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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130 comments Add your comment

Lil' Barry Bailout

May 17th, 2011
12:23 pm

Newt’s toast but has too big an ego to realize it or understand why.

Lil' Barry Bailout

May 17th, 2011
12:28 pm

How foolish do you have to be to alienate your base on Day One of your campaign?

Logical Dude

May 17th, 2011
12:29 pm

You called this one pretty well. But knowing Republicans, they may still give Gingrich some votes. I hope not, because I expect much better from the Republicans.


May 17th, 2011
12:33 pm

As I said in the previous column, Gingrich simply cannot stay on message.


May 17th, 2011
12:36 pm

Would you really expect anything less from this idiot?


May 17th, 2011
12:36 pm

Newt is right about the medicare theft, too much of it. Folk have paid the money, they deserve what was promised. Reform should not be about stiffing the American workers and citizens, it should be more about controlling costs, elimination of fraud and getting the money’s worth.

Newt’s character flaws lead to lack of trust.

ragnar danneskjold

May 17th, 2011
12:43 pm

Good analysis, Mr. Bookman. Sorry to see the decline of Gingrich, but his day is past.

retired early

May 17th, 2011
12:43 pm

If you study Newt’s past, you can’t help be conclude that while he is very intelligent, he also is supremely over confident. He believes he can think on his feet and say anything that comes to mind without fear. If his words trip him, he is a master at rationalizing his thoughts to suit the contradictions. Most importantly however, he is self centered to an extreme. It is always about Newt, not the party…the country…or his past and current wives and girl friends. He thinks he can change…but as we are witnessing almost daily is he is the same old Newt


May 17th, 2011
12:44 pm

I can’t wait for Newt’s first full-scale screaming outburst at someone who dares to question him. He’s the thinnest-skinned politico I’ve ever seen.

Sounds pretty smart to me

May 17th, 2011
12:46 pm

Single payer healthcare with a private option is the only sustainable healthcare system for our country. The irrational demand that all consumers have for healthcare, as well as the morally-based notion of providing care for ALL humans causes this to be so.

Newt and Romney are the only ones smart enough to realize this. And yes, I am a GOP supporter, employing 35 people and trying to help keep them covered. My healthcare premiums for my company are up 24% in 3 years. How is the current system sustainable? The GOP’s solutions don’t go far enough.

all you need to know about Newt...

May 17th, 2011
12:49 pm

Sounds pretty smart to me

May 17th, 2011
12:50 pm

and this allegiance to party over country has to stop somewhere. Neither party has 100% of the answers. Just not possible.


May 17th, 2011
12:50 pm

I think Newt is very, very intelligent but I think you’re dead-on about him not putting much thought into how everyone perceives the words that he chooses.

Lil' Barry Bailout

May 17th, 2011
12:52 pm

Wrong, Sounds. The only workable solution is the free market solution, in which the price mechanism balances the unreasonable demand for health care with the delivery system’s capacity. In a free market system everyone is able to purchase all the health care they want, and no one gets stuck with someone else’s bill.


May 17th, 2011
1:03 pm

Lil’ Barry what you say? A free market system everyone is able to purchase all the health care they want? What planet are you from?


May 17th, 2011
1:07 pm

I have heard comparisons of Newt and Richard Nixon I think that is who he reminds me of.


May 17th, 2011
1:09 pm

Who are the other options at a GOP candidate? You think GOP minded voters will choose a Mass. Republican? Remember, Tea Party candidates won because they went after Republicans too.

BS Aplenty

May 17th, 2011
1:11 pm

Rep. Ryan’s long-term budget proposals take on and address the sacred cows and structural causes of the U.S. budget deficits. Most of those budget cuts will hit seniors and near-seniors for whom Medicare is what’s between them and an impoverished life without healthcare. I genuinely think Republican candidates, like Mr. Gingrich, would do well near-term to NOT ALIENATE those seniors.

Long-term, Gingrich like most conscious Americans (not the unconsious ones!!) understands that the structural imbalances in our spending/taxing will have to be addressed. But I’m certain he doesn’t want to do this during his campaign and risk hanging a base-alienating albatross around his campaign. I think Mitt Romney would wish he didn’t have to drag that Massachusetts healthcare albatross throughout his campaign.

Anyway, I think several of these comments are offered by the politically naive or those who simply don’t like Gingrich personally.


May 17th, 2011
1:12 pm

Newt is extremely intelligent and has lots of worthy ideas for our country plus he has necessary political experience that would make him an excellent president. I’d vote for him. What he apparently lacks right now… is someone within his campaign staff to help coach him to be on message and to frame responses in such a way as to deliver the views he wants but in such a way as to gain acceptance instead of alienation. Newt has great ideas and we need those but he has to think first, then speak. A rocky start for sure, he can get back on track but he needs to start building momentum.

The Ghost of Lester Maddox

May 17th, 2011
1:19 pm

That loud “thud” we keep hearing is the sound of Democrats falling upon their knees in prayer that Newt will keep running and running, and taking money away from other more viable Repub candidates.

Newt’s candidacy is a gift to the Dems in much the same way that Cynthia McKinney’s candidacy would be for the Repubs.

History shows that those who instigate revolutions rarely succeed in long-term power positions which require tact and dimplomacy.

Newt ain’t gonna swing the independents, but the Democrats hope he doesn’t accept that until after election day.

Kyle Wingfield

May 17th, 2011
1:20 pm

PatPaulson: It’s been 16 years since Newt became speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. He was, as was pointed out by the host moments before he made his comments, making his 35th appearance on “Meet the Press” — not to mention all the other talk shows out there. So, a sincere question: Do you think he can learn that kind message discipline now if he hasn’t learned it already?

Lil' Barry Bailout

May 17th, 2011
1:20 pm

Darwin, the same planet where everyone is able to buy whatever car or house they want. What planet do you live on?


May 17th, 2011
1:23 pm

I agree that Newt is about Newt. And that he has an oversized ego. When you consider those 2 factors, what he said makes a lot of sense. He thinks that he will pick up the Republican nomination almost by default since so many of the potential heavy-hitter candidates are going to sit this one out because they see Obama winning. He sees himself as a giant among dwarfs and, for the most part, that is presently correct. So he is playing to the general election already and there is no doubt, whether it be the polls or the spontaneous outrage being exhibited at townhall meetings, that Ryan’s Medicare proposal is poison. Now, we have all heard Newt or his spokesmen from Newt, Inc. take a different position (or should I say “positions”) on healthcare reform so the only conclusion is that his latest position was quite calculated to help him win a general election. Nor do I think he is a lone wolf. The House Republicans did walk over the cliff like good little lemmings, but how many of their Presidential candidates, present or potential, have said anything beyond praising Ryan’s courage? Nor will you hear them as long as they have real or potential Presidential ambitions. So, maybe Newt is not so stupid after all?


May 17th, 2011
1:25 pm

Ole Newt is finding out pretty quickly that it is much easier (and popular) simply to make President Obama the root of all problems rather than actually questioning anything else.

I believe we are all beginning to see what has always been there – the base of the republican party primary voter will not allow anything less than purity of thought. In turrn, to win the nomination, one must run so far to the right than one has to abandon the swing voter who will determine the winner next November.

The only way a more pragmatic, business oriented candidate like Mitt Romney or Governor Daniels can win the republican nomination and have any hope of attracting swing voters is for the far right wing candidates to split the vote – sort of like last go around when Senator McCain benefitted.

Of course, when that happens, the far right wing republicans will sit on their hands next November.

Politics is strange business. It looks like republicans are moving toward doing the unthinkable – losing to a democrat President as weak as this one!


May 17th, 2011
1:28 pm

Kyle Wingfield: Absolutely I think Newt can learn to apply the kind of discipline to his messages that he needs but like I said, he needs a coach, someone in his staff that will help keep him on track until new habits are formed. He’s been winging it for a long time and if he’s serious about becoming president then right there is the motivation for improvement. Got to want it though. Got to show the people he’s willing to put forth the effort not just the ideas.

North Over South

May 17th, 2011
1:31 pm

Newt Gingrich is the town idiot

South over North

May 17th, 2011
1:35 pm

Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Napolitano, and Biden are the town idiots

that's goofy

May 17th, 2011
1:38 pm

Newt’s contract on America began the party before country mentality of too many politicians. It has been reinforced by talking pin heads and columnists so often that the lines between fact and opinion are blurred.

Newt like so many politicians can’t keep straight what they say from one interview to the next. Watch him on the Daily Show and then watch him on a FOX show. Same dude – different message.


May 17th, 2011
1:40 pm

Newt Gingrich has been mouthing off helter-skelter since he first entered politics in the 1970s. All you need to know about him is in his infamous 1978 speech to the Georgia College Republicans. He told these young political activists not to educate the voters, tell them what they want to hear. He trashed the Republican leadership of his generation, which meant Eisenhower, Goldwater, Taft, everybody. Finally, he applauded nastiness as a virtue in politics.

Sound familiar?

Full text here:



May 17th, 2011
1:46 pm

•This episode further lends credence to the idea that Gingrich is about Gingrich first, foremost and last

We were looking for more evidence of this? That’s like looking for more evidence of gravity.

The fact that no one is jumping on it says a lot about which man’s vision is more embraced.

But not necessarily saying anything about which vision is more in tune with the majority of the populace. You know them, right? Those pesky voters who show up in droves during Presidential election cycles — but less so during the off-years — and vote for their own economic self-interest. Destroying Medicare is clearly not going to fly with them.


May 17th, 2011
1:50 pm

Lil’ Barry Cop-Out, The words “Want”, “Need” and “Can Afford” are not interchangeable like you seem to think. I want a Ferrari. I need a Chevette. I can afford a BMW. In healthcare that does not fly. Most people eventually need the Ferrari but are stuck with the Chevette or less until they die.

insurance poor

May 17th, 2011
1:51 pm

Hate to tell little barry but when you buy a chevy, EVERYBODY pays basically the same price. When you pay for health inisurance, you don’t. I had to give mine up after I had an operation and they triple my rate to $1200.00 a month. NO WAY i could pay that. Of course now I’ve got a hernea and now I have to try and wait until I hit 65 until I can get it worked on.

Mr. Dithers

May 17th, 2011
1:54 pm

Little Barry, what planet is that? Anyone can buy the house or car they want? That’s the attitude that gave us this crushing housing crisis that is killing our economy. The free market has left over 40 million uninsured, so it seems pretty clear it doesn’t work. Or are you saying that those 40M+ don’t want insurance?


May 17th, 2011
1:55 pm

Although I dislike both Gingrich and Romney, and especially Gingrich, one must give those two at least the following credit: Unlike most other Republicans. they have not completely flip-flopped on the original Republican idea, the individual mandates in health care, which has become the heart of Obamacare.


May 17th, 2011
1:56 pm

I think Newt’s conscience is actually causing these errors, if he has one. On the one hand things come out of his brain that actually make some sense for the country but then his political-vote-winning-at-all-cost side shows up and he flip flops.


May 17th, 2011
1:58 pm

Say what you want about Obama, but his administration found Bin Laden and killed him. I guess old Bush forgot about him, as he was too busy getting us into a war with a country that had never attacked us, had no WMD, and was not part of 9-11 terrorist attacks. The problem with this country is CAPITALISM, GREED, and GOP, hey that kinda rhymes.


May 17th, 2011
2:00 pm

I am waiting on pins and needles wanting to hear the next bastion of intelligence from ole Newt. I would like him and Sara to run. The debates would be great with all the knowledge these two would bring to the voters. Just bring your dictionary when Newt is talking and then use them as a footstool while Sara speaks.


May 17th, 2011
2:09 pm

Kyle, while I agree Newt has been flip-flopping all over the place and that his remarks on Ryan’s Medicare proposal may be writing the Democrats’ campaign commercials, I disagree with your closing statements…”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.”

Noticed how quickly House Republicans have been backpedaling on Ryan’s proposal (which they passed in a partisan fashion) since their town halls meetings? House members who voted for the plan don’t seem to be embracing it as they did when they voted for it. Maybe we’ll get a chance to see how much Senate Republicans still embrace Ryan’s plan since Reid said he would bring it up for a vote.


May 17th, 2011
2:10 pm

Just a hunch but Newt probably said this to secure the senior vote. He knows the republicans will lose the senior voters who depend on Medicare if they decide to try to abolish Medicare. That’s a lot of voters. Why not go after Medicaid instead? Poor children and families don’t need healthcare. And they don’t vote either.


May 17th, 2011
2:13 pm


Judging from what he’s said, Lil’ Barry Bailout’s from right here on Planet Earth like the rest of us. I think if you weren’t quite so hung up on semantics, you’d realize what he means by that statement. In a free market system, everyone is able to purchase all the healthcare they CAN AFFORD. If you’ve got the money, sure, you can buy as much as you want.

Keep racking up the deficit borrowing internationally…keep sucking valuable money out of the domestic economy with irrational entitlement expansions…keep trying to implement a flawed, illegal healthcare system that was pushed through legislation like a battering ram…keep intensifying the tax code and elbowing small business out of the economic model…let’s see how well this works out for us. Ask Sounds if he thinks the government has helped his small business contribute to the economy, or if he thinks they’ve stifled its growth under the ever-expanding tax code and our skyrocketing entitlement costs. I know the answer already, though, because I work for a 40-employee company too.

As long as we’re going to keep expanding entitlement at the expense of productive employees, here’s an idea: instead of designing it to encourage laziness, let’s design it to reward motivation. For once, let’s have some kind of program that actually uses its money to help GET THE UNEMPLOYED BACK INTO THE WORKFORCE! Quit making the working class give them everything they need to remove themselves from society, and start giving them what they need to get a job, support themselves, and PUT MONEY BACK INTO THE ECONOMY before our deficit gets so bad that we default on our loans and teach China a hard lesson for trusting us with their money.

I love the 90s!

May 17th, 2011
2:14 pm

I love Newt!


May 17th, 2011
2:15 pm

The Repubs loved indivdual mandates until Obama embraced them. I’m no fan of Newt, but here he is speaking the truth. The vast majority of Americans are against the Ryan plan because it IS radical, and individual mandates are only fair. Why should I pay for your ER visits simply because you can afford health insurance but refuse to get it? I thought individual responsibility was the foundation of modern Republicanism.

joe six-pack

May 17th, 2011
2:20 pm

While I generally vote democrat and lean a bit to the left, if I had to choose a Republican to be president I’d take Gingrich simply because he has a grasp of the issues. I’ll take substance over style. Obviously, if he is so obnoxious that Congress refused to work with him, then him being President would be pointless as no one would listen to his ideas.

So he also has some moral baggage. So did Clinton but Clinton showed himself capable.


May 17th, 2011
2:24 pm

While I am a Dem and no fan of Newt, I believe him to be incredibly intelligent. If he can stay on message, I think he’d be a formidable candidate.

Speaking of candidates, Kyle – what do you think of Huntsman or Daniels?

Mr. Dithers

May 17th, 2011
2:26 pm

Lefty, wasn’t this column about semantics and how you say things in order to get ideas across? The way you say things is important. President Bush learned that a little late in the game. There is a huge difference between a free market where everyone can buy as much of everything as they want and one where one can buy what they can afford. Barry’s talking about “unreasonable demand for health care” and says “everyone can purchase all the health care they want” and that is patently untrue. You just can’t ignore a statement like that. A lot of people can’t even purchase the health care they NEED in this market, let alone all they want.

Road Scholar

May 17th, 2011
2:28 pm

Why don’t the repubs cut the budget on things that THEY support? Military spending? Foreign aid? Sole source contracts? Tax breaks for businesses? Big oil?

I know the last two are “tax increases”, but there is two sides to the equation…Income and expenditures!

FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real)

May 17th, 2011
2:29 pm

“If combat means living in a ditch, females have biological
problems staying in a ditch for thirty days because they
get infections and they don’t have upper body strength. I
mean, some do, but they’re relatively rare. On the other hand,
men are basically little piglets, you drop them in the ditch,
they roll around in it, doesn’t matter, you know. These things
are very real. On the other hand, if combat means being on an
Aegis-class cruiser managing the computer controls for twelve
ships and their rockets, a female may be again dramatically
better than a male who gets very, very frustrated sitting in
a chair all the time because males are biologically driven to
go out and hunt giraffes.”
Newt Gingrich

Classic Newt – ‘nuf said…


May 17th, 2011
2:31 pm

The Republicans seem determined to present nothing but loser candidates to the public. The current Republican list is so bad it actually makes Obama look good. Could it be they think Obama can’t be beat in 2012?


May 17th, 2011
2:45 pm

According to Kyle, when the Grinch blasts Democrats with over the top rhetoric like he did in Macon, he is “on top of his game”. However, when his “not staying on message” is directed towards Republicans, his rhetoric needs to take the form of criticism and not slander.
Rather revealing Kyle.


May 17th, 2011
2:49 pm

Newt is one strange fellow. I use to see Newt all the time when I worked in DC on K St. NW. Newt was always alone, walking by himself in the park, across from his K St. law firm. People would walk up to him just to shake his hand or discuss the latest events. One morning after 9/11 I saw Newt crossing the street going into his building and I asked him who’s side are the American People on? The Arabs or the Jews? Newt said “somebody had better fugure it out or we all are in big trouble”. Newt is one republican who can either bring the American People together or divide us more than we are today. The question for Newt is what side are you on Newt? The American People or the homegrown terrorist group(s) known as the “tea party” whose weapons of choice are hatred, fear and rage/mob mentality against minorities, women, gays & lesbians and Muslims & Jews.