BOSTON GLOBE: Bobby Jindal takes long-shot White House bid to New Hampshire As originally appearing in The Boston Globe
BY AKILAH JOHNSON
MANCHESTER, N.H. — In his first official campaign visit to the first-in-the-nation primary state since formally running for president, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana addressed a small crowd Thursday at the ever-popular Politics & Eggs forum, giving a speech that largely mirrored his announcement address.
Jindal recounted his parent’s story of immigrating to the United States from India in search of the American Dream, ran down highlights of his tenure as governor — including cutting 30,000 state jobs — and jabbed at the “political elites” in both parties.
But a number of the governor’s comments focused on health care, an interest for Jindal that predates the Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday to reject a challenge to the federal health care law.
“I see that the president is declaring victory today,” Jindal told the crowd of about 100 people seated at Saint Anselm College’s Institute of Politics. “The Supreme Court has ruled that one part of the law is not unconstitutional. Well, yippee. This is now success? So if Congress were to double our taxes tomorrow, and the Supreme Court said that wasn’t unconstitutional — that would be success?”
The Affordable Care Act “puts bureaucrats between doctors and their patients,” creates an expensive entitlement program, and forces people into Medicaid, Jindal said. Conservatives must continue to call not only for repealing the law but for replacing it as well, he continued.
“If I’m elected president, I would have four objectives. First would be repealing and replacing Obamacare,” said Jindal, who at age 24 was appointed secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. (Supporters of the law argue it guarantees health care for the country’s population through, in many cases, federal programs.)
He said his three other objectives would be national defense, growing the private-sector economy, and immigration.
Jindal’s political rise occurred well before his 40th birthday. In 2004, he was elected to Congress at age 33, and he was voted into the corner office three years later, becoming the nation’s youngest governor.
His parents moved to Baton Rouge from India more than 40 years ago, he said, without ever having been on an airplane and knowing little about the city to which they were moving. They immigrated so his mother could attend Louisiana State University and his father could get a job.
“It still gives me goose bumps,” the Brown University graduate said. “There was no Internet back then. They couldn’t go online and Google ‘Baton Rouge’ and see what it was like. They were coming to an idea as much as they were coming to a geographical place. They were coming to the idea of freedom and opportunity.”
Part of that ideal was fully embracing American culture and identity, he said, repeating a line from his announcement speech about his tiring of “hyphenated Americans.”
“My parents, they are proud of their Indian heritage, but if they wanted to raise their children as Indians they would have stayed in India,” he said Thursday. “So I say no more Indian-Americans, no more African-Americans, no more Irish-Americans, no more rich-Americans, no more poor-Americans. We’re all Americans.”
Jindal subsequently became the punch line of numerous jokes on Twitter, where the hashtag #Jindalissowhite became popular in India, according to published reports in BuzzFeed and other outlets.
A conservative Catholic who converted from Hinduism, Jindal also touched on the importance of religious tolerance and freedom, though in more tempered ways in religiously moderate New Hampshire than in Iowa, another early voting state.
Polls show New Hampshire is one of the least religious states in the country, while Iowa’s GOP primary includes an influential evangelical Christian contingent. Jindal has spent much of his recent political travel to Iowa to court these voters.
“One of the things you may have seen coming out of DC is an unprecedented assault on our freedoms” he said. “One of the most egregious assaults is an assault our First Amendment rights, our religious liberty rights. Unfortunately, the left is now wanting to take God out of the public square. Unfortunately, the left no longer understands that our First Amendment rights, our religious liberty rights, are fundamental to our freedom of speech and freedom of association.”
Jindal spent nearly as much time answering questions from those in attendance as he did talking — about 20 minutes for each.
He was asked about the reality of repealing and replacing the federal health care law now that the Supreme Court has ruled, reforming Social Security, supporting harbor maintenance funding, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
Amy Carnevale, a member of the Massachusetts State Republican Committee who drove up to Manchester for Thursday’s forum, asked Jindal about a federal program that requires ports, harbors, and other waterways to pay into a maintenance fund.
“I was very impressed with his knowledge of the program,” she said afterward. “His knowledge is far beyond what other elected officials typically would express.”