Jindal’s thankless task


It’s always a thankless task to deliver the opposition party’s rebuttal to a state of the union-type speech. None of the pageantry, none of the applause. The effect is very anti-climactic: Who is this guy?

Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, the Republicans’ Great Non-White Hope for 2012, is trying to seem presidential, and actually offers up his own life story as a competing American dream narrative to Obama’s. But Obama wasn’t giving a campaign speech — he was giving a policy speech, so Jindal’s effort comes off a little shallow and irrelevant.

On his broader critique of Obama’s call to action, he offers a very different vision:  government is the problem, not the solution.


Good evening. I’m Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana.

Tonight, we witnessed a great moment in the history of our Republic. In the very chamber where Congress once voted to abolish slavery, our first African-American President stepped forward to address the state of our union. With his speech tonight, the President completed a redemptive journey that took our nation from Independence Hall … to Gettysburg … to the lunch counter … and now, finally, the Oval Office.

Regardless of party, all Americans are moved by the President’s personal story – the son of an American mother and a Kenyan father, who grew up to become leader of the free world. Like the President’s father, my parents came to this country from a distant land. When they arrived in Baton Rouge, my mother was already 4 ½ months pregnant. I was what folks in the insurance industry now call a ‘pre-existing condition.’ To find work, my dad picked up the yellow pages and started calling local businesses. Even after landing a job, he could still not afford to pay for my delivery – so he worked out an installment plan with the doctor. Fortunately for me, he never missed a payment.

As I grew up, my mom and dad taught me the values that attracted them to this country – and they instilled in me an immigrant’s wonder at the greatness of America. As a child, I remember going to the grocery store with my dad. Growing up in India, he had seen extreme poverty. And as we walked through the aisles, looking at the endless variety on the shelves, he would tell me: ‘Bobby, Americans can do anything.’ I still believe that to this day. Americans can do anything. When we pull together, there is no challenge we cannot overcome.

As the President made clear this evening, we are now in a time of challenge. Many of you listening tonight have lost jobs. Others have seen your college and retirement savings dwindle. Many of you are worried about losing your health care and your homes. And you are looking to your elected leaders in Washington for solutions.

Republicans are ready to work with the new President to provide those solutions. Here in my state of Louisiana, we don’t care what party you belong to if you have good ideas to make life better for our people. We need more of that attitude from both Democrats and Republicans in our nation’s capital. All of us want our economy to recover and our nation to prosper. So where we agree, Republicans must be the President’s strongest partners. And where we disagree, Republicans have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas for a path forward.

Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us.

Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina, we have our doubts.

Let me tell you a story.

During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office I’d never seen him so angry. He was yelling into the phone: ‘Well, I’m the Sheriff and if you don’t like it you can come and arrest me!’ I asked him: ‘Sheriff, what’s got you so mad?’ He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters. The boats were all lined up ready to go – when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn’t go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, ‘Sheriff, that’s ridiculous.’ And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: ‘Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!’ Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and start rescuing people.

There is a lesson in this experience: The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and enterprising spirit of our citizens. We are grateful for the support we have received from across the nation for the ongoing recovery efforts. This spirit got Louisiana through the hurricanes – and this spirit will get our nation through the storms we face today.

To solve our current problems, Washington must lead. But the way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians. The way to lead is by empowering you – the American people. Because we believe that Americans can do anything.

That is why Republicans put forward plans to create jobs by lowering income tax rates for working families … cutting taxes for small businesses … strengthening incentives for businesses to invest in new equipment and hire new workers … and stabilizing home values by creating a new tax credit for home-buyers. These plans would cost less and create more jobs.

But Democratic leaders in Congress rejected this approach. Instead of trusting us to make wise decisions with our own money, they passed the largest government spending bill in history – with a price tag of more than $1 trillion with interest. While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $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.’ Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, DC.

Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt. Who among us would ask our children for a loan, so we could spend money we do not have, on things we do not need? That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did. It’s irresponsible. And it’s no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs, or build a prosperous future for our children.

In Louisiana, we took a different approach. Since I became governor, we cut more than 250 earmarks from our state budget. And to create jobs for our citizens, we cut taxes six times – including the largest income tax cut in the history of our state. We passed those tax cuts with bipartisan majorities. Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences, and worked together to make sure our people could keep more of what they earn. If it can be done in Baton Rouge, surely it can be done in Washington, DC.

To strengthen our economy, we need urgent action to keep energy prices down. All of us remember what it felt like to pay $4 at the pump – and unless we act now, those prices will return. To stop that from happening, we need to increase conservation … increase energy efficiency … increase the use of alternative and renewable fuels … increase our use of nuclear power – and increase drilling for oil and gas here at home. We believe that Americans can do anything – and if we unleash the innovative spirit of our citizens, we can achieve energy independence.

To strengthen our economy, we also need to address the crisis in health care. Republicans believe in a simple principle: No American should have to worry about losing their health coverage – period. We stand for universal access to affordable health care coverage. We oppose universal government-run health care. Health care decisions should be made by doctors and patients – not by government bureaucrats. We believe Americans can do anything – and if we put aside partisan politics and work together, we can make our system of private medicine affordable and accessible for every one of our citizens.

To strengthen our economy, we also need to make sure every child in America gets the best possible education. After Katrina, we reinvented the New Orleans school system – opening dozens of new charter schools, and creating a new scholarship program that is giving parents the chance to send their children to private or parochial schools of their choice. We believe that, with the proper education, the children of America can do anything. And it should not take a devastating storm to bring this kind of innovation to education in our country.

To strengthen our economy, we must promote confidence in America by ensuring ours is the most ethical and transparent system in the world. In my home state, there used to be saying: At any given time, half of Louisiana is under water – and the other half is under indictment. No one says that anymore. Last year, we passed some of the strongest ethics laws in the nation – and today, Louisiana has turned her back on the corruption of the past. We need to bring transparency to Washington, DC – so we can rid our Capitol of corruption … and ensure we never see the passage of another trillion dollar spending bill that Congress has not even read and the American people haven’t even seen.

As we take these steps, we must remember for all our troubles at home, dangerous enemies still seek our destruction. Now is no time to dismantle the defenses that have protected this country for hundreds of years, or make deep cuts in funding for our troops. America’s fighting men and women can do anything. And if we give them the resources they need, they will stay on the offensive … defeat our enemies … and protect us from harm.

In all these areas, Republicans want to work with President Obama. We appreciate his message of hope – but sometimes it seems we look for hope in different places. Democratic leaders in Washington place their hope in the federal government. We place our hope in you – the American people. In the end, it comes down to an honest and fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government. We oppose the National Democrats’ view that says — the way to strengthen our country is to increase dependence on government. We believe the way to strengthen our country is to restrain spending in Washington, and empower individuals and small businesses to grow our economy and create jobs.

In recent years, these distinctions in philosophy became less clear – because our party got away from its principles. You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington. Republicans lost your trust – and rightly so.

Tonight, on behalf of our leaders in Congress and my fellow Republican governors, I say: Our party is determined to regain your trust. We will do so by standing up for the principles that we share … the principles you elected us to fight for … the principles that built this into the greatest, most prosperous country on earth.

A few weeks ago, the President warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said ‘we may not be able to reverse.’ Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don’t let anyone tell you that we cannot recover – or that America’s best days are behind her. This is the nation that cast off the scourge of slavery … overcame the Great Depression … prevailed in two World Wars … won the struggle for civil rights … defeated the Soviet menace … and responded with determined courage to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The American spirit has triumphed over almost every form of adversity known to man – and the American spirit will triumph again.

We can have confidence in our future – because, amid today’s challenges, we also count many blessings: We have the most innovative citizens …the most abundant resources … the most resilient economy … the most powerful military … and the freest political system in the history of the world. My fellow citizens, never forget: We are Americans. And like my dad said years ago, Americans can do anything.

Thank you for listening. God bless you. And God bless America.

Filed under:

Jindal’s thankless task

  1. Listened to Jindal being interviewed (I think it was by Dick Gregory on Meet the Press) last Sunday. Nothing he said made sense. Not a question went answered without some serious dissembling on Jindal’s part.

    The man ought to spend a year in his native India to try and form a judgment on why India cannot solve its persistent and serious problems. To me, India is what you get when U.S.-style Republicans run the show unfettered.

    • Jindal was born and raised in Louisiana, he’s not a native of India, and India was a very socialist country up to about a decade ago when they realized the error of their ways and started to encourage wealth creation. if India is a basket case, it’s because it was a socialist country for years and the best/brightest (like Jindal family) emigrated to enjoy a decent life.

  2. jwl,

    You believe, then, that human life begins at birth, not at conception. Interesting.

    There must be two Indias, because the one I referred to is now governed by a coalition (one of those constructs that you oppose), and I don’t see how anything that grieves the populace has really changed.

    “The Fourteenth Lok Sabha convened on 17 May 2004 and Manmohan Singh (1932-) assumed the office of the Prime Minister at the head of what is known as the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government. The UPA is supported by the Left Front, a coalition of parties headed by the CPM, or the Communist Party of India (Marxist).”

    — from sscnet.ucla.edu/southasia/History/Independent/indep.html

    You might also want to see the CIA’s The World Factbook for a concise read of the country.

    I realize you believe socialism to be the root of every ill that befalls us. East Indians would point to other causes of their predicament. I’m more inclined to trust their judgment than yours. Sorry jwl.

    • I believe human life begins at conception, not birth, just like every other person who has used birth control does but I am not sure what that has to do with anything. Native implies where you born, not your parents, and Jindal was born in America.

      India has been a socialist/communist country for decades and in the past decade or so they have been trying to encourage more industry and wealth creation. If India is a basket case, which you seem to be implying, it’s because socialism did what it always does: wreak havoc, destruction and poverty.

      • Can you please explain how Jindal could have been a ‘pre-existing condition’ as he claims, if his parents arrived in Baton Rouge and became U.S. citizens in 1970, while his mother gave birth to “Bobby” on June 10, 1971 — just 4 1/2 months after arriving in the U.S. from India? Or am I misreading the transcript? Or is Piyush simply being misleading?

        Jindal was born a Hindu and converted to Catholicism in high school. He is an advocate of “intelligent design” as an explanation of origins. (Toot, toot!)

        On your second point, I think you are confusing a political system with a culture. But even if you are not, why do you seem to imply their now socialist government is not a socialist government? Or that past governments were somehow purely of one political ideology rather than a coalition of several ideologies, as Hinduism is an amalgamation of many beliefs?

  3. Bobby Jindal is probably feeling a little bit ripped off by this blog right now.

    • Are you kidding me? being flamed in web forums is a sure fire way to know that you are right on track! I think this guy is a guy to watch and I said exactly the same thing about Obama after his speech at the democratic convention. Anything that causes frustrated left wing nuts to start flaming someone in this forum can mean only one thing : you are starting to approach something they feel vulnerable about and no doubt it.

      • Back to you in 2012 Wayne.

      • Wayne

        Don’t know about you, but I would love to see Palin/Jindal ticket in 2012. I think Obama/Congress’ policies are going to keep US economy mired in doldrums for years and people will be looking for a bit of change when ’12 comes around.

        Also agree about left wing nuts – my grandfather, someone who was a fan of stirring things up a bit and a member of RAF during WWII, liked to say that if you were taking flak than you were over the target. You are lost if people are ignoring you but on the right track if your opponents are taking the time to write screeds.

        • too true JWL – the only press a politician can’t stand is NO press! Probably why Iggy is so obviously feeling under the weather of late the pillow on the seat in Hangar 11 wasn’t soft enough and I think he needs more preparation H… I too am keeping an eye on Sarah as well … interesting lady obviously a bit out of her depth as VP with McCain … this time … but then I think McCain new where the election was going to go but decided to go for the good fight and poke the left wing nuts in the eye and give her some invaluable experience and time while he was at it. Judging by the behaviour of the american dem’s they saw the potential as well. Time will tell for 2012 and Obama will certainly get a longer than usual honeymoon in the USA but like they say you listen to the tune and then you have to pay the piper and when the bill comes due and it’s increase taxes substantially while reducing spending substantially – well there will be a lot of children leaving Hamlin (there are no other options anymore they have used them all up avoiding the issue)

  4. jwl – if India was “a socialist country” – please explain the Caste system and untouchables vs. Brahmin?
    Anyone with ANY knowledge of the country would know the Brahmin caste are the functional equivalents of the Republicans / Harper’s Conservatives (except that Harper’s gang are the most picayune of the lot)
    Admittedly – some politicans from the Untouchables caste have made it to prime minister recently – but that doesn’t mean that the country is socialist. The INP – party of Nehru and Indira Ghandi – his daughter – have been in power for most of the last 60 years – and – as here in Canada – it helps to be well connected to get to be a candidate.
    You MIGHT just have won your argument if you had been talking about Sri Lanka – when Mrs. Bandaranaike was prime minister and very friendly with the mainland Chinese PRC – but hey – any port in a storm – or aid is aid – wherever it originates!

    • The first sentence in preamble of India’s constitution – “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens:”

      WW – Please explain why the Indians put the word ‘socialist’ in the very first sentence of their constitution if they aren’t socialist. And they also use Democratic Republic and if you know anything about communism you will find those two words to be quite common as well.

      I don’t claim to be an expert on India, like you seem to think you are, but I do know basics. Nehru was a Fabian to the tips of his toes and his ideas and influence live on.

Sign in to comment.