Gov. Jindal Defends His Criticized GOP Speech

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana -- Widely panned for his debut address on national TV, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal offered his first defense of the speech Monday by saying he sticks by the message but acknowledges the shortcomings in his delivery.

"Look, I get that people thought I could have spoken better. I get that," Jindal told reporters in the state Capitol a day after returning from a family vacation.

"That's fine," he continued. "What's important to me is the content. I'm a policy guy. You guys know that. I've always been a policy guy, always will be a policy guy. The ideas are important. The substance is important."

The 37-year-old governor, regularly touted as a presidential contender, said he outlined a critical philosophical distinction between the views of the major parties as he gave the national Republican response to President Obama's first address to Congress last week.

Party leaders have touted the Oxford-educated Jindal, son of Indian immigrants, as the future of the Republican Party, generating lofty expectations for his debut national address. Jindal said he wrote the speech himself.

But the address has been the target of political commentators, comics and bloggers who called it amateurish and out of step with the American public.

Some critiqued Jindal's delivery as too "sing-songy," and compared it to the late children's television host Mister Rogers. Some critics said the speech -- which was many Americans' first view of Jindal -- could have damaged the governor's long-term political aspirations.

Jindal tried to deflect the criticism Monday and joked that many of Louisiana's governors have received bad national publicity over the years, in a state often the butt of jokes for corrupt politicians.

"Being compared to Mister Rogers is better than some of the other comparisons we've had here in the past," Jindal said.

The governor said it was difficult to follow Obama, known for his impressive oratory, and said he tried to slow his pace because of past complaints that his rapid-fire speaking style is tough to follow. But he insisted his message was important.

In the speech Tuesday, Jindal criticized Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus package as laden with unnecessary spending added by a Democratic Congress. He talked of the need to cut taxes and limit government spending at a time when polls show a majority of Americans are looking to the federal government to reverse the economic downturn.

Jindal defended those positions again Monday, despite criticism from political commentators -- both Democratic and Republican -- that the speech was too simplistic and offered few new ideas for battling the country's economic woes.

Our children and grandchildren have to pay that debt back. It's important to get control of that spending in Washington," he said.

Jindal said it was unfair to say he was hypocritical to criticize U.S. government spending while he continues to push for hurricane recovery spending, particularly money to repair levees in the New Orleans area damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The governor said the federal government failed to design and build the levees properly, so the federal government should repair them to the promised standard and help the state recover from the resulting damage.

"I think that is a simple concept: You break it, you buy it," Jindal said.

The Louisiana governor also refused any suggestion he might hire a speechwriter.