Jindal Trying to Steer from Obama’s Coat Tails?
In response to President Barack Obama’s address to congress last night, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal roundly criticized the President‘s stimulus package and path forward. Jindal began his 12 minute response by introducing himself to the nation as the son of an immigrant, whose parents had to work themselves to the bone to make it work in this new country, just so they could give their son a chance in the land of opportunity.
Obama’s story, being the son of a Kenyan father and a white mother, raised by a single parent, pulling himself up by his bootstraps to rise to the highest office in the land, surely helped him win the 2008 election. Last night, Jindal seemed to be drawing comparisons to his own story, perhaps to elevate himself, little known outside his home state of Louisiana, to a political level that would allow him some credibility for what would come next: a resounding critique of the President’s first formal address to the nation.
Jindal criticized Obama’s plan for, among others, the stimulus ‘legislation larded with wasteful spending’. He railed against the $8 B for high speed rail projects, ‘such as a magnetic levitation line from Las Vegas to Disneyland.’ That ‘such as’ shows that Jindal knows how to use extreme examples to help toss the baby with the bathwater. Of course, there is no rail project from Vegas to Disneyland in the stimulus package, but it is a popular false Republican talking point that everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Newt Gingrich to Charles Krauthammer continue to brazenly hammer away at to erode support for Obama, the stimulus package, and the Democratic party. Public transit, especially rail, has long been a Republican punching bag, an easy strawman to tear down for lack of pure economic payoff. They prefer to ignore other benefits, such as reductions of traffic, congestion, air pollution, as well as the creation of high tech jobs, technologies that will benefit future projects, public education around environmental issues, creation of urban centers connected by public transit and the corresponding benefits to local economies, walkable communities, and locally owned businesses.
Jindal winces as he describes further waste: ‘$140 M for something called volcano monitoring’. The lack of appreciation for something called ‘science’ by the right wing is clearly unabated after 8 years of Bush’s head being firmly buried in the sand ignoring the overwhelming evidence of climate change, among others. When Bush’s father, George H. W. Bush, tried to repeal the ban on leaded gasoline, he ignored the scientific evidence that conclusively showed negative health implications around its combustion.
Jindal continues to criticize, rejecting the notion that the stimulus package will grow the economy. ‘What it will do is grow our government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt,’ he says. ‘Who amongst us would ask our children for a loan, so we can spend money that we don’t have?’
On all accounts, Jindal seems to have forgotten the last eight years, where policies of ‘more of the same’ (remember that campaign slogan from the Obama team?) got us further behind other nations in terms of clean tech such as high speed rail, solar, wind, and geothermal; ignored science at the expense of all Americans; deregulated at every turn, whether justified or not and with disastrous consequences; borrowed astronomical amounts of money from future generations to pay for the Iraq war, no-bid contracts, and the like; AND grew the government to its largest size in history, no matter what the unit of measure.
While Jindal realizes the power of Obama’s message and personal story (he has not denied that he may seek the presidency in 2012, and seems to already be posturing for a run), he seems to have lost the message from the American people in November, when they voted resoundingly to change the government. Jindal continues to press forth the Republican echo chamber: tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts. The American people want more than that: they want leadership. Obama clearly stated the government’s role was to lead, to steer the ship in the right direction, to give a signal to the private sector of what was best for the country. The Republican response is that the private sector knows best what is best for the country. The American voter has lost faith in this argument after the endless scandals and abuses of the last eight years, and Jindal and the rest of the party would be served to take this message to heart, and perhaps recalibrate their stance.
Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur, and hopes the green economy simply becomes known as…the economy.