When John McCain picked Sarah Palin to run with him, we quickly learned that her teenage daughter was pregnant — and then more stories started piling up. What will America learn the day after Mitt Romney selects his vice-presidential nominee? What are the skeletons his vetting team is uncovering as they seek the best debate opponent for Joe Biden? To address those vital questions, we bring you The Day After Tomorrow, a series previewing the veep scandals everyone may soon be talking about.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is often cited as a dark horse vice presidential candidate. Endorsed for the spot by prominent conservatives such as Grover Norquist and David Frum, Jindal would add badly needed diversity and regional balance to the Republican ticket — and he is very popular with the party’s dominant right wing.
Yet there are warning signs that Jindal isn’t ready for the campaign spotlight. Were Romney to select him, a series of bizarre controversies from Jindal’s past could return to haunt him and the campaign.
The most famous Jindal tale is the story of how he performed an exorcism on a college friend who was suffering from cancer. He told the story in a 1994 essay for the New Oxford Review; apparently, when his friend Susan started acting strangely, Jindal and his pals decided it couldn’t be because she was sick. No, the only explanation was Satan. So he set about “solving” the problem. Here’s an excerpt from his account:
The crucifix had a calming effect on Susan, and her sister was soon brave enough to bring a Bible to her face. At first, Susan responded to biblical passages with curses and profanities. Mixed in with her vile attacks were short and desperate pleas for help. In the same breath that she attacked Christ, the Bible’s authenticity, and everyone assembled in prayer, Susan would suddenly urge us to rescue her. It appeared as if we were observing a tremendous battle between the Susan we knew and loved and some strange evil force. But the momentum had shifted and we now sensed that victory was at hand.
While Alice and Louise held Susan, her sister continued holding the Bible to her face. Almost taunting the evil spirit that had almost beaten us minutes before, the students dared Susan to read biblical passages. She choked on certain passages and could not finish the sentence “Jesus is Lord.” Over and over, she repeated “Jesus is L..L..LL,” often ending in profanities. In between her futile attempts, Susan pleaded with us to continue trying and often smiled between the grimaces that accompanied her readings of Scripture. Just as suddenly as she went into the trance, Susan suddenly reappeared and claimed “Jesus is Lord.”
With an almost comical smile, Susan then looked up as if awakening from a deep sleep and asked, “Has something happened?” She did not remember any of the past few hours and was startled to find her friends breaking out in cheers and laughter, overwhelmed by sudden joy and relief.
While this story hasn’t hurt Jindal’s standing in deeply religious Louisiana, it would certainly be viewed in a different light in other parts of the country. Considering that many Americans are still suspicious of his Mormon faith, Mitt Romney may not wish to add a figure with such controversial religious beliefs to his ticket.
But the exorcism isn’t the only odd story about Jindal that will pop up if he is selected as Romney’s running mate.
In 2009, Jindal delivered the Republican rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. During that widely panned speech, he emphatically ridiculed the government for spending $140 million “for something called ‘volcano monitoring.””
There were two problems with Jindal’s attack: He greatly exaggerated how much the government was spending (only about $14 million went to monitoring volcanoes that year). Then barely a month after the speech, a massive volcano erupted in Alaska.
As John Eichelberger — the head of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Hazards Program — told the Anchorage Daily News after the eruption, “It was a strange thing for ]Jindal] to pick up on…This is really very important work. We can see these eruptions coming, so it saves lives to be able to warn people.”
One might think the governor of a state as prone to natural disasters as Louisiana would know that.
Finally, like so many Pelican State politicians, Jindal has an embarrassing ethics scandal in his past. In 2008, he called a special session of the state legislature to address Louisiana’s longstanding problems with corruption and patronage.
On the fourth day of the special session, Jindal told reporters that “we’re saying legislators shouldn’t be getting lavish meals. We’ve said the same things on free tickets from people being able to influence elected or appointed leaders.” But at the same time, Jindal’s chief of staff — Timmy Teepell — asked for and received three free tickets to a Hannah Montana concert. The tickets were for the governor’s suite in the New Orleans arena.
In response to the controversy, Jindal told 9News reporter Jim Shannon that “we’re gonna follow the law like everybody else.” Just as soon as Hannah Montana leaves town!
If Romney picks Bobby Jindal as his running mate, then he will be providing reporters with a literal embarrassment of riches. Given that this campaign has been more focused on small stories and gaffes than any other in recent memory, Jindal’s selection seems sure to cause an instantaneous media feeding frenzy.