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Should McCain Have Picked Jindal Instead?

The governor of Louisiana may have been the smarter choice to be No. 2 on the GOP ticket.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

September 26, 2008 - 12:10 am
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It was clear early on that Jindal, who became America’s youngest current governor not even a year ago, felt he as a leader should stay at the job to which he was elected. In fact, when early speculation fell on Jindal as a potential VP pick, he stressed (again), “Let me be clear: I have said in every private and public conversation, I’ve got the job that I want. … I look forward to continuing to be governor of Louisiana. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to improve our state.” Jindal also added on Fox & Friends that he thinks there should be one key quality in a vice president: “I think the most important thing in picking a vice president is not what state they come from, not what demographic they appeal to, but rather whether the senator thinks this person would be ready to be president if — God forbid — that situation arises. That’s probably the only thing that should matter.”

Spoken like a lot of present-day punditry.

If Jindal had taken that convention stage as McCain’s running mate, he would face much of the same criticism on his social-issue stands as Palin is. But it would be hard to dock the 37-year-old on experience, particularly when paired in the odd president/vice president comparison now being done between Obama and Palin. A Rhodes Scholar who advised Fortune 500 companies after earning a graduate degree at Oxford, the Baton Rouge native began his government career overseeing some 40 percent of the state’s budget as director of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. He completely turned the department around from deficit to surplus, judiciously trimmed wasteful spending, and led the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare.

Not that much older than your standard undergraduates, Jindal next was appointed president of the University of Louisiana system, with oversight of eight colleges under his belt. Two years later, George W. Bush appointed Jindal to be assistant secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation. Endorsed by everyone from the Times-Picayune to now-infamous New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Jindal ran for governor in 2003 and lost to Kathleen Blanco. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck (Jindal having handily won a seat in Congress the year before), and the rest is history with Blanco’s boondoggles. In Washington, meanwhile, Jindal was getting experience in yet another policy area with a seat on the House Committee on Homeland Security.

So here you have a guy younger than Obama, also a history-maker (the first Louisiana governor of color since Reconstruction, as well as America’s first Indian governor), and with a resume that would have been hard for his opponents to crack: leadership in the key domestic issues of health care and education. Real-world experience in the business community. Bipartisan support. Homeland security experience.

And, of course, his superior crisis-management skills or the ability to orchestrate mass evacuations and keep residents safe and informed as Gustav threatened to strike as Katrina Part Deux. As the storm blew through and southern governors recorded taped messages for the delayed start of the Republican National Convention, Jindal didn’t partake in the P.R. He had more important things to do. That’s a sign of a leader. And that’s a simple declarative statement of what Jindal could have brought to the ticket, not any sort of conniving underhanded dig at Palin.

Some in the throes of Palin euphoria quickly respond to the suggestion of Jindal on a ticket by suggesting a Palin-Jindal campaign for 2016 — based on the assumption, of course, that McCain-Palin will win, that McCain-Palin will win re-election, and that Palin would, at the end of that, be jonesing to campaign for the presidency. Then, in that theoretical scenario, eight years of Palin with Jindal at No. 2 would mean 16 years before he ran for the presidency.

I’m not sure the GOP can wait that long, though, to bring someone of Jindal’s caliber to the forefront. Both the right and left tickets have their Achilles’ heels in this election, so we’ll see who can eke out a win come Nov. 4. The rest should be interesting to watch.

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Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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