Saturday, May 23, 2015

Features vs Bugs

Are you a Republican? Would you like to be President?  Okay. Step one is burn your own state to the ground.
All four of the GOP governors with 2016 ambitions are facing budget shortfalls back home that their critics would argue are disasters of their own doing. It puts them in a politically difficult position: consider tax increases that put their fiscal conservative credentials on the line, or move forward with ugly cuts that risk high-profile showdowns with their legislative counterparts.

Complicating matters, three of the four -- Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Ohio's John Kasich -- have signed the anti-tax pledge heralded by conservative activist Grover Norquist, while New Jersey’s Chris Christie has verbally promised to not raise taxes. That limits their options to address revenues that have fallen short of expectations.
On the one hand, it sure is fun to gawk at these Republican Governors.  Ha ha look at all these failures who think they can be President!  On the other hand, there sure are a lot of them.  All these guys have done is manage to get elected and re-elected while enacting a draconian and clearly damaging policy agenda.  Maybe there is something to this.

Besides, destroying public services and gutting state budgets while hewing to the Norquist pledge is the least hypocritical thing these guys have done. Jindal likes to say what he's done is "shrink the size of government"and isn't that what his supporters want?
Jindal boasts about his no-tax stance to Republican audiences throughout the country. “I’ve been very honest and clear with voters,” Jindal said in the interview. “I would not raise taxes. We need to shrink the size of government. We’ve done that.” That is true. Louisiana has 33,000 fewer state workers than when he took office, in large part because he got the legislature to privatize the public hospitals.
So it shouldn't be so surprising to see ideologically pure Republicans expect to rise into national politics on the ashes of the state governments they have leveled. Those are just records full of promises kept.

This is not to say there aren't towering hypocrisies built into all of that. There certainly are.  Some are more egregious than others, though. But it's important to recognize them because unlike the broken budgets and shuttered hospitals that are a mere feature of Jindalism, it's in his phoniness where we find the bugs.

There are a lot of fun points of interest to enjoy about the Years of Bobby Jindal in Louisiana. But my favorite will always be the part about how ethicsy he promised us it would all be.
It wasn’t too difficult to work up a crowd by excoriating lawmakers for
spending more time eating fancy steak dinners, usually paid for by
lobbyists, than on working for the people they were elected to
represent. They were all a bunch of fat cats. They became rich off of
the public dime. Or so the story was told. Bobby Jindal published
detailed, multi-pronged reports on how, exactly, he would usher in a
“gold standard” for ethics; it became the centerpiece of his campaign.

"We can't tolerate corruption. We can't tolerate incompetence."

Yada yada yada and the like. A lot of us understood at the time that this was largely nonsense.   Unfortunately the most important tastemakers among us did not. The most T-P editorial cartoon cartoon in the history of T-P editorial cartoons depicted Jindal as a knight come to "slay the dragon" of corruption.  The most Gambit cover story in the history of Gambit cover stories profiled Jindal's "Geek Appeal" and how it made him an "icon among Gen-Xers."

Transparent bullshit, to be sure. Still I don't think many of us can claim to have understood just how comically absurdly nonsensical it would turn out to be. Nobody could have predicted that the supposed "Dragonslayer" would go on to become Mother of so many Dragons.

Unlike a lot of observers, I don't think Jindal's weaknesses as a Presidential candidate have anything to do with the mess he's leaving in Louisiana. Republican caucus goers in Iowa aren't going to care a whole lot about budget cuts at UNO or the closure of hospitals in Baton Rouge. A lot of them will like that he "refused to raise taxes" and made government agencies "live within their means" and such.  The more his detractors complain about those things, the better for him, really.

I also think political handicappers (especially in Louisiana) are off-the-mark in assuming that Jindal's string of media exploits highlighting hardline positions on conservative issues du jour from "No-Go Zones" to "Religious Freedom" are doing him any damage either.  For example, the executive order he signed this week doesn't actually do anything other than look nice on the resume he shows to religious conservatives he's currently courting.

If (and this is a HUGE IF) Jindal finds himself among the contenders at any point in 2016, his opponents won't go after him for wrecking the state budget. And they certainly won't go after him on marriage equality.

They might enjoy pointing out what a smarmy hypocrite he is, though. And since his phoniness extends not only to the religious principles he claims to champion but also as it regards the Shining Ethics Gold Standard On A Hill he never did build, there should be plenty of material for them to work with.

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