Is Jindal Setting The Table For A Race Against Mary Landrieu?

Maybe if he had let the barb go by without reaction the incident wouldn’t tell us anything. But because Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal didn’t issue a pass to Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu, the idea that Jindal will bail out of office a year early to contest and take her seat continues to simmer.

Given the dynamics of national politics, if he wishes an extended future in that arena, as previously noted Jindal should make his pledge that he has the job he wants look a bit hollow by challenging her. And if he contemplates such plans, he nudged their way towards implementation with his exchange with Landrieu over government relief funding for the impact of the recent Hurricane Isaac.

Landrieu started this when she complained about linkage that Republicans had placed upon replenishing funds for the Federal Emergency Management Administration after the hurricane. They wanted commensurate cuts in other areas to shift money to FEMA. Rightfully so, because, contrary to Landrieu’s belief, the federal government isn’t made of money and with deficit spending far beyond the pale over the past nearly four years, a crisis situation (perhaps intentionally so) has been created on this issue.

But Landrieu did not want to see anything like that, because of the fundamentally different view of government that she has. Republicans believe that government ought to perform a few core tasks, such as disaster relief, distinguishable in that they can be done only with great difficulty without the coercive powers that government has. By contrast, Landrieu conceives of government as the main shaper of people’s lives, built to imprint a certain desirable set of outcomes she thinks that combat an otherwise-rigged system if individual abilities and willingness to contribute to society and the inevitable differences they bring in outcomes are allowed to flourish.

That view of hers requires a lot more confiscation of the people’s resources, either now or in the future through debt, hence her unwillingness to budge in allowing cuts. This opposes Jindal’s view, joined by the state’s Republican Sen. David Vitter, who supports his party’s and as such has asked that, as the operating statute will allow with presidential authorization, waiver of any state responsibility to pick up costs, which (depending upon the level of matching) might come in at over $100 million.

Apparently, Landrieu’s staff was asleep when they let her respond by saying the state could dip into the Budget Stabilization Fund to cover these costs, clearly never having read the constitutional provision that makes it clear disaster spending cannot be funded out of it and permits its use only with revenue shortfalls, not with increased expenditures. The partisan nature of her response gets magnified in that, at a much higher level of money involved, Republican former Pres. George W. Bush waived all such requirements relevant to the 2005 hurricane disasters to aid a state then with a Democrat as governor while now Democrat Pres. Barack Obama seem disinclined to do the same when it has a Republican governor and whose people will vote heavily against his reelection bid next month.

(At least Obama is consistent in action, if not verbiage. Congress must approve of these waivers and did so for the 2005 hurricane disaster picking up of all costs. But one of the few Senate votes against was cast by Obama, who then a couple of weeks later gave his infamous speech about how Bush had discriminated against New Orleans, implying because of its majority-black population, by not granting a waiver when none of that was true and Obama himself had voted against it.)

Jindal naturally reminded her of this fact. Perhaps has he not an eye on a future in national politics he would have left it at that. Instead, he also delivered for public consumption the practical consequences of any forced state matching – more cuts to higher education and health care, where the latter has recently undergone severe downward adjustments.

Thus, Landrieu’s unforced error created a tailor-made issue for a putative 2014 campaign against each other. Jindal easily can claim that Landrieu is more beholden to her national party than the state by not just failing to fight vigorously for a waiver, but also that she cripplingly recommended the state suffer further budgetary difficulties as the preferred alternative. Jindal’s response brought the issue into focus and sets it up ready-made to become part of the campaign narrative, if that happens.

Maybe this is the shape of things to come. The denying of Obama of a second term, with Republicans in the White House and (particularly one living) in the Naval Observatory, would put additional pressure on Jindal to take on Landrieu. This incident may prove the last informal skirmish before a more dedicated campaign begins.

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