Steve Benen flags a blistering attack on Newt Gingrich in the Wall Street Journal, which pressed Newt to account for his attack on Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan. Newt — who has reversed himself on the Ryan plan several times already — seemed to again reiterate opposition to Ryan’s proposal, angering the Journal further:
In an interview with us yesterday, Mr. Gingrich conceded that he “probably used too strong language on TV but that “I have thought about this for a long time and I am very, very worried.” He explained that he was trying to articulate “a political strategy for long-term, sustainable change” and that Mr. Ryan ought to have focused on “incentives rather than punishments” and ”the right to choose versus being forced to choose.” He added that ”I think it would be politically catastrophic to pass the bill in its current form” at a moment when conservatives have an opportunity “to break the left for the first time since 1932.”...
Now he is trashing Mr. Ryan for thinking far more deeply about health care, and in a far more principled fashion, than Mr. Gingrich ever has. The episode reveals the Georgian’s weakness as a candidate, and especially as a potential President — to wit, his odd combination of partisan, divisive rhetoric and poll-driven policy timidity.
It’s amusing that the Journal’s response to Newt’s attack on Ryan’s plan roughly tracks with the confrontation a conservative voter in Iowa had with Newt over his Ryan apostasy. “You undercut him. You’re an embarrassment to our party,” the voter told Gingrich. “Why don’t you get out before you make a bigger fool of yourself?”
That’s pretty much what the Journal said, albeit a bit more politely. A bit.
It’s clear that breaking from the Ryan plan is going to be seen as a potential disqualifier for the presidency among conserative opinion leaders and at least some rank and file conservatives. What’s amazing is that Newt didn’t see this coming. Gingrich entered the presidential race without a coherent position on one of the central political and policy questions of the moment. Worse, it’s a political and policy question that conservatives and Republicans have already staked a great deal of political capital upon. For Newt not to have grasped the importance of getting his position straight on the Ryan plan is itself a disqualifier of sorts. Can we stop taking Newt seriously yet?