September 2, 2009

Sarah Palin vs. Bobby Jindal

Now that sufficient time has passed since some tell tale events, it's worthwhile to do an evaluation on a couple of prominent Republican would-be contenders for the 2012 GOP nomination, namely Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal. The tell tale events in question are Palin's resignation speech and Jindal's retort to Obama's address that was prefaced by the infamous Chris Matthews' "Oh God" comment. Both limelight moments are instructive as to the possible paths of the contenders.

The objectives of both instances were not identical. That in itself is instructive. Palin's resignation, if you take her at her word, was motivated by a desire to do more for America, and to relieve Alaska from the burden of stupid legal battles in the face of frivolous lawsuits. Jindal's titular purpose was to refute the President's mandate with a better one, with solid backing and to be able to get the American public to buy into what he had to say. Both Palin and Jindal had additional motives. Jindal's were political and so were Palin's (in addition to relieving some of the stress on her family).

Jindal, who clearly has a future in the Republican party and in American politics, was given a golden opportunity. A prime time rebuttal of Obama's vision for America. Taking the opportunity was a political gamble for him personally and also for the Republican party. The party was trotting out a relative unknown to combat what has to be considered a heavyweight bout. Jindal was up not only against Obama's supposed rhetorical prowess but also a clearly partisan press ready to pounce on any mistake, any shortcoming, including as it turned out, being boring.

For Jindal it was a personal gamble. His relative youth and political inexperience were no preparation for what he was facing. For him to catapult beyond a governorship into a serious contender for the GOP nomination in 2012 and indeed the Presidency itself, required a Herculean effort and an unassailable showing. The press would assail his comments regardless. But the gamble was this; if he could connect with the public, and bypass the media filter in the same way that Reagan did, he would in all likelihood immediately surpass Sara Palin as the de facto leadership favorite for the GOP. More on Palin later.

It was a tall order for Jindal. There aren't many Reagans around. There never have been, there never will be. The MSM like to refer to it as gravitas. Stupid word. Jeffery Lord better described it yesterday in the American Spectator as the Winston Churchill factor. So it was a calculated risk. And as it turned out, a bit too much of a long shot. Jindal while having tried to personalize the rebuttal and connect directly with Americans, clearly fell short. A 'wow' factor rebuttal, regardless of the subsequent sniping by the MSM, would have been a big, big win for Jindal, but the price for falling short was also very steep.

You'll notice, or in fact may not have noticed, that Jindal has been toiling away in relative obscurity since. He's a solid politician with a growing success record and good conservative credentials. But he's green, and that can't always be overcome quickly, it takes time. President Obama got extremely lucky. [By the way, Obama is now acting like the gambler who wins a big hand at the black jack table and is now in the process of losing it all back to the house in smaller increments. He's going to go home broke.] Jindal, did not get lucky. He was humdrum and he fell into the common conservative blunder of being right on detail but weak on the sales job.

It may end up serving his career well in the end. More seasoning never hurts. The GOP faithful may be reticent to hire on a neophyte in light of the abysmal Obama record so far. It will give him time to establish a record and earn his political chops as well. I would be surprised if he ran for the Presidency in 2012. Maybe 2016 or 2020.

Contrast Jindal with Sarah Palin. She's not been able to do anything since last September without being under a microscope. Everything from her clothing to her past to her family had been so thoroughly scrutinized by the press who were bent on personal destruction. From the beginning they were bent on trapping her and getting a "gotcha" moment. Compare her treatment with the many Obama's gaffes (remember 57 states?) and the kid gloves the press used on him if you doubt that.

Palin's resignation speech was certainly not her best. It was rambling and also hum drum. While she covered off some important facts, she also did a very weak sales job. The press, still preoccupied with her Churchillian aura of being a head of the table personality, and still bent on destroying her because she just might be able to topple Obama, savaged her. Not only the left maligned her, but many press-RINOs as well (albeit for their own intellectual elitist reasons). The attacks were to be expected. She also has a significant sales job ahead of her if she wants to contend in 2012.

The difference is that as long as Palin is making waves she will remain in the limelight. She doesn't need to do much to make waves because the press has it in for her. While they may be able to damage her short term, it may ultimately backfire on them. By keeping her in the limelight they keep her chances alive. Bad press is better than no press, just ask Bobby Jindal.

With her resignation Palin achieved what she wanted to achieve - freedom to move from a defensive posture on Alaskan politics to move to on offensive role on Obamacare, and the stimulus package. She has already successfully leveraged that role in the debate on Obamacare. Her 'death panels' Facebook comments swung the debate in a way no one else has been able to do. It was timely, and it was in as an innocuous a place as her Facebook account. But it set off a firestorm.

Meanwhile Jindal, with his depth of conservatism, is unfortunately sort of out in the cold looking in at Palin, perhaps enviously, perhaps just learning from the situation. Two different speeches, both weak, but with different outcomes. The deck, seemingly stacked against Palin, actually is working in her favor. She's getting attention. She's making a difference in debates. Palin is working very effectively with the hand she's been dealt and the speech itself has been relegated to inconsequential in the eyes of the press. They've since locked into the 'death panels' post. And with every post, she knows that it will be savaged. She can plan for the counter claims and cat calls prior to writing it. Meanwhile, Jindal, having been dealt an opportunity for a winning hand seems to have squandered it and may need to sit at the table a while longer in order to get another shot at a big payoff. Ultimately both Palin and Jindal will succeed. How are where remains to be determined, but both have too much going for them to not.
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