Jindal’s Speech Didn’t Cut It

Gov. Bobby Jindal is trying to show America that he’s got a lot in common with President Barack Obama—except when it comes to politics.

Bobby Jindal

Instead, we heard a lot of familiar themes—political parties working together, solutions to problems lying with citizens rather than the government, tax cuts, the disaster known as George W. Bush and the greatness of our country despite the mess we’re in right now. All politicians have to deliver those lines, but Jindal lacked clarity and offered no alternatives to Obama’s stimulus plan. That is something he must correct if he is to have any future on the national stage.

Jindal also must be careful about comparisons with another famous politician—Rudy Giuliani, who tried to ride to national prominence on the strength of his handling a high-profile national disaster. Among the governor’s strengths is that he is a capable administrator who revitalized Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He was wise to talk about this in his address, but he has to make sure that he avoids the same pitfalls Giuliani encountered when he designed his entire presidential campaign around his 9/11 fame.

Ultimately, and perhaps most importantly, Jindal lacked the kind of personal charisma that rocketed Obama to political stardom. That’s not to say he doesn’t have it—and we certainly shouldn’t count him out for 2012. If anything, last night was likely a test run to help Jindal and the GOP gauge his strengths and weaknesses and retool his appeals to the voters.

If the GOP is serious about Jindal as a potential presidential candidate, he should take cues from the president: He will need to re-introduce himself to the American people in a warmer way than he did last night.

“As I grew up, my mom and dad taught me the values that attracted them to this country—and they instilled in me an immigrant’s wonder at the greatness of America,” he said. “As a child, I remember going to the grocery store with my dad. Growing up in India, he had seen extreme poverty. And as we walked through the aisles, looking at the endless variety on the shelves, he would tell me: ‘Bobby, Americans can do anything.’ I still believe that to this day.”

Yes we can. But first, we’ve got a lot of work to do on our delivery.