It was rather amusing to see so many of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s home-state critics, including Advocate editorialists, get the vapors recently when Jindal dared criticize President Barack Obama while standing on the very grounds of the White House. Jindal’s “bad manners” and “questionable judgment” merited a “time out,” according to various professional tut-tutters.
Louisianians who know the background between Jindal and Obama instead should be cheering. This is a president who for five years has seriously mistreated both Louisiana and Jindal personally, not to mention mistreating the nation’s economy and the rule of law.
If payback sometimes can be childish, at other times it can be sweet justice. Jindal’s White House statement may have been a bit of a publicity stunt, but it was a stunt well and appropriately timed. After his comments outside the White House, the governor renewed his criticisms of Obama at last week’s meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. In aiming at Obama, Jindal and fellow critics of the administration don’t suffer from a lack of material.
This is a president whose reaction to the BP oil spill was, first, to dilly-dally and fumble the initial response, then to inflict on Louisiana an economically destructive offshore drilling moratorium. Obama and his crew compounded the insult by ignoring a federal judge’s order to end the moratorium, or the “permitorium,” which amounted to much the same thing, thus, earning a contempt-of-court citation in the process.
And in his first (but belated) visit to Louisiana as the oil gushed in the Gulf, Obama was the one who pulled a cheap publicity stunt.
As Jindal welcomed Obama on an airport tarmac, the president demonstratively ambushed him with a trumped up rebuke for an unremarkable letter about food stamps that Jindal had sent the White House. (To Washington reporters, the White House conveniently leaked a skewed version of the exchange.)
Since then, the Obama team has worked repeatedly to undermine Jindal and undo Louisiana law, most recently with the national administration’s illegal cover-up of prosecutorial misconduct in the New Orleans police trial and with its outrageous legal assaults on the Bayou State’s school choice initiatives.
When not only courtesy but a state’s laws and economy are violated, little courtesy is due in return.
As for the substance of Jindal’s criticism of our imperious president, it is right on target. First, he hit the president for refusing to approve the Keystone pipeline, the 1,179-mile project to bring Canadian oil to Gulf Coast refineries while creating 9,000 construction jobs and tens of thousands more jobs in the related supply chain — not to mention driving down consumers’ energy costs.
The Obama administration’s own analysts have found the pipeline environmentally safe and economically beneficial, and the project enjoys bipartisan support from almost every major politician of states in its path. Yet, Obama still kowtows to the radical green lobby by continuing to block it.
Likewise, Jindal was right to bust Obama for not “reining in excessive regulations, especially from the EPA.” Not only has Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency waged an economically destructive war on fossil fuels, but it has done so while grossly violating transparency laws and asserting vast regulatory powers the courts have repeatedly shot down. Jindal makes further sense in proposing a “regulatory budget” for each federal agency, requiring them to “roll back costly regulations before instituting new ones.”
The same day Jindal commandeered the National Governors Association’s news conference on the White House grounds, the National Review Online published a fuller version of the Louisiana governor’s complaints and proposals. He criticized Obama, quite justly, for the latter’s constitutionally dangerous arrogation of executive power, in which the president boasted of using “the phone and the pen” to rule unilaterally without the annoyance of waiting for Congress actually to pass the laws.
Yet, in a nice bit of political jujitsu, Jindal wrote that if Obama does insist on asserting powers of “dubious legality,” he should also use phone and pen in ways that are clearly constitutional to lift the federal boot from the national economy and from educational innovation. In other words, use his power to reduce power — in favor of freedom.
These are all worthy ideas — and they were put forth, despite their substantive criticism of the White House, in tones and language that were moderate and respectful. Jindal entirely avoided personal invective, instead favoring his trademark, wonkish enthusiasm for policy specifics.
Jindal’s “stunt” wasn’t bad manners; it was good leadership.
New Orleans native Quin Hillyer is a contributing editor for National Review. He can be followed on Twitter @QuinHillyer. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.