As the Republican Party looks, like the Democrat Party, weak on leadership, there is one bright spot on the horizon: The next governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal. I have written about Jindal before, four years ago when I predicted that he would win the Louisiana gubernatorial election. He was slimed at the end of the campaign with the rankest sort of racial bigotry (Jindal's parents are from India), but that is not going to happen this time.
That race, and his successful race for Congress, are honing the skills of this very, very bright man. He is articulate, very likeable, and is only thirty-six years old. But his appeal goes far beyond that. He is a "person of color" and in some respects resembles Obama, who is half-black. But there the comparison ends. Jindal exudes executive confidence and command of facts.
He began serving as Louisiana Secretary of Health and Hospitals at the callow age of twenty-four. Then Jindal was executive director of the Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare during the Clinton Administration. After that he was president of the Louisiana University System. Finally, President Bush named him Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services. It is almost impossible to imagine any presidential candidate with more experience in both health care administration and few with as much experience in education or entitlements - three key domestic issues.
Moreover, he is a devout Christian who can very intelligently express his beliefs and there is not even the hint of any misconduct or meanness about the man. His conservative credentials are impeccable: His American Conservative Union rating for 2005 was 100 percent and for 2006 it was 92 percent. Jindal is a man around whom social conservatives and fiscal conservatives can both rally.
A Jindal candidacy would add an interesting story to any campaign. He has proven able to work with both political parties, and as governor of Louisiana he will hone those skills. Bobby Jindal is also the child of legal immigrants, and immigrants not from across the Rio Grande but from the other side of the world. He would be able to speak not only as a person of color, but also as the child of recent immigrants.
It is, of course, too late for Bobby Jindal - who is barely old enough to run for president - to enter the Republican nomination now. But when Fred Thompson enters the race, as he will soon, I would recommend that he select Governor Jindal as his running mate. Both men are likeable, honorable, outside of Washington, and bring an interesting story to a race. The selection would be unexpected, giving the media something truly interesting to talk about - and because there is nothing bad to say about Jindal, the news coverage would have to be positive.
Jindal would run rings around any Democrat selected to run with Hillary and could largely pre-empt her keynote domestic issue, health care, by noting that he actually worked in government health care administration and helped address the issue in a bipartisan commission when her husband was president.
On national security issues, the selection of Jindal could provide America with a very potent psychological and political weapon. In 2005, Bobby Jindal was named India Abroad Person of the Year. The world's largest democracy is very aware of Bobby Jindal. India is also the greatest obstacle to the spread of Islam in Asia and it is potentially our most potent ally in the war on terrorism. Vice President Jindal could visit India and affect our relationship with India in a way that no other American possibly could.
India faces terrorism from radical Islam as much as any non-Islamic nation on the planet. India, which is quickly rising toward the ranks of a superpower, could find in Vice President Jindal a sympathetic figure, a person who understands India, and a powerful link between India and America. His election would be a powerful signal that Americans like and respect India and Indians.
Because of his youth, after having served eight years in the Thompson Administration, Jindal would be only forty-five when he ran for president on his own, making him one of the youngest and also one of the most experienced presidential nominees in American history. Does a Jindal candidacy sound unusual? Not thought of Jindal before? Good: That is precisely what Americans are looking for - something different from the regular pool of Washington cronies and insiders. That is just what Bobby Jindal would be.