On a surface level, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) recent antics make it seem as if the far-right governor is increasingly erratic. But very recently, most notably after a Fox News interview yesterday, the Republican’s strategy is coming into focus.
“If people don’t want to come here to integrate and assimilate, what they’re really trying to do is set up their own culture, their own communities,” Jindal [told Fox host Neil Cavuto]. “What they’re really trying to do is overturn our culture. We need to recognize that threat.”“If we don’t, we’re gonna see a replica of what’s happening in Europe in America,” Jindal continued. “We’re gonna see our own no-go zones if we’re not serious about insisting on assimilation and integration.”
It’s hard to even know where to start with such nonsense. As is now obvious, “no-go zones” in Europe are a figment of the far-right imagination, a fact Fox News has not only conceded but has actually apologized for spreading. Jindal knows he’s spreading a made-up myth, but the Republican governor keeps repeating it anyway.
Making matters worse, however, is the notion that Jindal’s imagined ”no-go zones” will start appearing on U.S. soil, too. In other words, according to what Jindal said on Fox, unless we start taking his paranoia seriously, there will be American communities in which local law enforcement is afraid to go, and where women are routinely intimidated in public, not by creepy guys hitting on them, but by Muslim enforcers who expect to see them in veils.
Is there a method to Jindal’s madness? Maybe.
It’s unclear if Jindal actually believes his own rhetoric. If I had to put money on it, I’d say he realizes his claims are mendacious. But that only makes the broader question more acute: why in the world is the governor, day after day, repeating nonsense that makes him appear so foolish?
Here’s a theory: by some metrics, there are at least 15 Republicans eyeing their party’s 2016 presidential nomination, and recent polling suggests the Louisiana governor is running 14th. Indeed, averaging recent polls together, Jindal appears to have national support from GOP voters at around 1.5%.
That’s obviously not a recipe for success. What Jindal needs is a way to get some attention, make a name for himself, and let his party’s far-right base learn who he is.
All of which leads us to the last several days, in which Jindal has (a) taken bizarre rhetorical shots at Muslims; (b) made equally bizarre criticisms about Europe; and (c) argued with journalists and fact-checkers about reality.
In other words, what we’re probably witnessing is a remarkably clumsy p.r. campaign from a presidential hopeful looking for attention – and getting it.
The rejoinder to all of this is that Jindal isn’t exactly enjoying positive publicity this week – he’s been pilloried for making up ridiculous claims and repeating them, even after being told he’s wrong. But the governor and his team are apparently working from the “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” assumption, and we’ll see soon enough whether his increasingly odd antics pay electoral dividends.
Update: I’ve seen some on the right suggest this week that the “no-go zones” myth shouldn’t be dismissed too quickly because CNN treated the “zones” as real, too. Last night, Anderson Cooper acknowledged that some of the network’s coverage was a “mistake.”