During his disastrous speech on Tuesday night, Bobby Jindal told the story of Sherriff Harry Lee who, with Jindal's support, went up against the bureaucrats who were preventing rescue efforts from continuing during Hurricane Katrina. It had everything -- stalwart man of the law, give 'em hell attitude, and a congressman right there providing critical support. Well, perhaps not everything.
What has now come out is that it was lacking one rather important element: truth.
Daily Kos and TPMuckraker have done a solid job of debunking this story. It turns out that the conversation Jindal reported took place days after the rescue attempts that were the focus on Jindal's tale. Sherriff Harry Lee did ignore the bureaucrats to get heroic volunteer rescue efforts underway but Jindal? He simply overheard Lee talking about it days later but in the telling, it certainly sounds like Jindal is placing himself at the center of events to burnish his credentials.
Jindal staff are spinning furiously to protect their golden boy. According to Politico:
A spokeswoman for Bobby Jindal says the Louisiana governor didn't imply that an anecdote about battling bureaucrats during Katrina directly involved the governor or took place during the heat of a fight to release rescue boats.
The spokeswoman, Melissa Sellers, said the story Jindal told in his response to Obama actually took place some days later in Lee's office -- though still in Katrina's chaotic aftermath -- as Lee was "recounting" his frustrations with the bureaucracy to someone else on the telephone.
Huh? Really? Because if you look at Jindal's speech, it sure doesn't come across that way:
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.
Hmmm...that certainly sounds like then Congressman Jindal was right in the middle of it.
Of course, we're all used to politicians embellishing stories, recounting the heart-warming or heart-wrenching stories of people who are "composites" of real people or that are just flat out lies (anyone up for landing in Bosnia under sniper fire?). However, being used to it and tolerating it are two different things. There's the old adage: how can you tell a politician is lying? His lips are moving.
It's too bad to all too often it's proven true.