One of the problems faced by each of the last two American presidents — George W. Bush and Barack Obama — has been how to discriminate rhetorically between Muslims in general, who constitute 23 percent of the world's population and encompass many countries that the United States is allied with, and the kind of militant Islamic movement that America has been struggling against on a variety of battlefronts since at least September 11, 2001.
Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, a potential presidential candidate and one of several who are likely to appear in Memphis before the GOP nomination is decided in 2016, was in town on Friday to address local Republicans at a closed "Leadership Event" fund-raiser at the Racquet Club.
He told reporters at a preliminary press conference at the Signature Air terminal that the dilemma was less real than it seemed, and, further, that the Obama administration, in particular, was guilty of mincing words in the struggle against radical Islam.
"You've got an administration whose officials, like [Attorney General] Eric Holder, saying things like 'We're not in a type of war.' You've got a State Department saying, 'We're not going to kill our way to victory," said Jindal. "This is nonsense. This is ridiculous. These are terrorists who are beheading and killing. ... They're Muslims. They're not a religious minority. ... The reality is that this is an enemy we must defeat. We must hunt them down and kill them."
Jindal prides himself on being outspoken. He made headlines last week by announcing here and elsewhere that he had asked to sign the famous (or notorious) letter addressed by 47 Republican Senators to the Ayatollah of Iran, cautioning that country's leader against signing a nuclear-freeze agreement with President Obama.
At his Memphis press conference, he recalled some other recent remarks of his. "I gave a speech in London. I called on Muslim leaders to condemn these men by name, make clear they're not martyrs. And then finally ... here in the West, we need to insist on assimilation. We must teach American exceptionalism in our classrooms."
Reminded by a questioner that not all Muslims are Jihadists opposed to the West, Jindal seemed to relax his rhetoric a bit before ramping it back up.
"The reality is, I think the vast majority of Muslims don't agree with the terrorists. ... But I do think that Islam has a problem. [Muslims] should not just condemn acts of violence but condemn the individuals who commit these acts of violence.
"They can't use the freedom we give them to undermine those same freedoms for other people. ... If they want to treat women as second-class citizens, they have no room in our country. We shouldn't allow them here."
Jindal scoffed at what he saw as the moral relativism of President Obama's recent comparison of Islamic radicals to Christian fanatics in previous centuries. "You want to talk about the Crusades, you want to talk about medieval Christians, I can deal with them. I'll keep an eye out for medieval Christians if he'll keep an eye out for Islamic terrorists, the enemies we face today."
Jindal himself is of Indian parentage. He was raised a Hindu and at birth bore the name Piyush (pronounced "PEE-yoosh") Jindal. Asked if he thought he could have been elected in Louisiana with that name rather than "Bobby," he answered, "Absolutely," and defended his state's tolerance of ethnic diversity. "In Louisiana we don't look at people by the color of their skin or by how they spell their names but by the content of their character."
The governor drew some chuckles when he explained how he got the name "Bobby." He described himself as a devotee of television growing up, including programs like The Brady Bunch, The $6 Million Dollar Man, and Gilligan's Island. He said he identified so much with the youngest Brady family member, Bobby, that he ended up being called that. He added, "It's a good thing I didn't identify with Gilligan."
Jindal explained that when he converted to Christianity and was baptized, he took on the name "Robert" legally. He milked the name game for a few more laughs when he noted that he had an 8-year-old son who had developed a fascination for a product called "Boudreau's Butt Paste" and had earned the nickname "Boudreau" around the household — something, said Jindal, that might be hard to explain to outsiders.
In the course of his session with reporters, Jindal defended his record as Louisiana governor, acknowledging he had to cope with a serious deficit of $1.6 billion but boasting that he had been able to reduce the state budget and the number of state employees while raising the per capita income average in his state.
The press conference was too brief to allow any discussion of how Jindal dealt in his state with Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, an issue that remains controversial in Tennessee, but, for the record, the Jindal administration has rejected it in Louisiana. Some years ago, when the issue was fresh, Jindal put forth several objections to Medicaid expansion, among them that "we should not move people from private insurance onto government-run programs" and that "we should design our policies so that more people are pulling the cart than riding in the cart."
Jindal's views on both health care and foreign policy are significant in that he is known to be considering a race for the presidency. Asked about that at the press conference, the governor gave a stock answer — that he was "thinking about it and praying about it seriously." He promised to "make that decision in a couple of months."
At his Memphis press conference, Governor Jindal was flanked by state Republican Chairman Chris Devaney, originally a Chattanoogan, and Shelby County Republican Chairman Justin Joy.
Ironically, neither chair will be holding office for very much longer. Devaney made a surprise announcement this week that he is resigning his chairmanship, effective April 1st, to become executive director of the Children's Nutrition Program of Haiti, "a faith-based nonprofit" headquartered in Chattanooga.
Joy's departure was less surprising, in that this coming weekend will see a long-scheduled changing of the guard for both local political parties.
The Shelby County Democrats will hold their biennial convention on Saturday, March 28th, at First Baptist Church Broad, beginning at 10 a.m., with registration of the delegates who were selected from each state House of Representatives district in the party caucuses held at the same venue on March 14th.
Shelby County Republicans will also be choosing a new chair for the next two years. Their convention will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 29th, in the Bartlett Station Municipal Center banquet hall. The party caucuses, which selected delegates for the convention, were held in the same building last month.
- Jackson Baker
- Women of Achievement honorees
Honored last Sunday with "Women of Achievement" awards at Holiday Inn University of Memphis were (l to r) Nadia Matthews (Initiative); Amerah Shabazz-Bridges (Courage); Bettye Boone (Vision); Sheila Williams (Determination); Dr. Owen Phillips (Heroism); and Barbara C. King (Steadfastness). This was the 31st year that the awards have been presented. Presiding over the event was Deborah M. Clubb, WA president and Memphis Area Women's Council coordinator.