Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal-- selected to deliver the Republicans' Fat Tuesday response to President Obama-- might also be voted the man least likely to let the good times roll. Slight, earnest, deeply religious and supremely wonkish, Jindal resembles neither his flamboyant predecessors as governor nor his reveling, 30-something contemporaries on Bourbon Street. Somehow the hall-monitoring, library-inhabiting, science-fair-winning class president has seized control of the Big Easy. And his coup has been an inspiration to policy geeks everywhere.
At a recent meeting of conservative activists, Jindal had little to say about his traditional social views or compelling personal story. Instead, he uncorked a fluent, substantive rush of policy proposals and achievements, covering workforce development, biodiesel refineries, quality assurance centers, digital media, Medicare parts C and D, and state waivers to the CMS (whatever that is).
Some have compared Jindal to Obama, but the new president has always been more attracted to platitudes than to policy. Rush Limbaugh has anointed Jindal "the next Ronald Reagan." But Reagan enjoyed painting on a large ideological canvas. In person, Jindal's manner more closely resembles another recent president: Bill Clinton. Like Clinton (a fellow Rhodes scholar), Jindal has the ability to overwhelm any topic with facts and thoughtful arguments-- displaying a mastery of detail that encourages confidence. Both speak of complex policy issues with the world-changing intensity of a late-night dorm room discussion.