Bobby Jindal – as terrible as everybody else
So, meandering around the web today one comes across almost universal consensus that Bobby Jindal’s speech was simply awful. The odd thing is, almost all the critics of the speech offer up the same apologetics – namely, that really all State of the Nation response speeches are bad. This caveat is basically universal. Ross, for instance, writes:
Sure, responding to a Presidential speech is almost always a thankless, hopeless job – but shouldn’t someone as smart as Jindal have recognized that, and either turned the opportunity down flat, or found a way to sound like something other than a kindergarten teacher delivering familiar GOP talking points?
…or John Cole, who is rather more harsh:
Now, in fairness, the responses are always awful. Every year (with the exception of Jim Webb) someone is trotted out and forced to give the response, and it is at this point the political equivalent of throwing a virgin into a volcano. It is beyond time for them to end. However, there was something just especially awful this year, and already the comparison to Kenneth from 30 Rock is sweeping across the intertubes.
Larison has a similar take:
I grant that no one who gives the response to these addresses comes out looking very good. Sebelius was mind-numbingly boring with all of her bromides about the joys of bipartisanship, and who can even remember anything Gary Locke said in a response before that? Go back just a few years, and you can’t even remember who gave most of the responses.* That is the good news for Jindal.
So he was bad – really bad – but hey, tough act to follow and, you know, these response speeches are always bad so….what? If they’re always bad then it really begs the question of why we bother to do them in the first place. Wouldn’t the opposition have a much better time of it if they didn’t have to defend themselves from attacks on their response speech and could focus entirely on picking apart the President instead? Is a follow-up speech really the best rhetorical tool in an age of mass media? In the age of Youtube, sometimes less is more. Jindal is certainly (hopefully) cognizant of this today, though regret is always late. The whole response speech strategy just seems utterly flawed to me. This may be especially true of Obama, since I’m not sure there’s a Republican out there who can even come close to matching his oratorical skill.