NEW YORK, New York -- If I gave birth to a child and it was Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's response to President Barack Obama's address to the joint session of Congress, I'd name it Blather McBlather-Lies.
The guy's main point -- that government shouldn't be a savior, but people must save themselves -- is something I think we can all agree with. Maybe too much so -- throughout his own speech, Obama spoke of not wanting "big government" (even if what he was proposing would expand government) and Jindal's rebuttal sounded like he was setting up straw men rather than actually arguing with Obama.
Stepping back, however, if the problem with the Johnson through Carter administrations was that government was too big then, today it's too small where it matters. To that end, Obama's argument that saying "big government is good" (or its opposite) is inane holds truer than Jindal's more ideological tone, especially since bigger government in the Bush years would've been able to regulate finance better, prevent Katrina from being such a disaster, and slow the widening rich-poor gap.
Indeed, Jindal's prime example of the dysfunctionalness of government was none other than the Hurricane Katrina that ravaged his state. But Jindal is from the same party as the people who botched Katrina, and the egg seems to fall on his face here. After all, to most Americans, Katrina proved not that government is too big and slow but that the recent Republican administration was too small, uncaring and uninvolved -- oh yeah, and that George Bush hates black people.
Beyond that, in his rebuttal Jindal carried the latter-day Republican torch of taking an $800 billion bill and calling it "wasteful" by drawing attention to the same one or two $200 million projects -- perhaps some (but certainly not all) of them are regrettable, but they're drops in the sea. Like hundreds of Republicans before him, he harped on the $300 million the federal government will use to buy new cars (the fact is, though, the federal government, just like Mr Jindal's state government, does own lots of cars, and now is probably the single best time to buy cars given the precipice-hugging state of the auto industry).
And he said the $8 billion to fund high-speed rail was nothing more than an attempt to build a maglev (technology that allows trains to hover via magnetic levitation -- China's one of the only places building them) train between LA and Las Vegas, two bastions of the out-of-touch and sinful. But this is bullshit. That project is decidedly not happening (here's one of the many articles pointing that out), and high-speed rail is both one of the most important things this country can do to improve efficiencies in business, economic competitiveness, quality of life for citizens, and reduce greenhouse gases. Perhaps one day Republicans will apply for passports, travel to foreign countries, and understand that people living in countries with high-speed rail (otherwise known as the G-20, minus North America) really don't have it so bad.
OK, two more favorite Jindal moments:
When he "reassured" Americans that Republicans remain fully committed to fiscal prudence, despite the way Bush "warped" the party. Right. Republicans went along with Bush kicking and screaming about the deficit-inducing tax cuts and wars in Iraq and "on terror." And it must be one of those ironies of history that Reagan and both Bushes either took surpluses inherited from Democrats and turned them into deficits, or widened existing deficits. I'm sorry, Governor Jindal, but you're a liar and not a very bright hope for the Republicans if they think they'll recapture the White House with you.
Finally, was it just me or did this guy have the most obnoxious, condescending voice I've ever heard on a politician? I got the sense Gov Jindal thinks we non-gubernatorial Americans -- who, as he repeatedly noted, can "do anything" and don't need guvment -- are a bunch of half-wit slobs. The man's tone was so insulting that I'm tempted to wager the good governor was a college debater in his day. And if he was, he handily lost tonight's tournament.
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