Bobby Jindal on Leadership And Crisis
HH: As promised, I am joined now by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who has a brand new and very readable, compellingly so, book out called Leadership And Crisis. Governor Jindal, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
BJ: Hugh, it’s great to be back on your show. Thank you for having me again.
HH: Well, I really enjoyed this book, and I’ve read a lot of memoirs and a lot of books by political people. And most of them aren’t so good. This is different. It’s very autobiographical. How long did it take you to write this?
BJ: You know, this actually was a lengthy writing process. We actually thought we were going to be done earlier this year. We stopped work on it, we’d been working on it for over a year, stopped working on it during the oil spill. Obviously, that delayed our publication date. But I thought long and hard about what I wanted to share with the country, and obviously talk about the oil spill, talk about the bureaucracy, the red tape coming out of Washington, D.C., and also apply those principles to many of the challenges facing our country, whether it’s health care or energy policy, or immigration, or the war on terrorism. And so it is part autobiographical. I share some stories like the birth of our third child at home, or the heart surgery on our second child. But I also talk about some of the policies I think we need to adopt to get back to a limited form of government that our founding fathers instituted in this great country.
HH: I’m going to get to a lot of the policy, but I want to start with the autobiography. On Page 28, you write, “I am intensely interested in learning about a person’s faith.” Why is that, Governor Jindal?
BJ: You know, and that’s politically incorrect to say nowadays. Nowadays, you hear all the folks want to take God out of the public square. I think how we approach issues of faith says a lot about us. These are some of the most profound, important questions. I self-describe my conversion to Christianity in the book. I also have a whole chapter talking about how what I think makes America great is not our free market system, our democracy, our military, as great as those three things are. I think it’s our culture. You know, the founding fathers intended for democracy to work, for a moral people, for a virtuous people, for a religious people, to use their words. And so I think it says a lot. Now not everybody’s going to end their faith journey where I did. I’m not saying everybody ends up in the same place. But I do think it says a lot about how people approach the most fundamental, important questions in life. I also talk in another chapter about how where one starts about the importance of human life. The dignity of being created by God says a lot about where one will end up on questions about the sanctity of life and other important policy issues. So I think questions of faith are incredibly important. Again, politically, not politically correct to say this anymore. We live in an age that values moral relativism. But I think how we confront these profound truths says a lot about us.
HH: Now there is a very interesting story in here about a travel that you’re making, a tough campaign flight. You’ve got an aide with, and it’s touch and go, and you get to where you need to get barely. But in the course of this flight, you give her your rosary. Now my question is do you always travel with one?
BJ: I do, actually. And coincidentally, it’s a rosary that I bought at the Vatican. It was, I later had it blessed. And I just happened, I keep it in my pocket. It was, when I first bought it, they told me it was made out of rose petals. And I think once upon a time, it actually smelled like that. I don’t think it smells anything like rose petals anymore. But I gave it to her half-seriously, half-jokingly, and it’s a fascinating story. We were in an airplane, small airplane. The alternator went out, and we didn’t have the ability to generate power. We weren’t in as much danger as we probably feared at the time, but the pilot was a very experienced pilot and knew exactly what he was doing. And one of the things I say in those moments, you just realize you’re not really in control of life. I mean, you really, as much as we’d like to believe we can control everything about our lives, we have to realize that we’re not always in control. I felt the same way when the doctors told us our second son was going to need heart surgery to save his life. And I think in those moments especially, it’s reassuring to know that there’s a Creator out there who tells us why do you worry when I know the hairs on your head? Why do you worry when I feed the birds. And in those moments…now I believe God gave us our brains and our skills to use them, and I’m glad the pilot did everything he could to land us safely, and he did land us safely. But I think it’s also comforting to know that we have been created in His image, and we are valuable for that reason.
HH: So Governor Jindal, a lot of Catholics who wear a scapula or a cross, and some will carry a rosary, but do you actually pray the rosary? Or it is more of a talisman for you?
BJ: No, no, I’ve prayed the rosary as well. Look, as Christians, we have to be very careful we don’t fall into idolatry. We don’t believe that inanimate objects necessarily have superstitious powers, nothing like that. I think it’s just a good reminder. I used to carry a small crucifix as well. I misplaced that one. And it’s just a reminder of what’s really important in life. There’s regular things we do. You know, we go to church every week, we say grace as a family before our meals, we pray with our children every night. And I think it just reminds us of what’s important. These are regular habits.
HH: Oh, I’ve tried to explain to non-Catholics for a long, long time that the rosary is a pretty powerful prayer. But I just don’t think I’ve every found that a public official who actually admits to praying the rosary.
BJ: Oh, absolutely. And look, the reality is that there are a lot of different ways to pray, as you know. Much of the rosary is actually straight out of Scripture, just as the Lord’s Prayer is. And I think it’s a helpful way to focus one’s mind in America. There are many different ways to pray. And I think the important thing, my best advice to people is to pray. I mean, whether they pray the rosary or a different one, I think the important thing is they pray. I think that our world would be a better place if more people spent more time in prayer. I’ll tell you a quick, funny story. It’s not in the book. My little boy, my youngest child, is four years old. When he was three, one night he was saying his prayers. Every night, they say the Lord’s Prayer before they go to bed, then they can pray however they want after that. And he, I learn so much from listening to them pray. But one night, he’s praying the Lord’s Prayer, and he gets to the end of it, we’re on our knees together by his bed, and he launches, Hugh, he launches right into the Pledge of Allegiance.
HH: (laughing) Good for him.
BJ: I didn’t know what to do. I mean, am I supposed to stand up? Am I supposed to stay on my knees? And he gets to the end of it, and he yells at the top of his lungs, he’s so proud he gets through the whole thing, he yells Amen. And I looked at him, and I said Amen. I didn’t know what to do. I was so confused. I realize he goes to a little Christian day care, and every morning, they start the day with the Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. And in his mind, his poor, little mind, it became one long prayer. He didn’t understand the difference. And he was so proud that he remembered this long, long prayer.
HH: Plenty of years to figure that out. Now Governor, I want to move to a couple of policy things. You have a very passionate, and to me, surprising chapter on child abusers. And you defend the death penalty for violent child rapists against the 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court. You talk about the Angola rhetoric. You know, this is not an issue. I’ve talked to probably every major political conservative figure in America many times, it’s not at the top of many people’s agenda. Why is it so central to your approach to public governing?
BJ: Well, first of all, let’s look at it philosophically, then second more practically. First off, this is a fabric, I believe, in protecting the culture of life, the innocent human life. There are few acts more harmful, degrading, violent, obnoxious than stealing a child’s innocence, than stealing what is taken from these victims. And you know, the practical consequences, I’ve visited with the families of abusers, visited with the parents of children. I’ve described in the book how some of those parents have come to see me at the Capitol, and you can’t undo the grave, grave damage that’s been done to their children. But what you can do is promise them we will do everything we can to stop this from happening again. What was so offensive in the Kennedy decision, 5-4 decision where you had a stepfather abuse an eight year old girl, and I won’t go through the specifics, it’s so graphic, so awful. But what was so awful about this ruling where they threw out the death penalty, is they said there was a growing national consensus against using the death penalty in these cases. And it almost sounded like they were doing a Gallup opinion poll. And I thought the job of the Supreme Court was to apply the Constitution. It was so frustrating to read the justices act like they were legislators. You know, let the legislative branch make the laws. It’s their job to read and apply the Constitution. Now there’s a novel idea. And try to explain to that little child, who will never be able to have a baby of her own, by the way, biologically, because of the abuse done to her. Try to explain to her that this is based on a national consensus. It’s almost as repugnant as when they refer to international law and precedent in deciding their cases. So to me, it’s personal, and it’s…
HH: So you’re a thorough going Catholic, Governor, and do you consider the death penalty to be consistent with the obligations of your faith?
BJ: I do. You know, the Holy Father, both this one and the last one, have taught that certainly, the death penalty should not be used casually. They’ve criticized the application of the death penalty in the United States. My belief as a Catholic, and I don’t pretend to be a theologian, I don’t pretend to be an expert or try to guide others. But my belief as a practicing Catholic is that the Catholic Church is right, that the death penalty should be used sparingly and in rare, the most extreme cases. The Church has never, throughout its history, taught that you could never use the death penalty. It has always taught that we should first look to see if there are other alternatives. I do believe for the most heinous criminals, I have no compunction whatsoever about using the death penalty, whether it’s child rapists, whether it’s Osama bin Laden, though I don’t think he should be tried as a criminal. I think he’s an enemy combatant in a war. Or whether it’s some of these awful murderers, I don’t have a problem. And we’ve actually executed one individual since I’ve been governor, a man who was guilty of both sex crimes as well as murder, and who confessed to his crimes, and said he wanted to be executed, and if he wasn’t executed, he would likely re-offend. He had been released from prison before and re-offended. I thought it was an applicable use of the death penalty in that case.
HH: Do you ever wake up wondering about that? Does that ever trouble your sleep that you allowed him to be executed?
BJ: Not at all. And again, I don’t take it lightly. It’s a tremendous responsibility. I don’t think it is something we should do casually. And certainly, this was an open and shut case where the evidence was overwhelming. He confessed as well. There was no doubt about his guilt no doubt about the fact he’d committed some awful, awful crimes. Now clearly, I think as any human being, we should all be very wary about the taking of human life, and we should be very, very cautious. And I don’t mean to be cavalier or glib about it. But in these cases, I would have no compunction whatsoever in the Kennedy case, if the Supreme Court had upheld Louisiana’s law, would have had no compunction whatsoever if Patrick Kennedy had been executed while I was governor.
HH: I’ll be right back with Governor Bobby Jindal. There’s lots more, fascinating stuff in this book.
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HH: Governor, you say that you get your cabinet and staff together for leadership seminars, like you had Carville and Matalin and other stuff like that. That’s wonderful. What do you yourself read? I mean, if I ask you right now, what’s on the Bobby Jindal reading desk next to your bed at home, or on your desk at the governor’s mansion? What is it?
BJ: I read a mixture of books. I think probably the most challenging book, and I’ve been reading this book for years. It’ll take me forever to finish this book. Ian Ker is a wonderful biographer, an English priest who is an incredible biography on John Henry Newman. It’s probably one of the best books I have read, one of the longest, hardest books I have read. But at the same time, I love to read fiction as well. I certainly love to read policy books. I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel. We can learn from others. But I read a wide variety. There’s also, I love to read just fun books as well. I’ll read the Clancy books and the Grisham and the Baldacci books for fun as well. But the reality is, and I thank my parents for this, I’ve been reading from a young age. I described in the book, my book, Leadership And Crisis, when I was young, we had one of those read-a-thons, where if you read enough books…
BJ: …you raise money for charity, you raised for, I think it was MS at the time, and after 55 books, my father cut me off. He sent a check to the charity and said stop reading, we can’t keep sponsoring each and every one of these books. And my parents from a young age taught us a love of reading. And I think it’s a great way for our kids to learn. Every study has shown the earlier that our kids read, the better they’re going to do in school, and I believe the better they’ll do in life.
HH: One of the interesting things about Leadership And Crisis is that you are familiar with the arguments of your opponent. For example, you quote Dennett at, where is Dennett, he’s at Tufts, and you quote Steven Pinker at Harvard in the conversation about right to life. So do you read on the left, and are there, for example, left wing blogs or magazines that you regularly consult, Bobby Jindal?
BJ: I do read a lot of books, more books than necessarily blogs or magazines, from a variety of thinkers. And I think that’s important. I went to Brown University, no hotbed of conservative thought there. But I think it was a great experience. I was exposed to some of the most aggressive, articulate, passionate liberal argument you’ll hear. And it forced me to think. And so I’ll read Krugman, Paul Krugman’s columns regularly. I enjoy, you know, I don’t agree with this Keynesian outlook, but I think it’s important to be informed on different perspectives. Ronald Dworkin was one of my thesis advisers at Oxford, very smart, defender of modern liberalism. Again, I don’t agree with a lot of his writings, many of his writings, John Walsh out of Harvard, I didn’t agree with many of his writings. But I think it’s important to stay informed. I think it’s important to read a wide variety of thought. Look, I’m not looking for the New York Times editorial pages’ approval. But I’ll read the New York Times and the Washington Post, and a variety of publications. I think it’s important to hear the other argument. I think it’s important, and look…
HH: Uh oh, I think we just lost the governor. That would be unfortunate…
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HH: Governor, during the break when we lost you there, I was telling people about the account of the Gulf oil spill. And I must say the most bracing part of this is your conversation with Valerie Jarrett. And she just doesn’t understand the first lick about drilling and what happens when you shut down the Gulf. Tell people about that.
BJ: Well, that’s exactly right. They issued this moratorium, and since then, the Inspector General has pointed out a majority of the outside experts they consulted didn’t agree with the moratorium, didn’t see the moratorium before it was added to the report under their name. And here was the frustrating thing. When I got on the phone with Valerie and told her about the impact this was going to have potentially for multiple years on our economy on the Gulf Coast, she was seemingly oblivious. She said look, there’s oil down there. Why won’t they just resume drilling as soon as we lift the moratorium. She didn’t realize these rigs rent out at half a million dollars a day. She didn’t realize out of 33 rigs, we know that at least four that have already left for Africa, that there’s a pattern here. This administration has a lower percentage of their senior advisors coming out of the private sector than other recent Democratic presidents like President Clinton, President Carter. The President himself, President Obama, described his one experience working in the private sector as being a spy behind enemy lines. It’s almost like they didn’t understand the consequences of their actions or their rhetoric. We saw the same thing, though, with cap and trade, saw the same thing with Obamacare, saw the same thing with stimulus, saw the same thing with tax rates. They don’t understand the damage they’re doing to the economy, just through their rhetoric, just through their policies. It’s very frustrating to see the impact on our energy sector down on the Gulf Coast, due to their lack of connection of the facts on the ground.
HH: Now there is a story about, Governor Jindal, that the moratorium report you referred to was manipulated, maybe by Carol Browner, maybe by someone else. Do you believe that what you, based upon what you know, that that report was manipulated, and in fact, intentionally misrepresented the situation?
BJ: Look, the most charitable, the most charitable defense of this is there was incompetence at its best. I mean, the reality is immediately after the report is issued, eight of those experts all of a sudden contacted my office, contacted our Senators, our Congressional delegation to say we didn’t put our names on this report. This wasn’t peer reviewed. It was a pattern. You know, throughout this oil crisis, it was troubling to see how they underestimated how much oil was going to leak, and you remember when they talked about how much oil was still in the water. The way they explained it was misleading, and how they tried to describe where the oil had gone…here’s the frustrating thing about the moratorium, and I talked to the President about the moratorium and the impact on our people, his first response was Governor, don’t worry about it. Folks, if they lose their jobs, they can get a check from BP. And when I explained to him BP wasn’t going to pay all these checks, his second response was well don’t worry about it, they can get an unemployment check. And I had to explain to him our people don’t want an unemployment check. They want to go back to work. He seemed to think it was all about politics. He kept telling me hey look, I understand why you have to say this politically, but the polls show that the people support a moratorium. And I had to explain to him it wasn’t about polls or politics for us. This was about our way of life. This was about producing energy for the rest of the country, and by the way, making us more dependent on foreign countries for energy. Sending those rigs to Africa doesn’t help our environment, doesn’t help our country. Nobody in Louisiana wants to see another explosion or another loss of life, another drop of oil in the water. But we also understand what those experts understood, that there are specific steps the federal government can take to make drilling safer in the Gulf. A moratorium does not accomplish that.
HH: 30 seconds to the break, Governor. I’ve got to ask one quick question. You’ve been a Congressman. Given what you know about this moratorium report, ought there to be hearings into whether it was manipulated? And ought Carol Browner to be subpoenaed to testify?
BJ: Oh, there absolutely needs to be oversight into how this happened. The Inspector General’s report was a good first step. And if Congress asked for that, absolutely there needs to be oversight on how we got here. And not only that, but even more importantly, where do we go from here. They technically say they lifted the moratorium. They haven’t issues permits yet. Our federal judges called it arbitrary and capricious. Absolutely we need to get to the bottom of this. More importantly, let’s get those permits issued and move forward.
HH: Should Browner be subpoenaed?
BJ: Oh, absolutely. Look, she should have to come testify on her state of involvement in this from the Interior to the White House, should come to tell Congress what they know.
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HH: I appreciated, Governor your candor. You botched the reply to the President’s State Of The Union, and you’re very blunt in assessing your own ability there, and where you went wrong.
BJ: Absolutely. Look, clearly I shouldn’t be reading a teleprompter. And the delivery was awful. For too many years, people have been telling me to slow down. And actually, I should have just been myself. And it’s my responsibility, my fault, I’m not blaming anybody else. But here’s the thing. If you forget the delivery, if you actually read the content of the speech, it was right after the President was trying to propose, trying to push the stimulus through, and I articulate my concern that it was too much spending, too much borrowing, too much debt. If anything, it’s gotten worse. Since that time, they didn’t stop at an $800 billion dollar stimulus package that didn’t work. They went on to a trillion dollar Obamacare plan that’s going to leave more debt, more government involvement in our economy. They’ve just spent and borrowed more. If anything, it’s gotten worse, and up to $14 trillion dollars in debt. So clearly the delivery was awful, but I stand behind the content. I was worried this put us on the wrong path, with too much spending, too much borrowing. Federal spending is now 24% of the GDP? It’s going to rise to 26%. And historically, it’s been at 18-20%. This is a very, very smart man. Don’t underestimate him. They are trying to desensitize us to a permanently larger, more expensive government. But remember, and I say this in the book, the more taxes they collect, the more money they spend, the less liberty, the less freedom we have as American people. We have got to roll back this spending.
HH: Now Governor, you also have a number of recommendations, a lot of great stuff in the book, and people are going to have to read it. But at one point, Page 195, you say that the country has to end the lawsuit culture. You’re the governor of a state that’s got a reputation for an out of control tort bar and plaintiff’s bar. Have you been able to accomplish anything to reform the tort system in Louisiana? And what should other states do?
BJ: We have…you know, look, let me give credit where credit is due. Mike Foster was the governor before me, my predecessor’s predecessor. He did a great job. In Louisiana, we’ve long had a progressive medical malpractice system where we’ve got caps on the damages. We’ve got a state reinsurance system. We don’t have punitive damages in our state, and we’ve got many, many reforms that were done. There are a couple of things that we need to do across the country. One, you have legal reforms that have to happen. And if the President had been serious about reducing health care spending, one study says up to $100 billion dollars is spent on defensive medicine unnecessarily. We could save a lot of money by reforming that system. But he didn’t really want to touch it. But secondly, there is also a cultural issue. We’ve got to move away from this entitlement status. Yeah, we need better laws and a better tort system. But we as American people need to stop thinking of ourselves as victims. The left would like us to believe for us, I’ve got a whole chapter in the book about how we shouldn’t go the way of Europe. We don’t look in the mirror and see a victim that needs a check from the government. I look in the mirror and I see a strong America. I look at Americans who believe in a limited government, individual self-sufficiency, you know, rugged self-determination, a virtuous foundation upon which this country was built. We shouldn’t trade away what has made this an exceptional great country. And let’s not be apologetic for it. You know, unlike the President, I don’t apologize for America. I make no apologies. I think the world needs a strong, successful America. The world is safer when we are strong and successful. But it is not only legal change, it’s cultural change. We can’t be a country of people that believes when you spill a cup of hot coffee in your lap that you should automatically go sue somebody. We cannot be a country that believes bigger government can protect us from everything that happens in life. We need to be the same country where our fathers, our grandfathers, our mothers, our grandmothers understood what America offers its people is opportunity. Not equal outcomes, but opportunity.
HH: We’ve got two minutes left. I’ve got to ask you very quickly. Are you running for president?
BJ: No. I am not. I have written this book, Leadership And Crisis with a lot of great ideas, I think, on how our country gets back on track. We’ve got more work to do in Louisiana. We’ve cut spending 26% since I was elected governor, cut taxes. We have cut spending, and as a result, we have now got the second best economic performance during the recession. Gallup says the third best state at creating jobs. We’ve got more work to do. We’re showing that it can work in Louisiana. And I think governors all over the country are showing Washington we can balance our budgets by cutting spending, not raising taxes. We’ve still got more work to do.
HH: Who impresses you in the Republican field of people who are in fact seeking the nomination?
BJ: You know, I think it’s too early. I think we need to focus on the message, not the messenger. We need a principled conservative who champions the 2nd Amendment, the sanctity of life, who understands the need for fiscal discipline. I’m biased towards governors and executives who have run large organizations, or important organizations that can balance a budget, that have had to meet payroll, that have had to make tough decisions. I think executive experience matters.
HH: I’ve got 30 seconds, Governor. So if the nominee, whoever it is, turns out to you and says Bobby Jindal, will you run with me as my vice president, would you be open to that?
BJ: Well look, I’m not even thinking about that. The only job I want is to be governor of the great state of Louisiana. We’ve got a lot of talented people running. Let’s let them run. Let’s let them offer their ideas. There’ll be a lot of them spending a lot of time in Iowa and New Hampshire. The job I want is to be governor of this state. I do want your listeners to read the book, thought, and to buy Leadership And Crisis.
HH: It’s linked at Hughhewitt.com. It’s a wonderful book. You will fly through it. Bobby Jindal, come back and talk later when you’re off the book tour about some of the Medicaid, some of the defense issues you cover in Leadership And Crisis, and more of the biography. Thanks for joining us, Governor.
End of interview.