Gov. Bobby Jindal minced no words, to put it politely, when he sharply criticized President Barack Obama after a White House meeting, just yards from the Oval Office. At least a couple of the Democratic governors shot back, including Gov. Dan Malloy, of Connecticut.
Malloy used the word “insane” for one of Jindal’s observations. That wasn’t holding back much, either.
It got a lot of attention, and much of the comment about it concerned Jindal’s bad manners.
Taking in White House hospitality, then treating it as a personal political platform was questionable judgment, but Jindal’s done that before.
What was missing from the reaction is an underlying problem with Jindal’s statements. It’s not so much what he said, or that he dissed his host before the coffee cups were cold. Some of the things Jindal said, including a reference to the “minimum wage economy,” have some truth to them because of the low chances in life for the poorly educated.
What was wrong with Jindal’s statement is he was talking smack at a National Governors Association event.
One of Jindal’s fierce critics on this episode, Ed Kilgore, in The Washington Monthly, pointed out the NGA is designed to be bipartisan. That is why there are separate Republican and Democratic associations for governors; Jindal was RGA chairman last year.
Malloy vented to Time magazine: “Here’s a guy who didn’t come to any of the meetings except this one today, and has the nerve to pull that stuff on everyone — ten feet from the West Wing,” the Connecticut governor said. “He doesn’t pay his dues to the organization, he doesn’t come to the meetings of the organization, and then he wants to swing for the fences for obviously political reasons. I didn’t mind pushing back.”
Jindal’s office later corrected Malloy, saying Louisiana did indeed pay its NGA dues. But what is Louisiana paying for, if its governor indulges in political posturing because he’s got a line of cameras pointing at him? NGA cannot function if it became embroiled in these kind of petty political smash-ups every day.
“During my days as a staffer for three governors, there were always a few show-up-late, leave-early, hog-the-spotlight chief executives at those dreary, wonky NGA meetings — and always someone who would disrupt the carefully controlled bipartisan atmosphere of the organization, without which it could not function,” Kilgore writes. “Looks like Jindal’s the whole prima donna package.”
That’s what the governor ought to reflect on. Outspokenness is one thing, even if carried a bit far for emphasis. A reputation for not playing well with others is not a good thing in national politics, just as it is not in Baton Rouge.