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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Underwhelmed by Bobby Jindal

To be fair, giving the response to Obama's speech was a tough assignment... but...

Following any presidential speech with the opposition response is a tough act. Especially when the presidential address is the equivalent of a State of the Union address with the U.S. Capitol as the backdrop.

But Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) accepted that challenge and stepped up to the plate last night in what was an introduction of himself to many Americans who may never have heard of him.

Before he spoke, Charles Mahtesian at the Politico warned that no matter how well Jindal did, critics were likely to pounce:

Note to Bobby Jindal: They’re going to hate you.

When you deliver the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s address Tuesday night, the critics will fault your style and delivery. Your rhetoric will be panned as empty and partisan. Some in your party inevitably will question whether you were up to the job.

Not to worry though. Just look at the experience of Democratic governors who delivered the response to the presidential address in recent years – they weathered the criticism and came out better positioned on the national scene than before.
And yes, Jindal's performance has been widely panned by people across the political spectrum. I'm not all that familiar with Bobby Jindal but I do agree he could have done better.

I did not watch Obama's speech. I channel flipped past it a few times staying long enough to ponder what kind of bathrobe House Speaker Nancy Pelsoi was wearing and always with the mute button on. But I was anxiously awaiting Jindal's response to see how well he would carry it off.

I lost interest after the first few minutes. Check the video yourself if haven't seen it and you'll know why:

That forced cheeriness at the beginning left me flat and I tuned out the remainder of his message. By the time he got serious in the second half (video here) I was gone.

Matthew Gagnon who was twittering throughout the night wondered why Jindal choose folksiness over substance in a post titled "Strike One Bobby:"
Bobby Jindal is a Rhodes Scholar. Among the Republicans left in governmental leadership, he is unquestionably one of its more brilliant minds. He is a policy wonk, and seems extremely interested in policy details, often times rattling off his ideas so quickly his audience gets lost. Tonight was his chance to showcase that brainpower, and that factory of ideas.

What did we see instead? Jindal intentionally spoke with more simplistic, provocative language meant to appeal to rural (conservative) America. His accent seemed just a little bit thicker, and his rhetoric focused on what was upsetting voters, rather than why the Republican agenda is a better choice.
It's unlikely Jindal's performance last night hurt his presidential aspirations. But it didn't help either.

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