Gov. Bobby Jindal’s speech and Republican response to President Obama’s address to Congress: The reviews are in

February 25, 2009

The writing was on the wall before Gov. Bobby Jindal gave his speech and Republican response to President Barack Obama last night.

Over the weekend, Democratic Gov. Mitch Landrieu, along with Democratic and Republican legislators, held a teleconference call with reporters to point out Jindal’s conflicting positions on President Obama’s economic recovery package. Landrieu said Jindal needed to choose between representing the state of Louisiana or the national Republican Party.

“Those interests don’t always line up,” Landrieu said. “It puts the governor at risk of sending mixed messages. … Louisiana should be very aggressive in going to get this money.”

Two high-profile Louisiana Republicans – state Sen. Robert Adley and Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain – joined Landrieu to vocally petition Jindal to accept federal money that Louisiana desperately needs.

The stimulus package also includes $850 million in aid to farmers who suffered natural disasters, including those affected by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

“I’ve been asking for it with others since September,” said Mike Strain, commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, a longtime Republican from St. Tammany Parish.

Another prominent Republican, state Sen. Robert Adley, of Benton, said the federal stimulus money is not a handout. “Our issue is that it is tax money that has been sent there by the taxpayers of Louisiana and we should get our fair share,” Adley said.

Then Monday, The New York Times ran a blistering editorial that took Jindal to task for his political posturing – and his intention to turn down nearly $100 million in unemployment benefits for Louisianians who need help the most.

Imagine yourself jobless and struggling to feed your family while the governor of your state threatens to reject tens of millions of dollars in federal aid earmarked for the unemployed. That is precisely what is happening in poverty-ridden states like Louisiana and Mississippi where Republican governors are threatening to turn away federal aid rather than expand access to unemployment insurance programs in ways that many other states did a long time ago.

What makes these bad decisions worse is that they are little more than political posturing by rising Republican stars, like Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina. This behavior reinforces the disturbing conclusion that the Republican Party seems more interested in ideological warfare than in working on policies that get the country back on track.

… Governors like Mr. Jindal should be worrying about how to end this recession while helping constituents feed and house their families — not about finding ways to revive tired election-year arguments about big spending versus small government.

But perhaps no one could have fully predicted that Gov. Jindal’s speech would be such a complete and utter disaster. Conservative commentator David Brooks noted, “Bobby Jindal gave what is possibly the worst response to a Democratic speaker in the history of democracy.”

And that’s just the start. The Boston Globe notes reaction from around the country:

“I’m afraid the manager was out on the mound before the end of the first inning,” [Pat Buchanan] said, adding that the general impression is that “this fella needs a little seasoning.”

National Public Radio’s Juan Williams said that Jindal’s presentation was “sing-songy” and that Jindal looked “childish” compared to Obama. “I think he had a really poor performance tonight, I’m sorry to say,” Williams said on Fox News Channel. …

“This was not Bobby Jindal’s greatest oratorical moment,” opined Brit Hume of Fox News.

Jindal “seemed more like a high school student giving a valedictory speech than a potential future leader of the party,” wrote Philip Klein of the American Spectator.

Quite a few fellow Republicans were not impressed.

“A lot of Republicans I am speaking with were expecting this would be like Obama’s moment in 2004” when he gave the “one America” speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, David Johnson, a Republican strategist who advised Bob Dole in 1988, told Bloomberg. “He bombed out.”

New Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said today he thought the speech was just “Ok.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution opines:

If you had asked me about the worst high-profile political speech I’d ever seen, I would have said it was John McCain’s effort last June, the one with the green backdrop, cringing smile, strangely awkward crowd and the whining “my friends, that’s not change we can believe in.”

Bobby Jindal’s effort last night approached McCain. I had never heard Jindal speak on a formal occasion, and he was bad. Bad message, worse delivery. Some of the harshest reaction came from conservatives who had hopes Jindal could be the party’s standard bearer.

The Chicago Tribune weighs in:

Now, with the nation’s economy beset by forces that are too large for the private sector alone to fight, the need for an effective government has never been greater.

So Jindal’s dismissing of government’s role seemed entirely out of touch with reality partly because he’s the governor of a state that suffered greatly after the federal government’s disaster-response abilities were allowed to erode.

But his remarks also seemed decoupled from the realities of the moment, a time when many Americans are turning to government for help, when even whole industries like banking and autos are coming to Washington as supplicants because the forces besetting them are larger than even the private sector can manage.

To fully appreciate the disbelief over both the substance and style of Jindal’s speech, here’s video of conservative David Brooks talking about how Jindal’s performance was “a disaster for the Republican Party”:



One Response to “Gov. Bobby Jindal’s speech and Republican response to President Obama’s address to Congress: The reviews are in”

  1. […] from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s abysmal speech opposing President Obama’s economic stimulus plan is well documented. But Lanny Keller’s Inside Report column from today’s Advocate is required reading for its […]

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