Letter: After six years, ‘boy genius’ Jindal proves to be anything but

According to a recent issue of the Advocate, while the biggest issue of this legislative session — Common Core — was being debated, the governor was in Washington attending to his personal ambition.

Remember back in 1996, when we first became acquainted with Bobby Jindal? He was Mike Foster’s resident “boy genius.” Everyone agreed his future was bright, musing how great it would be to someday have a genius as the governor of Louisiana. We’d have a policy wonk in charge, immune to politics, who would examine issues, ponder alternatives and present logical solutions for the greater good of the people. Even back then, some suggested that after serving two terms as governor, his next stop would be the White House.

So, here we are, six years into the Jindal administration. Most folks would agree that he has been running a perpetual campaign for president. Finally, a few days ago he acknowledged, “it’s something we’re thinking about.” That’s stating the obvious. He has already established a PAC and a new think tank, America Next, to advance his campaign. His every word and action is colored by presidential aspirations.

Imagine what might have been had he established a “Louisiana Next” think tank six or seven years ago. Perhaps it would have prevented the half-baked proposals he sprung on one legislative session after another. Maybe it could have come up with a better budget solution than cutting higher education and fund sweeps. What if he stayed home from his many travels and instead addressed our $12.1 billion backlog of highway projects? What if he didn’t have to waffle on his support for Common Core and instead used his considerable brain power to persuade detractors of its value? What if, instead of campaigning for out-of-state candidates, he had sat for interviews with in-state media and explained his plans for Louisiana?

We lurch from session to session with the Legislature haphazardly marking off items on an ideological punch list. Instead of following the American Legislative Exchange Council’s national agenda, what if Jindal had crafted uniquely Louisiana solutions to Louisiana’s unique problems? For a guy who opposes “one size fits all” national solutions, he sure has an affinity for ALEC (see last year’s income tax debacle).

The policy wonk we hoped would formulate solutions to our problems has been co-opted by presidential ambition. Rather than formulating common-sense solutions for the public good, he adheres to strict ideological positions so he can pass some future presidential litmus test and pander to big donors. Apparently it is politically expedient to let others do the thinking.

Jindal has had his eyes on the White House for at least six years. We had high hopes for him as our governor. With his track record, does he deserve a promotion? After two terms of being a part-time chief executive, the next governor of Louisiana is going to have to show up with his big boy pants and his thinking cap.

Larry Fletcher

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Baton Rouge