Election 2012 Jindal The Opinionsphere

Jindal 2012 (cont.)

Michael Gerson in the Washington Post reveals both Bobby Jindal’s greatest asset as a politician and his greatest weakness. The strength is Jindal’s religiousity – which is Catholic but in a way that is unusually endearing to evangelicals, the Republican base:

In Louisiana, Jindal is the darling of evangelical and charismatic churches, where he often tells his conversion story. One Louisiana Republican official has commented, “People think of Bobby Jindal as one of us.” Consider that a moment. In some of the most conservative Protestant communities, in one of the most conservative states in America, Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, a strong Catholic with parents from Punjab, is considered “one of us.”

In passing, Gerson mentions that sometimes it might seem that Jindal lacks, “a lack of human connection and organizing vision.”

The “lack of human connection” is main complaint against Jindal. He’s seen as cold, calculating, and unempathetic – indifferent to those hurt by the policies he advocates.

Barack Obama Economics Election 2012 Financial Crisis Jindal

Ross Douthat’s Snap Judgment

Up and coming conservative (and big Jindal fan) Ross Douthat’s snap judgment from Tuesday night of Bobby Jindal’s response to Obama’s not quite State of the Union:

If that’s the best the Right has to offer as a rebuttal to Obama, American liberalism is going to be running untouched down the field for years to come.

Election 2012 Financial Crisis Jindal Politics The Opinionsphere

Bobby Jindal’s Soapbox (cont.)

The New York Times explains what was going on with the “strings” that Bobby Jindal was complaining about on Sunday’s Meet the Press:

States that accept the stimulus money aimed at the unemployed are required to abide by new federal rules that extend unemployment protections to low-income workers and others who were often shorted or shut out of compensation. This law did not just materialize out of nowhere. It codified positive changes that have already taken place in at least half the states.

To qualify for the first one-third of federal aid, the states need to fix arcane eligibility requirements that exclude far too many low-income workers. To qualify for the rest of the aid, states have to choose from a menu of options that include extending benefits to part-time workers or those who leave their jobs for urgent family reasons, like domestic violence or gravely ill children.

Barack Obama Criticism Election 2012 Financial Crisis Jindal Politics

Jindal’s Soapbox

Governor Bobby Jindal, 2012 contender and current governor of Louisiana, argued on Meet the Press this past Sunday that he opposed the stimulus bill and would refuse some to accept some of it’s monies for his state despite it’s looming budget deficit. He gave a few reasons – echoing the established conventional wisdom that Obama should have taken it upon himself to craft the stimulus bill instead of allowing Congress to play it’s part as a coequal branch of government and stating that there was too much spending that Democrats wanted in the bill. This, of course, is a standard politician’s trick, used by Democrats such as Obama as well as Republicans such as Jindal – be outraged at the “the very chaotic, decentralised and often irrational mess” that is American politics while at the same time demonstrating a healthy respect for the distinct advantages of this politics, with the knowledge that, “What keeps America behind is also what keeps pushing it relentlessly, fitfully forward.” In other words – Jindal is railing against the system itself as a political weapon while only taking positions that would keep the system intact. His opposition then clearly has a political component – rather than being a matter of pure principle. There’s nothing wrong with this – but it’s important to acknowledge. 

Jindal gave another reason for rejecting federal stimulus money –  because:

You’re talking about temporary federal money that would require a permanent change in state law.

He continued, using a rather sneaky phrasing to make his point:

[T]he federal law, if you actually read the bill–and I know it was 1,000 pages, and I know they got it, you know, at midnight, or hours before they voted on it – if you actually read the bill, there’s one problem with that.  The word permanent is in the bill. [my emphasis]

Hearing especially that last phrase, with it’s seeming definitiveness yet clear allowance for the opportunity to weasel out of what it seems to be saying, I was rather convinced that only a politician trying to exaggerate a point would use the phrase. Regardless of whether the policy was positive or not, it would have been nice to 

Yet, upon reading the bill, I found that Jindal was right – the law did require unemployment benefits be calculated in a particular way – and that the state law establishing this be permanent rather than temporary. At the same time, the bill offers what seems to be an escape clause – in which the Secretary of Labor is allowed to judge whether states have met the criteria set forth in the law. 

If Jindal’s objection were merely that he did not want to change the state law permanently in order to receive the monies, he could just apply for the funds and see what happened. There are enough ambiguities in the text that a clever lawyer could probably find a loophole allowing the monies to be given to Louisiana. More important, this would provide better political ground for Governor Jindal to make the case against this provision – he would have clearly focused the political debate on whether it was right for the stimulus bill to impose permanent changes. I personally think it unlikely that the Secretary of Labor would provoke such a conflict – which is probably why Jindal is making his case this way.

He chose to reject the funds because he wanted a soapbox issue to helped cement his national opposition to the plan. 

Jackie Calmes and Robert Pear wrote in the New York Times last week that Jindal was joined by a number of other Republican governors in vocal opposition to the plan:

The harshest critics include Mr. Sanford and Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, the national chairman of the party in the 1990s, Rick Perry of Texas, and Sarah Palin of Alaska, the party’s 2008 vice-presidential nominee.

Interestingly, all seem to have national ambitions – and designs for 2012. 

The point I’m trying to make is one I’ve made before – the Republican opposition to the stimulus is clearly a matter of politics rather than principle.

Election 2012 Jindal

Jindal 2012 (cont.)

Compare the reactions of Ramnesh Ponnuru and Mark Krikorian to the Washington Post‘s apparently positive profile of Bobby Jindal.

Neither can quite take the article at face value. Ponnuru wonders “if this sort of swooning is really going to be helpful to Gov. Jindal in the long run.”

Krikorian, on the other hand, takes offense at the suggestion that Jindal could be an Obama-like figure. Under the headline “Clueless” which he apparently means to refer to either the Washington Post or the American people, he explains that Obama was merely “a post-American political radical who’s never held a real job and was catapulted to political success because of his race.” So much resentment packed into a single sentence – and so much misinformation. Would a “post-American political radical” choose anything like the pragmatic foreign policy team that Obama has chosen? What exactly does Krikorian consider, “a real job”? Does Krikorian really consider race to be the primary factor in Obama’s rise – or was it one factor among many that had both negative and positive consequences? And how ridicilous is it for a guy whose career is based on whipping up xenophobia to declare race to be some kind of definate asset?

Krikorian makes clear that he doesn’t have a clue.

Ponnuru may find it hard to accept media praise for one of his guys – but Krikorian manages to turn praise into an insult. There’s something so counterproductive about it – these constantly stoked resentments.

Unfortunately, the National Review and the conservative movement at large has far too many Krikorian and far too few Ponnuru’s.

Domestic issues Election 2012 Health care Jindal

Jindal’s Health Care Reform

The wonks at ThinkProgress are impressed with the Republican up-and-comer’s plan.

Domestic issues Economics Election 2012 Jindal Politics

Jindal 2012 or 2016 (cont.)

Matt Yglesias brings up a good point in disagreement with Jindal’s prospects for the coming political cycles:

[T]he next few years aren’t shaping up to be an especially promising time to be a governor. A governor presiding over an economic boom can cut taxes while increasing spending, and thus develop a reputation as a popular can-do pragmatist. Think of George W. Bush, George Voinovich, Christie Todd Whitman, and other classics of the 1990s…[R]ight now [Jindal]’s looking at the need to cut $1 billion in spending. Not his fault (though the decision to make up the budget shortfall with a mix of 100% service cuts and 0% tax cuts reflects the intellectually and morally bankrupt nature of contemporary conservatism) any more than the “free money for everyone” governors of the nineties were really geniuses, but it’s going to make it difficult for him to rack up the sort of Record Of Accomplishments that you’re usually looking for in a presidential candidate.

Election 2012 Jindal

Jindal 2012 (cont.)

I wouldn’t want Bobby Jindal to be president. He’s too far to the right for me and seems very sympathetic to christianism (also known as politicized “christianity”), which I find morally repugnant.

But – as a reform-minded governor of a notoriously corrupt state, as a policy wonk, and as someone who has demonstrated fine political judgment – the Republican party has many worse choices.

I do think that Jindal will have some trouble navigating his way past three political realities in the Republican party.

The first is nativism. McCain’s campaign certainly struck a nativist chord at times – and certainly that was some significant part of his electoral appeal – as the extreme remarks reported at many of his rallies attest. I do not think John McCain is personally a racist (or nativist) and I don’t believe most Republicans or McCain voters are either. But some significant percentage of McCain’s support seemed to be based at least partially on racial animus. Certainly there are racist and nativist elements in the Democratic party – and they are part of the reason it was such a struggle for Obama to gain the support of the full party. Jindal would need to face a similar task – except one complicated by the fact that the Republican party has become – especially since this past election – the party for nativists.

The second current within the Republican party that could complicate Jindal’s rise within the party is anti-elitism. Jindal might actually be able to use this anti-elitism as a tool in a general election campaign – calling on populism more easily than the more technocratic-oriented Democrats while still maintaining respectability with his expertise and knowledge. But within the party itself, expert opinion has been demonized – as David Brooks has noticed. The Bush administration itself is a demonstration of the elevation of politics over expertise – as it censored scientists in official reports and ignored even the expertise of the military in it’s ill-planned invasion or Iraq and ignored the nation-building experts at the State Department as it planned for the aftermath of the invasion.

Jindal is – by most accounts – a wonk, a expert with detailed knowledge of arcane policy matters. I don’t know how he incorporates this knowledge into his style – but if he can’t figure out how to make his point, and then, winking conclude, “You betcha” with a smile or a similar faux-folksy tic – it’ll be tough for him to win in the Republican party.

The third factor complicating Jindal’s potential in 2012 is that the Republican party has almost always gone to the next in line in nominations for the presidency.  How else can one explain how Gerald Ford beat out Ronald Reagan in 1976 or how Bob Dole beat all comers in 1996? It’s hard to say who is next in line to assume leadership of the Republican party today – but it’s not Jindal. A plausible case could be made for Sarah Palin, or Mitt Romney, or even Mike Huckabee.

Jindal though had the good sense to stay out of this toxic national environment for his party (h/t Andrew Sullivan):

While the official reason that Jindal took his name out of contention was his lack of a desire to leave the Louisiana governorship, there was also real trepidation within his political inner circle that Jindal might wind up as the pick – McCain was attracted to his comprehensive health-care knowledge – and be caught up in what they believed to be a less-than-stellar campaign that could pin a loss on Jindal without much ability to change or control the direction of the contest.

Although this gives Jindal an advantage in the longer term, it puts him advantage in 2012. The smart move would be for him to run for president in 2012 and aim to come up as a strong number two – and presuming a Democratic reelection, this sets him up for 2016 with national exposure and a decently long track record. Of course, if Obama’s presidency is widely seen as a disaster in 2012, Jindal might be wise to aim to win the nomination. But even then – given the difficulties of unseating a sitting president up for reelection, and the unlikelihood of the Republican party turning again to a loser of a national race – it might still make sense for Jindal to aim for 2016.

All that said – Jindal is the candidate who is the best of the field for the Republicans come 2012 – and his fight in the Republican party is one I can sympathize with.

My one non-policy concern about Jindal – from my limited knowledge – is what I understand to be his christianist politics. It seems that this is quickly becoming a requirement for a Republican aiming for national leadership – as John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson found out. But I find this conflation of religion and politics to be discomfiting – and would prefer a more libertarian-minded conservatism. Jindal’s conservatism though seems to owe more to his religious faith than his desire for limited government.