Desperate for advice from outsiders untainted by association with the Beltway mentality or Washington elites, the Republican Party has turned to Gov. Bobby Jindal.
That’s Jindal, as in Brown University BA ’91 and Oxford University M.Litt., ’94.
Jindal, in speeches before the Republican National Committee and conservative audiences in Washington, reminded his listeners of the real world, Main Street instead of Wall Street.
“A debate about which party can better manage the federal government is a very small and shortsighted debate,” Jindal said. “If our vision is not bigger than that, we do not deserve to win.”
Is Jindal an outsider qualified to dilate the pupils of the insider debate? True, he works, most of the time, in Baton Rouge, when he is not away giving speeches on national policy.
But the notion of our governor as some creature of the simple wisdom of the grass roots is laughable.
He interned on Capitol Hill as a young man, for then-U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery, R-Shreveport. His short career at the McKinsey consulting firm ended with his appearance on the public payroll as head of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, at age 24.
“Today’s conservatism is in love with zeroes,” he told the RNC. Unhappily, part of his reputation from this period is based on lopping zeroes off the DHH budget. It was a real accomplishment, as there was much waste and inefficiency to attack. But does that qualify Jindal to sneer at today’s budget-balancers?
“This obsession with zeroes has everyone in our party focused on what? Government,” Jindal said. “By obsessing with zeroes on the budget spreadsheet, we send a not-so-subtle signal that the focus of our country is on the phony economy of Washington — instead of the real economy out here in Charlotte, and Shreveport and Cheyenne.”
Not so subtly, the real economy was not graced by Jindal, who served on various public payrolls at the University of Louisiana system and as an assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The latter is headquartered in a place called Washington, D.C., where, as the sage of the Louisiana Purchase provinces also observed: “Government and government power are the leading lady and the leading man.”
That career then resulted in an unsuccessful run for governor and then election to the U.S. House of Representatives. For three years, Louisiana’s common man of the Ivy League apparently found the Beltway a frustrating flirtation, for Jindal returned to Louisiana to win the governor’s office.
This well-known résumé is hardly qualification for the “outsider” mantle donned by our governor.
What is odd in all this is how much Jindal is asking of people to consider him a latter-day Mr. Smith, like Jimmy Stewart in the old movie, who might one day be entrusted to go (back) to Washington and clean out the stables of big government.
In 1940, Harold Ickes Sr. mocked the Republican candidate for president, Wendell Willkie. The latter, a utility executive, campaigned on his background on an Indiana farm.
“A simple barefoot boy from Wall Street,” Ickes said.
What future Democrat will miss the opportunity to savage our innocent barefoot policy wonk from the bayou?
Lanny Keller is an editorial writer for The Advocate. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.