The National Governors Association is supposed to bring Democrats and Republicans together to discuss policy and share ideas for mutual success, but after a meeting at the White House Monday, all pretense at bipartisan comity was shattered as a press conference with lawmakers descended into a partisan fracas.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal launched into a repeated assault on President Barack Obama’s leadership in the shadow of the West Wing, in defiance of established bipartisan protocol. Speaking after a meeting of the NGA at the White House, Jindal, the vice chair of the Republican Governors Association, said Obama is “waving a white flag” by focusing on executive actions with three years left in his term. “The Obama economy is now the minimum wage economy,” Jindal added.
His remarks were a sharp contrast from the focus on cooperation and carefully watered-down criticism of Obama offered by Republican Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, the chair of the NGA.
Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy rose to challenge Jindal immediately after he spoke to reporters, calling his remarks on Obama waving a white flag “the most insane statement I’ve ever heard.”
Jindal then returned to the microphones to continue his barrage against the Obama administration, saying as Malloy walked off, “I want to make sure he hears a more partisan statement,” and saying Obama should delay the Affordable Care Act mandates. It wasn’t the first time Jindal had used the microphones outside the White House to attack the president, having done the same at last year’s meeting. While a break from protocol, it is a signal to the GOP base that Jindal, a 2016 hopeful, is willing to take a forceful stand against the president.
Afterwards, Jindal said the tenor of the meeting was “respectful,” but that there were serious policy disagreements in the meeting. “The president was respectful of the governors and the governors were respectful of the president,” he said.
Malloy, meanwhile, accused Jindal of political grandstanding. “Here’s a guy who didn’t come to any of the meetings except this one today, and has the nerve to pull that stuff on everyone—ten feet from the West Wing,” the Connecticut governor told TIME. “He doesn’t pay his dues to the organization, he doesn’t come to the meetings of the organization, and then he wants to swing for the fences for obviously political reasons. I didn’t mind pushing back.”
UPDATE 3:02 p.m.: A Jindal spokesman emails that he does, in fact, pay dues to the NGA.
CORRECTION 3:43 p.m.: A subheadline on this article incorrectly listed Gov. Dan Malloy’s given name as Daniel.