Political Animal


May 16, 2011 8:00 AM GOP Medicare plan goes too far — even for Gingrich

By Steve Benen

Since House Republicans unveiled their budget plan, Democrats have focused much of their ire on the GOP’s plan to end Medicare and replace it with a privatized voucher system. For Dems, this is a radical proposal that would needlessly hurt seniors.

Democrats have been pretty successful in convincing the American mainstream the Republican proposal is an awful idea. As it turns out, they appear to have also convinced Newt Gingrich.

Days after formally announcing his candidacy for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Newt Gingrich on Sunday sharply criticized a plan by House Republicans that would drastically overhaul Medicare, the federal health care program for retirees.

Mr. Gingrich, the former speaker of the House who led a conservative resurgence in the 1990s, said the Republican Medicare plan was “too big a jump” for Americans and compared it to the health care overhaul championed by President Obama.

“I’m against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change,” Mr. Gingrich said on the NBC program “Meet the Press.”

That’s not a typo. David Gregory asked about replacing Medicare with vouchers — the host used the GOP-preferred “premium support” euphemism — and whether Gingrich would support such an approach. The disgraced former House Speaker replied, “I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”

Oh, good. In 2011, Newt Gingrich is the voice of Republican moderation.

It’s worth noting, of course, that Gingrich’s opinions on the radical House GOP budget agenda appear to be, shall we say, evolving. Jay Newton-Small traveled with Gingrich in New Hampshire a couple of weeks ago, and asked about the Paul Ryan plan, which includes Medicare privatization. Asked if he’d vote for it were he still in Congress, Gingrich said, “Sure,” adding that he sees it as a positive “first step.”

Two weeks later, he sees that same plan as “radical” and “too big a jump.”

But maybe he’s seen the light and now realizes the error of his ways. Either way, the more interesting observation here appears to the larger context. Democrats have been hammering Republicans on Medicare, and probably didn’t expect high-profile GOP voices — in this case, even a presidential candidate — to endorse the Democratic line. And yet, that’s exactly what Gingrich did on national television yesterday.

Imagine being one of the vulnerable House Republicans who stuck his or her neck out, voting for the radical GOP budget plan and fearing a voter backlash. Then imagine that same Republican watching “Meet the Press” yesterday and seeing Newt Gingrich say 98% of the House GOP caucus went too far and overreached on Medicare.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • anandine on May 16, 2011 8:05 AM:

    It is giving Gingrich too much credit to believe he has been convinced by an argument. Gingrich is entirely a political person and no more intellectually honest than Fox news. To say that anyone has convinced him about anything is to say he has made a political calculation that it is better for him personally to say X than Y.

  • Anonymous on May 16, 2011 8:07 AM:

    Oh, good. In 2011, Newt Gingrich is the voice of Republican moderation.

    With the weak Republican presidential field, maybe Pat Buchanan can step in as a voice of racial and religious tolerance.

  • pol on May 16, 2011 8:09 AM:

    Gingrich has nothing to lose. He's seen seniors scream at Republicans at town hall meetings and hopes to earn their support. He knows that no Republican presidential candidate can win without them. Why not support the issue that is dearest to them?

  • Gregory on May 16, 2011 8:11 AM:

    the host used the GOP-preferred �premium support� euphemism

    Of course he did. The so-called "liberal media" often uses the Republican-preferred euphemism, from "partial birth abortion" to "enhanced interrogation," don't they?

  • John R AKA Mr. Serf Man on May 16, 2011 8:14 AM:

    One question Newtie:
    Where are the "John Kerry Brand" Flip Flop sandals you and your cohorts were so quick to use.
    The Republican Candidates are going to pull the same bait and switch shit that the Republican Governors pulled.
    Like here in Florida
    Oh we're all about jobs and improving the economy .
    What we Got:
    Gutting of environmental protections
    Canceling High Speed rail and the 2.4 Billion that went with it.
    Gutting of Voter rights
    Privatization of prisons
    Tax Breaks for corporations
    Massive cuts to the school system funding (Governor Scott was not satisfied with being 49th out of 50 States in education)
    It goes on and on .
    Truly frightening.

  • c u n d gulag on May 16, 2011 8:18 AM:

    Bohemian Newtsody:
    "Any way the wind blows, doesn't really matter to me, to me..."

    Newt's smart enough to see that the others are fawning on a constituency that already likes him - except for the multiple affairs, divorces, and marriages. So he's got little to lose by sounding more moderate to everyone else. Just a few more 'food stamp and paycheck president' dog-whistles will remind everyone where he stands.

    I didn't watch the interview, but I heard it on Bloomberg Radio as I was driving. And heard some tough questions, and some follow-up, and I'm driving and asking myseld, who the Hell is this interviewer - sounds familiar.
    And then Newt says, "Well, David...," and I damn near drove off the road.
    Nah, can't be, he sucks!

    Sometimes hearing something gives you a different perspective than watching it.

    What did everyone think of Gregories interview?

  • joan on May 16, 2011 8:25 AM:

    I am going to regress a bit - regarding Ryan's health care plan, the house voted for it and it increases the debt, so did the house already vote to increase the debt limit by voting for this plan?

  • NHCt on May 16, 2011 8:25 AM:

    The ads kind of write themselves, don't they? "Even Newt Gingrich, leader of the Republican revolution who shut down the government twice, says the GOP plan is radical. He goes so far as to call it social engineering. And candidate X voted for it..."

  • Danp on May 16, 2011 8:26 AM:

    While Gingrich is an unprincipled phoney who shows just enough brain power to read the polls correctly, it is nice to see the "intellectual" Republican slamming the Ryan plan, and using Republican code words (social engineering) to describe it. I'm not entirely sure how forcing seniors to buy private insurance changes their behaviour in any arguably better way, but I doubt his fans will dig that deep into the logic, so Bravo, Newt.

  • hells littlest angel on May 16, 2011 8:36 AM:

    Newt is merely pandering to the non-wingnut voting bloc, which is somewhat refreshing. He's a slimy clod, but even a slimy clod can transcend itself occasionally.
    On the other hand, non-wingnuts aren't going to fall for his bullshit.

  • KurtRex1453 on May 16, 2011 8:40 AM:

    two perspectives:

    Gingrich: It doesn't take a weatherman to know which way the wind blows
    house GOP: Gringrich will never be President

  • max on May 16, 2011 8:50 AM:

    "Oh, good. In 2011, Newt Gingrich is the voice of Republican moderation."

    This is, in fact, the modern GOP. If we choose not to deal with tea party nutjobs and libertarian freaks, the default is Newt Gingrich, a pseudo intellectual whose PhD dissertion was on the Belgian Congo's education system.

  • berttheclock on May 16, 2011 9:08 AM:

    Ah, yes, that masterful Newt Dissertation where he stood four square behind the colonial policies of the Belgian officials. Only educating children through the sixth grade. Teaching them to accept Colonian Rule as being given to them by God. Not allowing the children to be able to receive higher education. Favoring the Tutsis over the Hutus (Wonder how that turned out). No wonder Mobuto overturned this farce.

    Leave it to Newt to favor Colonial Rule over the common person.

  • burro on May 16, 2011 10:30 AM:

  • Stajack on May 17, 2011 12:46 PM:

    To Steve Benen: There's a difference between vouchers and premiun support. Vouchers are direct subsidies to seniors. There aren't any vouchers in Ryan's plan, which instead calls for premium support to the companies in behalf of seniors, on a sliding scale. Get your facts straight.