Politics 01.14.2009

Last week, op-ed page columnist Lanny Keller of The Advocate nailed — in his distinctive, witty style — what is probably the biggest obstacle facing our enormously talented, freshly minted young governor in his ultimate quest for the presidency: his propensity to over-talk and under-listen. There’s been little in south Louisiana mainstream media (including this paper) about Jindal’s obvious problem, but Keller’s “Inside Report” column lays it out with refreshing, dry style.

Keller quotes conservative national columnist Cal Thomas who, like Jindal, was also on hand to speak in Baton Rouge recently at the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry’s annual meeting. “I had a wonderful interview with your governor,” said Thomas. “Forty-five minutes, one question.”
Keller’s piece opens with, “Memo to meeting planners: Invite the governor at your own risk,” and continues with nuggets like, “Whether in the audience or at the podium, one of the most-dreaded phrases in the Jindal administration has to include, ‘I just want to make five or six more quick points.’”
Later, Keller writes, “The audience of business people was almost entirely Jindal enthusiasts. At least at the start. Many of them work for companies, so they know the feeling of sitting at an event that is run with the give-and-take of one of Saddam Hussein’s Cabinet meetings.”

It’s funny and painful at the same time. The 37-year-old governor is a hugely talented, ambitious guy with — in all probability — a great national-level future. But as Keller points out, “This is not simply a matter of style. The governor typically will filibuster so long, and scoot out of meetings so quickly, that he’s not there long enough to do any listening, or — heaven forfend! — answer questions.”

Someone close to the gov needs to tell him — before Jan. 22, when he’ll be in Lafayette delivering the keynote address at the chamber’s annual banquet.

The day after Don Cravins Jr. announced that he is accepting a new job in Washington and will be leaving the state legislature, his mother, Pat Cravins, has announced that she aims to keep her son’s state senate seat in the family. The legislature is expected to soon call a special election for the District 24 seat, which will likely come before the legislative session begins in late April. Pat Cravins says she reached her decision to run after seeing her son grapple with his decision to leave. “I told him, ‘Don’t you worry,’” she says. “If mama is given that opportunity, I’ll take care of it. What better hands can you leave your unfinished work in but your mom’s hands.” Cravins adds that because she hails from North Lafayette and now lives in Opelousas, she is connected with people throughout the sprawling district.

Pat Cravins currently is the speech and theater director at the Magnet Academy for the Cultural Arts in Opelousas. She also taught at Paul Breaux Middle School in Lafayette for 25 years, is a playwright, and briefly ran Pat’s Café Creole restaurant (now Laura’s II) on North University. Aside from Cravins, the only other announced contender is Opelousas state Rep. Elbert Guillory. Others rumored to be eyeing the race include former state Rep. Wilfred Pierre, Lafayette city-parish councilman Brandon Shelvin, former Lafayette city-parish councilman Chris Williams, and retired state Police Superintendent Terry Landry.

Since it was created in 1991, State Senate District 24 has always been represented by a member of the Cravins family. Don Cravins Sr. served the district for 16 years. When he stepped down in 2006, Don Cravins Jr. was elected to replace him without opposition. Cravins Jr. easily won re-election last year with 74 percent of the vote. To those who may argue against the family continuing their hold on the district, Pat Cravins has this to say: “If we had had a bad reputation in this so-called dynasty, I’d probably be running in another direction. I think those [in my family] who served before me served well with honor and with dignity.”

Note to D.C. prostitutes: Senator David Vitter is way too busy to hang out with you anymore. A year after admitting a “serious sin” involving a D.C. prostitution ring, Vitter is making it clear that he’s not messing around at the office anymore.

Fresh into their new session, many members of Congress are yet to file any bills. Not David Vitter. He filed 34 on the first day. The Times-Picayune reported last week that Vitter’s filing frenzy is of a predictably hardline conservative agenda: abortion, public prayer, stem cell research, home schooling, drugs, the death penalty, illegal immigration and protecting the American flag. You name it, he’s got it covered. Modest as always, Vitter says it’s just business as usual.

“It’s pretty much my normal procedure, “ he tells the T-P. “Between the election and the end of the year is a pretty quiet time in most offices. We’re not particularly quiet. We’re pretty organized, and we want to get to work on these things from the get-go.”

And don’t be mistaken. Should you be thinking that these polemical issues are taking up all Vitter’s time, he clarifies that he is still working nonstop on bringing home funding for levees and I-49. “No one should take the list of bills I put in the hopper the first day as some sort of conscious list of my top priorities,” he says. “These are certainly things I care about, but a lot of things would rank even higher than some of them but don’t take the form of a discrete bill. There are the huge priorities that I work on all the time.