Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wasn’t selected as Republican Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, even though some on the national scene thought he was the best choice. The nod went instead to U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin.
Actually, the Jindal promoters really don’t know much about our governor.
“Will the Real Bobby Jindal Please Stand Up?” was the title of a recent talk I made to a couple of local civic clubs. The question comes from the closing line of a TV game show called “To Tell the Truth.” The program first appeared in 1956 and was televised for 25 seasons.
Three contestants appeared on the show every week, each claiming to be the same person. Panelists asked questions in an effort to determine which one was telling the truth.
Jindal has gained a national reputation for his efforts in a number of areas. Among them are ethics, education and retirement reform, conservatism, his firm no-tax stand and his expertise in the health care field.
Ethics reform was the cornerstone of the governor’s first year in office in 2008. Laws he helped steer through the Legislature made significant changes in the state’s ethics laws, and the state jumped to No. 1 in national rankings.
Unfortunately, some of the changes have proved unworkable because they stripped too much power from the state Board of Ethics. Legislation at the last session is supposed to fix some of the problems, but it’s too early to tell whether it will.
Supporters of Jindal are correct when they say his education reforms that passed at the last legislative session are significant, but they are also extremely controversial. Only time will tell how successful the changes will be, and that could take years.
The governor had a half-dozen retirement reform measures on the agenda, but was able to pass just one major bill. It applies only to new state employees, and doesn’t do much to solve retirement debt problems in the near future. Nevertheless, the administration called that one change “historic.”
Jindal is definitely a conservative, but not when it comes to budgeting. The current fiscal year budget was put together with one-time money and by raiding various funds and making cuts to health care and higher education. It passed with almost united support from Democrats in the Legislature, who seldom hesitate to spend government money.
Health care expertise and tax opposition are two legitimate Jindal credentials, but sometimes even they are carried to the extreme. The governor’s opposition to renewal of a 4-cent-per-pack cigarette tax is a prime example of the latter. Voters had the last word on that one and approved renewal by a 70-percent margin.
National political operatives know little about the details listed here, and they didn’t appear to care. They only know Jindal as a conservative who fit the criteria they wanted in a vice president. And he has been extremely active on the national scene promoting Romney’s candidacy.
CNN last week said, “Whether or not he gets the nod, Jindal has shown himself to have the political attack-dog bona fides required for a running mate.”
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, is well-known for his anti-tax pledge that most Republicans have signed. He thought Jindal’s education reform effort was worthy of making him vice president.
“… Jindal has offered hope and opportunity to hundreds of thousands of families — empowering parents, rewarding success and instituting accountability,” Norquist said in May.
If Norquist knew Jindal as well as he should, he would know accountability is not the governor’s strong suit when it comes to his own operations. Jindal and his subordinates have a miserable record on transparency. All of us hope the education reforms will work, but it’s definitely too early to call it a resounding success.
Conservative columnist George Will also favored Jindal as a great choice for VP.
Kirby Goidel, director of the Manship School Research Facility at LSU, offered a more realistic assessment.
Goidel said, “A superficial glance at Jindal’s record in Louisiana works in his favor in the GOP veep-stakes. And national commentators seem to have uncritically accepted Jindal’s spin on his record.
“Somebody who digs a little deeper, then the record isn’t as strong as it appears,” Goidel said.
Ryan was among four men who topped the short VP list, according to National Journal, a Washington, D.C., political magazine. The others were Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota; U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a swing state; and Jindal.
The magazine, in another story, said a new CNN/ORC International poll showed a plurality of Republicans wanted Romney to pick U.S. Sen. Mark Rubio of Florida as his running mate. However, it added that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is the best-known and most popular among the contenders. The magazine said Christie would immediately alter the race in Romney’s favor.
“Among all adults, Christie initially looks like Romney’s most valuable asset …,” the magazine said.
Who was your favorite?
Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than ÿve decades. Contact him at 337-494-4025 or [email protected].