‘Does Jindal have a volcano in his backyard?’

February 26th, 2009 - 12:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Feb 26 (IANS) Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has drawn criticism for his performance in delivering the Republican Party’s response to President Barack Obama’s speech on the flagging economy, with some even upset with his questioning spending on monitoring volcanos that he knows little about.

In his speech Tuesday night, Jindal - who made history in 2007 when he was elected America’s first Indian-American governor at the age of 36 and became the youngest governor in office - went through a checklist of the unusual ways the Obama administration plans to spend taxpayer dollars in its controversial $787 billion stimulus plan opposed by the Republicans.

Jindal’s swipe at federal spending to monitor volcanoes for one has the mayor of one city in the shadow of Mount St. Helens fuming.

“Does the governor have a volcano in his backyard?” Royce Pollard, the mayor of Vancouver, Washington, said Wednesday. “We have one that is very active, and it still rumbles and spits and coughs very frequently.”

Singling out a $140 million appropriation for the US Geological Survey (USGS), the rising Republican star questioned why “something called volcano monitoring” was included in the stimulus plan.

“Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington,” Jindal said.

But Marianne Guffanti, a volcano researcher at the USGS, said: “We don’t throw the money down the crater of the volcano and watch it burn up.”

The USGS, which received the money Jindal criticised, is monitoring several active volcanoes across the Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Hawaii. One of those is Mount St. Helens, about 70 miles north of Vancouver, Washington, and neighbouring Portland, Oregon.

Timmy Teepell, Jindal’s chief of staff, said the governor stands by his statement.

“That was just one example of wasteful spending in the largest government spending bill in history,” Teepell said. “The governor made it clear that we need to grow jobs, not government.”

Meanwhile, Jindal continued to be panned for his performance.

“The Bobby Jindal you see on the Sunday shows was not the Bobby Jindal who showed up to give this speech,” said CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. “He seemed over-coached and over-rehearsed.”

But some Republicans praised the content of the speech itself: namely a vigorous defence of conservative principles and an optimistic can-do outlook on the future.

They also said the speech laid out a cogent rebuttal to the Democrats massive stimulus bill, articulated a way forward for the Republican and rightly refrained from overly criticising the president himself.

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