March 2nd, 2009
07:54 PM ET
14 years ago

Damage control for Jindal

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Jindal is still in recovery mode after his widely-panned speech."](CNN) – Is Bobby Jindal following in Bill Clinton’s footsteps?

In 1988, the then-Arkansas governor was considered a hot pick as a future presidential candidate for his party.

That was before “the speech.”

Awarded a high-profile speaking gig at the Democratic Convention, Clinton nearly derailed his national political future with a disastrous performance. The speech was widely panned, and ran so long the crowd actually cheered when he said “in conclusion.”

But living up to his nickname of “Comeback Kid,” Clinton helped bury the poor speech with an appearance on the Tonight Show, where he emerged laughing as host Johnny Carson poked fun with a long, rambling introduction. And in a memorable moment, Clinton said the speech “wasn’t my finest hour. Or even hour and a half.”

Flash forward to last week, when Jindal, the Louisiana governor and rising Republican star, was tapped to give the GOP response to President Obama’s address to the nation. Like Clinton, Jindal’s speech was badly received, and some of the buzz over his future dimmed.

But a week that included comparisons of Jindal to the 30 Rock character Kenneth the Page ended on a far more dignified note: Jindal was profiled on 60 Minutes. Tonight, he appears on CNN’s “Larry King Live”.

The venues are different than the one Clinton chose – serious interview segments rather than late-night comedy. And the 60 Minutes segment wasn’t a last-minute add like Clinton’s “Tonight Show” cameo. But they offer the same opportunity: damage control.

Emory University political science professor Merle Black said Jindal, like Clinton, “is trying to minimize the losses and replace them with a positive image with voters.”

Black said that many politicians would have “hid under the bushes over that kind of thing,” not emerge days later to confront a botched performance, as Clinton did. Clinton was able to laugh at himself, and “humanize himself” with the audience.

“Jindal is trying to follow that model,” said CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider. It’s not the late-night circuit, but he is “presenting a different side of himself, a more attractive and more appealing side of himself.”

Schneider said some of Jindal’s problems may have come from his use of a tele-prompter. His latest television appearances show him in a much more natural setting. And while it was a rough week for Jindal, Schneider said damage control is important because “a week is a lifetime in politics, three years is an eternity.” If Jindal did not re-emerge right away, “he would have been a joke for a while.”

The Louisiana governor used a few self-deprecating comments Monday at a news conference with home state reporters at the Capitol in Baton Rouge. In advance text of his comments, distributed by his aides, Jindal said he was “not nearly as good a speaker as the president. I'm not alone in this opinion. ... I tried slowing down, and now they're saying I spoke too slowly.”

The Times-Picayune said Jindal joked he didn’t mind the jibes comparing him to Mr. Rogers, as opposed to some of the colorful politicians in Louisiana’s history.

Filed under: Bobby Jindal
soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. frank

    How in the world can you compare Bill Clinton to this guy? What a stretch. You think because a speech went bad you can compare an inexperienced wanna be to a two term ex president?


    March 3, 2009 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  2. maya

    To be honest with you, I turned of after 30 seconds. Amateur would do better. I doubt giving my vote to that person ever!

    March 3, 2009 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
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