[A screengrab from Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal's afternoon press conference about Hurricane Gustav on Sunday, Aug. 31, 2008, with Michael Chertoff, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security next to him, looking down. You can watch the 15-minute video at this link. This is from CNN.com - note the Dow ad featuring young Sikh boys on the right - click to magnify.]
For three years now, I (and many other observers) have been saying that the best thing that happened to Bobby Jindal was losing his 2003 bid for governor (he was defeated by Democrat Kathleen Blanco). That meant he got to run and get elected to Congress in 2004 and was, therefore, in Washington, D.C., when Hurricane Katrina his in August 2005. The mismanagement of the storm and its aftermath were blamed squarely on then Governor Blanco, along, of course, with FEMA chief Michael ("heckuva job, Brownie") Brown and others. Had Jindal won, he'd have been in Blanco's place, getting that blame.
Jindal then ran for and won the governorship in 2007, and the arrival of Hurricane Gustav, three years almost to the day since Katrina, represents the first big test of Louisiana's - and Jindal's - preparedness for a major crisis.
So far, he's been getting good reviews - but the storm has yet to make landfall as of this writing. We'll be reviewing his performance in the days ahead.
Meanwhile, here's an exchange I caught on CNN today. It's between anchor Rick Sanchez and Bob Barr, the former Republican Congressman-turned-Libertarian-Party-presidential candidate. Barr was on with Sanchez to discuss politics and Jindal had just held his press conference. He certainly impressed Sanchez:
SANCHEZ: Watch this fellow Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana and you almost say to yourself here's a guy who's handling this situation, doing really yeoman's work. He seems composed, he seems organized, he seems to be a very effective communicator. And your are almost wondering and asking yourself, boy here is a guy who would have made a very good vice-presidential choice, wouldn't he?
BARR: And maybe in the years ahead he'll make a good presidential choice for the Republican party. Very, very impressive fellow. Has a tremendous grasp of figures, organization, process, in addition to presenting himself very well. He has a tremendous future, I think.
SANCHEZ: It's not fair to ask the question, it's almost like being a backseat driver... But had the McCain campaign had another week to make this decision and they'd seen this guy's performance, do you think there was the possibility they may have... what's the old... I could have had a V8, (slapping his own forehead) I could have a Jindal? [This is a reference to the ads for V8 vegetable juice, featuring forehead slapping and the tagline "Could have had a V8".]
BARR: Well they, of course, did look at Jindal very carefully. I think what may happen in the days and weeks ahead is they may regret perhaps not having vetted their current pick quite as well as they could have. [Side note: WP's Dan Balz and Robert Barnes are reporting that Palin WAS vetted well.]
See SAJAforum's coverage of Sarah Palin's pick as VP, which put an end to all the speculation about Jindal.
In addition to being all over the TV on Sunday, Jindal was also featured in a prominent interview in the New York Times Magazine. See SAJAforum's coverage of it here.
FLASHBACK: Here's SAJA's 2005 resources about Katrina
What do YOU think? Post your comments below.