Former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich on Thursday joined the chorus of those insisting that President Barack Obama keep his campaign promise to put health care reform negotiations on C-SPAN.
The video, it turns out, was irresistible. Gingrich has posted a compilation on his “health transformation” web site:
Gingrich unveiled the web video in a session with reporters after a speech to the ruling board of the Commerce Club in downtown Atlanta.
Said the former Georgia congressman:
“Since it’s the candidate’s own voice and his own face, and he’s saying it, we thought this was a great opportunity for the American people to send him a letter asking him as president to keep his word, and to insist that the negotiations be out in the open….
“This is too important an issue and too big a bill to rush it through in secret in order to meet an artificial deadline so they can have the State of the Union as a victory speech. And I think it will undermine the president’s credibility with virtually every American if he fails to keep his word.”
Gingrich was asked whether, because negotiations are a matter for a House-Senate conference committee, his message would be better addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“The objective reality is that Rahm Emanuel is the lead person in the negotiations as the president’s chief of staff….It’s up to the president to keep his own word. It’s not up to Pelosi and Reid to keep his word.”
Which the former House speaker considered very important:
“Having a president who’s made a very explicit commitment not keep their word is very dangerous, because it makes you wonder – why would you pay attention to the State of the Union.
“If he’s prepared to walk off from something he’s promised at least eight times, why would you care about his next speech? Why would you care about his next word? I think it’s very dangerous for presidents to put themselves in that position.”
Gingrich also had some preliminary talking points for his fellow Republicans, should Democrats fail to take his advice, and pass health care reform:
“If they stay inside those two bills, I think every Republican candidate in the country is going to say that they want to replace the bill with something better.
“I don’t think they’ll use the word ‘repeal.’ I think they’ll use the word ‘replace.’ We need health reform.”
We’re told that, during his session with Commerce Club leaders, Gingrich was asked about his interest in a 2012 campaign for president. The former House speaker acknowledged he was giving it some thought – and would make a decision in March or April of next year.
During his session with reporters, Gingrich was also asked about yet another flare-up of criticism aimed at Michael Steele, the Republican National Committee chairman.
The Washington Times this morning had an article linking poor RNC fund-raising and discontent with Steele among big contributors. Steele, on ABC radio, told his critics to “get with the program or get out of the way.”
Gingrich has been a defender of Steele, and Thursday was no different. He said that the RNC chairman was wrong to say that Republicans had no chance of taking the House in ‘10, and had corrected himself.
But Gingrich said continued criticism of Steele amounted to “inside-the-party cannibalism.” Said the former congressman:
“Michael Steele makes a number of old-time Republicans very nervous. He was the [GOP] chairman of a blue state, Maryland. He was the lieutenant governor of that state.
“He comes out of a very different background – he spent six years at seminary. He is an African-American. He is a physically big guy who’s noisy, and I think there are a number of Republicans who wish they could just find a good, boring, old-time Republican to be in that job so he wouldn’t make them nervous.
“On the other hand, I think he’s pretty close to what we need. He’s different, he’s gutsy, his book is tough, his book is honest. His book’s going to make a number of Republicans mad, because it says we deserved to lose in ‘06 and ‘08, and we better learn some lessons from it.
“We have a lot of Republicans who don’t want to learn, don’t want to change, and don’t want to be told it was our fault. They’d like to think it was somebody else’s far. I’m a fan of Steele. I think he is learning, I think he is smart, and I think he ultimately will be a very important part of where we’re going.
“I think people ought to relax. There’s a group who are so mad at him, that they are feeding the news media, and trying to start a fight over Steele. Steele is the chairman. The purpose of the Republican National Committee is to create a majority. They’ve done a very good job with finances. He’s raised a lot of money. We won the governorship of Virginia, we won the governorship of New Jersey. That strikes me as a pretty good starting year for him.”
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