The applause that greeted Bobby Jindal when he stepped up to the mic at the National Press Club on Thursday was something less than rapturous--more like the kind of clapping parents do after someone else's child has given a mediocre performance at a talent show than the kind that actual presidential candidates get. Maybe that's because there were a mere 20 people on hand to witness the governor of Louisiana's disquisition. (Hey, it's better than the zero people who have turned out to some of Rick Santorum's events!)
If this embarrassed cough of a welcome stung Jindal, he did his best not to show it. He had some Things To Say About America, he announced. As it turned out, all of those things were a variation on "Donald Trump is bad," except for one line about the evils of Planned Parenthood that Jindal tossed in.
Jindal's words suggested that he was trying to do a sort of heckling stand-up routine about the dangers of Donald, but his approach was somewhat undermined by the fact that he kept referring to his notes for his zingers, and by the fact that nothing Bobby Jindal has ever said, or will ever say, is funny, except maybe for the time he said he was running for president.
As Jindal piled on the scary adjectives and nouns--Trump was "egomaniacal," "dangerous," "insecure," "weak," a "madman"--you could practically feel the room not caring.
After it was all over, Trump tweeted (falsely, of course) that he'd never even met Jindal.
Such is the life of the also-ran in the 2016 presidential race. Bobby Jindal is barely an afterthought at this point, and has surmised that the only way for people to remember his existence is to be as nasty about Donald Trump as Donald Trump is nasty about the world. The saddest thing about this tactic is that another candidate has already tried it. Way back in July, Rick Perry donned his professors' spectacles and read out what sounded like an audition for a National Review column about the threat that Trump posed to conservatism. There was lots of chatter about what this intervention might mean for the campaign. In the end, it meant nothing. Rick Perry has now run out of money. Donald Trump is fine. Bobby Jindal will soon be confronted with the limits of the strategy that he lifted from another failed candidate.
If Jindal was an irrelevance from Day 1, Scott Walker's downfall has been slightly more poignant. There was a time when the Wisconsin governor was to storm across the national stage. Instead, he has found that vast quantities of Republican electors are resistant to his charms. His answer on Thursday was to take his rhetoric from "bummed out" to "unhinged."
"We need a leader who is going to wreak havoc on Washington," he said during an event at Ronald Reagan's alma mater, his voice rising from its usual somnolence to a slightly louder somnolence.
Look out, Washington! Scott Walker is coming for you, and he is going to make sure your blood runs in the streets and your children weep for the dead, or something.
The Washington Post listed some of the ways that the havoc will be so righteously wreaked: Walker wants to "stop withholding union dues from federal employee paychecks, overturn President Obama's immigration-related executive orders, repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and terminate the Iran deal."
Ceasar it was not. Anyway, poor Walker will likely never get the chance to bring his unique brand of destruction to the capital, because Scott Walker's time is up.
In the coming weeks, it seems certain that this race to the bottom will continue. There are so many Republican candidates, and they are all so sad and miserable, and nobody is even going to vote until February, and they need something to occupy their time, and total derangement will be that something. God help us all.