Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Louisiana Governor and sabbaticals!

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Baton Rouge, Louisiana



So what’s with all the criticism about taking a sabbatical? It’s become a big issue in my home state of Louisiana with educators, legislators, and good government groups debating the value versus the cost of taking a little time off. A sabbatical let’s a person get away from pressures and responsibilities back home at the job they were hired to do. Traveling around the country let’s one do research to better focus on the job at hand when the time comes to get back to the real world of responsibility. So let’s quit all the criticizing. Let Bobby Jindal travel and take his sabbatical in peace.

The cost of sabbaticals for academicians has been an election focus for Jindal, as he crisscrossed the nation during the campaign season in support of Republican candidates. But Republicans running for office in Louisiana were not able to garner the Governor’s endorsement as he took a “hands off” approach and refused to endorse his incumbent U.S, senator as well as a fellow Republican’s bid to be second in command as Lt. Governor. But be a conservative leaning candidate in just about any other state from coast to coast, and Jindal has been glad to lend a hand in any needed fund raising effort. Louisiana incumbents who found themselves in political trouble, like New Orleans congressman Joseph Cao, were left to fend for themselves with no hopes of any help from the popular governor.

When the election season came to an end in early November, many expected Jindal to come home and face his gubernatorial responsibilities. After all, the state is facing a monumental deficit that now approaches $2 billion for the coming fiscal year. Education at all levels is on the chopping block with universities facing major cutbacks requiring wholesale layoffs to make up the shortfall. The state health delivery system is mired in controversy as the medical community raises troubling questions of how indigent healthcare needs will be met and paid for. Time for the Governor to come back home and take control.

But that’s like asking an LSU professor to cut his year abroad short by coming home and, God forbid, actually have to go into a class room and teach. You do have to set your priorities in both the business of teaching and government -- right? Look, when one is on sabbatical, problems at home will just have to take care of themselves. Professors and governors need a little break from the humdrum life of teaching and governing.

Remember the scene in “Animal House when the Delta Tau Chi fraternity is close to being kicked off campus for various shenanigans? The members turn to John Belushi for advice. What does he propose? Toga party! So we have Louisiana facing major financial and governmental service problems that continue to grow with no rational solution in site. And what does the Governor propose? Book tour!

Jindal is traveling the country, hyping his first book, on the talk show circuit. The book is titled “Leadership and Crisis.” Some cynics in his home state are suggesting that the Louisiana Governor drop the “and” in the title of the book. The focus of Jinadal’s book is to pound the inadequacies of the federal government and in particular, the short comings of the Obama administration. Personal comments by the President to Jindal are all put on the record.

In last week’s column, I listed a number of ambitious potential national office seekers from the South. In that mix were Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, Texas Governor Rick Perry, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, and newly elected Florida Senator Marco Rubio. They each have harsh words for Washington politics, but they have shied away from direct attacks on the President.

As one Barbour aide told me recently, “Haley ain’t no fool. He’s still getting much more out of Washington than Louisiana is. You don’t personally bite the hand that’s pouring federal dollars into your state unless you’re an announced candidate against Obama.”

Jindal’s sabbatical will apparently last a while longer as national interview opportunities continue to pour in and book sales increase. So who’s running the state? Here’s an idea. While Jindal continues his sabbatical in the weeks to come, Sarah Palin brings her book signing tour to Baton Rouge next Tuesday. She bailed out of being Alaska Governor after only a year and a half in office.

But now Palin is rested, ready and full of vigor and venom. Maybe we could borrow her for a few months until Jindal finishes his sabbatical. Kind of like being a fill-in professor at LSU while the regular professor takes take a much needed leave with pay. She gets to know Louisiana. He can go up and sell books in Alaska. And who knows? It could be Jindal-Palin, or Palin-Jindal in 2012. Ain’t these sabbaticals grand or what?


"Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book." ...Ronald Reagan

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all is past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. The show is televised at http://www.justin.tv/jimbrownusa.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

JIndal one of Many National Candidates!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Orleans, Louisiana



Last year, before the President’s State of the Union address, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was the fair haired boy of the national Republican Party. He had even been considered as a vice presidential candidate on the McCain ticket in 2008, and every pundit had him high up on the list of contenders for 2012. But like the old saying goes, “the south shall rise again.” Potential candidates for a Republican national ticket are emerging from all over the South. And while Jindal has to tend the home state brush fires with a huge budget crisis and a reelection ahead, a number of southern candidates are free to raise money and head for Iowa.

This, of course, presupposes that Jindal has any interest in being on a national ticket. He professes only a desire to be reelected so that he can have the honor and thrill of facing one budget crisis after another.

And who can doubt his word as he has, for months, been crisscrossing America raising campaign funds for a number of candidates in other states, raising money for his own purposes, and now conducting a national book tour, for no other reason than to run for re election in Louisiana. He’s sure convinced me.

Twelve months ago, he was the only candidate being talked about in the south, but what a difference a year makes. It seems that every week a new candidate comes out of the deep southern framework. Two old perennials are trying to keep there hopes alive. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee brought his conservative message that mirrors Jindal’s to Baton Rouge a few weeks ago. He’s raised money and is creating a Louisiana organization for his national campaign.

Former House speaker and Georgia native Newt Gingrich is also on the move with a new book about to come out. He was asked on Meet the Press this past Sunday if he is running. I think Callista and I'll make a decision probably in February; and probably, if we do run, we'll announce, I suspect, in late March. But we're still months away from that." Coy yes, but he is definitely in the mix.

Then there are all the new guys on the national scene. Florida’s new senator, Marco Rubio, arrived in Washington this week and was received like a rock star. Rubio is Hispanic with a compelling story of his parents emigrating from Cuba. He and Jindal are both the same age. He is being tagged as “the Great Right Hope” and “the Republican Obama.” In the past few weeks alone, Rubio has graced the covers of National Review, The Weekly Standard, Time and The New York Times Magazine. South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, an early ally of Rubio, has predicted that he will be president within the next five years, and Rubio’s Wikipedia page already has a “Presidential Election 2012” section.

Jindal is also no longer the only Indian American in the mix. New South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is both female and the second Indian American to became a state’s chief executive. . Like Jindal, Haley’s parents moved to the U.S. back in the 1960s. She is younger than Jindal at 38, had has invited a large contingent of Indians from her home town of Punjab to attend her swearing in ceremony. Haley has also promised to make an early trade mission trip to India, something that Jindal has not yet done.

Jindal is surrounded on both sides of Louisiana by formidable state governors who are giving the 2012 presidential election a close look. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and Texas Governor Rick Perry both are expressing serious interest in making a run, or at least in stirring the pot enough to be considered for the second spot on a Republican ticket.

Barbour is a two term governor who presently serves as chairman of the National Governor’s Association. He is also past chairman of the National Republican Committee, where he raised millions for candidates all across the country. As one Republican insider told me, “Haley has more IOUs than any potential Republican looking at the race. He will be a formidable candidate if he runs.”

And then there is bigger than life Texas Governor, Rick Perry. He cruised to an easy reelection victory early this month, and he’s immediately begun hawking his new book, “Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington.” The Perry book, like Jindal’s, is all about burnishing his image to ascend the national stage. Not to give Jindal any leeway, Perry is heading toward the national media circuit next week with appearances on Fox News, The Today Show, and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Perry is the state’s longest serving governor, and has a major base of funding for a national campaign right out of Texas. He peddled a “Morning in Texas” message in his appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

So it’s obvious that Republican candidates, particularly in the south, are crawling out of the woodwork and are more prolific than at any time in recent memory. And Jindal faces a special problem of governing a state that ranks dead last or near the bottom in numerous national rankings. What does he do? Continue to travel the country and rely on his staff to address a growing budget crisis back home? Or get back to Louisiana, and take a more aggressive hands on approach to what will require major crisis management?

So far, Jindal has not sought out help in addressing Louisiana’s growing budget problems from anyone beyond his staff. The good government groups, outside think tanks and many public officials have been left out of Jindal’s quest to balance the state budget. For example, the state treasurer, who is putting forth a number of cost saving ideas has not talked to the Governor in over 18 months. Jindal would be wise to reconsider his arms length approach and make it a “big tent” effort. When you are the governor, you get and can take all the credit. So why not seek out all the help you can get? For if Jindal fails to adequately face and solve the present budget mess, the blame falls entirely on him.

Timing is often everything in politics. Jindal does not have the luxury of merely making campaign promises like many other of the national party candidates can. In Louisiana, he is going to have to produce, or see his national aspirations fall by the wayside. It’s a huge uphill fight for him. But isn’t that what real leadership is all about?


On Wales losing 28-9 against Australia: 'No leadership, no ideas. Not even enough imagination to thump someone in the line-up when the ref wasn't looking'
JPR Williams

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all is past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. The show is televised at http://www.justin.tv/jimbrownusa.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What's Happened to our Leadership Today?

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

New Orleans, Louisiana


Abraham Lincoln was elected President 150 years ago this week. Civil War buffs are looking back to these war years for lessons learned in the current debate over the stagnation of the American political process today. Historians have written over 26, 000 books on this time in history with the premise that there were two Americas-a house divided-back then. Do we find the same two Americas today?

The Tea Party movement has engulfed a Republican Party that now has an agenda of low expectations centered on whatever it takes to beat Obama in 2012. The Democrats, from the President on down, have lost control of the narrative with little vision of passion being offered to the American public. Forty percent of American voters think it’s time for a third party alternative.

Historian Philip Kennicott tells us that “The Civil War taught us, as a nation, our patterns of argument, our impatience with hypocrisy, our sense that every election is an apocalypse. It taught us how to be stupid, how to provoke our enemies, how to resist modernity, how to fight on after logic an argument have failed.”

I’m not all that big a Lincoln fan. Lincoln was the guy who micromanaged a war that took the lives of almost 1,000,000 Americans. On one day alone, September 17, 1862, more American soldiers were killed in the Battle of Antietam than in all other wars fought by the United States in the 19th century put together. How did Lincoln, this supposedly great compromiser, allow such devastation to take place? And many Louisianans can never forgive Lincoln for his failure to stop notorious Union Gen. Benjamin Butler’s decree that any woman in New Orleans and surrounding areas who did not show respect for Union Troops should be considered and treated like a prostitute.

Having expressed this caveat, give Lincoln credit for believing that he had history on his side. His appreciation of history was not free will, but a belief that deterministic forces gave his view of America as an upward spiral of progress. Perhaps he did not read 18th century philosophers like Kant and Hegel, but he adopted their premise that, as Kennicott suggests, “There is a pattern and a progress to history, rather than endless cycles of growth, violence and decay.” What Hegel viewed as a “grand process of the consciousness of Freedom.”

There is a special passion for those who want to be left alone, and in that effort, to resist progress in the world around us and the right to say “no, thank you” to modernity. Who would oppose the Quaker community in their belief of self subsistence and privacy? Retreating into private conviction is an important part of the American character.

If you listen to my radio shows, you know I use the “stay out of my face” mantra directed to our politicians not to impose their social views on me frequently. Don’t want to wear a motorcycle helmet? Fine, but don’t expect me to pay your health care expenses when your insurance payments run out (if you even bought insurance) because of your stupid decision. Want to smoke? Your choice, just don’t smoke anywhere around me, and don’t expect me to cover any of your medical costs in your final days of agony from your lung cancer. Do your thing, but leave me alone,

Having said all this, we come back to Lincoln’s vision of history for America as being a special place on a historical path that transcends politics, economics and morality. For Lincoln, History for America had a capital H. He felt it imperative that political leaders of his time pass on to the next generation just w hat it means to be an American. The weakness of both national parties is their failure to both grapple with and convey the premise that America cannot survive as the leader of the free world unless there is a “why “to survive.

Republicans and Democrats alike have not articulated what our country’s values are. Just what is it that makes this country exceptional with a system of government unparalleled in human history? I personally believe there is a uniqueness that gives or county a special place in the world today. And I would disagree with President Obama, who said recently that America is exceptional to Americans in the same way Greece is exceptional to Greeks, and Germany is exceptional to Germans.

Lincoln’s vision of American exceptionalism can be found on any coin in your pocket. Three basic concepts. And no other country has these three. In God we Trust, E Pluribus Unum, and Liberty.

In God we trust? America was founded on the notion the God is the source of our values. That’s why the Declaration of Independence says we have inalienable rights. Not man given, not from humanism, not from great thinkers, but these rights have come from God. No God, then rights can be taken away by government. God is a central part of this country’s foundation.

E Pluribus Unum. From the many, one. We don’t care where you come from, or your color, creed, race or religion. If you stand with us to build this country, then you are one of us. From the many, one.

And finally, Liberty. The French also endorse liberty as a basic right. (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity). But notice in the French version, freedom is adopted as a part of equality. Equality when you are born, and the right for government to give you equality as you grow old. The difference in America is that we all agree we are born equal, but then we are on our own to make ourselves what we want. Where you end up is your business.

Does anyone really feel that either national party has articulated a vision that makes America special? The passion that drove the Obama election in 2008 has been bottled up and stored away over the past two years. The President has let his narrative slip away, and his party leaders have failed to pick up the mantle and offer any independent hope that our country is on the right path to economic recovery.

Republicans certainly have little to gloat about despite their recent election victories. The Republican leadership has missed the opportunity to offer any realistic diagnosis of where we are as a country and what it will take to reestablish sustainable growth. Doing no more than demanding tax cuts while we are still fighting two wars and mired in a recession seems to be a limp response from a dysfunctional political system.

Voters are hungry for leadership and someone or some party to define the “Why” of being an American. If this mantle of leadership is not seized upon, than as night follows day, disappointment, vexation, and anger are sure to follow.


“America is much more than a geographical fact. It is a political and moral fact - the first community in which men set out in principle to institutionalize freedom, responsible government, and human equality.” ~Adlai Stevenson

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all is past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. The show is televised at http://www.justin.tv/jimbrownusa.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Where Do We Go from Here?

Thursday, November 3, 2010

Baton Rouge, Louisiana



The Republicans were big winners in last Tuesday’s national election, taking control of the House of Representatives, and coming close to a takeover of the Senate. But is it enough to say that you are winning solely because the other side blew its opportunity? The reality is that the same thing is happening now that happened in 2006 and 2008. Voters are simply voting against the party in power. Numerous polls show a majority of Americans view the Democrats as the party of big government and the Republicans as the party of big business. And frustrated voters are wondering just who represents them.

This was an election to fire, not an election to hire. Two messages came across loud and clear. First, “Throw the bums out,’ was the battle cry. The Democrats in charge were not doing their job. But secondly, there was a veiled threat to Republicans. It was not “we love you guys,” but rather “we are going to give you one more chance. Don’t blow it, or we will look for options again in 2012.”

A new Rasmussen poll finds that 59% of voters indicate they will be disappointed with Republicans in Congress before the next national election. Voters are saying that Republicans don’t have their trust, but they are going to have to earn it. Obama has not been a bargain for American taxpayers, but neither was Bush.

Has the President lost his mojo? Democrats are saying there was a failure to communicate. But it really was a fundamental disconnect in not understanding the priorities of many Americans. The healthcare debate crystallized this lack of understanding. A majority of Americans favor the new healthcare plan. But for those who are over 65, 56% oppose any new healthcare proposals. They have Medicare and they don’t want to rock their boat with the threat of cutting Medicare spending.

Obama, the great communicator, failed to communicate on healthcare, and the administration took on much more than was practical and doable. The economic meltdown created a fear factor for many Americans, and the current Medicare program was one of the few lifelines that older citizens could count on. A column I wrote a year ago suggested that the way to begin covering more Americans was to expand Medicare, lowering the eligibility age, and bringing 31 million more people into the existing system.

Such a plan would be much simpler to explain, with no reduction of benefits. But the President chose to undertake a complete restructuring of the healthcare delivery system, biting off way more than the public was able to accept. It would have been a tough sell in good economic times. But under the current economic doldrums, there was just no way to build a consensus of support. The new healthcare mandates passed with no votes to spare in the House of Representatives, thanks to the one Republican, Congressman Joseph Cao from New Orleans. He was overwhelming defeated for reelection this week.

Republicans, particularly in the House, now have the Tea Party to deal with. Tea Partiers overwhelming supported Republican candidates. They are demanding less federal spending, but they don’t want to cut Medicare, social security, or the military budget including the two billion dollars a week spent on the war in Afghanistan. Sorry folks. Just “cutting the waste and fraud” will not add up to any major reductions. New Majority Leader John Boehner and the House leadership know this, but they will open a can of worms trying to convince the newly elected Tea Party members.

Remember the Conservative Party Leader in England who, after losing three straight elections said of the voters: “What’s wrong with them?” Tea Partiers will have a long memory and they will hold Republicans on a shorter lease than the Democrats in the coming two years. Practical Republican leaders know that many of the countries’ problems will take years to fix, but that many conservatives may not be that charitable. When frustrations boil over and families are fearful of losing the American Dream, the toleration level drops dramatically.

Any chance for civility among the two major parties seems to have been diminished by the lack of civility throughout society in America today. It’s not just in politics where the likes of Congressman Joe Wilson feels compelled to shout at the President; “You lie!” We have watched Bill O’Reilly and the ladies on The View screaming at each other, and Serena Williams cursing out the umpire on Center Court at the US Open. We were stunned as we witnessed Kanye West barge onto the stage of the MTV Music Awards in a lame effort to try to upstage Taylor Swift. Yes folks, we live in a culture of aggression and bullying, and such despicable behavior is reflected in our politics.

In 2006, there was a public rejection of a bloodied and corrupt Republican Party. Then in 2008, the country rejected eight years of Bush Republicanism. The 2010 election will be remembered as a rejection of the Obama Administration’s failed attempt to continue and increase the spending spiral begun in the Bush years, and a further effort to move the country far to the left.

So in the past decade, we have witnessed a rejection of both parties. For the third election in a row, voters kicked a party out of power. Now we witness the Republicans moving to the right, and Democrats unsure of just what to do or which way to go. Since both parties have spent the country into massive debt during the past few years, many independent voters are wondering if the cure that ails us is just to elect more of the same. Forty percent of registered voters now identify themselves as independent. There are two independents now in the US Senate.

A presidential run by a well financed independent in 2012? Don’t rule it out. As this column mentioned last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is giving the race a close look. He’s a billionaire and he’s being encouraged by many disgruntled, but wealthy operatives who can raise big campaign bucks.

In the past two years, Obama and the Democrats have had control of both houses of Congress, and had the muscle to push through an ambitious legislative agenda. But no more. The President’s best hope is to make a concerted effort to convince Republicans that they now share with him the responsibility to govern. But whatever his legislative success, 2010 will prove to have been a cakewalk compared to the fire and brimstone that will be generated when the 2012 election comes around. Just think. Only 733 days to go.


“The two real political parties in America are the Winners and the Losers. The people don’t acknowledge this. They claim membership in two imaginary parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, instead.” Kurt Vonnegut

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South. You can read all is past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. The show is televised at http://www.justin.tv/jimbrownusa.