In the wake of his party's defeats in the 2012 elections, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has positioned himself as a leader in setting the GOP on a smarter path. He was the first Republican to publicly condemn Mitt Romney's "gifts" comments, and soon after, Jindal declared he wants Republicans to "stop being the stupid party."
And while these efforts are drawing praise from some on the right, let's pause to note the superficiality of Jindal's vision. Take his comments yesterday on Fox News, for example.
Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) accused failed Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock of saying "stupid" and "offensive" things that damaged the Republican Party.
"We also don't need to be saying stupid things," he said. "Look, we had candidates in Indiana and Missouri that said offensive things that not only hurt themselves and lost us two Senate seats but also hurt the Republican Party across the board."
On abortion, while Jindal said he's pro-life, "we don't need to demonize those that disagree with us. We need to respect the fact that others have come to different conclusions based on their own sincerely held beliefs."
Here's the detail Jindal neglected to mention: he opposes any and all abortion rights, without exception. If the Louisiana governor had his way, women impregnated by a rapist would be forced by the American government to take that pregnancy to term. The same would be true in cases of incest or pregnancies in which the health of the mother is at risk.
In other words, as far as public policy is concerned, the only difference between Jindal, Akin, and Mourdock is word choice. Jindal doesn't want candidates in his party "saying stupid things," but he's entirely comfortable with those candidates adopting the same extremist positions he espouses.
Indeed, the larger irony of Jindal presenting himself as a forward-thinking, far-right leader is realizing just how odd a choice he is.
On the one hand, the Louisiana governor says he's "had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism"; on the other, Jindal is a fierce, anti-gay culture warrior who wants children to be taught creationism and believes he participated in an exorcism.
As this relates to abortion, Jindal is effectively urging his party to adopt the same vision as Mourdock and Akin, but present their agenda with less-offensive talking points. It's reminiscent of Charles Krauthammer's advice to the GOP: "The problem ... for Republicans is not policy but delicacy."
They're both misguided if they think softer, more polite language can make the right-wing social agenda seem more palatable to the American mainstream.