The Plank

What About Bobby, Ctd.

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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.

--Christopher Orr

RELATED: Click here for Orr's followup post on Jindal.

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