Conference call with Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich opened by saying that his remarks on MTP were not intended to be controversial, but says that David Gregory and the venue are partly to blame.  For instance, the references to food stamps and Detroit during his interview were not “racist”, despite the claims made on the show.  This shows the adversarial nature of the program.

Gingrich then said that the problems arose from a “confusing conversation” around a “very specific question” about imposing change over objections in the electorate. He admitted that he used language that was “too strong,” but that critics were ignoring the specific nature of the question and its context about “imposing” unpopular solutions.  Gingrich announced that he signed a pledge to repeal ObamaCare this morning, saying that he was the first Presidential candidate to do so in this cycle, and that any health-care solution should respect the Tenth Amendment.  Congress has to find a way to have people pay for the health care they receive rather than act as “free riders.”

He will reach out to Paul Ryan and hopes to find a way to work with them on budget and entitlement reform.  He also says that he will work hard to strengthen the House Republican majority and take the majority in the Senate.


  • Kerry Picket — People are talking about your changing positions on several issues, including Libya and cap-and-trade — Gingrich says he has always been clear on his opposition to cap and trade.  On Libya, he says he was responding to changes in the situation as an analyst.  He rejects the notion that an 18-year-old remark on mandates during the HillaryCare debate.  “The scale of change we are proposing is very, very large and affects people in an intimate way,” Gingrich says. “We want to make sure that the American people support it.”
  • Me: Would you still vote for Ryan’s plan as you said to Time? — I would vote for the budget, Gingrich says, but the bill on making the necessary changes is another matter.  “It should be a net asset to vote for a Medicare bill,” Gingrich says.  Follow-up: Is it possible to separate the Medicare entitlement from the budget?  Gingrich says yes, and that we are going to have to pass the budget while building support for some kind of Medicare reform in parallel.
  • On another question, Gingrich responded that “seniors like to be told that they can choose, but hate being told that they must choose … Part of what I’m worried about is compelling people to adapt to radical change that has yet to be tested.”  There is an advantage to starting off with voluntary programs, Gingrich argues, with a few hundred thousand volunteers, that allow the program to adapt to issues as they arise on a much more manageable scale.  He’s still in favor of a premium-support model.
  • Jim Hoft: How will you respond to Democrats who plan to use your statement in political ads?  Gingrich says that he will be glad to cut ads for candidates explaining that Democrats are trying to sell fear.  They’re doing exactly what FDR warned against.
  • Red County: You have a reputation for being undisciplined.  Is this fair, and if it is, how do you plan to address it? – If anything, Gingrich says, he didn’t go into the MTP interview “quite hostile enough.”  He has the problem of talking like an analyst rather than a candidate.  “Every once in a while, you have a problem and you have to spend three or four days fixing it.”
  • Guy Benson: How specifically is Ryan’s Medicare plan “right wing social engineering”? – What term would you use to describe imposing unpopular solutions on the electorate?  If the American people voluntarily change the system, then that’s not social engineering but a demonstration of a free society.

Ben Domenech objected to the assumption in my question, saying that support for Ryan’s budget doesn’t necessarily mean support for the bills that pass the budget into law.  It’s true that budgets are spending plans, not specific authorizations, and that much depends on the language in the bills themselves.  But when people hear about “Ryan’s plan,” as Time reporter Jay Newton-Small phrased her question, they’re generally talking about his plans to reform Medicare, not how much money he plans to spend on the Department of Justice.  Even allowing for that, though, Ryan’s budget plan relies on the reform of Medicare, as it posits a significant reduction in deficit spending from mandatory programs.

Update: Did Gingrich help himself with the conference call?  I’m not sure that helped or hurt himself.  He expressed a lot of appreciation for Ryan’s work, but once again warned about “radical change.”  Further, I’m still a little unconvinced on the point about voluntary change that Gingrich keeps making.  It sounds like an argument to do nothing and wait for public opinion to come around before advancing solutions — which may not be a bad strategy for issues that aren’t terribly acute.  We’re running a $1.6 trillion annual deficit now, though, and our national debt is rapidly approaching 100% of our GDP.  Shouldn’t elected officials demonstrate some leadership in a crisis?

Update II: Jim Geraghty points out that Newt has taken the party on before — with bad results.