Jindal calls Obama worst president

Speaking to a conservative crowd in the Washington, D.C.-area Thursday, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s use of five words brought the specter of the segregationist South to his stinging criticism of the nation’s president.

The governor used his 15-minute allotment at the Conservative Political Action Conference to continue his attack on President Barack Obama’s policies. Last week, he took the president to task about the economy and the Keystone XL pipeline. On Thursday, the military downsizing and food stamp funding were in the governor’s crosshairs.

Jindal swept aside Richard Nixon’s resignation amid the Watergate scandal and Bill Clinton’s impeachment amid womanizing scandals to single out Obama as the worst president in his 42-year lifetime. He said even Democrat Jimmy Carter was a better president than Obama.

“It is no longer fair to say he (Carter) was the worst president of this great country in my lifetime. President Obama has proven me wrong,” Jindal said.

Then Jindal seemed to flip the calendar back to 1963, when then-Alabama Gov. George Wallace stationed himself between the door to the University of Alabama and two black students trying to register amid desegregation. Wallace eventually backed down. His segregationist stance became known as Stand in the Schoolhouse Door.

Jindal didn’t mention Wallace Thursday by name, but his choice of words seemed pointed. He is at odds with the Obama administration over Louisiana’s voucher program, which uses taxpayer dollars to enroll children in troubled public schools in private schools. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder raised legal concerns about the voucher program’s impact on federal desegregation orders.

The Jindal administration and the U.S. Justice Department continue to battle over the level of oversight that is needed to protect a 1975 federal court order that banned the state from taking action that supported racially discriminatory or segregated private schools.

“We’ve got Eric Holder and the Department of Justice trying to stand in the schoolhouse door to prevent minority kids, low-income kids, kids who haven’t had access to a great education the chance to go to better schools. Over 90 percent of these kids are minority children. One hundred percent of these kids are in low-income families,” Jindal said.

The governor also doled out criticism for Louisiana’s teacher unions, accusing them of throwing up roadblocks to much-needed improvements in the state’s education system. It was his use of the words “stand in the schoolhouse door” — along with his “worst president” label for Obama — that resonated. The reception of N.J. Gov. Chris Christie at CPAC in the wake of his bridge scandal might have been the news of the day, but Jindal also proved to be an attention grabber.

A few hours later, as Jindal rode in a car to the airport for the flight back to Louisiana, he seemed shocked that connections were being made between his speech and Wallace’s 1963 stance. “I wasn’t trying to compare the president to anyone in history,” Jindal said.

The governor said the Justice Department lawsuit is a civil rights issue and an American dream issue motivated by special interest groups. He accused the Obama administration of allowing teacher unions to shape its policy decisions.

A few days ago, Jindal left a meeting with the president at the White House and upset some governors by immediately criticizing Obama within spitting distance of the Oval Office. Jindal accused the president of surrendering on the economy by focusing on increasing the minimum wage. Raising the federal minimum wage would impact Louisiana, which generally mirrors the federal minimum wage.

On Thursday, Jindal said Obama wants to downsize the military while the president of Russia is invading a neighboring country. He said a weak America leads to instability.

Jindal reiterated criticisms he’s leveled at Obama on the issue of religious liberty and suggested the president seek a refund from Harvard Law School because he seemed to graduate with a poor understanding of constitutional law. He said the president has gone from attacking the Second Amendment to disliking the First Amendment.

“We have long said this president is a smart man. It may be time to revisit that assumption — or at least to make distinction between being book smart and truly wise,” the governor said.

Jindal seemed to draw a favorable reception at CPAC — an annual gathering of conservatives that draws influential figures like Americans for Tax Reform founder Grover Norquist and aspiring Republican presidential nominees. He didn’t leave the crowd in stitches, but he garnered polite applause.

This year, CPAC featured a who’s who of possible White House wannabes. They all jockeyed for favorable positions on CPAC’s end-of-conference presidential straw poll. Christie made the trek as he dips his toes back in the national political waters following the fallout from his bridge scandal. Also in attendance: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, of Kentucky; U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida; and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Donald Trump made the trip and accidentally killed off Jimmy Carter, referring to him as the late former president in his speech.

Jindal used his trip to the East Coast to also focus on America Next, his nonprofit group that is supposed to spin out solutions to national problems. He’s been raising money for the Washington, D.C.-based organization.

Back in Louisiana, Jindal will open the 2014 legislative session before, once again, boarding a plane. The governor’s next stop is New Hampshire, the site of the first of the national primaries.