Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

’60 Minutes’ gives Bobby Jindal the ‘Big Easy’ by going really soft on him

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Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Mon, 03/02/2009 – 11:50am

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4836972n

Bobby Jindal has just concluded a week where, let’s say, things didn’t go well. His response to President Obama’s speech was treated harshly by the left and the right. The comparisons to Kenneth the Page from “30 Rock” abounded on the Internet. In his first major national shot at the spotlight, the effort didn’t go well.

And on top of that, Morley Safer and “60 Minutes” was following him around with the results to air at the end of this week, on last night’s program. A balanced or even critical piece on the Louisiana governor could have made a significant impact on people’s perceptions of Jindal.

Fortunately for Jindal, but not for the rest of us, Safer and his “60 Minutes” crew produced a puff piece. The segment felt as empty as eating Cajun food in New Orleans without any spice.

For journalism and democracy, it was embarrassing. Even the folks at “Access Hollywood” would have said this was way too tame.

Safer did the usual “60 Minutes” touches: Follow the subject around in talking to people, sit down in the home with the spouse. But those work much better for celebrity interviews. And while Jindal is famous, he’s not a celebrity.

This is all the dialogue Safer devoted to Jindal’s speech:

But in Tuesday’s Republican response to the president’s speech before Congress, he accused the Democrats of bloated, wasteful spending in the stimulus package. “It’s irresponsible and it’s no way to strengthen our economy,” Jindal said in his televised response.

Was there any mention of the criticism? Was there a mention that the Disneyland-Las Vegas train lie was told once again? Was there even a mention that Jindal spokespeople said the Katrina anecdote was a lie? No to all three questions.

Safer made reference to Jindal’s conversion to Catholicism, but didn’t ask about the exorcism. When Bill Maher was on Tavis Smiley last week, Maher mentioned the exorcism, and Smiley said he hadn’t heard that. Well, a “60 Minutes” segment would have been a great time to bring that up, but Safer wasn’t in the mindset to go anywhere near a controversial topic.

Safer and Jindal traveled to the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, a nice visual for a TV show. Did Safer ask anything about what Jindal was doing/had done to help New Orleans? No.

The other visual that the segment used to excess was past sins of Louisiana politicians, notably Huey Long and Edwin Edwards.

Jindal has been governor of Louisiana for less than 14 months, not a long time to leave a mark positive or negative. After all, when Sarah Palin hit the 14-month mark, her popularity was sky high in Alaska and even Rod Blagojevich was well liked in Illinois at that point.

But the segment sought to capture the idea that Jindal was different, regardless of the validity of that statement. Safer did point to ethics legislation that Jindal got through the legislature. But Louisiana ranks poorly in a number of other areas, none of which the segment even addressed.

Often, in a segment on a politician, “60 Minutes” introduces someone who has a contrary view. No one took that mark, though Safer did talk to Jim Amoss, editor of the New Orleans Times Picayune. Amoss doesn’t contribute much to the piece, critical or otherwise. The most significant soundbite?

“Well, is he boring? One person’s boring is another person’s competent. And does he lack flamboyance? I mean, look what flamboyance got us,” Amoss replied.

Of course, this tied back into Safer’s obsession with making Jindal look good compared to Long and Edwards, especially Edwards.

There were two interesting points worth following up (which of course did not happen)

“When we sent a reporter and photographer to India to write about his family and their origins, the Jindal family was very queasy about that undertaking,” Amoss said.

Why would that be? Guess we won’t find out from Safer.

Asked if he felt any racial tension growing up in Baton Rouge, Jindal said, “Not at all. You know, this has been a great place to grow up. The great thing about the people of Louisiana is that they accept you based on who you are.”

Safer then says: “That’s quite a declaration in a state that not so long ago gave former Ku Klux Klansmen David Duke nearly 40 percent of the vote.”

Jindal got 54 percent in the 2007 election. He had previously lost to Kathleen Blanco, who got 53 percent of that vote in 2003. Good numbers to see, but again, not from Safer.

The Republicans worked hard to blame Katrina solely on Blanco, ultimately chasing her out of politics. Jindal was a Congressman during Katrina, and New Orleans is still a mess, despite Jindal’s “leadership.” But despite the pictures of the Big Easy, the words fell short.

If Jindal does run for president or vice president in the future, “60 Minutes” will come back to Louisiana to do another profile on Jindal. Next time, they should remember that Jindal is a politician, not a celebrity.

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Written by democracysoup

March 2, 2009 at 11:50 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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