Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is “absolutely” electable as president; he also said he believes that last year’s government bailouts of financial services companies and automobile manufacturers were a “mistake” and that immigration policy should include “a policy of assimilation.”
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the show with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who joins us from the governor’s mansion in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Welcome, governor. And we’re going to talk about -
BOBBY JINDAL: Al, it’s great to be back on the show with you.
HUNT: Let me ask you, in “Leadership in Crisis,” you’re very critical of the Obama administration in the sense that the federal government, you think, has lost direction by trying to run car companies and banks. But experts like Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker say TARP and Bernanke saved the world from a cataclysm, and taxpayers are getting all the money back that was given to Wall Street. GM has new leadership, successful IPO, and the road to profitability.
Knowing what you know now, would you have let Wall Street and GM go belly-up in 2008-2009?
JINDAL: I still think that the bailouts - I think the interventions were a mistake. Let’s look at a couple of facts. One, taxpayers still haven’t been made whole from GM. Stock prices for - the share prices in GM would have to go up fairly dramatically for us to even break even.
But even greater than that, even greater than the tens and hundreds of billions of dollars that were put potentially at risk, what is of greater concern is this idea that the government’s going to pick winners and losers.
Bloomberg did a great analysis showing that many of the firms - many of those Wall Street firms that benefited from these programs actually helped devise and guide these programs. You get the potential - when the government’s picking winners and losers, you have the potential for politics to interfere and determine who gets the money and who benefits.
I think it would have been much better - it would have been much better, rather than picking some firms as too big to fail, it would have been much better if the government had said, “Here are the rules of the road. We’re going to make it predictable.”
Let me give you an example here in Louisiana. Nucor is a large steel company. They want to invest up to $3.4 billion in my state, Al, up to five bases (ph), 1,250 jobs, $75,000 per job. This is a huge industrial investment. They finally made the decision to proceed, but they have told us one of the reasons they’ve delayed several months, maybe even more than a year, was the uncertainty in Washington over cap and trade and regulations. Based on that uncertainty, they thought about going to Brazil instead of building in America.
You multiply that out by thousands of times, I think the government could do more to stimulate the economy by providing a predictable, transparent environment, not trying to pick winners and losers.
HUNT: You talk, also, in the book - you note that you’re the son of - of immigrants, and you want a policy that focuses on high-skilled workers and securing the borders. Let me ask you an issue that’s up right now. Should or should not Congress pass the so-called DREAM Act, which would grant a path to citizenship to children of illegals who serve in the American military or go to college?
JINDAL: A couple of things, Al. One, I think it’s a mistake to start with anything other than securing our borders. Back in the ‘80s, there was a comprehensive deal that was going to secure the borders, grant amnesty. Well, they granted amnesty, and they didn’t secure the borders. Let’s not repeat that. Let’s secure the borders, and then let’s move on to the other pieces.
HUNT: So - so - so it’d be a mistake - it’d be a mistake to pass the DREAM Act now?
JINDAL: To do it now? Absolutely. I think the first thing they have to do to restore trust with the American people is secure the borders.
Let’s also have an honest discussion about immigration. I also write in the book we as American people, we’re not going to kick children out of school. We’re not going to turn people away from hospitals. That’s not who we are as a people.
Let’s do three things when it comes to immigration: Secure the borders. Let’s make sure we have a rational immigration policy that’s not kicking out high-skilled workers. Let’s have a rational immigration policy that allows people in who want to work, who want to contribute to American - the American economy and the American dream. But, third, let’s also - and this is an important part of the immigration debate - let’s also have a policy of assimilation.
You know, what’s made our country so great - it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been here 100 hours, 100 years. People like my parents have come from all over the world and sought a better life for themselves and their children, but part of the immigration experience has been assimilation -
HUNT: Well, do you worry that -
JINDAL: - you contribute your ideas, your culture -
HUNT: Do you worry that your party -
JINDAL: I’m sorry. Go ahead.
HUNT: Do you worry your party is being perceived as anti-immigrant now? I mean - I mean, you look at groups like Hispanics, they voted overwhelming Democratic in a Republican year.
JINDAL: Well, I think that if the Republican Party will emphasize its principles, its core conservative principles, they can be - they’re applicable to people of all different backgrounds. We talk about the American dream of homeowner, of building and owning small businesses, offering better education for all of our children regardless of their geography or zip code, the idea that it doesn’t matter what your last name is or where you come from.
If you’re willing to work hard and get a great education, you can do great things in this - in this country, and we’re willing to lower your tax rates to help you do it, I think the Republican message can be very appealing to people from all - to all kinds of different backgrounds. At the same time, I don’t think we should compromise our principles.
HUNT: But do you think the party has failed - do you think the party has failed in getting that message across?
JINDAL: Look, obviously, I think we can be a lot more effective in communicating our principles. I think the party has also failed in being consistent with our principles. I think one of the reasons we lost power four years ago in D.C. was we strayed from our core principles. We spent too much. We defended corruption and other things we would never have tolerated in the Democratic Party.
I think we can win voters from all types of backgrounds if we’re consistent with our principles, but we also show people how our principles are relevant to their concerns and their issues.
HUNT: Governor, let me ask you one local question. You’re - you’re financially strapped like most states, but you were talking about a potential 35 percent cut in state funding for higher education. I saw a piece in the New Orleans Times-Picayune the other day, James Carville, who’s a Democrat, Henson Moore, one of the most prominent Republicans in the state, say that would be a disaster for LSU, lose 8,000 students, up to a third of the faculty.
Wouldn’t it be better to raise fees or taxes than that kind of cut to the LSU budget?
JINDAL: A couple of things. We’re not cutting higher education 35 percent. We’re in the beginning of our budget process. We’ll present a budget in March. I’ve met with higher education leaders, made it very clear we’re going to close that gap, we’re not going to raise taxes.
What we are going to do - we’ve cut - Al, we’ve cut overall spending in Louisiana 26 percent since I was elected governor. We have cut higher education by about 4.5 percent. We’re all going to have to do more with less. We’re not going to raise taxes. We’re working with higher education to be more accountable, more focused. We ranked ninth highest in the country in the percentage of our state tax dollars -
HUNT: Just quickly. How much - how much will the LSU budget be cut, do you think?
JINDAL: Well, look, we’re going to present a budget in March. I met with the higher education folks this week to get their ideas, how we can mitigate those cuts. It won’t be 35 percent. But what we are going to have to do is be more efficient. Our schools can’t be all things to all people.
Let’s focus on unique areas of excellence and make sure our students are actually graduating. For too many years in Louisiana, we have paid our schools to be the biggest, not the best. We passed the Grad Act to give them more flexibility, more authority in return for better outcomes.
One of the things LSU -
HUNT: Governor, let me ask you one final - I want to get one - I want to get one political question in. You’ve said there are a lot of strong GOP contenders, including Sarah Palin. Joe Scarborough, the former congressman, the other day said it’s time for Republicans like you to man up and acknowledge that Sarah Palin is a reality show star who can’t be elected. What do you say?
JINDAL: Two things. One, I love Joe. I’ve been on his show several times. But I don’t like anybody - whether it’s the Republican establishment, D.C. insiders - trying to tell the Republican voters who their nominee should be. I think there are several strong contenders. Governor Palin is one of them; there are many others. I don’t think the establishment should try and get together to pick the nominee. Let the voters decide.
HUNT: So you think Sarah Palin could be elected? Do you think Sarah Palin’s electable?
JINDAL: Oh, absolutely. I think it’s up to her to make the case to voters. I think we have several - and, by the way, I am biased towards governors and those that have run organizations and executives who’ve had to balance budgets, make tough choices.
But when I first ran for governor, Al, the establishment didn’t think I should run. There were folks - I write about it in the book - that didn’t think I should run. The money people got together and said, “Maybe you should get out of the race.” The voters get to decide that -
HUNT: I remember you and I talking -
JINDAL: - it’s not up to me. It’s not up to Joe. It’s up to the voters.
HUNT: I remember you and I talking before you ran. Governor, thank you so much for being with us today.
JINDAL: Al, great to be with you. Thank you.
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