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Bobby Jindal resurrected: Nothing like environmental crisis in Louisiana to make or break political career

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, left, and Plaquemines Parish president Billy Nungesser speak while sailing near an island in Barataria Bay on the coast of Louisiana, May 23, 2010. jpg

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been a disaster for the the region's ecosystems and ocean wildlife, a political minefield for President Obama and a potentially deadly blow to oil giant BP's future.

But the catastrophe has been a blessing for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a political opening to showcase a vigorous and compassionate activism as he fights the forces of corporate evil and government ineptitude. And he has used it deftly. The governor is briefed regularly on the fine points of the effort to cap the spill, huddles frequently with visiting federal officials, and often heads out to sea to inspect the coming environmental and economic threat to his state. If anyone has been keeping his boot on the throat of BP, as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pledged, it's not the Obama White House but the Jindal administration.

For Jindal, a 38-year-old Republican and Louisiana native whose parents immigrated from India, the kudos he's hearing now must seem in sharp contrast to the boos that greeted his rebuttal to President Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress in February 2009. Haunted by the disastrous performance of Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin after Hurricane Katrina, Jindal has become the most visible critic of Obama's strategy to deferring to BP, asking aloud the question that many Americans are wondering, "When will the federal government finally do something?"

In the process, Jindal has annoyed both parties -- Republicans are worried he's coming down too hard on oil companies, Democrats complain that he's unfairly attacking the president -- and endeared himself to millions nationally.

“He didn’t give the best speech of his life but, hey, his political career is still on the rise,” Louisiana Republican Chairman Roger Villere told Politico, adding, "He’s got real leadership capabilities. He’s got a brain that’s unparalleled in Louisiana.”

Louisiana is a wonderful state for politics -- full of larger-than-life characters, such as the populist Huey Long, called the Kingfish, and former Gov. Edwin Edwards, now 83 and serving a 10-year prison term after his conviction for corruption. But if Jindal is the smartest governor the state has ever produced, well, maybe that's damning with faint praise.

--Johanna Neuman

Photo: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, left, and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser tour an island in Barataria Bay on Sunday. Credit: Associated Press

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The state's environmental regulations are pretty lax to begin with, and enforcement of the regs is practically non-existant, especially with the big players. This woeful situation has worsened under Jindal, who to this point has never been interested in cleaning up the oil industry in the state. Glad he suddenly cares about the environment.

Jindal is focused on one thing: protecting the state of La., not his political future. That is taking care of itself. What he's done and doing now is light years ahead of his predecessor(s). Who cares whose toes he steps on. He's holding feet to the fire. If you're in the way you'll get run over. Give 'em hell, Bobby.

It's a good thing we have him while our state and the Gulf are being systematically destroyed courtesy of crude oil and toxic dispersants by British Petroleum and Washington's laissez-faire attitude.

He's showing what leadership is about by sticking his neck out for the people of his state while the Republicans and Democrats in Washington who've grown greedier with each campaign contribution from big oil wring their hands and make speeches.

We learned after hurricanes Katrina and Rita that the federal government -- whichever party happens to be running the show -- is basically fumbling and ineffectual, and only out to protect their own interests.

Are you kidding me? Jindal is focused on one thing... doing what is best for Bobby Jindal!

Remember after Katrina when Jindal made his criticism that he was the kind of person who would ask for forgiveness and not one who asks for permission. Well, it seems like he was all talk back then about that as well.

Jindal is all talk, no action. All hat, no cattle.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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