For a man who rose to Louisiana’s highest office based on his credentials as a policy wonk, Gov. Bobby Jindal formally launched his campaign for the White House Wednesday with a speech that was surprisingly devoid of specifics.

Jindal suggested that his critics can’t believe leaders can be both conservative and smart. We don’t ascribe to that notion, but we believe that Jindal is a much smarter man than he demonstrated in his announcement Wednesday at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner. His address was long on bromides and short on substance. He will have to do better, we suspect, if he hopes to compete in a crowded field of candidates for the Republican nomination.

Listeners learned that Jindal is for God and freedom, and against illegal immigration and terrorists. He presented these positions as acts of political courage, a gesture akin to endorsing motherhood and apple pie with mock Churchillian resolve. It was an oddly hollow performance for a politician who’s already been on the national stump for months.

Despite his professed dislike of rhetoric — Jindal said Wednesday he’s a doer, not a talker — he ranks as one of the most garrulous governors in our history. But it’s not the quantity of what Jindal says but its quality that promises to complicate his presidential run.

Although he grew up in the era of Ronald Reagan, who celebrated America as a shining city on a hill, Jindal seemed to be speaking Wednesday not from a hilltop but from a bunker. His remarks reminded us of an earlier and more tragic Republican president, Richard Nixon, who offered himself as a cultural warrior intent on saving the country from corrupt elites.

Jindal, the son of immigrants who now stands as a candidate for the nation’s highest office, is a testament to America’s promise. That promise cannot endure if leaders think of America as a fortress to be locked, not a frontier to be opened.