R. Reese Fuller

Jindal's Katrina story starts to smell

by R. Reese Fuller

Ben Smith writes today on Politico:
A spokeswoman for Bobby Jindal says the Louisiana governor didn't intend to imply that an anecdote about battling bureaucrats during Katrina directly involved the governor or took place during the heat of a fight to release rescue boats.

The spokeswoman, Melissa Sellers, said the story Jindal told in his response to Obama actually took place some days later in Lee's office - though still in Katrina's chaotic aftermath - as Lee was "recounting" his frustrations with the bureaucracy to someone else on the telephone.

In his live televised speech on Mardi Gras night, here's exactly what Gov. Jindal said:
During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office I’d never seen him so angry. He was yelling into the phone: "Well, I'm the Sheriff and if you don't like it you can come and arrest me!" I asked him: "Sheriff, what's got you so mad?" He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters.  The boats were all lined up ready to go - when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn't go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, "Sheriff, that's ridiculous." And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: "Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!"  Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and start rescuing people.
Aside from the going-to-the-grocery-store-with-my-immigrant-father story, it was one of the two attempts by Jindal to come off as a real, live human being, just another enlisted soldier in one of the Armies of Compassion. But it didn't smell right, certainly didn't sound right, and who could you check his story out with? Harry Lee?

Talking Points makes a couple of interesting points
about the "Come-and-arrest-me-too" story, sourcing a good deal of Daily Kos' recent post: "Jindal's Katrina Story a Lie." But the greater point is this: "The central anecdote of the GOP's prime-time response to President Obama's speech, intended to illustrate the threat of excessive government regulation, turns out to have been made up. Maybe it's time to rethink the premise."
The evidence continues to grow that the story Bobby Jindal told Tuesday night - about how he backed a tough-talking sheriff's efforts to rescue Katrina victims, government red-tape be damed - was, how to put it ... made up. ...

But there are several pieces of evidence that suggest this just didn't happen. Nothing, to be sure, that definitively proves the story was made up. But more than enough to declare it highly suspicious. ...

[I]t's also noticeable that Jindal has talked or written several times before about the problems of excessive red tape during Katrina, but has never told this story.