Guy Benson
Newly-announced 2012 presidential contender Newt Gingrich was a guest on NBC's Meet the Press yesterday.  Not only did he signal qualified support for a "variation" of an individual healthcare mandate, he also used the appearance to announce his opposition to Paul Ryan's House-passed 2012 budget, terming it "radical" and "too big a jump."  Democrats everywhere: Thanks for the assist, Newt!  Gingrich's fresh, bold alternative to the Ryan plan?  Pure milquetoast:

As far as an alternative, Gingrich trotted out the same appeal employed by Obama/Reid/Pelosi — for a “national conversation” on how to “improve” Medicare, and promised to eliminate ‘waste, fraud and abuse,’etc.

“I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options,” Gingrich said. Ryan’s plan was simply “too big a jump.”

He even went so far as to compare it the Obama health-care plan. "I’m against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change.”


My head hurts.  Pop an ibuprofen or two, brace yourself, and watch the clip:

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Like other conservative commentators, I'm mystified by the task of deciphering what on earth Newt's political calculation was here.  The 2010 election was won largely by demanding a dramatic, even "radical," break from the reckless, debt-swelling welfare-state policies of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi.  Paul Ryan has crafted -- and the House has passed -- a remarkable program that enacts conservative reforms to our bloated entitlement programs, repeals Obamacare, lowers tax rates while broadening the base, massively reduces the debt, and eventually brings the budget into primary balance.  Newt Gingrich's response, evidently, is to go on national television, dismiss the plan, hand Democrats a ready-made talking point, and (why not?) talk up a central pillar of Obamacare -- for which one of his Republican competitors was raked over the coals last week.  To whom was Gingrich appealing in this interview?  What purpose did he think he was advancing?  I cannot imagine how this performance will help him with any Republican primary voters.  It could, however, earn him another spot on Nancy Pelosi's Couch Of Trust.


Via NRO, Paul Ryan's office has offered a sharp retort:

“The solutions offered by Chairman Ryan and advanced by House Republicans make no changes to Medicare for those in and near retirement, while offering a strengthened, personalized program that future generations can count on when they retire,”Sweeney says. “Far from claims of radicalism, the gradual, common-sense Medicare reforms ensure that no senior will be forced to reorganize their lives because of government’s mistakes. The most ‘radical’ course of action on Medicare is continue to cling to the unsustainable status quo.”

“Serious leaders,” he adds, without naming names, “owe seniors specific solutions to avert Medicare’s looming collapse.”


Ryan will deliver a defense of his 2012 budget blueprint in Chicago today.


UPDATE - Could this be (another) damaging flip-flop by Newt?

The former speaker sang Ryan’s praises for being a “brave” “man of ideas,” like Gingrich himself.

“But would you have voted for Ryan’s plan?” I pressed.

“Sure,” Gingrich replied.

“Do you think it would actually save the health care system?”

“No, I think it’s the first step,” Gingrich said. “You need an entirely new set of solutions.”


From a "brave first step" to "radical" in a few weeks' time?  Huh?


UPDATE - Newt responded to this brou-ha-ha on Mike Gallagher's radio show this morning:


Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography