himself into a caricature, when he could lance the boil of the controversy just by doing what he was on Nov. 20 — being honest.

Jindal is a marionette of Rush Limbaugh’s because he basically keeps his mouth shut? What bilge. And then we’re treated, finally, to the crux of Keller’s message – that Jindal could kill off the controversy by taking up for Landrieu again. That’s telling stuff – first, the Senate health care bill and Landrieu’s behavior in embarrassing the state in voting for it were, in the eyes of a majority of the state’s voters, outrages worthy of a controversy, something Keller took absolutely no notice of whatsoever, and second, in Keller’s apparent reasoning if only the Republican or the conservative would shut up and leave the good lefties alone to run the country everybody would be happy.

Safe to say this is not an opinion piece which will find a wide acceptance among its readership. Rather, it will put on even greater display the disconnect between the snooty editorialists at “the independent voice of South Louisiana” and the great unwashed masses who increasingly decide against investing their nickels and dimes on its paper and ink.



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