Republican and Democratic governors gathered on the White House lawn after meeting with President Obama to celebrate their shared role as can-do state executives removed from the partisan bickering in Congress. That is, until they started bickering themselves.
The bipartisan group was in town for the National Governors Association’s annual meeting. In a press conference on the White House lawn, governors took the microphone to emphasize their areas of common agreement, like their concern about cuts to national guard units, their interest in improving transportation, and their shared contempt for Washington.
“We governors actually have to get things done. It’s not like Congress down here,” Vermont’s Democratic governor Pete Shumlin said, repeating a talking point governors have deployed since the dawn of American government.
But just as the event was winding down, Republican Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal broke from the feelgood script and delivered an extended broadside against President Obama’s agenda.
“The Obama economy is now the minimum wage economy,” Jindal said, accusing the president of “waving the white flag of surrender” on job growth.
Jindal, who has sought to raise his profile with national conservatives recently ahead of a possible presidential campaign, called on Obama to fast-track approval of the Keystone pipeline and waive various business regulations, echoing a National Review op-ed by the governor that went online earlier that day.
The diatribe prompted an outraged response from Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, a Democrat, and the event quickly took on the tone of the same vicious Congressional battles state leaders love to decry so much.
“That’s the most insane statement I’ve ever heard,” Malloy said of Jindal’s “white flag” comment.
He also took on Jindal for criticizing Obama’s call to raise the federal minimum wage, noting he had called for similar changes in his own state, and added that “we don’t all agree that moving Canadian oil through the United States is necessarily the best thing for the United States economy.”
Malloy called Jindal’s remarks “the most partisan statement we’ve had all weekend.”
Less than a half hour later, Jindal helped lead a partisan press conference with the Republican Governors’ Association, where he called on the president to block all of Obamacare using executive actions until it could be repealed.
“Since they’ve shown the willingness to delay some of the mandates, why not delay the entire program?” Jindal said.
However, Jindal added at the RGA event that the president was “respectful” in their meetings even if the governor found Obama’s policy suggestions “offensive.”
“Nobody was ugly to each other,” he said.