When we think of Gov. Bobby Jindal, images of the chameleon come to mind. It seems he has perfected the art of saying what he has to say and being who he has to be to serve and suit his needs.
And yes, he had us fooled eight years ago when he came to The Tribune offices before his very first run for governor. The former Rhodes Scholar sat right in here in our Esplanade Avenue office and showed his softer, gentler side. He talked about his views on helping, changing our state for the better; and he listened – attentively it seemed – to what we had to say and even vowed that he would always have an ear for the people, that he would come back again to talk about ideas and policies that impact the communities that our readers call home.
In fact, he told us this when asked how Louisiana would be better with him as governor:
“We benefit by having a governor who is inclusive and who tries to bring people together. The day after the election the governor should be the governor of all the people . . . My election will send a message that Louisiana is doing something different.”
Yes, he got our endorsement. He was young, inspiring, energetic and emerged as a palatable alternative to his opponent Kathleen Blanco, whose views were just as conservative as her Republican foe and who like other local and state Democrats have taken the Black vote for granted.
He didn’t beat Blanco in 2003, but was elected to the state’s top political seat four years later and re-elected with little effort last year. And we can’t help but wonder where the Bobby Jindal we met eight years ago is? How did this budget slashing, public education pillaging chameleon replace him? Maybe Louisiana finally did something different in its election of the first Indian governor, but Jindal has played the same old sad song that his party is notorious for. And his governorship has been hard on education, healthcare, and social programs. It’s been especially hard on the most vulnerable citizens of our state. Still, Bobby the Chameleon is not phased.
He expects us to believe that he cares about the education and wellbeing of our children because his administration wastes public money by throwing around a few thousand vouchers to private schools with one hand while he slashes funding for the Department of Health and Hospitals and the Department of Children and Family Services with the other and threatens to all but shut down Medicaid in Louisiana by refusing to approve two provisions of the Affordable Care Act. His voucher program takes money from public education. He has made a mess of mental health services throughout the state, has slashed higher education funding and has been no friend to state employees with major layoffs, hiring freezes, and changes to retirement and pension plans that require higher employee contributions.
Even when he is proven wrong, he refuses to rethink his positions. In fact, Bobby the Chameleon, perhaps bolstered by the right-winged conservative, northern Louisiana voters that comprise his base, is so confident now that he figures he can just ignore a judge’s ruling against his unproven statewide voucher program. He will take his fight to the Supreme Court, he says. He calls educators “shameful” for their stance against the vouchers, when in fact it has been his administration that has brought shame to public education in this state.
Remember his post-presidential election utterance last month when he declared that the Republican Party – his party – needs to stop being the “stupid” party. It was a well-calculated statement that garnered Jindal plenty of national media attention, which we are sure was the point. And maybe he is right. But we’ll be happy if he just stops being a stupid governor.
We are counting the days to the end of Bobby the Chameleon in Louisiana and praying that real leadership—strong, courageous leadership—rises to guide our state. We are also praying that the Republican Party (if it is serious about reinventing itself) is not fooled. Notions of Bobby Jindal as a rising star on the national scene, a 2016 Republic nominee hopeful even, are frightening to say the least.