Newt Gingrich knows his Sunday appearance on Meet the Press did not go well. His comments turned out to be “much more controversial than I intended them to be,” he told a conference call of conservative bloggers this afternoon.
He blames himself for not being “hostile enough” toward Meet the Press host David Gregory, and should not have “allowed him to set the terms of the question” about Gingrich’s past support for the concept of individual mandates. He claims he accurately “stated the conservative position on HillaryCare in that 1993 video” Gregory ran during the interview, and feels his “later two and a half years of work opposing ObamaCare should have negated that 18 second clip from 18 years ago.”
He does not regard those prior statements as relevant to the ObamaCare debate at all. Gingrich sees 1993 as a bygone era when “nothing like the current forces on the Tenth Amendment and smaller government” were in play. He believes the terms of the debate have changed profoundly in the age of Obama. He wants to assure conservatives his opposition to ObamaCare is complete and unyielding. To that end, he reported that this morning, he signed the ObamaCare Repeal Pledge circulated by Independent Women’s Voice.
He doesn’t like being pitted against Representative Paul Ryan in the media, and promised to “cut an ad for anyone the Democrats use my comments against.” He’s probably going to spend a lot of time cutting those ads.
“I have lavishly praised Ryan,” said Gingrich, “and consider his budget plan a brilliant idea.” He said he would vote in favor of the plan if he were still in Congress, because “it moves the process forward.”
The “process” he refers to is a very delicate one. He believes the “scale of change” Republicans are proposing for America is “very large, and affects people’s lives in a very intimate way.” Gingrich firmly believes such change should not be imposed. It’s a concept he returned to numerous times during the discussion.
“I am concerned with compelling people to go through a radical change that has not been tested,” he said of Ryan’s proposed Medicare reforms. If that seems to contradict his lavish praise of Ryan’s plan, it should be noted that Gingrich believes the Medicare reforms should be separated from the rest of the Path to Prosperity budget. This would deny the Democrats an opportunity to “freeze us in place” and have President Obama “play Harry Truman against us.” With a rueful chuckle, he asked, “Does anyone think we could get the Ryan budget past a Democrat Congress, and the Obama White House?”
Gingrich believes we stand at the beginning of the long process of convincing the American people to accept serious reforms. He sees health care, and especially Medicare, as the most forbidding battlefields for small-government conservatives. “Health care is ten times more complicated than national security,” he mused.
Gingrich went on to explain that “Medicare is not like anything else. It’s something people take personally.” He fears the political backlash from angry seniors, if dramatic changes are imposed, rather than being offered as freely chosen alternatives. “Seniors like to be told they have the right to choose,” he observed. “They hate to be told they have to choose.”
“Conservatives believe in the free market,” Gingrich asserted. “We should be able to offer a better plan than the liberals.” He would defeat their ideas through competition, rather than engaging in the “right-wing social engineering” he famously cautioned against on Meet the Press. He defended that choice of words by asking, “If you change the largest single social program against the wishes of the people… what else would you call it?”
He believes that instead of forcibly reconstructing society according to conservative principles, Republicans should “seek an unusual level of authority from the people themselves.” This would make the changes needed to reform fiscal sanity dramatic, but not radical. He puts great emphasis on the need for the American people to voluntarily choose every aspect of the future proposed by his party.
Summing up the unexpectedly rough start to his presidential campaign, Newt Gingrich noted that “Ronald Reagan didn’t have a very good first week either.” Week Two is about to begin.