Some trenchant analysis in Politico this morning on the problems facing Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal in running for president in 2012:
One other similarity between the two: a charmed political existence so far. Jindal’s first year in office brought historic ethics reforms, deep tax cuts and major funding for workforce training and highway projects. State tax coffers bulged with oil industry revenues from $4-a-gallon gas.
So, along with his counterpart in Alaska, the Louisiana governor became the undisputed hot ticket for the GOP’s circuit of Lincoln and Reagan Day party fundraisers, traditionally a testing ground for presidential aspirants. And unlike Sarah Palin, Jindal is also quickly becoming the toast of Republican elites, the class of elected officials, donors, and consultants who are much sought after well before the first primary votes are cast.
Now some political reality is setting in.
For one thing, Jindal is facing what nearly every one of his counterparts is in capitals across the country: a gaping budget deficit.
With the price of oil plummeting, energy-rich Louisiana has lost a significant chunk of anticipated revenue and is projected to have a $2 billion deficit next year.
“He’s had a rocket ride,” said Maginnis, the Louisiana political analyst. “Nobody has had a first year in office like his. But next year is going to be a lot rockier.”
In addition to the deficit, the political calendar is working against him. It would be extremely difficult for Jindal to run for both re-election as governor in 2011 and the Republican nomination in 2012. The first primaries are going to be, at best, 10 weeks from election day in Louisiana - hardly enough time to shift gears and concentrate on running for president after spending the previous year campaigning in Louisiana.
Can he do both? It would be unprecedented and there are a couple of scenarios where it might work out, specifically a run against a weak Democratic gubanatorial candidate in what would shape up to be a Republican year. What the good people of Louisiana might think about someone running for both offices is a big unknown. And raising money for both races would almost seem to be a waste.
A more likely scenario is that Jindal skips 2012 and takes his shot in 2016. He will only be 41 years old in 2012 which would still make him younger than Obama if he were to wait for four years.
And speaking of the president-elect, Republicans are already referring to Jindal as “our Obama” - a gruesome thing with which to saddle anyone. It is a superficial recognition of his Indian heritage - a “man of color” - that shows how desperate the GOP truly is. One would think that other, more important factors, should recommend Jindal to national voters and no doubt, some will emerge. But the blatant race-based politics that can proclaim Jindal a serious candidate based at least partly - or mostly - on the color of his skin has no place in any party to which I want to belong. Turn the Obama question on Jindal - “If his name was Smith and he was white, would he be taken as serious fodder for the presidency?” - and you are left with an emphatic “no” for an answer.
Sizing up Jindal at this point is probably an exercise in futility since he will no doubt grow and change as his term in office continues. But what we know of him now is not very encouraging to me. I could never vote for someone who believes that creationism/intelligent design should be taught in schools - even if it is done in concert with the teaching of evolution with the goal of “letting the kids decide” which “theory” they wish to believe.
This kind of anti-intellectualism that promotes ID as science on a par with Darwinism is just plain loony. Imagine in Cosmology if we taught the “Steady State” theory of the origins of the Universe alongside the “Big Bang” and expansion theories, allowing students to decide which theory is “true.” The question answers itself. One theory is clearly wrong and the other is clearly correct.
If parents want to home school their kids and teach them ID or send them to private religious schools where Darwin is a dirty word, fine. They will grow up sweeping the floors of Japanese, Swedish, or Chinese bio-tech factories rather than owning them. You can deny the efficacy of evolution all you want but since modern biology is based on it (and not on ID/creationism) it stands to reason that the coming revolution in bio-technology will proceed without your children being involved. This nonsense has already affected the numbers of students entering graduate level life sciences which a recent Rand study showed will necessitate US bio-tech firms looking overseas for engineers and biologists within the next decade.
But this debate is only a symptom of what ails the GOP. Much of the base appears to be battling modernity itself. Declaring categorically - and without even a scintilla of the requisite knowledge to do so - that Climate Change is a “hoax” bespeaks an ignorance that causes most voters to blanche in horror at the prospect of electing a Republican. Scientists who advocate the theory of catastrophic climate change may indeed be wrong. They may be close minded and not open to opposing views. But “hoaxers?”
This is not the first time that eminent scientists have gotten it wrong and refused to consider evidence the the contrary. The theory of plate tectonics - the continents sitting on plates, floating on magma, that rub against each other and migrate great distances over time - was belittled for a 100 years. But no one accused proponents of the Continental Drift theory of perpetrating a scientific hoax to advance that theory at the expense of plate tectonics.
The evidence for Climate Change is hardly in dispute due simply to the fact that the earth’s climate is always changing. The question is how much humans have had to do with any change in climate and whether cutting emissions will do any good. To simply pass off these enormously complex questions as a “hoax” reveals the deep strain of anti-intellectualism in the GOP that raises its ugly head from time to time. I like the great physicist Freeman Dyson’s explanation for the disinterest of warming advocates in acknowledging that there is still a debate about the causes and especially the projections of scientists regarding the earth heating up. Dyson says that “When science gets rich it becomes political.”
In his comments at both the Nassau Club and Labyrinth, he decried the use of computer modeling to make “tremendously dogmatic” predictions about worldwide trends, without acknowledging the “messy, muddy real world” and the non-climatic effects of increased carbon dioxide. “There is no substitute for widely-conducted field operations over a long time,” he told the Nassau Club audience, citing the “enormous gaps in knowledge and sparseness of observation” that characterize the work of global warming experts.
Instead of engaging in debate on the scientific merits of the Climate Change proponents, many are apt to simply dismiss the findings of eminent scientists as a “hoax.” Dyson has exactly the right attitude; plead for additional research before implementing draconian solutions that may not even address the problem. And please note he says nothing about scientists trying to pull off a “hoax.”
Jindal may not believe in theories of Climate Change and wish to see ID/creationism taught in schools. Should this disqualify him from successfully running for president? Perhaps not. But it certainly portrays the Louisiana governor as someone without the intellectual curiosity that we in the GOP should have in our candidates. Believing in ID/creationism flies in the face of the facts. Do we really want a president who does that?