Republican golden boy fails to shine
AMERICA'S Republicans have stumbled in trying to find an effective response to Barack Obama's domestic popularity, with the party's new golden boy, Bobby Jindal, failing to get a hit on a president who continues to enjoy high approval ratings.
Much had been expected of Mr Jindal, 37, the Louisiana governor, the first Indian-American to hold such a post and a man tipped by some to be the party's candidate against Mr Obama in the 2012 presidential election.
But a much-touted response to Mr Obama's address to Congress on Tuesday has been ruled a flop by commentators, sounding both disjointed and awkward when compared with the president's soaring rhetoric in what amounted to a State of the Union-magnitude speech.
Mr Obama was at his tub-thumping best on Tuesday, with a return to the language of the campaign trail as he sought to justify his $787 billion (555 billion) stimulus package to add to the $700 billion banking bail-out.
Taking 15 minutes to reach the podium due to those anxious to shake his hand, Mr Obama told Congress that "the weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. Tonight, I want every American to know this: we will rebuild, we will recover and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before."
The 52-minute address was interrupted 61 times by applause. His speech promised not just to raise spending to unprecedented levels, but also to cut the record $1.3 trillion US debt by an eye-brow-raising half in four years, while reforming healthcare and reversing global warming.
Republicans had touted Mr Jindal as the man to deliver their own message that a recession is no time to be borrowing huge amounts of new money, and the governor duly obliged, calling Democrats "irresponsible" for passing a stimulus package "larded" with wasteful spending. "The way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in the hands of Washington politicians," he said.
But critics faulted the delivery as wooden and meek. "Jindal not only didn't live up to his advance billing, he needs a lot more seasoning before he gets a prime-time slot," said Larry Sabato, a professor at Virginia University.
Mr Jindal's career has been stellar: the son of Indian immigrants, he changed his name to Bobby from Piyush aged four, after a character in The Brady Bunch. As a graduate, he was offered places at the Harvard medical school and Yale law school, but studied politics at Oxford instead.
At just 25 he was appointed head of the health department of Louisiana, and at 30 was appointed by the then president, George Bush, as assistant health secretary. He narrowly failed to win the primary election for Louisiana governor in 2003 but won a seat in Congress the following year, finally winning the governership in 2007.
His intellect is matched by an A-rating among the conservative wing of the Republican party: he favours the teaching of the biblical version of evolution in schools, opposes abortion, gay marriage and gun control, and gives support to the Bush-era Military Commissions, while calling for a law to prosecute anyone burning a US flag – all of which is why he is expected to be a leading contender in 2012.
President Obama's big deal lacking only in a brand name
BARACK Obama is presiding over one of the most aggressive spending plans ever mounted by an American president – but he has yet to give it a name.
The combined $787 billion (543 billion) financial stimulus package for public works and $700 billion (483 billion) bail-outs for the Wall Street banks are among the most expensive government interventions in history, but as yet have no label.
This in a country which likes nothing better than an easily graspable brand.
Franklin D Roosevelt coined the term "New Deal" to describe the massive rescue effort that he created to pull the United States out of the Great Depression.
A more modest recovery effort by the former president Bill Clinton was named the "New Covenant" and even the tongue-tied George Bush experimented with his "Ownership Society".
But despite his soaring rhetoric on Tuesday night, Mr Obama gave no name to his twin rescue packages, beyond calling them "something worthy to be remembered".
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