By now, you've probably heard that there's been quite a bit of controversy over a little story about bureaucrats and rescue boats that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal told during his response to President Obama's speech earlier this week:
Let me tell you a story.
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.
There is a lesson in this experience: The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and enterprising spirit of our citizens. We are grateful for the support we have received from across the nation for the ongoing recovery efforts. This spirit got Louisiana through the hurricanes - and this spirit will get our nation through the storms we face today.
When I heard Jindal tell that story, my first impression was that he was down there with that sheriff when rescue operations were going on, fighting the bureaucrats right in the thick of the crisis. As it turns out, that wasn't the case. Jindal didn't visit the sheriff until days after the event. His staff now claims that he never even meant to imply that he was there when the sheriff was fighting to put boats in the water, and that allegations that Jindal told a lie are "liberal blogger B.S.".
Frankly, I don't give a rats ass if Jindal was lying. An elected official exaggerating his role in events ain't exactly a shocker. No, I'm not worked up about the dishonesty in that account. It's the defamation that's pissed me off.
There are three government employees in the little 'story' Jindal told - Jindal, the Sheriff, and the bureaucrat. Two of those three employees were there when people needed to be rescued. Yes, assuming that the rest of the story is true, the bureaucrat was demonstrating a tremendous lack of understanding of circumstances when rules should be bent, but the bureaucrat was there. The Sheriff had a better concept of what needed to happen, and he was also there.
Bobby Jindal was not there. He was in Baton Rouge.
He can talk about the "compassionate hearts" of American citizens all he wants, but he damn well better not try to exclude "bureaucrats" from that group. We have - fortunately - no shortage of bureaucrats who have compassionate hearts and who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect others.
Earlier this week, I talked about a little lie Jindal told about "something called volcano monitoring". Right now, I'd like to talk about volcano monitoring and bureaucrats.
That's a picture of a bureaucrat named David Johnston. As you can no doubt tell from his casual attire and posture, that's actually a picture of that particular bureaucrat at work. Twelve hours after the picture was taken, he was still there, and still working. An hour and a half after that, he was dead.
Johnston was a USGS volcanologist. The morning of May 18, 1980, he was on a ridge near Mt. St. Helens, monitoring the volcano. Although it was thought that the site Johnston was using was far enough away to probably be safe from the immediate blast, it was certainly understood that the site wasn't exactly safe. In fact, the morning of the eruption another geologist was out trying to get the Army Reserve to agree to lend them an armored vehicle to improve the safety of the site.
But bureaucrats, and the government, are always the problem.