In one week, Jindal has picked a fight with Jeb Bush on Common Core, with Bush and Obama on marriage (he won’t evolve on gay marriage and is supporting a constitutional amendment if the Supreme Court disagrees), and with the president and the respectable media of nuance on ISIS.
“The Medieval Christian threat is under control, Mr. President. Please deal with the Radical Islamic threat today” has become a Facebook meme. Gov. Jindal’s refusal to backtrack when the nuanced crowd demanded it on the idea of “no-go zones” in France highlighted his theme that assimilation is the issue, not necessarily immigration per se.
To top off his week of brilliantly bad press, he got criticized for a painting some felt was too light-skinned: “You mean I’m not white?” he counterjabbed humorously and moved on.
Let me put on my political analyst hat and tell you something: what we have seen is one remarkably smart and deft political candidate. Even I did not expect it of Jindal, who was supposed to be the Rhodes Scholar policy wonk in the race.
Funny thing is, if you listen to the conventional wisdom, Bobby Jindal had an amazingly bad week, spurred by his increasingly unnuanced (read: idiotic) pronouncements.
I could cite many examples of the bad mainstream media headlines Jindal has generated. In the National Journal, Josh Kraushaar expatiated at length on what he calls the Jindal Contradiction: “The Louisiana governor is one of the most accomplished candidates in the Republican field. But as a presidential candidate, he’s been shamelessly pandering to the base.”
But my personal favorite is the shocked reaction from the ultimate legacy liberal Eleanor Clift: “Listening to Jindal, one wonders how a guy who’s so smart – a Rhodes scholar who graduated from Brown University at age 20 and was elected governor at age 36, the youngest in the nation at the time – keeps stumbling into bad headlines.” Why can’t he get his foot out of his mouth and talk so people such as Eleanor like him?
What just happened? Only six days ago, Team Bush announced to the media that their primary strategy was to run a general election strategy. This week Bobby Jindal let Team Bush know: he’s running a very smart primary strategy to obtain the nomination.
If you are facing a Jeb Bush with all Wall Street and Bill Gates money, a guy who is trying to pull a Romney and consolidate all the donors before the voters have a chance to speak, how do you compete? Jindal is the one guy with smarts to understand: you go where Bush doesn’t want to and say the truths that drive the Eleanor Clifts of the world batty.
Already the power of Jindal’s leadership on Common Core has caused both Gov. Bush and Gov. Christie to revise their positions significantly in order to try to mute the primary opposition, a welcome development.
Jindal may or may not succeed, but he’s following the smart path of consciously attempting to draw distinctions between his positions and Jeb Bush’s.
Clearly I’m not ready to endorse anyone for president, but it was a smart week for Jindal.
Frank Cannon is president of the American Principles in Action.