Why do smart Republicans say stupid things? It’s the central political question of our era and it demands an answer.
That isn’t even the dumbest thing he said. He repeated all the usual racist tropes about how Muslims fail to “disavow” violence, implying rather strongly and ignorantly that they do not. He also launched into a surprising diatribe about the mortal danger posed by immigrants who refuse to “assimilate.”
There are only two credible explanations for this speech. Either Jindal is an idiot in the Michele Bachmann mold, or he is making a cynical, calculated career decision to abandon credibility in pursuit of power.
Let’s be absolutely clear – Bobby Jindal is not stupid. He’s a Brown University graduate in Biology who went on to complete a degree at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Jindal has in the past flirted with the idea of coming out of the closet as a smart person by suggesting once that Republicans should stop saying stupid things. In that speech two years ago he chastised the party for embracing precisely the kind of “identity politics” he so forcefully endorsed on Monday.
Being a smart guy he has apparently come to some conclusions about his career. He learned some lessons from his experience trying to be a principled leader.
Why do Republicans keep saying stupid things? Well, some of them are idiots. Louie Gohmert and Sarah Palin and a laundry list of other daffy cartoon characters who should hold public office, or for that matter be trusted to look after your pets while you’re out of town.
Jindal represents something darker and far more disturbing. Bobby Jindal knows better.
It’s that intersection between cowardice and greed for power that is corrupting a whole generation of Republican leadership. Clearly, Jindal looked at the road ahead for himself and made some calculations about the cost of being a credible leadership figure. He has made his choice.
Dumb is far less dangerous in the long run than craven or cowardly. Bobby Jindal, more than Rick Perry or Steve King or Louie Gohmert, embodies the worst forces at work in the party right now.