In Iowa stop, Jindal says GOP must offer solutions

Published 9:07 am Sunday, November 23, 2008

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal warned Saturday of “the coarsening of our culture” as he focused on social and religious conservatives during a trip through Iowa.

The first-term Republican governor told a church-based group Saturday morning in Cedar Rapids that the GOP must combine its core beliefs with a focus on issues such as health care and the economy that motivate most voters.

“Voters want authenticity,” he said. “They’re not going to agree with any candidate 100 percent of the time, or any political party 100 percent of the time. They want leaders who are offering real solutions they believe in.”

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Jindal was making his first trip to Iowa, where precinct caucuses launch the presidential nominating season. He directed most of his attending to social conservatives who play a crucial role in the state’s Republican politics.

He spoke Saturday night to about 800 people at a fundraising dinner in West Des Moines for the Iowa Family Policy Center. He insisted that he wasn’t in Iowa to talk about politics, but wanted to focus on the future.

“If you came here to hear for a political speech you may leave disappointed,” he said, joking that after two years of a nonstop political campaign, if anyone did come to hear a political speech “you might want to consider getting involved in some kind of recovery program.”

He said Americans need a break from politics, but more importantly, “it is time for us to work together on solutions.”

He said that means it’s time to get behind the newly elected Congress and president-elect Barack Obama to overcome the country’s “substantial challenges.”

“Whether you voted for him or not, whether you supported the new leaders of Congress or not, they’re our president, they’re our Congress, they need our prayers, they need our support,” he said.

In Cedar Rapids, he said America’s culture is one of the things that makes it a great country, but warned that its music, art and constant streams of media and communication have often moved in the wrong direction.

“I worry about the coarsening of our culture,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I want government to censor culture, but certainly there are things we can do as private citizens working together to strengthen our society.”

In West Des Moines he talked about the nation’s economic troubles and blamed a “consumption society.” He said the crisis was brought on by “unchecked greed” by the people on Wall Street who invented financial schemes, banks that made loans to people who couldn’t afford them and consumers who knew they couldn’t repay those loans. He said America must confront the culture that led to the economic woes.

“I believe that America can climb any hill. We will climb out of this ditch we are currently in,” he said.

Jindal didn’t completely escape talking about politics. During the stop in Cedar Rapids, he blamed this month’s election results on the GOP straying from its core beliefs.

“There are things the Republican Party needs to do. It needs to match its action to its rhetoric,” said Jindal. “It claims to be the party against out-of-control spending and for cutting taxes, yet it defends spending it would have never let the other side propose without criticizing.”

In addition, Jindal argued that Republicans need to focus more on pocketbook issues that motivate voters, particularly during the economic meltdown sweeping the nation.

“It needs to be a party of solutions,” he said. “It needs to apply conservative principles to problems like the rising cost of health care, the national economic challenge and other challenges facing our country that American families care about.”

While there are arguments that it’s too early to begin thinking about the next election cycle, there’s evidence to the contrary. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee held an event Thursday about four blocks from where Jindal spoke early Saturday.

Jindal said he wanted to appear in Cedar Rapids because of his experience in dealing with Hurricane Katrina and to raise money for flood victims. His message was reliance on private-sector and faith-based groups, while battling through government bureaucracy. While there, he toured a flood-ravaged part of the city.

“I’m not here to beat up our federal partners, it’s not about pointing fingers,” said Jindal. “Sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.”