Bobby Jindal Is Stuck in the Silly Season

On Thursday, the Louisiana governor tried to dis Donald Trump using his own style of rhetoric. But, as Jindal’s competitors have learned, you can’t out-yell The Donald.

Republican presidential candidate Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal speaks to visitors at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, August 22, 2015. (Scott Olson AFP/Getty)

Last month, at a campaign stop in Iowa, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal joked that he was going to slip Donald Trump’s name into his speech randomly, to draw more attention from reporters.

Now, that seems to have firmed up into Jindal’s actual campaign strategy. On Thursday, Jindal spoke at the National Press Club with the express purpose of railing against Trump, and maybe raising his own profile in the process.

In his speech, Jindal got in a few run-of-the-mill jabs about Trump—that he’s a “dangerous man,” an “egomaniac,” a “carnival act,” and a “power-hungry shark”—along with a couple of real zingers.

“You may have recently heard and seen that Donald Trump said that the Bible is his favorite book. Yet, when asked, he couldn’t even name a specific or a single Bible verse that was important to him, that had an impact on him,” Jindal said. “Donald Trump’s never read the Bible. The reason we know he’s never read the Bible: He’s not in the Bible.”

Jindal admitted that Trump is an entertaining reality-TV star, but that does not qualify him for the most powerful office in the world.

“Just because people like watching Kim Kardashian, we wouldn’t put her in the White House either,” Jindal said.

While Jindal may dismiss Trump as nothing more than a reality TV star, he has put in the effort to cultivate friendships with the stars of A&E’s Duck Dynasty over the past few years. In June, two stars of the show formally endorsed Jindal for president.

Unlike Trump, who continues to lead the pack of 17 Republicans, Jindal is polling at roughly 1 percent nationally—meaning that they will likely not be on the same debate stage next week. But Jindal’s strategy in attacking Trump isn’t so much to take Trump down a peg; plenty of his competitors have already tried and failed to do that. Instead, he’s trying to latch onto the Trump hate within segments of his party to get people to notice he’s still running for president.

It’s a somewhat successful strategy: Media outlets (like this one) covered the event. But as Rick Perry learned when he tried to garner attention for himself earlier this summer by calling Trump a “cancer,” the ensuing stories are still chiefly about Trump. Talking about Trump just tends to make people talk more about Trump.

In an interview after his speech, Jindal said he agrees with Trump’s abstract anti-Washington message, but he seemed legitimately concerned about the prospect of Trump occupying the Oval Office.

“The idea of Trump is great. The reality of Trump is absurd,” Jindal said.

Jindal, a former Rhodes scholar, is more at home talking Middle East policy with Jim DeMint than firing up the base with bombastic rhetoric. On Thursday, Jindal’s frustration about Trump’s popularity despite his lack of policy chops was palpable.

“He’s not serious. He doesn’t care about policy. He doesn’t have the intellectual curiosity to learn. The nuance, that’s not important to him,” Jindal told National Journal. “Whether it’s foreign policy or domestic policy, I don’t think he actually is opposed to the idea of a top-down government. His opposition is that he’s not the one running it. And I don’t think that’s what conservatives should be rallying around.”

Despite his critique of the “silly season,” Jindal has had to resort to silly tactics to attack Trump. In the past two days, Jindal’s campaign released two videos, one comparing Trump to Charlie Sheen and another comparing him to an unintelligent character from the Anchorman movies.

The problem for Jindal and his co-competitors is that Trump is the Teflon Don of insults—he doesn’t care what he, or anyone else, says about almost anything. He is a political nihilist. As a GOP strategist put it to me recently, “He defies all laws of political gravity.”

Unfortunately for Jindal, the bar for what qualifies as a political attack is much higher this election cycle. Donald J. Trump has single-handedly inflated the market. Five hours after Jindal’s speech, Trump responded.

“He did not make the debate stage, and therefore I have never met him. I only respond to people that register more than 1 percent in the polls,” he said. “I never thought he had a chance and I’ve been proven right.”