NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Debates over gun control and government spending cuts are simply a distraction from more important issues, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) said Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
"Look at the debates that have dominated Washington in just the last few weeks," he said. "We have the fiscal cliff, we have debt ceiling, we have Joe Biden's gun control task force and, more recently, the sequester. In reality, these are government sideshows in Washington that we have allowed to take center stage."
Jindal's speech, largely recycled from earlier remarks, argued that Republicans are taking the wrong tack by focusing on government budgets and spending.
He repeated an attack of his party's fixation on the budget, dismissing, although not by name, those like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that have make fiscal hawkishness a key part of their political personas.
"This obsession with zeroes has everyone in our party focused on what? The government," he said. "By obsessing with zeroes on the budget spreadsheet, we send a not-so-subtle signal that the focus of our economy is the phony economy of Washington, D.C., instead of the real economy out in Billings or in Baton Rouge."
It's not Jindal's first time making that point. He used the same lines -- almost to the word -- earlier this year at the National Republican Committee meeting in Charlotte, N.C. In that speech, and again in this one, he made a small allowance for budget-obsessed Republicans, conceding they're needed in Washington.
Jindal's point was not meant as a rebuke of Ryan, spokesman Kyle Plotkin told HuffPost's Jon Ward in January after the governor made similar remarks:
"You are seeing it the wrong way.
The Governor has been clear that it is the job of Republicans to be fiscally responsible and balance the budget.
Paul Ryan has been doing more serious work in that vein than anyone in government and the Governor is grateful for it.
Paul is a friend of the Governor's and has his full-throated support. The Governor made clear that fiscal conservatism and stopping President Obama's spending is vital.
His point is that budget balancing is a tool, not an agenda or a vision for a party. We have to have an agenda that is bigger than the numbers in the federal budget."
Jindal recycled other material beyond the "zeroes" comments in his CPAC speech. He also spent the beginning of his remarks reusing his jokes from a Gridiron Club dinner earlier this month.
One joke, though, was specific to CPAC and went over very well.
"You had the opportunity to hear over 70 political speeches over three days," Jindal said to the crowd. "If I were given the choice to hear 70 political speeches or to get waterboarded, I'd have to think about that."
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