Star­ring role for Jin­dal in GOP re­but­tal to Obama

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SEAN LENGELL

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jin­dal, who de­liv­ered the Repub­li­can re­sponse to Pres­i­dent Obama’s first speech to a joint ses­sion of Congress on Feb. 24, painted Democrats as “ir­re­spon­si­ble” for in­creas­ing gov­ern­ment spending dur­ing a time of eco­nomic tur­moil.

“To solve our cur­rent prob­lems, Wash­ing­ton must lead. But the way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in hands of Wash­ing­ton politi­cians,” Mr. Jin­dal said dur­ing his tele­vised re­but­tal. “The way to lead is by em­pow­er­ing you — the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

“The strength of Amer­ica is not found in our gov­ern­ment,” he added. “It is found in the com­pas­sion­ate hearts and en­ter­pris­ing spirit of our cit­i­zens.”

The Repub­li­can Party, des­per­ate for a charis­matic leader to help lift it from the po­lit­i­cal wilder­ness, picked Mr. Jin­dal, a young po­lit­i­cal prodigy who has been fre­quently men­tioned as a po­ten­tial can­di­date for the 2012 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

In an in­spi­ra­tional tone rem­i­nis­cent of the pres­i­dent’s speech, Mr. Jin­dal tried to as­sure Amer­i­cans — and po­ten­tial vot­ers — that the coun­try has the abil­ity to over­come its cur­rent trou­bles.

“Our trou­bles are real, to be sure. But don’t let any­one tell you that we can­not re­cover, or that Amer­ica’s best days are be­hind her, he said. “The Amer­i­can spirit has tri­umphed over al­most ev­ery form of ad­ver­sity known to man, and the Amer­i­can spirit will tri­umph again.”

Yet the gov­er­nor said his party is also to blame for lead­ing the coun­try down a wrong path, say­ing that Repub­li­cans didn’t de­liver on their cam­paign prom­ises to cut pork-bar­rel projects and ex­ces­sive spending and that Amer­i­can vot­ers “rightly” lost trust in them in re­cent years.

“Our party got away from its prin­ci­ples. You elected Repub­li­cans to cham­pion lim­ited gov­ern­ment, fis­cal dis­ci­pline and per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity. In­stead, Repub­li­cans went along with earmarks and big gov­ern­ment spending in Wash­ing­ton,” Mr. Jin­dal said.

But the gov­er­nor said his party is de­ter­mined to re­gain that trust.

“We will do so by stand­ing up for the prin­ci­ples that we share, the prin­ci­ples you elected us to fight for, the prin­ci­ples that built this into the great­est, most pros­per­ous coun­try on earth,” he said.

Mr. Jin­dal has had a me­te­oric po­lit­i­cal as­cen­sion — he was elected gov­er­nor in 2007 at age 36 af­ter serv­ing less than two terms in the U.S. House, be­com­ing the first In­dian-Amer­i­can gov­er­nor in U.S. his­tory and the first non­white gov­er­nor of Louisiana since Re­con­struc­tion.

“Gov­er­nor Jin­dal is a ris­ing star and is a part of a new gen­er­a­tion of lead­er­ship within the Repub­li­can Party,” said Ken Spain, spokesman for the Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee.

He was first elected to the U.S. House in 2004 at the age of 33. He was im­me­di­ately elected class pres­i­dent — a presage of his po­lit­i­cal as­pi­ra­tions as well as his in­flu­ence among col­leagues. He was re-elected two years later with 88 per­cent of the vote.

While in Congress he be­came a dar­ling of con­ser­va­tives. He earned a 100 per­cent pro-life vot­ing record, op­posed em­bry­onic stem-cell re­search and voted to make the Patriot Act per­ma­nent.

“It’s a great honor to be picked to give the re­sponse,” said James Pinkerton of the New Amer­ica Foun­da­tion, a non­par­ti­san Wash­ing­ton pub­lic pol­icy think tank. “It used to be the mi­nor­ity or ma­jor­ity party leader in Congress — (Sen. Robert) Byrd or (for­mer House Speaker Jim) Wright or peo­ple like that — would give the re­sponse.”

Be­fore serv­ing in elected of­fice, Mr. Jin­dal was ap­pointed by thenLouisiana Gov. Mike Foster, a fel­low Repub­li­can, in 1996 to lead the state’s Depart­ment of Health and Hos­pi­tals. He won praise for steer­ing the state’s in­di­gent health-care plan from bank­ruptcy to a bud­get sur­plus in three years.

In 2001, Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush nom­i­nated him to be as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of health and hu­man ser­vices for plan­ning and eval­u­a­tion, serv­ing as the chief pol­icy ad­viser to the HHS sec­re­tary.

Mr. Jin­dal’s speech last week may be the most im­por­tant of his young po­lit­i­cal ca­reer, help­ing to in­tro­duce him­self to vot­ers be­yond his home state.

“Four years ago, no­body heard of Barack Obama, and then he gave his speech in Bos­ton at the (2004) Demo­cratic Na­tional Con- ven­tion, and look where he is now.” Mr. Pinkerton said. “Not to play up the ex­pec­ta­tions game here, but Obama’s speech put him on the map. And (Mr. Jin­dal) cer­tainly has a com­pelling story.”

Mr. Jin­dal isn’t shy about butting heads with Democrats or to make waves po­lit­i­cally. Two weeks ago he an­nounced he would refuse part of his state’s share of the $787 bil­lion stim­u­lus bill, say­ing Louisiana would not par­tic­i­pate in a pro­gram aimed at ex­pand­ing state un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance cov­er­age.

He said ac­cept­ing the money would have re­quired changes in state law on el­i­gi­bil­ity for un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits and, af­ter fed­eral money runs out in three years, would have led to a $12 mil­lion in­crease in taxes on his state’s busi­nesses to keep fund­ing the ben­e­fit.

“In­creas­ing taxes on our Louisiana busi­nesses is cer­tainly not a way to stim­u­late our econ­omy. It would be the ex­act wrong thing we could do to en­cour­age fur­ther growth and job cre­ation,” Mr. Jin­dal said two weeks ago, al­though the Louisiana leg­is­la­ture could over­ride his de­ci­sion.

Demo­cratic leaders have blasted Mr. Jin­dal for his po­si­tion, ac­cus­ing him of play­ing pol­i­tics at the ex­pense of his con­stituents and call­ing his stance hyp­o­crit­i­cal.

“It seems to me like Gov­er­nor Jin­dal is bluff­ing,” said House Ma­jor­ity Whip James E. Cly­burn, South Carolina Demo­crat, on Feb. 24. “The in­cen­tives in the eco­nomic re­cov­ery pack­age to help states cover more un­em­ployed work­ers will not cause states to in­crease taxes.”

Mr. Cly­burn added that “fund­ing to pro­vide un­em­ploy­ment as­sis­tance and save or cre­ate 3.5 mil­lion jobs na­tion­wide shouldn’t be ham­strung by a gov­er­nor’s po­lit­i­cal ide­olo­gies or pres­i­den­tial as­pi­ra­tions.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In his Ba­ton Rouge, La., of­fice on Feb. 24, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jin­dal chats with staff mem­bers while work­ing on the of­fi­cial Repub­li­can Party re­sponse to the pres­i­dent’s speech to a joint ses­sion of Congress.

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