Saturday, February 28, 2009

GOP's 'Obama' Falls Flat

It was ironic that during which a film set in India and partially created by Indians won the Academy Award for Best Picture while America's top Indian political figure fell flat on his face.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's response to the State of the Union is the most panned high-profile political speech in 20 years. Not since then-Governor Bill Clinton droned on and on at the 1988 Democratic National Convention has the political ground shaken harder and swallowed up a rising star of the party.

Everybody on both sides of the aisle had disparaging words for Jindal's sing-song performance. He reminded me of an Indian Woody from the children's film Toy Story.

I'm your favorite deputy, Mr Limbaugh!

The numbers genius from Nate Silver had the night's biggest zinger when he said, "If it sounds like Jindal is targeting his speech to a room full of fourth graders, that's because he is. They might be the next people to actually vote for Republicans again."

In retrospect, MSNBC's Chris Matthews was quite prescient in uttering his audible, "Oh God" just as Jindal appeared. He apologized the next day saying he was only referring to the "stagecraft" of the speech.

In the end, the Republican Party's "Obama" crashed and burned on the national stage, but the connection to Clinton's comparable fizzle in 1988 should be examined. Both are Southern governors and highly-skilled intellectual minds. Both were anointed up-and-coming stars in their parties and possibly presidential candidates. No matter what American mythology says, there are second acts in American political life. Clinton did the talk show circuit and allowed himself to be made fun of. Four years later, the guy known for talking too much became president.

The breadth of the criticism against Jindal has been shocking. So much so, that Rush Limbaugh felt compelled to evoke Reagan's 11th Commandment--though shall not talk ill of fellow Republicans. The incongruity of the response is so evident that it should allow Jindal the ability to brush himself off and continue to burnish his credentials for a run in 2012. He could one day be the guy who use to be the guy who looked childish and dorky on national television, only to rise again.

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