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Outsourced to Bobby Jindal

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Here's Chris Matthews tearing into Bobby Jindal's response to President Obama's non-state-of-the-union speech.

"They had to outsource the response" says Matthews.

Interesting choice of words. Of course, Matthews clarified he meant that they had to get a Republican who was not in Congress because the ones in Congress were all tainted, compromised, less-than-inspiring.

But "outsourced"? To the nation's only Indian-American governor? You could hardly miss the barb. (It's not that Jindal was a total stranger to Congress either. He was re-elected to it in 2006 with over 80 percent of the vote.) I wonder if all-American hockey-mom Sarah Palin had delivered the Republican response, Matthews would have used the same phrase. After all, she has really never been to Congress. And Alaska is pretty offshore.

I am no big admirer of Bobby Jindal, the new brown hope of the Republican party. We are not brothers under the skin. He's bright, efficient, personable, a good family man and socially inflexibly conservative with a grin. But it is interesting how "outsourcing" has become accepted as the smear word of American politics.

A business processing turn has acquired moral tones and found its place in the popular imagination as the new brown peril. The Los Angeles Times once quipped the US had "outsourced" its national security and the hunt for bin Laden to Pakistan. John Kerry hammered home the same point, with the same pointed reference to outsourcing during his presidential campaign. Outsourcing raises visions of your "sensitive personal data" falling into unwashed "foreign hands."

I once did a survey of Indian papers and American papers about that issue. The difference was clear. Papers in India often stuck to the acronym BPO (or business process outsourcing) while American media used outsourcing as the bogeyman. Of course what they were usually talking about was offshore outsourcing. Outsourcing technically could be done to the company down the street.

But in the popular imagination of the call-center world, outsourcing usually meant brown people who looked like Jindal. Good evening and happy Mardi Gras, I am Bobby Jindal. How can I take away your economic stimulus today? In the current economic climate with Obama saying he would eliminate incentives for companies that ship jobs overseas, outsourcing is back as Public Enemy Number 1. The whipping boy is back.

Matthews took that bait and tried to run with it. Jindal became the outsourced rebuttal -- brown, foreign, therefore not to be trusted.

Except this Bobby doesn't just call himself Bobby when he's selling your airline tickets or upgrading your Turbo Tax. This one changed his name to Bobby long before running for congress because he was a fan of the Brady Bunch. You can't get more scarily American than that.

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