By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – The “Perfect Headline of the Week Award” goes to NOLA for their article about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s prayer rally:
Yes, it sure has.
Look, I’ve done my fair share of Jindal-bashing. He’s done some things right and some things really poorly. Like they said, it’s complicated.
This prayer rally business is a perfect example of how Jindal brings out the best and the worst in us. I am never going to argue against more prayer for our nation and our society as a while. No, sir. I believe that’s the premise upon which our nation was founded. But why is the governor holding a prayer rally on the LSU campus?
Here’s the thing: The prayer rally yesterday at LSU drew several hundred protesters and they were upset about a variety of things, one of which concerns Jindal’s cuts to higher education which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. Jindal looks first at higher ed anytime he needs to trim the budget. So how dare he use the facilities at LSU to host his prayer rally, which some see as a launching, or at least posturing for, his presidential campaign!:
It was outrageous for the governor to throw a prayer rally on LSU’s campus — an event seemingly aimed at raising his national profile — while simultaneously asking for state higher education to absorb at least $300 million in budget cuts next year, they said.
“He is using it to launch a presidential campaign. … We are subsidizing his move on to national office on the backs of our students,” said Kent Filbel, a LSU professor who attended the protest in his academic robes.
Indeed, the overarching complaint heard about Jindal from legislators and constituents alike is that he focuses too much on national issues and too little on state problems.
The governor’s press office has sent out numerous emails about Jindal’s thoughts on radical Islam and federal abortion bills over the past two weeks. But they have yet to send out a single release regarding the troubling state budget shortfall, which currently totals $1.4 billion and threatens to send public colleges and universities off a financial cliff.
In truth, Jindal has been posturing for a presidential run for the past several years; one of the top complaints about him has been that he’s never in the state. His frequent absences even gave rise to a “Where is Bobby?” cottage industry of t-shirts and coffee mugs along the lines of “Where is Waldo?”
But again, it’s complicated; Jindal has done some things for which he has won much admiration in Louisiana like his fight for the coast after the BP oil spill. The Obama administration twiddled their thumbs and stalled around while the giant oil slick slid toward the Louisiana coast, killed the seafood industry (which is just now beginning to rebound), put hundreds of related small businesses out of business, appointed an “Oil Spill Czar” and put down a moratorium on drilling in the Gulf. Jindal was rightly outraged by it all and fought like a mad-dog for berms, booms, and drilling. Of course, Politico thought Bobby was posturing then, too, but most of us down here didn’t see it that way. We were proud of him, then.
As far as the prayer rally goes, Jindal may have been posturing with that one. Well, yes, he probably was. Not that he doesn’t believe in what he said, or that he’s not a believer in Christian prayer – I think he does and he is. But the whole affair seems staged to draw the most possible attention. Many of the protesters saw his use of the American Family Association to bankroll the event as a stick in the eye of liberal causes.
Maybe it was.
Jindal even tried to merge the prayer rally with a Right to Life event in Baton Rouge, a move that failed to gain support of the Catholic Church who also saw the rally as political posturing:
Still, LSU academics aren’t the only ones bothered by Jindal’s national ambitions. The governor tried to orchestrate a merger between the Right to Life march — one of the anti-abortion movement’s largest annual events in Louisiana — and The Response on Saturday, a move which the Catholic Church rejected. Louisiana’s bishops weren’t interested in attending Jindal’s prayer rally, even though the governor identifies as Catholic and attends mass every Sunday.
“The event was viewed more as an evangelical event with a political tone to it, and the bishops don’t participate in such events,” said Rob Tasman, executive director of the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Jindal insisted that The Response was not connected to his presidential ambitions.
“Today is not a political event. It’s a religious event. It’s not a political event,” Jindal said in an interview.
The problem is, most people saw it that way. Optics.
Posturing. Posing. Positioning. People are tired of that.
Note to politicians: Say what you mean, mean what you say, be up front about your intentions, and then let the people decide.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.