By Charles M. Blow
New York Times
What happened to Bobby Jindal?
He was the next wave of Republican. He was young and smart - a Rhodes scholar. He was the son of immigrants and the first Indian-American governor in this country's history.
He had even bounced back from his disastrous rebuttal to President Barack Obama's first State of the Union address. (Personally, I thought that his claim of having participated in an exorcism performed on his friend in college would have been more of an issue than it was, but that was just me.)
Jindal had all the right rhetoric.
He told Cal Thomas of Shreveport's The Times: "As Republicans we don't need to obsess about our opponents, we don't need to define ourselves in opposition to our opponents. Let Democrats look backward; we need to look forward."
In 2013, he demanded that the GOP "stop being the stupid party."
Jindal was the brainy Moses coming to deliver his people from the bondage of inanity. But that was then.
Now, Jindal has gone from being one of the most popular governors in the country to one of the least popular.
In the latest CNN/ORC poll of Republicans and independents who lean Republican, only 1 percent said that he was the candidate they would most likely support for the Republican nomination. Even "none/no one" got 6 percent.
And in a desperate attempt at relevancy — and press — he has lately been sliding further into Islamic hysteria.
In January, he caused a controversy by claiming that parts of Europe were "no-go zones" because of Muslim extremists. Jindal said that there were cities "where non-Muslims simply don't go in," like Birmingham in Britain. Prime Minister David Cameron said in response: "When I heard this, frankly, I choked on my porridge and I thought it must be April Fools' Day. This guy is clearly a complete idiot."
That hasn't stopped Jindal. Last week on Fox News, he set about defending his statement that America "shouldn't tolerate those who want to come and try to impose some variant, or some version, of Shariah law." But he went so far as to say of prospective immigrants:
"In America we want people who want to be Americans. We want people who want to come here. We don't say, 'You have to adopt our creed, or any particular creed,' but we do say, 'If you come here, you need to believe in American exceptionalism.'"
What? Where is that written? I can't find this "need to believe in American exceptionalism" anywhere in the Immigration and Nationality Act. Isn't American exceptionalism itself a creed?
The smart-on-paper Jindal increasingly comes across as nuttier than a piece of praline.
Recently, Robert Mann, a columnist at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, called for Jindal's resignation, citing all of the problems in the state that the governor isn't focusing on as he tries to gin up a greater national profile:
"We have some of the nation's highest poverty and worst health outcomes and you've done little to address them. Baton Rouge, your hometown, has the nation's second-highest HIV rate (New Orleans is fourth), but you've done nothing to address that crisis. What you have done is hollow out higher education and inject needless confusion and rancor into the state's elementary and secondary education system. Meanwhile, the state's health care system is a fractured, dysfunctional mess under your privatization schemes. Now, you've outsourced the state's tax policy to Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform."
Louisiana's fiscal picture is dire. As Politico reported in February:
"Jindal is preparing a budget to close a $1.6 billion shortfall in Louisiana, a particularly daunting task after the $400 million in additional money he had to scare up to fill a budget gap for the current year. The president of Louisiana State University said earlier this month that the state's flagship school is preparing for a 40 percent cut in its operating budget next year."
In fact, The Times-Picayune reported in January that "Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration said Louisiana's colleges and universities should be prepared to sustain anywhere from $200 million to $300 million in cuts during the 2015-16 school year."
But in February, Jindal strained credulity, claiming, "The total higher education budget, including means of total finance — is actually a little bit, just slightly, higher than when I took office." The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog quickly smacked that down, awarding Jindal three Pinocchios.
Jindal has made a mess of Louisiana and wrecked his reputation in the process. His odds of becoming president of the United States have shrunk to nil.
Sometimes what looks good on paper is a disaster in practice.