Published October 28, 2007
WASHINGTON – The following is a partial transcript of the Oct. 28, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Joining us now from New Orleans, the governor-elect of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal.
First of all, congratulations on your victory, and let's talk about some of the firsts surrounding your election, Mr. Governor- Elect.
You are now the youngest governor in the country at age 36. You're the first non-white governor of Louisiana since reconstruction. You're also a former Rhodes scholar from Brown University in Rhode Island.
Why do you think the voters of Louisiana decided to make such a sharp break with the past?
LOUISIANA GOV.-ELECT BOBBY JINDAL: Well, Chris, thank you very much. You know, for too long, my home town, my home state, Louisiana, has been ranked at the bottom of the good list.
Just two weeks ago, we ranked most corrupt state in the country, one of the only states in the South that's had more people leaving rather than moving in.
I think especially after the storms of 2005, the people of Louisiana are saying, "We want a fresh start." Well, another first was we were the first candidate to win this governor's office in the primary. It was 54 percent of the vote, 60 out of 64 parishes.
I think that's a strong mandate for change. Voters are saying they endorse my call to have my first special session be a war on corruption, devoted to ethics. They endorsed my call to get rid of what I'm calling the new job taxes on debt, new equipment, utilities.
I think the voters were saying, "We're tired of politics being entertainment in Louisiana. We know we live in a great state. Let's realize our potential. Let's create jobs so our kids don't have to leave home to pursue their dreams."
WALLACE: Let me pursue that question with you, because as I don't have to tell you, Louisiana has a very colorful history of politics, with booze and bribes and the occasional stripper.
Do you really think people were fed up with "let the good times roll?"
JINDAL: Well, you know, we also have term limits. For the first time ever, over half the legislature could be brand new.
A lot of reporters have already started to call me maybe one of Louisiana's most boring governors because, you know, I'm a happily married man, three young children. I spent this weekend, Friday night, at an Elmo show, yesterday at the zoo with my kids.
And I basically said, "Look, if I go down as being one of the more effective but more boring governors, I think that's great."
I think for too long, Louisianans have said, "You know, yeah, we've laughed at our politicians and the ones that have gone to jail and made the funny jokes, but it's not funny anymore."
LSU did a study. They said corruption is the number-one obstacle to economic growth in Louisiana. Here's the problem. All those jokes, all that corruption — it's stealing opportunities from our kids.
We're tired of our best and brightest going to Dallas, Houston, Austin, Atlanta. We want them to stay home in Louisiana and get good- paying jobs right here.
WALLACE: Obviously, your biggest job is going to be to continue the rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina.
Only 56 percent of the population in New Orleans has come back. In the Lower Ninth Ward of that city, which was hit hardest, just 7 percent of residents have come back.
Governor-Elect Jindal, what are you going to do about it?
JINDAL: Well, you know, there are billions of dollars — this is a very generous country. There are billions of dollars that have been approved that are still caught up in red tape, sometimes in Washington, often in Baton Rouge, especially for projects like repairing the fire stations, the roads, the police stations.
People want to see those critical public infrastructure replaced before they'll come back, so the first thing we can do is cut through that red tape. There's money been approved for V.A. hospitals. Nothing has been done to actually build the public health infrastructure.
There have been a lot of studies, but no dirt has been moved. And so one of the first things we can do is make sure the funds that have been approved actually get to the people that need that help.
But the second thing we can do is through strong leadership — you know, New Orleans had challenges before the storms. Let's not pretend like the storms created the crime problems, the housing problems, the educational problems.
The storms created a lot of new problems, but they've given us a chance to fix problems that were plaguing what I would call one of America's greatest cities even before the storms.
Let's be bold. Let's make some real changes. Let's not just rebuild the failed public housing complexes. Let's not rebuild the failing public schools. We have a very aggressive charter school, a very aggressive reform movement taking root in New Orleans. Let's be aggressive.
Let's not just rebuild a large public charity hospital without also helping people afford private, preventive coverage.
So I think the way you get people to come back is not just rebuild what was there before, but give them a reason to come back. Give them high quality schools, high quality roads, good paying jobs, safe neighborhoods, and then they'll want to come back.
WALLACE: In the days after Katrina, President Bush made a commitment that the U.S. was going to be very involved in helping to rebuild. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Throughout the area hit by the hurricane, we will do what it takes. We will stay as long as it takes to help citizens rebuild their communities and their lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Now, the main initiative to — at this point, to help homeowners rebuild is called The Road Home which, as I understand it, is billions of dollars short of what you actually need.
Are you going to talk to President Bush about that?
JINDAL: Absolutely. You know, the Road Home program has been plagued with a lot of missteps at the state level, but at the end of the day, it is facing a huge financial shortfall because of just faulty estimates of the number of homes destroyed, the number of people that will need help.
People, when they're looking for help — they don't care whether it was HUD, LRA or OCD. That's all alphabet soup. All they know is the president, the federal, the state government promised them help.
I applaud the state. They've put up $1 billion to help fill that shortfall, but we will need federal help to fill that shortfall. We'll also need the federal help to restore the levees that weren't built properly in the first place.
People aren't looking for a handout. They want to go back to work. You know, one of the most effective programs down here has been a GO Zone program that has reduced taxes, given tax-advantaged treatment for people that want to invest down here.
I applaud the administration, the federal government, for supporting those kinds of incentives. Those are the kinds of things that — if we can encourage the private sector to invest in South Louisiana — and it is happening; there are billions of dollars of projects that have been approved — I think they'll see people return home, return to work, return their kids to school.
But, yes, we will need the federal government's help to fulfill the commitments that were made, especially in Road Home, but also in levees and coastal restoration.
WALLACE: So what's your pitch to the president going to be, with you in charge that the money is going to go where it needs to go?
JINDAL: Well, I absolutely will promise him there'll be better oversight and accountability.
But even more important — and I think there's a moral obligation. If the government — and I'm a fiscal conservative. I don't think we should be wasting money. But if the government makes a commitment to people, we need to keep that commitment.
My pitch will also be that, Mr. President, I'm pretty confident I'm — you know, I think that Congress will end up approving this money. The Democratic leadership of the House has committed to providing this money.
I think it would be better for the administration to be proactive about this instead of being forced to do what I think is right.
But I'm also going to say we're not going to be coming back here for billions of dollars in only government programs beyond Road Home and fixing the levees and the wetlands. We'll be looking for help to rejuvenate the private sector. That's been a great success story.
I'll also tell him let's not just spend billions of dollars through FEMA and federal programs. You know, let's not just grow the federal bureaucracy. Let's be creative here.
Here's an opportunity — if we really believe private health coverage is better than government run health care, which I do believe, if we believe giving people jobs is better than giving them checks, what better place in the country to show that this works?
My pitch is also going to be Mr. President — and to the leadership of the Congress — here's a chance to do something new. Let's not just spend billions of dollars on programs we don't think have always been all that effective across the country.
WALLACE: Governor-Elect Jindal, you ran four years ago and lost in some part because of the discomfort of some people from your state with voting for the son of an Indian immigrant.
This time around there were bumper stickers, Bubbas for Bobby. Can you speak Bubba? And how did you reach out to them? How did you break down the barrier?
JINDAL: Well, two things. I think the reason we lost last time was more of a lack of familiarity. We came out of nowhere in the polls. We were polling at 3 percent when we got in, surprised a lot of people by getting in the runoff, had six weeks to introduce myself to a large portion of our population.
This time, we traveled to every of one of 64 parishes multiple times. We probably traveled and met with more voters than all my opponents combined.
I think once voters got to know who I was beyond what they saw on T.V. and read in the newspapers — they know I'm a fiscal conservative. They know that I'm pro-life, know that I've been endorsed by the NRA.
Once they actually heard my ideas for changing our state, there was a strong enthusiasm. So I think it was more familiarity than anything.
You know, in Louisiana, we still put a heavy emphasis on retail politics. The state that gave us Huey and Earl Long — we're not going to just vote for somebody we meet on T.V.
I think the biggest difference was we were in every parish multiple times, and also people are hungry for change. They're hungry for competence, hungry to take on corruption.
WALLACE: We've got about 45 seconds left. There's a lot of talk — and I don't know whether you like it or hate it — that you're a new GOP rock star.
What lesson do you think your party should learn from your campaign and your success in Louisiana?
JINDAL: Well, my primary — my obligations are obviously to Louisiana. But I think the reason Republicans did so poorly in 2006 wasn't that the country stopped being conservative. It was the party stopped being conservative.
It's not enough to want power for the sake of wanting power. You know, we waged here a principled campaign against corruption, against out-of-control spending, pledged to cut taxes.
I think as the Republican Party gets to its principled roots, it will see more enthusiasm among voters. Voters don't want you to pretend to be an imitation of your opponents. They want you to stick to your principles and be honest, even if you disagree with the voter, and tell them where you stand.
So if we'll get back to our roots against the earmarks, the pork barrel spending, the Bridges to Nowhere, if we will get back to not just covering up corruption, but standing for the strongest ethical standards, I think the voters will reward that.
WALLACE: Governor-Elect Jindal, we want to thank you so much for talking with us. And again, congratulations, sir.
JINDAL: Thank you, Chris.