The howler of the night: Jindal's revisionist leap of logic in claiming that the federal government's botched response to Hurricane Katrina proves that government can't rescue us from the current economic crisis.
The rhetorical imagery almost works, until you say two words: Bush Administration. The Republican Party would take the failure of one of its own, George W. Bush, and spin it as proof that government doesn't work.
If anything, Katrina more directly proves that putting people at the helm who don't believe in steering the ship of state, who don't even think the ship is sound, is a recipe for trouble.
Did Jindal even listen to the President's speech?
History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas. In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry. From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle class in history. (Applause.) And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.
In each case, government didn't supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise. It created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive [President Barack Obama, address to Congress, transcript via CBSNews.com, 2009.02.24].
Heck, did Jindal listen to his own speech?
This is the nation that cast off the scourge of slavery, overcame the Great Depression, prevailed in two World Wars, won the struggle for civil rights, defeated the Soviet menace, and responded with determined courage to the attacks of September 11, 2001 [Governor Bobby Jindal, attempted rebuttal to the President, transcript via CNN.com, 2009.02.24].
Railroads, public high schools, GI Bill, interstate highways, Apollo—President Obama pointed to examples par excellence of government at its best. Governor Jindal concluded with a list of historic achievements that required government coordination.
Governor Jindal and his collapsing party, desperate for some way to destroy this new President, continue to engage in empty rhetoric that misses a fundamental political truth: Government is not an alien monster. Government is the tool we the people create to solve problems and achieve great goals we cannot handle by ourselves.
We can have a fair debate about just which problems government has a proper role in tackling. But government is what we make it. If we think government is a failure and elect people who share that view, we can expect dysfunctional government. If we put on our "Yes We Can" hats and elect folks who want to make government work, we can use government to make America better.