Setting the Record Straight

May 23, 2008

Introducing Bobby Jindal–A McCain Coup?



          The speculation about who will be John McCain’s vice presidential candidate has begun. The New York Times reports that three possible candidates have been invited to McCain’s Phoenix place Memorial Day weekend.
On the Times’ list were Mitt Romney, presumably there to assuage the right wing of the Republican Party, and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a political nobody on the national scene who presumably would be a generic sidekick unlikely to ruffle GOP feathers. It was the third name that interested us. As a reporter we spent many hours covering Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal over the course of just over a year when he was director of the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare.

          Jindal’s highest political achievement before that had been head his native Louisiana’s health department at the age of 24. That is less surprising considering he finished high school at 16 and became a Rhodes scholar.
His genius and abilities became clear over the course of the commission’s work, which was to assess the status of the Medicare system and recommend solutions to its financial problems lurking in the future. It took a genius to handle the super-egos of the commission members, a third of them members of Congress. He did so with aplomb and was able to massage a final report in 1999 that managed to balance all of the partisan tugs and pulls he faced.
Through it all, he was a personable, helpful and available leader who astounded with his grasp of the issues and encyclopedic mind, a reminder of the high intelligence of fellow Rhodes scholar Bill Clinton. It is not Jindal’s fault the report, still considered the bible of Medicare, did not move to any great action by Congress and the administrations that followed. Nothing will be done long-term about either Medicare or Social Security because our system of government does not encourage long-term solutions.

          The selection of Jindal would be a political coup McCain badly needs. Jindal is a conservative Republican, but the stereotype ends there. He is a dark-skinned individual who surmounted politics in Louisiana, probably because he was born in 1971 in Baton Rouge of immigrants from India, which makes him less black but dark enough to make McCain’s candidacy less white against a Barack Obama challenger and one likely to help carry a state that helped give Obama the Democratic nomination. Jindal was not even old enough to serve as vice president two years ago, giving McCain some balance on the age issue that already dogs him and a counter to Obama’s youth.
Jindal also brings an expertise to a GOP presidential candidate weak in the area of health care, which undoubtedly will emerge as one of the major issues of the fall campaign. Regardless of whether he makes McCain’s cut, keep an eye on this fellow.




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