By Emi Kolawole and Rachel Weiner

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning that he felt compelled to run for president in 2012 because “to not seek to help the country to fix the problems we have would have been a failure of citizenship on my part.”

The Georgia Republican laughed off the possibility of being anyone’s running mate — “Can you imagine any presidential nominee who picked me to be the vice presidential candidate?” — and he denied charges of racism, saying he thinks President Obama “loves America” but has “a different idea of what America is.”

Gingrich said he has had some difficulty separating his role as a political analyst from his desire to be a “disciplined” political leader, saying, “I think that’s a fair criticism.” He also addressed his past marital infidelity and two divorces, saying, “I’ve clearly done things that are wrong. . . . People have every right to ask the tough questions.”

Gingrich was asked to defend his past endorsements of an individual mandate for health care, and his having stood by that proposal while denying that it put him on the same side as Obama. “I believe all of us have a responsibility to help pay for health care. There are ways to do it that make libertarians relatively happy. You either have health insurance or you post a bond,” he said.

Asked if that counts as an individual mandate, something many Republicans have balked at in the past, Gingrich responded, “It’s a variation on it.” He said he would offer “a range of choices,” but that people who can afford insurance but don’t buy it because they expect to be covered are perpetuating a “free rider system.”

Gingrich also distanced himself from the plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to turn Medicare into a voucher system: “I think that that is too big a jump.” He called the plan “right-wing social engineering,” which he considers not “any more desirable than left-wing social engineering.”