Yahoo Abroad

When you deliberately tune out politics for a few days, as I just did, you re-enter the inchoate light and sound of the news cycle looking for certain predictable touchstones, like big events (e.g., tonight’s the State of the Union Address), polling data, and the cynical opportunism of Bobby Jindal. And sure enough, there’s the Louisiana governor playing the fool in London to the certain annoyance of the United Kingdom’s conservative government. The Times-Pic‘s Julia O’Donoghue can barely restrain her contempt for this latest pander to the Christian Right:

Gov. Bobby Jindal continued to claim Muslim “no-go zones” exist in Europe Monday, even as British political leaders and American media outlets issued statements reputing such statements.

“I think your viewers know absolutely there are places where the police are less likely to go. They absolutely know there are neighborhoods where they wouldn’t feel comfortable,” Jindal told CNN in London Monday.

The comments came after Jindal gave a speech on Islamic extremism to the Henry Jackson Society, a conservative British think tank.

In the speech, he claimed there were Muslim communities in Europe that are not subjected to normal legal controls and allowed to enforce a version of Islamic religious law instead. Jindal labeled these Muslim communities — where Islamic law is supposedly enforced instead of the parent countries’ regulations — as “no-go zones.”

Jindal’s press office did not respond to repeated requests made via text, phone calls and email from The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com on Monday afternoon. The governor was in London as part of a 10-day trade mission to Europe, a trip that was covered by both the state’s taxpayers and his old gubernatorial campaign fund.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted that “no-go zones” don’t exist in the United Kingdom, as Jindal has asserted.

“When I heard this, I frankly choked on my porridge and I thought it must be April Fools Day,” said Cameron, about the existence of “no-go zones” in England.

On Saturday, Fox News issued a slew of apologies and corrections about the cable network’s reporting on “no-go zones,” which was initially very similar to claims made by Jindal in his London speech.

“To be clear, there is no formal designation of these zones in either country and no credible information to support the assertion there are specific areas in these countries that exclude individuals based solely on their religion,” said Julie Banderas, a Fox News anchor in a correction aired by the network.

There are a couple of things that make this incident an abomination, even by Jindal’s standards. For one thing, his staff put out an advance copy of his speech last week, in the midst of the international brouhaha over Fox News “expert” Steven Emerson’s characterization of the city of Birmingham as one giant “no-go” zone. Bobby had plenty of time to amend his remarks to steer clear of the controversy, but instead decided to surf it for attention. Then there’s the fact that the context of this Yahoo Abroad ploy was that great and abiding scam, the Gubernatorial Trade Mission, whereby state chief executives, especially those thinking about a presidential run, pretend they can rustle up business for the home folks by jetting across the seas to hobnob with foreign “job creators” and perhaps scatter a bit of corporate welfare along the road, while touting some prefab deals if possible.

We can all count ourselves as fortunate that Jindal’s itinerary doesn’t include France, though you never know when some sudden economic development opportunity will arise, particularly for a would-be President of the United States who’s not ashamed to pick up Fox News’ discarded demagoguery.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.