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Interview with Bobby Jindal

Politics | A conversation with Louisiana's governor and a GOP rising star at the Governor's Mansion in Baton Rouge


CAL THOMAS: What lessons do you think Republicans should learn from the last two disastrous-for them-election cycles?
BOBBY JINDAL: There are at least three lessons that immediately jump out at me. The first is that the party must consistently do what it says. You can't be the party of fiscal discipline and tolerate the kind of spending that our party has accepted in the last several years, especially in Washington. Our actions have to match our rhetoric. If the Democrats had proposed many of the spending initiatives and projects that Republicans ended up approving, we would have been the first to criticize them. It isn't just earmarks. Look at some of the discretionary spending increases in Washington. We can't be the party of fiscal discipline when we're tolerating and approving the kinds of spending we've seen at least the last eight years.

Secondly, we've got to consistently oppose corruption in our own party. It's not enough to make excuses that "the other side does it." Quite simply put, if the other party had been guilty of some of the things we were accused of doing . . . the week before this presidential election, you have our most senior Republican senator [Ted Stevens of Alaska] convicted of federal charges. You look at the Duke Cunningham scandal; you look at Mark Foley, there's a cumulative impact. We've got to be a party of ideas. We can't be the party of "no." We've got to be a party that's unafraid of our conservative principles. I'm not one who looks at these election results and says we should abandon what we stand for. I don't think the country woke up one day and suddenly said we are a much more liberal country. I think the country back in 2006 fired the Republican Party and with cause. With all due respect to Nancy Pelosi, I don't think the country woke up and said we want Nancy Pelosi as speaker . . . I really think the Democrats, to their credit, made the 2006 election cycle on Republicans and the voters rightly said, 'we don't like what we see."

We have to apply our ideas to the problems Americans care about. I oppose greater government intrusion into our lives, but on health care, for example, for too long the Republican answer to this problem has been dumb. I actually admire-I don't agree with his policies-Sen. Ted Kennedy for his approach. He is relentless; he is consistent; he knows where he wants to go. On SCHIP, Democrats said we want to expand it and Republicans said we want to expand it, but not as much as you Democrats. It was ridiculous how the Republicans framed the debate. We're never going to win the debate if it's about who wants to cover more children. The real debate should have been Republicans saying, "We absolutely believe all children should have access to affordable health care, but we don't believe the best way to do that is through government-run programs, we think we have to work to make it more affordable."

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For me, the three lessons [to be learned by the GOP] are: We have to match our actions and our rhetoric; we have to consistently root out corruption in our own ranks; and we have to be a party of ideas and solutions. Too often the rhetoric from the party has been, "vote for Republicans because the other side is worse." That doesn't motivate or excite voters. You have to have a positive, proactive agenda for America.

We went to Washington to change Washington, but we became a captive of Washington. We were supposed to be the party of outsiders. We became what we were elected to change. The American voters are looking for authenticity. If you've got an authentic liberal and somebody who is pretending, why wouldn't you vote for the real thing? We're never going to win elections by trying to out spin the other side.
THOMAS: A group of governors wants $1 trillion in aide to help with infrastructure and unfunded mandates. You weren't among them, why?
JINDAL: The bottom line is, you look at what is hurting our economy today. This idea of how we solve our economic problems. They were caused by excessive amounts of debt and structural problems. And the way we're going to solve that is by printing more money and creating more debt? That seems to me a little odd. I think Washington does have a constructive role to play in terms of the economic challenges we face. I think there are structural issues that need to be addressed.

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