Governor Bobby Jindal

May 15, 2015  | 00:28:48  | Ep 4232 | Podcast


Borg: Precisely differentiating republicans seeking the party's presidential nomination from those pondering the run is challenging. Some have already declared, of course, including Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Among the ponderers, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. He is in Iowa now along with other republicans, both declared and possibilities, speaking at Saturday night's Lincoln Day Dinner. He is the son of immigrants from India. Bobby Jindal is 43 years old, former Rhodes Scholar, now serving a second term as Governor after two terms as a Congressman. Governor Jindal, welcome to Iowa Press and welcome to Iowa.

Jindal: Well, thank you for having me back in your great state and thank you for having me on your great show.

Borg: Thank you. I'm wondering, when I'm in a retail store I might be asked if I need assistance and I say, no thank you, I'm just looking. Is that what you tell Iowans now?

Jindal: Well, I'll say a couple of things. We've got a legislative session that ends June 11th and so I've said I won't make my decision until after that session ends. I'll make my decision shortly thereafter.

Borg: So are you just looking right now?

Jindal: We are considering it. But I will tell you this, every politician tells you the next election is the most important election ever. And you hear that forever. This election I think really is and I think this election is a real choice for voters. I worry about the direction of our country and I think that voters are looking for a big change in DC.

Borg: I want to introduce you to I think two journalists that you have already met in Iowa, now I'll reintroduce them to our viewers. Des Moines Register Columnist Kathie Obradovich and Radio Iowa's News Director Kay Henderson.

Henderson: Governor, with so many candidates pondering and already in the race, and some of them raising huge sums of money, are the Iowa caucuses make or break for you?

Jindal: Look, I think Iowa is a very important state. If I were to get into this race I would certainly spend a lot of time here. I think Iowa is important for any candidate. I think whoever wins Iowa leaves with a lot of momentum and the thing I appreciate about Iowa voters, they take this responsibility seriously. I've been here before for other candidates. My experience is that the voters are polite but they ask very good questions. And they show up. They spend an amazing amount of time. I've been at several of these events where you have several speakers and the audience patiently sits there for sometimes hours to hear what people have to say, they ask tough questions, they wait afterwards to talk to you one-on-one. This is not going to be an auction. I don't think it's going to be won just simply by the person who has the most money. And I think voters are going to wait, take their time to kick the tires. I think they're looking for ideas. The biggest challenge I think facing our country is the American dream could turn into the European nightmare if we don't reduce the size of government. It cannot be about government dependence, taxes or spending.

Henderson: The Republican National Committee has set up a series of debates, the first of which will occur on Thursday, August 6th. Are you concerned that you might not be invited?

Jindal: Look, if I become a candidate I'm going to earn -- I've done this in every election -- if I become a candidate I'll earn my way to the top and I think the way you do that is by having specific ideas. Unlike other candidates, right now potential as well as actual candidates, I'm the only one, certainly on the republican side, but I'm the only one offering specific ideas. We've done detailed policies on health care, on education, on energy, on foreign policy. I think voters want a President who wants to do something, not just be somebody. So we have already set ourselves apart by being specific and offering a positive direction for the future of our country. I don't think voters just want somebody who is going to criticize President Obama, as bad as he has been, they want somebody who is going to give them real solutions to getting our country back on the right track.

Obradovich: Speaking of questions, I would have thought that these questions were very simple, but they tripped up Governor Bush this week. So I'm going to ask you the two questions. Iraq, would you have gone knowing what they knew back at the time? First of all. And then, would you go knowing, of course, what we know now?

Jindal: Look, at the time I think President Bush absolutely made the right decision. And you look at the intelligence that was available at the time, you look at what not only the intelligence community here but internationally thought they knew about Iraq, about the weapons of mass destruction and the other threats that Iraq was posing to the world. So, absolutely, at the right time --

Obradovich: Let me stop you there. What did go wrong then, that what they maybe knew wasn't right?

Jindal: A couple of things. When we get to the second question, the hypothetical question that Governor Bush was asked, if you knew then what you know now, I think we have to be very careful. There are a lot of these parlor games. We could ask, should Bill Clinton have taken out Osama bin Laden after the first World Trade Center bombing? Should Eisenhower have listened to Patton and stopped the Soviets from going into Eastern Europe. Should the country have bought Alaska for $7 million? I am glad we bought Louisiana, by the way, I'm glad that Thomas Jefferson did that. I thought it was a very good purchase and good decision. I think that it is important -- I don't think it's productive to play hypothetical games about foreign policies and important decisions. I do think it's important to remember that at the time Saddam Hussein was not cooperating with the UN inspectors, he was, at the time he had been guilty of killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians using chemical weapons on his own people, he was a menace to his neighbors and others in the Middle East and projecting and causing instability in the region. The problems we face in Iraq today I don't think were because of President Bush's strength but rather have come about because of President Obama's weakness. President Obama didn't listen to his military and other advisors and instead he withdrew all of the troops without a status of forces agreement, without some kind of remaining residual ability to keep stability in Iraq. As a result, a void was created, ISIS has grown and become the threat that it is today, not only to Iraq but to Syria and the entire region.

Borg: I think the reason that the question is relevant now though is not so much a backward rear view mirror look, it's looking ahead at what a future president, potential president might do in a pre-emptive strike. You wouldn't rule out pre-emptive strike and, of course, that comes into being in Iran.

Jindal: Right. And I think it is absolutely right to be looking forward to Iran, the potential for a nuclear armed Iran I think is an unacceptable risk for Israel, for Europe, the United States. I think one of the things, and I articulated this in my defense paper, is that peace through strength works. We're in a situation today where our friends don't trust us, our enemies don't fear us. This President is hollowing out the military. Ironically the best way to avoid war is to prepare for war. If we actually invest in our military, when Reagan did that he actually deployed troops less frequently than his predecessors or successors. So I think the best way to avoid us having to deploy our troops is for our enemies to fear us, our friends to trust us. You don't see that today. So, for example specifically, across the world, prudent in 2009 we withdrew the interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic, he's in Ukraine. With Israel, we refused to stand with them unequivocally against Hamas and Hezbollah, we see more unrest there. We're seeing mixed signals to Iran today. This President said a good deal with Iran meant they wouldn't keep their enrichment capabilities, they wouldn't keep their, they wouldn't operate their centrifuges, he's backing away from what he said was going to be a good deal with Iran. So I think the best way to keep America safe is peace through strength, our enemies fear us, our friends trust us and we're not there today.

Borg: Deterrence is what you’re saying.

Jindal: Absolutely. And part of that is -- and I'm a big advocate for shrinking the size of the federal government and balancing the budget -- one of the areas we do need to invest more, even as we get more efficient in it with procurement and other overhauls, is in defense. And I think right now we're on track to have fewer troops, fewer ships, fewer planes, older equipment than at any point in decades, that is unacceptable, especially when other countries, especially China, are investing in their militaries. So absolutely deterrence works. This leading from behind hasn't worked. This drawing red lines that don't have consequences hasn't worked. We have seen what happens. When America withdrawals, the world becomes a more dangerous place and that threatens our vital interests.

Borg: Kay?

Henderson: Iowa's two republican Senators this week signaled that they support giving President Obama fast track trade promotion authority. You oppose it. Why?

Jindal: Well I've got great respect for both your Senators. I am for free trade. I am for presidents in both parties having fast track authority and on this particular deal I actually think that a good deal with Asian countries, the Pacific countries, would actually be good for our country not only economically but strategically. I think you can help hedge against China and there are many, many other reasons I think a good deal would be very good for our country. My main concern with fast track authority and the reason I oppose it is this particular President. I worry that this is a President who has ignored the law, ignored the Constitution, this is a President, I don't trust this President quite frankly, I don't want to give him additional power. I think Congress needs to maintain oversight. For example, what if we end up with a deal that this President has shown a strong willingness to try to impose a radical environmental agenda through the EPA, through unelected bureaucrats, through regulatory mechanisms? What if this is a back door way to do that? There has been some concerns from others that this might be a back door way to try to change our immigration policy and there are some in Congress trying to put into law that he can't do that. So my objection is not to trade, it's not even to the principle of fast track authority, it's not even giving fast track authority to democrat and republican presidents, it's giving President Obama more authority. And I do have concerns about that. I know there are a lot of folks in Iowa and elsewhere that are concerned that we don't know more about the potential deal, that there's too much that has been done in secret and I think sharing those details might help assuage some folks' concerns.

Obradovich: Coming back to deterrence, the jury in Boston has just said that the Boston Marathon Bomber will be sentenced to death. Federal death penalty is something that they don't have a death penalty in Massachusetts, they came in with the federal death penalty, even though most people in Massachusetts don't support the death penalty. So where are you on the federal death penalty? Do you think it is justified? And would you continue to support it if you were President?

Jindal: I do. I'm glad to see this heinous terrorist get the most severe punishment we can give. I think it's a well-deserved verdict. And so I know it doesn't bring folks' loved ones back, it doesn't undo the awful damage he and his brother committed on the poor people of Massachusetts, but I do think it's appropriate in this case. I am for the death penalty as a federal penalty, I'm for the death penalty in my state, in the state of Louisiana. I think it's a penalty that needs to be used only for the most heinous crimes obviously and I think we need to do everything we can to make sure it is being applied fairly and accurately. But yes, I am in favor of the death penalty in my state, since I've been Governor there has been one criminal that was put to death by the death penalty. It was an awful, awful case involving a horrific sex crime and the death of a child. This was a man that was clearly guilty, that confessed his guilt, that accepted his fate. I think in most heinous crimes, yes it is appropriate to have this penalty.

Obradovich: There have been problems though with the death penalty, lethal injection, particularly with the drug cocktail that they used in Oklahoma, there was a serious problem there. Louisiana has used the drug as has other states. Is there going to be a problem or have you experienced a problem in Louisiana with having the means to carry out these executions in a humane manner?

Jindal: So there is a case in front of the courts now where the state has agreed, the defense attorneys brought this up and asked for time to make sure they could ensure that it was being done correctly and humanely and the state agreed with that request. We said to the judge that we didn't oppose that, we want to make sure we get this right and our legislature has actually considered different alternatives and encouraged study of different alternative and to learn from those experiences of other states. So we haven't actually had, since I've been Governor we haven't actually had problems with the implementation of the death penalty, but we have agreed in this case that is before the court, would be the next inmate that would face the death penalty, we have agreed to the court's request and the defense party's request for a few months’ time for them to go investigate and make sure this can be done properly. Again, I think we need to get it right. This is obviously a very serious undertaking. We should never take human life lightly. And this is something where it is important we make sure that we do everything we can to make sure that due process is followed, that people have adequate counsel and that we are truly talking about people that are guilty and guilty of heinous crimes. But it's important to remember at the state and the federal level we reserve this penalty for the very worst crimes. This is not being done casually, cavalierly. Certainly in the Boston Marathon, in the massacre terrorist case, I think it's absolutely appropriate. If we had captured Osama bin Laden alive, for example, and brought him back to the States, I would have been all in favor of executing Osama bin Laden. I would not have wanted to see him live his entire life and die a natural death. I would not have wanted him -- I think given the horrific deaths and damage and destruction he caused, I think the death penalty would have been warranted in that case as well.

Henderson: Governor, you are presiding over a budget which has some difficulty balancing. There is a $1.5 million, billion rather, budget gap. That is not a budget you inherited, that is something you have been managing because you're in your second term. What do you say to critics who are concerned that you had taken so-called rainy day money to pay for ongoing expenses?

Jindal: So a couple of things. We're going to have a balanced budget without raising taxes that invests in education and health care. We have done that every year since I have been Governor. The reality is, is we have reduced the size of our budget by 26%. We have actually cut the number of state government employees by over 30,000 state employees. At the same time, our private sector economy is booming. So our economy is growing three times as fast as the national economy. We've got -- I'm sorry, two times as fast as the national economy, private sector job creation is three times as fast as the national economy.

Henderson: So why do you have a budget gap?

Jindal: Well, in part, we've had falling oil prices. Now that's good for the economy. In a producing state like Louisiana that costs our state treasury hundreds of millions of dollars. So we have said we're going to balance the budget without raising taxes. I have not raised taxes since I have been Governor. We did the largest income tax cut since I was Governor. We got rid of several other taxes as well. We can balance this budget without raising taxes. A couple of things I have said. One, we have over $500 million in corporate welfare that I think needs to be reduced, cut back, eliminated so that money can instead go to health care and education. I'm not for raising taxes but we've got companies, for example, in Louisiana that are getting money back from the state government above and beyond. They have zero tax liability and many of these credits grew in expense faster than they were originally projected. And that's another cause for the budget challenges.

Borg: I want to take something you just said, you acknowledge that falling oil prices contributed to a problem in revenues. Where do you stand -- Iowa contributed to that, of course, yes there was a glut of oil but also there's renewable fuels coming from Iowa in the form of ethanol. Do you support subsidizing ethanol?

Jindal: A couple of things. So when I was in Congress in 2005 I did vote for the RFS for ethanol, the Renewable Fuel Standard. I think ethanol has played a great role in making us more energy independent and I think it has been good for our country. I am for phasing out the RFS, the ethanol mandate and the reason I say that is --

Obradovich: For how long? Over how many years?

Jindal: Well, look, I think that it needs to be done in a way that folks that have made investment decisions based on commitments from the federal government don't overnight become losers. And so I think we can figure out how do you do this in a way where you don't hurt people who have economic expectations based on these promises from the government. But the reason I'm for phasing it out over time is that I think it is, one, not right for the government to continue to pick winners and losers. I was in favor of it when this was a new and growing fuel source and industry. And I think now it can get to the point where it can be self-sufficient and compete with others. Secondly, I'm for putting all of the different subsidies on the table including for oil and gas. I come from a state that produces oil and gas. I'm an all of the above energy advocate and that includes wind, ethanol, oil, gas, nuclear, clean coal, I'm for all of it. But if I'm really -- republicans often times criticize democrats for putting loopholes in the tax code or special interest spending, we've got to be consistent. If we don't like what the President did with Solyndra and bailing out and giving money to their favorite groups or companies, we can't then turn around and say, but it's going to be okay when we do it. So I think ethanol has got a very important role to play. And I will say this, my state has benefited tremendously from the growth in ethanol. We, a lot of our farmers, as I was Governor we crossed a very important point, at one point in north Louisiana for the first time in a very long time they were growing more corn than cotton. And that wasn't an accident. We are known for our cotton. We also in my state had one of the first, if not the first, large scale biodiesel renewable refinery and they were taking literally, we have a large poultry sector, as you all do, and they were taking chicken waste products and turning that into diesel and fuel that could go into aircraft and other vehicles. So we have benefited as well. But I think at the end of the day let's have a level playing field, let's stop the government picking winners and losers and let all the industries compete against each other.

Obradovich: One of the other consequences of the budget cuts in your state is cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from higher education. You're known as an education reformer for K-12 education. Are there different ways of delivering higher education that you see by shrinking the amount of money that you're putting in as a state?

Jindal: Absolutely, a couple of things. One, for higher education in Louisiana we have our highest retention graduation rate. So when you look at the outcome students are doing better. Two things I think we need to change. One, the way that states have historically funded higher education, at least in Louisiana and many states, was based on inputs, not outputs. So in Louisiana, for example, we are funding schools based on how many students they recruited, not whether those students stayed in school, graduated from school. As a result, we had high dropout rates, many kids starting in four year schools that maybe would have been better off starting in community or technical colleges. And so now we have had some of the fastest growing community and technical colleges in the country. So at the same time that we've got more kids going into two-year schools, we also have more kids graduating from four-year schools. Secondly, more -- so yes, first I think states the way we fund higher education should be based more on what is good for students, based on whether the students are learning, getting degrees, getting employment, going to graduate school, doing better after they get educated and not every student has to go to a four-year school but those that can and want to or are able to should. Secondly, I think more broadly speaking, higher education is changing dramatically with the advent of technology and new ways of delivering instruction. One of the suggestions I made to President Obama, and he disagreed with me, was we break up the accreditation monopoly that you've got today. I think students in the future are going to want to have more options of mixing and matching and choosing online courses, in-person courses and they're going to want to be able to take those credits from different institutions and put that together towards a degree. It's too hard to do that.

Borg: Governor Jindal, as usual we have more questions than time. Kay?

Henderson: You have been a critic of common core. The business community in America has been pushing for schools to have higher standards. What is wrong with the higher standards?

Jindal: I am for higher standards and we have put a lot of effort into K-12 reforms in my state. And just like with higher education we have great growth in retention and graduation rates. I believe a couple of things. One, the dollar should follow the child instead of the child following the dollars. And so that means whether it's public schools, charter schools, private schools, we're for all of it in Louisiana. Over 90% of our kids in New Orleans are in charter schools, doubling the percentage during reading and math on grade level in five years. My concern with common core -- and in Louisiana we've got high standards even before common core -- my concern is I don't like a one-size-fits-all federal approach. I don't like this idea that DC is going to tell local classrooms how they should be teaching math and ELA and I've got specific concerns with math. My little boy is, my third grader has been bringing home his common core math, he gets the answers right, he's very good at math but the way the common core teaches you to solve the math is very frustrating to him, it doesn't make intuitive sense to him in terms of I think they have made math much more complicated than it needs to be. Regardless of the content, this was supposed to be voluntary, state-led standards and it hasn't become that. Instead it has become Arnie Duncan has said, well if you want your own tax dollars back you have to adopt common core, if you want waivers from No Child Left Behind you have to adopt common core. We're actually in federal court suing the federal government saying, you know, this is a violation of not only the 10th Amendment but federal law. There is existing long-held federal law that says the federal government should not be making these curriculum decisions. They've never done that before, I don't think they should be doing that now.

Borg: Because you referred earlier to immigration, I think our viewers would like to know, where do you stand on the nation's immigration dilemma?

Jindal: A couple of things. One, I think what the federal government needs to do right now is to secure the border. We don't need 1,000 page bill, we don't need the comprehensive approach from the Senate. Secure the border. They keep talking about it, they never do it. Our immigration system is completely backwards. We have got a low wall and a narrow gate.

Borg: Secure the border, then what? What about all the people that are already here?

Jindal: Well, first let's do that. But then what is wrong with our immigration system is, again, that low wall, that narrow gate. We need the opposite. We need a high wall and a broad gate. High wall means you have secured the border. That's the only thing that needs to be done right now. Once that is done, when I talk about a broad gate what I mean is we make it too hard for people that do want to come here legally. One of the great examples is we educate people and we kick them out of our country to compete against us. That makes no sense. We need to make it, I think we need to make it easier if people want to follow the rules, they want to come here to work, if they want to come here and assimilate and integrate. I don't think we allow enough people to come and do that legally.

Borg: And to deal with the ones who are already here?

Jindal: I think America will deal with the folks that are here currently illegally compassionately once we secure the border. I think it's premature -- the problem that a lot of folks have is in the 80s we were told if we do it all at once, we'll secure the border, we'll deal with the folks who are here, they did everything but secure the border. So I think a lot of folks are skeptical, they're saying secure the border first and then we'll deal compassionately with the folks that are here.

Obradovich: People are also skeptical that the border will never be secure enough for people who don't want to deal with that, dealing with people who are here illegally. So how do you decide if the border is secure or not?

Jindal: That's a great question. For me it's pretty simple. I would just ask the border state governors. You've got a democrat in California, you've got republicans on the other border states.

Obradovich: Doesn't that make -- it's going to be political unless you set criteria.

Jindal: I trust those -- these are elected representative of their people, they're in the states that are the first, they see the first impacts of illegal immigration in our country, the vast, vast majority of it across the southern border. I trust the elected leaders. Here's the problem of the other approaches. So the Senate tried to say we secure the border in their comprehensive bill by saying, look at all the money we've spent. DC is the only place in America that says we accomplished something, you know we did because we spent a ton of money --

Borg: Kay has been trying to get a question in.

Henderson: You came to this country because your mother was recruited to teach here and do research here, correct?

Jindal: She came as a student at LSU. So she was a graduate student and so she actually was, she was recruited as a student. She was a teaching assistant. But yes, she was recruited mainly to be a student.

Henderson: I've run into republicans who want to know, are you a citizen?

Jindal: Yes.

Henderson: And you have released your birth certificate. Why did you feel compelled to do that?

Jindal: Just out of transparency. People kept asking and why not? We've got nothing to hide. I was born at Woman's Hospital where two of our three children were also born, the same hospital in Baton Rouge. My parents didn't have insurance to pay for me so my dad paid for me with monthly payments through cash, checks back then is how they did it. I like to tease people, he used a layaway plan. I said, I don't know how you pay for a baby like that because they can't repossess the baby. We had nothing to hide and Women's Hospital is a great hospital. They have moved to a new campus, show you how old I am, they have moved to a new campus since then. Alert viewers may have noted I said two of the three children were born at Women's Hospital. The third one, the eight-year-old we were talking about before, was the one that was born at home, not on purpose. It had nothing to do with politics or saving money. First child, 36 hours of labor. Second child, 24 hours of labor. Third child, 30 minutes of labor. And so that was the one that was born -- we were supposed to go to Woman's Hospital, we didn't quite make it.

Obradovich: After the 2012 election you were quoted famously saying that republicans should not be the party of stupid. Did republicans learn the wrong lessons from the 2012 election? And what do you think the republicans can do to be smarter in 2016?

Jindal: You're right. I said ten things back then. The one that got most attention was we should stop being the stupid party. And my kids loved it because they said, daddy said a bad word on TV. They gave me a lot of grief over that. I think we've gotten better since then but I think we've got work to do. And the primary lesson is that we cannot simply be the anti-Obama party, the party of no. We have to have smart solutions to help people in terms of the issues they care the most about. So, for example, we talked earlier about education. I think a lot of folks are worried if they don't have, if they're not wealthy their kids may be trapped in bad public schools --

Borg: Are you discerning too they're not concerned about Obama care?

Jindal: No, I think that's still a very important issue for a lot of folks. I think the republicans won elections in blue, red and purple states last year saying, give us the majority, we'll repeal Obama care, replace it. I think that they have to have a replacement plan. I'm the only potential candidate that has offered a detailed replacement plan. I think republicans make a big mistake not voting on their plan today, not tomorrow, not when the Supreme Court rules, but right now saying how they would replace Obama care and improve it.

Henderson: What is your plan for passing a religious liberty bill in Louisiana that won't create the fire storm that was created in Indiana?

Jindal: So a couple of things. We already have a Religious Freedom Restoration Act. We passed it in 2010 in my first term, huge bipartisan majorities, virtually nobody, a few legislators voted against it. The bill that is being debated next week is a little different. Michael Johnson has offered a bill saying that the state of Louisiana cannot discriminate against individuals or businesses for having a traditional view of marriage. I think it's a common sense bill. Our country was founded and built on freedom and liberty. The First Amendment says, we have a right to live our lives according to our beliefs, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That is what the religious liberty clause to me means in the First Amendment. I think democrats and republicans in Louisiana will understand that, understand we shouldn't be discriminating against Christians and others who happen to have a traditional view of marriage like I do.

Borg: And we're out of time. Thank you so much for spending time with us.

Jindal: Thank you, all of you, for having me. And thank you to the great people of Iowa.

Borg: Another edition of Iowa Press next weekend, 7:30 Friday night and noon on Sunday. I'm Dean Borg. Thanks for joining us today.

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