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Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


A year ago he was an intriguing possible choice. Key Romney operatives were putting Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on their “watch list.”Â The young Bayou State’s chief executive had conservative stalwarts like Rush Limbaugh and Bill Krystol praising his strong credentials that qualified him to become the Republican vice presidential nominee of choice. But when all was said and done, Jindal”˜s actions and inactions rapidly relegated him to a list of second tier candidates.

After locking up the Republican nomination, the Romney camp did nothing to dampen the Jindal for V.P. talk. After all, they had a committed surrogate criss-crossing the county, rallying the conservative base on Romney’s behalf. Until the final decision was made to pick Paul Ryan, many conservatives were still somewhat leery of Romney’s conservative credentials. So it helped for Jindal to believe he was still a contender and let him keep up a steady pace of appearances on Romney’s behalf. But the decision to eliminate Jindal as a serious contender had been made months ago.

Jindal as a V.P. choice was much more exciting to a number of presidential candidates in August of 2011. He is young, energetic, and well educated as southern governors go. He is a second generation American with ethnic ties that are certainly needed by a national party that is 90% white. Jindal had become a bulldog in recent years regularly attacking President Obama on issues ranging from healthcare to the BP oil spill. Yes, to some, he still had a “Kenneth the Page” problem after his disastrous response to the President’s State of the Union speech in 2009. But that was a long time ago, and one speech does not a political career break.

Jindal’s initial stumble, and it was a big one, was the endorsement of Texas Governor Rick Perry. Perry was seen from the get go as a 4th of July rocket that would soon flame out as he tripped over his own words. And flame out he did. Had Bobby Jindal made an informed decision that Perry was the best the Republicans had to offer?  Or was it more a case of Jindal being an opportunist interested in building a future base for himself, and be able to tap into Texas campaign funds in the future?   Either way, his intentions were put into question by other presidential candidates, and particularly to Romney who just did not like Perry.

Loyalty also became a key concern.  As the Washington Post put it: “After all, one of the most critical factors in a successful VP pick is a relationship with and loyalty to the nominee. Romney has to know that whoever he picks for his vice president will subjugate their own personal feelings and interests for the good of the ticket. Jindal could be a question mark on that front. Not only did he endorse Perry in the primaries but he is someone who quite clearly has considerable national ambitions of his own. Romney has to pick someone who he knows will stay loyal no matter how bad things look at any given moment.”

Jindal’s failure to propose a cohesive master plan for the ongoing development of his home state was another factor in the sidelining of him as a candidate.  Since taking office, Jindal has mounted an aggressive public relations campaign seizing the momentum on a number of state issues.  Louisiana is generally listed at the bottom or near the bottom of a number of “quality or life” lists.  Romney, trained as a business workout specialist who prides himself on setting specific goals with a detailed agenda, has consistently gravitated towards colleagues who share that philosophy.  The best example is obviously his pick, Paul Ryan.  The Wisconsin congressman invested a massive amount of time with his staff developing his “Roadmap for America’s Future.”

Jindal had an early opportunity to set out his specific goals for both his home state as well as the country. But he failed to seize the moment. Ryan’s plan, whether one’s agrees with it or not, presents a long-range view towards setting the country on a firmer financial footing. Jindal would rather deal with problems that are here and now. So Jindal’s approach just wasn’t Mitt Romney’s cup of tea.

Foreign policy experience, or lack thereof, was also a factor in Jindal’s demise.  Current Vice President Joe Biden had an extensive international background as the onetime chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  A candidate with little international background would be open to heavy criticism.  As the Wall Street Journal said last week:  “Our economic troubles are connected to the world’s, and our global military footprint remains significant.  At any moment, the nation’s attention-and the campaign’s-can be hijacked by a foreign crisis.”

As House Budget Committee chairman, Ryan has travelled and spoken extensively about foreign policy. He formed the Middle East Caucus in the early 2000s, and has been active in negotiating numerous free trade agreements.  When asked by the Washington Examiner how his foreign policy experiences have prepared him to serve as Vice President, he responded:  “I go there”, when asked specially about Syria and Mexico.  “I was in Afghanistan last December.”

On the other hand, Jindal has not left the country since being elected as governor. He has set out on not one trade mission to attract new business opportunities to Louisiana. Jindal’s lack of initiative in regard to India, his ancestral home, is particularly vexing to a number of Louisiana businessmen who would like the chance for trade openings with the world’s fastest growing democracy. A former U.S. Senator from Louisiana told a group in Washington last year that he had made repeated requests to organize a trade mission to India with Jindal leading the way. He received no response. Jindal passed on the chance to open up trade opportunities for his home state, and also to develop his own foreign policy experience as well.

The U.S. relationship with Pakistan is deteriorating, and India is becoming a key ally in protecting American interests in the Middle East. Jindal, with the right legwork during the past five years he has served as governor, could have developed into an important point man on foreign policy as Vice President.  But he failed to seize the moment that was right in front of him.

At 41, Jindal is still young and he will have future openings for his national ambitions. But one just does not rise up and run for national office without building a strong foundation. Paul Ryan did his digging and brick laying. Jindal should come back home and do the same.


“The man with the best job in the country is the vice-president. All he has to do is get up every morning and say, “˜How is the president?'”

Will Rogers

 Peace and Justice.

Jim Brown

 Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownla.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com

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