Last night I caught Bobby Jindal speaking at a fundraising dinner for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Overall, Jindal came off better in front of a live audience and less rehearsed than he did on national TV during his response to President Obama’s speech to Congress. But the bottom line is that he simply is not an electrifying speaker. While the crowd reacted positively, their applause was much more tepid than I would have expected given that he’s still considered one of the rising stars in the party. Public speaking, as far as I can tell, is not one of his political strengths. With time and practice, Jindal could evolve into a good enough speaker to succeed in higher office, especially if in some date in the future Americans become disillusioned with the idea of electing presidents based on their rhetorical prowess. But it’s pretty clear to me that if Jindal ever makes it to the White House, it will be because he’s brilliant, has a mastery of policy issues, and an impressive list of accomplishments – not because of his power as an orator.
With that said, I thought the substance of what Jindal had to say was generally on target.
“I honor and respect the Democratic Party’s sincerity,” Jindal said in an almost Obama-like conciliatory way. “The differences between the two parties are genuine, legitimate differences. This isn’t because of political opportunism, these are essential differences based on opposing world views.”
Jindal noted that we were in the midst of the greatest expansion of government in history, with money spent in the early part of the Obama administration having eclipsed the cost of the Iraq War, the Vietnam War and the Louisiana Purchase.
Much of his speech was focused on how Republicans had a different vision on health care, energy and education than Obama and Democrats in Congress. But he really hit his stride toward the end, in which he tackled the question of whether he wanted Obama to fail. He started by challenging the question’s premise.
“If you don’t want to answer that question with a loud ‘no’ immediately, if you don’t express instant obedience to the question, then they are trying to suggest that you’re not really a patriot,” Jindal said. “They’re essentially saying that you’re trying to undermine America.”
But Jindal said that the GOP shouldn’t back down on challenging President Obama when they disagree with his agenda.
“There’s a very important role in our republic for the loyal opposition,” Jindal said. “We must be both.”
He continued, “We are the party out of power. It is proper and right and healthy for our democracy for us to speak up when we don’t agree with the policies that this president pushes and proposes. I will not be browbeaten… I won’t kowtow to the political correctness. We will be the loyal opposition.”
In response to the question of whether he wants the president to fail, he said his answer is simple: “It depends on what he is trying to do.” Jindal said that he wants Obama to succeed if the president wants to cut taxes, reduce debt, stop the explosion in government spending, and get serious about earmark reform.
“However,” Jindal said, “when our president wants to spend our country into debt, into interminable debt, putting this generation and future generations in a position in which the only way out will be massive tax increases, we oppose that policy not because we want the president to fail, but because we want America to succeed.”
His speech lasted a little over 20 minutes and the NRCC raised $6 million from the event to support GOP candidates.
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