Does Jindal know what he’s doing?

DOES JINDAL KNOW WHAT HE’S DOING?…. We learned something important and unexpected on Thursday night, when CBS News reported that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), for all his rhetoric about an insufficiently aggressive response to the BP oil spill, has chosen not to exercise his authority to dispatch thousands of National Guard troops to the coast. The Obama administration authorized Jindal to use 6,000 troops to respond to the disaster, but Jindal only dispatched 1,053 — less than a fifth of the available total.

Asked to explain why he wouldn’t want every available person on the scene working, Jindal claimed he’s forbidden from deploying more because it’s up to “the Coast Guard and BP” to “authorize individual tasks.” That turned out to be untrue.

Yesterday, the governor came up with a new rationale.

Following a CBS News Investigates report that Gulf coast governors haven’t been fully utilizing the 17,500 National Guard troops authorized by the federal government to help them with the oil spill, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office offered a tart response.

In a statement sent to ProPublica, Jindal spokesman Kyle Plotkin said that Louisiana would “call up more National Guard troops as the Adjutant General tells us he needs them.”

But this actually raises more questions than it answers. First, if Jindal is waiting for word from Louisiana’s Adjutant General, why was the governor’s initial response a different story altogether? Second, in Louisiana, the Adjutant General answers to Jindal, not the other way around. If the governor wants every available resource on the coast, helping with the response, why is Jindal waiting for a request that seems obvious, when it’s within his authority to simply give the order?

The only rationale explanation I can think of here, is that the governor is afraid 6,000 National Guard troops working along the coast might discourage tourism, so he’s willing to settle for a weaker, slower response to the spill. I’m not saying that is the reason, but I’m trying to imagine why the governor would deliberately choose not to send every available person, and this is the only thing I can think of. That Jindal is changing his story, and that his second attempt is hardly better than his first, is a bad sign.

If reporters covering the spill pursue this aggressively, it could be a major headache for Jindal.

On a related point, the New York Times reports today that the Louisiana governor, practically from the beginning of this disaster, has “often disregarded” his administration’s “own plans and experts in favor of large-scale proposals that many say would probably have had limited effectiveness and could have even hampered the response.”

It’s starting to cast an entirely new light on why Jindal has been so aggressive in blaming others for an inadequate response — perhaps he’s trying to deflect attention from his own mismanagement.

Update: To clarify, the CBS piece refers to 17,500 National Guard troops, while the angle referring to Jindal points to the 6,000 figure. The larger total is the number the Obama administration has made available to the region, and the 6,000 is specific to Louisiana.