The months and years after a long reign in office sometimes bring strange thoughts or dreams to a public servant.
In the case of Bobby Jindal, it’s safe to wonder if he hears in the wee hours the voice of the man who occupied the White House the year the former governor was born.
“Don’t feel bad, Bobby,” former President Richard M. Nixon told him. “I’ve been there before.”
It’s only been one year since Jindal completed his eight years as governor. He commanded the respect of his peers his first term in office, but the second term – much like that of the man who was president when he was born – was nothing short of a disaster.
Jindal did not seem to worry much the final year of his gubernatorial how the public would view his legacy. His visions of grandeur led him to believe he’d move to a much bigger, prestigious mansion in 2016.
It didn’t happen. Instead, he watched President Donald Trump overlook him for a Cabinet position. Trump even went as far as to award a post to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley last week.
It’s doubtful Trump and Jindal exchanged Christmas cards last year. They frequently fired potshots at each other in soundbytes during the primaries. The same, however, applied to Trump’s approach to Haley and any other candidate who stood in the way between him and the White House.
But it’s probably a demoralizing blow for Jindal, who delivered the Republican presidential rebuttal in 2009 to Barrack Obama’s very first State of the Union Address. It could’ve been his springboard to the national spotlight, but even the most ardent Jindal supporters cringed at the awkward delivery in the response. They wrote it off as a slight bump in the road for what they considered the “can’t miss” GOP presidential prospect.
Jindal used much of his second term to jockey support for Republicans out of state, and he focused more on his Washington aspirations as Louisiana’s fiscal condition went into free fall – all the while he told reporters he “had the job he wanted” as governor.
His presidential aspirations fizzled fast when he struggled in primary elections across the nation. No worry, Jindal figured – a lofty Cabinet spot would inevitably come his way.
It didn’t happen. Meanwhile, fellow GOP up-and-comer Haley – the same lady who once criticized Trump as “everything a governor doesn’t want in a president” – landed a spot as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. An anemic showing in the Presidential campaign was bad enough, but the snub on a Cabinet post may have dealt Jindal the most crushing blow.
“Let’s me make myself perfectly clear, Bobby: I was an eight-year vice president who lost the California gubernatorial race to Edmund Brown two years after I nearly defeated John F. Kennedy in the 1960 Presidential election,” Nixon would tell Jindal in dreams. “I told people after that loss that they no longer had Dick Nixon to kick around anymore. Look at the bright side, Bobby … they can’t kick you around, either,”
By contrast, Louisiana may kick Jindal harder the next several years. Some have already blamed Gov. John Bel Edwards for the state’s fiscal crisis, but it has Jindal’s signature all over it. Problems ranging from a backlog in road projects to the draconian cuts to public universities and the hatchet job on state healthcare all point to Jindal.
Don’t write him off, though. His tumble from prominence bears much resemblance to that of Nixon’s huge slump in the early 1960s. It battered Nixon’s morale, particularly after he served during the Eisenhower Administration, one of the biggest periods of economic growth in the nation’s history.
Jindal may feel battered and bruised from the Trump snub, but don’t count him out. Even though his second administration proved disastrous in terms of the state budget, his walk away from the limelight may help him.
It benefitted Nixon after the loss in the California gubernatorial race. The man who became one of the most prolific vice presidents of the 20th century and who nearly won the 1960 presidential race disappeared from the headlines with no explanation.
It almost made sense in the 1960s, the same decade when the character of Adam Cartwright vanished without explanation from the TV series “Bonanza” and Samantha suddenly wound up with a totally different looking Darrin on “Bewitched.” The same applied to Nixon’s exit from the spotlight.
He stayed busy practicing law in New York City, campaigned for prominent Republicans and became a mainstay on the public speaking circuit.
Jindal is not an attorney, but he followed Nixon’s path during the second term as governor. He may keep a low profile for now, but it’s likely we haven’t seen the last of him.
At 45, he’s young and still has a lot of energy to burn. His best years may very well be ahead of him. It would serve him well to give the public enough time to forget about his last term as governor, particularly because it’s easy to trace a lot of the state’s current problems to his time in office.
Many in his own party even considered his second term a disaster, but much of the voting population has a short memory.
Who knows? He may return to Congress or maybe land a Senate post down the line. He may land the Cabinet post he seemingly covets, or perhaps the White House.
In the same way Nixon bounced back in six years, the same could happen with Jindal – and that thought may register prominently in his mind if he hears Nixon’s voice in his dreams.