Thursday, February 26, 2009

Jindal's GOP Rebuttal to Obama's Speech Has Observers Asking: 'Where's the Beef?'

Louisiana Governor's National TV Debut Draws Harsh Reviews, With a Fox News Panelist Branding His Performance 'Childish' and Conservative Blogger Calling It 'Patronizing' -- Polls Show Public Solidly Backs Obama's Handling of Economic Crisis, Blames GOP for Lack of Bipartisanship


In delivering the Republican Party's official response Tuesday night to President Obama's State of the Union-style address on the economy to a joint session of Congress, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (above) proved no match for the president's oratorical skills, according to many observers. Not only was Jindal's delivery sharply criticized -- even by conservative commentators -- the party's continued attacks on the president's economic rescue plans are proving unpopular with the majority of the public, according to a new round of opinion polls. (Pool photo by The Associated Press)

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EST Thursday, February 26, 2009)


If Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal had hoped to seriously counter President Obama on the economic crisis and spell out Republican alternative proposals to deal with it in his nationally televised speech Tuesday night in response to the president's address to a joint session of Congress, he failed on both counts -- badly, observers said.

From the blogosphere to the 24-hour cable news channels to the steps of the state Capitol in Baton Rouge, reaction to Jindal's 10-minute address to the country Tuesday night was almost unanimously negative.

Critics from both the left and the right said Jindal's delivery was too slow and condescending, and that the content failed to deliver a new vision for a party that has been battered at the polls in two consecutive elections.

Jindal's speech, delivered from the governor's mansion in Baton Rouge, was even branded "almost childish" by a panelist on the conservative-leaning Fox News Channel. It was a stunning public-relations debacle for a politician who had enjoyed a relationship with the media almost as charmed as the president's since the 37-year-old Jindal, the Louisiana-born son of immigrants from India, was elected the nation's youngest governor in 2007.

In his address, the governor sharply criticized Obama and congressional Democrats on the $789 billion economic stimulus package as "irresponsible" and "larded with wasteful spending.” But he did not attempt to tell viewers how Republicans would have handled the economic crisis differently were they still in charge. Nor did Jindal reveal any new GOP proposals to deal with it.

Jindal's criticism was the clearest indication to date that congressional Republicans would continue to resist Obama's economic policies -- despite opinion polls showing broad public approval of Obama's overall performance as president and his handling of the economic crisis.

"The way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians," said Jindal. who gave the Republican Party's official response. The massive economic stimulus bill recently enacted by Obama and congressional Democrats, Jindal said, will expand the government, "increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt."


Juan Williams, an analyst for the Fox News Channel, gave poor marks for Jindal's speech. “I think he had a really poor performance tonight, I’m sorry to say,” Williams said on a Fox News panel immediately following the governor’s remarks.

Williams, who is also an analyst for National Public Radio, went on to call the governor’s remarks “sing-songy” and "simplistic -- almost childish” compared to Obama's. “This was not the best from the young man from Louisiana,” he said.

Brit Hume, a recently retired Fox News anchor, was equally blunt. "The speech read a lot better than it sounded," he said. "This was not Bobby Jindal's greatest oratorical moment."

But the harshest criticism came from conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan, who called Jindal's remarks "patronizing."

Writing in his Daily Dish blog, Sullivan compared Jindal to Kenneth Burns, the nerdy character in the NBC sitcom "30 Rock."

"Stylistically, he [Jindal] got better as he went along," Sullivan wrote. "But there was, alas, a slightly high school debate team feel to the beginning . . . And there was a patronizing feel to it as well -- as if he were talking to kindergarteners -- that made Obama's adult approach so much more striking."

Sullivan was particularly critical of Jindal bringing up Hurricane Katrina. "I'm not sure that the best example for private enterprise is responding to a natural calamity that even Ron Paul believes is a responsibility for the federal government," he wrote. "And really: does a Republican seriously want to bring up Katrina?" -- a pointed reference to the Bush administration's botched response to the 2005 disaster that irreparably damaged the former president's standing with the public.


Not surprisingly, liberal commentators were just as blunt in their criticism of Jindal's performance.

In fact, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, host of the cable channel's "Hardball" program, voiced his disdain even before Jindal had opened his mouth. As Jindal entered a corridor leading to the cameras in the governor's mansion -- a sight reminisicent of Obama's walk toward the White House East Room for his first formal news conference on February 9 -- Matthews could be overheard exclaiming, "Oh, God!"

Matthews later told that he was "taken aback" by Jindal's seeming mimicry of Obama's entrance at his press conference. "Was this some mimicking of a president walking along the state floor to the East Room?" he asked -- referring to persistent rumors of Jindal being a possible candidate for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, despite his insistence that he has no intention of seeking the White House.


But not everyone was critical of Jindal's performance. In fact, right-wing radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh rushed to Jindal's defense on Wednesday, blasting "the drive-by media" of having "a great disconnect" from his view of the president's address as having "all kinds of lies," while praising Jindal's rebuttal as articulating "what we [conservatives] believe. All he [Jindal] did was articulate opposition to what Obama is doing..."

Limbaugh ripped the governor's conservative critics. "I, sadly, have to include the Fox News All Stars in this," he thundered. "If you think people on our [conservative] side -- I'm talking to you -- those of you who think Jindal was horrible . . . I don't want to hear from you ever again if you think that what Bobby Jindal said was bad or what he said was wrong or not said well!"

In a direct rip at Fox, Limbaugh, noting Williams' comment on Jindal's speech being "simplistic -- almost childish," said that whatever oratorical shortcomings the governor has
can be fixed," but added, "Don't throw this guy overboard -- and our side is doing this, and it is a huge mistake. If we're going to start throwing genuine conservatives overboard for some of these specious reasons, we deserve to get our butts beat every election!"


Jindal's remarks were the strongest indication to date that the GOP has no intention of backing down from their fierce opposition to Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus package. But in fighting the president over how best to respond to the economic crisis, the Republicans are finding themselves also at odds with the public and running an increasing risk of further alienating the voters.

Large majorities of Americans support the stimulus and other plans by the president to revive the economy and strongly approve of his efforts to work across party lines, according to a series of new public opinion polls released in the past few days.

Similarly large majorities blame Republicans for the lack of bipartisanship over the economic crisis, the polls found.

More than a month into his presidency, an Washington Post/ABC News Poll found 68 percent of Americans approve of Obama's overall job performance, with 64 percent favoring the administration's stimulus package.

Another 64 percent majority also support Obama's proposal to stem the epidemic of home foreclosures, although critics complain loudly about responsible homeowners having to "bail out" those who bought their homes knowing they could not afford paying their adjustable-rate mortgages.

A New York Times/CBS News Poll released Sunday showed Obama enjoying a 63 percent job approval rating and more than 75 percent of Americans optimistic about the next four years with him as president.

The same poll found an overwhelming 75 percent of Americans -- including 61 percent of Republicans -- praising Obama for his efforts to reach across the aisle to Republicans to garner bipartisan support for his economic stimulus plan, while at the same time finding fault with the GOP for spurning the president's efforts.


While Jindal acknowledged that Republicans lost the trust of the voters by failing to stand up to its principles, he asserted that the party "is determined to regain" the voters' confidence. “We will do so by standing up for the principles that we share," he said, "the principles you elected us to fight for; the principles that built this into the greatest, most prosperous country on earth.”

Opinion polls show that many Democrats and independents alike believe the Republicans are making a mistake and ignoring the voters' message sent last November by continuing to resist the need for massive government action to help the economy.

But Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are standing firm. "Washington shouldn't be spending money that we don't have," House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia said in his response to Obama's speech. He pledged that Republicans will work with Obama, but made it clear that they will not betray its "core principles."

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky was also conciliatory in his response to the president's address. But he, too, made it clear that "Republicans believe the road back to prosperity is paved with greater personal freedom, not bigger government."

While Republicans are shying away from saying publicly that Obama's economic rescue plan will fail -- as Limbaugh is openly advocating on the air -- many Republicans are nonetheless banking on making an electoral comeback in the 2010 midterm elections if the president falters.

On the other hand, if the Obama plan succeeds, the GOP will find itself in serious trouble, not only in the midterms, but also in the next presidential election in 2012.

# # #

Volume IV, Number 16
Copyright 2009, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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Monday, February 23, 2009

South's Dominance of GOP Evident in Bitter Divisions Over Obama's Stimulus Measure

After Taking Two Consecutive Electoral Drubbings in the Rest of the Country, the Republicans Are a More Solidly Conservative Southern Regional Party Than Ever Before -- and Risking Further Isolation for Opposing President Obama's Economic Rescue Plans

Feuding Elephants: Republicans appear to be sharply divided along regional lines over President Obama's economic stimulus package, with the bulk of the opposition to the plan coming from conservative Southerners. Nowhere is that division more evident than among the nation's 22 GOP governors, with a handful of Southern conservatives declaring they won't accept parts of the president's stimulus, while other GOP governors from the Northeast, the Midwest and the Far West fully supporting it. (Photo courtesy

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EST Monday, February 23, 2009)


If there were any lingering doubts that the Republican Party has been reduced to a regional one dominated by conservative Southerners, those doubts were removed over the weekend in Washington, where a rift pitting Southerners against their fellow Republicans from the rest of the country broke wide open.

GOP governors in town for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association divided sharply along regional lines over President Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus package and, more broadly, how to deal with the worsening economic crisis.

While most GOP governors from the Northeast, the Midwest and the Far West -- particularly California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger -- argued that the Republicans have little choice but to work more cooperatively with the president and to move toward the center to attract vitally needed independent voters, several conservatives from the South -- along with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin -- insisted that the party must stick to conservative principles by fighting against Obama's spending and tax proposals.

The regional rift among the Republican governors is part of a far sharper ideological divide pitting conservatives against moderates.


Schwarzenegger, appearing Sunday on ABC's "This Week," suggested that Republicans were "out of touch" with average Americans on a variety of economic issues, particularly health care.

The California governor had just signed a long-overdue state budget that closed a record $42 billion budget deficit by a combination of tax increases and spending cuts, despite the nearly-unanimous opposition by his fellow Republicans in the Democratic-controlled California Legislature.

Several arch-conservative California Republicans vowed to push through a resolution at the state GOP convention this week condemning Schwarzenegger -- who's barred by law from seeking a third term as governor next year -- for breaking his no-tax-hike pledge.

"You've got to listen to the people," he said. "If the nation is screaming out loud, 'We need health care reform. We want to have universal health care. We want to have everyone insured. We want to bring the costs down. We want everyone to have access.' I mean, that's what they want; that's what you do."

Schwarzenegger criticized his fellow Republicans for "standing in the way" of fixing the state’s budget crisis by their steadfast opposition to the tax hikes, arguing that the GOP had to put their principles against tax increases secondary to the demand of the majority of Californians to resolve the budget crisis, even if that meant that taxes had to go up.


But South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford sharply disagreed, insisting that the GOP must stick to its conservative principles. "There’s a tug of war right now within the party as to where we go next," Sanford acknowledged in an interview with The New York Times. "I am in the camp that says we go back to basics. There are other folks who say something a little different. The answer will be determined in this tug of war."

Sanford, along with conservative GOP Governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Rick Perry of Texas and Palin served notice that they would not accept millions of federal stimulus dollars for expanded unemployment compensation because they object to federal requirements that their states provide relief for part-time workers who lost their jobs as well as to full-time workers.

Barbour also argues that the unemployment benefit requirements would force his state to raise taxes.


In separate interviews on NBC's "Meet the Press," Jindal and Florida Governor Charlie Crist clashed over the president's stimulus plan, with Crist defending his support for it as part of his obligation, as the state's chief executive, "to do everything I can to help us get through this tough economy." and Jindal arguing that his state would have been forced to raise business taxes if he had accepted $100 million in stimulus funds for unemployment compensation.

"In the past five weeks, I’ve visited six unemployment offices throughout Florida," Crist said. "I look into the eyes of these people, and I understand that the challenges are serious that they’re having to deal with, and I want to do everything I can to help them.

"Certainly this stimulus package -- about $12.2 billion to Florida -- will help Florida an awful lot" Crist continued.

Jindal took the opposite tack. "The $100 million we turned down was temporary federal dollars that would require us to change our unemployment laws'" he said. "That would've actually raised taxes on Louisiana businesses. We as a state would've been responsible for paying for those benefits after the federal money disappeared."

Jindal argued that "Now is the time . . . for Republican governors and other leaders to offer conservative-based solutions to the problems."

The Louisiana governor is scheduled to deliver the Republican response to the president’s State of the Union-style address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night. "We need to work with the president every chance we can," he said. "But on principle -- when we disagree with him -- we should be unafraid to stand up on principle and to point out our alternative solutions."


The split among Republican governors over the president's stimulus plan almost neatly fits the solidifying public image of the Republican Party as having dwindled -- following back-to-back severe electoral losses in the Northeast, the Midwest and the Far West -- into a regional party dominated by Southern conservatives.

Moreover, not only are the GOP governors objecting to the stimulus package all Southerners -- with the exception of Palin -- they also are touted as potential GOP presidential candidates in 2012 and are likely making their criticisms of the Obama plan to appeal to conservative voters.

Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, has made no secret of her ambitions to seek the party's top prize. Jindal is being touted as the GOP's answer to Obama -- but his hard-line conservative positions on the emotional social issues of abortion and gay rights may not endear him with moderate and independent voters and with young people.

Most of the other 22 GOP governors -- Most notably Crist, Schwarzenegger, Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell and Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, the National Governors' Association's vice-chairman, openly support the stimulus package.

All four are moderates heading states that Obama won by a landslide in the November 4 election and where public approval of the president's job performance is especially high.

By contrast, Jindal, Barbour, Perry, Palin and Sanford all govern states that Obama lost to John McCain.

One Midwestern GOP governor, Mitch Daniels of Indiana -- which Obama won by an extremely narrow nine-tenths of a percentage point over McCain -- had reservations about the president's package but put his concerns aside for now. "I want this president to succeed because I want America to succeed," Daniels told the Times. "There will be plenty of time for alternatives later."

# # #

Volume IV, Number 15
Copyright 2009, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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