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Monday, October 20, 2014
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Beam: Obama, Jindal have similarities

Last Modified: Friday, December 27, 2013 10:33 AM

By Jim Beam / American Press

Believe it or not, President Obama and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal have a few things in common. Obamacare heads the list, but they are on opposite sides of that fence. Both experienced job approval declines during 2013.

The two men are eternal optimists, even when their plans go awry. The president’s national health care plan has experienced numerous problems since its disastrous start on the Internet. He has also had to deal with an IRS scandal and continuing attacks on his administration’s handling of last year’s terrorist attack at Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including the ambassador.

Obama had to be rescued by Russian President Valdimir Putin after threatening to use military action in Syria. He is currently trying to come to grips with outrage over the National Security Agency’s controversial surveillance tactics, thanks to the release of secret documents by Edward Snowden. His Justice Department has been accused of being vindictive and selective in those it pursues in the courts.

The year began with the president’s job approval rating at 55 percent, according to a January CNN-ORC International poll. Only 43 percent disapproved of his performance. A new poll by the same organizations has Obama’s job approval rating at a record low 41 percent, with 56 percent disapproval over how he is handling his job.

The president last Friday admitted he has experienced frustrating ups and downs during 2013, but predicted a glowing future for the country. The economy is improving, he said, and claimed his health care plan is experiencing “crucial progress.” He said 2014 would be “a breakthrough year for America.”

For our sakes, we can only hope he’s right. However, something tells me many of this year’s controversies will continue to divide the country and the Congress during the new year. And it doesn’t appear the problems tied to Obamacare are going to be solved anytime soon.

Jindal also saw a decline in his job approval rating over the last year. A poll released last April had Jindal’s approval rating at 38 percent, compared to 51 percent the previous October. The governor’s political consultants claimed the numbers were inaccurate and that lower ratings are the price of getting things done or because of Jindal “rocking the boat.”

Maybe so, but the governor’s “64-Parish Tour” appears to be an effort to improve Jindal’s image. The Lens of New Orleans said he “has signed bills, announced plant expansions and inaugurated infrastructure projects, as cameras from local television stations rolled and local newspaper reporters scribbled notes.”

Kirby Goidel, a Louisiana State University political science and communications professor, told the website, “It’s clearly part of an effort to shore up his approval rating. They want to show they’re everywhere.”

Jindal’s internal polling shows his approval rating at 50 percent. Whatever the correct percentage, the governor can’t escape the fact that he won re-election in the 2011 primary with nearly 66 percent of the vote.

The governor hasn’t minced words about Obamacare. He said on occasion that the troublesome launch of the health care program is evidence the White House is either too liberal or too incompetent to govern effectively.

Louisiana didn’t set up its own health insurance exchange and Jindal has stubbornly refused to expand Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for poor and low-income citizens. His critics insist he is leaving billions of dollars on the table that will go to other states and hurting those who don’t have health care coverage.

Jindal’s political travels in pursuit of a presidential nomination in 2016 have soured many of his supporters, but there were other reasons for his decline in popularity.

Some $700 million in cuts to higher education over the last six years will hurt the state for a long time. The governor’s attempt to repeal all state income taxes failed miserably. He was criticized for his privatization of charity hospitals, his education reform program and his appointment of political friends and supporters to government boards and agencies.

The governor also had to deal with some pushback from a group of conservative Republicans, who rewrote his proposed budget with help from some of their Democratic colleagues. Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, and Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff, were key players in helping reform the budgeting process.

The governor brags often about his education reform program, including vouchers for students in failing schools. However, a number of those changes are still undergoing court or federal scrutiny.

Common Core that promotes tougher educational standards was instituted by Jindal’s hand-picked state superintendent of education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and a number of legislators are chomping at the bit to repeal it during their 2014 session.

Jindal can’t run for governor again, but he would like to run for president with a glowing record of state accomplishments. Whatever the real job approval numbers might be, it will be interesting to see whether he can survive the increasing legislative independence that is sure to come with only two years left in his term.

Obama and Jindal are poles apart politically, but are no different than many public officials. They have a difficult time admitting they are only human and sometimes make mistakes like the rest of us mortals. 

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Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or jbeam@americanpress.com

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