Ross Douthat and Dave Weigel think I'm "completely" and "exactly" wrong, respectively, to write off Bobby Jindal's chances of winning the GOP presidential nomination in 2012. I very much hope they're right, though I remain skeptical.
Douthat argues that I vastly underestimate
the way Obama's name, ancestry and skin color have dovetailed with other aspects of his background - from his liberation-theology church to the academic-lefty and urban-machine milieu in which he spent much of his early political career - that the GOP would have tried to play up against any Democratic candidate.
This seems to me not only convenient but largely wrong: Liberation theology has barely entered into the presidential season, and all the Muslim, terrorist pal, falsified birth certificate, not "the American president Americans are looking for" garbage of the cycle seems far more closely connected to Obama's "name, ancestry and skin color" than to his "academic-lefty and urban-machine milieu." ("Socialist" probably fits Douthat's explanation a bit better.) As a coverted Hindu whose legal name is still Piyush, whose parents arrived in the states not long before his birth and who attended an Ivy League university, Jindal would be open to many of the same kind of idiot smears directed at Obama, should any of his GOP opponents for the nomination care to make them.
Now it's certainly possible that the second half of Douthat's claim is the more important one, and Jindal's GOP opponents (assuming he runs) won't direct these kinds of smears toward him, which would represent progress of a sort, I suppose. (We only use racial innuendo against Democrats!) But I remain less than sanguine.
Weigel likewise argues that the "only downside" to a Jindal candidacy
is that glowing stories about Jindal's trips to rural Iowa will come along with stories about the oddball conspiracy theorists in his crowds who want to know about his birth certificate and whether he's a member of al Qaeda and whether there's a tape of his wife railing about "whitey" being responsible for the Amritsar massacre.
Again, if such talk truly is limited to "oddball conspiracy theorists," Jindal may have a shot. But if anyone else in the GOP--to pick a name at random, say, Sarah Palin--decides that there's a percentage in quietly cultivating such sentiments, that could pose problems.
At base, I guess I just don't really believe the GOP--and especially what's likely to be left of it if next week's losses are as bad as anticipated--is ready to put an Indian-American at the top of its presidential ticket. (The veep slot is an entirely different story; I think Jindal would be an utter no-brainer.) But I would be absolutely delighted to be proven wrong.