Please, please, let's not do 2012 just yet.
I now know why tonight's Republican response by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is so important: It will help him with the GOP presidential nomination in 2012.
Am I the only one who thinks that's just nuts?
And yet, I've been hearing that constantly over the past couple of days. Bloggers are weighing how tonight could affect his chances for the nomination. Now, I understand the desire to write whatever comes into your head — see Junkie, Political — but seriously. Republicans not only need to recover not only from the 2006 and 2008 elections but need to regain the confidence of the American people. And it's not about 2012.
And judging by today's New York Times poll, they have a long way to go. The poll, reported by Jeff Zeleny and Megan Thee-Brenan, shows that while a majority said Obama was "striving to work in a bipartisan way ... most faulted Republicans for their response to the president, saying the party had objected to the $787 billion stimulus plan for political reasons."
Jindal is among the handful of GOP governors who have expressed some unwillingness to take federal funds from the stimulus package, citing a bloated deficit and philosophical problems. An Indian-American, he is seen as a rising star in GOP circles and had been considered by John McCain as a potential running mate in 2008. At 37, he presumably has a long future ahead of him. Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk-show host, has likened him to Ronald Reagan.
Let's not go there just yet. Tonight is an opportunity for many to get a first impression of him. And he still has to win re-election in 2011. Then we can talk about the White House.
The Republican National Committee released excerpts from Jindal's response earlier today, which are reprinted below:
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. 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.
Republicans are ready to work with the new president to provide those solutions. Here in my state of Louisiana, we don't care what party you belong to if you have good ideas to make life better for our people. We need more of that attitude from both Democrats and Republicans in our nation's capital. All of us want our economy to recover and our nation to prosper. So where we agree, Republicans must be the president's strongest partners. And where we disagree, Republicans have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas for a path forward.
The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and enterprising spirit of our citizens.
To solve our current problems, Washington must lead. But the way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians. The way to lead is by empowering you — the American people. Because we believe that Americans can do anything.
Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt. Who among us would ask our children for a loan, so we could spend money we do not have, on things we do not need? That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did. It's irresponsible. And it's no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs, or build a prosperous future for our children.
In recent years, these distinctions in philosophy became less clear — because our party got away from its principles. You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington. Republicans lost your trust — and rightly so.
A few weeks ago, the president warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said "we may not be able to reverse." Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don't let anyone tell you that we cannot recover — or that America's best days are behind her.