Bobby Jindal: George Bush Redux in Louisiana
Barbara Forrest printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 10:15:38 PM EST
The national mainstream media have so far not caught on to the real Bobby Jindal, although after his poor performance in his high-profile rebuttal to Barack Obama's February 24, 2009, address to Congress, that may be changing. The media now have an opportunity - and an obligation to the American people - to explain who he really is. His rebuttal was certainly evidence that Jindal is not ready for prime time, much less ready to be considered presidential material. However, his true identity as a Religious Right ideologue has yet to receive the national media exposure that it deserves. A central piece of evidence for Jindal's reactionary religious views - which he has very openly integrated into both his political persona and his policy decisions as governor - is the fact that Louisiana has a new creationist law on the books, and Jindal was the lynchpin in its passage. Hopefully, the national mainstream media will do their homework this time. With respect to policies that directly affect the quality of life, Jindal is running Louisiana the way George W. Bush ran the country.
Louisiana is now being boycotted by a major scientific society, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB), directly in response to Jindal's signing the creationist "Louisiana Science Education Act" (LSEA) in June 2008. The LSEA allows public school science teachers to use creationist teaching materials. (See "The Discovery Institute, the LA Family Forum, and the `LA Science Education Act'"). The SICB sent a letter  to Jindal on February 5, 2009, telling him that "The Executive Committee voted to hold the 2011 meeting in Salt Lake City in large part because of legislation . . . you signed into law in June 2008." Just as Jindal had ignored appeals for his veto of the bill, he ignored the SICB's letter -- until the news hit the state and national media, prompting his spokesman Kyle Plotkin to respond to the boycott: "That's too bad. New Orleans is a first-class city for a convention."

Katie Couric weighed in on the boycott at CBS. The New York Times, which urged Jindal to veto the bill last year in a hard hitting editorial, also reported on it.

In signing the creationist LA Science Education Act, Jindal was repaying the political debt he owes to the Religious Right group with which he is ideologically aligned: the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), an affiliate of Focus on the Family (FOF). When he made his much-publicized visit to Iowa in November 2008, the media paid scant attention to the significance of this event's being hosted by another FOF affiliate, the Iowa Family Policy Center. Rev. Gene Mills, a minister who serves as the executive director of the LFF and is a close Jindal ally, attended the event with him.

The only mainstream journalist who has so far connected the dots between Jindal and the LFF is Adam Nossiter of the New York Times. On June 2, 2008, Nossiter wrote that the LFF considers Jindal "one of the family." Jindal's closeness to this group was crystal clear at a Christmas gala that the LFF threw for him in December 2007: a YouTube video shows him being publicly prayed over and undergoing the "laying on of hands" during the event, with Gene Mills looking on. Mills is a constant presence at the Louisiana State Capitol during legislative sessions.

Louisiana is now paying the price for Jindal's loyalty to his Religious Right support base. The SICB would not be boycotting Louisiana if the LSEA were not on the books, and the LSEA would not be on the books if Jindal had not signed it. His election was the lynchpin in the LFF's scheme to win passage of this law, which they had been plotting for years. Jindal could have stopped the bill with a stroke of his pen, but his loyalty to the LFF was more important than the voices of the scientists and teachers in his own state who pleaded with him to veto it. With respect to a host of hot-button conservative social issues, the Louisiana Family Forum, in a very real sense, is crafting public policy in Louisiana. Given their influence over him, it is fair to say that the LFF owns Bobby Jindal.

Signing creationist legislation is not the only thing Jindal has done to keep his Religious Right base happy. He stacked his "Louisiana Commission on Marriage and Family" with like-minded ideologues, including Mills and Tony Perkins, a Louisiana native and Jindal ally who now heads the Family Research Council in Washington, DC. Many of Jindal's appointments to the commission reflect his anti-gay policy views. In 2008, he refused to renew former Gov. Kathleen Blanco's executive order prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians in Louisiana, saying, "We are not going to renew it and that shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody."

On the day of his inauguration in January 2008, he was honored at a prayer breakfast in which the LFF participated. The breakfast was attended by Religious Right figures such as former Texas Republican Party operative and pseudo-historian David Barton, who promotes "Christian nation" propaganda - and creationism -- on his Wallbuilders  website. He attended as Jindal's guest, having campaigned with him in those north Louisiana churches in 2006. Texas Gov. Rick Perry was also there, as was Tony Perkins, who later boasted of praying with Jindal before his inauguration.

Having campaigned in north Louisiana Baptist churches in 2006, Jindal now uses a state  helicopter -- with the taxpayers footing the bill -- to fly back to north Louisiana on Sundays to attend Protestant church services, although he is a staunch Roman Catholic. He also attends the LFF's political events, such as their 2008 Legislative Awards dinner, at which they honored state legislators who voted their way on issues such as the creationism bill. (See U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy's (R-LA)  announcement about his receiving one of these awards. Prior to his 2008 election to U.S. Rep. Richard Baker's congressional seat, Cassidy played a major role in shepherding the LSEA through the Louisiana legislature.)

Using state helicopters to campaign in north Louisiana churches will not help the people of Louisiana build better lives, but it will cement the governor's Religious Right political base. Signing creationist legislation will not help Louisiana families give their children a "great education" or improve Louisiana's workforce, which Jindal  claims is one of his top priorities, but it will keep the Louisiana Family Forum happy and strengthen their political clout. This is one of the governor's chief priorities, and he understands fully what he is doing. He just hopes that the American people - and the national media- don't catch on to the fact that he is using George Bush's Religious Right playbook down here.

I doubt Jindal will be able to get very far in his quest for the White House (if it ever gets off the ground) without serious scrutiny of his past and present antics regarding the Religious Right.

This site and several others have already laid some excellent groundwork for the establishment press should Jindal become a serious contender for the Republican nomination in 2012, but except for the moments when he is thrust into the spotlight, like last Tuesday's disaster of a Republican rebuttal, then it's still far too early for the traditional national media to be spilling very many column inches of ink in pursuit of someone who is, as yet, just one out of a bunch on names being touted as the GOP's next standard bearer.

Tuesday night could have catapulted him into the forefront with Palin, Romney, and the others, but I suspect now that there will be no stratospheric rise for him in time for the next election.  Yeah, it is early, as I said, but I get the feeling that that he will be a more significant threat in 2016 or beyond, and the old "next in line" rules will apply -- particularly if, God forbid, the country quickly sours on the young and new occupant of the White House.  Ironically, the best chance for Republicans in 2012 will be if Obama fails badly, but if that happens, then I very much doubt the Republicans will turn to their own young, untested leader for succor.  

If things don't turn around by 2012, moral values will be the last thing on peoples' minds and technocrat Mitt Romney or someone like him will be the one conservatives will likely turn to.

Still, there is certainly no harm in keeping an eye on Jindal.  Given the scale of the disaster that the election of someone like Palin or Jindal would be for the country, it is well worth paving the way for others to follow as people seek to learn who these people really are.

by tacitus on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 01:48:40 AM EST

Pat Buchanan used to say publicly that he campaigned in Louisiana churches and found them receptive in his run for President. The ground work is all ready there for many of the churches to be lined up in support.

by wilkyjr on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 06:14:49 PM EST

"his true identity as a Religious Right ideologue has yet to receive the national media exposure that it deserves."

Do you remember the national media reporting on Sarah Palin's witch hunting pastoral annointment?  I don't... but I know it to be fact.

by deatons on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 10:54:53 PM EST

I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the MM to report on anything.  Keep up the good work!

by Yankee in exile on Mon Mar 02, 2009 at 08:18:26 AM EST

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