Tuesday, July 1st, 2008
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
DID BOBBY SEE THE LIGHT,
OR FEEL THE HEAT?
You have to wonder who has been advising Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on the pay raise albatross around his neck these past few weeks.The controversy against any raise took off like wildfire, and never slowed down.If Jindal had not vetoed the raise as he did, a number of new recall petitions would have joined some 10 already underway.So what made the difference?Did common sense prevail, or did the dam of public opinion just overwhelm the new guy in charge?
The Governor apparently has a staff of bright but young and inexperienced workers that put to much credence in their abilities to run the Bayou Ship of State based primarily on a successful gubernatorial campaign. But the election turned out to be a cakewalk with few major stumbling blocks along the way.Jindal sewed up the election two years out by his crisscrossing the state post Katrina, and, simply by the stout of hard work, won going away.Whatever the competency of his key advisers, the campaign allowed then Congressman Jindal, for all practical purposes, to coast into in the Governor’s mansion with few real challenges along the way.It’s an understatement to say that it has all changed now.
When Lyndon Johnson became vice president on the Kennedy ticket in 1960, he apparently was impressed with the new group of whiz kids surrounding the popular president.He shared his admiration of the Kennedy team with his mentor and Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn, also from Texas.After rambling on and on about the competency and intelligence of the new staff, Speaker Rayburn cut him to the quick by simply stating: “Yeah Lyndon, but not a damn one of them ever got elected anything or have actually governed.”
It is obvious that Jindal has been getting some advice without much experience behind it, and sometimes not much common sense.And not just on the pay raise debacle.The mass resignation of Board of Ethics members and staff has raised troubling concerns of just why a number of questionable changes were needed in the ethics law.As political analyst Elliott Stonecipher said on my Sunday radio show:‘Ethics reform in Louisiana has been given a political mugging and the blame is at the feet of not just the legislature, but also the Governor and his staff.”
So just what does the new Governor do now?Is simply vetoing the legislative pay raise enough to get his reformist image back on track?Or is he a wounded deer caught in the headlights who needs to make an about face and go back to square one?Well, maybe not back to square one, but some backtracking certainly is in order.And Jindal needs to decide on his list of priorities, and stick with them.Right now, his agenda sees to be all over the board.
First, he needs to back away from the national scene, and get more involved in the nitty-gritty of the state he governs.Jindal has been all over the country in recent weeks, and despite his protestations, he would grab in a New York second the chance to be vice president.With his delay in acting on the pay raise issue, that has been covered in newspapers worldwide, this option is not realistic. He could and should be offered a speaking spot at the Republican National Convention.But that should come without more national touring.
Second, he needs to seize the mantle of being the Louisiana governor, and spend the next few months hitting the speaking circuit again.Let people see him throughout the state, both north and south, and reinvigorate his base.A little smoothing over and general schmoozing with average Louisianians in the weeks to come should put the still seething pay raise animosity behind him.
A number of legislators are obviously not going to be happy with the Governor’s veto decision.A few quotes.”Our faith in his word has certainly been shaken,” said Senator Bob Kostelka of West Monroe.”The Governor showed no leadership on the issue.”And this from Appropriations Chairman Rep. Jim Fannin of Jonesboro:”He made a lot of promises to a lot of legislators, and any time you tell someone something and don’t stick to it — right or wrong — it’s going to create a problem with trust.”
Sure he has made some legislators mad.But so what.As I wrote in last week’s column, the state just does not need that many new laws.In a number of states much larger than Louisiana, the legislature’s role is to appropriate the money, and be sure it is spent properly.And when you consider that some two thirds of the Louisiana budget is dedicated in some way, the governor holds the cards. Legislators need the governor more than he needs them.It may be time to quit playing footsie.
The Ethics Board, and how it is allowed to govern, will be a continuing thorn in the Governor’s side, and he need to address the damage done.Then he needs to refocus on his constituents, be a regular guest on the various talk radio and TV shows, and just generally get back in touch.
Bobby Jindal started out in his new roll as a ball of fire.He got misdirected along the way.He still can be a great Louisiana governor.But it’s time to let the flames subside, get himself refocused, and, most importantly, listen to the voices of the average citizen out there he was elected to serve.
"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one
thinks of changing himself."
Peace and Justice.
Jim Brown’s column appears weekly, and is published in a number of newspapers and on websites throughout Louisiana.You can read past columns by going to Jim’s website at www.jimbrownla.com.Jim’s regular radio show on WRNO, 995fm out of New Orleans can be heard each Sunday from 11:00 am till 1:00 pm.It is streamed live, world-wide at WRNO.com.