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Boasso desperate attack may move spotlight onto himself

In 2003’s close governor’s race, the margin of defeat for Republican Rep. Bobby Jindal may have come from a television ad run by his opponent and now Gov. Kathleen Blanco in the final days of the campaign where a bitter old man who had worked in health care accused Jindal while he headed the state’s Department of Health and Hospitals of making the state’ health care worse. This was despite loads of evidence that Jindal’s leadership had produced a more efficient, better system of care in Louisiana – but given the last-minute appearance of the ad and Jindal’s inability or unwillingness to set the record straight, the ad proved effective.

In 2007, about a month before the election, an opponent of Jindal’s this time, Democrat state Sen. Walter Boasso, wants to see if lightning somehow can strike twice as Jindal threatens to leave Boasso and all other gubernatorial candidates in the dust. This time it’s a bitter woman complaining about how she held Jindal responsible for her brother being ejected from state care. But, four years later, the commercial may end up hurting its progenitor more than its intended target.

As inane as the 2003 commercial was, to the untutored it at least seemed plausible as the angry old doctor spewed vague, generalized, unverified venom. Coming so close to the general election runoff date it gave Jindal little time to set the record straight, and Blanco was running neck-to-neck with Jindal. But in 2007’s version, Boasso decided he had to strike a month before the primary election given Jindal’s huge lead, leaving Jindal plenty of time to respond (he already has, pointing out his accomplishments as DHH head and the praise heaped on him by the media for his performance), and the specific circumstances of the case leaves all but the most dense viewers wondering about its credibility.

Essentially, the old woman makes it sound like Jindal was a meanie who just up and decided personally to throw her retarded brother out on the street just because. In fact, the court case cited in the ad, John B. McNiece v. Bobby P. Jindal, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (docket number Civ.A. 97-2421, decided by the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District, Louisiana on Aug. 26, 1998), shows it was an intra-agency dispute between parts of the department, one part making a ruling on McNiece’s condition that said he had a right to reside in a state institution, the other overruling it which the court said broke federal law. That’s all there was to it.

As titular head of the department, Jindal’s was the name on the case, likely his only connection to it. In fact, Jindal probably never even knew of the incident until the suit was filed; the secretary of the department by its own documented processes (at least at present) is not involved in the disposition of any of these cases at all. But the inflammatory rhetoric and distorted tone of the ad makes it sound Jindal actively intervened in order to get his kicks.

That is, the commercial is so over the top that only the most brain-dead people (who are not likely to vote for Jindal anyway) even would believe it – as well they shouldn’t, the record shows. It’s the second such attack ad against Jindal after the anti-Catholic ad run by the state’s Democrats last month.

Which means by now that Louisiana’s voters are being taught by Jindal’s political opponents that Democrats are going to make the wildest accusations possible in the hopes of defeating Jindal, reducing every time the credibility and thus effectiveness of these attack ads. The difference between the August and Septemeber tries, however, is that this time there is an object for retribution; not a faceless organization but a real candidate, Boasso.

The first ad may have worked to create sympathy for Jindal, but the second may serve to hurt Boasso, and not only in that some may be disgusted at the desperation of Boasso. For no doubt there are circumstances in Boasso’s career heading a large organization, his marine firm, where things he barely knew or didn’t know about at the time later turned into contentious legal actions that went against his company. For example, did any employees ever sue successfully for wrongful termination? Or did any government environmental agencies fine it for violations? Using Boasso’s attack ad logic, Boasso would be the one illegally firing people or unlawfully polluting.

Jindal has been running ads calling Boasso a hypocrite on insurance issues. Maybe the hypocrisy extends to casting the first stone when, for all we know, Boasso’s own enterprise ended up doing things far worse than Jindal’s former agency mistakenly denying health care to one person.


Daniel Z said...

The only correct assumption you have made about this ad was that it may have been run to early. Only time will tell.

Jindal was head of the department and responsible for the policies that happened to be in violation of the law. So your claim that his being head is the only connection to the lawsuit is flawed. Or are you going to argue that Jindal is not responsible for the policies that his department operated under?

And no, the ad does not make it seem like Jindal got his "kicks" by doing anything. It just shows that Jindal's decisions made at the department of health did not take into consideration the people they would effect and where in violation of the law.

Jeff Sadow said...

Sure, you can argue that the one at the top ultimately is responsible for decisions made way below him in the organization chart of whcih he knew nothing about. If so, then why stop at Jindal? Wouldn't Mike Foster, then governor, be the real villian using that logic?

But that's not what the commercial tries to imply. The sister bluntly states "Jindal kicked my brother out on the street" (or something close to that; I've only seen it a couple of times) among other things, making it seem Jindal personally intervened to do this just to be mean. If you reread the posting, you'll note the case had nothing to do with that scenario -- it was a jurisdictional dispute where one part of the agency, according to the court, misinterpreted federal law. Although no one has asked him (perhaps becasue they won't like his answer), Jindal very likely never even heard of the matter until the suit was brought, way after the decision had been made. It is extraordinarily unlikely that the department head would have become involved in this kind of decision which largely is considered routine and taken care of much lower down the organization. The comemrcial is incredibly misleading on this account.

Perhaps you haven't seen the ad yet, but it's hard to conclude other than it's trying to lead people into thinking Jindal actively thrust himself into this matter, that he did it out of insensitivity, and he did so because he enjoyed more getting the agency to run a certain way than to protect people. Which is why its over-the-top nature will make it largely ineffective after Jindal's response.

Anonymous said...

So by your logic Jindal's defense is justified since his specific actions were directly responsible for all good that happened, but his management strucuture somehow protects him from any of the actual fallout from same said policies. In effect, you believe he gets to have his cake and eat it as well.

I further am curious how and why he chooses to counter the "insurance" ad with an attack on Boasso and trying to require higher standards. As a driver of a fairly "normal" car valued well over $25,000 I am quite in favor of raising Louisiana's poor minimum standards. Apparently Bobbie is in favor of keeping lowly insured drivers on the roads. At least we all get to keep our guns. Bobbie makes that clear.

Anonymous said...

I am quite in favor of raising Louisiana's poor minimum standards. Apparently Bobbie is in favor of keeping lowly insured drivers on the roads.

Lowly insured beats the hell out of no-ly insured which is pretty near what we have now

Anonymous said...

Man, you guys sound pretty sad trying to move the blame for this off of Bobby. Maybe if he ever came out of hiding and spoke for himself, the voters could get a better idea of what he is to blame for. Doesn't look like that is going to happen. Maybe you know, is Bobby even still living in Louisiana?

Ay Uaxe said...

Here's the regular joe view--the angry lady, the sad plight of the retarded brother, and the suit with Jindal's name in the title looks bad for Jindal. The attached slogan, to the extent that Louisianans keep watching, instead of heading off to the fridge for a beer or coke (depending on whether they're south or north of Aleck), "Big brain, small heart" disarms an otherwise effective ad, by imparting the distinctive, Boasso clown/bully tone. So it's a mixed bag, but one that Jindal has to puncture and deflate. He also needs to present a bunch of shiny happy cajun, creole and redneck folks who remember the virtual miracles Jindal performed back when the state and its every agency were actually beyond the verge of bankruptcy (I remember those days well--I'm still owed a paycheck from when I was an ADA in the 80's). Frankly, after the abysmal performance of Maw-Maw Blanco, I'm ready for someone with a big brain who's effective--since I'm not begging for charity, I don't care if he's got any heart at all. Anyone think Thyssen-Krupp was looking for "heart"? Not likely. If this state doesn't get a grip on electing the best people for the job, regardless of BS, like skin color, regional issues, and religion, it deserves to be flushed into the Gulf.

Anonymous said...

For someone who is supposedly a political scientist you make some pretty uneducated assertions. For instance, you say that the specifics of the Boasso ad make it less effective, citing the sordid details of the case. I won't comment on the validity of the case, but I find it hard to believe that an uncited commercial by a doctor will be more effective than a heartfelt plea by an "old woman" that is CITED with Jindal's name on it.

You violate the first rule of politics by assuming that voters will have the full story when going to the polls. All they are going to see is a woman who doesn't like the way Jindal did his job has cited reason for it.

Now, Jindal could spend his millions refuting the specifics of the case and making the argument that "as titular head" he had nothing to do with the "interagency dispute," but he hasn't. And for good reason. That doesn't fit into a soundbite- or more importantly a 30 second tv spot- as well as a court case with Jindal's name on the docket.

Instead, the response has been to call this distressed woman a liar and use "efficiency" as conservative code word for cutting vital services to Louisiana's most needy. Real Smart.

Jeff Sadow said...

Just because you don't immediately see the obvious doesn't mean something is "uneducated" ... let me help educate you, although this really repeats most of what was in the post.

The bitter old doctor worked in the LA health care system and made generalized, vague, disapproving statements about Jindal's reign as DHH head. The effect of that is for the viewer to think this credentialed guy may know what he's talking about, especially without specifics to pin down his credibility. This uncredentialed woman, by contrast, makes these remarks which on their face are absurd, i.e. "Bobby Jindal threw my brother out on the street." Only the simplest person would see that as credible, or not understand that the only reason Jindal's name was on the suit was his being head of DHH. And, to restate yet another point from the column, that kind of voter was not likely to be voting for Jindal in the first place. Smarter and more sophisticated voters, who will disporportionately vote for Jindal, easily will see through this. Few will be persuaded.

This is why Jindal will not waste his time with any direct refutation of the commercial, but has chosen the general strategy of showing the major priase from inside and outside of government he won for his efforts at DHH (who don't seem to believe he cut "vital services" -- can you name one?) Hopefully, you get it now.

Anonymous said...

Nope Doc, I don't "get it." I'm glad that you have supreme faith in the Louisiana voter, but would you truly characterize 50% + 1 of the voting population as "Smarter and more sophisticated" voters? If not, then you must be worried about Jindal's chances come October 20, or more importantly, November 17.

No, the true effect that the ad has is that of a common woman who has been wronged by the cold, calculating bureaucratic machine. The doctor could easily be some old fart who was upset because Jindal made him go from being rich to simply upper middle class (as seen by voters.) To me, and I consider myself an educated voter, the woman is astoundingly more convincing... especially when she has a court docket to back it up which HAS Jindal's name on it.

Furthermore Jindal, to his credit, has done quite a lot to dispel the notion that he is a boring wonk who has more passion for numbers than helping people. But voters still remember the fast-talking little kid from 4 years ago. I feel very strongly that Jindal's support is tepid at best among a lot of voters and many are looking for reasons to vote against him. Painting him as the heartless bureaucrat is a good strategy and reminds people why they were turned off 4 years ago.

You are a professor, not a Republican squawk box. It would nice if you blogged as such. Instead, everything you say is "Jindal can do no wrong, everything that anyone else does is bad." Who is that really serving? Jindal is not perfect, and he has made bad votes and bad campaign decisions (however, I will say he's run a very good campaign.)

It's ok, by the way, to compliment and objectively review campaign tactics. We're not talking about policy or governance.

Let's see a little intellectual honesty, please.

Jeff Sadow said...

That you seem unable to understand that the ad blew its credibility when the woman said Jindal threw her brother out on the street (which if isolated we might be able to write off as hyperbole but given the overall tone of the ad tends to have us believe she and the ad's producer actually believe it) explains why you cannot judge properly intellectual honesty in an argument. Or perhaps you don't even know what it is -- how is it "intellectually dishonest" to say a campaign ran an effective ad not effectively countered by its opposition four years ago, while saying today an ineffective ad is countered by that opposition?

You're just don't seem like the kind of person one can get through to on this matter. Nice try, anyway.

Anonymous said...

You people are sometimes unbelievable. If Bobby spent all of his time coming out of hiding and defending everything that this idiot Boasso says along with everyone else, he'd never have time for anything. A man of integrity and very well intentions does not need to respond to such immaturity and lack of brain cells; it would only be a waste of time. You will all be sorry if Boasso is elected and none of the things he promises will go over. Any organization (DHH) even if it is well run is going to have fallbacks, so i suggest one of you who have all this crap to say try running such a complicated agency and running well. no matter how good the governor or official it will never be perfect!