Raising the possibility that the next Republican enjoying a surge in the polls might be a veteran political warrior, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich brought down the house early during Tuesday’s debate by suggesting that key Democratic leaders in Congress should face the possibility of jail time for their flawed oversight of financial operations leading up to the meltdown of the economy in 2008.
Asked by Washington Post national political correspondent Karen Tumulty if he stood by a recent comment that civil disturbances on Wall Street are “the natural product of Obama’s class warfare,” Gingrich doubled down much to the delight of the crowd.
“If they really want to change things the first person to fire is [Federal Reserve chairman Ben] Bernanke, who is a disaster as chairman of the Federal Reserve. The second person to fire is [Treasury Secretary] Geithner,” declared Gingrich.
“The fact is, in both the Bush and the Obama administration the fix has been in. I think it’s perfectly reasonable for people to be angry, but let’s be clear who put the fix in. The fix was put in by the federal government.
“If you want to put people in jail…” he continued, “you have to start with [Rep.] Barney Frank and [former Connecticut Sen.] Chris Dodd. Let’s look at the politicians who created the environment, and politicians who profited from the environment, and the politicians who put this country in trouble.”
Host Charlie Rose replied: “Surely you’re not saying they should go to jail?”
The former Speaker stood his ground, stating: “In Chris Dodd’s case, go back and look at the Countryside deals. In Barney Frank’s case g back and look at the lobbyist he was close to at Freddie Mac.”
Gingrich also delivered another one of his broadsides at the media.
“All I’m saying is everybody in the media who wants to go after the business community ought to stop by going after the politicians who are at the heart of the sickness that is wreaking this country,” he said, “and I want to start with Bernanke who has still not been exposed ….”
The crowd interrupted Gingrich with applause. When it died down, he continued:
“Bernanke has in secret spent hundreds of billions of dollars bailing out one group and not bailing out another group,” he said. “I don’t see anybody in the news media demanding the kind of transparency at the Fed you would demand of every other aspect of the federal government, and I think it is corrupt and wrong for one man to have that sort of secret power.”
Gingrich later called on Congress to demand that every Fed “decision document” from 2008, 2009, and 2010 be made public.
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