So the NRO crew has been writing a lot about the possibility of Romney picking Bobby Jindal for Veep. Rich Lowry is for it. Andrew Stuttaford worries that the Jindal exorcism story from back in his college days could turn into a major problem. Ramesh Ponnuru has suggested a big part of what the Republican response to such attacks should be:
They [Republicans] could say that if the worst thing their kid ever does in college is say some unusual prayers for a troubled friend, theyll count themselves lucky. And they could also use every occasion when a Democrat brings up this issue to talk about Obamas conduct at a similar stage of his life. If Jindals adolescence and early adulthood are fair game, so is the presidents. I think that would shut up Jindals critics. If it doesnt, well: Bring it on.
And thus I dont think this episode should be considered any bar to selecting Jindal.
UPDATE : Oh, and if the Democrats want to talk about the candidates faith history, we can take them up on that offer too.
I basically agree with Ponnuru, but I’d just want to add several things. There are lots of left-of-center people in academia and the media (both news and entertainment) who are, at any moment, emotionally primed to consider any particular Republican as a barely comprehensible monster. The more unusual that Republican seems to them, the more upset they become and the more they will throw out the normal rules of discourse and thought. If Romney picks Pawlenty, there will be a lot of snickering about Pawlenty’s use of the term Obamneycare, and how it is a great shame that another basically moderate Republican governor has to become an extremist to get anywhere in the Republican Party. Then they will go back to explaining how Romney used to use to serve the blood of the outsourced as an appetizer during Board of Directors meetings at Bain Capital while he was on “leave” for the Olympics.
It will be different if Romney picks a Southern, Indian-American, Catholic convert, conservative governor who participated in an exorcism while in college. That is a lot more diversity and college experimentation than the left-of-center believes in (cocaine is still okay.) If Romney picks Jindal, a lot of people on the left-of-center are going to freak out. It is going to be a moral panic. They are going to bypass all of the early stages of rabies and go right to the drooling and snapping. Expect to hear a lot about theocracy. There will be an element of sincerity (and also quite a bit of lynch mob) in all this. The explicitly left media will go wild, as will who-knows-how-many celebrities and academics. The liberal-leaning, but not formally aligned with the left media (CBS rather than MSNBC) will report on this as a series of totally legitimate questions rather than an outbreak of hysterical bigotry.
None of this is a reason to not pick Jindal . If Romney and Jindal handle the attacks on Jindal sharply, confidently, and quickly pivot to a real message about people’s lives, the hysterical attacks on Jindal will be self-discrediting, and the attention will give Jindal’s remarks greater attention than they would have otherwise gotten. The key is that the Romney campaign and Jindal have to be ready for the nature and intensity of the attacks. It will dwarf the left-of-center hatred of Palin.
It also matters what Romney wants from his running mate. If Romney wants a running mate who will help him explain premium support Medicare, and explain why Obama’s attacks are misleading, then he wants Jindal. If Romney wants a running mate who can explain how Republican policies can lower health care premiums, increase jobs, lower energy prices, get government to work better for less money, and maintain the safety net for our elderly while avoiding huge tax increases, then Jindal is the guy. If Romney just wants someone who will dutifully parrot the campaign-generated talking points about how Obama is for European socialism and doesn’t understand the business of business while Romney is for the entrepreneurs of free market capitalism America, then Pawlenty is the guy. Trotting Jindal out there to say not-much-of-anything would be a waste of Jindal. The best response to the inevitable hysteria that will follow a Jindal pick is have Jindal say something real about people’s lives. If Romney wants to play the prevent defense until November and not say anything, then he should pick Pawlenty (or maybe Portman, but I’m just using Pawlenty as a stand-in for a safe choice.) If Romney believes he needs someone to help him reassure the public that Romney’s policies are better, then he should get ready for the storm and pick Jindal. If picking between Pawlenty and Jindal, the worst choice Romney can make is to pick Jindal and then send him out with a script written for Pawlenty.