All evidence indicates that Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, wants to be president. Having vaulted onto the national scene in February, 2009, when he gave the Republican response to Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress (a response that got tepid reviews), Jindal is once again in the news. He was chosen to give the keynote address at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting, on January 24, in Charlotte, NC.
When you keep getting picked to be the main speaker at these things, it means: (1) that you crave the national spotlight, and (2) that your party is willing to keep that spotlight focused on you, at least until you crash and burn. Obviously, it's too early to make any predictions about who's going to carry the party banner in 2016. We need only recall that Bill Frist was once deemed a Republican frontrunner.
Apparently, the highlight of Jindal's 25-minute address was his tough talk. "We've got to stop being the stupid party," he said. "We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I'm here to say we've had enough of that." Presumably, he was referring to Romney's snooty disparagement of 47-percent of the American population, and Todd Akin's startling observation that women couldn't get pregnant from a "legitimate rape."
While tough talk is often welcome, what tends to make American voters queasy is that when they hear one Republican caution another Republicans not to make any "stupid" statements, it raises nagging fears that what they're really saying is "Don't tell the truth, because if women, minorities and working people see how exclusionary and mean-spirited we really are, we're sunk." A broad generalization, but there's some truth to it.
No one can argue that Bobby Jindal isn't intelligent. Born in Baton Rouge to Indian immigrants, he was not only a brilliant student, but a budding entrepreneur. While a high school student he started his own retail candy business and a mail-order software company. He graduated with honors from Brown University at the age of twenty, and then attended New College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.
He declined an offer to study for a Ph.D. in political science at Oxford, and was accepted by both Harvard Medical School and Yale Law School, neither of which he wound up attending. Before we gush too much over his Ivy League pedigree, we need to remind ourselves that the only U.S. president in history to hold degrees from both Yale and Harvard was George W. Bush.
Governor Jindal's birth name is Piyush. Born a Hindu, he converted to Roman Catholicism while still in high school. There's a fascinating story behind how he got the name "Bobby." His family began calling him that because young Piyush was a devoted fan of the TV show "The Brady Bunch," and his favorite character was Bobby Brady. True story. Had his favorite show been "Happy Days," he conceivably could have become "Fonzie." Stranger things have happened. Governor Fonzie Jindal.
Just as no one can argue that Jindal isn't intelligent, no one can argue that he isn't a paleo-conservative. He not only opposes abortion and same-sex marriage (meat and potatoes for a conservative), he wants to build a fence along the Mexican border, he supports a constitutional amendment to ban flag-burning, he wants "intelligent design" taught in our schools, he voted to extend the Patriot Act, and he received an endorsement from the NRA for his steadfast opposition to further gun restrictions.
Again, while no one can predict the future, by the time the 2016 presidential campaign rolls around -- considering that there's already ample evidence the American public is becoming more "socially liberal -- many of Jindal's conservative views could be viewed as toxic. Indeed, smart or not, Jindal could be rudely portrayed as the male, Rhodes Scholar equivalent of Michelle Bachmann.
David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author ("It's Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor," 2nd Edition), was a former labor union rep.