[See SAJAforum's extensive collection of Bobby Jindal posts, including a special one-hour webcast ABOUT Jindal on the first anniversary of his taking office]
After Gov. Bobby Jindal's widely-panned speech after President Obama's appearance on Tuesday, the last thing I would have expected was a profile of him on the top-rated CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes." But that's exactly what's happening tonight, 7-8 pm:
He's been called the Republican Obama and some think he may run for the presidency some day. But his opposition speech after the president's address to Congress this week caused some to say he's too young and inexperienced. Morley Safer profiles the governor of Louisiana. Deirdre Naphin and Katy Textor are the producers.
UPDATE: Here's video of the piece (transcript below):
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After seeing the segment, please post your comments below.
We asked Mike Sager, writer of the most extensive magazine profile ever done on Jindal ("Bobby Jindal, All-American" - as part of Esquire picking the governor as among the six most influential people in the world) and author of "Wounded Warriors: Those for Whom the War Never Ends," to comment on this week's Jindal news. He told SAJAforum:
- JINDAL: After Obama's speech, prime time for Bobby Jindal
- POLITICS: Bobby Jindal gets some "slum love"
March 1, 2009
Bobby Jindal Profile
Correspondent: Morley Safer
SAFER: If you watched the Republican response to President Obama`s address to Congress last Tuesday, you saw a rather awkward young man taking his best shot, following one of the most powerful political orators the country has seen in ages.
While Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, may not be quite ready for prime time, he does represent the party`s attempt to broaden its base, to attract minorities; in short, to reinvent itself.
Pretty remarkable for a 37-year-old first-generation American policy wonk to be regarded as the grand old party`s new young savior.
SAFER (voice-over): Here in New Orleans` Jackson Square, the strains of "Sweet Georgia Brown" accompany just about the most popular, yet unlikely, man in town.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, so you want to get in the middle of the girls?
BOBBY JINDAL, GOVERNOR, LOUISIANA: Why, I`d be honored to.
SAFER: Bobby Jindal is not a musician, nor a restaurateur, but a mere governor who, after the Katrina debacle, is trying to put the big "un-easy" back on dry land.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to be our next president?
JINDAL: No, no, I need to fix my state.
SAFER: This son of immigrants, Ivy League educated, is all of 37 years old. He`s been called the "great beige hope" of the Republican Party.
JINDAL: I think the Republican Party needs to stop thinking about who`s the next messenger, they need to stop thinking about how do they fix their party. We need to start thinking about how do we help fix our country?
SAFER: He is the first non-white governor of Louisiana since reconstruction, and in a state that has been described as "half under water, half under indictment," he`s a far cry from what Louisiana voters had taken for granted -- lily-white, good ol` boys who made more headlines for scandal and corruption than for governance.
JINDAL: Let`s get started. Let`s not keep all these people waiting.
SAFER: This eager and ambitious young whirlwind is determined to change all that. He doesn`t drink, doesn`t smoke, doesn`t swear, and relentlessly hammers his message -- that the days of corruption and incompetence are over.
JINDAL: I`m not going to take no for an answer on reforming our ethics laws.
I think what voters were saying when they elected me -- "we`re tired of the past. We`re tired of corrupt politics. We`re tried of the same old politicians. We know we`re better than that."
SAFER (on camera): But one of the appeals of New Orleans and Louisiana was that it wasn`t on the good list, that there was something wonderfully exotic and bad about New Orleans.
JINDAL: We`ll let Illinois have that reputation for a little while.
SAFER (voice-over): If Jindal can truly change "business as usual" in Louisiana, it may be because he`s an outsider -- the son of immigrants who arrived from India in the early `70s. He was born in Baton Rouge, where his mother earned a doctorate in nuclear physics. His father was a civil engineer.
(on camera): Growing up in a place like Baton Rouge, which is not exactly a hive of Indian activity, did you ever feel any racial tension?
JINDAL: Not at all. You know, this has been a great place to grow up. The great thing about the people of Louisiana is that they accept you based on who you are.
SAFER (voice-over): That`s quite a declaration in a state that, not so long ago, gave former Ku Klux Klansmen David Duke nearly 40 percent of the vote. But that sunny "Leave it to Beaver" optimism is classic Bobby Jindal, a man so determined to be true blue American, he changed his name.
(on camera): When you were born, you were named Piyush, correct?
JINDAL: That`s right.
SAFER: Where does the "Bobby" come from?
JINDAL: Every day after school, I`d come home and I`d watch "The Brady Bunch," and I identified with Bobby, you know? He was about my age. And "Bobby" stuck.
SAFER (voice-over): But much of his Indian heritage didn`t stick. In high school, he converted from his parents` Hindu faith to Catholicism, and he rejected their political party as well.
JINDAL: I grew up in a time when there weren`t a whole lot of Republicans in this state. But I identified with President Reagan. He was, I thought, a very successful president.
SAFER: He went to Brown University, where he studied biology, trying to fulfill his parents` dream to become a doctor. He was admitted to Harvard Medical School and Yale Law, but declined both. Instead, he accepted a Rhodes scholarship, and by the ripe old age of 24, he was running the Louisiana health care system.
The editor of "The New Orleans Times Picayune," Jim Amoss, took notice.
JIM AMOSS, EDITOR, "THE NEW ORLEANS TIMES PICAYUNE": Clearly, an ambitious and very clever young man.
SAFER (on camera): A young man in a hurry.
AMOSS: But he`s also a young man who, by nature, is cautious. There is not a touch of recklessness about him.
SAFER (voice-over): Jindal first ran for governor at the age of 31, but lost a close race. Then, was elected twice to Congress. In 2007, he ran for governor again, and won big. Amoss says he did it by convincing even rural Cajun voters that he was one of them. The rallying cry -- "bubbas for Bobby."
(on camera): That seems a huge reach for people like that to vote for somebody as quote, unquote, "exotic" as Bobby Jindal.
AMOSS: He shares, in many ways, the conservative values of people in north Louisiana. And then, the other big factor that I think played in north Louisiana, as well as south Louisiana, is Katrina.
SAFER (voice-over): Hurricane Katrina and the bungled state and federal response, more than anything else, set the stage for change in Louisiana.
Jindal took us to the still-devastated lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans.
JINDAL: Anybody watching what happened in 2005 should come away with the distinct conclusion we should never allow that to happen again.
SAFER (on camera): You talk about bureaucratic indifference -- you think that`s particular to any party?
JINDAL: No, I -- but I don`t think, as Americans, we should accept anything other than excellence in our government.
Look, I`m a Republican. I don`t think government`s the answer to every problem. But that does, that doesn`t mean we should accept incompetence.
SAFER (voice-over): But where he seems to be making the biggest waves is in ethics reform. Just weeks after taking office, he forced through several bills that, among other things, called for far more transparency in the financial dealings of politicians.
It was a radical break with a tradition established in the 1930s by that powerful and massively corrupt governor, Huey Long.
(on camera): And here we have the Kingfish, yes?
JINDAL: Huey Long.
SAFER (voice-over): Long built the towering state capitol building as a monument to himself. More recently, Governor Edwin Edwards boasted that the only way he`d be voted out of office was to be "caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have anything to hide?
EDWIN EDWARDS: Oh, yes, but not in connection with this investigation.
SAFER: Edwards now resides in the slammer, convicted of racketeering. Jindal says the non-stop party is finally over.
(on camera): Politics used to be fun here. I mean, caught with hookers. Congressmen with a freezer full of cash.
SAFER: Is he just a little bit boring?
AMOSS: One person`s boring is another person`s competent. And does he lack flamboyance? I mean, look, look what flamboyance got us?
JINDAL: It is my hope to be the most boring, but hopefully, one of the most effective governors in our state`s history. Now, you`re going to meet my wife. Well, she says we`ve got boring down right.
SAFER (voice-over): Supriya Jindal rivals her husband in the brains department. She has an MBA and is one paper shy of a doctorate; but unlike her husband, she isn`t so sure about that relentless political pursuit.
SUPRIYA JINDAL, WIFE OF BOBBY JINDAL: I never imagined that we would be in a public life, you know? I always tease him, you know, did we talk about this running for governor thing prior to getting married, because I don`t recall it, you know.
JINDAL: I was scared you`d say no.
SAFER: Despite her reluctance, they are quite the team, in both matters political and familial.
(on camera): You both had quite a scare a couple of years ago when you were having your third child, and you went into labor in the middle of the night. And he ended up delivering the baby, correct?
S. JINDAL: It`s something that I never want to experience again. He did an incredible job. But I`m the kind of person that likes to be in the hospital.
SAFER: Little Slade Jindal came into the world in a hurry back in the summer of 2006 -- at home, with his then-Congressman father forced to serve as midwife.
They have three children, aged 7, 4 and 2, who have made the governor`s mansion their own -- a picture-perfect family life.
(on camera): Does your family maintain any of the Indian traditions?
S. JINDAL: Not too many. I mean, not...
JINDAL: They`ve been here for so many years that...
S. JINDAL: ... that we`ve sort of adapted. We were raised as Americans, you know? We were raised as Louisians. So, that`s how we live our lives.
SAFER (voice-over): He`s a classic product of the American melting pot -- this oyster-and crawfish-eating Louisianian tends to downplay his ethnic background.
AMOSS: When we sent a reporter and photographer to India to write about his family and their origins, the Jindal family was very queasy about, about that undertaking.
SAFER (on camera): He clearly presents himself as true blue American.
AMOSS: And he is the genuine article. He`s deeply -- by nature, deeply conservative, deeply patriotic.
SAFER: And religious.
AMOSS: And religious.
SAFER (voice-over): And conservative. He supports the teaching of intelligent design, wants to get tough on illegal immigration, is against stem cell research and abortion rights, and yet continues to challenge his own party.
JINDAL: The Republican Party got itself into trouble. And it got into trouble because the American people didn`t see the party offering solutions to the problems they care about.
SAFER (on camera): And is part of that due to the legacy of George Bush?
JINDAL: I think, like anything, there`s some good and some bad, you know. Certainly, I was one that disagreed with his spending we`ve seen these last eight years. You`ve seen spending that, if the Democrats had proposed some of this, the Republicans would have rightfully criticized it.
SAFER (voice-over): That kind of talk has gained him notice. His name was raised repeatedly as a potential running mate for John McCain.
JINDAL: When the campaign asked me to submit my information to be vetted, I declined politely. I said that I was honored that they, they would ask me, but I`ve got the job that I want.
SAFER (on camera): For the moment?
JINDAL: Well, hopefully, not just for the moment. Hopefully, over the next seven years.
SAFER (voice-over): For the moment, he hardly represents a threat to President Obama.
JINDAL: Good evening and happy Mardi Gras. I`m Bobby Jindal.
SAFER (voice-over): But in Tuesday`s Republican response, he accused the Democrats of bloated, wasteful spending in the stimulus package.
JINDAL: It`s irresponsible and it`s no way to strengthen our economy.
SAFER: That speech aside, Rush Limbaugh still calls him "the next Ronald Reagan." And party heavyweight Newt Gingrich says he is the "most transformative young governor in the country."
NEWT GINGRICH: He tackles every issue, from spending to education to health to infrastructure to jobs, with a level of energy and a level of doing what makes sense -- and I think the result in Louisiana, so far, has been very spectacular.
SAFER (on camera): Beyond Louisiana, do you think he has what it takes?
GINGRICH: He will automatically be a major contender for the presidency for many, many years. Remember, he`ll be the same age as John McCain 34 years from now. So, he has a long time, and he can do a lot of things.
SAFER: When you hear a Republican like Newt Gingrich mentioning your name, what goes through your mind?
JINDAL: We`ve just sworn in a new president of the United States. He`s, you know, he`s barely started. It`s way too early to start thinking about who the leader of the party is. And for me, look, I`ve got no secret plan...
SAFER: But what were you doing in Iowa couple of months ago?
JINDAL: Got a great invitation to come and speak to a wonderful group.
SAFER (voice-over): His visit this fall to Iowa lead some to speculate that he was trying to broaden his national profile. But his speech last Tuesday may have put great expectations on hold, which may please his wife.
(on camera): When you see these speculative stories about him running for president, what goes through your mind?
S. JINDAL: Gosh, no!
SAFER: You may live to regret that.
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