Stephanie Grace: Jindal dodges opportunity on “Dynasty” debate

Rather than speak up for them too, though, Jindal decided to go all in on the selective indignation, play to what he hopes will be his national base, run toward a divisive culture war instead of away from it.

Would it have been so hard for Gov. Bobby Jindal to just politely disagree?

Perhaps Jindal’s full-throated defense of suspended “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson — which instantly went viral, just as the Jindal folks clearly hoped — could have included an aside noting that by endorsing Robertson’s right to share his views, no matter how hurtful and ignorant, he’s not rubber-stamping the views themselves.

I’m not talking about an intentionally vague, “I don’t agree with quite a bit of stuff I read in magazine interviews or see on TV,” which is the best Jindal could muster in his press release.

I’m talking about a specific assertion that the governor does not think homosexual activity should be mentioned in the same breath as bestiality, male prostitution and other “sins” Robertson recounted in a new interview with GQ magazine — that instead he thinks people should be allowed to live and love in peace.

I’m talking about an out-and-out acknowledgement that he understands that African-Americans weren’t perfectly content during the oppressive Jim Crow era. In the interview, Robertson recalled his early days working the cotton fields this way: “I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word! ... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.” (Jindal later brushed past this part by suggesting that everybody knows their history and understands that the civil rights movement was a good thing. Well, clearly not everybody).

He could have said all that and still vented his ostentatious outrage, still taken to the national airwaves to rail against the forces of the politically correct left, as he seems to do whenever someone, whether Attorney General Holder Eric Holder or cable network A&E, makes a false move in his state. He could have disavowed Robertson’s sentiments and still argued that so-called reality shows should reflect actual reality, which, sadly, does cover not just the misadventures but the attitudes of its regular-folk “stars,” and that singer Miley Cyrus’ overtly sexual antics don’t belong on prime time.

Jindal’s claim that he’s just standing up for a good Louisianian rings hollow, at least when you think about the legions of other good Louisianians who were subject to Robertson’s offensive remarks. Jindal’s constituents are straight and gay, and more tolerant than you might think, according to encouraging results of a new LSU poll that found widespread opposition to discrimination. He represents not just Louisiana residents who misunderstand the ugly side of Louisiana history, but those who saw it up close and still live with its legacy.

Rather than speak up for them too, though, Jindal decided to go all in on the selective indignation, play to what he hopes will be his national base, run toward a divisive culture war instead of away from it.

He spotted an opportunity and grabbed onto the coattails of a popular, authentic pop culture figure and an obvious force of nature — and politics, to the extent that you believe Robertson’s endorsement helped propel recent congressional candidate Vance McAllister to an improbable victory.

He wasn’t the only politician, either local or national, to do so, but he’s done as much as anyone to cash in on the hype.

Jindal went so far overboard that it fell to Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, most recently in the news for insisting that Santa is absolutely, inarguably white, to provide a reality check. While the governor’s attention-getting critique carried the headline, “I Remember When TV Networks Believed in 1st Amendment,” Kelly, in an otherwise sympathetic interview with Jindal, pointed out that the U.S. Constitution protects free speech from government censorship and retribution; it’s entirely silent on a cable network’s obligation to provide air time.

He decided his best move was to take sides and capitalize, not to reach out in both directions and work toward healing. That’s how politicians campaign for office and build their brands. It’s not how they lead.

Stephanie Grace can be contacted at sgrace@theadvocate.com.