Government & Politics

Jindal needs to engage in more than a war of words

Weeks ago, Gov. Bobby Jindal joined Sen. David Vitter’s call for the government to treat the response to the Gulf Coast oil gusher as it would a war. Here’s a representative quote:

[W]e need the federal government and BP to intensify their efforts and treat this oil spill like a war. We need to be using everything we have in this fight to save our coastWe are in a war to protect our coast and failure is not an option.

You might recall that Jindal freely used war language throughout his 2007 gubernatorial campaign, saying:

This is a war… a war against corruption… a war against government incompetence, and a war against out-of-control

government spending. And, this fight will not be easy.

The danger in so much “war” rhetoric is fairly obvious: It dilutes the meaning of the most serious word in politics. If everything becomes a war, then nothing is. We cannot forget that the country is already engaged in two military


conflicts overseas. As a congressman, Jindal was vague at times about his position on the Iraq war. And his “war record” on runaway spending is also mixed. (This year the state budget props up higher education with federal stimulus money, which Jindal criticized in a national address). Since Jindal’s combat experience is limited to observing the “spiritual warfare” of a demon attacking one of his friends in college, it’s perhaps surprising how often Jindal tosses around the word “war.”

To be sure, the Macondo-BP oil gusher is an extreme crisis. If anything aside from real military conflict calls for war declarations, it’s certainly an uncontrolled oil gusher soaking the Gulf Coast with pollution. But if Jindal wants to sport warlike rhetoric, he should be prepared to follow through. In some cases, he hasn’t. For example, as President Obama spoke from the Oval Office about the oil in the Gulf, he subtly noted that Jindal had not deployed thousands of National Guard members to the coast.

War rhetoric implies total commitment to victory, and thus can be a double-edged sword for politicians. Critics of Jindal might be emboldened to ask why the maximum allotment of National Guard members weren’t used during this oil “war.” Why is the governor not using all the weapons in his arsenal?

More importantly, politics aside, how will victory be defined in this war? Is encroaching oil the only enemy? And what about the long-term fights – health effects on humans and damage to the fisheries – that will take decades to “win”? What constitutes success –  survival?

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About Mark Moseley

Mark Moseley blogs at Your Right Hand Thief. Until mid 2014, Mark Moseley was The Lens' opinion writer, engagement specialist and coordinator for the Charter Schools Reporting Corps. After Katrina and the Federal Flood he helped create the Rising Tide conference, which grew into an annual social media event dedicated to the future of New Orleans.

  • jeffrey

    It’s a long hard slog. Through the sludge. There’s a lot of sludge.

  • War of words my ass. We need to treat this as a War of Wars, with a real enemy and real assault.
    That is a video from a Cajun Woman who infiltrated behind enemy lines and discovered that the people of Louisiana are expendable and have been accounted as such in their books.
    Seriously, Buckle Up.

  • mike

    Is this site dead? Outside of the opinion pieces, the last published article is from a week ago.

  • Mark Moseley

    No, certainly not dead. Some of my colleagues have been travelling, out on assignment. There will be more articles soon.

  • Medium Jim

    Moseley: Obama’s Oval Office debacale of a speech last week abused numerous war metaphors, many in the first 2 minutes: “battle we’re waging against an oil spill that’s assaulting our shores,” “fighting,” “fight,” “battle plan….”

    Granted, Spike Lee did tell Obama to “go off on someone” and, days later, Obama dutifully obliged by promising to identify “whose ass to kick.” This is somewhat curious since Salazar bragged from day one about having his “boot on BP’s throat.” Perhaps Spike’s in his ear again, telling him that nothing says ass kicking better than some old fashioned war-talk.

  • If it’s a war, we should ask PBJ who’s side he’s on. We know his fellow Republicans side…with BP.

  • Mike, the site did go comatose yesterday, or perhaps paroxysmal it would seem, with Mark’s article here the only one with a barely legible link…proving that our Big Molluski can definitely pull the train.
    Wait, that didn’t come out right…errrah, ahem!
    You know what I mean.

  • Read the Rolling Stone article. The Washington Monthly links to a CBS report…

    Kathleen Blanco was heavily criticized in 2005 for not ceding control of LNG troops to the feds. I also recall conservative criticism bordering on the gleeful when a picture of school buses in a flooded parking lot was posted on prominent web sites, the implication again being that it was Blanco or Nagin’s fault that these assets weren’t used … never mind that the bus drivers had presumably evacuated, or that FEMA had promised buses in writing.

    I wonder if ideological consistency will demand that conservatives criticize the Jindal administration…laff…no, of course it won’t. Tribal identification will rule, and Obama will be blamed.

  • Mark Moseley
  • Mark Moseley

    Jindal responds to NG issue, with more war rhetoric. (A call I made to the Governor’s Press Office Thursday was not returned.)

  • Mark Moseley
  • Sounds like the same imaginary red tape and beaurecrats he fought so gallantly in 2005, see here and


    Maybe one day we’ll hear of his childhood bravery in facing off against the monsters under the bed and in the closet…

  • The further from the Gulf Coast you get, the greater the difficulty in selling the war metaphor. We’re fifty states, not a nation; an attack on one state is no longer necessarily seen as an attack on all, unless it is an act of actual war. It’s a dubious metaphor, anyway: We have a War on Drugs and a War of Terror, and at one time had a War on Poverty. How have those worked out?

    Jeffrey is right: This is a slog. There are no magic bullets, and never have been.

    The Rolling Stone article was half hindsight, half supposition, and devoid of context.

  • Citizen K, we’ll we how your meme hunts after Hurricane Season puts this Bitch on every door step east of the Rockies. Just wait until this Dispersant is sprayed over the Grain Belt, every Chicken Farm and every Hog Farm in the Midwest, across Alabama and Georgia and up into the Carolinas –that is nearly Half the nation’s food supply. Think about that.
    The American Revolution was the most Politically Progressive thing to hit this planet since the Gutenberg Press. Now we face a true Regression to Feudalism.
    This is no time to make nice with the enemy.

    [The Rolling Stone article was half hindsight, half supposition, and devoid of context.]
    Now we should defend McChrystal’s Posse? Come on! Torture Boy? Tillman Eraserheads? What?

  • Mark Moseley