So much for being the “anointed one.” Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana is touted as a rising star in the Republican Party and his selection to give the GOP response to President Obama’s almost State of the Union address Tuesday night was suppose to be Jindal’s coming out party. Let’s just say it wasn’t the television moment Republicans were anticipating. Granted, Governor Jindal was up against a President who could probably wax eloquently about drying paint but the Louisianans performance was so bad it will surely make its way to a Saturday Night Live skit.
Maybe he had one too many crawfish or the gumbo was too hot before he went on air, but Jindal’s performance was embarrassing. His disingenuous praise for President Obama’s inspiring personality and condescending tone about the federal stimulus package was only exceeded by his attempt to dismiss his party’s culpability for the country’s current economic crisis. Apparently, word had not gotten down to Louisiana that Republicans were in the majority and that their fingerprints are on this recession. Still, Jindal resorted to the tired old rhetoric of “government is the problem.” Hey, government is about all we’ve got left.
In tone and manner, Jindal was insulting. It was as if he was talking to a nation of slow learners. The contrast between inspiration and desperation could not have been clearer than the words of President Obama and Governor Jindal. If what the governor delivered was indeed the GOP’s “message,” it wasn’t even well received by the party faithful. Reaction after Jindal spoke was uniformly negative with even known conservative leaning journalists and pundits giving him low marks.
It’s a bad sign for the Republican Party. First, we witnessed the train wreck of a candidacy of Governor Sarah Palin as she imploded on the campaign trail last fall. Now, Governor Jindal manages to spontaneously combust before a national television audience. Who’s left on the Republican bench? The party’s next generation leadership is looking pretty unimpressive after the performances of Palin and Jidal.
This is not to say that Jindal is finished. We remember another southern governor who also gave a bad speech. In fact, he was so bad; he was booed by delegates at his party’s national convention. Yet, just four years later Bill Clinton was standing before the party faithful in New York’s Madison Square Garden accepting the Democratic nomination for President. Whether Jindal can pull of the same trick, remains to be seen. Right now, the odds might break even given the degree of criticism that is being heaped upon the governor by his own party. One thing for sure, he is going to have to learn to poke fun at himself in order to put last Tuesday behind him.
A greater issue than Jindal’s performance is the status of the “Party of Lincoln.” Its early performance in the 111th Congress leaves a lot to be desired. These days it appears content with being a minor party living on the edge. It is adrift without a coherent message or dynamic leadership. Its constant longing for the “good old days” of Reaganism is evident every time one of their supposed budding superstars invokes the name or language of “the Gipper.” Governor Jindal attempted to channel the spirit of Reagan but came up woefully short. Understand one thing, we knew Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan did great harm to our community, Bobby Jindal, you are no Ronald Reagan.