If we're going to promote a candid discussion of race in our country, we can't jump down the throat of everyone who ventures onto the racial minefield. Rather than finding offense in Roger Simon's suggestion that choosing Bobby Jindal as his VP running-mate would hurt John McCain among racist voters, I propose we simply analyze it. Here's what Simon said on this evening's Hardball, as guest host Mike Barnicle led the Politico reporter and Newsweek's Howard Fineman through a tour d'horizon of possible VP picks.
MIKE BARNICLE: Interesting new Republican face, Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana.
ROGER SIMON: Interesting. Young. Very young, almost too young to run, not quite, he gets over the constitutional limit. But I gotta raise the delicate subject: if you're John McCain, and you know that you're going to get an 'x' percentage of votes based on race, do you pick a dark-skinned vice-presidential candidate, who some people are going to say–wrongly—is black, is a Hindu converted to Catholicism, who's an Indian-American? You know, none of that should matter in American politics, but is it a safe choice, or is it a choice that is going to get everybody chattering? I think McCain is going to go for a safer choice than that.
View video here.
BARNICLE: Yeah, I agree with ya. Howard, do you agree with that?
HOWARD FINEMAN: Not necessarily. I certainly think McCain is intrigued by Jindal, I mean, in the reporting I did on that weekend McCain had out at his ranch, he spent a lot of time talking to Jindal. Mitt Romney was there as well, and Charlie Crist. But Jindal really caught McCain's eye. McCain is going to make this decision based in part on personal factors. McCain is a Navy guy, he's a squadron guy. He wants somebody he's comfortable with and he really liked Jindal, the problem being that Jindal is really half his age, so it would be a little strange for a guy who wants to emphasize the Commander-in-Chief role.
My two cents: the best counter-argument to Simon's analysis is that Jindal got himself elected governor of Louisiana. garnering two-thirds of the white vote. I'd encourage readers to hear Jindal in action, as here in his conversation with Hugh Hewitt. Jindal is a brilliant, principled conservative. As for the experience issue, he's got more than Barack Obama. Before becoming governor, Jindal was a U.S. congressman from Louisiana and was elected freshman class president by his peers. Prior to that, he was the head of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, an agency which then represented about 40 percent of the state budget. In 1997, Jindal was appointed to become the youngest-ever president of the University of Louisiana System. He also served as President George W. Bush's Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation.