Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal gave the Republican response to President Barack Obama's magnificent State of the Union Address. Jindal's remarks highlight much of what is wrong with the Republican Party. Granted, it would be hard to provide a really intelligent commentary before having heard or read the President's speech -- but that is a flaw in a system whereby the media provide for the response at once after the Address, so no responder could provide a detailed analysis. Still, copies of excerpts from the Obama speech were available earlier in the day, and Jindal could have obtained much of its content in advance -- had he bothered to do so.
Rather, Governor Jindal, now the rising star of the Republicans, having eclipsed Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, chose to make the same old, tired litany of Republican complaints about the far-sighted Obama proposals while adding some twists of his own. He failed to deal with the President's plan to cut Federal deficits in half over the next four years, even though doing so would be an affirmation of the classic Republican position against the growth of our public debt. Of course, Jindal probably did not know of that Obama proposal soon enough to respond to it in his pre-prepared remarks, but it is doubtful if he would have endorsed it regardless. The idea of giving credit where it is due is anathema to Republicans, where Democratic plans and proposals are concerned. Indeed, giving any credit at all to their opponents is not exactly a Republican behavioral trait.
But, Bobby Jindal's response was not totally devoid of content -- far from it. He chose to attack a modest Obama proposal for limited funds to update the equipment and enhance the efforts to monitor active volcanos in the United States. Jindal heaped sarcasm on this idea as being totally wasteful. It is likely that other Republicans will pick up on this minor matter, turning it into a Volcanogate of sorts.
Perhaps if Jindal's State of Louisiana had a volcano threatening to erupt at any time, spewing lava and toxic ash far and wide and endangering any and all nearby communities, he would not think volcano monitoring to be so silly. There are in fact dozens of active, semi-active, and dormant volcanoes in America, and updating their monitoring with present and future technology may well avoid a major national disaster. Our planet is not a passive object but rather has a molten core and a weak crust in some places. So volcanic eruptions are very real, and very dangerous, witness Mount St. Helens.
The underlying Republican issue here, as with so many other parts of the now-enacted stimulus package , is that they appear to be dead set against that stimulus money accomplishing much beyond creating jobs and spending. It is as if they cannot endure the concept that stimulus package funds should do some real good for America in addition to their direct economic effects. Republicans seem to prefer that we get no indirect benefits from stimulating the economy in terms of building our infrastructure, keeping us safer, enhancing health and education, encouraging research, and, yes, even promoting the arts.
It is, indeed, sad that the response which the Republicans chose to make to President Obama's State of the Union address was the Jindal litany of condemnation, mostly of minutiae. It is, indeed, sad that they seem unable to keep their eyes on the prize: restoring our economy, saving our financial system, and bringing America once more to greatness. Rather, they prefer to demonstrate once more why they are the party out-of-power, and may well become out-of-existence if they cannot develop a sense of vision, and that fundamental fairness which is such a basic American trait.