Jindal shines in oil spill crisis

Mark Mardell, BBC:

Crises can destroy reputations. They can also make them.

Outside the Southern Sting Tattoo Parlour in Lafourche country, owner Bobby Petrie uses art to make his point.

It's a mural showing a skeletal figure of death in tattered black robes looming over a map of the gulf, the letters BP on its back. Next to it, a picture of President Barack Obama scattered with question marks, "what now?" across his forehead. But it is the small sign propped at the bottom that interests me: "Bobby Jindal for President".

Bobby Petrie is full of praise for Louisiana's governor.

"He's doing a real good job," he says. "He knows what we need. He knows what needs to be done to protect us. I don't think the president does, not in the way that Jindal does."

We are on the way to see Jindal at a news conference.

Louisiana's youthful governor was once seen as the Republicans' answer to Obama. He is an Ivy League intellectual, personable, the face of modern America, the son of Indian immigrants, with social and economic views that tick most conservative boxes.


At a news conference at Grand Isle he pulls off something of a publicity coup. He was due to entertain the New Orleans Saints at the governor's mansion to celebrate their stunning win in the Super Bowl. Instead he's persuaded the team to go down to the gulf coast and meet those suffering because of the oil leak.

He said this would be "fitting and symbolic". Indeed it is. The Saints were underdogs for a long while, then their stadium was home for many of those made homeless by Hurricane Katrina. Their victory was a huge source of pride for New Orleans.

But it's Jindal's passion that shines through. There's a certain lack of polish that some might see as a welcome absence of slickness. Southern accents should be drawled out slowly, but his delivery is machine-gun rapid. Words tumble over one another as though he's worried he will run out of time to make all his points.


The mayors beside him praise his "unbelievable leadership" and say he's been "wonderful".

Jindal says the spill threatens a way of life but the people of Louisiana are resilient, strong and generous. He calls this crisis "a war". He could be one of the victors.

Bobby Jindal is scary smart. He also performs well under stress. That rapid delivery is his mouth trying to catch up with his brain. Where the former governor of Louisiana shutdown during the Katrina crisis, Jindal has been energetic and as usual full of ideas. His ideas have outpaced the Obama administration and left them playing catch up. It took them weeks to approve his berm idea to protect the shoreline. Much of the wetland could have been saved if Obama had acted sooner.

Jindal also recognizes the importance of getting the oil business running again offshore and President Obama finally lifted his moratorium which would have effected thousands of jobs.


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