The GOP rebuttal to President Barack Obama's address last night was comical, to say the least. Halfway through the beginning of his introduction, Steff looked at me and mentioned of how Governor Jindal reminded her of Kenneth off of 30 Rock. Apparently she wasn't the only one to make this association:
Close your eyes and think of Kenneth from 30 Rock. I can barely count the number of emails making that observation. I'm told Olbermann's open mic got it right: Jindal's entrance reminded one of Mr Burns gamboling toward a table of ointments.
Stylistically, he got better as he went along but there was, alas, a slightly high-school debate team feel to the beginning. And there was a patronizing feel to it as well - as if he were talking to kindergartners - that made Obama's adult approach so much more striking. And I'm not sure that the best example for private enterprise is responding to a natural calamity that even Ron Paul believes is a responsibility for the federal government. And really: does a Republican seriously want to bring up Katrina? As for the biography, it felt like Obama-lite. With far less political skill.
It was also odd for Jindal to keep talking about the need for tax cuts - when Obama just announced a massive tax cut for 95 percent of working Americans. He gave no alternative proposal on the financial collapse; and tried to attack government spending simply because it's government spending. In a deepening depression, grown-ups can take a slightly different view of such spending in the short term. But give him his due: he did in the end concede that the GOP currently has a credibility problem on the fiscal issues they are now defining themselves with. This matters - it matters for the future of the GOP and the possibility of minimal accountability after an age that disdained it.
The rest was boilerplate. And tired, exhausted, boilerplate. If the GOP believes tax cuts - more tax cuts - are the answer to every problem right now, they are officially out of steam and out of ideas. And remember: this guy is supposed to be the smart one.
And over at Talking Points Memo:
Jindal Blogging02.24.09 -- 10:25PM
By Josh Marshall
"Pre-existing condition"? Is it just me or is this absolutely cringeworthy? I mean, I really don't like Jindal. But this is awful.
10:26 PM ... Is he going to talk about his work as an exorcist?
10:28 PM ... Katrina as metaphor for opposing the Stimulus Bill. Not happening for me.
10:28 PM ... Raising taxes? Isn't the bill like 40% tax cuts?
10:30 PM ... I think this is the new angle ... referring to 'magnetic levitation' like it's some sort weird thing you do at a commune. I guess it's funny not to understand that really fast trains don't all run on diesel.
Liberal Values sums it all up nicely:
Barack Obama achieved a tremendous political victory with his speech Tuesday night, primarily due to the Republicans self-destructing. After Bobby Jindal’s dismal performance we may see a change in the view that Jindal is an up and coming Republican leader. Republicans might also need to reconsider the value of responding to presidential speeches if they are going to do this poor of a job.
Multiple bloggers have already compared Jindal to Kenneth from 30 Rock. Matthew Yglesias had one of the more favorable comments about Jindal, writing, “Bobby Jindal apparently believes it’s appropriate to address the citizens of the United States in a tone that suggests we’re all nine years old.” Sean Quinn came to a similar conclusion writing, “If it sounds like Jindal is targeting his speech to a room full of fourth graders, that’s because he is. They might be the next people to actually vote for Republicans again.”
These evaluations that Jindal was speaking down to the level of nine year olds is far better than the review from Andrew Sullivan which said, “there was a patronizing feel to it as well - as if he were talking to kindergartners - that made Obama’s adult approach so much more striking.” The Note also went with the perceived younger audience in live blogging: “Reminds me of a Kindergarten teacher.”
The content was even worse than the delivery. Jindal’s response consisted of repetition of the same old Republican talking points which few still buy. They didn’t need a whole speech to do this. They could have just sent people to the GOP Problem Solver which I linked to here. Ezra Klein wrote:…it’s a speech that Boehner could have given in 2007 and that Frist could have given in 2005 and that Lott could have given in 1998 and that Gingrich could have given in 1993. Jindal made a mistake accepting the GOP’s invitation to give this response. Yesterday, he seemed like a different kind of Republican. Today, he doesn’t.
It is far too early for anything to definitely determine the 2012 Republican nomination, but Sarah Palin was the big winner following Jindal’s performance, making America the big loser.
Jindal spoke of Katrina, thinking the Americans he spoke down to had forgotten which party was to blame for the inadequate response. He repeated standard Republican scare tactics about tax increases after Obama announced a tax cut for 95% of Americans. It no longer works for Republicans to speak of fiscal responsibility and small government when the result of electing them has been increased deficits and increased government intrusion in individuals lives. How many times do they think they can get away with saying one thing when out of power and then doing the opposite after taking office?
Jindal attacked the stimulus package with standard Republican debating tactics (i.e. gross distortions of the truth). He protested ” a ‘magnetic levitation’ line from Las Vegas to Disneyland” as if this was the only route under consideration for high speed rail, and as if we should stick to old fashioned railroads on standard tracks. He sees “volcano monitoring” as a waste of money. Apparently he believes that those in the path of an erupting volcano should receive no more benefits of advanced notification than those in the path of Katrina.
Jindal’s comments on health care were especially bizarre:We stand for universal access to affordable health care coverage. We oppose universal government-run health care. Health care decisions should be made by doctors and patients - not by government bureaucrats.
His statement is puzzling considering that Republican policies would lead to health care being less affordable and would do nothing to promote universal access. He may oppose universal government-run health care, but so does Obama and so do most Democrats. None of the proposals being discussed call for government-run health care.
Jindal says he opposes health care decisions being made by government bureaucrats, but the Republicans have been the ones who have backed interference with doctor/patient decisions over the protests of Democrats. This includes Republican support for government interference in end of life decisions such as in the Terri Schiavo case, restrictions on abortion rights, restrictions on contraception, and opposition to medicinal marijuana use even in states where it is legal.Beyond these Republican policies, most Americans are far more likely to see a private insurance company interfere in decisions made with their doctor than they are from the government-financed Medicare plan.
Jindal did such a poor job that even Fox was critical. Considering the vast differences in their speeches, it is no surprise that most viewers were far more convinced by Obama’s arguments. CNN found that “two-thirds of those who watched President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress reacted favorably to his speech.” CBS News found a tremendous increase in support for Obama’s policies as a result of the speech:
Eighty percent of speech watchers approve of President Obama’s plans for dealing with the economic crisis. Before the speech, 63 percent approved.
Fifty-one percent of speech watchers think the president’s economic plans will help them personally. Thirty-six thought so before the speech.