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Posted by on Feb 25, 2009 in Economy, Politics | 4 comments

Bobby Jindal’s Bad Hands

JindalCrowd.jpgIn his autobiography, George Burns mentioned that the reason he always carried a cigar when doing his comedy routines or speaking in public was that he had “bad hands.” He didn’t know what to do with them while talking and he knew that it was distracting to the audience, so he clutched that stogy just so he’d have something to do with his hands. Last night Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal had his big moment in the spotlight (which may, in reality, have been his opening volley in a bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012) and what I took away at the end was his bad hands. When you combine that with the timbre of his voice and the extremely wooden, plodding delivery of a couple of personal stories which simply didn’t play very well, the result was something truly awful to behold. You can view a replay of the speech at Hot Air today, where Allahpundit observes, oddly enough, that “awful” was the exact word used by one of the GOP’s most ardent supporters.

Not helping matters at all was the fact that Jindal took to the stage only moments after the President finished speaking. Obama is a powerful speaker when he’s only firing on half of his cylinders and last night he was in full stride. The comparison between the two performances left Governor Jindal looking like Oliver coming along after the headmaster with his empty bowl, asking for another portion of gruel.

But what of the message that Jindal brought in response to the President’s agenda? Ironically it suffered from the same lack of specificity we’ve seen in the Democrats’ plans. When he finished with his homespun narratives about the similarities between himself and Obama along with tales of hurricane Katrina he launched into the Republican view of how to address our current fiscal crisis. Unfortunately, it contained nothing more than the same glittering generalities we’ve been hearing for weeks. Cut taxes, you know how to handle your money better than we do, less taxes on business means more jobs… we’ve heard the song already. Parts of it have a lot of appeal, as there are many portions of the stimulus package which make me highly uncomfortable and don’t appear terribly stimulative. Unfortunately, Jindal’s message gave the impression of saying that it would be better to do nothing and let the economy crash and burn than to try things the way the Democrats are doing it.

There is, as I said, an appeal to that as well on some visceral, fiscal conservative level. The free market does always work. But as we’ve discussed here in the past, it doesn’t always work the way you might like it to. Banks that are run poorly on far too much leveraged risk over a long period can and will fail. The housing market was in a huge, unhealthy bubble which eventually had to pop. Letting several major industries fail and housing values crash to thrift store levels may be the right thing to do from a purely theoretical economics point of view, but I’m no longer sure that we would survive it. Or, if we did, it might be a lot more pain than most of us would care to shoulder over the next decade.

If the Republicans want to be taken seriously in their opposition, it would benefit them to draw up a full package, complete with some spending and job stimulus instead of just tax cuts and more tax cuts. They should present that in a coherent form to the voters for consideration, even if the Democratic controlled Congress will never consider bringing it to the floor. Jindal failed to deliver any of that last night and dealt himself a head wound in the national debate in the process. A poor showing by all accounts, and there really isn’t much more to say about it.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey has a different GOP response from Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) on the same topic. Unfortunately, while the delivery is considerably better than Jindal’s, the message is the same and fails to flesh out any alternatives besides saying “The Democrats are spending too much of your money and we need to cut more taxes.” Inspirational in tone, but disappointing in content and specificity.