Conservatives have been searching through the records and statements of the leading presidential candidates desperately hoping to find evidence that will allow them to persuade themselves — at least through next November — that one of these candidates is a credible and reliable member of their movement who can be trusted with the leadership of their party.
They are looking in the wrong place.
Forget the facsimiles, fakers and campaign-trail converts stumping Iowa and New Hampshire these days. If you want to find a truly conservative leader for the Republican Party of tomorrow, look south. He is getting ready to be inaugurated governor of Louisiana.
Rep. Bobby Jindal, elected governor of Louisiana on Saturday, is the real thing. He has never run to the left of Teddy Kennedy. He has never lobbied for Planned Parenthood. He has never advocated government recognition of same-sex unions. He has never called for amnesty for illegal aliens. He has never advocated raising taxes. He is a straight-up conservative: unhyphenated, unadulterated and uncorrupted.
He is also one of the smartest people in American politics today. At Brown University, the only grade he ever got was an "A." He turned down both the medical and law schools at Yale and Harvard, to accept a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford.
With world-class credentials, he worked briefly as a private-sector consultant before returning to the state where he was born to begin a career in public service.
At 24, he was appointed Louisiana’s secretary of health and hospitals by then-Gov. Mike Foster. He later became executive director of a national commission on the future of Medicare and then served as president of the Louisiana State University system. In 2001, when President Bush appointed him assistant secretary of health and human services, the Senate confirmed him unanimously.
When Jindal initially ran unsuccessfully for Louisiana governor in 2003, he made a point of signing the Americans for Tax Reform pledge that commits politicians to oppose tax increases. He signed it again in 2004 when he ran for Congress.
"Voters have a right to know the true intentions of anybody running for governor," Jindal said about the pledge in 2003. "If someone refuses to sign the pledge because they intend to increase taxes — that is their prerogative. While I disagree with this approach, it will allow voters to decide for or against tax increases on Election Day. If you do not plan to increase taxes, then you will have no problem signing this pledge."
It is worth noting that in this year’s presidential race, neither former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, nor former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, nor Sen. John McCain of Arizona have signed the ATR no-tax-increase pledge.
During Louisiana’s 2003 gubernatorial campaign, The New Orleans Times-Picayune asked the candidates in a questionnaire: "Under what circumstances, if any, do you believe an abortion should be allowed?" Jindal said: "I am 100 percent pro-life with no exceptions. I believe all life is precious."
Louisiana’s Democratic Party put out a flier attacking what it described as Jindal’s "extreme position" on abortion. Jindal did not back down. When he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004, he filled out a questionnaire from the Republican National Coalition for Life once again stating that he believed in protecting the lives of unborn children without exception.
Another example of Jindal’s profound respect for the right to life can be seen in his defense of the Second Amendment. After federal agents took guns away from law-abiding citizens in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, he secured legislation to ensure that gun owners would not have their firearms confiscated after disasters. "You need to be able to defend yourself, your family and your property," he later explained to the Lafayette Daily Advertiser. "With the legislation that we were able to pass, if there is a national threat, you don’t have to worry about them taking away your rights."
Jindal’s parents immigrated to Louisiana from India when his mother was four months pregnant with him. He remains a defender of legal, but not illegal, immigration. "(W)e already know that drugs and hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants come across our borders now every year, and that is simply not acceptable," he told the publication India Abroad. "(O)ur nation cannot be serious about protecting our country from the threat of terrorism without securing our borders and preventing illegal immigration."
Conservatives may someday look back and see a providential hand in the Jindal family’s timely arrival in Louisiana. Had Bobby Jindal been born in India, not Baton Rouge, he could never have satisfied the constitutional mandate that "no person except a natural born citizen" can serve in this nation’s highest office.