The Jindal who responded to Barack Obama's address to Congress was less the brilliant statesman than a terribly mixed metaphor -- equal parts Mister Rogers, Bobby Brady and Kenneth the Page.
I know Bobby Jindal, and that guy wasn't Bobby Jindal.
The real Jindal has actually read the stimulus bill and can recite its contents. The real Jindal is the sort of politician who promises ethics and education reform, and actually delivers.
Stories of Jindal's ability to quickly assess a problem and fix it have become the stuff of legend in Louisiana, as when he was assigned the task of reforming the state's Medicaid program and presented a workable plan the following morning. He was in his 20s.
Parker goes on to blame Jindal's performance last Tuesday night on his handlers:
At the moment, Jindal seems to be handicapped by handlers who either don't trust their candidate or have no faith in Americans' intelligence.
The stage-crafting was amateurish and the speech embarrassing. Jindal is smarter than the guy who criticized "volcano monitoring" as an example of wasteful spending in the stimulus bill, prompting the same cringe reflex that Sarah Palin did when she targeted silly ol' spending -- in France, no less -- on fruit fly research that is, in fact, crucial to medical research.
Tuesday's speech was a setback, much like Bill Clinton's droning 1988 Democratic convention speech, but hardly a career-ender. When Jindal apparently slipped his collar and resurfaced Wednesday morning on the "Today" show, the Rhodes Scholar Jindal (who was accepted to both Yale and Harvard medical and law schools) was back.
He dropped his "I'm-just-a-regular-guy" shtick and managed to articulate his conservative principles without putting the audience in mind of cookies and milk. Praising Obama's objectives -- while conceding that Republicans have lost fiscal credibility -- he emphasized his preference for policies that help businesses create jobs rather than government programs he fears will require a taxpayer feeding tube in perpetuity.
Below, via YouTube, is the video of the "Today Show" appearance Parker described. I agree that it was a much better showing, but there seemed to be some inconsistency about Jindal's angle of attack on the stimulus bill. At one point he says that a stimulus focused more on infrastructure spending, business tax credits, etc. would have been better1, and on the other hand he says we can't borrow and tax our way through this. Those are two different, fairly incompatible arguments, and I think you'd find a lot more economists agreeing with the first one than the second one. Watch and decide for yourself.
1Jindal also mentioned a couple of tax cuts that I doubt would be that stimulative at this point, a capital gains tax cut (who's worrying about capital gains at this point?) and permanently lowering (income?) tax rates on lower earners. President Bush did lower rates on lower earners, and President Obama has said he wants to keep those parts of Bush's tax cuts, but since the bottom 40% of earners pay little net federal income taxes anyway, I doubt there's much stimulative effect in lowering them further (although there probably would be in a temporary payroll tax holiday).