Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal joined me today to discuss 2016 and the latest WSJ/NBC polling numbers:
HH: The big news of the day is that Canada has gone left big time, and Jim Webb has gone away big time. Jim Webb, the Democrat seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, former Senator, has dropped out. Canada has gone back to the Trudeauland, and joining me to discuss both this and his brand new book, American Will, is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Governor Jindal, welcome, congratulations on publishing American Will. It’s always bad when pub date occurs on news days, but nevertheless, you’re out there pushing the book. What do you make of Canada’s decision? And what’s it mean for America?
BJ: Well, thank you, Hugh, for having me on the air. We are proud of the book. Look, one, two things. One, Canada’s had conservative leadership for over nine years, just like in America. Now they avoided some of the worst from the 2008 financial crisis, but their economy hasn’t been growing as strongly as their voters would like, and I think just like in America, they’re restless. They wanted a change. I think for America, both the conservative and liberal parties are committed to friendly relationships with the United States. I think you will see some changes in foreign policy. I think the liberal government is less likely, they’ve already said they’re going to be sending troops in terms of the fight against ISIS. But regardless, both the conservative and liberal parties are both wanting better relationships with America. Both support the Keystone Pipeline. So I don’t think there’s going to be a major disruption there. I think the takeaway lesson for us is after nine years, here we’ve had almost seven years of Obama’s presidency. If voters in Canada are restless, I think the voters in America are restless. They want stronger economic growth. And I think we’re going to have a change election in 2016. I think we’re going to go in a different direction than they did. And like Canada, we’re going to have a change election as well.
HH: Now there is a story at the National Review this afternoon that they’re, the election of the liberals, may in fact endanger their purchase of the F-35s. They’re scheduled to purchase between 60 and 70 of them. It’s a very expensive airplane. What’s your position on the F-35, Governor Jindal?
BJ: Well look, I think America needs to be investing in new or more modern equipment, including the F-35. I want our military to have the best. I want our military not only to, I never want our military to be in a fair fight, Hugh. I want them to dominate any potential conflict. And look, I know a lot of things get said on the campaign trail. We’ll see what actually happens once it comes time to govern up there in Canada.
HH: So Governor, let’s put the F-35 aside and go back to the campaign. Canada will work itself out. Earlier today, Michael Murphy was quoted, he’s the head of the superPAC supporting Jeb Bush as calling Donald Trump a zombie frontrunner. Do you agree with that assessment?
BJ: Well look, I’ve been very harsh on Donald Trump myself. I didn’t hear the full context of what he was saying, but here’s my view. I think that Donald’s not going to be our nominee. I don’t think he’s a conservative. I think he’s an egomaniac. I don’t think, look, he came out on 60 Minutes a couple of weeks ago saying that he was for government paying for everybody’s health care. Hugh, this is a definitional, this is a defining issue for conservatives. That’s Obamacare. That’s another step towards socialism. Once government’s paying for our health care, the reality is then you’re going to have the left wanting to tell us what to eat, how to live our lives, whether we can have guns. They already think they can do that. I don’t think he can be our nominee. I don’t know what names that folks want to call him, but at the end of the day, I think he’s entertainment, I think it’s good that he’s going after the D.C. establishment, but he’s not really a conservative.
HH: Now when you look at the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, and I was on Morning Joe this morning talking about this, there’s 25% for Donald Trump, and there’s 23% for Ben Carson. What is that message to all of the so-called establishment candidates, of which you are one, that half of the Republican primary electorate doesn’t like any of you?
BJ: Well, I think it’s great that folks want an outsider. Hugh, unlike other Republicans, I think it’s a wonderful think voters are frustrated with D.C. They’re frustrated with Republicans that say one thing and then do another when they get elected. You’ve got honest socialists and lying conservatives in D.C. They didn’t fight on Obamacare, on amnesty, on the Iran deal, on defunding Planned Parenthood. But look, I actually, in my state, we were one of the first states to take action against Planned Parenthood. We’ve actually cut, we’re the only candidate that’s cut government spending, the most pro-life state six years in a row. We fought for statewide school choice. The political establishment told us we couldn’t do those things. We did those things in Louisiana. I think what voters are saying is they’re tired of the Boehners and the McConnells and others that say one thing and do another. They want somebody who’s going to fight for them. And I know there’s a lot of the Republican establishment that are trying to clear the field, that are trying to, and I think that’s nonsense. Let the voters decide. They are rightfully angry. They want, they see the idea of the America slipping away. They see liberals want to fight for socialism. They don’t see Republicans who want to fight for our ideas.
HH: Now Governor Jindal, you do not register as a first choice in this poll. And they’ve got everybody there, and I don’t know how many they talk to, but Wall Street Journal/NBC is a reputable group. What message do you take away from that? And how do you get from a star into, you know, an asterisk, into a competitive position sometime by the SEC primary?
BJ: Well, Hugh, I actually look, you’re right, you look at the NBC polls they did in Iowa, and we’re actually doing very well in Iowa. We’re moving up. We’re in the top five in Iowa. We’ve focused our attention on the early states. What we have done, we’ve gone to over 50 counties. There are 99. We were the last person to leave. We do a town hall where we’ll stay, we’ll take up to three hours answering every question, and it’s paid off. We’re building a movement in Iowa. The first votes will be cast February 1st. Our nominee for the last 50 years has always won either Iowa or New Hampshire. We’re going to win Iowa, and I think this race changes dramatically then. We see a lot of folks who are up and down in these national polls, whether it’s, you know, before the Trump phenomenon, we had Scott Walker was doing well in national polls, Rubio, Jeb Bush, they’ve all gone up, and then Carly. The reality is we’re winning it on the ground in front of the voters, and that’s the poll that really counts, is when voters actually get to go vote. And look, there are some in the party that are trying to ignore the early states, and again, I think that’s a mistake. I think they’re doing that, because they want to clear the field for an establishment candidate. I have confidence of letting the voters decide, and we’re doing very well in Iowa.
HH: Now talk to people about the actual structure of a campaign in Iowa. Do you have a county chairman in every county? Do you have precinct chairmen, that sort of stuff? What’s the Jindal campaign look like up close in Iowa?
BJ: Sure, look, we’ve got several hundred volunteers that have volunteered not only to caucus for us, but to help us. And here’s what people need to understand is it’s not just folks saying they’re going to vote for you. Caucuses involve a commitment of time. People have to show up and be willing to articulate why they’re voting for you, try to convince their neighbors, their friends, their colleagues. So there are 99 counties. We’ve gone to 53 counties. We’ve gone to more than, almost twice as many actual events. So we’ve got not only paid staff, we’ve got hundreds of folks that are volunteering, are committed to us, who said they are going to help us on caucus night and before caucus night. And I think that’s going to pay off. It’s that grassroots organizing that’s going to make the difference. They don’t want to just see somebody give a speech, or somebody just show up the week before the election. You’ve got to earn their vote. And Hugh, look, they’ll ask good, tough questions. They’re not always going to agree with you, but they want to see how you respond, how you would lead. All these guys can give a great speech. That’s easy. But we’ve already got a smooth talker in the White House. We don’t, you know, we got a first-term Senator who never ran anything. Let’s actually elect somebody who’s got some experience. We bring that conservative experience, again, the only one that’s cut government spending. There are not two of us. Of all these Republicans running, we’re the only one that’s cut government spending.
HH: So how do you tell the other two people who are in the top four, Cruz and Rubio, how do you tell a Cruz and Rubio voter that Bobby Jindal is to be preferred to their candidate of current choice?
BJ: Well, a couple of things. One, I’d say look, they give great speeches. Senators always do. They give these filibusters, they pat themselves on the back, and nothing changes. And so the reality is you know, they haven’t cut anything in D.C. when it comes to spending. All, both the Senate Republicans, all those Senate Republicans other than Tom Cotton, voted for the bad Corker bill as an example, where now it takes a two-thirds vote to reject the Iran deal instead of a two-thirds vote to approve the Iran deal. They flipped it on its head. D.C. talks a lot. They talk about cutting Planned Parenthood spending. They haven’t done things. In Louisiana, you know, the Obama administration is suing us in court because we did get Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid. The Obama administration, we fought them in court to get statewide school choice done. We’ve cut our state budget 26%, 30,000 fewer state bureaucrats. The next president is going to have to shrink the size of government so we can grow the American economy. We’ve done it. We’re the only one of those three. We’re the only one with a plan to actually get rid of Obamacare. And we say how we would do it and get rid of all the spending and the entitlement program and the tax increases, and what we’d replace it with. But you know, we’ve actually done the things other people are talking about. So there’s some great talkers in this race. Obama’s a great talker. We need a doer, not a talker. That’s what I would argue you’re getting from not only those, but anybody running from the Senate right now. Let’s actually elect somebody who’s actually done something.
HH: Now at this hour, as we’re talking about American Will, your new book, and I want to turn to that after two more questions, the House Republican conference is meeting, and Paul Ryan may emerge as the next Speaker, or he may not. Is Paul Ryan a conservative, in your view? Would he make a great Speaker? You served with him.
BJ: I like Paul, and here are my biases. I like Paul. He’s a friend. He’s a smart, principled guy. In terms of whether he should be Speaker, it’s depends on what he’s willing to say inside that conference. If he’s willing to look members in the face and tell them he will fight for them just as hard as Pelosi fought to get Obamacare done, that he will fight just as hard on things like getting rid of Obamacare, on things like stopping the bad Iran deal, on things like defunding Planned Parenthood, on things like stopping this President’s illegal amnesty order, unconstitutional amnesty orders, then certainly I want a Speaker that will fight for us. It’s not about personalities. I like him. He’s smart. He’s principled. But for me at this point, it’s who is willing to stand in the conference and make those commitments they’re willing to fight for us? If he or somebody else is willing to do that, that is something I would look at and say all right, that’s somebody we could support for Speaker. But they’ve got to be willing to make those commitments and then follow through.
HH: And a last question, why is American Will different from any other campaign book? They’re usually not very readable. Why is American Will worth people going to pick up and get?
BJ: That’s a great question. Most of these campaign books are either filled with dry policy or look, American Will is an interesting story, a look back at important historical moments. America is a great country, but it didn’t happen by accident. It talks about interesting moments where extraordinary people, some famous, others not so famous, made these incredible decisions. A couple of examples like when Reagan took on then-President Nixon to stop the president from nationalizing welfare, and Reagan stood up and stood for states’ rights and for a work requirement. I talk about the role of the state, the Church in the abolition movement, especially at a time when we’re fighting over religious liberty today. I talk about some of these more forgotten battles about how a skepticism of federal government led the anti-federalists to fight for our Bill of Rights and limits on government’s power. It has many lessons to today’s challenges, but it also reminds us 2016 is going to be another one of those critical moments, and we’d better make the right decision if we want America to continue to be the greatest country in the history of the world. So I think there are dozens of great stories from our history to remind us how these extraordinary moments, these critical decisions, led to where we are today. They weren’t inevitable. It took extraordinary people to make extraordinary decisions.
HH: American Will by Bobby Jindal in stores now. Thank you, Governor.
End of interview.