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26.2.08

Expect opponents to discount successful Jindal session

Minutes after the special session of the Louisiana Legislature dealing with ethics matters ended, Gov. Bobby Jindal declared, “This was a grand slam. This was a home run. This was complete victory.” It wasn’t the first or third, but it probably was the second. Now expect those against the other parts of the Jindal agenda to claim not only that it was none of the above, but that it wasn’t even a success.

Jindal most definitely did not get everything he wanted. He lost on several proposals, including a ban on taxpayer-funded retirement benefits for public officials convicted of crimes related to their office, a prohibition on candidates paying family members out of campaign dollars, and changing reporting requirements to verify employers of donors. Still, there’s absolutely no doubt ethics standards are stronger as a result of the session, and Jindal is correct in proclaiming that “Today is a huge first step toward a new Louisiana. Today is a day where every Louisianian can be proud of their state.”

Despite these real and tangible results, the “political class” of the state in large part is going to do its best to dismiss these very substantial results. Some will do so by trying to deny Jindal credit through an obnoxious attempt to argue Jindal is “corrupt” because a campaign operative of his forgot to record an independent expenditure on the campaign’s behalf when there were no other lapses in the most comprehensive and expensive campaign in the state’s history, or that he had a few tickets left over to give to other politicians’ families to a sold-out event in a state building. Others, preferring to overlook unbiased analysis, will claim he’s gutting ethics enforcement, or that he’s not addressing other elements of ethics legislation even as they are unable to point out where these shortcomings might actually be.

(A great irony underlying these attempts is that what Jindal has led the charge of could have been done at any time by any politician – yet apparently only he had enough fortitude to do so, and he will get criticized because he was unable to do a perfect job whereas no other politician even tried to do any close to this. It’s easy for these critics to get lost among the trees and fail to see the forest.)

Such distortions of the truth will come because the ethics session serves just as an hors d’oeuvre for an upcoming promised special session on fiscal matters and then the regular session. During these, Jindal probably will promote an agenda clearly at odds with many of the state’s powerbrokers and much of the political class – focused on empowering people rather than government, turning resources away from special interests and facilitating individuals to keep their own. There’s much inertia against him to pursue the agenda, and he’ll need all the political capital he can get to accomplish it.

By painting the session as a kind of failure for the state, opponents try to reduce this political capital. Politically, Jindal knew leading off with ethics reform was something on which he could generate substantial change – and political capital, which his opponents realized, too. Even if some of these opponents by and large may agree with the changes, they will do all that they can to deny him credit and thus capital simply because they know things with which they don’t agree are fast approaching.

As informed observers consume media accounts of the session, they need to understand this dynamic driving the actions of Jindal’s opponents in order to accurately assess the impact of the session, and to understand the genuine successful and beneficial change Jindal helped to engineer through it.

2 comments:

Daniel Z. said...

So, you never said if you agree with Jindal. Was this a "grand slam"?

Jindal did pass ethics legislation. It may very well increase our ethics laws to 3rd in the nation (as some say it will). However, what good will our ethics laws be if there is no improvement on the enforcement of ethics laws.

Why did Jindal throw us a curveball by saying during the election he wanted to fix the ethical problems in our state and then, after getting elected, changing his stance and saying that we needed to fix the PERCEPTION of ethical problems in our state?

Why did Jindal balk at increased transparency on his administration when he was requesting increased transparency on others. As Jindal said about his Valentines Day shopping activities... "do as I say, not as I do".

And while you may make light of "ticketgate", but that doesn't change the fact that Jindal
A) Wanted to change the law to eliminate free tickets
B) Said that his administration would set the example for ethics
C) Then provided Timmy with free tickets and then
D) When asked about it, said that he would "follow the law" (the law that he wanted to change).

The reason Jindal opponents are standing up and speaking out against the misleading spin that he hit a "grand slam" is because he didn't hit anything close to a grand slam.

Jeff Sadow said...

>So, you never said if you agree with Jindal. Was this a "grand slam"?

I said "home run" but to be clear for those who are not well-versed in baseball, a grand slam (bases-loaded homer) is the highest example of a homer. So to be more precise, he/they (Legislature) hit a solo shot (homer with the bases empty).

>Why did Jindal throw us a curveball by saying during the election he wanted to fix the ethical problems in our state and then, after getting elected, changing his stance and saying that we needed to fix the PERCEPTION of ethical problems in our state.

He has said both. He certainly minced no words during the inaugural address. Almost all legislators have said "perception of," but Jindal also has dropped that phrase in front of "corruption" on many occasions.