Back to previous page


Newt Gingrich on Medicare: flip-flopping on the flip-flop?

By ,

Newt Gingrich may have stepped into trouble again – appearing to flip-flop on an earlier flip-flop over his statement last spring that Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plans amounted to “right-wing social engineering.”

Stephen Morton

AP

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich gestures as he speaks, Nov. 29, 2011 in Bluffton, S.C.

Recall that back in May, conservatives pounded Gingrich after he made those comments during what was widely viewed as a disastrous appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press. The next day, Gingrich appeared on Fox News to declare that he made two mistakes – answering a “hypothetical, baloney” question from host David Gregory, and then using “some of the words” he mentioned.

Then, to underscore his point, Gingrich offered a stern warning: “Any ad which quotes what I said Sunday is a falsehood and because I have said publicly, those words were inaccurate and unfortunate.”

A falsehood? Well, it looks as if Gingrich has reconsidered that view once again.

“Look, it was a technical mistake, but what I said was true,” the former speaker said Wednesday night when asked about the May dustup by Fox News host Sean Hannity.

“I was asked the question should Republicans impose a plan if it is deeply unpopular,” Gingrich continued, during a live interview on Hannity’s popular TV program. “And I said something that was written about, right-wing social engineering is as dangerous at left-wing social engineering.

“I had a lot of my conservative friends mad at me, but in fact, [the late conservative economist Friedrich] Hayek wrote it because he was right. We have an obligation to explain to the country any major reform that’s going to affect their lives until they decide they are going to accept it,” the former House speaker said. “We don’t have an elitist ability to -- we are all mad at Obama over Obamacare being imposed. Well, having a Gingrich plan being imposed wouldn’t be any better in principle because it’s still be being imposed.”

Gingrich assured Hannity that he and Ryan were good friends, that wife Calista Gingrich has known the House budget chairman since he was a congressional intern.

Nevertheless, Gingrich went on to distance himself again from the Ryan plan, which was passed by the House in April and has become attack-ad fodder for Democrats ever since.

That plan would change Medicare from the federal entitlement it has been for decades to a voucher program: Seniors who join Medicare in 2022 and beyond would receive subsidies to help pay for private insurance they would buy.

“I would approach Medicare differently,” Gingrich told Hannity. “I would actually offer his Medicare choice next year, but I would offer it as a choice that people could take if they thought it was better for them, not as an imposition.”

So then why did Gingrich so vehemently recant his original statement?

“I was trying to say something very profound,” he said, “and I frankly backed off because there was too much noise to communicate it.”

© The Washington Post Company