I don’t know if the start to Newt Gingrich’s start of his 2012 campaign is the worst we’ve ever seen, but I’m sure it is pretty close. He’s had a horrible week (and it isn’t even finished!). Unfortunately for him it was a mess of his own making. Can he recover? I am not sure he will bounce back. If this were baseball he looks like he struck out.
Strike One: His interview on Sunday with NBC’s David Gregory hit the wrong notes when they discussed Medicare:
MR. GREGORY: What about entitlements? The Medicare trust fund, in stories that have come out over the weekend, is now going to be depleted by 2024, five years earlier than predicted. Do you think that Republicans ought to buck the public opposition and really move forward to completely change Medicare, turn it into a voucher program where you give seniors…
REP. GINGRICH: Right.
MR. GREGORY: …some premium support and–so that they can go out and buy private insurance?
REP. GINGRICH: I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate. I think we need a national conversation to get to a better Medicare system with more choices for seniors. But there are specific things you can do. At the Center for Health Transformation, which I helped found, we published a book called "Stop Paying the Crooks." We thought that was a clear enough, simple enough idea, even for Washington. We–between Medicare and Medicaid, we pay between $70 billion and $120 billion a year to crooks. And IBM has agreed to help solve it, American Express has agreed to help solve it, Visa’s agreed to help solve it. You can’t get anybody in this town to look at it. That’s, that’s almost $1 trillion over a decade. So there are things you can do to improve Medicare.
MR. GREGORY: But not what Paul Ryan is suggesting, which is completely changing Medicare.
REP. GINGRICH: I, I think that, I think, I think that that is too big a jump. I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options, not one where you suddenly impose upon the–I don’t want to–I’m against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change.
Unfortunately Americans are looking for radical change, and unless radical change is done this program will be bankrupt soon. His answer minus the “right wing social engineering” and “radical” comments isn’t that bad, but he did make those comments. His response in Des Moines, IA on Monday when a member of the audience asked about his comments on Sunday would have been much, much more palatable. You can watch the video below:
He has been attempting to clarify and defend his positions, but it may be in vain. As a result of his promiscuous talk he has unleashed not only a conservative media backlash, but a backlash from those he is trying to win over which could end up repeated in states like Iowa and New Hampshire which require retail politicking. Unless he’s going to avoid talking to people. He’s even getting blasted by Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) which certainly isn’t going to help him win the South Carolina primary.
Strike Two: Later on in his interview with Gregory they discuss individual mandates:
MR. GREGORY: All right, let me ask you about another hot-button issue in the Republican primary, of course, and that’s health care. Mitt Romney having to defend his proponent–that he was a proponent of universal health care in Massachusetts, and specifically around this idea of the individual mandate where you make Americans buy insurance if they don’t have it. Now, I know you’ve got big difference with what you call Obamacare. But back in 1993 on this program this is what you said about the individual mandate. Watch.
REP. GINGRICH: I am for people, individuals–exactly like automobile insurance–individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance. And I am prepared to vote for a voucher system which will give individuals, on a sliding scale, a government subsidy so we insure that everyone as individuals have health insurance.
MR. GREGORY: What you advocate there is precisely what President Obama did with his healthcare legislation, is it not?
REP. GINGRICH: No, it’s not precisely what he did. In, in the first place, Obama basically is trying to replace the entire insurance system, creating state exchanges, building a Washington-based model, creating a federal system. I believe all of us–and this is going to be a big debate–I believe all of us have a responsibility to help pay for health care. I think the idea that…
MR. GREGORY: You agree with Mitt Romney on this point.
REP. GINGRICH: Well, I agree that all of us have a responsibility to pay–help pay for health care. And, and I think that there are ways to do it that make most libertarians relatively happy. I’ve said consistently we ought to have some requirement that you either have health insurance or you post a bond…
How is posting a bond any different than what Obama wanted to do? How is this constitutional? The individual mandate is what 27 states are going after and he just backs them. Then in Des Moines I have him on video talking to a CNN reporter saying he didn’t agree with federal mandates (watch below)
If he is totally against a federal mandate, and believes it is a bad idea then why say you’re for forcing individuals to buy health insurance or post a bond? Isn’t that a mandate? Um, yes.
Foul Ball: I won’t count it as a strike, but his aide’s defense of his statements was completely asinine. I don’t believe you can consider the former Speaker of the House a Washington outsider.
Strike Three: The half a million dollars worth of debt racked up at Tiffany’s in 2005. Did he think that wouldn’t come up? Who needs that much jewelry and his personal spending habits can make or break his fiscal conservative credibility. Consider it shot.
Gingrich had better pray we’re playing peewee ball.
Photo by Dave Davidson