A pro-Romney group is savaging Newt Gingrich with TV ads and mailers to Iowa Republicans. Gingrich dismisses the attacks as “lies.” We find that some of the claims from Restore Our Future are indeed distorted, false or misleading. But several are also right on target.
- A TV spot makes a distorted claim that Gingrich co-sponsored a bill containing money for a United Nations program “supporting China’s brutal one-child policy.” The truth is that bill specifically prohibited the use of funds for “involuntary sterilization or abortion,” or “the coercion of any person to accept family planning services.” The funding in question was a small part of a much larger bill which died before ever coming up for a vote.
- The same ad says Gingrich earned “$30,000 an hour” from Freddie Mac — an exaggeration. His firm got between $25,000 and $30,000 a month and Gingrich said he personally spent only about one hour per month meeting with Freddie Mac officials. But his firm had many employees and overhead expenses, too.
On the other hand, the ad is essentially accurate on other points.
- It says that when he was speaker of the House, he supported “taxpayer funding of some abortions,” and back then he did express support for the Hyde Amendment, which was largely aimed at prohibiting federal funding of abortions through Medicaid, but which allowed exceptions in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the life of the mother.
- It says he was the “only speaker in history to be reprimanded” and “was fined $300,000 for ethics violations by a Republican Congress.” That’s all true, though Gingrich prefers not to call the $300,000 payment a “fine.”
- It says he “teamed up with Nancy Pelosi on global warming,” and he did indeed appear in a TV commercial with Pelosi to urge unspecified federal action to address climate change. He later opposed Pelosi’s cap-and-trade bill, however.
- And the ad accurately quotes the conservative National Review saying that Gingrich was a poor speaker because of “his weakness for half-baked (and not especially conservative) ideas.”
Similarly, a flier the group mailed to GOP voters claims that “Gingrich has flip flopped” on 11 specific issues. We found that’s mostly correct: Gingrich has changed his position completely, or partially, on eight of those issues. We found his positions have been consistent enough for us to assign a “no flip” rating on only three of those issues.
But even that may not comfort Gingrich. One position we found to be reasonably consistent over the years is not particularly popular with the target audience for this mailer. He’s expressed continuing support for some sort of requirement that individuals carry health insurance, even while saying he’d repeal the individual mandate embodied in President Obama’s new health care law.
We also found Gingrich has been consistent in his criticism of the United Nations and his calls for changes under threat of cutting funding from U.S. taxpayers. And we found that his position on the 2009 stimulus measure soured as Democrats modified it, but isn’t inconsistent with his support of earlier versions.
However, we find that Gingrich reversed his position on five issues: using a cap-and-trade approach to reducing carbon emissions, U.S. intervention in Libya, using human embryos for research, the bank bailout bill, and support for Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to gradually convert Medicare from a government insurance program to a system of government subsidies for obtaining private insurance.
In addition we find his positions on illegal immigration and abortion have changed sufficiently to rate a “partial flip.” And his various statements about the scientific evidence of global warming have been so muddled that we award him a “flip-flop-flip” rating — changing course and then changing back again.
Mitt Romney denies any responsibility, noting that such PACs must remain independent to legally raise and spend unlimited amounts to support or oppose candidates.
The group’s first attack ad is a 60-second TV spot called “Happy,” so named because it suggests the Obama campaign would be happy if Gingrich were to win the Republican nomination. It first went on the air in Iowa on Dec. 19. The next day, Gingrich said: “These guys just lie. It is truly frustrating to be an honest person.”
Romney isn’t asking the group to take their ad down, however. “If you can’t stand the heat in this little kitchen, wait until the Obama’s Hell’s Kitchen turns up the heat,” Romney said on “Fox and Friends.”
So, is the ad truthful? Not entirely. But our research leads us to conclude that it’s accurate in much of what it says, with some notable exceptions.
The spot opens with a statement that “Newt has more baggage than the airlines,” suggesting he couldn’t beat Obama if nominated.
Restore Our Future ad: “Happy”
Announcer: Know what makes Barack Obama happy? Newt Gingrich’s baggage. Newt has more baggage than the airlines.
Freddie Mac helped cause the economic collapse, but Gingrich cashed in. Freddie Mac paid Newt $30,000 an hour, $1.6 million.
Gingrich not only teamed up with Nancy Pelosi on global warming, but together they co-sponsored a bill that gave $60 million a year to a U.N. program supporting China’s brutal ‘One Child’ policy.
As speaker, Gingrich supported taxpayer funding of some abortions.
And Newt is the only speaker in history to be reprimanded. He was fined $300,000 for ethics violations by a Republican Congress.
As conservative magazine National Review says, “… his weakness for half-baked (and not especially conservative) ideas made him a poor Speaker of the House … He appears unable to transform, or even govern, himself.”
Newt Gingrich. Too much baggage.
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China’s ‘One-Child’ Policy
The most notably misleading claim is this one: “Together [Gingrich and Rep. Nancy Pelosi] co-sponsored a bill that gave $60 million a year to a U.N. program supporting China’s brutal ‘One-Child’ policy.” The truth is that the funds in question were in a much larger bill that never came to a vote, and so, “gave” nothing at all to the U.N., or to China. It also contained language specifically prohibiting any use of the funds for coercive family-planning policies, forced sterilizations or abortions. Furthermore, a Reagan administration policy in place at the time prohibited providing family-planning assistance to any group found to be providing abortion services. The U.N. group in question says Gingrich has long been an opponent of their funding.
The claim refers to the United Nations Population Fund, a program that promotes family-planning services worldwide. Its operations in China, with its one-child policy and record of coerced abortions, has made the UNFPA a political hot potato. In 2002, Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell cut off U.S. funds for UNFPA on grounds that the Chinese government continued to impose fines and penalties on families that had more than one child. He said that “UNFPA had funded computers and data-processing equipment that had helped strengthen the management of the Chinese State Family Planning Commission,” according to a Congressional Research Service report in 2008. “The State Department analysis concluded that UNFPA’s involvement in China’s family planning program ‘allows the Chinese government to implement more effectively its program of coercive abortion.’”
Gingrich’s involvement came more than a decade before that. He and Rep. Pelosi (long before she was speaker) were among 144 co-sponsors of the Global Warming Prevention Act of 1989 (HR 1078). As the name suggests, this was primarily a bill “to establish national policies and support and encourage international agreements that implement energy and natural resource conservation strategies appropriate to preventing the overheating of the Earth’s atmosphere, known as the ‘greenhouse effect.’”
The bill also contained Title XI, a section authorizing funds for international family-planning services from 1991 to 1995, including $60 million for the UNFPA. However, the bill specifically prohibited the use of funds for “involuntary sterilization or abortion” or “the coercion of any person to accept family planning services.” The bill never came up for a vote, and it died. So, the bill didn’t “give” any money to anybody.
The Gingrich campaign notes that Ronald Reagan’s “Mexico City Policy” was in place in 1989, which prohibited the use of U.S. family-planning assistance to any group that provided any services related to abortion. The policy was revoked by President Clinton in 1993, restored by President Bush in 2001, and revoked once again by President Obama in 2009. On his campaign website, Gingrich vows to reauthorize the policy if elected president.
Sarah Craven, a spokeswoman for the UNFPA, said the organization believes China’s one-child policy is “wrong,” and that, among other things, it promotes a huge gender disparity. The UNFPA, she said, categorically “does not support the one-child policy.”
And regardless, she said, Gingrich has long been an opponent of UNFPA funding. In fact, she said as speaker he once boasted from the floor of the House that he had completely eliminated UNFPA funding from a spending bill.
“Newt is hardly our friend,” Craven said.
$30,000 an Hour?
The ad also says that Gingrich “cashed in” on the housing crisis through his consulting arrangement with Freddie Mac, the federally sponsored mortgage agency. “Freddie Mac paid Newt $30,000 … an hour, $1.6 million.”
That’s quite an exaggeration. It’s true that Gingrich’s consulting firm was paid between $25,000 to $30,000 a month, for a total of about $1.6 million to $1.8 million over several years, according to Bloomberg News. And Gingrich did say in an interview on Fox News that “I think less than maybe once a month, they would drop by. We’d spend an hour.” Based on that, Dan Eggen, a reporter for the Washington Post wrote that “that would suggest that Gingrich earned up to $30,000 an hour giving Freddie Mac strategic advice.” We disagree. The money went to Newt’s consulting firm, The Gingrich Group (now called the Center for Health Transformation), which has many employees and considerable overhead expenses. We don’t know how much of the money flowed through to Gingrich personally.
The Gingrich campaign says the Gingrich Group had 30 employees and offices in three cities, and that the “vast majority” of Freddie Mac’s money went “to staff salaries, health insurance, rent and other overhead.” It also says Gingrich and his staff did “hours of research” in advance of each meeting. All of that is consistent with the way other consulting firms do business in Washington. So, while the $1.6 million figure is accurate, the “$30,000 an hour” claim is a ridiculous exaggeration.
But elsewhere, the ad stands the fact-checking test fairly well. It quotes the conservative magazine National Review as saying of Gingrich: “… his weakness for half-baked (and not especially conservative) ideas made him a poor Speaker of the House … He appears unable to transform, or even govern, himself.” And indeed, the magazine’s editorial board said all that and more in an editorial urging Republicans to reject Gingrich as their nominee.
The ad further says he “teamed up with Nancy Pelosi on global warming,” and shows a bit of the TV commercial he made in July 2008, seated on a sofa with Pelosi. As we’ve written earlier, Gingrich said in that spot that “we do agree our country must take action to address climate change.” And we found that Gingrich has supported the general idea of a cap-and-trade plan as part of a broader effort to curb carbon emissions, even though he opposed the legislation that Pelosi pushed through the House in 2009.
And the ad is also on target when it says, “As speaker, Gingrich supported taxpayer funding of some abortions.” As we explain in more detail later in this article, Gingrich now opposes federal funding even for abortions to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest. But as speaker, he supported those exemptions to the Hyde amendment that prohibits federal funds being used for all other abortions.
The ad is also substantially on target with its statement that Gingrich was “the only speaker in history to be reprimanded,” and that he was “fined $300,000 for ethics violations.”
Gingrich was reprimanded by a Republican-controlled House in 1997 for submitting misleading statements to House investigators, who were looking into his alleged misuse of tax-exempt charities to advance his political agenda. The House voted 395 to 28 in favor of the punishment. It was the first time in the House’s 208-year history it had disciplined a speaker for ethical wrongdoing (although it’s worth noting that the previous Democratic speaker, Jim Wright, had been cited by the House ethics committee on multiple violations and resigned in the face of an almost certain reprimand, or worse.)
It’s also true that Gingrich had to pay $300,000 to settle the charges against him. He still denies that it was a “fine,” and technically he’s correct: The Ethics Committee report (page 94) didn’t call it a fine, but rather a “payment reimbursing the House for some of the costs of the investigation.” But whether the $300,000 was a “fine,” or just a required “payment,” is, shall we say, a rather fine distinction.
The Ethics Committee report said Gingrich’s action was either “misleading or it was reckless,” and was “a serious violation of House rules.” The committee approved it by a bipartisan vote of 7 to 1. For more, see our Dec. 8 item regarding Gingrich’s false claim that the ethics investigation was “partisan.”
The ‘Flip Flop’ Flyer
Restore Our Future is also attacking Gingrich through flyers sent to Iowans’ mailboxes. One claims that Gingrich has flip-flopped on 11 issues. We found that he didn’t change his position on three of those issues.
Abortion: Partial Flip
Gingrich has been consistently anti-abortion, but he has changed his mind about federal funding in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment to the mother. He was OK with federal funding for such exceptions in 1995, but now he is against any federal dollars being used for abortion.
He is, to be clear, still in favor of allowing abortions to be legal for those exceptions (as are many politicians and voters who are otherwise against abortion).
In 1995, Gingrich supported federal dollars being used for abortions for low-income women in cases of rape, incest and danger to the mother’s life, as per the prevailing Hyde Amendment, which pertains mostly to Medicaid funding. All but one state adheres to that federal standard, according to the Guttmacher Institute, whose research and data on the issue has been cited by both parties.
On April 9, 1995, on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Gingrich was asked, “What about the abortion issue? There are people in your Republican conference and Republican presidential candidates who believe that there should be no federal funding at all, even in the cases of rape or incest. Do you agree with that?”
Gingrich responded, “No,” citing the language of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited federal funding for abortions except in the three cases we’ve mentioned.
Gingrich, April 9: No. First of all, I think you–you should have funding in the case of rape or incest or life of the mother, which–which is the first step.
Gingrich then went on to speak favorably about a proposal by Rep. Ernest Istook, to allow states to refuse to fund abortions even in those cases, should they so choose. But he stopped short of urging states to deny funding.
Now Gingrich has changed his position. A spokesman for Gingrich, R.C. Hammond, told the Des Moines Register last month that the candidate still supports the legality of those exceptions (see a questionnaire from National Right to Life, posted on Gingrich’s campaign website), but he no longer believes that federal funds should be used for them.
Des Moines Register, Nov. 28, 2011: But Gingrich has switched his position on federal funding. He now thinks the government should not ask taxpayers to pay for any abortions, Hammond said.
Explaining his earlier public statements that “you should have funding” for abortions in cases of rape or incest or a life-threatening pregnancy, Gingrich’s campaign website now argues that he was merely bowing to political reality: “Newt recognized that an outright ban on federal funding of abortion would not be signed by Bill Clinton, and worked to remove federal abortion funding as much as possible in the existing political framework.”
Global Warming: Flip-Flop-Flip
Gingrich has offered different views on global warming, saying that it “may happen,” then saying that “the evidence is sufficient,” and recently saying, “I actually don’t know whether global warming is occurring.”
Restore Our Future points to a 2007 article in The Hill about Gingrich and Democratic Sen. John Kerry debating what to do about global warming. Gingrich advocated a market-based approach with incentives, while Kerry called for government regulation. The Hill reported: “The positioning on global warming represents a shift for Gingrich, who has in the past expressed skepticism about climate change and whose website still suggests it might not be a problem.”
Gingrich’s website said, according to the newspaper, that “[g]lobal warming may happen” but so could another ice age. He said the science was “far more complex and uncertain” than some scientists acknowledged. But at the 2007 debate with Kerry, when asked about Republican skeptics, he said: “My message, I think, is that the evidence is sufficient, and we should move towards the most effective possible steps to reduce carbon-loading in the atmosphere.”
More recently, in a Nov. 8, 2011, interview on Fox News, Gingrich said: “I actually don’t know whether global warming is occurring. The vast majority of the National Academy of Science says it is, a minority says it is not. Science is not actually voted on. Science is a function of truth.” He also said “no” when asked whether he believed in global warming in 2008, shortly after he appeared in an ad on the topic with Democrat Nancy Pelosi, then the House speaker.
In the ad, Gingrich says: “We do agree our country must take action to address climate change.” But shortly after the ad began airing, Gingrich said on his website: “I don’t think that we have conclusive proof of global warming. And I don’t think we have conclusive proof that humans are at the center of it.”
What’s the difference between climate change and global warming? Many people use the terms interchangeably, but the environmental groups National Wildlife Federation and Greenpeace both say climate change is a broader term for changes in rainfall, cloud formation and temperature. Global warming is an increase in the earth’s surface temperature.
We say Gingrich’s position has been sufficiently confused on this issue to warrant a flip-flop-flip.
As we have reported before, Gingrich has wrongly claimed recently that he has “never favored cap-and-trade.” That’s not true. He has not favored plans pushed by Democrats, but several times he has supported some form of capping carbon emissions.
In 2007, he said in an interview on PBS’ “Frontline” that he would “strongly support” a system of “mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system” if coupled with tax incentives for “investing in the solutions.” And in 2009, in testimony before Congress opposing the cap-and-trade bill favored by Democrats, Gingrich conceded that he might still support a limited cap-and-trade program for “the 2,000 most polluting places.”
Gingrich offered different views of what he thought the United States should do as the White House debated military action in Libya. He has said that he changed his position as events occurred. As we said previously when we looked into this, we’ll leave it to our readers to evaluate Gingrich’s explanation for the change.
Here’s a quick chronology of events:
On Feb. 24 on Fox News, Gingrich said, “I don’t think we need to do any military force,” but he suggested covert operations.
Gingrich, Feb. 24: I would hope that we would be encouraging the non-Gadhafi elements of the military to replace Gadhafi. And I would hope that with the Europeans, we would isolate and cut off mercenaries from being hired to come in and kill innocent civilians. …
I would first of all make quite clear that mercenaries should expect that they’ll be held accountable. I would second send signals that we would actively support any effort to replace Gadhafi. And I would third move aggressively to condemn actions by Gadhafi and make him a persona non grata and accelerate the rate at which he and his family have to leave the country. …
Then, on March 7, when the administration was debating a no-fly zone, he said on Fox News that he would “exercise a no-fly zone this evening” and get rid of Gadhafi.
Gingrich, March 7: All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we’re intervening. And we don’t have to send troops. All we have to do is suppress his air force, which we could do in minutes. And then we have to say publicly that he is gone, that the military should switch sides now, and we should help the rebels.
But soon his position changed. On NBC’s “Today” show on March 23, Gingrich said he “would not have intervened.”
Gingrich, March 23: I would not have intervened. I think there were a lot of other ways to affect Gadhafi. I think there are a lot of allies in the region that we could have worked with. I would not have used American and European forces, bombing Arab and that country.
Gingrich was subsequently criticized for flip-flopping on Libya. He wrote on his Facebook page that his view changed once Obama publicly said on March 3 that Gadhafi must go. Gingrich said that before that, “there were options to be indirect and subtle to achieve this result without United States military forces,” but those options were “off the table” once the president made that statement.
Again, it’s a change in position, but we’ll leave it to readers to determine whether they accept the explanation.
Illegal Immigration: Partial Flip
Gingrich has been inconsistent regarding his stance on illegal immigration. He’s currently being attacked by Romney and others for saying he’d allow some illegal immigrants to gain legal resident status for “humane” reasons. But in 2005, he said, “I would require all of them to apply for a green card back home.”
The pro-Romney flyer points to a “Fox News Sunday” appearance by Gingrich on March 27, 2005. In that he said:
Gingrich, 2005: I would require all of them to apply for a green card back home.
Fox News’ Brit Hume: Go back home and do it?
Hume: Leave the country?
Gingrich: Because I think it is absolutely wrong to say we’re going to punish everybody who’s waited back home for a visa, but we’re going to allow these people who have already proven they’ll break the law to be amnestied.
And it is amnesty. I don’t care how you describe it. It is amnesty to allow the current illegals to break the law and get away with it.
By the next year Gingrich’s position seemed to have softened a bit, and he was proposing “hardship” exceptions for family members who are not working. In a 2006 “Working Paper” that Gingrich authored for the American Enterprise Institute, he still called for “zero tolerance for amnesty.” He said many who are now working here illegally should be allowed to get “work visas” — after returning home to apply. But he also said Congress should grant hardship exceptions for families.
Gingrich, 2006: [Congress] should waive in certain instances the requirement to return home to apply for children and spouses (and elderly parents) who are living here but not working and for whom a return trip home may impose a physical hardship
More recently, Gingrich suggested something like a “path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents. In a Sept. 14 news story Gingrich is quoted as saying “I suspect” that “someone who came here at 3 years of age and now they’re 19″ might be allowed “to move toward legality, if not citizenship.”
And even more recently he’s proposed a “path to legality” — but not necessarily citizenship — for older immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for at least 25 years and who have established family and community ties. He defended that position in a November appearance in Naples, Fla.
Gingrich, Nov. 27: I am for a path to legality for those people whose ties are so deeply into America that it would truly be tragic to try to rip their family apart.
Gingrich still said the “vast majority” of illegal immigrants should be sent home. To that extent, he’s been consistent.
Support for the U.N.: No flip
Gingrich has long been critical of the United Nations, demanding reforms under the threat of reduced U.S. funding both then and now. While the heat of his rhetoric has varied with the circumstances (lately he’s called it “corrupt” while earlier he called its behavior “indefensible”) we see no change in direction or fundamental principle by Gingrich.
His critics see a flip-flop because he co-chaired a congressional bipartisan task force that recommended reforms of the U.N. and expressed a “firm belief that an effective U.N. is in American interests.” But that report papered over differences between Gingrich and his co-chairman, former Senate majority leader George Mitchell, a Democrat. They wrote in the introduction: (page vii) “This report is a consensus document.” They said members “reserve the right to offer additional comments.” And Gingrich soon expressed his own, individual views.
In an op-ed in the Boston Globe on Sept. 11, 2005, Gingrich wrote:
Gingrich, Sept. 11, 2005: [B]y any reasonable measure, there exists an unacceptable gap between the ideals of the U.N. Charter and the institution that exists today.
In that article, Gingrich said his work on the Gingrich/Mitchell commission led him to think that the United Nations needed to be “fundamentally limited” and made “honest.” (This was in the wake of revelations of kickbacks, mismanagement and unethical conduct in an oil-for-food scandal that led to the commission’s creation.)
Gingrich, Sept. 11, 2005: Through my work on the task force, I have come to the conclusion that American interests call for a fundamentally limited, but honest and effective U.N.
The U.N. must be a fundamentally limited institution because it has no democratic accountability but has at times pretensions of asserting legitimacy akin to that of a democratic nation state.
And he went on to call much of the U.N.’s behavior “indefensible” and said Congress might have to threaten to limit the use of taxpayer funds to force needed change.
Gingrich, Sept. 11, 2005: I remain hopeful that the U.N. will adopt all the necessary reform measures without the need for any type of limitation on the appropriation of U.S. taxpayer funds for U.N. activities. Yet, if reform measures are not implemented in a timely way, I think it is inevitable that limitations would be enforced by the Congress.
Gingrich is now calling more forcefully for a funding cut-off. In August of this year, Gingrich said that the U.S. should withhold funding from the United Nations if it recognized a Palestinian state. In a column for the conservative website Human Events, he wrote:
Gingrich, Aug. 10, 2011: We should be willing to say that if the U.N. is going to circumvent negotiations and declare the territory of one of its own members an independent state, we aren’t going to pay for it. We can keep our $7.6 billion a year.
We don’t need to fund a corrupt institution to beat up on our allies.
Most recently, in a Dec. 15 candidates’ debate in Sioux City, Iowa, Gingrich said that if elected he wouldn’t pull the U.S. out of the U.N., but would “radically” cut funding if reforms are not forthcoming.
Gingrich, Dec. 15: We have no obligation to lie and every obligation to tell the truth about how bad the U.N. bureaucracy is and why it ought to be fixed or we ought to radically cut what we’re paying.
We see no inconsistency here. Gingrich called the U.N. bureaucracy’s behavior “indefensible” and less than “honest” in 2005, and “corrupt” in 2011. He said in 2005 it was “inevitable” that Congress would cut funding if reforms weren’t enacted (as some were), and in 2001 he called for cutting funding “radically” if more is not done. Our judgment: No Flip.
Stem Cell Research: Flip
Recently, Gingrich said that he “is against any kind of experimentation on embryos.” But 10 years ago, he said he was in favor of federal funding for research on embryos in fertility clinics that wouldn’t be used for the purpose of creating life.
On two occasions in 2001, Gingrich gave interviews in which he indicated that he would support federal funding of research on fertility clinic embryos that would not be implanted and would be thrown away.
In a July 10, 2001, interview with Paula Zahn on Fox News, Gingrich said he hoped that President Bush would “draw a sharp distinction between research on fetuses, which I think would be abhorrent and anti-human, and research on cells that are in fertility clinics that have never been in anyone’s body, in terms of being — becoming a person, and which, frankly, are currently unregulated and will disappear.”
He added that “for many of us, there’s a very, very real distinction between doing something with an unborn child, a fetus that is implanted, and doing something with cells in a fertility clinic that are otherwise going to be destroyed.”
Gingrich made similar comments just days later during another interview on Fox News. He told Bill O’Reilly that he hoped Bush would “find a way to agree that there ought to be federally funded research” at “fertility clinics where there are cells that are sitting there that are not going to be used to create life.”
But at the Fox News debate in Sioux City, Iowa, on Dec. 15, 2011, Gingrich said that he believed that embryos “should be regarded as life because by definition they have been conceived,” and that he is “against any kind of experimentation on embryos.” He also checked “yes” on the National Right to Life question asking if he would use the power of the presidency “to prevent federal support of research that harms or destroys human embryos.”
Gingrich did reluctantly support the Troubled Asset Relief Program — the bank bailout — back in 2008, after he originally called it a “very, very bad idea.”
In a column for the National Review Online published on Sept. 21, 2008, Gingrich wrote that “there are four major questions that have to be answered before Congress adopts a new $700 billion burden for the American taxpayer.” He went on to say, “On each of these questions, I believe Congress’s answer will be ‘no’ if it slows down long enough to examine the facts.”
The next day, Gingrich told NPR’s Melissa Block that the bailout was “a very, very bad idea,” adding that “it’s likely to fail, and it’s likely to make the situation worse over time.”
About a week later, however, Gingrich changed his mind about supporting the bailout.
ABC News reported that Gingrich released a statement on Sept. 29, 2008, saying that he would “reluctantly and sadly” vote for the bailout bill if he were still in Congress. According to ABC News, Gingrich’s statement indicated that he had changed his mind about the bill because of “significant” changes House Republicans made to it that made the legislation “less bad.” Gingrich also told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that he was persuaded by businesspeople who told him that “doing nothing would be far worse than accepting a bad” bill.
Individual Mandate: No flip
Gingrich still supports a federal requirement that individuals obtain health insurance. He says his current position is “a variation” of the individual mandate he supported in 1993, as an alternative to the Clinton administration’s proposal that employers be required to provide it.
As recently as May 15, Gingrich said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “we ought to have some requirement that you either have health insurance or you post a bond.”
Gingrich, May 15, 2011: Well, I agree that all of us have a responsibility to pay–help pay for health care. 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 … or in some way you indicate you’re going to be held accountable.
NBC’s David Gregory: But that is the individual mandate, is it not?
Gingrich: It’s a variation on it.
That’s not much different from what Gingrich said on “Meet the Press” in 1993, when he said he “would like to see every American have health insurance” and that he was “willing to require that.”
Gingrich, 1993: I am for people, individuals — exactly like automobile insurance — individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance.
In 2006 Gingrich said that he would require “Americans over a certain income level to buy health insurance or post a bond,” according to the Detroit Free Press.
And in 2007 he said that “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.”
Gingrich has attempted to play down this long-held position. And he has said he is “completely opposed to the Obamacare mandate on individuals.” But we take that to mean only that a Gingrich mandate would be different from the mandate contained in the new health care law. Gingrich’s support for some form of an individual mandate may be unpopular among some Republican voters these days, but it’s not a flip-flop.
Stimulus: No flip
Gingrich had kinder words for the idea of an economic stimulus than he did for the bill Obama backed — but that’s also the case with other politicians, like Mitt Romney, who favored a stimulus but criticized the legislation Obama signed into law. It’s not a flip.
Here’s Gingrich before the stimulus was passed in a Q&A with the Washington Times that was published Jan. 19, 2009:
Gingrich: Of course we should look for public-private partnerships where we can. However, I am comfortable with direct federal spending on infrastructure — so long as it is on projects that will set the stage for long-term economic growth, not pet projects like the list that mayors have asked be included in the Obama stimulus package.
Gingrich then gave four questions he said Obama should consider in designing a stimulus, including its effect on small businesses, start-ups and the rate of investment. He also suggested that the tax cuts in the stimulus bill would be supported by Republicans. Gingrich said: “Considering that 40 percent of his proposed stimulus package is in the form of tax cuts, it appears Mr. Obama is truly trying to govern from the center and start his term with a series of bipartisan achievements.”
It is not clear when the Washington Times interview actually took place. The introduction to the Q&A said the paper “recently asked Mr. Gingrich about issues facing President-elect Barack Obama.” The time frame is important, because the stimulus bill was rapidly changing as it made its way through Congress.
On Jan. 15, the House Democrats unveiled an $825 billion stimulus plan that contained more spending and less tax cuts than Obama initially sought, as the Los Angeles Times reported. That bill contained $275 billion in tax cuts, or about 33 percent of all spending. Obama initially sought a bill with a price tag of between $675 billion and $775 billion with $300 billion in tax cuts, as the New York Times reported on Jan. 4, 2009.
On Jan. 18 — after the House unveiled its stimulus plan but before the Washington Times published its Q&A with the former Speaker — Gingrich expressed concern about the direction of the stimulus package in an interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. Gingrich credited Obama, again, for proposing a stimulus plan that spent 40 percent on tax cuts, but then he said he was “very skeptical” of the “whole stimulus proposal” because he feared “Congress is going to shape a plan” that wouldn’t be effective.
By Feb. 2, Gingrich said that the House bill “is entirely a pork-barrel bill with very limited impact on the recession.” On Fox News’ “O’Reilly Factor,” he said there was an opportunity to get a “dramatically” different bill in the Senate, with more tax cuts and moving money away from “political pork barrel into real job development.”
The Senate passed a $787 billion stimulus bill on Feb. 13. The night before the vote, Gingrich told Van Susteren that “Obama was talking very bipartisan” at the start of his administration. “Over the last two weeks, the administration has gone very sharply to the left,” Gingrich complained, describing the stimulus bill as “huge” and packed with “lots of pork.”
But Gingrich did support some spending in the bill — namely $27 billion to encourage physicians to use electronic medical records. The Boston Globe reported on Dec. 16 that Gingrich had said in a Web video that he strongly backed that provision. The Globe points out that The Gingrich Group, his consulting firm, received money from technology businesses that would benefit from those stimulus dollars.
Readers can make their own judgments about that. But Gingrich’s comments show that he supported the idea of a stimulus, but not the one that was enacted.
Paul Ryan’s Medicare Plan: Flip
Gingrich has also backtracked from critical comments he made about Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to change the Medicare system for future beneficiaries. He referred to it as “right-wing social engineering,” but then said he wasn’t talking about the Ryan plan.
In an interview on “Meet the Press” on May 15, 2011, host David Gregory asked Gingrich if he thought Republicans should support a plan that would — as Ryan’s plan would — “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 said that he didn’t “think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering.”
When Gregory specifically asked Gingrich about “what Paul Ryan is suggesting, which is completely changing Medicare,” Gingrich responded, “I think that that is too big a jump.” He added: “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 … radical change.”
After being criticized by Republicans for his comments, Gingrich told conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh that his response was not about Ryan and that his words were being misinterpreted. Gingrich even called Ryan to apologize. But as we wrote back in May, it’s absurd for Gingrich to claim he wasn’t referring to Ryan’s proposal. It was clear to us that’s what he was talking about, and it was also clear to Ryan, who accepted Gingrich’s apology.
– by Robert Farley, Lori Robertson, D’Angelo Gore and Brooks Jackson
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