Remember when Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal fumbled the Republican response to President Obama’s 2009 State of the Union address? It seems he’s done it again, though this time the response has been much more muted. It’s still possible that Jindal could be chosen as Mitt Romney’s VP, and so it’s important that he get himself back into the news – and the thoughts of at least a few Americans. Unfortunately for Jindal, the wrong Americans will be doing most of the reflection.
Following Romney’s weird and slightly off-putting conduct in London, Jindal made the following comment: “We’re not worried about overseas headlines. We’re worried about voters back here at home in America…Gov. Romney has said that he expected the London Olympics to be a phenomenal success. The reality is we’re all rooting for our American athletes. We hope they come back with a bunch of medals, and I’m sure they’re going to be very successful, but the reality is the focus needs to continue to be on the issues that are important to voters back home.”
This has been reported mainly (as in the source) as a defense of Romney, but in reality, it’s a stunning indictment of stateside Americans. Jindal assumes immediately that Americans have no interest in world events, and in particular are not even following the antics of one of our presidential candidates while he’s visiting our staunchest traditional ally. Jindal may have made his comments with American Exceptionalism in mind – we are concerned with Romney’s impact on America – but what he said was that Americans are both selfish and stupid.
For Jindal to completely decouple the headlines of foreign news agencies from the behavior of voters at home means that he is counting mainly on the votes of Americans who do not care about the United States’ impact on the world, or who care only insofar that impact is a strong one (as opposed to morally correct or democratically aligned). He may be counting equally on the votes of Americans who do not know that there is much of a world outside of American soil.
Foreign policy is important to a lot of Americans. Good diplomacy leads to strong trade, which is a significant part of our domestic economy. Good relations with the world also encourage tourism, which has been an unexpectedly strong sector of the economy this year (connected, perhaps, to President Obama’s continued good relations with the international community?)
If Jindal sees Americans as camera-pointing, fanny-pack-wearing, socks-and-sandals stereotypes of the self-absorbed tourist abroad, then we have a problem. We can’t tolerate elected officials who spin their constituents as thoughtless, oblivious rubes, blind to the realities on display on the world stage.