Usually in the world of politics, and especially in how it gets reported in the media, events become breathlessly reported in stark contrasts. In reality, almost no events are ever as significant as the chattering classes make them out, if significant at all in the long term. Regardless, one particular response by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal may develop into a meaningful line on his political résumé going forward.
It was hyperbole to suggest in early 2009 that a competent but stylistically-challenged national address by Jindal ended his hopes attaining high national office (as a point of reference, the keynote speaker at a Democrat National Convention absolutely bombed, yet four years later wound up president – Bill Clinton). Now the panting asserts that the recent oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico has resurrected Jindal’s fortunes and made everybody forget about that televised minute or so following Democrat Pres. Barack Obama.
Of course, this is over the top as well. If Jindal does seek some high office in a couple of years or more time, how he handles this situation largely will be mostly parenthetical to much bigger issues. Still, one decision involving the crisis in particular may take on the aspect of a necessary condition that will end up as a needed platform plank for successful future ambition.
To put it in the parlance of poker, Jindal has gone “all in” with the idea of sand berms to block oil from reaching marshes and other fragile coastline. For something like this to become an issue about Jindal’s governing ability, it must have controversy which comes from some who claim they will be ineffective and/or divert resources from other, more crucial, conservation efforts. Those assertions have been taken up by the political left because of the Obama Administration’s inept handling of the situation, which becomes more starkly apparent the more Jindal strikes the state of Louisiana out on its own. Not only does Obama keep looking worse the better Jindal appears, the Angry Left in particular is upset that Jindal’s national chances continue to improve.
While those who question the use of the berms no doubt accurately state the risks of their use, as noted previously they inappropriately and poorly integrate that information into public policy-making. Simply, in the short term use of the berms has such a high, certain large payoff that even if they don’t last long they bring more benefits than both their long-term opportunity costs and immediate actual costs.
And that’s the way the public ultimately will judge the effort. Politically, only the most abject failure can cost Jindal now since the federal government gave them its blessing, after initially dragging it out by showing more concern over ephemeral and minor, if not actually nonexistent, environmental issues. Unless the berms crumble without catching any oil, as long as one layer of it washes in and gets cleaned off or safely absorbed, the public will judge the costs worth it.
Thus, this episode of jawboning a reluctant federal government into supporting his plan adjudged as a success stands very likely to create a genuinely lasting and significant asset to Jindal’s political career. He will have fought for and won a nonpartisan public policy victory that brought more benefits than costs on a matter of wide concern. That would become one of the signal accomplishments in a future electorate’s mind – unless the plan does fail completely, in which case it won’t matter since failure, unlike the dodgy address, is something that really would wipe Jindal off the national political map, perhaps forever.