Poor Bobby Jindal
When the Republican Party asked Bobby Jindal to deliver the response to Barack Obama’s this-is-not-a-State-of-the Union address before both houses of Congress Tuesday night, the Louisiana governor’s best play would have been to mimic one of his potential 2012 presidential primary rivals, Sarah Whatshername: “Thenks, but no thenks.”
Like Palin before him, Jindal went nova last night. He flamed out in spectacular fashion, before the largest audience he’s likely ever to address.
At 37 Jindal, who arrived in utero from India — his mother was 18 weeks into her pregnancy — must have seemed to the GOP a likely opponent to Obama when he seeks re-election. Picture it: another young, brown-skinned man giving white Republicans an opportunity to show how equal-opportunity they are. Clearly Jindal was born in this country. Surely no Democrat would demand to see his birth certificate, or ask what his real religion is. Republicans who crossed over to vote for Obama in 2008 would surely come back if they didn’t have to vote for yet another white man.
With friends like the Republicans, Jindal doesn’t need enemies. They should have chosen someone like Sen. Mitch McConnell or Lindsey Graham, party hacks with no visible career path, to deliver the words the party put into Jindal’s mouth. Ronald Reagan could have climbed out of his grave to rebut Obama, and he wouldn’t have laid a glove on the president. Jindal didn’t even come close.
Louisiana’s young governor — will John McCain in 2012 say Jindal’s too young to serve? — could have sunk his own ship, unaided by the GOP’s tin ear syndrome. He was already looking mean and foolish for saying, first, that he would reject the stimulus money allocated to his state, then amending that to say he’d take some but not all of it. What would he reject? Increased unemployment compensation for out-of-work Louisianans. That must have brought chills to the kitchen tables of thousands of families, who were likely relieved to hear NY Sen. Chuck Schumer read from the stimulus bill itself: States can’t pick and choose what they will accept. It’s an all or nothing deal.
But what the Republicans did to Jindal was unconscionable. Not that I’m sorry. I love seeing the Gruesome Other Party in the throes of terminal idea deprivation, spouting the same old same old in the face of Obama’s inspiring, even soaring, declarations.
Obama: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before
Jindal: Democratic leaders in Washington, they place their hope in the federal government. We place our hope in you, the American people.
Pity poor Bobby Jindal. First he got to watch, from the governor’s mansion in Baton Rouge, Barack Obama in his element, most of his audience on their feet repeatedly, applauding, even cheering. Jindal may have taken comfort from the 10-second closeup of McConnell, looking like he was undergoing a proctoscopic examination. But he had to endure the sight of members of his own party — his own party! even John McCain! — smiling and applauding the president’s words.
So we had Obama, saying the government would help us work our way out of the disaster we inherited from the Republicans. And then came the Republican, citing “dangerous enemies [who] still seek our destruction” (9/11 again, for crying out loud) saying, “We place our hope in you, the American people,” as if we can, if we all just try hard enough, erase the financial meltdown for some, impending homelessness for many, and joblessness for more.
Worst of all, Jindall couldn’t have missed the approval meter that tracked Obama’s sentences. Republicans in Congress may not know what bipartisanship means, but much of the time it was easy to think that the people who handed out meters to McCain voters and Obama voters got the two groups mixed up. On MSNBC the red and blue lines indicating voters’ responses frequently overlapped so it looked as though they were all of one mind. At times McCain voters approved of Obama’s ideas even more than his very own supporters. And at no point did the indicators for either group of voters show anything less than high approval.
What a tough act for a novice with no intellectual or inspirational underpinnings to follow.
Any reasonably skilled speechwriter knows the importance of matching the speaker’s voice — cadence, choice of words, breath patterns — so that the speech is easy to deliver and sounds natural. That’s how I know Jindal didn’t write his own speech. His delivery was beyond awkward. It’s not easy to sound patronizing, rushed, and apologetic all at once, but Jindal managed to do it. He has the Republican Party — and his own ambition — to thank for that
See for yourself.
Posted on February 26th, 2009 by Miryam Ehrlich Williamson
Filed under: Uncategorized