In a conference call with conservative bloggers this afternoon, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich sought to do a bit of damage control following his remarks on "Meet the Press" Sunday which seemed controversial and quite critical of House Republicans' proposal to curtail government spending. But were his remarks really lost in translation or just plain ill-conceived?
According to Gingrich, the adversarial nature of the Sunday morning program are partly to blame for the subsequent media firestorm, noting that his comments have become "much more controversial" than he intended. Instead, Gingrich insisted, the problems arose from a "confusing conversation" centered around a "very specific question" regarding the imposition of policy over the objections of a majority of Americans.
While he admitted that the language he used was probably "too strong," the former Speaker contended that his characterization of a "radical" policy of "right-wing social engineering" was not directly aimed at Ryan's plan, but at a broader idea of imposing an agenda on the electorate without first gaining their majority consent. Case in point: if Republicans proceeded to force through their budget proposal in the same way Democrats pushed ObamaCare into law, this act would be "right-wing social engineering" -- a process Gingrich says he would oppose. The firestorm over the language erupted, he said, when they ignored the specific nature of host David Gregory's question and its context about "imposing" unpopular policies.
“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.”
To reaffirm his opposition to ObamaCare and an individual mandate passed down from the federal government, Gingrich announced that he had signed a pledge earlier this morning supporting the repeal of ObamaCare. Any health care solution, he said, should respect the Tenth Amendment and the issue of health care should be turned back to the states.
We all have a responsibility to pay for our health care, he added, and Congress needs to find a way to prevent "free riders" from gaming the system.
In the call, Gingrich sought to dispel rumors of infighting within the Republican Party, especially any notion that he was battling with Ryan over the direction of the GOP. He said he has reached out to Ryan and hopes to continue working with the Wisconsin congressman and other House Republicans on budget and entitlement reform.
The Blaze reached out to Rep. Ryan's office for comment, but the call was never returnedl
"I've spent 33 years trying to help build a Republican majority," he said, insisting that he will continue to work in strengthening the GOP's majority in the House while adding seats in the Senate and battling for the White House in 2012.
One Washington Times reporter asked Gingrich about reports that he's changed his position on several issues, including Libya and cap & trade. In reply, Gingrich insisted he's always opposed cap & trade "in its current form" and noted that his opinion as "an analyst" on the situation in Libya changed as the situation unfolded.
Gingrich also insisted that if he were in Congress today he would vote for the Ryan budget resolution. "I am for the general direction" of the Ryan plan, he said, but added that he's still "very worried" about specifics.
While a budget resolution may pass, the actual legislation required to make the necessary changes is a whole separate matter. “It should be a net asset to vote for a Medicare bill,” he said. Gingrich added that Congress is going to have to pass the budget while working on support for Medicare reform as a separate issue.
"Medicare is something people really take personally -- you're dealing with nitroglycerin," he said.
"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,” he added, noting the political advantage to starting off with voluntary programs that can better adapt to issues as they arise. "Medicare is something people really take personally -- you're dealing with nitroglycerin."
With reports emerging that Democrats may use Gingrich's own statement against Republicans in political ads, the former Speaker insisted that he would be happy to help battle back by appearing in Republican ads to explain how Democrats are trying to twist words and sell fear. The question came from Jim Hoft who captured Gingrich's full response:
If the Speaker's comments on the Ryan plan were perhaps "too strong" and not reflective of his true opinion, should voters be worried about Gingrich's seemingly undisciplined messaging? "I probably shouldn't have let Gregory set terms of the question," he admitted. "Every once in a while" campaigns run into slip-ups and have to spend "three or four days fixing it."
So, did Gingrich benefit from today's clarification? Click over to the blog to see read my full take away.