Saturday, February 28, 2009

"This is liberal blogger B.S. The story is clear." 

Yesterday, I questioned Bobby Jindal's decision to go on vacation and let Timmy Teepell and Melissa Sellers handle the fallout and intensifying controversy surrounding the Governor's disasterous prime-time address to the nation on Mardi Gras.

And true to form, the Teepell/Sellers tag-team is mucking things up royally.

Ryan at the Daily Kingfish has the goods: a WWL news report about Jindal's speech preparation, and a fine presentation of TPM's wonderful recap of the evolving "Harry Lee" story. One of the reasons why I like Ryan's post so much is that he probably gives Your Right Hand Thief too much credit. Thank you, sir!

And, not to toot my own horn too much, but it does look like I zeroed in on a glaring weak spot in Melissa Sellers initial "clarification" of Jindal's story about Sheriff Harry Lee. That is, if Jindal was merely observing Lee "recount" an experience during a telephone interview, as she said he was, why did Lee he get so steaming mad and yell into the phone "Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!"? Surely such a reaction and statement wouldn't occur during an interview.

Now, when you read TPM's recap of this saga as presented in the Politico, you learn that Timmy has now changed or corrected Sellers' initial (problematic) story

[Politico's Ben Smith] soon posted an update explaining that he had misunderstood Sellers earlier. According to Teepell, Smith now wrote, rescue efforts were in fact still underway when Jindal met with Lee. And Jindal overheard Lee yelling on the phone to justify a decision he had previously made, not giving an interview about the episode, as Sellers' earlier version had had it.

In fact, that whole thing about Jindal overhearing Lee giving an interview? It's now gone from Smith's post (though, thanks to the dangers of syndication, it remains here) as if Jindal's office never said it.

Why did Sellers' problematic and perhaps damning explanation suddenly "disappear" from a published news report?

Timmy Teepell, whose homeschool curriculum apparently didn't include the first rule of holes, decided to keep digging. Instead of doing a competent job for his vacationing boss, he thought it was important to contact Ben Smith one last time and describe the whole kerfuffle thusly:

This is liberal blogger B.S. The story is clear.


The story is far from "clear", and I don't think lashing out at liberal bloggers is going to help matters.

It seems probable to me that Jindal's Harry Lee anecdote was artfully massaged and embellished. Whatever. Pols do it all the time. But more interesting is the dumb lesson that Jindal drew from it, and the dumb, simplistic argument Jindal made throughout the most important speech of his political career.

Even the Times Picayune decided to catalogue the mystifying examples of "waste" which our whiz kid Governor cited throughout his address.

Jindal... criticized a $140 million portion of Obama's stimulus bill for volcano monitoring when much of the money would be used for U.S. Geological Survey equipment to gauge rising river waters and storm surges, which would have applications for coastal Louisiana.
...
Louisiana's transportation department plans to request federal dollars for a New Orleans-to-Baton Rouge passenger rail service from the same pot of railroad money in the economic stimulus package that Jindal criticized as unnecessary pork.

The administration's response?

Asked for comment Friday about the Jindal stance on the federal rail money, the governor's Chief of Staff Timmy Teepell said he does not think the Las Vegas to Anaheim line is a good use of taxpayer money. He did not address the Louisiana proposal.

Apparently, Jindal would scuttle USGS funds to help us monitor storm surges and protect our coast because monitoring volcanoes is laughably wasteful. Further, Jindal thinks the potentiality of a train connecting Las Vegas to Anaheim is reason enough to kill funds for rail service between Red Stick and New Orleans.

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Update: Jeffrey distills it better than me:

On Tuesday Jindal whines about the irresponsible gubmint trying to build a "train to Disneyland" By the end of the week, Jindal is 1) asking to build a train and 2) in Disneyworld.

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Americans can do anything, but Politicians like Jindal can force themselves to BELIEVE anything.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Not good, Bobby, not good 

Because Jindal's speech was such a political disaster, every detail is being parsed with a fine-tooth comb. Jindal went on vacation to Disney World and left aides Timmy Teepell and Melissa Sellers to put out the resulting fires...

Uh oh.

The latest "flame up" involves Jindal's "Harry Lee story", the veracity of which is being questioned by bloggers. At the very least, Jindal appears to have artfully embellished the episode. Jindal's conversation with Harry Lee didn't occur "during Katrina", or while "the boats were all lined up ready to go", as Jindal implied.

Ben Smith reports:

[Jindal spokeswoman Melissa Sellers] said the story Jindal told in his response to Obama actually took place some days later in Lee's office -- though still in Katrina's chaotic aftermath -- as Lee was "recounting" his frustrations with the bureaucracy to someone else on the telephone.

Indeed. But if Jindal was witnessing Sheriff Lee "recount" the story a week later, why would Jindal quote Lee as saying

before I knew it, [Lee] was yelling into the phone: 'Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!'

Does Jindal want to let Timmy and Melissa explain that quote while he's on the Peter Pan ride?

The point Jindal tries to make with his embellished Harry Lee story is absurd. Jindal implies that government should just get out of the way and let "enterprising" individuals resolve any catastrophe, whether that catastrophe involves high finance, floodwater or volcanoes. See, incompetent government wasn't the problem "during Katrina", the problem was government itself. A very Reaganesque notion, to be sure, but if Jindal thinks his embellished Katrina parable will guide us through our current financial morass, he's even more simplistic than his harshest critics allege.

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Now to one of my perpetual political hobbyhorses-- looting during a catastrophe.

Here's what Jindal said a couple years after the Federal Flood:

"A lot of foolish things happened following the storm," Jindal said. "We all remember the horror stories.

"People were still in the water. Numerous heroes rushed down with boats to rescue them, but then the bureaucrats got involved. They said if you don't have proof of registration and insurance, you're not allowed to go into the water.

"People were drowning, and they were worried about paperwork. Look, if I'm drowning, I don't care if you steal the boat, I hope you come and get me."

So, unlike Bush, Jindal doesn't appear to have a "zero tolerance policy" on looting during a catastrophe. Cool.
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Update: Not many people know this, but the late Harry Lee had a painting in his office that memorialized the episode referenced in Jindal's speech. Here it is:

Big thx to Michael.

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New barter economy 

Smoking Gun (via DP)

A trio of Louisiana nitwits agreed to swap two young children for a [rare cockatoo] and $175, police charge.

While this might seem really bad, you need to understand that the rare bird in question is actually Gwyneth Paltrow. That's right. After a scathing NYT article about her "Goop" web site, Paltrow went into hiding as a rare bird. She was captured and then traded for two young children.

[The Gwyneth Paltrow enterprise attracting the most media sniping right now is] Goop.com, a lifestyle Web site and e-mail introduced in September that hits subscribers’ in-boxes on Thursdays with tips like “police your thoughts” and “eliminate white foods.” The site’s name is derived from Ms. Paltrow’s initials, and its slogan, “Nourish the Inner Aspect,” positions it deeply in the New Age realm.

Recent issues have offered tips on family harmony from a leader of the kabbalah community, cozy mothering anecdotes (and the revelation that her children call adults “grownies”) and a graphic regimen for detoxifying the body. Ms. Paltrow has recommended expensive hotels, restaurants and jewelry and offered tips on getting reservations at two of the Momofuku restaurants that don’t, in fact, take reservations. She has also given out recipes for banana-nut muffins, steamed peas and garlic bread. While the site does have its loyal fans, many critics find the enterprise fatuous and a bit puzzling.


Police your thoughts? Eliminate white foods? ... (What about eliminating white web sites?)

Her "tips" make me want to read some Foucault while eating roasted cauliflower.

Thanks to Lovely for alerting me to the NYT piece. While Lovely loves to loathe Gwinny en toto, I thought Paltrow did a fine job in the movie Sliders, where she convincingly played a White Castle grill cook.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Jindal [versus] the Volcano 

I realize that's not an original title, but we're still gonna go with it.

Fox News:

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal criticized government spending in the stimulus bill, citing examples including "$140 million for something called 'volcano monitoring.'"

Like Jindal's use of a chopped Obama quote to support a straw man argument, his claim about "$140 million for volcano monitoring" is flat out FALSE.

The $140 million to which Jindal referred is actually for a number of projects conducted by the United States Geological Survey, including volcano monitoring.

Only about $14 million is going to volcano monitoring, and as Gail Collins says, if spending money to keep track of rumbling volcanoes (like Mt. Redoubt) is one of the prime examples of waste in the bill, we should all feel comforted.

[Volcano] monitoring is aimed at helping geologists understand the inner workings of volcanoes as well as providing warnings of impending eruptions, in the United States and in active areas around the world where U.S. military bases are located.

Why does Bobby Jindal want molten rock and ash to rain down on our overseas military personnel? I don't understand.

And speaking of things I say I don't understand but really do, what is this "something" doing in Jindal's claim?

$140 million for something called 'volcano monitoring'".

Is the "hall-monitoring, library-inhabiting, science-fair-winning class president" really befuddled by the strange concept of "volcano monitoring"? Did he not have time to look it up prior to including it in the biggest speech of his political life? Or was our Ivy League Rhodes Scholar Biology major whiz kid feigning ignorance to seem more "in touch" with the hoi polloi? As I said before, I don't mind that Jindal is a geek, but I do mind that the media and many of his supporters give him credit for smarts when it is clear that he has made a conscious decision to say and believe DUMB things for political gain.

While a mountain is rumbling in Alaska, Jindal mocks the scientific monitoring systems that can save lives from volcanic catastrophe, and he showcases this monitoring as a prime example of wasteful spending in Obama's stimulus bill. What if Gov. Palin mocked the improvement of hurricane monitoring systems as a wasteful government priority? How would Louisianans feel.

So what are some of the other things, besides volcano monitoring, that the ultra-wasteful $140 million goes towards? "Upgrading U.S. Geological Survey facilities and equipment, including stream gages, seismic and volcano monitoring systems and national map activities.”

Sarah at Corrente elaborates on the stream gages (or stream flow watch) part.

Stream flow? Yeah, you know -- surface water, in the United States -- and whether it's normal flow, low flow, rising or over flood stage. Now maybe Bobby Jindal doesn't care about flooding. After all, he's only the Republican governor of Louisiana, so maybe floods don't bother him.


On how many levels is this disingenuous or stupid? And how many times does Jindal get to do this phony shtick before he gets called on it? Jindal is an intelligent man who is either acting dumb, or who has decided to adopt dumb beliefs. (After assuming the former for many years, I now believe he has done the latter.)

Consider: Jindal grandly refuses 1% of Louisiana's share of the stimulus, when we are desperately needing more federal funds to rebuild our levees, our hospitals, and our wetlands. Jindal still enjoys his "whiz kid" credentials among the media while his insertion of creationist non-science into our schools is doing economic harm to the state. Now, on his biggest stage of all, he repeatedly lies and then mocks government funding of scientific technology to prevent massive catastrophe (funding which will also go towards flood monitoring technology, as well!) Then he invokes Katrina and lies about what the President said.

As his state recovers from catastrophe, Jindal decided to use his opportunity in front of a national audience to discuss why government should cut taxes and get out of the way, rather than attempt to prevent and respond to massive catastrophes.

Jindal's sing-songy delivery of his speech had “all the saccharine sincerity of a Disney tour guide”, according to one pundit. But after a close reading, the content of Jindal's speech was equally insubstantial. Now Jindal is vacationing in Disney World as the negative media reaction to his speech reaches a fever pitch. (The shrewd move would be to go on Leno and make fun of himself.)

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I'll get Jindal's stupid "Sheriff Harry Lee/Don't need no Gubmint help" example later. In the meantime read Stephanie Grace and City Journal.

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Thought we'd have to wait until SNL for this one 



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Update: Nice one, Michael!

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Geek Unappeal (pt II) 

Gracious! The Jindal criticism just... won't... stop. These things have a way of snowballing, and so far that's what's happening. I'm fascinated.

Tbogg:


Bobby Jindal's presidential aspirations blew up tonight like a cheap condom on the end of a fire hose.
...

Townhall's Amanda Carpenter has always struck me a young lady of simple All-American tastes, who would be dazzled by a fistful of carnations and the early bird special at Applebees. Tonight:

Well, I don't feel as good about the Jindal response as I did earlier today.

There was a cheesy, salesman-like quality to the response that I don't think connected with the Rick Santelli-inspired anger so many Republicans are feeling right now. And, I'm pretty sure he's going to be SNL's next target. His speech tempo was just, so weird.

Enough complaning from me. He didn't pass the primetime test and it makes me sad. I don't want to dwell.


The Next Right:


I have seen it referred to multiple times as "Kenneth the Page" from 30 Rock. Personally I felt more like he was tucking in a child.

...

I don't know if Jindal intentionally talked to me like I was in pre-school or not, but I do know it irritated more than just me, and turned me off to anything he was saying. And I'm a Republican.

It Sounded Like A Campaign Commercial For Him

It sure was nice to hear the life story of Bobby Jindal - but it was hardly effective as a response to the president.

Barack Obama called for investment in education, transportation and infrastructure. He called upon Congress to cut the deficit in half in four years, and reform healthcare.

Bobby Jindal told me his mom got pregnant, then moved to America, and gave birth to him, setting in motion a great American story.

His story really is fascinating, but I think I'd like to wait until 2010 at last before I start getting this stuff beaten in my head. What was called for tonight was an alternative to the president's agenda, not a personal appeal to Jindal-cult.



538 (liveblogging):


I hear Facebook is lighting up with "Kenneth the Page" to the point that this may go down as the Kenneth the Page Speech. This guy is the anointed Republican rising star, by the way. Obama's gotta be laughing about this.


Ross Baker, Political scientist, Rutgers:


Bobby Jindal is in dire need of a gravitas transplant.


NRO's Jim Geraghty:


He seemed to have somehow figured out a way to speak too quickly and too slow at the same time. (A couple readers, who wanted to rave about him, agreed, using terms like "robotic" and "Mr. Rogers.")


Larry J. Sabato, Professor of Politics, University of Virginia:


On Bobby Jindal: The most damning comment I’ve heard came from a friend who is not hostile to Jindal’s ambitions. “He looked like a fake Rolex after you’ve just seen the real thing.”

John Cole:


Watch Jindal goofily lope in his weird gait out to the microphone with that weird smile on his face- all of which happened after Obama’s command performance in the regal chamber in front of hundreds of clapping people. “Oh, God” is right. And then he started to talk. My snap reaction:
Is Jindal addressing the nation or auditioning for the job as Mr. Rogers replacement? WTF is up with this sing-songy delivery? He sounds like he is addressing gradeschool kids.

Then again, maybe the Republican voters tuned in for him, so maybe he just knows his target audience.


...

From the comments:

His entrance was horrific. Stepping out of the shadows, he looks like the psycho killer who’s trying to act normal after just having finished sinking a car with a dead body in the trunk in the swamp behind his house. Did M. Night Shyamalan direct that entrance? Because I see dead people.
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Tigerhawk thinks Chris Matthews deliberately (and repeatedly) used the word "outsource" during his criticism of Jindal's speech. Tigerhawk is right. It was intentional, and it was a slimy cheap shot. So between that nastiness and Matthews' audible "Oh Gawd" muttering, you'd think that conservatives would have enough red meat to divert attention to Chris Matthews, and try to make him the story. It's not working, though.
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The Governor's office is doing its best to spin away the damage with a collection of quotes titled "What They Are Saying: Governor Jindal’s Republican Address To The Nation". Among them is Michael Gerson's ill-timed piece that has nothing to do with Jindal's address.

Update: Rush Limbaugh, who is a big fan of Jindal's (and vice-versa, apparently), disagrees with the uniformly positive "reactions" posted on the Governor's office web page. On his radio show today Limbaugh said:

“Everybody trashed Bobby Jindal... I never heard the media, both sides, conservative and liberal, dump on a response like they did last night.”

Pains me to say it, but Rush is right. I've never seen both sides dump on a response like they are doing now, either. That's why I'm so fascinated and surprised.

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Geek Unappeal 

Jindal is getting bludgeoned for his candy-ass response to Obama's speech last night. It's sort of fun seeing Wonder Boy getting criticized so thoroughly from both sides. Honestly, I was surprised to see the reaction this morning. When I watched the end of Jindal's response last night (I couldn't help myself), I didn't think it was a disaster. Sure, he sounded cheesy because of all the "talk slower!" coaching he's received. And sure, Jindal is just naturally geeky. (I don't have a problem with him being a geek, I have a problem with him being a geek who decided to force himself to believe stupid things in order to advance his political career.)

But this nationwide reaction is BRUTAL. Jindal's getting pummeled like a narc at a biker rally**. Let's ghoulishly inspect the damage, shall we? First, the delivery:

Fox News panel:

BRIT HUME: “The speech read a lot better than it sounded. This was not Bobby Jindal’s greatest oratorical moment.”

NINA EASTON: “The delivery was not exactly terrific.”

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER:Jindal didn’t have a chance. He follows Obama, who in making speeches, is in a league of his own. He’s in a Reagan-esque league. … [Jindal] tried the best he could.”

JUAN WILLIAMS: “It came off as amateurish, and even the tempo in which he spoke was sing-songy. He was telling stories that seemed very simplistic and almost childish.”


Ramesh Ponnuru: "I thought his delivery was weak."

Ace of Spades: "Awful. He walked out like an earnest dork and has a weird inflection, trying to sound upbeat and sunny when it's clearly not his natural metier. It sounds false, and he looks false."

Malkin: "The cable news talking heads panned Bobby Jindal’s response to Obama tonight."

Hot Air: "'Awful' is Ace’s word but I’m in no mood to disagree. And neither are most HA commenters, judging from this mammoth thread. This was his star turn and he came off wooden..."

Politico:

“Jindal will recover, but it’s difficult to imagine him now as Obama’s 2012 opponent,” said University of Virginia political scientist Larry J. Sabato in a post on POLITICO’s Arena forum. “Jindal not only didn’t live up to his advance billing, he proved that he needs a lot more seasoning before he gets a prime time slot.”
...
“Obama gave a polished performance, as usual. Jindal’s act needs a lot of work,” said John J. Pitney Jr., a political science professor at California’s Claremont McKenna College. “His basic message was sound but his language was hackneyed and his performance was wooden. Fortunately he has a lot of time to improve his delivery. In the year 2040 he will still be younger than McCain was in 2008.”

Thomas Schaller, a political scientist at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said, “Someday, when scholars are trying to fingerpoint the nadir of the post-Bush Republican Party, they may arrive at Jindal's speech tonight,” he said. “Though it was a tough moment for any Republican to give the opposition response, his speech came across as unserious in content and condescending in its tone.”

The Other McCain:

A big wiffle-ball swing and a miss for the consensus favorite 2012 candidate of Republicans who look down their nose at Sarah Palin.

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Perhaps the most damaging element in the negative reaction to Jindal's speech was the introduction of the "Kenneth" factor.

Andrew Sullivan:

Close your eyes and think of Kenneth from 30 Rock. I can barely count the number of emails making that observation...

Stylistically, he got better as he went along but there was, alas, a slightly high-school debate team feel to the beginning. And there was a patronizing feel to it as well - as if he were talking to kindergartners - that made Obama's adult approach so much more striking.
Josh Marshall:

"Pre-existing condition"? Is it just me or is this absolutely cringeworthy? I mean, I really don't like Jindal. jack-mcbrayer-blog.jpgBut this is awful.














The Plank:
"Epic Fail.... Tonight, in all fairness, would’ve been tough to pull off even if Bobby Jindal didn’t sound like Kenneth from “30 Rock,” or, in my favorite analogy of the evening, a third grader performing in his Thanksgiving play..."
HuffPo:

If it wasn't such a dead-on comparison it would be catty to say out loud... but there's no denying it: Bobby Jindal was totally channeling Kenneth The Page from NBC's 30 Rock tonight.

First Draft:

[His] halting sing-songy Kenneth-the-NBC-page delivery was FAIL-tacular...


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Local reaction wasn't much kinder:

Moldy City:

What was the worst thing about Jindal's presentation tonight? Was it that he sounded like that museum tour guide who talked your ninth grade class as if he were talking to a third grade class?

Humid City:

And, although I had a hard time believing I wasn’t really asleep and dreaming, I was, in fact, wide awake, and I was watching what everybody in the world outside of New Orleans was watching: a sad little tyke trying to win the big spelling bee and blowing it all up on a word even I could spell.

Even the T-P story had to temper its raving about Wonder Boy's Big Debut! with an acknowledgement of his "nervousness":

Presenting a personal story as striking as the president's, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal introduced himself to the nation Tuesday...
...
Jindal intertwined his parents' immigrant story with his party's faith in self-reliance and America's native optimism even in the toughest of times.
...
Jindal's appearance represented the delayed star turn he was to have had at the Republican National Convention...
...
He is now on virtually everyone's short list of top contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012... Tuesday night's speech may be remembered as the occasion when [Jindal and Obama] first went head-to-head.
...
Jindal, while hewing closely to conservative orthodoxy, presented himself as capable, thoughtful and not especially confrontational.
...
Jindal appeared a bit nervous at first as he attempted to deliver the speech in a friendly, folksy style.
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And that was only reaction to Jindal's delivery. Now let's look at reactions to the substance of what Jindal said:

Political Animal:

Here's Jindal, for example, explaining his concerns about government.

"Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us. Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina, we have our doubts."

That doesn't make any sense. In fact, it's backwards -- the government failed to act in New Orleans, and a result, people suffered. Had a competent and effective federal response been in place, lives would have been saved. Jindal has learned the wrong lessons -- the families devastated by Hurricane Katrina needed more from Washington, not less...

"While some of the projects in the [stimulus] bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a 'magnetic levitation' line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called 'volcano monitoring.' Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C."

First, the "Las Vegas to Disneyland" line is still ridiculous. Second, marveling at the very idea of high-speed rail, as if it were some kind of fanciful magic, does not reflect well on the governor's appreciation of infrastructure innovation. And third, since when is monitoring volcanoes a bad thing? Does Jindal think monitoring hurricanes is wasteful spending? The governor of a state ravaged by a natural disaster shouldn't mock programs that can save people from natural disasters.



David Brooks:

[For Jindal to] come up at this moment in history with a stale "government is the problem," "we can't trust the federal government" - it's just a disaster for the Republican Party. The country is in a panic right now. They may not like the way the Democrats have passed the stimulus bill, but that idea that we're just gonna - that government is going to have no role, the federal government has no role in this, that - In a moment when only the federal government is actually big enough to do stuff, to just ignore all that and just say "government is the problem, corruption, earmarks, wasteful spending," it's just a form of nihilism. It's just not where the country is, it's not where the future of the country is.

Media Matters:

Bobby Jindal will accuse Obama of pessimism tonight, saying:

A few weeks ago, the President warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said ‘we may not be able to reverse.’ Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don’t let anyone tell you that we cannot recover - or that America’s best days are behind her.

.... Jindal's claim is false. Obama didn't say "we may not be able to reverse" the crisis; he said if we continue to do nothing, it may reach a point where it cannot be reversed. And he didn't say "we cannot recover" or that "America's best days are behind her." Simply didn't happen.


Daily Kingfish:

And that cautious streak in ya, Governor, is the reason you're stuck in that 1990's Republican frame of government being the problem. This time, however, half-measures like cutting the capital gains tax won't cut it. The private sector is looking out for itself ... paying their top people obscene bonuses for failures, and you want to give the top people more money? No, sir ... the answer is that the government must once again, save capitalism from itself.

People Get Ready:

The bureaucratic incompetence which Bobby Jindal vilified, in his knee-jerk Republican response to a powerful speech by Barack Obama, occurred, in fact, during a Republican president.
...
Actually, (aside from the dubious veracity of the story) there’s a hidden lesson which Bobby Jindal would rather we forget: When compassionate hearts and enterprising spirits aren’t enough, competent government is essential.

Liberty and Justice for All:

Jindal claims he cut taxes, but Clancy Dubos already called Jindal on those lies.

Jindal says that he opposes universal government run healthcare. Well, Obama is not pushing for that so why bring that up? Is Jindal ignorant of what Obama wants? Or is he just purposefully misleading the listeners. I vote the latter.

Jindal brought up the “strong ethics laws” he had passed. Yet he conveniently left out the fact that he signed legislation that made it harder to convict corrupt people of ethics violations. He claims to want to bring transparency to Washington D.C., yet he signed legislation that eliminated transparency from his office! What a hypocrite!


E's critique at We Could Be Famous should be read in full, but here's one part:

Here is what Jindal said about education:

To strengthen our economy, we also need to make sure every child in America gets the best possible education. After Katrina, we reinvented the New Orleans school system - opening dozens of new charter schools, and creating a new scholarship program that is giving parents the chance to send their children to private or parochial schools of their choice. We believe that, with the proper education, the children of America can do anything. And it should not take a devastating storm to bring this kind of innovation to education in our country.

This is, simply put, a total distortion of not just of what is going on in New Orleans schools but also his own role in implementing the policies he highlights. He does this all in once sentence somehow.

"We reinvented the New Orleans school system..."

By this I believe he's referring to the effective dissolution of the Orleans Parish School Board and the creation of the state-run Recovery School District to take temporary receivership of public school management in New Orleans after Katrina. For one, the decision was made and implemented before Jindal was governor. In fact, it was former governor Kathleen Blanco who created the RSD, hired Paul Pastorek to head the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and brought in Paul Vallas to mangage the RSD itself. For two, nobody aside from the cheerleaders from within the system's administration is anywhere close to declaring any kind of victory in what is an ongoing and contentious experiment.

Again, I'm pretty shocked that the reaction has been so uniformly negative to Jindal's speech-- especially on the right. The media script coming out of Jindal's rebuttal is that he's "Geeky like Kenneth and not ready for Prime Time". This script, once it congeals, will attach to Jindal like a millstone. Louisiana's Wonder Boy, the "Next Ronald Reagan", threw up a clunker last night. It will be interesting to see how he deals with this personal political setback.
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Update: Thx to Memeorandum for the link.

Paul Krugman distills it thusly:

And leaving aside the chutzpah of casting the failure of his own party’s governance as proof that government can’t work, does [Jindal] really think that the response to natural disasters like Katrina is best undertaken by uncoordinated private action? Hey, why bother having an army? Let’s just rely on self-defense by armed citizens.

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* Title refers to this Gambit story.
** That's an old Dennis Miller joke.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Haven't forgotten Carnival 

Here's a very partial round up:

Kimberly Roberts was ravishing and exuberant atop the Muses' "Shoe" float. She ruled.

I agree, the eyebrows were not sufficiently robust.

Parade video.

Last minute advice for Val Kilmer. (Nice of him to miss the Oscars for us.)

Jeffrey observes: "Everything seems to be deteriorating quite nicely out there. The neutral ground is a tent city. The air is filled with grill smoke. And some dude is playing music by blowing into his comb."

The best Carnival song of all time is...

Zulu house decorations.

Pearlgirl fell off my shoulders as I leaned to reach for a stuffed animal during Thoth, and she hit her head on Magazine street. It was scary, and I feel awful about it, but she's doing okay now.

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Jindal celebrates Bush's economic record 

Gov. Jindal was on tv yesterday explaining why he was going to refuse under 2% of Louisiana's share in the massive, socialist, porkulus spending bill that sends a trillion dollars to Acorn and then funnels another billion trillion into a hi-speed levitating train that will connect Opelousas to Las Vegas to Disneyland to a skybox in Octumom's uterus. (Because Jindal is so frugal, the new train will start in Orange, Tejas, instead of Opelousas.)

Seriously, though: if Senators like John McCain view the stimulus as "generational theft", and if Senators like David Vitter believe their opposition to the stimulus is "the greatest challenge of [their] generation" why is Jindal only objecting to less than 2% of the stimulus funding for Louisiana?

Joe Klein was unimpressed by Jindal's recent tv appearance. Remarkably, Klein had the temerity to go off-script and suggest that Jindal was NOT being "intellectually honest" about the stimulus! Klein was supposed to gush that Jindal was "authentic and effective", but instead he said:

To summarize [Jindal's objections to the stimulus]: Jindal opposes the unemployment codicil, the slimmer tax breaks for small businesses, the support for high-speed rail and the money for the arts. That leaves the overwhelming bulk of the stimulus package, which he presemably supports. A fair question would have been: Governor Jindal, if you were given a take it or leave it choice on the entire package headed for your state, would you take it or leave it? The answer, of course: he'd take it. And so would nearly every one of the Republicans who hooted and howled and grandstanded against the bill. They had the luxury of voting against it because they knew it would pass.

(Well, the vote against the bill wasn't a "luxury" for one Rep. Cao. Cao was leaning in support of the stimulus bill mere hours before the vote, but ended up voting against it. Can someone ask Cao what new bit of data he acquired just prior to the vote that made him change his stance? Was it because the Republican whips needed the "Cao-boy" to preserve GOP unanimity so they could make their really cool "Back in the Saddle" video, celebrating their unified opposition to the lyrics of a song about saloon town hookers?)

I agree with Klein. Jindal wasn't being intellectually honest in his grandstanding objections to the stimulus bill, and he should've been asked whether he would've voted for an (admittedly) imperfect, compromised bill over nothing. As a reference point on Jindal's fiscal authenticity and honesty, please use Jindal's principled "YES" vote on the $300 billion pork-laden farm bill. Back then, Jindal didn't grandly refuse 1% of Louisiana's share from THAT gargantuan bill. I guess it was 100% perfect, even the parts that raised taxes, incentivized illegal immigration and paid subsidies to dead people.

Before I bash Jindal some more, here's some praise. Kudos to da Guvnah for making this statement on national television:

[A]s governor of Louisiana, I will continue to work to make sure that the federal government repairs and builds the levees the way they should have been built in the first place, repairs our coast to prevent against future storms and also, by the way, helps to repair some of the damage that was caused by the breaking of those federal levees. That's important for Louisiana, it's important for our country.

Our, our state, by the way, 9 to $10 billion comes off of our coast in terms of federal oil and gas royalties. If that was federal lands within our state, we'd get 50 percent. We get virtually none of that. You look at 30 percent of the nation's oil and gas in some form comes off of our coast. It's important for the country that America rebuilds those levees, that America helps those communities get back on their feet. Absolutely, as the governor of Louisiana, I'm going to say-- because the federally built and designed levees didn't do what they were supposed to, absolutely I'm going to advocate that they get... rebuilt properly, absolutely I'm going to be willing to put up my own share, and absolutely I'm going to push the federal government to cut through the red tape.

Very nice. But why would Jindal pollute such a fine statement with this ignorant bullshit?

MR. GREGORY: [D]emocrats would... argue, with regard to a call for greater tax cuts, that over the course of the Bush presidency you only had a--three million new jobs through aggressive tax cutting, that the change in median income did not appreciably go up at all. And yet there is this emphasis on tax cuts as the best way to cure what ails the economy.

GOV. JINDAL: Well, I think there's just a--I think this is--shows the fundamental disagreement...

MR. GREGORY: Is that wrong? Is that--are those facts wrong?

GOV. JINDAL: Well, I-- a couple of things about those facts. You look in our country's history, when President Kennedy, when President Reagan and, yes, when President Bush cut taxes, you know what, they created jobs for our country. It caused some of the best economic times and prosperity for our country.

Jindal evaded Gregory's "are those facts wrong" query, and did so by using the exact same idiotic "historical" formulation made two weeks ago by David Vitter, our high-hung, nincompoop-for-a-junior-Senator. Unbelievably, our whiz kid governor is joining the GOP idiots who are trumpeting the PATHETIC job growth numbers under President Bush (2.4 million over 8 years, versus Jimmy Carter's 10 million in 4 years), and they're brazenly doing it one month after Bush left office, during a severe "Bush recession" which began in 2007!!

Holy moly! George W. Bush's economic record is so weak, it makes Jimmy Carter look like a titan of job creation. But Jindal won't dare mention Carter, and he sure as hell won't mention Bill Clinton's 23 million net jobs number. No. Jindal, like Vitter, has placed the "Bush Boom" in the pantheon of growing economies. It's a bizarre thing to do, unless you're a conservative hack. But Jindal is playing the game, and the game is this: history must be re-interpreted to show that tax cuts always work. So Jindal makes the claim that George Bush's tax cuts "created jobs" and caused "some of the best economic times and prosperity for our country", and he links the Bush economic record to the Reagan and Kennedy administrations.

This is how Jindal tackles the historic economic facts-- with hacktacular pseudo-history.

The real fact is that Bush cut $2 trillion in taxes and the economy emerged from a shallow recession with below-average job growth. Even incredibly low interest rates and a housing mania weren't enough to raise the level of job growth during Bush's term to anything beyond the sluggish range. One of the reasons that the tax cuts didn't work was because they were skewed towards the rich, and instead of investing in job-creating businesses or the meandering stock market, the rich put their money into hedge funds and (speculative) financial instruments supported by a housing/credit bubble. The money freed up by Bush's tax cuts did not "trickle down" in any awe-inspiring way. The 2000's were NOT one of the "best" and most prosperous economic periods in American history. Incomes were flat. Job growth was pathetic. The recession that followed the so-called "Bush Boom" is wide and deep and ongoing. But Rhodes Scholar Jindal is reduced to celebrating the Bush economic record as a high point in American growth and prosperity, because history must be re-interpreted to show the success of tax cuts! If tax cuts fail, Republicans fail. Therefore, if Goopers are forced to rearrange history and group Bush with Reagan with Kennedy in an awkward, tax-cutting menage-a-trois, then that is what they will do! They won't tell you what really happened-- that the highlight of Bush's economic legacy is a "paltry few government jobs financed by China".

So this is what it comes to: a month after Bush left office, during a recession that began in 2007, the "Next Ronald Reagan" is on national TV telling us that the pathetic "Bush (housing) Boom" that occurred between Clinton's shallow recession and the current deep recession was one of the best, most prosperous times in American history-- and it was caused by those lovely tax cuts.

Does anyone believe that? To be sure, the Bush administration's mantra between 2003-07 was that the economy was "strong and growing stronger". This strengthening "Bush boom" economy ended in a nasty recession which has already seen the partial nationalization of the banking industry, and an ongoing conversation about whether capitalism "works". This is the economy that the GOP's brightest star chose to celebrate during his recent appearance on national tv.
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As I said, the GOP opposition to the stimulus bill is similar historical "bad faith". Andrew Sullivan recently described it well:
The GOP has passed what amounts to a spending and tax-cutting and borrowing stimulus package every year since George W. Bush came to office. They have added tens of trillions to future liabilities and they turned a surplus into a trillion dollar deficit - all in a time of growth. They then pick the one moment when demand is collapsing in an alarming spiral to argue that fiscal conservatism is non-negotiable. I mean: seriously.

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