Jindal: Let's Have an Honest Debate

La Governor and Fellow Republicans Assail Obamas Economic Agenda As President Prepares for Mexico Trip

"Tea parties" protesting President Obama's tax and spending agenda may have ended but opposition to his plans remains.

In an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America" today, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal praised steps the president has taken on Iraq but assailed earmarks and what he called wasteful spending in the $787 billion stimulus package.

"As an American, I very much worry about the spending out of Washington," Jindal, a supporter of the "tea parties," said. "We've got to balance our budget. We can't spend more than we take in. ... But in D.C., they continue to borrow and spend. Ultimately, that's going to be higher taxes for all of us."

Jindal rejected nearly $100 million in stimulus money for his state, left economically battered after Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana and surrounding states in 2005.

But economists say the $51 billion in federal money since then has helped keep the state's unemployment rate at around 5.7 percent, well below the national average.

Jindal said he and other Republicans don't claim there shouldn't be any government spending, only that it should be "targeted" and "responsible."

The 37-year-old governor, who has been traveling around the country for his second gubernatorial bid, refused to say whether he will run for president in 2012.

He also played down his status as the rising star of the Republican Party.

"Let's stop worrying about the messenger," he said. "Let's focus on the message of the substance. Let's show people we've got relevant solutions."

Jindal's tone today on Obama was relatively softer than that in February, when he assailed the president's stimulus plan for being full of wasteful spending in the Republican response to the president's speech to the Congress. The governor has taken the lead among his peers in criticizing the administration's economic recovery program. But he expressed a softer side today, saying, "We should give the new administration a chance.

"I don't think we should question Obama's patriotism. ... I am pleasantly surprised to see President Obama showing more flexibility when it comes to Iraq, not what campaign rhetoric suggested," he told "GMA's" Robin Roberts. "At the end of the day, I don't think we should be questioning the administration's intention, but I think it's good to have an honest debate."

Opposition to Obama

As Obama heads to Mexico to talk about trade, drug-related violence and the economy on his first trip south of the border, he is facing increasing opposition from Republicans at home on other hot-button issues on his agenda, including energy and immigration.

The main issue at the Summit of the Americas to be held this weekend in Trinidad and Tobago is the economy, where the president is expected to continue to talk about the silver lining.

The president said this week that glimmers of hope are returning to the U.S. economy but warned that the country is still not out of the woods yet.

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