Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, was chosen to represent the GOP in a televised response to President’s Obama’s state of the Union speech on February 24, 2009. He is not a new face on the political scene. The governor has appeared in news stories with high-ranking Republicans for several years, including meetings with John McCain during the last campaign. There are rumors that Jindal is prepping for a run for the White House in 2012. Did his nationally televised speech in response to the President’s address reveal his political aspirations?
Jindal began his speech by acknowledging the historical significance of an African-American being elected to be President of the United States. He then segued into the story of his own childhood, as the son of an immigrant who could not afford the medical bills for his pregnant wife. Was this an attempt to display similarities between Republicans and Democrats, or to emphasize that because of having a comparative background to the present President, Jindal, too could be considered for the Office?
The governor appealed to the innate optimism of the American people by sharing his father’s words: “Americans can do anything.” As he listed specific economic hardships being faced by families today, he pointed out that Americans are depending on government to solve the problems. This is where the speech began to go the direction of voicing the Republican consensus of the problems that will be brought about by the stimulus bill.
Being from Louisiana, and therefore obviously familiar with storms, Bobby Jindal chose to build his arguments around that metaphor. He used a story to illustrate how bureaucracy impeded the rescue efforts during the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. One might have been reminded of debates in the recent past when the Republican candidate for President often used personal stories in answer to questions about his stance on issues. Was this personal anecdote merely an interesting way to illustrate the point, or was it meant to direct our memories back to the man who was the champion of the Republican party?
Jindal continued by listing his accomplishments in the state of Louisiana which have been achieved by reducing spending. Specific issues on which the Republicans and Democrats differ in ideology were addressed. As Jindal discussed the issue of health care coverage for all Americans, he drew definitive lines between “universal access” to health care coverage and “universal government-run health care”. Educational freedom of choice was praised. Ethics reform was called for in a tongue-in-cheek statement about the tainted past of Louisiana politics–with the emphasis on past. A tribute was given to our military accompanied by a declaration that funding for the troops should not be cut.
Governor Jindal then expressed the desire of the Republicans to work with the present Administration despite differences, but re-emphasized the ever-looming opposite viewpoints of the two parties: dependence on government versus individual responsibility to solve our problems. At one point, Jindal offered what seemed to be an apology for the failure of his Republican Party to stand for its traditional values. without using the actual word, he then promised change–a familiar promise on both sides of the political fence.
Is Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, putting himself in a position to be considered the next President? Or is he just attempting to rebuild a tired, traditionally Democrat state through Republican ideology? How wonderfully ironic that Louisiana, with its sordid political past, is now in the spotlight for producing one of the strongest leaders of the Republican party–and perhaps, a candidate for President of the United States.