BATON ROUGE, La. -- As a practicing Roman Catholic, Louisiana's Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, knows a lot about repentance and penance. And in an interview last Wednesday at the governor's mansion, Jindal sounded a lot like a preacher listing the sins of a party he hopes will soon see the light.
What lessons should the GOP learn from the last two election cycles? "The party must consistently do what it says," Jindal admonished. "You can't be the party of fiscal discipline and tolerate the kind of spending that our party has accepted in the last several years, especially in Washington. ... If the Democrats had proposed many of the spending initiatives and projects that Republicans ended up approving, we would have been the first to criticize them."
That's a good start, but overspending isn't the only practice Republicans must transform, is it? "We've got to consistently oppose corruption in our own party," said Jindal. "It's not enough to make excuses that 'the other side does it.'"
Right again. Anything else?
"We have to apply our ideas to the problems Americans care about. I oppose greater government intrusion into our lives, but on health care, for example, for too long the Republican answer to this problem has been dumb." Dumb? Did he just say a Republican idea is dumb? Yes, he did. And he admires Sen. Edward Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, because, "He is relentless; he is consistent; he knows where he wants to go."
You know the party is in trouble when a Republican uses Ted Kennedy as a political role model.
Calling for the GOP to again be the party of "ideas and solutions," Gov. Jindal said, "Too often the rhetoric from the party has been 'vote for Republicans because the other side is worse'. That doesn't motivate or excite voters. You have to have a positive, proactive agenda for America."
Where did Republicans err after winning the White House and both Houses of Congress? "We went to Washington to change Washington," he said, "but we became a captive of Washington. We were supposed to be the party of outsiders. We became what we were elected to change."
Louisiana is constitutionally required to balance its budget. Jindal claims to be saving $341 million in the state's fiscal '09 budget. "We will continue to pursue policies to move Louisiana forward while we tighten our belts in government and ensure we are living within our means," said Jindal, which, he criticizes, is something Washington is not doing.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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