The Spectacle Blog

Go Slow on Jindal

By on 5.22.08 | 5:18PM

I tread very, very carefully here, because, as I have shown again and again, I have been a Bobby Jindal fan since late 1991, before he was even finished his studies. I remain a huge fan. I think he is the best thing to happen to my beloved Louisiana in decades. But I must issue a warning, one which may be important for certain national candidates to take into account. I have lots of sources in Louisiana, of course, and from a wide variety of unrelated sources, I am hearing the same thing: Bobby Jindal so far is what MORE than one source, completely independent of each other, described in identical words: "the most isolated governor I have ever seen." The word is that his bright young staffers are also his arrogant young staffers. They are so sure of themselves that they aggregate power to themselves by acting as if their gatekeeper role is not just to keep too many people at once from going through the gate to see the Guv, but to keep the gate almost entirely shut. Even the friendly media is complaining -- and most LA media right now wants to be friendly, because their desperate desire for reform overcomes any ideological predispositions to the left right now; I have had quite liberal media folks down there tell me how excited they were that Bobby won the election. But now reporters feel shunned -- and the LSU student press has been terribly ill treated, which is really dumb by the Jindal team because the student press could easily be inspired by Jindal's reformist nature.

Outside of the media, a few minor but embarrassing missteps have occurred; a few things have fallen through the cracks that shouldn't have; and more than a few good people, reformers, longtime supporters, say they can't get their phone calls returned.

Again, right now these problems are correctable. Nobody other than a few gadflies thinks Bobby's reformist instincts or his conservative convictions are any less real than we have always thought they are. But it gets to the heart of things: Louisiana politics is notoriously convoluted. It's a tough place to master. And it's particularly tough to stay on top of one's game while still being a legitimate reformer, much less a legitimate conservative reformer. A lot of bad old guys are setting snares for Jindal as we speak, trying to bloody him up, trying to block his initiatives, trying to cut his knees out from under him. Jindal's ability to handle all of this for not just four months but four years, is still to be shown. If he can run this gantlet for four years, he should be the national conservative star in 2012. I'll even volunteer to lead his parade blowing a trumpet. But he still needs to get there. It's called seasoning. And he won't get it if he turns off his own allies.

Former Gov. Dave Treen, another reformer (but a much less able politician) made the same mistake of letting himself be isolated. Granted, it was a worse mistake for him to make than for Jindal because master politician Edwin Edwards, at the height of his popularity, was waiting just offstage to return to the Governor's mansion that he gave up in the first place only because the state Constitution limited him to two consecutive terms (but allowed re-election once he sat out one term). Nobody of that stature threatens Jindal. But he needs to accept this and other reports as VERY friendly shots across his bow telling him that people who should be thrilled with him are getting upset -- NOT because they are on ego trips and want access to the governor for personal interest, but because they see him making mistakes that could hurt him down the line.

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