I’ve found the blogosphere’s collective reaction to Bobby Jindal’s rebuttal speech the other night rather surprising in many ways – and sadly expected in others. The responses seem to fall in three major groups:
- Allahpundits – Could just as easily be named after LGF, but I’ve already poked that bear once this week. These are the conservatives who reacted strongly in a negative way to Jindal’s response, often reacting negatively to Jindal himself for various reasons (chiefly his pro-ID stance or strong orthodox Catholicism, from what I have seen). They criticize his form or his beliefs while generally (sometimes reluctantly) praising his content.
- Dittoheads – The Rush Limbaugh types who love what he said and don’t care how he said it. They see Jindal as the next coming of Reagan, the Conservative counterpart to Barack Obama. Rush praised Jindal on his show, going so far as to say that “I don’t want to hear from you ever again if you think that what Bobby Jindal said was bad or what he said was wrong or not said well, because, folks, style is not going to take our country back.”
- Liberals – Hated on Jindal for his politics, beliefs, race, and everything else you can think of. From Chris Matthews’ “oh god” and “outsourcing” comments to Paul Begala’s “kook right” cracks, backed by endless commenters decrying him as simply the GOP’s attempt to play the race card (hello, Michael Steele) – we see the seething leftist masses decrying the Lousiana governor simply for opening his mouth to challenge the Annointed One.
And then there’s me. I fall somewhere between the first two points, but leaning more toward the Dittohead crowd – Jindal’s otherwise-brilliant performance was tarnished by a slightly wooden demeanor. I think he was trying too hard to play to the crowd, or as Ace put it, “channel his inner Bubba.” He, like Mitt Romney, cannot pull this off successfully, and comes off as fake when trying to do so. Instead, he should be allowed to present himself as who he is – a somewhat stiff intellectual, who is also brilliant and insightful. Conservatism is not about appeals to emotion – appealing to what feels good is practically the definition of liberalism – but it must be communicated effectively. Reagan is remembered as great not because he made people feel warm and fuzzy, but because he made smart choices and then communicated them effectively, while not compromising his position. This is the conservatism that the GOP needs to rediscover if it wants to succeed.
Ed Morrisey has his appearance on the Today show the day after the rebuttal speech. Here, he is engaged in a discussion where he provides quick, confident, specific answers and facts and appears confident and passionate. This is Jindal at his best. Unlike Sarah Palin, who excelled at getting in front of a crowd and getting them hyped up in a rah-rah style of enthusiasm, but didn’t appear confident when having to quickly shift gears (especially with a hostile interviewer), Jindal is much better one-on-one where he can directly react and respond to the other party. He is analytical and quick on his feet when taking questions or even attacks, and is able to respond strongly and effectively. It is for this reason that I would like to see a ticket along the lines of Jindal/Palin for 2012 – a strong, focused, extremely intelligent leader at the top of the ticket, with a powerful supporting figure who can energize and relate more effectively supporting the ticket. While I don’t know where these politicians will be in three years – or if Palin can recover from her “Quayling” – it will be interesting to see what happens next.