Offering up a new excuse for calling Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan “right wing social engineering,” Newt Gingrich blamed his comments on harsh questioning from Meet The Press host David Gregory.
In a conference call Tuesday with conservative bloggers, Gingrich said that he was unprepared for a series of “gotcha” questions on individual mandates and the Ryan budget, both of which had been major stories for days before the interview.
“I didn’t go in there quite hostile enough, because it didn’t occur to me going in that you’d have a series of setups,” Gingrich said, according to the Washington Examiner. “This wasn’t me randomly saying things. These were very deliberate efforts to pick fights.”
His argument echoes past excuses from neophyte politicians like Sarah Palin and Rand Paul for politically damaging interviews early on in their campaigns. But unlike Palin and Paul, Newt has been a public figure for decades, giving hundreds of nationally televised interviews in a variety of settings and formats in that span. He has appeared on Meet The Press some 35 times alone, according to NBC, although host David Gregory only took over in 2008.
Newt took particular exception with Gregory’s use of a clip from 1993 of him defending the use of an individual mandate to purchase insurance. Gingrich, who has backed the use of mandates in health care legislation throughout the last twenty years and defended them to Gregory on Sunday, released a video yesterday firmly repudiating the idea of a federal individual mandate. According to Newt today, mandates were just one of those things that you tried in the 1990s if you were a prominent Republican.
“It’s nonsense to start a conversation by going back 18 years and playing ‘gotcha,’” he said in the conference call. “I was explaining the position of conservatives who were trying to defeat HillaryCare. In 1993, you had nothing like the current focus on the 10th amendment. You had nothing like the current desire to get power out of Washington. And you didn’t have the sense of radicalism that Obama has injected into the system, in the sense of drifting toward a socialized bureaucratic structure that runs the whole country.”
Gingrich said he had reached out to Ryan and would speak to him today. Nonetheless, he stood his ground in opposing Ryan’s plan, which he said Sunday was “radical change” and “too big a jump.”
“Medicare is not like anything else,” Gingrich said in the call. “Medicare is something that people really take personally. You’re dealing with nitroglycerin.”
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.