- The Washington Times - Friday, November 12, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

LEADERSHIP AND CRISIS
By Bobby Jindal
Regnery, $27.95, 311 pages

In the immediate wake of the elections, there’s a growing perception that as the novelty wore off and the romance faded, the president proved himself as inept at campaigning (at least for others) as he has been at governing. If so, that means he’ll be highly vulnerable in 2012. And today there’s no shortage of potential Republican contenders (no Democrats yet).

Among them are the familiar names: Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour - all men of substance with strong executive and administrative experience. Potential names, not yet posted, include Chris Christie, John Thune, Rick Perry and, of course, Sarah Palin. Newt Gingrich seems to be edging closer, and there’s talk, just barely audible, of Gen. David H. Petraeus.

Then, flying just below the radar, there’s Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, born in Baton Rouge to Indian immigrant parents, a Christian convert from Hinduism, a wunderkind who won a Rhodes Scholarship, ran Louisiana’s health care system at 24, was appointed president of the University of Louisiana system at 27, became a U.S. congressman at 33, and at 36 was elected governor of Louisiana.

He appeared briefly on the national radar screen in 2009 when he was chosen to give the Republican response to the president’s first address to Congress. But the speech, poorly staged and badly delivered, was widely perceived as a flop. Part of the problem was that, unlike the president, Mr. Jindal is “teleprompter challenged.” Despite his experience as a political candidate, he writes, “I have never mastered the teleprompter …. In fact, I hate the teleprompter. And as the country found out that night, the teleprompter hates me, too.”

That’s a minor handicap, and as George W. Bush proved, even the most challenged speaker can master the teleprompter. “The bottom line is this: It was my speech, I delivered it poorly, and I take full responsibility for it. When you screw up, it’s time to man up.” One suspects it won’t happen again.

On matters of greater import - Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill - Mr. Jindal’s observations and proposals for dealing with crises are grounded in common sense and a bedrock belief in the efficacy of individual effort and local solutions, as opposed to the cautious one-size-fits-all approach favored by federal bureaucrats.

President Obama’s response to the spill was typical. The president, who finally visited Louisiana and lingered long enough for some photo-ops, spent much of his conversations with Mr. Jindal fussing about a bureaucratic problem with food stamps. As for the disaster, Mr. Jindal writes, the president seemed to think that members of his dysfunctional Cabinet could handle it.

“It struck me during our conversation how often the president mentioned that his secretary of energy, Steven Chu, had won the Nobel Prize. Good for him. But just how exactly was this medal going to fix the problem, cap the well and keep the oil off our coastline?

“Frankly, some of the best leadership and advice we got was from local leaders, like the parish presidents and fisherman. As far as I can tell, none of them has yet to win a Nobel prize, but they know these waters.”

In addition to the oil-spill crisis, Mr. Jindal also writes of initiatives in which he takes pride, among them implementing ethics reform to end Louisiana’s culture of corruption; overhauling the state’s education system; and proposing common-sense solutions for problems in health care, energy and immigration.

As this strongly written and at times deeply personal book indicates, in the years immediately ahead, we can expect Mr. Jindal to be much more than a blip on that national radar screen - certainly he’s a man who could appeal to those people who might want to combine the enthusiasm and energy of the Tea Party with solid Republican principles.

And if it’s not the top job, then because of his age, accomplishments and the authentic American diversity he represents, Mr. Jindal would score highly on any list of running mates.

As New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton puts it: “If you are looking for a take-charge guy who understands the need for quick, strong and decisive action, look no further than Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.”

John R. Coyne Jr., a former White House speechwriter, is co-author of “Strictly Right: William F. Buckley Jr. and the American Conservative Movement” (Wiley, 2007).

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