Jindal, Rubio, and 2016

by Benjamin Studebaker

The right is already tossing around Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio as potential US presidential candidates in 2016. Are they presidential material? Each has shown up recently in the news and offered us some insight into that very question. Today I would like to further examine the remarks of both Jindal and Rubio, the former on the fiscal cliff, the latter on young earth creationism.

Let us start with Jindal’s op-ed on the fiscal cliff. In it, Jindal says this:

Today it’s the fiscal cliff, but that surely will not be the end of it; next year it will be the fiscal mountain, after that the fiscal black hole, and after that fiscal Armageddon. But the truth is Washington already drove us off the fiscal cliff while no one was looking. A nation that has a $16.3 trillion debt, a debt that is larger than our entire economy, has already driven through the guard rail and is in free fall with the cliff somewhere in the rear view mirror.

What Jindal seems to be saying here is that the fiscal cliff is a problem of needing to reduce debt and deficits, something that is blatantly false–as we discussed yesterday, the problem the fiscal cliff poses (and you need not take my word for it, it’s in the CBO report, which of course no one reads) is that it provides for large immediate austerity that is predicted to send the country back into recession in 2013. The compromise congress is trying to reach is one that will reduce the size and scale of the cuts coming in 2013 to preserve economic growth and prevent unemployment rates from taking off again. Jindal seems to have missed that. He goes on to offer several policy proposals:

  1. Federal Balanced Budget Amendment
  2. Cap spending at a given percent of GDP
  3. Super Majority to Raise Taxes
  4. Term Limits

The first two of these proposals revolve around reducing spending even further and faster than the cliff (the cliff reduces the deficit, but does not eliminate it such that it would fall in line with a balanced budget amendment or a GDP cap). The third is an irrelevant obstruction to raising taxes, which would have no impact on the cliff’s tax hikes, as they have already been passed, and the fourth has nothing at all to do with this issue.

An individual who knew what kind of problem the fiscal cliff is could not write this op-ed. It is one thing for 87.4% of Americans not to know that the fiscal cliff is, it’s quite another for Jindal, an elected governor, to miss the memo. And let us not forget, Jindal did not merely fail to realise what the fiscal cliff was about–he had the audacity to write an op-ed on the subject despite his clear ignorance of the economics. And this person is meant to be among the front runners for the GOP nomination in 2016? Troubling stuff.

What about Rubio? In an interview with GQ, Rubio was asked the question “How old do you think the earth is?” If you type “how old is the earth” into Google, it spits out the answer “4.54 billion years”. Wikipedia will tell you the same thing; it’s a fairly conclusive piece of scientific knowledge. Rubio’s response?

I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.

The age of the earth is not a theological dispute or a question we are unable to answer. Radiometric dating works, and you need not be a secularist or some kind of atheist to buy into that–belief in a god is not necessarily inconsistent with recognising the veracity of scientific claims. You need not take my word for that either. Pat Robertson, the famous Christian evangelist, has this to say on the same question:

You go back in time, you’ve got radiocarbon dating. You got all these things, and you’ve got the carcasses of dinosaurs frozen in time out in the Dakotas. They’re out there. So, there was a time when these giant reptiles were on the Earth, and it was before the time of the Bible. So, don’t try and cover it up and make like everything was 6,000 years. That’s not the Bible…If you fight science, you are going to lose your children, and I believe in telling them the way it was.

I see two possibilities here:

  1. Incompetence: Marco Rubio genuinely believes that scientific claims about the age of the earth are disputable.
  2. Malevolence: Marco Rubio knows better but is a sycophant; he is willing to say anything to engender support.

In either case, is Rubio the sort of person we should consider putting in charge of the executive branch in 2016? I submit to you that the answer is no.

Both Jindal and Rubio, in the span of just a week or so, have demonstrated that they suffer from the same flaws that plagued the 2012 selection–ignorance, extremism, sycophancy, or some combination of the three:

Republicans by Flaw

You can certainly argue who belongs in which bubble, but the core of the concept holds–all three of these should immediately disqualify the given individuals from the presidency, and at least one of the three can be said to belong to each of the major republican candidates of the last few election cycles as well as both Jindal and Rubio.

This raises the question as to why Jindal and Rubio are so often treated as if they are different or better than the previous slate of candidates in some significant way. Their ideas are not seemingly any better, and they are no less full of vices than the candidates they appear to be replacing. There is only one viable answer to this question that I can come up with, and it amounts to “they are not white”. The assumption made by the supporters of Jindal and Rubio is that the only problem with the ideas of the Republican Party is that they come in all-white boxes and feature anti-immigration rhetoric that alienates Hispanics. Repainting the box a different colour does not change the fact that the contents of the box are not particularly appealing. Should the republicans make the mistake of nominating a Jindal or a Rubio, they will learn this lesson the hard way.