During an appearance on Sunday’s Face the Nation on CBS, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich discussed the failed leadership of America’s first black president and attorney general in mending race relations around the country.
And now that a controversy is brewing around Republican Whip Steve Scalise supposedly giving a speech in front of a white supremacist group 12 years ago, Gingrich was shrewd enough to remind viewers just how long President Obama sat under the hate-filled speeches of his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
First up in the discussion was the criminal justice system and the need for its reform. “We have people locked up who shouldn’t be,” Gingrich began. “We tear apart communities that need young men to be able to go back home.” And for this reason, Gingrich suggests “serious hearing at the federal level” in order to fix a broken justice system.
But there was more advice, some that he entered into cautiously fearing media backlash:
There has to be some recognition — and this will probably get me in trouble — young people should be told when a policeman tells you to stop, stop. You know? I mean there’s a dual requirement here.
That dual requirement, Gingrich explained, includes respect for the police by the community and the same from police towards community. But that has failed and Gingrich said it comes from the top:
You have the first African-American president, you have an African-American attorney general, and six years into their effort, we are in some ways further apart, not closer together. That’s a tragic failure of leadership at the very top.
A befuddled host, Bob Schieffer, staggered back saying surely Barack Obama is not to blame, provoking further clarification from Gingrich:
I’m saying that the president spends a lot of his time using language which is divisive, automatically jumps to conclusions about things he doesn’t know. I’m saying the attorney general clearly has given speeches that are divisive. And I’m just suggesting to you, just as a tragic lost opportunity, that you would think that six years into the first African-American president, there would be a sense in the community of us coming closer together. That hasn’t happened.
And Gingrich wasn’t finished — he went on to praise Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg for being the two people in New York City who have done more to save black lives than any others. Gingrich added that if Chicago was as aggressive as New York City has been with its policing techniques, more African-American lives could be saved there each year.
Then the conversation shifted to Congressman Scalise’s 12-year-old speech that many feel warrants a resignation from his Republican position in the House. Yet Gingrich wondered why the same standard wasn’t applied to candidate Barack Obama after it was revealed that he had sat for years under the hate-filled, anti-America speeches of his very own Reverend Wright. The media gave Obama a pass when he claimed he never heard those sentiments emanating from the pulpit during those 1,000 Sundays he attended the church, but that same media is bound and determined to shame Scalise.
Here is that conversation:
Schieffer: Let me ask you about something going on here in Washington — this is the situation that’s grown up around Congressman Steve Scalise, he’s part of the Republican leadership in the House. It turns out that — what is it, 12 years ago — he made a speech to a white supremacy group. Some Democrats are saying he ought to leave. Speaker Boehner says he’s standing with him. I don’t think that this helps the Republican case in any way, but what about Congressman Scalise. Is this a serious thing?
Gingrich: Let me say, first of all, I admire your professionalism. You got through that whole thing without breaking up. The fact is the president, who for years went to a church whose pastor said stunningly hateful things about America. The president explained he didn’t hear any of them. Okay? And we all gave him a pass. He gave a great speech in Philadelphia as a candidate, we said, ‘Okay, we got it.’ Now he went to that church a long time and listened to Reverend Wright a long time.
You have other cases — You have Bob Bird, who was majority leader, who was a Klan leader. You had Hugo Black, a justice, who was a Klan leader, but they were Democrats. So being in the Klan was okay. The fact is, the only African-American member of the Louisiana delegation, a Democrat, says that Steve Scalise does not have a racist bone in his body. Mia Love, the brand-new, first Republican African-American woman in Congress said he’s been extraordinarily helpful to her. Scalise is a deeply committed Catholic who condemns hate organizations, and to the best of our knowledge, gave a speech on taxes 12 years ago. Now for a 12-year-old speech to be blown up into a national story I think is, frankly, one more example of a one-sided view of reality.
Watch Part 2 of Gingrich’s appearance below: