BEAM: Jindal Says GOP Must Change

Louisiana residents may be losing some of their enthusiasm for Gov. Bobby Jindal, but our governor’s national ambitions got a shot in the arm with the Republican Party’s defeat in the presidential race. Jindal immediately stepped into the national spotlight.

Much has been written about the reasons GOP nominee Mitt Romney lost, but Jindal places most of the blame on the narrow interests of the national Republican Party. We got the governor’s assessment from Politico, a political journalism organization that publishes a newspaper and uses TV, the Internet and radio to spread its messages about activities in the nation’s capital.

The Advocate of Baton Rouge said Wednesday Jindal chose a national outlet for his first post-Election Day interview after rejecting requests from state reporters. He obviously wants broader news coverage.

Jindal told Politico, “We’ve got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything,” he said during a 45-minute telephone interview. “We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they can get to keep their toys.”

That’s pretty tough talk for a Republican conservative. However, Jindal said the GOP shouldn’t retreat from its stances opposing abortion rights and gay marriage, but should soften its tone on those highly controversial issues. He was especially critical of comments on rape and abortion made by two U.S. Senate candidates who lost their elections Nov. 6. Republicans Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana, both favorites, were defeated because of their highly offensive comments.

“It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments — enough of that,” Jindal told Politico. “It’s not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can’t be tolerated within our party. We’ve had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”

The tea party movement won’t take kindly to Jindal’s remarks about “simply being the anti-Obama party.” He added, “You can’t beat something with nothing. The reality is we have to be a party of solutions and not just bumper-sticker slogans but real detailed policy solutions.”

A number of Republicans believe immigration reform will help improve their party’s image with Latinos, who voted overwhelmingly for President Obama. Reform could include stronger security on the border and a limited amnesty that would give a path to citizenship for those in this country illegally.

Politico said Jindal agrees with border security, but dodged repeated questions about whether he supports some sort of amnesty or favors deportation of those here illegally.

“I think the president has said he wants to present a comprehensive approach; I think we as a party need to hear what he has to say and offer our ideas,” Jindal said.

Louisiana residents know exactly what Jindal is talking about in education when he says, “Let the dollar follow the child instead of making the child follow the dollar.” It’s his state voucher system that is allowing 5,000 Louisiana students to go to schools of their choice on government money. Charter schools, private and parochial schools and home-schooler parents benefit.

Jindal made it clear he doesn’t share Romney’s view that 47 percent of the American people want a handout and won’t support a Republican presidential candidate.

“The Republican Party is going to fight for every single vote,” he said. “That means the 47 percent and the 53 percent, that means any other combination of numbers going up to 100 percent.”

The governor has consistently refused to say he’s running for president, but anyone who doesn’t think so isn’t tuned in. Jindal has been running for president for the last four years, and he’s going to keep running for the next four. He’s mentioned often as being among the top seven GOP contenders for 2016.

Thanks to his continuous nationwide travels, Jindal is well-known outside Louisiana. However, his critics in the state say other Americans aren’t getting a true picture of the real Bobby Jindal. Over the last five years, the governor has managed to offend legislators, higher education leaders, public school teachers, state employees and health care advocates and providers.

Jindal supporters will tell you those groups needed to be jolted out of their inefficient ways of conducting the state’s business. An Advocate reader put it this way: “The reason I know he is doing such a great job is the ‘whiny left’ constantly attacks him with their name-calling and petty attacks.”

Give Jindal credit for understanding how the political winds are blowing. And although he appears to be open to compromises that could enhance the Republican Party’s image, he’s still a no-tax, small-government advocate.

The people of Louisiana, however, would appreciate it if Jindal didn’t continue to insult their intelligence by saying he’s got the best job in the world and only wants to be focused on being governor of Louisiana. We know he has presidential ambitions, and there is nothing wrong with that. So why not just admit it?

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the Lake Charles American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 337-494-4025 or [email protected].

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