The Corner

Jindal for VP?

Kathryn, Ramesh, and Ross Douthat are all cold to the notion of McCain putting Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal on the ticket. I think I disagree.

Why are they opposed really? Ramesh says Jindal isn’t experienced enough. It’s true, he’s been governor for only a very short time; and even true that he only served two terms in Congress. Prior to that, he was Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Bush Administration, and before that the state Secretary of Health in Louisiana, and president of the University of Louisiana system. I suppose that’s less experience than some vice presidential candidates, but it’s more than others have had, and it’s more management and executive experience than Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or John McCain can point to. The Democrats could hardly accuse him of a thin resume if they’re running Obama.

Kathryn says Jindal is needed in Louisiana, and as a model of good conservative government nationally. But if he could help Republicans win the presidency, wouldn’t that be more important in the big picture? That’s a real “if”, to be sure, but that question—rather than the proposition that governor of Louisiana is a more important post than vice president—should guide our thinking about Jindal.

Ross argues that for Jindal personally the downsides of running and losing are bigger than the upsides of running and winning. That may be so, although getting on the ticket would certainly give Jindal national prominence he doesn’t yet otherwise have. But either way, that’s a matter of what’s good for Jindal; what about what’s good for McCain, or for Republicans, or for the country?

I’m not exactly endorsing the idea of Jindal for VP. His almost total lack of foreign policy experience is a serious concern. But I do think there are real upsides. Having gotten to see Jindal in action a bit in his time at HHS and in Congress, I can attest that the guy is extremely savvy, capable, smart, and knowledgeable. Would his youth highlight John McCain’s…umm…non-youth? Maybe, but it might also highlight Barack Obama’s youth and inexperience, suggesting to voters that perhaps Obama is well suited to be vice president too, but that someone with a little more gravity and experience should sit in the big chair.

He’s a very able, moderately experienced, thoroughly conservative Republican governor with some charisma. Hardly a list of attributes to dismiss out of hand, I would say.

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.


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