Bobby Jindal is a star in an otherwise dismal electoral cycle for Republicans.
If I were writing the screenplay for a Republican version of The West Wing, I know who I would want to model my idea of a brilliant, small-government, free market liberty advocate President after: Bobby Jindal.
Bobby Jindal is almost everything Republicans could ask for in elected representatives. He is considered brilliant and dedicated in every way by those who know him and who have worked with him. His grasp of issues in theoretical and policy matters is tremendous, yet at the same time, Jindal makes sure that he does not isolate himself in some kind of policymaking ivory tower. Far from it; when there is a crisis afoot, Jindal dives in and shows that he is more than a policy wonk. He is a leader who knows how to handle crises and how to live up to the expectations and needs of the people he represents.
Jindal got his start in politics working for Congressman Jim McCrery. He pestered McCrery for substantive work and was rewarded with an assignment to write a paper on how to improve Medicare. To the Congressman’s surprise, Jindal delivered “an excellent piece of work” that “identified problems, discussed budgetary implications, and suggested reforms.” And he did this as a college intern.
The internship led to more substantive assignments, like becoming health secretary for Louisiana at the tender age of 24. Put in charge of the department by then-Governor Mike Foster, Jindal helped turn a $400 million deficit into a $220 million surplus. His prodigious accomplishments led to Jindal becoming the executive director of a federal Medicare commission at age 27, president of the University of Louisiana system a year later and a position as undersecretary in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at the age of 30.
Through his words and through his deeds, Jindal has been a sterling advocate of limited government and the free market. As a member of the House of Representatives, his voting record has been impeccably conservative. His specialty is health care policy and he would be a valuable asset as the Republican Party works to define its vision and message on the issue of health care in order to come up with an alternative to the various socialized medicine schemes that have gotten the lion’s share of attention in discussions about the future of health care policy.
But thanks to his work in helping Louisiana recover from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, Jindal is also a very credible and highly informed voice on the issue of disaster relief and crisis management. Seeing that the political class in Louisiana was paralyzed by Katrina and the magnitude of the challenges it presented, Jindal went from parish to parish in his state offering leadership firsthand to the citizens of his state. He got trucks, medical supplies and water to law enforcement personnel. He set up a hotline through which citizens of his state could contact him and tell him what they needed. When the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Homeland Security and state government could not provide resources or the authorization to provide resources, Jindal stepped in and did it himself. Thanks to Jindal’s experience and his recounting of that experience, we know that the private sector is a much more surefooted actor in crisis management than government could perhaps ever be and we are in a better position to handle future crises if we choose to make use of that knowledge.
Jindal is currently running for governor of Louisiana, a race that will be decided this November. Because of the disastrous tenure of the outgoing Blanco Administration and thanks to Jindal’s own achievements, he is the frontrunner by a wide margin. But that hasn’t stopped some people from trying to dredge up a controversy to stop Jindal’s campaign.
And the reasons why are obvious. Jindal is an Indian-American Rhodes Scholar who is tremendously conversant in policy and who has a proven track record of public service. He is a silver lining in a very dark electoral cloud for Republicans. His opponents are intent on taking him down before his political career gains even more momentum. They know that if Jindal succeeds in becoming Governor of Louisiana and if he becomes even more politically prominent, he could become even more of a phenomenon than he is now.
Here’s hoping they don’t succeed. In an age of political childishness, Jindal has been a breath of fresh air. He has craved crushing responsibilities throughout his public life and he has carried out his duties with a tremendous sense of maturity, a maturity that belies his age. His state of Louisiana has too often been victimized by corruption, by laziness and incompetence in its public servants and by a lack of seriousness regarding the administration of its affairs. This old style of politics has served Louisiana poorly. It needs a change.
Jindal, with his mastery of policy and his fidelity to conservative principles can be that change. He’s proven to be someone who can accomplish a great deal in a short time. Nowadays, that kind of quality is one that Louisiana desperately needs.