On Newt Gingrich’s careless right-on-right attack
All manner of conservative lawmakers and conservative opinion makers are declaring Newt Gingrich’s presidential chances dead after his Sunday morning bad-mouthing of the House Republicans’ plan for reforming Medicare. A few thoughts of my own:
- Not 48 hours before his ill-advised remarks on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” in which he described the Medicare plan as a “radical” form of “right-wing social engineering,” Gingrich gave a hard-hitting speech at the Georgia GOP convention in Macon that made attendees think the former Speaker was back at the top of his game. This kind of inconsistency, compounded by two days of back-pedaling since Sunday, is one of Gingrich’s biggest problems.
- If anything could redeem Mitt Romney’s otherwise stupefying decision to stand by his Massachusetts health reforms, Gingrich’s inconsistency just might be it.
- As I mentioned in another comment thread earlier today, this episode also gives one the impression that he’s an “ideas man” who doesn’t put much thought into how he talks about ideas. That’s a bad habit to have for someone seeking an office that comes with intense scrutiny of every word uttered by its holder.
- This episode further lends credence to the idea that Gingrich is about Gingrich first, foremost and last. A Republican candidate interested in becoming president so that he can work with a GOP majority in the House, and perhaps the Senate, would not even be tempted to paint those fellow Republicans’ plans in a way that practically writes the opposition’s campaign commercials. That doesn’t mean he has to endorse every Republican idea out there, or even that he can’t openly disagree with some of them. But a critique is not the same thing as slander. It shouldn’t have been too hard to say, instead, something like, “I think the American people might well accept the House GOP plan down the road, but I think our first priority should be to take measures X, Y and Z, while we work on fine-tuning the House GOP plan and educating the public about it.”
- The specific confrontation this episode sets up between Gingrich and Rep. Paul Ryan, the budget chairman who authored the wide-ranging plan, a clear contrast between yesterday’s face of GOP thinking and today’s face. And I don’t think that’s a comparison that favors Gingrich. After all, if Republicans wanted a chance to distance themselves from Ryan and his plan, Gingrich’s remarks gave them that opportunity. The fact that no one is jumping on it says a lot about which man’s vision is more embraced.
– By Kyle Wingfield
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