By Robert Mann
Remember in 2009 when the actor Joaquin Phoenix began exhibiting bizarre behavior? He grew a wild beard, announced that he had left acting and said he was adopting a new career – as a rap artist. As one entertainment magazine speculated at the time:
The grumbly actor announced back in November that he was done with the acting game. He wanted to pursue a music career. Everyone assumed (or at least I did) that it would be some sort of Dogstar or Bacon Brothers-esque bar rock. But no . . . it was rap. Slurry, awful, heavily-bearded rap. And to add to the bizarroness of the whole thing, Phoenix’s brother-in-law, actor Casey Affleck, was following him around with a video camera, getting footage for some sort of “documentary.”
But now two people are telling E Dubs that it’s all an Andy Kaufman-ish bugaboo. One anonymous source tells them: “[Phoenix] said, ‘It’s a put-on. I’m going to pretend to have a meltdown and change careers, and Casey is going to film it.”
At the time, most entertainment journalists were perplexed by Phoenix’s behavior. Was it real? Was he really pursuing a music career? Or were we all being punked? Was it all a massive joke at our expense?
Phoenix’s weirdness finally peaked during a bizarre appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman” in September 2010.
Turns out, he was just joking. But for a while, many of us thought the act was for real.
Which brings me to the subject of Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is expected to formally announce his candidacy for president on June 24.
On Thursday, it finally occurred to me: Jindal is the political equivalent of Joaquin Phoenix!
How else to explain his bizarre behavior over recent months? There was Jindal’s strange trip to Europe, including his odd appearance in London where he declared the existence of Muslim-dominated “no-go zones” that no one in Europe knew about and the locations of which Jindal refused to specify.
Before that, there was his strange embrace of West Monroe’s duck people, especially Phil Robertson, who almost cost the A&E show “Duck Dynasty” its future after his homophobic remarks were published in the winter of 2013.
Jindal rushed to Robertson’s defense with a strange misunderstanding of the First Amendment, seeming to suggest that private corporations did not have the right to reprimand or fire their employees for their offensive public comments.
Then, just last month, Jindal went even further into the deep end with an executive order giving businesses and government officials – even local officials – license to discriminate against gay couples. Bizarrely, Jindal said he did so in defense of “religious liberty.”
Then there’s Jindal’s strange man crush of Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. At Norquist’s behest, Jindal has threatened to veto the entire state budget if the Legislature doesn’t pass a fraudulent college tax credit just so he can claim that the tax increases he signs are not actually tax increases.
Which, of course, they are.
Jindal and his aides urge passage of the farcical SAVE tax credit bill with a straight face
Until Thursday, however, I generally took Jindal’s candidacy at face value. I assumed he was really running for president – or at least for vice president or a cabinet position.
In other words, I gave Jindal credit for planning a real campaign for president of the United States. Even though he is hopelessly stuck at 1 percent or less in all the national GOP polls, I still regarded Jindal as a marginally legitimate candidate.
That ended all end on Thursday, when Jindal revealed himself, not a candidate, but a performance artist. It’s obvious that, all along, he’s punked us into believing he was for real.
That’s because on Thursday Jindal went and attacked Lincoln Chafee over the burning issue of . . . the metric system.
I know. You’re asking yourself: Who in the world is Lincoln Chafee?
Well, he’s the latest candidate for the Democratic nomination, a former Republican and, until January, was the chief executive of the smallest state in the nation. You may be forgiven for never having heard his name.
Jindal, however, wants you to know all about Chafee and the dire threat he poses to our Republic. So, he attacked Chafee’s position on the metric system, which Chafee believes the United States should adopt (every country in the world but the U.S., Myanmar and Liberia use it).
Yes, you read that right: On Thursday Jindal’s press office devoted itself to waging war on Chafee who – at 1 percent in the Democratic polls – is basically the Bobby Jindal of the Democratic primaries. In other words, the guy nobody has heard about, nor supports.
At the very least, support for metrication provides a point of contrast with his Democratic rivals. The Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley campaigns did not respond to requests for comment on the issue (though O’Malley, when cornered on an Amtrak train, reportedly told the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson that he’s “not passionate about the metric system”).
But Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has already incorporated it into an attack. In an email to POLITICO, his spokesman Michael Reed said Chafee is a “Typical Democrat — wants to make America more European. Governor Jindal would rather make the world more American.”
Apparently, Jindal is under the impression that Europe is the only part of the world that uses the metric system. (About that subject, Jindal might want to consult his parents, who moved to Baton Rouge from India before Jindal was born.)
Jindal also apparently believes that our refusal to adopt the metric system makes us less European and “more American.”
Jindal also believes the rest of the world should become “more American,” whatever that means.
In addition to again using official government employees to engage in political attacks against other presidential candidates (Jindal did the same thing last week, when he issued an official statement attacking Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul as unfit to serve as president), Jindal has revealed himself as nothing more than a performance artist.
It became clear on Thursday that Bobby Jindal is not really running for president.
No serious candidate for the nation’s highest office would issue the absurd statement Jindal, through his spokesman, made about Chafee.
You might still wish to argue that Jindal really is running for president and that he’s just acting bizarrely because he is desperate for attention. Perhaps that’s the case.
But the utter insanity of Thursday’s attack on Chafee’s forces me to finally stop taking Jindal seriously as a candidate for president.
Isn’t it clear by now? Bobby Jindal is the political equivalent of Joaquin Phoenix.