VP watch: Jindal's exorcism problem and (more-or-less credible) Democratic denials

Bobby Jindal's inclusion on the exclusive list of guests to McCain's ranch way back when Hillary Clinton was still a candidate caught many by surprise. While the recently elected Louisiana Governor was long mentioned as a possible contender for the vice-presidential nomination, he was perceived as an unlikely pick. But McCain needs youth on the ticket and Jindal's name has remained in the mix. Today, former Speaker Newt Gingrich endorsed Jindal on CBS's Face the Nation, declaring that "Jindal would be far and away the best candidate for vice president in the country." Gingrich's blessing points to one of Jindal's main advantages: he has a very conservative profile, particularly when it comes to social issues. A very religious politician, Jindal could help McCain connect with the part of his base that is still proving the most reluctant to enthusiastically line up against him.

Yet, social conservatism is also one of the main drawbacks of a Jindal pick, as there is only so far Republicans can push religious discourse within the political sphere. To contest in places like Pennsylvania's suburbs, the GOP needs to remain somewhat mainstream on social issues and Jindal might prove a distraction on the trail, forcing McCain to talk about religion and social issues much more than he is comfortable doing. I am not just talking about things like Jindal's strong endorsement for teaching intelligent design in the classroom (a position he articulated this morning on CBS) but more... unusual stories like Jindal's attempt to perform an exorcism.

Jindal himself wrote an essay about this in 1994 in the New Oxford Review, a Catholic publication. Jindal explains how he performed a successful exorcism and rid the body of a friend of a demon that possessed her. TPM notes that Jindal seems to have been entirely serious and provides lengthy excerpts of this stunning piece of writing (purchase is required on the website of the Oxford Review). Note that, beyond the sections about exorcism and removing Satan from the body of this poor woman, the essay also proposes a very traditionalist account of man-woman relations, as Jindal describes himself as willing to stay away from a female friend as it would not be fitting for them to be friends without a "deeper commitment."

Does this level of religious zeal and the willingness to discuss it publicly hurt Jindal's chances to be slected on the Republican ticket? And while devout Catholics take offense at the fact that exorcism is strictly forbidden by the Catholic Church?

Meanwhile, the Democratic veepstakes are being shaped by those who are taking themselves out of the running. While any potential running-make is expected to insist that the vice-presidential nomination is the farthest thing from his or her mind, there is only so far they dare take their public denials. Last week, Ted Strickland ruled out joining the ticket in strong enough terms that observers had to take him seriously.

This week-end it was the turn of Mark Warner to issue strong enough declarations to prompt the AP to headline its piece "Warner takes self out of VP mix." Speaking in front of the Virginia Democratic convention, Warner, who is now running for Senate but about whom speculation had dramatically picked up mid-May, told delegates that "Today, in front of this convention, I wanted to make it clear what I am focused on." He also said that, "I have not sought and I will not accept any other opportunity." Given that vice-presidential contenders are probably submitting their vetting documents to the campaigns just about now, this would be a deliberate lie on Warner's part -- much more than the usual half-hearted denial -- suggesting that the former Governor is really out of the veepstakes. This, of course, is a huge relief to the DSCC and Senate Democrats.

John Edwards, however, took the opposite route, walking back from very strong-worded denials that seemed to assure he would not be willing to embark on a repeat of his 2004 experience to tell George Stephanopoulos today that "I'd take anything he asked me to think about seriously." He did add that "obviously this is something I've done and it's not a job that I'm seeking" but such weakly-phrased assurances of disinterest we are used to, and they don't sound like they are sure of anything at all.

Finally, former Senator Sam Nunn continues to fuel speculation and his friends are sure doing nothing to suggest that he would not take it. The Boston Globe runs an article today explaining why Nunn might be a good pick and relying on members of Nunn's entourage who are "surprised" that "he seems more prepared to accept a vice presidential offer this year." Given that his name has been mentioned every four years since the late 1980s and that it's hard to imagine that Nunn would have rejected any prior pick, anyone else think Nunn is actively pushing to be chosen? In case there are any doubts, remember this.

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  • Jindal would be a very bad pick for McCain - yes superficially he would help distract attention from McCain's age but....

    Jindal is 36 - only one year older than the constitution requires for a President. If Obama is to be attacked as "inexperienced" then how does a 5 MONTH governor help McCain's argument??
    Add the very strong social views and some of the wierdness such as exorcisms and he would quickly become a liability. Remember the GOP will try to attack Obama as different because his father is Kenyan etc etc so Jindal believing and exorcisims again does not help the GOP attack.
    Jindal may have a future in years to come but lets see how he does as LA governor. Also Jindal does not help in a key state.

    I would also expect some of the racist sections of the GOP not to be happy having an Indian on the ticket.

    By Anonymous Mike, At 16 June, 2008 12:51  

  • To be fair to Jindal, he was elected to the House in 2004 (the same year Obama went to the Senate) and served as an Assistant Secretary before that. Not saying that qualifies him for anything, just that it would make it hard for the Obama campaign to attack him on experience -- though as you point out correctly it would mudy McCain's own experience argument.

    By Blogger Taniel, At 16 June, 2008 13:21  

  • Being a congressman is not the same as being a Senator - conbressman represents 600,000 people. Obama represented over 10 million.
    The Obama campaign would not attack Jindal on experienece. The McCain campaign would attack Obama on that but it would be undercut by Jindal having less experience than Obama.

    By Anonymous Tom, At 16 June, 2008 15:24  

  • PUH-LEEZE !!
    Who keeps bringing up Sam Nunn ?

    He's a card-carrying memeber of the Military-Industrial complex

    He's also a founding member of the Democratic 'Leadership' Council (i.e. Democrats for Lobbyists and Corporations)

    Nunn makes Hillary Clinton look good
    (we ALMOST, anyway)

    Sam Nunn for dog catcher !!

    MSierra, SF

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 16 June, 2008 15:36  

  • Nunn is actually a very strong VP for Obama. Very strong.

    He'd need to reassure many current Obama supporters that he's not too conservative and that he echoes Obama's policy positions, but that aside, his presence on the ticket puts voters in play that Obama alone doesn't, and he's a very effective counter to McCain's experience claims.

    I'm not sold on him yet, but I definitely get why he's in the conversation. I wouldn't be mad if Obama tapped him for VP.

    By Anonymous dannity, At 16 June, 2008 16:15  

  • I am a Catholic and I can tell you that only priest are authorized to make an exorcism and it cant make one just because he wants to,he has to ask permission and council from the Pope himself, so Jindal performing one its well mmm kind of creepy to say the least

    By Blogger Javier, At 16 June, 2008 19:13  

  • Only the bishop can grant permission for an exorcism. It is shameful for Jindal to make such a claim. But all the better for the opposition Party. This will play better than the Terry Schiavo debaucle. Run, Bobby, Run! You make the church look ridiculous and you will remind everyone why separation of church and state is so important.

    If Samm Nunn or Jim Webb pairs up with Obama, it will be a dark day for the Democrats. One's a mysoginist, the other a homophobe. Really, do we need another Dick Cheney?!

    By Anonymous Tom, At 17 June, 2008 17:40  

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