In a speech Monday in London, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), who is running for president in 2016 (this is a decidedly relevant piece of information) said there were places in Europe in which Islamic law was enforced and where non-Muslims were afraid to go. He called these places, appropriately, "no-go zones," and insisted that a willingness to allow communities like these to exist within countries was at part of the world's problem with Islamist extremists.
While Jindal's comments drew criticism, he was unbowed, insisting in an interview with CNN that he was speaking truth to power.
That interview shows what Jindal's underlying motives here may well be. In the space of 74 seconds, Jindal makes two references to "the left" -- despite the fact that the interviewer isn't asking questions about "no-go zones" in the context of politics. "The radical left wants to pretend like this problem isn't here," Jindal says at one point. "I know the left wants to make this an attack on religion ... and that's not what this is," he says at another.
Here's what Jindal is up to: He is struggling for political oxygen in a Republican field that includes (or might include) the likes of Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush. So, how do you solve that problem? Throw red meat to the Republican base while simultaneously trolling the left.
Conservatives leaped to Jindal's defense. Erick Erickson at Red State pointed out that CNN had done a report on these so-called "no-go zones." And, when Arsalan Iftikhar said on MSNBC that Jindal's comments amounted to him "trying to rub some of the brown off his skin" (Jindal is Indian American), the right responded with fury. (MSNBC said it would not have Iftikhar on as a guest again.)
"It's embarrassing for MSNBC to give voice to such shallow foolishness," Jindal told the conservative Washington Examiner on Tuesday. "Much like Michael Moore denigrating our military servicemen, these comments deserve no comment." Curt Anderson, a consultant to Jindal, was more blunt in an e-mail to me: "Liberals hate to hear what Jindal is saying. They cannot in public argue the main points of what he is saying, so they are trying to make hay out of noting the obvious -- that 'no-go zones' are not official or part of the law. Duh."
Regardless of Jindal's motives, here's what he's accomplished: In the eyes of the random Republican activist, he's gone from the guy they vaguely remember giving a widely panned State of the Union response to the guy who is willing to stand up not only to radical Islam but also to the political left.
The important thing to remember here is that in politics, the worst thing you can be is irrelevant. Jindal's stance on radical Islam and "no-go zones" makes him a topic of conversations all over cable and the Internet. (Witness this blog post.) And for someone running for president in 2016, that is relevance -- at least this far from the election.