Shortly after Mitt Romney tapped U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan to be his vice-presidential running mate, word leaked that Gov. Bobby Jindal (who clearly had hoped to be picked) didn't make the presumptive nominee's short list — and didn't even rate a call from Team Romney thanking him for his interest in the job. True to form, Jindal promptly issued a statement denying he had any interest in a potential Cabinet position after the November election, adding, "Why would a guy with the best job in the world be looking for another one?" Even more typically, Jindal was on a plane within 48 hours, stumping for Romney/Ryan in Iowa.
Louisiana voters have heard this meme before. Four years ago, when John McCain passed over Jindal in favor of then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Jindal repeated his "I have the job I want" mantra. That's actually a very good line. Too bad it doesn't ring true coming out of Jindal's mouth.
If Jindal really thought that being governor of Louisiana was the best job in the world, why would he work so hard to be on the first track out of here? Put another way, why would he spend so much time not in Louisiana? And please, don't tell us that his many out-of-state trips, which so often coincide with fundraisers for his campaign coffers, are designed to promote Louisiana. They're promotional tours all right — for Jindal.
Now that Romney has made his choice (and Ryan is a far better choice than Jindal), it's time for our governor to get back to the job — and the state — he claims to love. After all, there's no shortage of problems here awaiting his attention. In the spirit of those who make "honeydo" lists for their spouses, we respectfully submit the following "Bobbydo" list:
• Keep Southeast Louisiana Hospital (SLH) open. The Mandeville mental health facility isn't expendable, especially since the governor ordered the closure of New Orleans Adolescent Hospital (NOAH) in 2009. Remember Jindal's justification for closing NOAH? He said its patients could get the care they needed at SLH in Mandeville. Where will they get their care now, Governor ... Mississippi? Without SLH, an entire region of the state will have no public mental health hospital. (Ironically, some St. Tammany lawmakers who are squawking the loudest about SLH's impending closure have ranked among Jindal's staunchest legislative supporters.) And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg; cuts to Medicaid ordered by Jindal and Congress will gut public health care everywhere in Louisiana. Where's your specific plan to do more with less, Governor?
• Put real accountability into the school voucher program. Jindal pushed hard to get his way on vouchers, and legislators obliged. He brooked no criticism or opposition, and now we see how badly things can go when lawmakers fail to ask questions and challenge assumptions. Hundreds if not thousands of taxpayer-financed vouchers are going to schools that, in many cases, got more vouchers than they have room for students. We already have noted that the "accountability measures" imposed by Jindal's hand-picked state education superintendent, John White, represent a feeble attempt to gloss over this problem. (See "Back to School," Commentary, Aug. 7.) White announced "higher" standards last week — but they won't take effect in time to make a difference this year. We'll make it easy for you, Governor (and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education): Require all private schools getting vouchers to be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Headquartered in Decatur, Ga., SACS is the gold standard for school accreditation in the South. No need to write new standards; SACS has that covered. Of course, requiring SACS accreditation would cut out many of the pseudo-schools that are now getting taxpayer money via Jindal's voucher program. That would take uncharacteristic courage on Jindal's part — the kind of courage that presidential candidates look for in running mates.
• Stop passing the buck on higher education. While Jindal toured the nation promoting himself on the national stage, Louisiana was left scrambling to deal with $66 million in cuts to state colleges and universities. Last week, the University of New Orleans announced $12 million in cuts, the most in UNO's history. The scene is similar at other public colleges and universities. What's needed here is leadership, not just tossing the problem on the table and telling colleges, "Deal with it."
Jindal likes to present himself as a policy wonk. The flip side of that coin is being a problem solver. Solve these problems, Governor — then we'll believe you when you tell us you've got the job you want.