When Gov. Bobby Jindal went on Meet the Press July 1, he made the semantic shift that everyone in Louisiana knew was coming. For more than a year, and as recently as last month, Jindal has denied his craven desire for national office with the line, "I have the job I want." But last week, when asked by host David Gregory if he would consider being Mitt Romney's running mate, Jindal said, "We're not speculating. We're not talking about that. I'll refer all those questions to Governor Romney and his campaign."
From a firm pledge to remain Louisiana's governor to "Ask Mitt" in just a few weeks? Jindal's flip-flop was no surprise, but it was shameless nonetheless.
Outside Louisiana, the fawning has begun. GOP pundit and veteran Beltway insider George Will says Jindal is his pick. David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, endorsed Jindal in a CNN column, writing, "Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is a doozy: a brilliant policy mind with an inspirational life story who has run an effective government in corruption-tainted Louisiana."
That may be the view from Washington — a view based on years of spin that Team Jindal has painstakingly crafted (often out of whole cloth) and relentlessly cultivated. The story line is familiar if far-fetched: Bobby Jindal has run an effective government, cutting waste, increasing transparency and fighting corruption. Down here, of course, we know him better. To us, "The Doozy" means something else entirely.
Here's what The Real Doozy has been up to lately:
• On the same day Jindal went on Meet the Press to denounce the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare), Congress lowered the state's federal Medicaid match — cutting Louisiana's Medicaid funds by $859 million. Consequently, funding to Louisiana public hospitals will be slashed, along with preventive care for the elderly, the disabled and the indigent. Rather than take the lead on devising a plan to help Louisiana's neediest — or even draw attention to the problem — Jindal spent last week on the road, stumping for Romney and making the national TV news rounds denouncing Obamacare. He has boasted he will not expand Medicaid coverage in Louisiana or set up health exchanges (a key provision of the ACA), even though we rank among America's poorest states. What he doesn't say is that if Louisiana fails to establish health exchanges, the feds will do it for us. Such posturing is vintage Jindal.
• He cut all state aid for public libraries in Louisiana, a move that will hit poor and rural parishes hardest. In those parishes, people rely on libraries for Internet access as well as basic computer work such as creating resumes, applying for jobs and aid, research and homework. "In many rural communities, this is the only [computer] access for a lot of people," Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, a fellow Republican, told Gambit.
• Jindal's record on state support for higher education is disgraceful. He has slashed state funding for higher education every year since he became governor — a total of $427 million so far, according to the state Board of Regents — and more cuts are on the way. Most of those cuts have been offset by tuition increases, which Team Jindal cynically calls "state support." Now that's a doozy. It's ironic — and shameful — that Jindal, who is arguably Louisiana's best-educated governor ever (he's a Rhodes Scholar and an Ivy League grad), has the worst record in Louisiana history when it comes to funding higher education.
And that's just the recent news. In Louisiana, it's "old news" that Jindal gutted the Ethics Code and completely defanged the state Ethics Commis- sion — even as he brags to uninformed out-of-state audiences on his many fundraising trips that he gave Louisiana an ethical "gold standard." He is also the least transparent governor in America, having rammed through the legislature a bill that allows him to keep all of his official records secret by routinely declaring them to be "part of the governor's deliberative process."
Anyone who vets Jindal beyond the governor's press releases will have no difficulty concluding that he should not be anybody's pick for vice-president. In fact, considering Romney's other possible running mates, Jindal is the runt of the litter. We do agree with Frum on one point, however: Bobby Jindal is a real doozy.