The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

Gingrich Walks Back Civil Rights Comments

Last updated: 07/31/2020 08:00 | 03/22/2010 08:37
Paolo Reyna

The Washington Post’s Dan Balz yesterday quoted Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House Speaker from Georgia, warning that Obama’s support for sweeping health care reform would plague Democrats for decades, much as Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 jostled the party and led to the entrenchment of Southern Republicans that we still have today.

“‘They will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years’ with the enactment of civil rights legislation in the 1960s,” Balz wrote, quoting Gingrich.

That statement led to my short post yesterday, questioning why Gingrich would suggest that political expediency should trump reforms as vital as those ensuring basic human rights. More recently, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman also latched onto Gingrich’s comments, asking today: “Who in modern America would say that L.B.J. did the wrong thing by pushing for racial equality?”

Turns out Gingrich didn’t like the way his words were framed, and he let Balz know it in a series of emails yesterday. That exchange led Balz today to issue this separate addendum, in which Gingrich says the Civil Rights Act was a moral necessity.

Gingrich responded with several emails saying that the context misrepresented his views by implying that he believed Johnson was wrong to sign the major civil rights legislation of the 1960s. To the contrary, he said, the civil rights revolution of 1956-1965 was “morally absolutely necessary” for the country and Johnson was correct in pushing for the legislation. Other Johnson actions, he said, inflicted more damage to the Democratic coalition.

Johnson shattered his party, Gingrich went on to say, because he had “grotesquely overreached” in four areas: mismanagement of the economy, the failure in Vietnam, the cultural divisions that emerged in part over Vietnam and later civil rights initiatives. Johnson’s mistake on civil rights, he said, was not in signing major legislation but in later getting ahead of the country by supporting school busing and failing to take a firmer stance against racial violence in the cities.

“If LBJ had done nothing on civil rights,” Gingrich said, “he would still have been in trouble on the economy, Great Society big government, the counter culture and the war.”

For the sake of argument, let’s say he’s right about that. It still doesn’t clear up the issue. For one thing, Gingrich’s comments weren’t intended to be friendly advice for Democrats. (What does he care if they flail in chaos for the next 40 years?) They were lobbed as a Hail Mary attempt to kill the health reform by causing House Democrats to fear the political repercussions of their support. And what single vote under the Johnson White House would make that point most clearly but the one enacting the Civil Rights Act?

Joe DeSantis, a Gingrich spokesman, wrote in our comment thread this morning that “Gingrich was not drawing an analogy between the health care bill and civil rights legislation.”

Maybe not. But Balz is standing by it. Indeed, despite the separate addendum, the original story remains unchanged.

Paolo Reyna | Paolo is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, majoring in International Studies with a Latin American emphasis. During the fall semester of 2012, he had the opportunity to study abroad in Peru, which piqued his interest in international growth. He learned about the disparities that impact indigenous peoples, got a taste of Peruvian culture, and improved his Spanish skills. Mitchel interned with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, conducting research on food security in Latin America, after being inspired by his foreign experience. He wants to work in international development and for a government department, writing legislation. He loves playing intramural basketball and practicing for the Chicago marathon when he is not thinking about current events in Latin America.


E-Verify Mandate Begins Today

The Obama administration today begins implementation of a new mandate to require all federal contractors to check the legal status of their employees to confirm

EPA Administrator Addresses Concerns About Oil Spill Waste Management

At a hearing of the national oil spill commission today, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson addressed concerns about waste disposal from

EPA administrator defends allowing Florida to write its own water pollution rules

The EPA seal (Pic via The Environmental Protection Agency has come under fire for its decision to allow the state of Florida to write its own water pollution rules (known as “numeric nutrient criteria”). EPA Regional Administrator Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming is now firing back, writing that the Agency commends the state Department of Environmental Protection for its draft of a proposed standard. A host of environmental groups filed suit in 2008, seeking to compel the EPA to implement a strict set of water pollution standards in Florida, arguing that the state was in violation of the Clean Water Act.

EPA administrator fires back at critics in op-ed

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (Pic by USACEpublicaffairs, via Flickr) EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson penned a new op-ed for the Los Angeles Times , criticizing House Republicans desperately seeking to undermine the authority of the agency they have dubbed a “job killer.” Arguing that the environment affects red states and blue states alike, Jackson writes that “it is time for House Republicans to stop politicizing our air and water.” As head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Jackson has faced harsh criticism from House Republicans and GOP presidential candidates who say the agency’s regulations are an undue burden on businesses that have to cut jobs simply to comply with clean water and air rules. Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann  has pledged to end the EPA if she takes office. “Since the beginning of this year, Republicans in the House have averaged roughly a vote every day the chamber has been in session to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency and our nation’s environmental laws,” writes Jackson.

EPA administrator says federal nutrient criteria is a ‘myth’

In testimony given late last week, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that false accusations about her agency’s numeric nutrient criteria to govern Florida waterways are proving to be a detriment to their implementation. # Testifying before the House Agriculture Committee, Jackson said her agency’s work was often “mischaracterized” and addressed several myths surrounding its work

EPA Analysis Says Climate Bill’s Cost for Households Would Be ‘Modest’

All the attention on the energy front today is going to the BP spill, but the Environmental Protection Agency quietly released its long-anticipated analysis of

EPA announces hold on nutrient standards if Florida can come up with own criteria

The EPA announced today that it is now prepared to withdraw a portion of its proposed numeric nutrient criteria (a set of standards governing water pollution in inland waters) and delay the portion related to estuarine waters, to allow the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop its own criteria. # From a statement released by the EPA earlier today: # EPA recognizes that states have the primary role in establishing and implementing water quality standards for their waters. Therefore, EPA is prepared to withdraw the federal inland standards and delay the estuarine standards if FDEP adopts, and EPA approves, their own protective and scientifically sound numeric standards

EPA biologist says fracking may be partly to blame for West Virginia fish kill

New documents obtained by an environmental news service show that an EPA analyst believes that wastewater from fracking may be partly responsible for a fish kill in a West Virginia river. Scientific American reports : U.S

EPA: BP Has 24 Hours to Find a Less Toxic Chemical Dispersant

Thought the massive quantities of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico were the only major threat to the country’s southeast coastal waters right now? Think

EPA and California Near Deal on Fuel Efficiency Standards

Two weeks ago, the Obama administration raised fuel efficiency standards by an average of two miles per gallon -- a modest change that disappointed some

© Copyright 2021 The Washington Independent All Rights Reserved

Terms & Privacy |