ABC’s Jon Karl and Rick Klein Try, Fail to Get Bobby Jindal to Criticize His Party

Jonathan Karl and Rick Klein of ABC News teamed up recently for an online interview with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Posted to the ABC News/Yahoo! News “Power Players” blog, the interview consisted mostly of Karl and Klein trying to get Jindal to criticize his fellow Republicans, particularly those in Congress.

Karl got right down to the GOP-infighting business with his first question: [Watch the video and read the accompanying article here.]


"Do you approve of the tactics that your party is using here in Washington of refusing to reopen the government, threatening default unless there is a change to the health care law?"
 

Jindal said he did not want to engage in Republican “fratricide” and tried to talk about the defects of Obamacare. But Karl wouldn’t let him have that discussion. The chief White House correspondent interrupted Jindal:
 

"Government is shut down. We are two weeks away from a default. Do you have a problem with that? And, I mean, Republican leadership can change that tomorrow with a couple of votes."
 

There’s that all-too-familiar liberal media assumption that Republicans are the ones who must surrender first. Jindal called out President Obama for failing to find common ground on this issue, refusing to play into Karl and Klein's desire to find yet another Republican to bash the GOP.

Karl also tried to get Jindal to grade congressional GOP leaders, asking, “Can I get you to give a grade of the Republican leadership here in Washington?” The governor appeared reluctant, so Klein jumped in and prodded him: “As a former House member! You served with them.” Jindal clearly didn’t want to answer, but Karl poked at him again: “And you know these guys, I mean, what do you say? Give them a grade. A, B, C?” But Jindal again held fast and didn’t attack his own party, as Karl and Klein undoubtedly wanted.

A bit later, Karl asked Jindal if he thought the debt ceiling should be raised. Jindal was certainly not in favor of a default, but he told Karl that the real issue was the debt, not the debt ceiling. When he said that, Karl and Klein swarmed all over him. “Well, that’s the issue by October 17, is do you raise it or not?,” Karl shot back.

The Louisiana governor insisted that we need structural reforms to slow the growth of our debt and ensure that we won’t reach the debt limit again. Klein began to chide him for his answer: “Inside of two weeks, though, you’re not going to...” But Jindal cut across him, expressing what conservatives have been feeling for quite some time about the national debt:
 

"Yeah, but when?... If all we’re going to do is kick the can down the road – we did that two years ago. We were told two years ago, 'Just raise the debt ceiling. Just get the government funded. We’ll address those issues. We’ll have that debate.' Hasn’t happened."

 

Below is a transcript of the relevant portions of the interview:

JONATHAN KARL: Governor, I want to start right here in Washington. Do you approve of the tactics that your party is using here in Washington of refusing to reopen the government, threatening default unless there is a change to the health care law?

BOBBY JINDAL: Look, I’m not interested in Republican fratricide. You’ve got Republicans criticizing each other, fighting each other. I’m not interested in getting into – in micromanaging their tactics, but I will say this: Obamacare is bad policy. Forget the political considerations. It’s a law that needs to be repealed.

KARL: I understand you don’t like the law – I understand you want to repeal and replace. What I’m asking is, you are in Washington right now. Government is shut down. We are two weeks away from a default. Do you have a problem with that? And, I mean, Republican leadership can change that tomorrow with a couple of votes.

JINDAL: I think the president’s leadership could change that tomorrow. Do I have a problem with the government shutting down? Absolutely. Do I have a problem with the fact that the government is talking about potentially defaulting? Sure. But I also have a problem with the fact we don’t see leadership out of the White House. He has time to golf, has time to negotiate with the Iranians, doesn’t have time to negotiate and talk to the congressional leadership, doesn’t have time to find common ground. That’s what real leaders do.



RICK KLEIN: So how much, though, is this Republican fratricide, as you put it, hurting the Republican brand nationally? Does it filter down at the states to see a dysfunctional Congress, one-half of which at least is controlled by Republicans?

JINDAL: In D.C., there’s a lot of talk. The real action is at the state level. Republican governors are implementing conservative principles. The contrast is in D.C. they talk about things, and state capitals are actually getting things done.

KARL: Can I get you to give a grade of the Republican leadership here in Washington? I mean, how would you –

KLEIN: As a former House member! You served with them.

KARL: And you know these guys, I mean, what do you say? Give them a grade. A, B, C?

JINDAL: Again, I’m not gonna play political pundit. I know it’s tempting to try and get Republicans to attack each other. I will say this. I think, like every other American, we’re all frustrated with what’s going on in D.C. We want everybody to work together to take on the real issues. We’ve got a House that’s only passed five appropriations bills, a Senate that hadn’t passed any. You’ve got a Senate that does one budget bill approximately every five years. That’s not leadership.

***

KARL: And on this debt ceiling question, you do believe the debt ceiling needs to be raised? I mean, that we shouldn’t have a default?

JINDAL: I think the president needs to show real – the real issues –

KARL: No, it’s a simple question. You’re not one of these that says don’t raise it. I mean, you think that –

JINDAL: Look, I don’t think anybody wants a government shutdown. I don’t think anybody wants the government to stop paying its bills, but the real issue’s not the debt ceiling. The real issue is the debt.

KARL: Well, that’s the issue by October 17, is do you raise it or not?

JINDAL: Yeah, but the reality is –

KARL: You’re not gonna fix the debt in the next –

KLEIN: And the debt is the debt –

JINDAL: The reality is we need structural reforms. If you just raise it and don’t address the underlying cause, you’re just treating the symptoms. We’ll be in the exact same place – we were here two years ago. We’ll be here again in the exact same place. Why not say we need a balanced budget amendment in the Constitution? Why not say a supermajority vote before you raise taxes? Why not a supermajority vote before you grow the government faster than economic and population growth. Why not –

KLEIN: Inside of two weeks, though, you’re not going to –

JINDAL: Yeah, but when? This president now has been in office, this is his second term. When’s he gonna show leadership? If all we’re going to do is kick the can down the road – we did that two years ago. We were told two years ago, ‘just raise the debt ceiling. Just get the government funded. We’ll address those issues. We’ll have that debate.’ Hasn’t happened. This president was elected. He promised to change the tone in D.C. Promised to take on the big problems. He’s not doing that. That’s what needs to happen.

KARL: All right, Governor Bobby Jindal, thanks for coming to Washington and talking to us. We really appreciate it.
 

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.