It would indeed be hard to match that debacle, and Jindal will not have an audience of that size again any time soon. But he keeps plugging away, and misses no opportunity to bomb on a smaller stage. The cumulative effect could eventually do more harm to his presidential ambitions than his one famous flop.
Maybe the upcoming session should have been scheduled to start in a couple of days from now rather than late next month. The Ides of March would make sense, for legislators have their knives sharpened and cannot wait to fall on Jindal at the Capitol. They seethe, in part, because, he broke a promise not to veto their pay raise last year and then axed a bunch of pet projects from the budget.
Jindal acted in the public interest both times, but a wise politician would still try to soothe a few ruffled feathers. Instead, he goes out of his way to provide further proof that he will go back on his word whenever it suits him. At least, when he vetoed the pay raise, he had little choice; the voters were howling for blood.
For his latest renege there can be no excuse. He is supposed to represent the repudiation of old-time Louisiana politics, but governors never came more mealy-mouthed than this.
When Jindal took office last year, he promised never, ever to endorse candidates in legislative races, such was the purity of his devotion to the sound governance.
But that was before Lee Domingue, who had donated $116,000 to Jindal’s campaign and associated causes, decided he wanted to be a state senator from Baton Rouge. It is, to say the least, unusual for a governor to intervene in a local primary, but Jindal up and endorsed Domingue over two other Republicans.
Jindal says the money had nothing to do with it, and his word is enough to leave me in no doubt. It was the money.
Jindal emerged as grubby as your average governor, if not quite so straight talking.
That would have been bad enough, but he also came out looking politically clueless.
Domingue was expected to win out right, but wound up in a runoff after finishing second last week. Jindal -- and probably Domingue -- would have been better off if he had kept his nose out.
Meanwhile Jindal faces opposition in the Legislature over his plan to refuse $98 million in enhanced benefits to the jobless of Louisiana as part of the federal stimulus plan.
Jindal’s disdain for the money is supposed to burnish his credentials as a fiscally prudent Republican, but it looks more like just another publicity stunt.
Whatever reasons Jindal has for taking his stand, they cannot be what he says they are.
He claims that taking the money would ultimately damage the state economy by obligating businesses to continue paying increased benefits after the federal money has been used up. The feds have decreed that the state laws must be “permanent, “ Jindal points out.
But the guidelines make it quite clear that “permanent” does not mean “eternal.” It merely signifies that the necessary state laws cannot be enacted with an expiration date.
Legislatures remain free to repeal them whenever they choose. Louisiana could take the $98 million, and switch back to the old benefit levels once it ran out.
Doing so would not require the state to reimburse the feds either. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who chairs the Senate committee that drew up the legislation, issued a statement to that effect this week, pointing out that the payments are a “temporary provision.”
But Jindal still seems eager to forgo the money and leave his constituents to subsidize the unemployed in other, richer states. Legislators aren’t going to buy that, and plenty of them won’t be shedding any tears if this doesn’t turn out to be Jindal’s year.
James Gill is a staff writer with the Times Picayune. He can be reached at (504) 826-3318 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.