Storm keeps Jin­dal’s ‘star’ ris­ing in Louisiana

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics -

Stor my weather brought Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jin­dal into the full me­dia lime­light.

His gaze steady in the cam­era, Mr. Jin­dal of­fered calm con­sis­tency and a ready, ac­cu­rate ar­ray of facts about res­cue ef­forts and pub­lic safety to an ea­ger press as Hur­ri­cane Gus­tav came and went through his state.

Mr. Jin­dal’s on­go­ing pres­ence in the news me­dia last week pro­vided a stark con­trast to the dicey ap­pear­ances of his pre­de­ces­sor Gov. Kath­leen Babineaux Blanco, a Demo­crat, and for­mer Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency Di­rec­tor Michael D. Brown when Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina dev­as­tated the Gulf Coast three years ago.

Mrs. Blanco chose not to seek re-elec­tion last fall. But Mr. Brown’s me­dia savvy has im­proved since he was al­most uni­ver­sally known as “Brownie,” a nick­name be­stowed on him at the time by Pres­i­dent Bush.

In ap­pear­ances on NBC’s “To­day” and Fox News last week, a grayer Mr. Brown gave help­ful per­spec­tive and con­text on the cur­rent hur­ri­cane re­sponse — and an ap­praisal of him­self, not to men­tion the ex­is­tence of his per­sonal Web site.

“I spent 20 years in mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment, suc­cess­fully han­dled 160 pres­i­den­tially de­clared dis­as­ters, ev­ery­thing from 9/11, the tsunami, four hur­ri­canes in Florida dur­ing an elec­tion, 160 suc­cesses, and one fail­ure,” he told Fox.

“My hat’s off to Bobby Jin­dal,” Mr. Brown added.

The fact that Mr. Jin­dal’s show­case ad­dress as “ris­ing GOP star” be­fore the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion was scrapped ear­lier in the week gave him an even greater show­case — this one without frills, and heavy with down-to-Earth sen­si­bil­ity.

“I don’t think it mat­ters at all. The only thing that mat­ters is mak­ing sure our peo­ple are safe,” Mr. Jin­dal said.

Mr. Jin­dal, 37, was as grave as the first-re­spon­ders who of­ten sur­rounded him on a makeshift dais in Ba­ton Rouge, New Orleans and else­where.

“My job is to be here,” he told re­por ters, skir ting ques­tions about his per­sonal feel­ings or mem­o­ries of Ka­t­rina.

As the des­ig­nated voice of rea­son, Mr. Jin­dal also fared bet­ter, per­haps, than New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Na­gin, who had char­ac­ter ized Gus­tav as the “stor m of the cen­tur y” — prompt­ing an evac­u­a­tion from the city on Aug. 30. Mr. Na­gin was un­apolo­getic. “I would not do a thing dif­fer­ently. I’d prob­a­bly call Gus­tav, in­stead of the mother of all storms, maybe the mother-in-law or the ugly sis­ter of all storms,” Mr. Na­gin said in the af­ter­math.

The gov­er­nor’s saintly glow was dis­puted by at least one critic, though.

Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina “pointed up the chinks in the ar­mor in nearly ev­ery area of gov­ern­ment,” Louisiana At­tor­ney Gen­eral James “Buddy” Cald­well told Bloomberg News, sug­gest­ing that the state’s dis­as­ter re­sponse sys­tem had been vastly im­proved by the time Mr. Jin­dal took of­fice in Jan­uary.

“To me, it’s like tak­ing over the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots,” Mr. Cald­well said.

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