Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Jindal distorts own record in order to offer nothing to nation

After spending the day celebrating Mardi Gras, I took a peek at Obama's address to Congress and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's response for the GOP.

Obama's speech was incredible, especially toward the end. Weaving the 'quitters' thing in from the story about the girl from South Carolina? Just beautiful.



Jindal's speech?

Ouch. He's getting put through the paces in the media for his creepy body language and pipsqueak delivery - and rightly so. He was horrendous. Absolutely awful.

To a certain extent you have to put it in context. I mean, what's the GOP response supposed to be after a 52 minute operatic masterpiece by a popular, pro-active commander-in-chief? No Republican in the nation would have been capable of saying anything remotely inspiring in that situation. Not one. That is a function several things - the GOP personality vacuum, the deserved unpopularity of the GOP brand for their 95% culpability in fostering our current dire circumstances, and the overall GOP strategic vision of opposing every good idea of the new President while offering no alternatives - but certainly you'd expect that the great last hope of the conservative fundamentalists would be able to offer something to the American people. He didn't because he couldn't - he has nothing to offer. Nor does the rest of his party. And it must begin crystallizing for conservatives of all stripes that they're going to have to radically alter their political priorities and target coalitions if they're ever to be seen as fit for national power ever again.

Here is a video of Governor Jindal's speech:




Conservative pundit David Brooks gets this:




But let's truly evaluate the lack of substance by looking at the transcript of the speech itself. It wasn't just the meek voice with which Jindal delivered them, it was the words themselves - and what they mean in juxtaposition to Obama's ambitious plans to make America a greater nation.

Jindal's speech lasts just over 2000 words. He doesn't discuss a single substantive policy until he's about 800 words in. He spends the beginning part of the speech introducing his own personal story as the son of immigrants from India. He makes some feint acknowledgment of the need for bipartisanship. And he inexplicably highlights a generic disposition against "government" by telling the story of the time that Republican President George W. Bush's pathetic administration failed to respond to Hurricane Katrina.

All anecdotes and platitudes that rang hollow.

Then he finally gets into a real-world issue by railing against the recently passed stimulus bill - the one that promises to invest in communities, create jobs, and lower taxes in the midst of an economic crisis. Calling the President's do-something approach "irresponsible," Jindal highlights his "different approach" in Louisiana and tosses out his ideas for repairing our economy.

Since I became governor, we cut more than 250 earmarks from our state budget. And to create jobs for our citizens, we cut taxes six times - including the largest income tax cut in the history of our state. We passed those tax cuts with bipartisan majorities. Republicans and Democrats put aside their differences, and worked together to make sure our people could keep more of what they earn. If it can be done in Baton Rouge, surely it can be done in Washington, DC.

To strengthen our economy, we need urgent action to keep energy prices down. All of us remember what it felt like to pay $4 at the pump - and unless we act now, those prices will return. To stop that from happening, we need to increase conservation ... increase energy efficiency ... increase the use of alternative and renewable fuels ... increase our use of nuclear power - and increase drilling for oil and gas here at home. We believe that Americans can do anything - and if we unleash the innovative spirit of our citizens, we can achieve energy independence.

To strengthen our economy, we also need to address the crisis in health care. Republicans believe in a simple principle: No American should have to worry about losing their health coverage - period. 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. We believe Americans can do anything - and if we put aside partisan politics and work together, we can make our system of private medicine affordable and accessible for every one of our citizens.

To strengthen our economy, we also need to make sure every child in America gets the best possible education. After Katrina, we reinvented the New Orleans school system - opening dozens of new charter schools, and creating a new scholarship program that is giving parents the chance to send their children to private or parochial schools of their choice. We believe that, with the proper education, the children of America can do anything. And it should not take a devastating storm to bring this kind of innovation to education in our country.

To strengthen our economy, we must promote confidence in America by ensuring ours is the most ethical and transparent system in the world. In my home state, there used to be saying: At any given time, half of Louisiana is under water - and the other half is under indictment. No one says that anymore. Last year, we passed some of the strongest ethics laws in the nation - and today, Louisiana has turned her back on the corruption of the past. We need to bring transparency to Washington, DC - so we can rid our Capitol of corruption ... and ensure we never see the passage of another trillion dollar spending bill that Congress has not even read and the American people haven't even seen.


First, he highlights some cursory reductions in earmark spending and his deficit-fanning tax cuts. That's fine.

Then he prioritizes an interesting plan to cut energy costs. Whereas Obama wants to invest in weatherization, renewable and alternative energy, and conservation, Bobby Jindal also indicates a willingness to invest in energy independence. The difference is that Barack Obama just passed a stimulus bill - the one that Jindal vehemently opposes - that would specifically invest in renewable energy research and home weatherization programs. Jindal cites the high gas prices that no longer exist due to this crippling recession as evidence that we need to provide more giveaways to oil and gas companies for more offshore drilling.

Next, Jindal addresses healthcare accessibility. This was a big part of Obama's speech. The President has promised that healthcare reform will be a priority for this year, because access to healthcare is a human right and because the rising cost of care is kneecapping small businesses. Jindal is light on the details himself, saying only that he opposes a single-payer state system. While I believe in single-payer myself, it is seemingly certain that the Obama plan for universal healthcare will be a public-private partnership. So not much substance from the GOP here.

Then he highlights his record on education policy - I'll get to this later.

Jindal closes the policy portion of the speech by calling for ethics and transparency in Washington, which is kind of silly given the strident standards that President Obama imposed immediately upon taking office and absolutely dumbfounding given the unabashed corruption epidemic within Bush's Republican administration and the GOP Congress.

The rest of the speech is a half-assed mea culpa for the GOP in which he pledges that his party will regain the trust of the nation.

How about some actual policies and ideas?

--

Here is what Jindal said about education:

To strengthen our economy, we also need to make sure every child in America gets the best possible education. After Katrina, we reinvented the New Orleans school system - opening dozens of new charter schools, and creating a new scholarship program that is giving parents the chance to send their children to private or parochial schools of their choice. We believe that, with the proper education, the children of America can do anything. And it should not take a devastating storm to bring this kind of innovation to education in our country.


This is, simply put, a total distortion of not just of what is going on in New Orleans schools but also his own role in implementing the policies he highlights. He does this all in once sentence somehow.

"We reinvented the New Orleans school system..."

By this I believe he's referring to the effective dissolution of the Orleans Parish School Board and the creation of the state-run Recovery School District to take temporary receivership of public school management in New Orleans after Katrina. For one, the decision was made and implemented before Jindal was governor. In fact, it was former governor Kathleen Blanco who created the RSD, hired Paul Pastorek to head the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and brought in Paul Vallas to manage the RSD itself. For two, nobody aside from the cheerleaders from within the system's administration is anywhere close to declaring any kind of victory in what is an ongoing and contentious experiment.

"...opening up dozens of new charter schools..."

It is true that the RSD has outsourced the management of many schools to charter organizations (also under Governor Blanco, not Jindal). But the sentence might be misinterpreted in indicate that the school system in New Orleans is back online. In fact, the long-term RSD plan is to shutter schools.

The reality is that school facilities in New Orleans are in horrible disrepair. While the RSD's facilities master plan will bring some new schools and renovations online within the next few years, GOP opposition to the stimulus actually killed school building money that would have accelerated school facilities construction in New Orleans in a real and measurable way.

The students at George Washington Carver High School in the 9th Ward still attend class in temporary FEMA-issued portable units behind chain-link fences in bright orange uniforms.

Meanwhile, this is the state of the Morris FX Jeff school in Mid City:



This picture is from over a year ago when neighbors organized to get this school repaired by the RSD, but I can assure you that the building looked the same or worse when I walked past it on Saturday on my way to the Endymion parade. This is precisely the type of building that could have been renovated had Jindal and other GOP "leaders" not been so petulant in reaction to a stimulus bill that promised to actually help people and communities around the country. And this wild post-disaster public education experiment is Bobby Jindal's crowning achievement in education policy?

"...new scholarship program..."

This part is true. Some local Democratic legislators sold out and capitulated on a school voucher program that diverts public resources away from needy public schools. But he can this one if he wants.

The bottom line is that I don't think Bobby Jindal wants to spend too much time touting his record on education. I haven't even mentioned his enthusiastic endorsement of teaching creationism in science classes.

--

I've noticed how the GOP stars have been aligning for Bobby Jindal's ascendancy to a roll as a national leader of the Party. But all that was predicated on their belief that he was capable of showing Americans that Republicans had some sort of practical vision, some policy ideas that could maybe resonate down the road when political conditions improve. Looks like they could be heading back to the drawing board on that one.

5 comments:

E.J. said...

I think he'll regret allowing his party to use him as a spokesperson. I have a feeling it's going to backfire.

jeffrey said...

Carver band looked great, though.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/skooksie/3311031882/

E said...

Oh yeah! I'm all about Carver Ram Band!

That facility looks worse that Gitmo though.

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