When she debuted on the political stage last year as a candidate for lieutenant governor, Caroline Fayard was invariably described as the “fresh face” in state politics. It wasn’t just her well-scrubbed good looks that invited the description but also her message that she was not part of the divisive politics of the past, with its name-calling and self-dealing, but represented instead a new approach committed to public service to all the people, regardless of party.
For many of the 540,000 voters who bought that line, it may have been jarring to read reports of her recent intemperate and hostile partisan screed, which lifts the veil on her feelings for Republicans.
Arriving late to a dinner of Washington Parish Democrats, seeing no TV cameras but perhaps not noticing the reporter taking notes for the local paper, Fayard lit into a rant worthy of Charlie Sheen. She said, “I hate Republicans. I hate Republicans. They are cruel and destructive. They eat their young. They don’t think. They don’t allow people to think. They are bullies.”
She may have felt that dispirited Democrats needed a little cheering up by tearing the other guys down. Or maybe she thought what happens in Bogalusa stays in Bogalusa, out of the way as it is. Yet the next day her words headlined the much-read web site Dead Pelican. The Republican Party took her gift to them from there, calling on the Democrats’ state chairman to denounce her “hate-filled and disgusting comments” and mocking her with a bumpersticker that reads, “Caroline Fayard Hates Me.”
The New Orleans attorney responded with damage-control understatement, saying, “I could have been more clear and perhaps more incisive” and complaining, as they all do, that her remarks were taken out of context. We must have missed the part about how some of her good friends are Republicans, or were.
In contrast to her above-politics rhetoric and fresh-faced image, the Bogalusa manifesto seemed a bit two-faced.
Democrats wish they could dismiss the flap as the youthful exuberance of a promising rookie in need of seasoning. But for the depleted party, Fayard has positioned herself as the queen wannabe. The political chatter that she might challenge Gov. Bobby Jindal in the fall election was amplified by her reported meeting in Washington last week with the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association to discuss her potential candidacy. Perhaps another topic of conversation was that the chairman of the Republican Governors Association was calling on his counterpart to denounce her too.
Hers was not a gaffe Jindal would have made, even starting out. From his own fresh-faced days until now, he has mastered message discipline, assisted by his press office’s solid blocking, sometimes literally. His words never offend, but, last week, his actions did.
He committed the classic blunder of attracting attention away from the mess his rival was in when he attended a fundraiser that was hosted by the owner of a company that had processed claims for BP during the Gulf oil spill. As poor as his judgment was the timing of the event, with the anniversary of the catastrophe approaching.
The controversy allowed the Democrats to get their defense off the field and to go on the attack, highlighting the hypocrisy of the governor’s past stinging criticism of the BP claims process and then taking money from a contractor paid to look out for the malefactor’s interests. Said the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus Rep. John Bel Edwards, “We’re not talking about the appearance of impropriety here. We’re talking about impropriety.”
The governor deflected the criticism by saying he welcomed the support of anyone willing to contribute to his re-election, which must mean that he will take a check from anybody but sexual predators and vendors of bath salts.
Edwards’ call for Jindal to apologize and give back the money raised stands about as much chance as Fayard having a beer with David Vitter.
Apparently the only ones chastened from the above are those who thought anything had fundamentally changed with the uncivil discourse of partisan politics or the wretched excess of money’s role in it.