Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, shown here on Capitol Hill in 1998. (AP Photo/Joe Marquette )
Reporting from Atlanta —
Here's a question: If you're a Democratic lawmaker holding a news conference, does it amount to "intimidation" if some Republicans who don't agree with you show up at said news conference?
That, apparently, is the accusation that Louisiana's state House Democratic Caucus chairman, John Bel Edwards, has leveled against a few key aides to Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who showed up while Edwards was in the middle of a news conference in which he was denouncing the governor's conservative public school reform plan, according to the Baton Rouge, La., newspaper the Advocate.
Later, Edwards told the Advocate's Will Sentel that the appearance of the governor's supporters Monday was "part of a pattern of trying to intimidate legislators."
If anything, the Republicans' presence at a Democratic news conference was an unusual departure from the typical choreography of such things. After Edwards and other Democrats spoke, the Jindal supporters took to the same podium, rebutting the criticisms of Jindal's efforts.
The move was a bold one by Louisiana Republicans, but it was a far cry from the kinds of wild passions that have engulfed the state Capitol in the past. In the late 1920s, fistfights broke out in the legislature over attempts to impeach then-Gov. Huey Long. In one melee, known as Bloody Monday, a legislator is alleged to have used brass knuckles.
Long himself faced accusations that he had planned to put out a hit on a Baton Rouge representative and political rival by the name of J.Y. Sanders.
Those accusations, which were hotly contested at the time, came from a disgruntled former bodyguard for the Kingfish named Battling Bozeman. According to T. Harry Williams, in his masterful biography of the populist governor, Bozeman, in an affidavit, said that Long directed him "to kill the sonofabitch," and to "leave [Sanders] in the ditch where nobody will know how or when he got there."
Hey. Now that's intimidating!
If nothing else, the brouhaha demonstrates the passions stirred by Jindal's efforts, which include a proposed limited voucher system for private schools, and a plan to make it more difficult for public school teachers to get tenure.
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