Thursday, February 26, 2009

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal: Not Ready For Prime Time

"To come up in this moment in history with a stale, 'Government is the problem, you can't trust the federal government' is just a disaster for the Republican Party. It's not where the country is, it's not where the future of the country is."

That view of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's rebuttal to President Obama's Thursday night speech didn't come from a liberal. It came from conservative columnist David Brooks, speaking on PBS. Jindal was also criticized by others on the right, including talk show host Laura Ingraham and Juan Williams of Fox News, who called the response "very simplistic and almost childish."

On taxes, Jindal said, "...the way to lead is not to raise taxes, not to just put more money and power in the hands of Washington politicians." What Jindal really objects to is Obama's plan to raise taxes on those who are earning over $250,000 and give everyone else a tax cut. 

At one point, Jindal referred to the "bureaucrats" who got in the way of rescue work during Hurricane Katrina. "The strength of America is not found in our government," he stated, in a classic self-fulfilling conservative ploy. It works like this: first, destroy a government agency, as Bush did to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and then, when it is unable to cope with a disaster, use that as "proof" that a government agency can't do anything right.

Jindal also referred to the way in which citizens "got Louisiana through the hurricanes" without the help of the government. Without denigrating anyone who contributed to New Orleans in its moment of need, can anyone doubt that a timely government response to the disaster–as well as shoring up the levees beforehand–would have made a tremendous difference in terms of the deaths, destruction and economic damage the city suffered?

In short, one would have thought that Katrina would be a "lets-not-go-there" subject for the Republicans.

Jindal also scornfully referred to "...$140 million for something called volcano monitoring." Who else, though, but the government would undertake such an activity, as economist Paul Krugman points out. I suppose, though, that since there are no volcanoes in Louisiana, the idea of monitoring them is ridiculous everywhere else. From another geographical perspective, of course, the idea of flood monitoring must be ridiculous, too.

If Jindal is supposed to represent a rising star and fresh ideas among the Republicans, the party is more out of touch than ever.

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