Storm keeps Jindal’s ‘star’ rising in Louisiana
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.