Bobby Jindal at RedState: ‘We are a country that’s young at heart’
Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana told the RedState Gathering in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday that he had two big problems with Barack Obama: “The first is the fact that he’s been the most liberal president since Jimmy Carter was in the White House. My second problem with him is that he’s the most incompetent president since Jimmy Carter.”
Jindal has a relaxed, natural energy in front of a crowd. He discusses matters of complex policy, and the astonishingly successful solutions he has implemented as Governor, with the familiarity and passion of a science-fiction fan talking about his favorite Star Trek episodes.
He fully understands the stakes in November. “I’m here to tell you, this really is the most important election of our lifetime,” he explained. “We really can not afford four more years of this president. And I mean that not only in the sense of the trillions of dollars of debt. I mean that not only in the sense that we can’t afford four more years of on-the-job training. We can’t afford the change to our country that will happen under his leadership.”
He cited a number of metrics of economic success, from GDP growth and employment to family income, which suggest Obama has been moving the country in the wrong direction. “I don’t want the President to get us accustomed to this being ‘the new normal’… to get us to believe this is simply the best we can do,” Jindal warned. “Look, I believe he has done the best he can do. But that’s not the best America can do.”
Jindal perceives a fundamental difference between the way most Americans understand the nation they have inherited, and the way Obama sees it. He recounted a telling anecdote in which Obama surrogate Howard Dean suggested that expanding Medicaid funding would constitute economic growth. “That, I think, represents the fundamental difference between them and us,” Jindal said. “We understand that you don’t grow your economy by borrowing money from the Chinese to spend on government programs that you can’t afford.”
Jindal remarked upon the absurdity of Obama trying to give the Europeans economic advice, until the German finance minister curtly suggested he get his own house in order before meddling in other nations’ affairs. “Step back and think about that for a second: the Europeans are telling us we are spending and borrowing too much in our government. That’s like the town drunk telling you you’ve got a drinking problem.”
Like several other speakers at the RedState Gathering, Jindal referenced President Obama’s infamous “you didn’t build that” speech in Roanoke, Virginia – linking it together with his earlier “gaffe” of saying “the private sector is doing fine,” and three separate occasions upon which the President has expressed the opinion that Americans are “lazy,” to define what Jindal called an “Occupy Wall Street perspective.”
In contrast, Jindal’s governing style has been focused upon individual liberty and responsibility. During the 2008 campaign, Obama notoriously dismissed flyover-country voters as “bitterly clinging” to their guns and religion. “I am the governor of the great state of Louisiana,” Jindal declared, “where we are proudly clinging to our guns and religion.”
Jindal views America as “a country that’s young at heart,” where the American Dream does not consist of “being entitled to your neighbor’s property.” He spoke at length about his educational reforms to illustrate his commitment to introducing choice and competition into something the Democrats view as a social “investment” that only calcified, spendthrift Big Government can make.
One of his biggest battles involved merit pay for teachers. “We basically pay and hire teachers based on how long they’ve been breathing, not on how well they’ve been teaching,” he said of the system he was determined to reform. Jindal proposed a radical alternative: “Let’s pay our teachers based on how well their students are learning. What’s the point of education if our students aren’t learning?” He was determined “to let parents decide what’s best for their children, instead of letting bureaucrats decide what’s best for children.”
The resistance from teachers’ unions was stiff. Individual Louisiana schools were ultimately threatened with lawsuits for daring to participate in the governor’s programs. Jindal humorously related that when his daughter asked him why people were marching around with protest signs, he told her, “That’s a parade for Daddy.”
Jindal views the education battle as a microcosm of the great conflict between leftist statism and the conservative belief in individual liberty. “You’ve got a group of people – whether in teachers’ unions or the White House – that think they know better how to run our lives.” Resistance to this mindset is crucial – the next election is about “making sure we don’t create a culture of dependency.”
Inevitably, since he’s frequently mentioned as a top-tier choice for Mitt Romney’s running mate, Jindal was asked about his thoughts on the vice presidential selection process. He urged voters not to allow the veepstakes to distract them from the issues. “This election isn’t going to be about the Vice President, or what Mitt Romney did in high school,” he said, laughingly adding that he hoped no one paid undue attention to what he was up to in high school.
Having said that, Jindal expressed a preference for someone with executive experience – most likely a governor – joining Romney on the Republican ticket. He spoke highly of governors Rick Scott of Florida (who spoke earlier in the day at the RedState Gathering) and Rick Perry of Texas. But he made an exception to his preference for governors by strongly endorsing the choice of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, whose addition to the ticket “would send a strong message about the next President being serious about entitlement reform and Medicare reform.”
Both of those reforms would involve more of the choice and competition that Jindal endorses. The future will either find Americans shaping their government, or being shaped by it; making choices, or taking orders. The path of liberty and possibility Bobby Jindal would pursue seems far more appropriate for a nation that remains young at heart.