Let the walkback begin! After dismissing Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan as “right-wing social engineering” and “radical” on Meet The Press yesterday, Newt Gingrich looked to downplay their differences on Monday.
Newt’s spokeswoman, Rick Tyler, blamed the media for misinterpreting his boss’ comments, which included comparing Ryan’s plan to President Obama’s health care law. He confirmed that Gingrich favored using a privatized voucher system along the lines of Ryan’s, but wanted to maintain a traditional Medicare system as well.
“There is little daylight between Ryan and Gingrich,” Tyler wrote in an e-mail to the Weekly Standard. “But look how it gets reported. Newt would fully support Ryan if it were not compulsory. We need to design a better system that people will voluntarily move to. That is a major difference in design but not substance.”
Tyler also softened Newt’s condemnation of Ryan’s ideas as “radical change from the right,” a phrase that Democrats are unlikely to forget any time soon in prosecuting their campaign against Medicare privatization.
“Radical means that politically you can’t get to what Ryan wants from where we are,” Tyler said. “It will be demagogued to death. Right wing social engineer refers simply to compelling people to participate without giving them a choice. That is a political mistake.”
Newt’s comments Sunday came at exactly the wrong time for House Republicans, who are trying to relaunch their Medicare plan this week. Ryan will take the lead himself with a speech in Chicago this week on the topic.
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.