Thursday, February 26, 2009

And then came Jindal

For a long while it seemed as if Sarah Palin would be the number one darling of the Republican base and their presidential nominee for 2012. But her inept speaking skills and disastrous lack of intellectual curiosity finally caught up with her. So, Republicans turned their attention toward a new rising star, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. It has turned out to be another train wreck.

Louisiana is the only state in America with a negative economic growth rate, but the GOP presidential hopeful Governor Bobby Jindal stands right beside Barbour in his position that Obama's economic stimulus is bad for his pathetically impoverished state. You might remember that Jindal was heralded as the new brand of GOP visionary who would move Louisiana's economy into the 21st century. That expectation looks remarkably ridiculous today. Jindal will no doubt leave the Louisiana governor’s office without improving an endless cycle of severe poverty among its people.

Yet this was the person chosen by the GOP to counter Obama’s speech to Congress.

Jindal delivered the GOP response to Obama's “State of the Union” speech, serving up retro Republican remedies. An American of Indian ancestry, he started out by hailing Obama for being the first African American president and having “completed a redemptive journey that took our nation from Independence Hall to Gettysburg to the lunch counter and now, finally, the Oval Office.” But then he lit into Obama’s approach to America’s problems: "The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and enterprising spirit of our citizens." To illustrate this point, Jindal told an anecdote about an unnamed government bureaucrat who during Hurricane Katrina told a sheriff that the sheriff couldn't send out rescue boats without proof of insurance and registration. He was apparently trying to show that the problem with the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina was that local bureaucrats demanded that people have proof of insurance and registration. But that is not true.

It is unbelievable that Jindal was trying to make a case for Katrina being proof that citizens should trust Republicans more than Democrats.

Throughout his speech, Jindal had little to offer except cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes – for businesses and the wealthy. He also tossed out false facts about Obama's stimulus bill, repeating two commonly heard Republican lies about the stimulus package:

The stimulus includes $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a magnetic levitation line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called volcano monitoring.”

The truth is that the stimulus bill does not allocate any high speed rail money for specific projects. In fact, the stimulus money for high speed rail would be allocated by Obama’s transportation secretary Ray Lahood – a Republican. And in mentioning “volcano monitoring”, Jindal was speaking of a portion of the stimulus money for "U.S. Geological Survey facilities and equipment, including stream gages, seismic and volcano monitoring systems and national map activities." Why does Bobby Jindal think monitoring volcanoes is a bad thing for the government to be doing? There is not any immediate way for private enterprise to profit from monitoring volcanoes, so government must do it. It seems obvious to me that employing geologists, building facilities, and buying equipment would have a stimulative effect while helping the states who have active volcanoes to stay on alert.

The GOP’s problem is that there is not one Capitol Hill Republican whom the party could put on national display after an Obama speech. The Congressional Republican leaders (Boehner, McConnell, and Cantor) came across as disingenuous and harsh to the majority of the public during their constant television appearances as they tried to block the stimulus. The public remembers them all too well. Jindal was chosen because he is a first generation American (born of Indian immigrants), can speak to the party's base, and has spent little time chattering on cable television. But he was far from dynamic, especially when repeating the first two talking points of the GOP playbook: government sucks and let's cut taxes more for rich corporations and wealthy players that live off of dividends from their private trusts.

If Jindal is the person whom the GOP wants to push to the forefront, then Democrats have no worries.