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Bobby Jindal Strikes Out

by @ 11:24 am on February 25, 2009. Filed under Bobby Jindal, Politics

Last night Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal who, notwithstanding his denials of interest, is still considered a contender for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination was given center stage to deliver the Republican response to the President’s address:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) continued his sharp criticism of the stimulus signed into law last week, as the man some Republicans view as the potential savior of their party used his response to President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress last night to challenge the vision laid out in the recovery package.

Delivering the official GOP response to Obama from the governor’s mansion in Baton Rouge, Jindal defended the virtues of small government that he said even his own party had abandoned in recent years.

“Instead of trusting us to make 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,” he said of Democrats. “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.”

Speaking of Obama, Jindal said that “we appreciate his message of hope, but sometimes it seems like we look for hope in different places. Democratic leaders in Washington, they place their hope in the federal government. We place our hope in you, the American people.”

And Jindal rebuked the president for a remark made earlier in this month when Obama warned that without immediate action on the economy, “our nation will sink into a crisis that, at some point, we may be unable to reverse.”

“A few weeks ago, the president warned that our country is facing a crisis that he said we may not be able to reverse,” Jindal said. “Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don’t let anyone tell you that we cannot recover. Don’t let anyone tell you that America ‘s best days are behind her.”

Tapped by congressional Republican leaders as a fresh face for the response, Jindal delivered remarks that differed little from the rhetoric of Republicans in Washington who have pledged to work with the new president but have pushed him to adopt more conservative policies.

Unfortunately for Jindal, his speech has not gone over well at all.

The reaction among the left side of the blogosphere was perhaps predictable. Nate Silver said that Jindal sounded like he was targeting his speech to a room full of fourth graders. Matthew Yglesias said he sounded like he was talking to nine year olds. John Cole thought that he was auditioning for the role of Mr. Rogers’ replacement. And, Crooks and Liars thought that he may have consumed to much Red Bull prior to the speech.

But it isn’t just the left side of the wonkosphere that’s panning Jindal’s response last night.

Lorie Byrd found Jindal disappointing. Ace called it “awful.” Allahpundit said that Jindal blew his star turn and provided an opening to other GOP Governor’s angling for party leadership. Robert Stacey McCain called it a “big wiffle-ball swing and a miss.” It was Matthew Gagnom over at The Next Right, though, who provided the most detailed critique of Jindal’s performance:

Bobby Jindal is one of the GOP’s “rising stars” – its hard to deny that. But he has already fallen into the trap that so many politicians in this party have fallen into over the last decade. He has become a black hole of ideas who came off as dedicated to little more than opposing the Democratic agenda out of some kind of Hatfield/McCoy type rivalry, and he did it by appealing to the lowest common denominators of both our society, and our culture.

Gone were the big ideas. Gone was the serious conversation about this country’s future. Gone was communicating like an adult.

Even the guys at Fox News couldn’t stomach Jindal’s delivery:

On the whole, I think the criticism of Jindal are fair and accurate. It was a weak speech, weakly delivered, against a background that couldn’t help but be compared unfavorably to the majestic background that President Obama was able to take advantage of for his speech.

More importantly, though, Jindal’s performance is emblematic of the absurdity of having an opposition party response to every Presidential address. As Brit Hume noted in the Fox clip above, there’s simply no way that any politician can follow the President of the United States and come off looking small and petty. Alex Massie, James Joyner, and Bruce McQuain all make similar points.

But while Jindal had the cards stacked against him from the beginning, he certainly didn’t help himself in any respect last night. It was a deer-in-the-headlights performance that will be remembered for some time to come.

Jindal’s only advantage is the simply fact that he’s young. He’s only 37 years old, ten years younger than Barack Obama. He’s barely halfway through his first term as Louisiana’s Governor. The smart thing for him to do is to stay on the sidelines in 2012, and continue doing his job. He had a bad night, but he’ll be around for some time to come.

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