Diary

Better Leadership Than Obama? For Jindal And Louisiana, A Mixed Bag At Best

More and more, the guy who is coming out of this oil spill looking like a hero is Gov. Bobby Jindal.

That’s a good thing, and a bad thing.

It’s good, because unlike his predecessor, who almost literally couldn’t show less leadership than she did following Hurricane Katrina and who let the entire response and recovery from the storm and the flood devolve into a political dirty bomb both for her and for the White House, Jindal has actually shown some capacity to make a plan and at least attempt to act on it. Jindal will always have his detractors and he’ll always draw criticism – we’re on his case ourselves because we’d like to see him pull a few levers and cause some pain for the White House in an effort to force the feds to get out of the way – but he’s neither paralyzed nor hysterical. He’s in a tough spot but he at least appears up to it so far.

But it’s also a bad thing. It’s bad, because Jindal is starting to draw national attention as (1) a 2012 presidential candidate, which is bad for a number of reasons we’ll have to discuss in a later update, and (2) worst of all, a guy who is showing up the president for his fecklessness and weak leadership.

And while Jindal’s profile is probably higher now than it’s been in the past – which will make him a few bucks when the gulf oil spill crisis is finally under control and his book is released – what that’s going to do is make him a target of this White House. The last time a Republican politician was out there showing up the Obama administration that politician’s name was Sarah Palin, and look how deep into the sewer they dipped in an effort to destroy her. Is there really any doubt that Jindal will get a similar treatment?

While a fresh round of examinations of Jindal’s conversion to Catholicism and his having attended an exorcism are excruciating enough, what concerns us isn’t that the Governor is going to get a media gang-rape. That would come as part and parcel of his testing the 2012 waters anyway. What concerns us is that Jindal’s plan to build sand berms around Louisiana’s coastline won’t ever get federal approval – because it wasn’t Obama’s idea and because a Republican he might be running against in 2012 came up with it. That’s a situation tailor-made for stonewalling, and it seems pretty clear that stonewalling is exactly what we’ve seen so far.

A couple of articles out there in the media have touched on this. First, lefty columnist Ruben Navarrette, writing for CNN.com, calls Jindal “passionate” and “presidential:”

Now, due to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and Obama’s lackluster response — which has irritated and even enraged some members of the president’s own party — Bobby has Barack on the ropes and he is coming across as more passionate and more presidential.

Jindal is demanding more involvement, more cooperation and more urgency from the federal government. Specifically, he wants Obama to use the power of his office to cut some of the bureaucratic red tape that seems to be tying up Louisiana’s request for permission to build sand barriers that might stop the flow of oil onto shore. It’s a simple request, and failing to honor it makes the White House look as if it is insensitive, incompetent or petty.

Why petty? Because before that one mediocre speech, Jindal — who had been widely talked about as a possible running mate for John McCain in 2008 — was often mentioned by political observers as a possible Republican vice presidential or even presidential nominee in 2012.

Is this White House so plotting and sinister that it would actually let political considerations — in this case, a reluctance to enhance the standing of a potential rival — interfere with its duty to protect and serve the people of this country? When it comes to politicians and the games they play, nothing surprises me. We’ll have to wait and see.

Navarrette goes on to drag out the new goofy accusation of the Left – namely that Jindal says he’s a small-government guy but he’s a hypocrite because he wants a big federal involvement in the oil spill. That’s a stupid argument to make; anyone who understands constitutional conservatism and the concept of limited government realizes that the discussion is about the proper scope of government and what its true role should be. In a situation like Katrina or the oil spill or an earthquake or a war, having a government capable of responding quickly and effectively is a perfectly desirable investment from a conservative point of view. It’s when you’re not in an emergency that you shouldn’t see the government.

Ultimately, the Left understands this philosophy and recognizes the majority of the country subscribes to it even if they do not – which is why with lefties, everything is a “crisis” from which the rationale and justification for government intrusion must come. Like in the case of health care, where the entire system had to be overhauled and the country had to be put on the road to a government-run system despite the fact that some 80 percent of Americans were fine with the access to the health-care system they already had.

This is a digression of sorts, but if Jindal’s profile continues to increase you can bet your last dollar you’ll see this bullet fired at him again and again – he’s a big-government conservative, he’s a hypocrite. Maybe it will stick, maybe it won’t, but there is no law which says a small-government conservative can’t look for a strong emergency response from the public sector.

Conservative talk host Hugh Hewitt, writing in the Washington Examiner yesterday, discusses the opposite side of the equation. Hewitt notes that Mr. Big Government, Barack Obama, can’t lift a finger to get anything accomplished with the sand berms:

Incredibly, the president’s team has cited the fear that too many berms would alter tidal movements, as though that theoretical worry trumps the very real oil headed toward shore. Bureaucrats also mumbled that too many berms might just shift the oil toward Mississippi –without explaining why berms couldn’t be built there, and without making any judgment over which part of the Gulf Coast shoreline is most fragile and thus most deserving of protection.

The story of the berms permit and the president’s ineptitude will be the focus of intense scrutiny for years, and if the 2 percent works, the weeks of delay before that beginning was allowed and the delay before the 98 percent followed will be a stain on the Obama presidency that lasts longer than the oil on the shore.

Which is one very powerful reason why Team Obama may be dragging its collective feet: They aren’t afraid it won’t work. They are scared to death it will, and that their incompetence in authorizing the effort will be as clear as the oceans around the ruptured pipe are dark.

Ultimately, the argument seems to be more about the effectiveness of government rather than the size. This is a problem for Obama, who’s showing that no improvements in effectiveness have been made since Katrina despite new management. But as Navarrette and Hewitt, coming from opposite ideological perspectives, seem to agree, it could also be a problem for us here in Louisiana.