Bobby Jindal, on Monday's Today show, slammed the Obama administration for its slow response to the BP oil spill off the coast of Lousiana, charging that: "It seemed like the federal government was disconnected from the facts on the ground." However Today co-anchor offered excuses for the President as he queried the Louisiana Republican Governor: "In fairness though, Governor, in those early days of the spill did any one really have an idea of the scope of this and have immediate solutions, ways to fix it?" On to promote his new book Leadership and Crisis, Jindal was told by the Today co-anchor that his harsh criticism of the President probably got him "dis-invited to the White House Christmas party."
The following is the full interview as it was aired on Monday's Today show:
MATT LAUER: House Republicans aren't the only ones ready to take on President Obama. Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana, has some choice words for the President in his new book. It's called Leadership and Crisis. Governor, good to have you. Good morning.
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL: Good morning. Thank you for having me Matt.
[On screen headline: "Crisis in the Gulf, Did President Mishandle Oil Spill?"]
LAUER: It's good to have you here. I think that you probably have gotten yourself dis-invited to the White House Christmas party, after this book. Probably the BP Christmas party as well. Why the need to purge?
JINDAL: Well a couple of things. One, I do think this is a critical time for our country and I described some anecdotes in the book during the oil spill, when it seemed like the federal government was disconnected from the facts on the ground. For example, you know the first time the President comes down to the state, first time to see the oil for himself.
LAUER: This is how you start the book, by the way.
JINDAL: Absolutely. I think he'd be mad about the oil. I think he'd be worried about the impact on our wetlands or the lack of boom and resources. He's mad about a routine letter we have sent to the Agricultural Department about food stamps. A second example - they literally shut down vacuum barges that are picking up thousands of gallons of oil in the water, to count the number of life jackets and fire extinguishers. It just seemed like they were disconnected from the reality on the ground.
LAUER: You describe the government's response as "lackadaisical almost from the start." You wrote this, quote, "They believe that the elite could fix everything. It struck me during our conversations how often the President mentioned that his Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, had won the Nobel Prize. Good for him, but just how exactly was this medal gonna fix the problem, cap the well and keep oil off our coastline?" In fairness though, Governor, in those early days of the spill did any one really have an idea of the scope of this and have immediate solutions, ways to fix it?
JINDAL: Well a couple of things. It wasn't just the immediate, immediate response. For example I described at one point there was oil in Timbalier Bay. There was boom and skimmers sitting on the dock in Cocodrie. Couldn't get it deployed. I literally took the captain of the Coast Guard who's in charge of that response for the state, up in a National Guard helicopter, because they kept denying there was oil. He saw the oil for himself. We said, "That's great, can you deploy the boom and skimmers?" His response was, "It's gonna take us 24 to 48 hours." So it wasn't just the immediate response, it was the fact that the structures were so bureaucratic, they didn't cut through the red tape. There seemed to be a lack of urgency.
LAUER: What did you do to cut through the red tape? I mean you know, you are the governor of the state, we watched this situation play out with Hurricane Katrina five years ago. Were you the, the hero no one was listening to? What was your role?
JINDAL: Look there were no heroes, but absolutely the heroes in this were - when I say there were no heroes, it wasn't the politicians. The National Guardsmen and the fishermen, they're the real heroes. They were fighting to save their way of life. I'll give you a couple of examples. They wouldn't, the federal government didn't want to do vacuum barges. I ordered the National Guard to build a couple of prototypes. The first one literally was a truck. The kind of truck you use to clean porta-potties, same kind of technology.
LAUER: Stuck on a barge.
JINDAL: Put on a barge and it worked. And all of a sudden the federal government authorized dozens of those. We had the National Guard out there building land bridges to block the oil from coming into the wet lands.
LAUER: By the way, there was criticism of that, the whole sand berm situation. Some people call it Jindal's folly. Others said it wasn't gonna do anything to prevent the diluted oil from reaching shore.
JINDAL: But the reality is it worked. And the reality is it prevented that oil from getting into the wetlands 15 to 20 miles away. And here's the point of telling those stories. Our country faces a crisis today. And I think the voters, a couple of weeks ago, said the federal government was going in the wrong direction, focused on the wrong priorities. Just as I said in the book about the oil spill. And so, for example, instead of focusing on the economy and creating jobs, the federal government tried to take over health care and they tried to do too many things without focusing on the, the real priorities.
LAUER: And if you look at this book, boy you touch on all the themes that, that, that people have been touching on lately - government is too big, it's expansive, it's expensive. So why shouldn't I look at this book and say this is Bobby Jindal's version of The Audacity of Hope? This is his coming out party, "Here I am to the national audience. I'm getting ready to run for something bigger."
JINDAL: I'm running for re-election. Next year you'll have a lot of Republicans in Iowa I'm sure. I'll be in Louisiana. But I do think there are things we've done in Louisiana. We have cut taxes. We were talking before. Our economy is outperforming the national economy. Portfolio.com said we had the second best economic performance during the recession. There are a whole lists of numbers from - our unemployment rate's been below the southern and national averages. What I'm saying is if we actually focus on the real challenges facing our country, not get diverted into taking over car companies and health care, cut taxes, create jobs, our country can get back on the right path, the right direction. So-
LAUER: So real quickly, Karl Rove has said you're a likely candidate for, for President on the GOP side. Are you not a likely candidate?
JINDAL: I'm running for re-election but, for governor of the state of Louisiana next year, but I want folks across the country to see what we've done in Louisiana. I think they can learn from those experiences. I think if the federal government would do what we did, cut spending, cut taxes we'd have more, better paying jobs in the private sector for our children and grandchildren.
LAUER: Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal. Governor, thanks. Good to have you here. Congratulations on the book.
JINDAL: Thank you.
—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here