Buzz and I decided to watch Cool Hand Luke last night after President Barack Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress and Governor Bobby Jindal's Republican response. While Obama's speech was well delivered, realistic and optimistic, and even inspirational, Jindal's response demonstrated in the words of character actor Strother Martin a "failure to communicate." If Jindal is the best and brightest of the "new and improved" Republican party, the Democrats don't have much to worry about.
Jindal spoke of the greatness of the American people. He told the following story. "During Katrina, I visited Sheriff Harry Lee, a Democrat and a good friend of mine. When I walked into his makeshift office, I'd never seen him so angry. He was yelling into the phone: "Well, I'm the Sheriff and if you don't like it you can come and arrest me!" I asked him: "Sheriff, what's got you so mad?" He told me that he had put out a call for volunteers to come with their boats to rescue people who were trapped on their rooftops by the floodwaters. The boats were all lined up ready to go, when some bureaucrat showed up and told them they couldn't go out on the water unless they had proof of insurance and registration. I told him, "Sheriff, that's ridiculous." And before I knew it, he was yelling into the phone: "Congressman Jindal is here, and he says you can come and arrest him too!" Harry just told the boaters to ignore the bureaucrats and go start rescuing people."
He went on to say. There is a lesson in this experience: "The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and the enterprising spirit of our citizens." WHAT? Besides the logical inconsistency that government is not some intangible concept but made up of the "American people" in which he has so much faith, the lesson to be learned from Katrina is that if you appoint incompetent people to important government positions (Michael "You're doing a heck of a job" Brown, et. al.) you will experience incompetence when you expect those people to act. The Katrina response is the point we look to when the American people turned their back on the Bush administration and began to realize the Bush administration rewarded loyalty and purity of ideology over competence. Up until that point, Bush's approval ratings were above 40 percent or higher. After Katrina, Bush's ratings were rarely above 40 percent.
Jindal's hypocrisy didn't stop there. While railing against federal spending, Jindal neglected to mention that he had no problem supporting or accepting $80 billion in federal aid to his state to rebuild after Katrina.
Jindal laid out the Republican principles he believes will solve our current economic crisis. First on his agenda was tax cuts, tax cuts, and more tax cuts. Jindal failed to mention that the the Bush tax cuts for the highest income earners were in effect when we got into this economic mess, and that Obama has proposed the largest cut in taxes in history to those earning less than $250,000. He also apparently missed the point that during one of the greatest economic boom in our nation's history (1945 to 1960), the highest marginal tax rate was between 82% and 91%. That rate now stands at 35%. In 2010, the rate will go back up to the Clinton era rate of 39.6%.
The second prong of Jindal's speech was alternative fuels, conservation, energy efficiency, more nuclear power, and more domestic drilling for oil and natural gas. It is a bit disingenuous to hear a Republican talk about alternative fuels and energy conservation after eight years of Bush-Cheney. Bush and Cheney believed in oil, oil, and more oil. Conservation, energy efficiency, and alternative fuels were the purview of the environmentalist wackos and tree huggers.
Jindal then moved on to affordable healthcare for all Americans. Again, a bit disingenuous from a party which opposed SCHIP and every attempt in the past 30 years to reform the nation's healthcare system. Remember, it was the Republicans that killed national healthcare in the Clinton years with horror stories of rationed healthcare, long lines, and bureaucrats making medical decisions. (Ironically, not much different than the HMOs of today.) Our national healthcare system may be the best in the world, .... but only if you can afford it.
Two more points Jindal made were for ridding Washington of corruption and the good old limited government mantra. News flash to Jindal --- the American people have changed their tune from the Reagan era. A majority of Americans believe now that government is the solution.
Obama's speech, on the other hand, laid out plans to fix the economy, fix the American education system, and develop alternative energies that will make us energy independent. He also deftly illustrated how they all are intertwined.
Obama may have been a hard act to follow, but Jindal failed miserably in trying to revive the Utopian Ronald Reagan world in which the far right live.