It’s a long-forgotten mediocre film by now, but the 1992 Eddie Murphy vehicle The Distinguished Gentleman seems to have new relevance this week thanks to the antics of a term-limited Louisiana legislator.
The movie stars Murphy as a Florida con man who manages to finagle his way into Congress and once there maneuvers his way to advantage using a variety of tricks. Perhaps the most entertaining scene involves how Murphy, who as he learns the ropes in Washington discovers that something called the Power and Industry Committee is the best place to be for an aspiring money-grubber on Capitol Hill – and then takes steps to get a spot on that committee.
Murphy realizes quite soon that race is his ticket onto Power and Industry, and he works a short con to get an assignment (the fun starts at about 8:46 in the first clip and continues to about 3:40 of the second)…
The ruse works like a charm, and in no time Murphy becomes a rising star.
It’s entirely possible that state rep. Rick Gallot (D-Ruston) saw The Distinguished Gentleman and figured it’s worth a shot to see if that gambit works in real life. So Gallot is now banging the racism drums about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s appointments and wants to haul the governor into a committee hearing to defend the white-bread character of his team.
Gallot is the chairman of the House Governmental Affairs committee, as it turns out, and he’s been ginning up controversy on this issue in support of the effort by the state’s Legislative Black Caucus and its allies to use the pallor of the current Board of Regents in delegitimizing the governor’s push to merge SUNO and UNO. Unfortunately for Gallot, he doesn’t have the votes on his own committee to do much about the issue – a bill by fellow LBC member Rep. Regina Barrow (D-Baton Rouge) which would have mandated a composition of the Regents in proportion to the racial makeup of Louisiana’s population failed on an 11-6 vote earlier in this session. Gallot couldn’t get another bill by LBC member Jared Brossett (D-New Orleans) which would have commenced a study into the racial and gender makeup of the state’s boards and empower a legislative committee to pack those boards lacking sufficient diversity with new minority members out of the committee, either – that bill was bounced on a 10-5 vote.
So, in Murphyesque fashion, Gallot has taken to the phones in asking “how many Aaaaaaaasian Americans” (so to speak) Jindal has appointed to the various boards and commissions and executive branch positions within his purview. In doing so he has picked a scrape with the governor’s delightfully-named legislative policy director Jonathan Ringo. Ringo, who may or may not go by Johnny to friends and close acquaintances, is nevertheless no huckleberry for Gallot – he pointed out last week that the chairman’s demands for a racial and gender breakdown of the governor’s board appointments could easily be procured through the Senate, which is charged with vetting those appointments.
“Show us the beef,” Gallot told Ringo. “You keep saying this and creating this reality. I haven’t even seen a napkin” with the numbers on it, despite repeated requests.
“We look for the best qualified candidates for the boards,” Ringo told Gallot. “We look for the most qualified individuals who can support our reform agenda.”
Well, yesterday the Jindal administration released the numbers on its appointments, and about 10 percent of them have been black.
That, as Jeff Sadow points out, is a larger percentage than that of the African-American community which turned out for Jindal, and it’s also a larger percentage of the governor’s voters in the 2007 election.
Which is not to say that Jindal’s board appointments and executive hires should only reflect those who voted for him. But on the other hand, Jindal is an idiot if he makes a practice of hiring people who disagree with him politically and don’t support his agenda. Dave Treen comes to mind.
So when only seven percent of the black vote in 2007 went to Jindal, it’s hard to see how he’d be doing himself much of a favor by appointing more African Americans than he’s appointed to all the boards in question. Or, it ought to be said, the state in general. After all, Jindal got a majority in the primary in 2007; had he been forced into a general election it’s likely he would have topped the 60 percent mark. What that means is Jindal’s agenda and philosophy (at least, what the voters understand of it) can be said to represent a significant majority of the state’s population. And if he were to cripple that agenda by diluting it through appointing political opponents to state boards and commissions, he would be denying the majority of the state’s voters who cast ballots for him the government they voted for.
In other words, elections have consequences. One of them is that those board appointments, which incidentally are far too numerous and generally waste money and freedom rather than doing anything of valuable, go to folks who supported the governor. It’s commonly said they’re patronage jobs given as payoffs for campaign donations, but that isn’t really the main reason; the main reason is that if you’re donating money to Jindal, for example, it’s a good indication that you think his agenda and policies are good for the state and you’d do what you can to support him if you’re appointed to the Board of XYZ rather than cause him trouble.
Gallot is fuming not only over the fact Jindal appointed a bunch of white people to the boards in question, but that those appointees replaced lots of blacks and women his predecessor previously appointed.
Well, yeah. When Kathleen Blanco fills up her patronage appointments with Democrats, Jindal is going to get as many of them off the roster as he can – regardless of race, color or whatever. Republican governors do and should have a healthy suspicion of Democrat holdovers; they almost never work out well. So when you’re trying to get rid of Democrats on these boards, and 93 percent of the black vote went Democrat in the last election, and the holdovers on these boards whose terms are up were appointed by Blanco in furtherance of a Democrat agenda, you’d have to be pretty stupid or pretty disingenuous to be surprised that Jindal’s replacing these people.
In short, there isn’t any substance here. The entire controversy is ridiculous, and it’s a way Gallot, who is term-limited and clearly wants to stay in politics rather than earn a living in the private sector, can get his mug on TV. He tried to manufacture a heavily-Democrat I-20 district in the redistricting session back in March which would have given him a platform to run for Congress against Republican John Fleming, and he got nowhere. So now he’s looking to become a standard bearer of sorts for the new black majority of the state’s Democrat Party.
Maybe Gallot ought to put his money where his mouth is and run against Jindal this fall. The Democrats could use a candidate, he could use something to do with his time and if in the unlikely event he won he’d be able to appoint all the women and minorities to state boards and commissions his little heart desires.
But like Murphy’s character in the movie, he’s going to need to run on heck of a con to make it happen. And so far his tricks and gambits haven’t gotten him anywhere.
UPDATE: Slightly off the topic, but via e-mail a reader sent in an example of what Gallot’s friends formerly on the Board of Regents – y’know, the nice people that the governor screwed by throwing off the board in favor of evil white Republicans – were cooking during the previous administration…
Let us rewind the clock to about 5 years ago and give an example of the kinds of shady politics that was going on in the Board of Regents. This is one example that affected me and others I know professionally, so I can imagine the breadth of corruption and back biting that occurs even today.
Southeastern, ULL, and McNeese developed a consortium of universities which have developed a work-friendly nursing program designed to allow nurses to pursue continuing graduate education while working full time or caring for a family.
In the world of nurse practitioners to be widely marketable in many clinical settings, most employers prefer someone educated as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), thereby allowing them to treat all age groups. The consortium was told by the Board of Regents that they could have other NP curriculums: adult, pediatrics, geriatrics, even midwifery; but not family. There are other schools that offer an FNP program, but none are as flexible as the consortium for working nurses.
Like myself, many nurses take the Adult NP curriculum through the consortium, then take a bridge course (out of state) to complete the FNP portion. This amounts to a few thousand dollars of tuition leaving the state for each graduate student. I am told that Southeastern has only recently been given permission to offer the graduate family nurse practitioner education.
When I asked instructors about this, many were hesitant to say what was going on at the time. I found out that the Board of Regents (perhaps under Blanco, but not sure) felt that allowing the consortium to have a working-nurse friendly family practice program would be unfair competition to Southern University’s Family NP program; which is full time and not at all friendly to working nurses. This policy did nothing to help enrollment at Southern, in fact, it angered many of us at the time leaving a bad impression of the school, which in my opinion was undeserved.
This policy, forgoing common sense for the sake of so called “affirmative action”, once again has allowed money to leave this state in favor of another. A university puts out a product, its graduates, if they can’t be the advertising and example of excellence maybe the institution needs to look within.