Newt Gingrich’s walk back tour reached its zenith Tuesday night, as Gingrich personally apologized to Paul Ryan for dismissing his Medicare plan as “right wing social engineering.” In an added twist, Gingrich claims that the merest mention of his extensive condemnation of Ryan’s budget from Sunday’s Meet The Press by Democrats is now out of bounds as a result.
“Any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood, because I have said publicly those words were inaccurate and unfortunate,” he told FOX’s Greta Van Susteren. “”When I make a mistake, and I’m going to on occasion, I’m going to share with the American people that was a mistake becuase that way we can have an honest conversation.”
Democrats have been giddy — and Republicans terrified — at the prospect of new ads and messaging featuring Gingrich’s attacks on the Ryan budget as “radical change from the right” and “too big a jump” for America. Newt’s comments to FOX suggest that he’s well aware of what’s coming.
The FOX interview capped off a long day of corrections, apologies, and walkbacks that included interviews with a variety of news outlets. Politico reported earlier in the evening that Gingrich eventually phoned Ryan to apologize and that, according to Newt’s spokesman Rick Tyler, “the call went very well.” In addition, Gingrich hosted two conference calls with Tea Party leaders over the last two days. Earlier on Tuesday he held a call with conservative bloggers as well.
“I want to set a precedent for new kinds of presidential campaigns,” Gingrich told van Susteren. “I made a mistake and I called Paul Ryan today, who’s a very close personal friend, and I said that.”
Despite Newt’s increasingly apologetic tone and behavior he hasn’t actually repudiated his position that the Ryan budget is a political clunker, only some of his rhetoric. Tyler confirmed as much to Politico even as he detailed Newt’s talk with Ryan.
“Medicare is going to be part of the 2012 campaign, one way or another, and Newt would like to help the Republicans design a winning plan that the country will support,” Tyler said. “If you try to impose it on the country, you’ll pay a huge political price, you’ll be out of power and you won’t get it done.”
Gingrich’s comments on the Ryan plan and an individual mandate weren’t his only liabilities — he also had to deal with the revelation, first reported in Politico, that his wife reported in a disclosure form five years ago that they owed between $250,000 and $500,000 in debt to Tiffany’s. Newt refused to discuss the issue, despite prodding from a visibly annoyed van Susteren.
“I’m perfectly happy to talk about what we need to do for America and what we need to do for Americans, but I frankly don’t want to play the ‘gotcha’ games in Washington and I’m just not going to participate,” Gingrich said.
Here’s the whole appearance:
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.