The Battle Over Who Loves America More

President Obama seems to have been struggling with how to strike the right balance between "things will get worse before they get better" realism and "we can overcome any obstacle" optimism. Certainly no one can accuse Obama of having been light on "hope" over the last two years but of late, in the interest of managing expectations for the stimulus package, Obama has at times crossed over from the realm of hope into the land of fear (and received a scolding from Bill Clinton in the process.)

So, tonight, in his first official national address as President (9pm EST), Obama looks poised to strike a far more hopeful note.

But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, 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 weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don't lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.

As you can see, President Obama is using the speech as a virtual love letter to America, which is smart because Gov. Bobby Jindal, in the Republican response to Obama's speech, will accuse the President of what Ben Smith charitably calls "pessimism":

A few weeks ago, the President warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said `we may not be able to reverse.' Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don't let anyone tell you that we cannot recover - or that America's best days are behind her.

More accurately, I think it's pretty clear that the Republicans with this speech are cynically going back to the "Obama is not patriotic" well. Hell, the name of Jindal's response is "Americans Can Do Anything." Considering the subtext of the speech, the title might as well be preceded by "Why doesn't Obama believe that..." in parentheses.

The reality is that on substance, Jindal's response will end up expressing what has now become a rather standard Republican position: the expectation (dare I sway hope?) that the stimulus will fail.

"Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt. Who among us would ask our children for a loan, so we could spend money we do not have, on things we do not need? That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did. It's irresponsible. And it's no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs, or build a prosperous future for our children.

Doesn't get much more pessimistic than that.

Update [2009-2-24 20:7:11 by Todd Beeton]:More excerpts from the President's speech can be found HERE. Here's a graf where Obama pre-empts the coming Republican line of attack by essentially equating hoping Obama's agenda is successful with loving America:

I know that we haven't agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.

Who loves America more now, Jindal!?

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I Told You So - Sort Of

     After watching the Republican responses to the passing and signing of the Presidents stimulus package it is becoming abundantly clear what their strategy will be for the next few years. They will stage these phony displays of public outrage and then at the same time take credit for any benefits from the stimulus package. First let's be clear about whether this bill was bi-partisan. In order to do this you have to separate the Republican Party from the Washington Republicans many of whom represent solid Republican base districts that were gerrymandered by Tom Delay and his cohorts from the Republicans who represent statewide constituencies like governors. Most Republican governors who are not seeking future national office are in strong favor of the stimulus bill. So far the ones who have spoken out against it are Texas Governor Rick Perry, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. It will be interesting to see how many of these governors will be lining up for a 2012 presidential bid.

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Politico: Jindal Says He's Not Interested in 2012 Run

Ben Smith reports:

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, seen by many Republicans as the most promising standard-bearer for a remade party, said at a Richmond, Va press conference that he isn't running for president in 2012.

At a news conference Wednesday with Bob McDonnell, Virginia's 2009 Republican candidate for governor, Jindal was asked if he was interested in being president, AP reports.

His answer: "No."

Jindal said he's planning to run for reelection in 2011, something that would make pivoting to a national campaign logistically and politically tricky.

I'm not sure this is a hard no. For one, Bobby Jindal isn't categorically ruling out a run, only saying he's not interested in running. (Politicians have wiggled out of tighter squeezes than that in the past.) Moreover, it's not clear to me that running for reelection in 2011 would preclude Jindal from running in 2012. Smith is correct that the pivot would be difficult -- but I don't see it as an impossible one. Remember, Mike Huckabee was able to come in second in the 2008 Republican primaries despite effectively having no national organization, and John McCain won despite having run out of money and drastically downsizing his campaign a half year before voters went to the polls. If they were able to pull off these feats in 2008, it's not clear to me Jindal couldn't -- particularly following a successful reelection bid that could garner him some momentum and attention.

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Huckabee and Jindal go after social conservatives in Iowa

Skip this post if you think it's too early to start talking about the 2012 presidential campaign just because Barack Obama hasn't been inaugurated yet.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, the winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses, was back in the state this week. On Thursday he held book signings that attracted some 600 people in Cedar Rapids and an even larger crowd in a Des Moines suburb. According to the Des Moines Register, he "brushed off talk of a 2012 run" but

brought to Iowa a prescription for the national Republican Party, which he said has wandered from its founding principles.

"There is no such thing as fiscal conservativism without social conservativism," Huckabee said. "We really should be governing by a moral code that we live by, which can be summed up in the phrase: Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you."

Governing by that principle would lead to a more humane society, with lower crime and poverty rates, creating less demand on government spending, he said.

Huckabee was accompanied on Thursday by Bob Vander Plaats, who chaired his Iowa campaign for president. Vander Plaats has sought the Republican nomination for Iowa governor twice and is expected to run again in 2010. He recently came out swinging against calls for the Iowa GOP to move to the middle following its latest election losses. The Republican caucuses in the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate elected new leadership this month, and the state party will choose a new chairman in January. Vander Plaats is likely to be involved in a bruising battle against those who want the new chairman to reach out more to moderates.

Many Iowans who didn't come to Huckabee's book signings heard from him anyway this week, as he became the first politician to robocall Iowa voters since the November election. The calls ask a few questions in order to identify voters who oppose abortion rights, then ask them to donate to the National Right to Life Council. According to Iowa Independent, the call universe included some Democrats and no-party voters as well as registered Republicans. Raising money for an anti-abortion group both keeps Huckabee in front of voters and scores points with advocates who could be foot-soldiers during the next caucus campaign.

Meanwhile, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal made two stops in Iowa yesterday. Speaking in Cedar Rapids,

Jindal said America's culture is one of the things that makes it great, but warned that its music, art and constant streams of media and communication have often moved in the wrong direction.

"There are things we can do as private citizens working together to strengthen our society," he said. "Our focus does not need to be on fixing the (Republican) party," he said. "Our focus needs to be on how to fix America."

I'm really glad to hear he's not worried about fixing the party that record-high disapproval ratings, according to Gallup.

Later in the day, Jindal headlined a fundraiser in West Des Moines for the Iowa Family Policy Center. He said he wasn't there to talk politics (as if what follows isn't a politically advantageous message for that audience):

"It all starts with family and builds outward from there," said the first-term Jindal, who was making his first visit to Iowa. "As a parent, I'm acutely aware of the overall coarsening of our culture in many ways."

The governor said technology such as television and the Internet are conduits for corrupting children, which he also believes is an issue agreed upon across party lines.

"As governor, I can't censor anything or take away anyone's freedom of speech - nor do I want to if I could," he said, "but I can still control what my kids watch, what they hear and what they read."

The problem is that parents who want to control what their kids read often try to do so by limiting what other people's kids can read. A couple near Des Moines

are fighting to restrict access to the children's book "And Tango Makes Three" at East Elementary School in Ankeny. The book is the story of two male penguins who raise a chick together.

The Ankeny parents want it either removed or moved to the parents-only section, arguing that it promotes homosexuality and same-sex couples as normal and that children are too young to understand the subject.

Gay rights are sure to be an issue in the next Republican caucus campaign, especially if the Iowa Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality next year. The court will soon hear oral arguments in a gay marriage case.

For now, though, it's enough for Jindal to speak generally about "family" and "culture" and raise his name recognition among the religious conservatives who have often crowned the winner in the Iowa caucuses.

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"Tie myself to a losing campaign that will destroy my political future? Nah."

Crossposted at The Motley Moose

Fresh in from the Washington Post today, we have news that Bobby Jindal, the Republican Governor of Louisiana, was never seriously vetted for the Vice President position. Yes, I know, you're thinking "What, as opposed to Sarah Palin?" Apparently, however, this was done at his request.

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