Jindal Gestures for President

Bobby Jindal is interested in running for president in 2012. We know this not because he has said much about the matter—on Sunday's "Meet the Press," he provided all of the customary non-answers—but because of his words and actions on another subject.

Jindal, who will deliver the Republican response to Barack Obama's address to Congress on Tuesday night, has shrewdly built anticipation for his moment in the sun by announcing that he will refuse $100 million in federal stimulus money earmarked for Louisiana, a posture he reaffirmed on Meet the Press.

"I think we just have a fundamental disagreement here," Jindal said. "I don't think the best way to [stimulate the economy] is for the government to tax and borrow more money."

Jindal is not refusing all, or even most, of his state's share of stimulus money, only $100 million or so in federal unemployment assistance—money designed to allow states to expand eligibility for unemployment benefits.

His rationale for this is suspect. Jindal claims that the unemployment assistance actually amounts to an unfunded mandate, since Louisiana would need to permanently change its eligibility rules, while the federal money would expire in short order. But, as his state's Democratic senator, Mary Landrieu, has pointed out, there's no reason why Louisiana or any other state couldn't revert to its old eligibility rules when the federal money runs out; this is actually what the authors of the stimulus envisioned.

Jindal, not surprisingly, wouldn't have any of this when David Gregory pointed it out to him, and why should he? The tortured logic that Jindal is clinging to is simply a justification for a posture that reeks of 2012 calculations. Sure, any old Republican can stand up and criticize the stimulus plan; but how many can say they've actually rejected the money?

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