Does Newt Gingrich know what he believes? It’s a serious question. The guy that is often seen as a leading intellectual behind the conservative movement and is hoping to be the Republican presidential nominee is sure making some big mistakes in his first week as a candidate.
Over the weekend, Gingrich slammed the budget plan presented by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) for “right-wing social engineering”:
Newt Gingrich’s appearance on “Meet the Press” today could leave some wondering which party’s nomination he is running for. The former speaker had some harsh words for Paul Ryan’s (and by extension, nearly every House Republican’s) plan to reform Medicare, calling it “radical.”
“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” he said when asked about Ryan’s plan to transition to a “premium support” model for Medicare. “I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”
As far as an alternative, Gingrich trotted out the same appeal employed by Obama/Reid/Pelosi — for a “national conversation” on how to “improve” Medicare, and promised to eliminate ‘waste, fraud and abuse,’ etc.
“I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options,” Gingrich said. Ryan’s plan was simply “too big a jump.”
The comments are interesting considering the fact that Gingrich said just two weeks ago that he would have voted for the plan; calling it a “first step.” Why the sudden turn around? Not just turning around, but with comments that sound like the could have come from President Barack Obama.
Ryan hit back at Gingrich yesterday:
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) took a swipe Monday at Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich after the former House Speaker criticized his proposed Medicare reforms.
“With allies like that, who needs the left?” Ryan told guest host Raymond Arroyo on conservative talker Laura Ingraham’s radio show.
Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, defended his 2012 budget proposal that includes significant reforms to Medicare.
Ryan strongly disputed Gingrich’s description of his plan, which House Republicans approved last month.
“Hardly is that social engineering and radical,” he said. “What’s radical is kicking the can down the road.”
Over at the Washington Examiner, Byron York notes that some Republicans are furious with Gingrich’s comments, pointing to scathing remarks made yesterday by talk show host Bill Bennett, a former Reagan Administration official:
Bill Bennett, who knows Gingrich well but is also close to Ryan, reacted angrily to Gingrich’s remarks. Referring to Ryan’s Medicare plan as “right-wing social engineering” is, Bennett said, “an unforgivable mistake, in my judgment.” Bennett went on to say that Gingrich “has taken himself out of serious consideration for the  race.”
Gingrich’s remarks rankled for three reasons. One, they hurt the Republican plan. Two, they were particularly disdainful; Gingrich didn’t just said that he disagreed with Ryan, he referred to Ryan’s plan as “right-wing social engineering.” And three, they contradicted what Gingrich himself has said about Ryan’s budget.
To make that last point, Bennett played a clip of an interview he conducted with Gingrich on April 5, barely more than a month ago. At that time, Gingrich was full of praise for the Ryan budget. “Paul Ryan has stepped up to the plate,” Gingrich said. “This is a very, very serious budget and I think rivals with [what] John Kasich did as budget chairman in getting to a balanced budget in the 1990s, just for the scale and courage involved…”
“Paul Ryan is going to define modern conservatism at a serious level,” Gingrich continued on April 5. “You can quibble over details but the general shape of what he’s doing will define 2012 for Republicans.”
It doesn’t end there for Gingrich. During the same shows where he made the comments on Ryan’s budget proposal and as I mentioned yesterday, Gingrich also indicated that he supported the individal mandate to deal with “free riders.” Here is Gingrich in his own words:
I’ve said consistently we ought to have some requirement that you either have health insurance or you post a bond or in some way you indicate you’re going to be held accountable.
And just so there is no ambiguity, here is the video:
He doesn’t call it the individual mandate, but what the hell else do you call what he is saying? Gingrich clearly believes that there should be a requirement on individuals to purchase health insurance. ObamaCare explicitly requires individuals to purchase health insurance coverage or pay a punitive tax, a way to discourage these “free-riders”; which as Philip Klein notes is really a red-herring.
No, no…that was Newt Gingrich on Sunday. It’s what he said on Monday that matters! Here is the latest from John Kerry…errr, Newt Gingrich:
The damage Gingrich has done, not only to himself, but to the eventual Republican nominee cannot be understand. As Doug Mataconis said, “I can see the Democratic ads now: Even Newt Gingrich doesn’t support the Ryan Plan, and he thinks there should be an individual mandate.” After all, Obama will have the “intellectual leader of [the conservative] movement” (as he was called by Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity in 2009) backing him up.