Bobby Jindal vs. David Duke

Posted: Nov 19, 2003 12:00 AM

There may not be much news in an oath-taking, but Arnold Schwarzenegger's brief inauguration as governor of California drew more national media coverage than the entire campaigns for governor in the states of Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Both Kentucky and Mississippi switched to Republican governors on Nov. 6, a historical feat in Kentucky since they haven't elected a Republican governor since 1967. But Governor-Elect Ernie Fletcher has never starred in a movie as a killing machine from the future.

Last Saturday, 32-year-old Republican Bobby Jindal lost the Louisiana governor's race by about four points to Democrat Kathleen Blanco, the 60-year-old Cajun lieutenant governor. Of the major networks, ABC's Mike Von Fremd was the first reporter to cover that campaign -- the morning before the voting started.

This inaction is a little shocking, concerning how sensitive the media purport to be about "diversity," at least of the gender or skin-color variety. Von Fremd noted that in either outcome in Louisiana, the governor would be a first, either the first female or the first non-white governor. To see Jindal as an attractive story based only on his "non-whiteness" would be offensive, even as it should make him newsworthy by the usual easy-bake affirmative-action formula. Jindal is an Indian-American raised in Baton Rouge by immigrant parents. How's  that for a first?

But there's more. At 24, he wrote Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster brimming with ideas for the state's health care system. Foster was so impressed he put him in charge of the Department of Health and Hospitals, and Jindal brought the agency out of bankruptcy and turned a $400-million deficit into a surplus by figuring out how to cut expenses. In 2001, he came to Washington to be an assistant secretary in President Bush's Department of Health and Human Services. In short, Jindal is a whiz kid, a potential Republican Party star.

But our liberal media isn't exactly interested in finding any new Republican stars -- unless they're located somewhere in the Jim Jeffords part of the ideological spectrum. Their lack of interest in Jindal is an outrage ... especially when you consider how they beat the national Republican Party black and blue with sticks and stones in the Louisiana governor's race 12 years ago, when white-supremacist "Republican" kook David Duke oozed into a runoff election.

Reporters not only tripped over one another in leaping to cover that off-year race, but they demonstrated great aggression in stapling Duke's racist politics to Bush the Father's 1988 campaign, which grew infamous for somehow making a victim out of Willie Horton, who mercilessly stabbed a service station attendant to death but got weekend passes from Gov. Michael Dukakis.

On NBC, reporter Lisa Myers charged all the modern Republican presidents with race-baiting: "Richard Nixon preached law and order in the wake of the Watts riots. ... Ronald Reagan told the story of the welfare queen. ... George Bush was accused of playing racial politics when he made a national figure out of this Massachusetts convict (Horton)."

In Time magazine, Washington reporter Dan Goodgame announced: "Demagogues don't yell 'nigger' or 'Jew boy' anymore. They've learned better ... (Duke) traded in his bigoted rhetoric for a slick new glossary of coded appeals to racial resentment, market tested over the past two decades by mainstream conservative politicians."

Twelve years later, the national Republican Party could again be stapled to the Louisiana nominee -- a young, brainy, Indian-American, Catholic-convert, health-policy wonk -- because this time, unlike Duke, he had the GOP behind him. But that apparently would make the GOP look too diverse, and make conservatives look like they're not slack-jawed racists. That might displease the media's celebrated black leader of the moment, Al Sharpton.

The most amazing part of the Jindal story is watching how liberal-media types twisted themselves into pretzels in case Jindal actually had won. In the New York Times a few weeks ago, editorialist Adam Cohen claimed that since African-American candidates have done miserably statewide, "If Mr. Jindal wins, it may mean not that race no longer matters in Louisiana, but simply that … Asian-Americans now fall on the white side of the racial divide."

Cohen concluded that Jindal would be a "hollow symbol of inclusion" unless he could win over a majority of African-American voters: "If the Republican Party really wants to be inclusive, in Louisiana and nationally, it needs to start finding nonwhite candidates that nonwhites want to vote for." As a modern political fact, Jindal would have to run as a liberal Democrat.

Despite getting the endorsements of many black Democrats, including New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Jindal was able to win only 9 percent of the black vote. Media silence triumphed again. Isn't there a fascinating political story in there for national reporters to investigate?

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