Jindal Counters Obama With Small-Government Pitch

Posted February 24, 2009 at 9:56pm

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) Tuesday night roundly criticized the economic stimulus package signed into law by President Barack Obama last week, calling the plan “irresponsible” while invoking the memory of Hurricane Katrina to argue for reductions in government spending and a reduction in taxes. Delivering the GOP response to Obama’s address to Congress, the 37-year-old first-term governor argued that while Republicans appreciate Obama’s overall message and look to work with him, “sometimes it seems we look for hope in different places,” according to prepared remarks. Jindal, speaking from Baton Rouge, focused almost exclusively on the economy, and criticized Democrats in the House and Senate, as well as Obama, for pushing through a measure which significantly increases government spending. “It’s irresponsible. And it’s no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs or build a prosperous future for our children,” Jindal said. The Louisiana governor, who is considered a strong potential candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, repeatedly used his state’s experiences following Hurricane Katrina as a metaphor for the difference between Republicans and Democrats. Recalling a local sheriff who ignored government demands that he not allow private boat owners to assist in rescues until they provided proof of insurance, Jindal argued that while Democrats want more government, Republicans would prefer to rely on the efforts of private citizens and companies. “The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and enterprising spirit of our citizens. We are grateful for the support we have received from across the nation for the ongoing recovery efforts. This spirit got Louisiana through the hurricanes – and this spirit will get our nation through the storms we face today,” Jindal said. Jindal also took a not-so-veiled shot at Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as he criticized spending in the bill, singling out for scorn a new high-speed train Reid has backed. “While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a ‘magnetic levitation’ line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called ‘volcano monitoring.’ Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.,” Jindal said. Jindal sought to continue the effort of other GOP leaders such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) to create clear lines between Democrats and Republicans. On energy, education and the economy, Jindal repeatedly sought to paint Democrats as favoring government intervention while Republicans were looking to the American “spirit” and charter schools, private health care and an increase in tax cuts as the solution. Jindal did, however, acknowledge that Republicans over the last decade strayed from their small-government, fiscal conservative roots. “In recent years, these distinctions in philosophy became less clear – because our party got away from its principles. You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big-government spending in Washington. Republicans lost your trust – and rightly so,” Jindal said. “Tonight, on behalf of our leaders in Congress and my fellow Republican governors, I say: Our party is determined to regain your trust. We will do so by standing up for the principles that we share … the principles you elected us to fight for … the principles that built this into the greatest, most prosperous country on earth,” he said. Jindal next month is expected to headline the National Republican Congressional Committee’s annual dinner in Washington.