I sat in front of the television late Tuesday night with mouth agape and disbelieving eyes. No, I wasn't watching the Skin-A-Max channel. (Their lineup is terrible on Tuesdays.) It was the night of President Barack Obama's big speech to Congress. And by the end of it, I was ... well, what can I say? I was agog. I was stunned. I couldn't believe what I had just seen and heard. I'm referring, of course, to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's Republican response to the presidential address.
I sat in front of the television late Tuesday night with mouth agape and disbelieving eyes. No, I wasn't watching the Skin-A-Max channel. (Their lineup is terrible on Tuesdays.) It was the night of President Barack Obama's big speech to Congress. And by the end of it, I was ... well, what can I say? I was agog. I was stunned. I couldn't believe what I had just seen and heard.
I'm referring, of course, to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's Republican response to the presidential address.
I felt a little bad for Jindal as the evening began. I know he's an up-and-comer for the GOP and is frequently mentioned as a potential 2012 presidential contender, but giving the response to Obama — who, love him or hate him, is a gifted orator — is no easy task, especially on a night of such pomp and gravitas. Think Australian golfer Brendan Jones going up against Tiger Woods in Wednesday's first round of the Accenture Match Play Championship. (I'm writing this before that match begins, so if Jones manages to defeat Woods, do me a favor and DON'T think of that.)
I felt worse for Jindal when the evening ended. He's an avuncular and telegenic presence; I can see why his party would hang its hopes on him. But he delivered his remarks as if he were talking to a grade-school class. (The speech was titled “Americans Can Do Anything.” Or, as Jindal often put it, “Anything!” I don't disagree with him, but that's a title more suitable for a 24-page book with a very thick and very colorful cover).
Delivery aside, some of his assertions seemed to ignore the realities of the stimulus plan the president spent the previous hour outlining.
“The way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in the hands of Washington politicians,” Jindal said.
The recovery package lowers taxes for a great many more people than it raises them for. If you look out the front window of your home and you can't see a large body of water, your withholding taxes will soon go down. And since the funding is being funneled through state governors' offices, the power and money are being put there, not in Washington. (I'm not saying this is any better, I'm just saying it's more accurate.)
“You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline and personal responsibility,” Jindal said. “Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington.”
“Went along with”? Republicans ran the show — the House, the Senate and the presidency — for six of the past eight years. Who were they going along with?
“Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us,” Jindal said. “Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina, we have our doubts.”
Governor. ... Bobby. ... Can I call you Bobby? If you get serious about running for the Republican nomination in 2012, it might be best not to remind voters of one of the two biggest failures of the most recent Republican administration. I'm just saying.
Obama's speech wasn't perfect. The Associated Press called the assertion that his mortgage-relief plan will benefit only deserving homeowners a stretch, and the claim that America invented the automobile is dodgy (many historians credit Karl Benz, a German). But it was forward-looking, acknowledged the seriousness of our financial plight and outlined a cohesive strategy to address it.
Jindal is to be commended for his classy opening remarks, acknowledging the historic nature of a night on which the nation's first African-American president addressed Congress for the first time. But the substance of his and his party's response, rather than being historic, simply repeated history: More tax cuts, smaller government, let the free-market system fix itself.
Americans can do anything — except endure a continuation of that economic strategy.
Contact Kevin Frisch at (585) 394-0770/Ext. 257 or email@example.com.