Republicans turn to a new boy wonder in reply to Obama
Indian-American Governor of Louisiana is critical of President's recovery plan
Wednesday 25 February 2009
America was introduced to the latest boy wonder of the Republican Party last night. It was a coming out party of sorts for Bobby Jindal, 37, the Governor of Louisiana who was due to make a primetime televised rebuttal to President Obama's address to both houses of Congress.
The President's State of the Union-style address was perhaps the toughest challenge of Mr Obama's five-week-old administration, as he attempted to convince increasingly frightened Americans that his tax-and-spend economic stimulus plan is the best way to economic recovery.
Mr Jindal was due to speak from his office in Baton Rouge, emblazoning his name as the new voice of Republicanism while leapfrogging over such big-name personalities as Governor Sarah Palin and California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. With his fiercely sharp intellect and staunchly conservative fiscal views, Mr Jindal has been described as the Republican Party's "Cajun fried" solution to successive bouts of electoral humiliation.
After the thrashings the party received at the polls in 2006 and 2008, and with Mr Obama riding high in the polls, Republicans want to appeal to America's multicultural, yet conservative, younger voters while losing whatever remains of the "good ole boy" legacy. That Republican Party grandees asked the nationally unknown Mr Jindal – the son of Indian immigrants and the first non-white Governor of Louisiana since the Civil War era – to respond to Mr Obama reflects the rapidly shifting tectonic plates of United States politics. Not long ago, the party was openly embraced a race-baiting "Southern strategy" in Louisiana and elsewhere in the South to get out the white vote.
"The speech is very important ... His speech will put a face on the name and put a fresh face on the Republican Party," said Pearson Cross, a political scientist and close observer of Mr Jindal's ascent to national prominence.
Now Mr Jindal has eyes on being the first Indian-American president of the US and his televised address was seen as a warm up for a bid, as early as 2012.
Mr Obama has already taken note of the precocious Republican who expressed "fundamental disagreement" with the President's plans to jump-start the US economy with a vast tax and spend stimulus programme, while sanctimoniously expressing the wish that the plans for recovery succeed.
Governor Jindal has made headlines by sharply criticising Mr Obama's huge stimulus package; he has even threatened to refuse $100m in funds allocated to his state and bitterly complained about $50m to be spent on the arts.
It's "not apparent to me why [it] had to be in the stimulus package", he said, but added that his fellow Republican governors wanted to give Mr Obama "every opportunity" to succeed in restarting the economy.
At a White House dinner for governors, which Mr Jindal attended, the President retorted: "We'll have ample time for campaigns down the road."
Meanwhile, the veteran Republican strategist Ed Rollins told CNN: "It's time for another generation to come into play. A lot of Republicans came of age under Reagan, which was 25 years ago... and we just haven't built on that with young people." He described Mr Jindal as a "young dynamic governor" with "appeal to younger voters".
Mr Jindal has been making the most of an opportunity handed to him on a plate. "Look, I think every American is incredibly proud by the President's personal story," he said before the Congressional address, "and I have been selected and honoured to give... the Republican response."
Before the address Mr Jindal said: "Here in Louisiana, we have first-hand experience with reforming government and cutting taxes to stimulate our economy... This is a terrific opportunity to talk about our great state to the nation."
Bobby Jindal: A brief biography
* Born Piyush Jindal in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he calls himself Bobby after the sitcom character Bobby Brady in The Brady Bunch, a favourite programme when he was a child.
* Precociously bright, he was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.
* Narrowly lost his first run for governor in 2003 but was quickly elected to Congress at age 33 – "the ultimate embodiment of the American dream".
* At age 36 he was elected governor of Louisiana in 2007, becoming the youngest US governor, the first Indian American elected to state-wide office in US history and the first non-European to be elected in the south since a black man, Pinckney Pinchback, served for 35 days in the 1870s in Louisiana.
* Born a Hindu, he is now a pro-life Catholic who favours pro-chemical castration for sex offenders. His religious makeover presents none of the problems faced by Obama, who was accused of being a secret Muslim.
- 1 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 2 Man to be beheaded in Saudi Arabia after ripping up a Koran and hitting it with his shoe
- 3 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 4 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
Stephen Hawking's wife Jane Wilde on their marriage breakdown: 'The family were left behind'
British are sexually uptight, dirty and drink too much – according to Spanish book
PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
White and gold or blue and black – what colour is the dress? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
Kelly Osbourne leaves Fashion Police after Zendaya dreadlocks racism row
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'
£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...
£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...
£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...
£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...