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Gingrich Undermines Ryan on Medicare Phase-Out Scheme

Newt Gingrich showed why he will never become the Republican nominee for President on his first weekend as a candidate. In a week when Republicans hope to “rebrand” their plan to end Medicare, Gingrich went on Meet the Press and savaged the idea:

DAVID GREGORY: 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?

NEWT 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. . . .

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

NEWT 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.

He also essentially defended the individual mandate in that appearance. There’s an expansion of these comments in an interview with Laura Meckler.

Gingrich was only giving a variation of his famous “wither on the vine” comments. He’d rather offer the option that would kill Medicare and have people voluntarily kill it themselves (never mind that, if you believe polls, they wouldn’t). But it wasn’t but two weeks ago that Gingrich said he would vote for the Ryan budget:

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a day following Newt Gingrich around New Hampshire. After a radio interview in Concord, Gingrich had a lunchtime Guinness at the Barley House in Concord with Thomas Wilhelmsen, the CEO of a local hospital who first met Gingrich in the mid-1990s. They lapsed into wonky talk about ObamaCare and health insurance premiums. “Every hospital administrator, like Tom here, will tell you it’s unsustainable, it can’t be done,” Gingrich said, explaining why he wants to repeal the law.

So, I asked if he would advocate replacing it with Paul Ryan’s plan.

The former speaker sang Ryan’s praises for being a “brave” “man of ideas,” like Gingrich himself.

“But would you have voted for Ryan’s plan?” I pressed.

“Sure,” Gingrich replied.

Newt has predictably already walked back the comments, saying they were misinterpreted. I’m not sure how you misinterpret “right-wing social engineering.” Paul Ryan certainly didn’t consider the context before attacking Gingrich. He knows that he just lost a day or more of messaging because of Gingrich’s comments.

And this will keep happening to Ryan. Because his plan is totally unpopular. And politicians on his side of the aisle with higher ambitions will constantly undercut it to keep themselves away from the ire directed at the plan. Making this privatization scheme synonymous with the Republican Party was a terrible mistake for them. It’s already increasingly likely to cost them House seat in upstate New York.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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