Jindal’s self-righteous indignation

LA governor talks tough on BP oil disaster response, while deploying “only a fraction” of National Guard, CBS reports

If Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) were a Texan, they’d say he was all hat and no cattle.  He speaks loudly, but he doesn’t carry much of a stick as we’ve seen on the sand berm “solution.”  TP has much more on the great Jindal swindle.

Last year, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) — a rising star in the GOP and potential nominee for the presidency in 2012 — gave a widely mocked rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union address, prompting many pundits to conclude that his national political career was over before it began. But, taking a cue from Rudy Giuliani’s exploitation of the 9/11 attacks while mayor of New York City, Jindal saw a chance rebuild his political capital by using the Gulf oil spill. He sprang into action with press conferences and helicopter rides to show he’s a take-charge leader. The governor quickly became Obama and the federal government’s chief critic, relentlessly attacking their allegedly slow response to the spill and lambasting the “red tape and bureaucracy” preventing him from getting the job done. Jindal’s theatrical deployment of these trappings of leadership has been largely rewarded by favorable press coverage, reigniting speculation of a 2012 run. But new revelations and a close inspection of the facts suggest that Jindal’s sound and fury is little more than political grandstanding for the Fox News set, and it serves to obscure Jindal’s own serious failings in the spill response effort. While Jindal has been relentless in attacking the federal government for dragging its feet, he has delayed the deployment of National Guard troops, led a crusade to build artificial sand berms that most experts say won’t work, and confused the planning of the spill response. Moreover, experts said his “antagonism could actually slow down that response.” “When that stuff happens, you actually take away the ability of the unified command to get their job done,” said former Coast Guard official Doug Lentsch, who was involved in the Exxon Valdez disaster and helped develop the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. But the true impact of Jindal’s blustery leadership may never be known, as Jindal vetoed a bill Friday that would have required him to make public all of his office’s documents relating to the spill. “His excuse is he is afraid that BP would find out something Louisiana did, and I always thought justice was about the truth and facts,” said Republican state Sen. Robert Adley.

NATIONAL GUARD: Nowhere has Jindal’s hypocritical grandstanding been more apparent than on the issue of National Guard troops. Jindal demanded 6,000 Guard troops in the early days of the spill — a request the Department of Defense quickly approved. “We are absolutely in a war to protect our way of life,” Jindal has said. Despite his constant attacks on the federal government for supposedly under-resourcing his efforts, almost two months after the troop request was approved, “only a fraction — 1,053 — have actually been deployed by Jindal to fight the spill,” a CBS News investigation found. This prompted Obama, in his Oval Office address, to specifically and publicly urge Jindal and other Gulf state governors “to activate these troops as soon as possible.” In response to the CBS investigation, Jindal predictably blamed the federal government for the delay, saying, “the Coast Guard and BP had to authorize individual tasks.” But Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander, flatly denied this claim. “There is nothing standing in the governor’s way from utilizing more National Guard troops,” Allen said. “In fact, the Coast Guard says every request to use the National Guard has been approved, usually within a day,” CBS noted. Finally, Jindal’s office admitted that the governor “has not specifically asked for more Guard troops to be deployed,” but failed to explain why Jindal had not used the troops. As Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen noted, “Jindal is either deeply confused about something he should understand, or he was lying.” Jindal’s failure here underscores the need to bring in the military to take charge of the disaster response, as the Center for American Progress has urged.

SAND BERMS: In recent weeks, Jindal has launched a crusade to build artificial barrier islands off the Louisiana coast, on the theory that they would prevent the oil from washing ashore. Jindal has repeatedly blasted the federal government for being hesitant to approve this plan, an offensive which Fox News has dutifully supported. “We don’t have time for red tape and bureaucracy,” Jindal told reporters of the berms. “We’re literally in a war to save our coast.”  But most experts have expressed serious doubts about the effectiveness of Jindal’s plan, noting the exorbitant costs are probably not worth it and warning that the berms could actually cause more harm than good. Rob Young, the director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University, warned in the Yale Environment 360 blog that “there are many potential negative impacts of this structure on the coastal environment.” “I have yet to speak to a scientist who thinks the project will be effective,” he added. Young explained that the berms will be “extremely susceptible to erosion” and “could disappear within a few months” — much faster if struck by a hurricane. Meanwhile, the project will be “incredibly expensive,” and many experts argue that the resources used to construct berms could be better applied elsewhere. Before approving the project, the Army Corps of Engineers gave other federal agencies less than one day to submit comments, but even in the limited time, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Interior expressed deep reservations. The EPA “directly questioned the proposed berm’s effectiveness,” while Interior said that it did not “think the risks inherent in proceeding without more environmental study and knowledge are acceptable.” Risks include actually worsening the spill’s impact on marshes by trapping oil behind the berms and increasing the speed of oil flowing through the remaining openings in the artificial shield of islands, effectively pumping oil into the delicate marshes. Above all, the barrier will take at at least nine months to complete, and the first berms will be complete “no sooner than August,” according to the contractor building them. Many — including the EPA — say this will be too late to have any impact. As Mother Jones noted, “griping about the berms has…become Jindal’s plan to keep the spotlight on him and his criticism of the federal government, long-term damage to the state’s ecosystem be damned.”

PLANNING: Another favorite line of attack of Jindal’s is to insist that the government did not properly plan for the disaster. “We kept being assured over and over that they had a plan, that there was a detailed plan, that it was coming; we never got that plan,” he said. But as the New York Times noted, “under the law, oil spill experts said, there are only two kinds of government plans pertaining to spills, and the state is partly responsible for both.” Response officials confirmed that Jindal’s own office approved plans that are currently in use, despite his feigned ignorance. More troubling, some of the plans prepared by the state “are rife with omissions, including pages of blank charts that are supposed to detail available supplies of equipment like oil-skimming vessels.” For example, “a draft action plan for a worst case is among many requirements in the southeast Louisiana proposal listed as ‘to be developed.'” When pressed at news conference as to why the state had not developed better plans, Jindal once again reverted to attacking the federal government. As the Baton Rouge Business Report observed after the exchange, “The impression left that afternoon on several members of the media was that the state hadn’t done any oil-spill planning before [the Deepwater Horizon explosion], instead choosing to rely on other entities for protection.” Moreover, Jindal keeps moving the goal posts of the plan, such as when he “requested three times as much boom as the state’s plan had called for — and 50% more boom than existed in the entire nation.” Soon thereafter, he switched gears to the sand berm approach, which is barely mentioned in the state’s plans. But it’s not surprising that Louisiana’s planning has been lacking, considering that Jindal undercut the state’s ability to prepare for an oil spill. He cut $750,000 from the budget of the oil spill research and development program and moved the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s office from the governor’s direct oversight into “a basement in Facility Planning” at the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

This is a repost of the Think Progress’s daily Progress Report.

12 Responses to Jindal’s self-righteous indignation

  1. Jim Groom says:

    Governer Jindal playing politics. I’m shock I tell ya!

  2. LucAstro says:

    Thank god that there was a moratorium on offshore drilling, it is about time proper plans be devised.

  3. Funny, I first misread the title as “Jindal’s righteous self-indignation”

    On second thought…

  4. Andy says:

    You can criticize Texan’s for all things “Oil”; but not their plan for addressing spills. The Texas General Land Office knows that they have the primary responsibility for tackling oil spills and have developed a large, well equipped and trained staff dedicated to this task. They don’t bitch about the federal government and work well with the Coast Guard and resource agencies. They have regular spill exercises in cooperation with industry and have pre-deployed booms and other equipment near bay inlets and other critical natural resource areas. All critical areas have been identified and plans to protect them are already in place.

    Louisiana simply doesn’t have it together.

    [JR: I hope I wasn’t criticizing Texas.]

  5. Dennis O'Leary says:

    1. It is already known what happened to cause this spill. BP cut alot of corners, and the MMC didn’t do their job. It doesn’t take 6 months to study that.
    2. The NYTimes article doesn’t say Jindal cut $750,000. It says the budget was cut. Lots of department budgets got cut last year. Recession?
    3. It takes multiple layers of boom to stop oil because of waves and wind.
    4. It took 2 days for the oil to reach the march once the winds changed direction. How long should Jindal have waited to start laying boom?
    5. Every foot of sand berm stops oil. It doesn’t have to be completely done before it works.
    6. The local shrimpers, who know the marshes and bays, passed the course for booming and then waited for weeks. Meanwhile crews from New Jersey got contracts, but stayed tied up at the dock until the Jefferson Parish police motivated them.
    7. Exactly what can the National Guard do, shoot the oil? They aren’t trained for oil containment. It was just premature asking for them. Usually they are useful during emergencies. Not this one.
    There’s lots more, but your minds are already made up. Facts just get in the way.
    PS. I wouldn’t vote for Jindal for President.

  6. Celest Smith says:

    Our National Guard men don’t have boats. They are trained to fight battles and not for this mess. Why is Obama running interference with skimmers? Just a power play?

  7. Phillip Huggan says:

    If the cost of a relief well is $100M and a spill costs $30B, it may make sense to pre-drill relief wells for platforms constructed with GWB/Cheney safety protocols. Even cheaper not to use oil.

  8. Abe says:

    @Dennis O’Leary #6

    First of all, the boom that was put in place is badly placed, and poorly secured, such that a lot of it is now on the beaches it was supposed to be protecting along with the oil it was supposed to be keeping out.

    As to what the National Guard could do, part of the reason the booming has been so ineffective is a lack of manpower to deal with the booms. As has been reported by Rachel Maddow and I expect others, there is an awful lot of boom out there that was put out and then ignored, leaving it to break down and become ineffective. More troops would have enabled them to maintain what was in place. As the right wing keeps reminding me, the army does more than kill people, and here’s a chance to prove that.

    As to the sand berms, they *might* be effective at keeping the oil out (rather than channeling it more quickly to different locations – restricting water flow means swifter currents where it CAN flow), but any benefit would last up until the first storm surge, which would take out the berms very quickly. Sand is not well known for standing up to the ocean.

    Honestly it looks like the entire cleanup effort made by BP AND by Jindal has been about PR, not cleanup or prevention.

  9. Lore says:

    Jindal is and was hoping to experience a Rudy Giuliani moment.

  10. Andy says:

    You had it right when back in May you stated that there is no effective response to a spill this size. I think a lot of folks thought that was hyperbole. Well, now they know better.

    And you’re right on target regarding Jindal.

    Rather than to tell the truth, which is that once the well blew up Louisiana was in for a lot of pain, and that there is no absolute failsafe against blow outs, and that if Louisiana is to have an offshore oil industry it’s going to have spills, and that yes Louisiana’s #1 industry is killing Lousiana’s #1 asset, and that in the end Louisianans must make a choice between present day and future generation’s well-being;

    Mr. Jindal instead decided to punt and blame the federal government.

  11. Whatshisname says:

    Here’s an idea, Governor: invest heavily in time travel technology. Maybe in a few thousand years someone will return and avert all of Louisiana’s problems by slapping some sense into you. Of course that might mean you would never have been elected governor in the first place. But at least you wouldn’t be remembered as the guy running back into the fire.