I'm having difficulty these days trying to figure out Gov. Bobby Jindal. It's become almost impossible to square his behavior as governor with his Ivy League education and his promises as a candidate. Consider the following:
• Jindal, who arguably is Louisiana's best-educated governor ever and who got his political start as head of the state Department of Health and Hospitals, wants to reduce Louisiana's tax on cigarettes, which is already the nation's third-lowest — but he has no problem raising tuition significantly at state colleges.
• He promises to sign a right-wing "birther" bill, even though federal law already requires candidates to prove they were born in the U.S. — but he has killed every bill requiring more transparency in the Louisiana governor's office, which, by every objective measure, ranks among the least transparent in the country.
• Despite graduating with a degree in biology from Brown University, he favors teaching creationism in public schools as an "alternative" to evolution — even though no credible biologist believes the earth is 6,000 years old and even though evolution comports with the official teachings of the Catholic Church, of which Jindal (at least in south Louisiana) professes to be a member.
• He promised to make economic development the centerpiece of his administration, yet last week he skipped the groundbreaking ceremony for the LSU teaching hospital in New Orleans — the largest state-sponsored economic development project in the history of Louisiana — because he had a "scheduling conflict." The conflict? Another out-of-state fundraising trip.
Can somebody please tell me what happened the to "the smart guy" we elected governor? Jindal today is not the same man who dazzled business folks and moderate Democrats with his knowledge of public policy and his detailed platform for reform and economic development as a candidate for governor. What happened?
I posit the following theories, each one of which seems equally plausible:
1. He has been kidnapped by aliens and replaced with a mindless, spineless, homunculus.
2. While at a rock concert in 2008, he mistakenly drank something laced with hallucinogenic mushrooms. The effects have not yet worn off.
3. Something in the water at the Governor's Mansion has lowered his IQ to around 70. No, 50.
4. He has had a psychotic breakdown and now believes he is a high school dropout named Bubba Jindal. He finds it way cool that he's governor.
Seriously, I'm beginning to think Jindal suffers from some form of self-loathing, some mix of shame and fear. He seems ashamed of his ancestry, ashamed of his intelligence, ashamed of his Ivy League education — and he is deathly afraid to do anything that might offend his hard-won base among rural conservatives (enough of whom voted for Kathleen Blanco over the dark-skinned Jindal in 2003 that he lost his first bid for governor).
How else to explain his shameless political pandering?
Actually, there is one other explanation: He doesn't give a damn about Louisiana; we're just a launch pad for his national trajectory. He figures, probably accurately, that enough voters here are just plain stupid enough to re-elect him as long as he panders to their basest fears and prejudices.
Hence a refusal to extend even a puny tax on killer cigarettes.
Hence his support of the birther bill, although several major GOP presidential contenders now distance themselves from it (see "Scuttlebutt").
Hence his support of teaching creationism in public schools.
Hence his continued national fundraising tour, which telegraphs his desire for an exit strategy before voters here realize the emperor is not wearing any clothes.
Sadly, no other explanation makes sense. What a colossal disappointment.