Limbaugh Challenges Gingrich's Strange Denials

Thursday, 19 May 2011 10:19 PM

By Hiram Reisner

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich insisted to Rush Limbaugh Thursday, contrary to what has been widely reported and evidenced by transcripts, that he never criticized House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform plan during his Sunday appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Gingrich, a presidential candidate for the GOP nomination, also told the nation's top talker during his daytime radio show that he never backed an individual mandate requiring every citizen to get health insurance.

Gingrich seemed to tell Limbaugh and his audience not to believe their "lyin' eyes and ears."

The obfuscation and flip-flops apparently didn't wash with Limbaugh, who seemed incredulous by Gingrich's claims.

Gingrich, calling into Limbaugh’s show from campaigning in Iowa, said that when he used the phrase “right-wing social engineering” in the NBC interview with host David Gregory he was not attacking the GOP-supported Ryan proposal.

Gingrich told Limbaugh, “. . . by the way, it was not a reference to Paul Ryan — there was no reference to Paul Ryan in that answer.”

Limbaugh shot back, asking why, if Gingrich never criticized Ryan, he felt the need to apologize to him.

After giving a rambling response and never answering the question, Gingrich was asked a second time why he felt the need to apologize to Ryan.

“It was interpreted in a way which was causing trouble which he doesn’t need or deserve," Gingrich said. “My answer wasn’t about the budget, and I promptly went back to say publicly that I would have voted for the Ryan budget.”

The verbatim transcript from “Meet the Press” shows that Gingrich clearly did criticize Ryan.

Here's the key excerpt from "Meet the Press":

GREGORY: What about entitlements? The Medicare trust fund, in stories that have come out over the weekend, is now going to be depleted by 2024, five years earlier than predicted. Do you think that Republicans ought to buck the public opposition and really move forward to completely change Medicare, turn it into a voucher program where you give seniors some premium support and so that they can go out and buy private insurance?

GINGRICH: 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. I think we need a national conversation to get to a better Medicare system with more choices for seniors.

GREGORY: But not what Paul Ryan is suggesting, which is completely changing Medicare.

GINGRICH: I think that that is too big a jump. I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options, not one where you suddenly impose upon the — I don’t want to — I’m against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change.


Limbaugh also asked Gingrich about his position in favor of the individual mandate, a key part of the Obamacare proposal Gingrich says he opposes.

Limbaugh said: “There seems to be some confusion over your position — or people’s understanding of your position — on the individual mandate, and it goes back to ‘Meet the Press’ on Sunday where you seemed to say that you were for a mandate, then later said you weren’t.”

Gingrich launched into a convoluted response saying he was talking to Gregory about a position he held in 1993 — basically that was then, and this is now.

“David Gregory brought up an 18-year-old interview, in 1993, on Hillarycare, which we were in the process of defeating. And in 1993, the conservative alternative to government-run healthcare was you buying your own insurance,” Gingrich said. “Now, I still have not seen the total interview. What I should have said to him is, ‘Gee, why don’t you play the rest of the interview? Let's see the context of that conversation,’ but that was an 18-year-old tape about a totally different fight when we were trying to stop Hillarycare from taking over healthcare.”

Limbaugh countered that he had Gingrich quotes from 2004 and 2006 advocating the same position; Gingrich responded he was now opposed to mandates.

Gingrich, in fact, has long argued that every U.S. citizen should be required to purchase health insurance or post a bond. Immediately after his "Meet the Press" interview, Gingrich only insisted he opposed a "federal mandate" for health insurance -- implying he would be open to a state mandate.

In his interview with Limbaugh, Gingrich's position evolved once again.

Gingrich said: “I’m opposed to any federal mandate. I do not believe any state should adopt a mandate. I think there are ways to solve the problem without a mandate. But we’re trying to solve three things: preserve American freedom; ensure that people can have health care; and have some sense of responsibility that if you do get healthcare, you ought to pay for it, which is the opposite of the liberal position that you ought to have free healthcare and somebody else ought to take care of you. So I think that’s a very — that position is very clear.”

Faced with Gingrich's double-talk, Limbaugh said he was still confused and conceded “this is really uncomfortable for me because you know that we've known each other a long time.

“There’s a June 2007 op-ed in the Des Moines Register, and you wrote, ‘Personal responsibility extends to the purchase of health insurance. Citizens should not be able to cheat their neighbors by not buying insurance, particularly when they can afford it, and expect others to pay for their care when they need it,’” Limbaugh said. “An ‘individual mandate,’ you added, should be applied ‘when the larger health-care system has been fundamentally changed.’”

“And that’s why people are constantly asking you about this. What they want is a satisfying, reassuring answer. They just don’t want to think you're not conservative anymore, Newt.”

Here's the key excerpt from "Meet the Press":

GREGORY: What you advocate there is precisely what President Obama did with his healthcare legislation, is it not?

GINGRICH: No, it’s not precisely what he did. In, in the first place, Obama basically is trying to replace the entire insurance system, creating state exchanges, building a Washington-based model, creating a federal system. I believe all of us — and this is going to be a big debate — I believe all of us have a responsibility to help pay for healthcare. I think the idea that . . .

GREGORY: You agree with Mitt Romney on this point.

GINGRICH: Well, I agree that all of us have a responsibility to pay — help pay for healthcare. And, and I think that there are ways to do it that make most libertarians relatively happy. I’ve said consistently we ought to have some requirement that you either have health insurance or you post a bond . . .

GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

GINGRICH: . . . or in some way you indicate you're going to be held accountable.

GREGORY: But that is the individual mandate, is it not?

GINGRICH: It's a variation on it.

GREGORY: OK.

GINGRICH: But it’s a system . . .

GREGORY: And so you won't use that issue against Mitt Romney.

GINGRICH: No. But it’s a system which allows people to have a range of choices which are designed by the economy. But I think setting the precedent — you know, there are an amazing number of people who think that they ought to be given healthcare. And, and so a large number of the uninsured earn $75,000 or more a year, don’t buy any health insurance because they want to buy a second house or a better car or go on vacation. And then you and I and everybody else ends up picking up for them. I don’t think having a free rider system in health is any more appropriate than having a free rider system in any other part of our society.

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