Some other speeches, not so much.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's Republican response to the president's address to Congress is a bad karmic gift that keeps giving. First, the address itself was universally panned as failing in both style and substance -- with Jindal being likened to Kenneth-the-Page from NBC's 30 Rock. Then, specifics were attacked: Did the passage about bureaucratic red tape during Katrina occur exactly how Jindal described?
Why is this a problem for Jindal? Well, because of this interesting passage in last month's speech: "While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes...$140 million for something called 'volcano monitoring.' Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C."
Now, this would be a completely defensible statement if Jindal limited his criticism only to what Congress was doling out from the stimulus package. Jindal can fairly say that "volcano monitoring" isn't something that contributes to economic "stimulus." However, Jindal's address made it sound as if the federal government shouldn't be involved in volcano monitoring at all. But, historically, once Mt. Redoubt -- like many volcanoes -- starts steaming, the activity continues for several months, creating extended ecological and transportation problems.
This is the key issue that GOP must encounter if it hopes to return to influence back in Washington. When it comes to spending on social welfare, government often is the problem. But when it comes to protecting the public from acts of God and nature, well, the government often is the solution -- or at least a solution. If you live in Louisiana, you do want the federal government doing some monitoring of weather patterns.
If you're in California, you do want some federal monitoring of seismic disturbances. If you're in Alaska, you might want the federal government to do some monitoring of volcanic activity.
A potential Republican presidential candidate must understand those differences. Wonder what Sarah Palin thinks about whether Congress should be monitoring volcanoes?
Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots.