Mike Needham

Thus begins the riddle of Newt Gingrich. More often than not, he’s moving in the right direction, but he is more than willing to deviate from a principled path, especially when it comes to issues of energy and health care.

Gingrich’s record on spending provides another telling example. Overall, Gingrich is a fervent supporter of reducing the size and scope of government. From Gramm-Rudman and a balanced budget amendment to welfare reform, he has been on the right side of the issue. Most notably, however, was his strong support of the Medicare drug benefit bill, which now has $16 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

Despite his Medicare mistakes, Gingrich’s position on entitlement reform includes strong support for personal accounts for Social Security, block-granting Medicaid to the states and an equal tax treatment of health care expenses. He is also expected to outline his health care reform ideas later this week

When it comes to regulation, the Club artfully notes, “Gingrich’s penchant for tinkering undermines his otherwise very strong record of pro-growth deregulation.” Indeed, from Sarbanes-Oxley to Dodd-Frank, Gingrich has opposed some of the most destructive regulations of our time. However, on the issue of energy, the lifeblood of our economy, Gingrich’s record is alarming. In addition to defending the federal government’s perverse ethanol policies, Gingrich sat on a couch with Nancy Pelosi urging Congress to enact a cap-and-trade scheme. It’s all very telling.

In a debate with Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Gingrich has said, “I would agree you would get more change more rapidly with an incentivized market rather than a laissez-faire approach.” Conservatives are rightly skeptical when politicians talk about government incentivizing the market.

The Club concludes that Gingrich’s record “leads one to be rather unsure what kind of president Newt Gingrich would be.” Gingrich’s unscripted incident on Meet the Press only serves to confirm that uncertainty.

Mike Needham

Mike Needham is the Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Action for America, a grassroots advocacy organization dedicated to advancing legislation that promotes freedom, opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.