Bobby Jindal should just shut up: His simple-minded, dishonest Chattanooga comments make things worse

"There have been many bad things that have happened under President Obama," he begins. It doesn't get smarter


Sean Illing
July 17, 2015 11:36PM (UTC)

Among the first GOP candidates to comment on the tragic shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was Bobby Jindal. His response was every bit as trite and empty as you’d expect it to be. In an exclusive interview with Breitbart.com, Jindal said:

“It’s time for the White House to wake up and tell the truth…and the truth is that Radical Islam is at war with us, and we must start by being honest about that. There have been many bad things that have happened under President Obama. One that stands out to me was the horrible shooting at Ft. Hood…which was clearly an act of terrorism by a Radical Islamist. Yet the White House labeled that horrible act as ‘workplace violence.’ This is grotesque. You cannot defeat evil until you admit that it exists.”

This statement is remarkably simpleminded and dishonest. In what sense has the White House failed to “tell the truth” about terrorism? Like so many Republicans, Jindal is obsessed with the superficial; he’s intentionally oblivious to what Obama has actually done. Obama has made it fairly clear that we’re at war with terrorists, especially Islamic terrorists. He’s been far more effective, in fact, than the previous Republican administration at finding and killing said terrorists (remember bin Laden?).

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What’s dishonest about Jindal’s statement is the implication that what happened in Chattanooga is a policy failure on the part of Obama. That’s not at all the case. A man decided to sacrifice his life in order to kill other people. Just as the officer at Fort Hood decided, on his own, to kill innocent people. The truth is that there’s no real defense against that. Life in a free society involves certain risks. All the armies in the world can’t stop a lone gunman before he fires the first shot. This notion that if we dropped more bombs abroad or tightened immigration standards, we’d somehow be immune from attacks of this kind is a Republican fantasy, one no thinking person believes.

When something like this happens, our response should be simple: deal with it and carry on. Terrorism is a tactic -- it’s not defeatable. The best we can do is limit the conditions that breed terrorists while fighting them when and where we must, which is what Obama has done since taking office. Exaggerating every isolated attack into an apocalyptic threat plays perfectly into the enemy’s narrative. Yet that’s exactly what Jindal does. Indeed, he warned that yesterday’s shooting (again, perpetrated by one man) is a reminder that we’re being colonized by Muslims.

“What’s not acceptable is people that want to come and conquer us. That’s not immigration, by the way, that’s colonization,” Jindal said. This is preposterously stupid on every level. Yes, we’re in a real war. Yes, there are Muslim extremists that want to kill us. And yes, we have to take that seriously. But America isn’t being colonized. Suggesting otherwise is dangerous and needlessly alarmist.

The worst thing we can do, the thing Republicans often do, is blame a single person or party for a terrible and ultimately unavoidable attack. Republicans understand this when it’s the other way around. The logic Jindal uses to pin this attack on Obama applies equally to Bush during 9/11. Indeed, by any measure, the Bush administration was infinitely more responsible for that incident, as it involved dozens of people and months of preparation to which they remained blind. Can you imagine the GOP’s response if a Democratic candidate for president said, the day after 9/11, that it was Bush’s fault, that 3,000 people died because he failed to take terrorism seriously? True or not, they’d have considered that treasonous, at the very least.

One of the luxuries of not being responsible for anything is that you can propose to do everything without explaining how you’d do it. This is what Jindal -- and other Republican candidates -- will likely do in the coming days. They’ll talk about their plans to conquer terrorists and terrorism without, you know, mentioning strategy or tactics or the complexities of geopolitics. They can do this because they’re not president, because they don’t have any actual ideas, and because they’re more interested in tossing red meat at their base than in mitigating terrorism.

Which is why no one should give a damn what they have to say about it.

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Sean Illing

Sean Illing is a USAF veteran who previously taught philosophy and politics at Loyola and LSU. He is currently Salon's politics writer. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Read his blog here. Email at silling@salon.com.

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