Sometime after the chicken and roast vegetables but before cream covered berries in a cup made of chocolate, Rhode Scholar and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal began slamming the elites.
Jindal used his speech at the $50 per plate luncheon inside the five-star Mayflower Hotel (of Eliot Spitzer fame) to burnish his conservative credentials ahead of his possible 2016 and draw contrasts the GOP establishment.
And of course, given the audience, slam common core.
The lunch, sponsored by the American Principles Project, a right wing, anti-Common Core organization, was part of a day- long conference ending with a gala where tickets ranged from $300 for individuals to $15,000.00 for “Platinum Circle” donors.
“What happens when the U.S. history our children are taught is not the American exceptionalism that you and I were taught,” Jindal, Brown University graduate, asked. “But rather a history of our grievances?”
Jindal blamed nearly all that was wrong in American education on the controversial testing standards.
Not only was it an over-centralized process that threatened to give the federal government unprecedented control over schools, it didn’t teach kids anything useful as well.
It also meant kids were taught math in a confusing way by a system that valued “elite bureaucrats” over “moms and dads.”
Jindal, who served as a principal adviser to Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson under President George W. Bush and as a congressman for two terms, also took aim at Washington.
But he didn’t just go after Democrats.
He cast scorn on those in his party who say “we can’t really repeal Obamacare” and abandon “promises [made] on the campaign trail” with the excuse that they are “too difficult and too disruptive” once in office.
The Louisiana Republican said he was ready for the Republican controlled Congress to pass significant legislation and thought anything less would be a waste.
“If the whole point of this election was simply to give John Boehner and Mitch McConnell nicer offices, let’s give them back,” he said. Jindal, a two-term former congressman, just couldn’t see the point of “Washington Republicans” if they just acted like “cheaper Democrats.”
The first Indian American governor in American history took time to rail against “hyphenated Americans” but then, unhesitatingly, related an anecdote about an “African-American.”
But at times on Thursday, it was difficult for Jindal to hide the fact he may have a little more in common with the elites than he was letting on in his prepared remarks.
When Princeton professor Robert George got up to ask a question following the Louisiana Governor’s remarks, Jindal engaged in some good natured intra-Ivy League teasing.
But, in a Republican field that is packed with populists, the quandary for Jindal is how to stand out.
It’s easy to run for president as a conservative outsider and it’s hard to run as a brilliant former Rhodes Scholar.