WASHINGTON Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a rising star of the Republican party, on Tuesday said the answer to America's problems lay in its citizens and not in big government.
Jindal, often cited as a possible Republican presidential hopeful in 2012, gave the party's rebuttal to a speech by President Barack Obama to a joint session of Congress and accused the Democrat of spreading doom, gloom and big-spending policies that will fuel recessionary fires.
"Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don't let anyone tell you that we cannot recover -- or that America's best days are behind her," Jindal said.
"The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and enterprising spirits of our citizens," he said.
"The way to lead is by empowering you - the American people. Because we believe that Americans can do anything."
Jindal, 37, often draws comparisons to the 47-year old Obama. The son of Indian immigrants, Jindal is viewed as young, bright and charismatic -- someone who could reinvigorate the Republican party and make it more attractive to minorities, who voted overwhelmingly Democratic in last year's election.
Conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, one of the most influential Republicans, has likened Jindal to former president Ronald Reagan, a party hero who exhorted Americans to "believe in ourselves."
A leading critic of Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus package, Jindal has said he will refuse to accept some of the money. He also rejected claims by Obama and other Democrats that the package will grow the economy.
"What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt," said Jindal, echoing frequent Republican criticisms.
But some of his harshest comments were directed at members of his own party. "You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with ... big government spending.
"Republicans lost your trust -- and rightly so," said Jindal. "Tonight, on behalf of our leaders in Congress and my fellow Republican governors, I say: Our party is determined to regain your trust."
He said Republicans stood ready to work with Obama, though just three in Congress voted for his economic stimulus plan.
"All of us want our economy to recover and our nation to prosper," Jindal said. "So where we agree, Republicans must be the president's strongest partners. And where we disagree, Republicans have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas."
(Editing by Chris Wilson)