Last week we covered the blowup between Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Democrat spin doctor-turned-LSU professor Bob Mann which resulted in Landry taking the matter to Mann’s boss, LSU president William Tate.
What started the fight was Landry sending one of the AG’s office staff attorneys to explain the office’s policy on COVID vaccines to the LSU Faculty Senate. As that body is full of left-wing Branch Covidians who don’t like the idea that people might choose to refuse a vaccine, the decision stirred up some of them, and Mann then went on his Twitter to dump on Landry, which he does ad nauseam, but also to call the young female attorney a “flunky.” Mann actually spelled the word as “flunkie,” which is an odd misspelling since by his own admission Mann served as a flunky to Democrat politicians for decades before being anointed with his current six-figure sinecure.
Landry has put up with Mann trashing him on Twitter – and it’s worth mentioning that Twitter is literally all Mann does for most of his waking hours while being employed at a six-figure job by Louisiana’s flagship taxpayer-funded university – but he didn’t much fancy having Mann extend those bitter courtesies to his employees for simply doing their jobs.
So Landry called Tate and told him he didn’t appreciate this latest attack on his team and that he wanted some consequences. As we understand it he didn’t call for Mann’s job. It sounded more like a demand for an apology, or if not that then at least a statement by LSU that Bob Mann was in the wrong and that trashing innocent state employees over ideological differences with their bosses isn’t the kind of conduct LSU wants to hold standard.
He followed that up with a letter…
We went through the practical implications of this for Tate…
There are a whole lot of people who wanted Bob Mann fired a long time before this incident. Those people are more than happy if this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. And some of them are big donors to LSU.
So if you’re William Tate, whose politics mostly align with Bob Mann but who’s in a much different position, this starts to become a real problem.
Tate could tell Landry to go to hell. That would make Bob Mann happy. But Tate then takes ownership of everything Bob Mann says from now on, and that isn’t a comfortable situation. It isn’t just LSU’s front office who hasn’t come to Mann’s defense so far; Mann’s fellow professors have been fairly silent as well. He’s not all that popular on that campus even if they’re his fellow Democrats, because he’s too toxic. He scares the fish away.
And if Tate aligns himself with Mann, that makes Tate toxic, too. Tate’s already known as a social justice warrior who made his academic bones writing scholarly papers based in critical race theory which essentially hold that math is racist, so if he backs Mann on this, Tate then becomes the issue. And his politics – because they’ll relate to his governance of LSU, at least in the eyes of the public – then become the story rather than the goodwill he’s just earned from his athletic director stealing away Notre Dame’s football coach.
What happens after that is everything Tate does at LSU – every faculty or administrative hire, every university policy, every bit of messaging – then gets subjected to scrutiny as potential leftist indoctrination at work. And don’t think for one second that Landry, a pretty relentless messenger and a nonstop agitator on subjects he’s interested in, won’t turn Tate and the necessity for his removal into a key issue in the 2023 gubernatorial campaign. Don’t think that won’t become a winning issue – cleaning out the nest of vipers at LSU, or maybe defunding all that indoctrination – for legislative candidates in 2023 as well.
Tate won’t have much of any freedom to run LSU like he wants to at that point. Unless he wants to cast himself as a victim of these stupid Cajuns and rednecks down here in Louisiana, the way F. King Alexander did once he’d flown the coop to Oregon State after largely ruining LSU. And if Landry wins in 2023, there won’t be any question about the limited future Tate would have in his job.
Nobody would expect Tate to fire Mann for his trashy remark, though, as happy as it might make a lot of people. What’s most likely, and what Landry would almost certainly accept, is some opprobrium or censure, or forced act of contrition on Mann’s part for attacking a young lawyer from the AG’s office for doing her job. Landry would count that as a win, and he would say that he’s at least managed to get a pound of flesh in defense of his people. Tate therefore gets to present himself as someone with whom those not of the social-justice Left might be able to do business, and as such buy a bit of freedom from scrutiny.
Well, Tate didn’t pick up on that analysis. This was the statement he put out…
“As president of LSU, I am deeply committed to First Amendment rights. LSU is committed to free and open scholarship and the freedom to debate ideas and principles without interference.”
That’s a massive fail.
For one thing he ignored LSU’s faculty code of conduct, which Landry specifically brought up in that letter. So Tate just explicitly indicated that he’s not committed to the standards that code outlines. That opens Pandora’s Box.
Second, Tate has now indicated that LSU’s commitment to free speech is a hell of a lot more robust than it has been. Let’s remember LSU ranked third from the bottom in the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s free speech index. So if LSU is committed to free and open scholarship and the freedom to debate ideas and principles, that’s new. People will hold Tate to it, and rightly so, and it’s a good bet that he’s going to find that commitment inconvenient.
Nobody believes LSU is committed to free speech on campus. LSU revokes admission to high school students for posting inappropriate things on TikTok.
But the key problem here is that William Tate just stuck his finger in Jeff Landry’s eye. And Jeff Landry loves it.
We’re not here to anoint Landry as Louisiana’s next governor. There is a long time to go before that’s going to be decided and the field for the 2023 gubernatorial race still has a whole lot of moving parts. But what we can say is Jeff Landry has a bigger war chest than anybody else and he’s doing more to prepare for that race than anybody else.
And Jeff Landry knows what motivates Louisiana’s voters. You don’t win elections here by spouting economic statistics or prattling on about tax policy. Voters here want spice and they also want cultural signals. They want to know the governor cares about the things they care about.
So now Landry gets to make William Tate the issue. He gets to talk about how LSU is fully infiltrated with leftist radicals who hate the people of Louisiana, and he can turn Tate into the face of that.
And he won’t be wrong.
Let’s not forget that Tate is a major practitioner of critical race theory. He built his academic career writing scholarly articles essentially saying math is racist. No, that isn’t an exaggeration. And for the next two years Landry can now point out everything that goes on at LSU which looks like leftist radicalism and pin it on Tate.
Will this make the Advocate and the rest of the state’s legacy media apoplectic? Of course it will. Will they attack him for it nonstop and make references to his Cajun heritage and tar him as a bumpkin? Yep. How well do you think that’s going to go over with Joe Six Pack who already looks at Louisiana’s legacy media as a bunch of slimeballs?
This is exactly the fight Landry was looking for. Tate has walked right into it. He now has to give Jeff Landry nothing to complain about, or else he’s going to find himself one of the biggest issues of the 2023 election, and directly in the crosshairs of the candidate with the biggest war chest.