The Wall Street Journal sends Newt Gingrich through a wood chipper this morning and all that comes out the other end is a pile of pulp:
The irony is that Mr. Gingrich’s own history of political failure on health care has made Mr. Ryan’s proposals all the more necessary….In 1997, he agreed to a balanced budget deal that planted the seeds for future spending increases by creating a new entitlement for children’s health insurance but offering no fundamental Medicare changes. A formula was created for phony cuts in physician payments, hiding the program’s true costs. And the difficult choices were deferred to a bipartisan commission, which in 1999 recommended-yes, premium support, like Mr. Ryan. After retiring from the House, Mr. Gingrich next lobbied for the GOP’s 2003 Medicare drug entitlement, though three-quarters of seniors already had some kind of private prescription coverage. In these pages, with his usual restraint, he called it “the most important reorganization of our nation’s health-care system since the original Medicare bill of 1965 and the largest and most positive change in direction for the health system in 60 years for people over 65.” Mr. Gingrich’s policy conceit was that the bill’s health savings accounts would revolutionize health care. The bill’s minor market reforms have worked better than expected, but ObamaCare has undermined HSAs, which were never by themselves enough to introduce consumer-driven health-care reform.
“Now he is trashing Mr. Ryan for thinking far more deeply about health care, and in a far more principled fashion, than Mr. Gingrich ever has. The episode reveals the Georgian’s weakness as a candidate, and especially as a potential President-to wit, his odd combination of partisan, divisive rhetoric and poll-driven policy timidity.”
Investor’s Business Daily chimes in, calling Gingrich’s remarks “unconscionable.” And:
On Monday, Gingrich tried to walk back his comments, with his spokesman claiming that what he really meant by “radical” was simply that “politically you can’t get to what Ryan wants from where we are. It will be demagogued to death.” Maybe that’s true. But we’ll never know as long as Gingrich is the one doing the demagoguing.
At National Review Online, Rich Lowry blasts Gingrich:
He can’t help himself. Gingrich prefers extravagant lambasting when a mere distancing would do, and the over-arching theoretical construct to a mundane pander. He is drawn irresistibly to operatic overstatement – sometimes brilliant, always interesting, and occasionally downright absurd. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. is reputed to have said FDR had a first-class temperament but a second-class intellect. Gingrich flips the Holmes formulation around: He has a first-class intellect but his temperament belongs in steerage… When he was Speaker of the House, he alienated his colleagues (some of whom roll their eyes at the mere mention of his name) and dragged himself, his family, and his party through a psychodrama. If he were to replicate that performance in the White House, it’d be a formula for a LBJ- or Nixon-style meltdown.
Every one of these slams against Gingrich is right on target. But on the right, it was our own R. Emmett Tyrrell who had the guts several years ago, when Gingrich was riding high as a conservative would-be sage, to tell it like it is. As is often the case, leaving Bob Tyrrell with the last words is a good idea. As he notes, Gingrich deservedly is yesterday’s news:
Gingrich is the Republicans’ Bill Clinton. Being a Republican, Gingrich is not as vacuous as the Arkansas huckster, nor as amusing. In fact, he can be boring. Springing from the same late 1960s Jugendkultur as the Boy President, Gingrich is the career pol, the hustling, self-promoting narcissist, the sempiternal fantasist. When he was Speaker of the House I should have called him the Boy Speaker. He made his exit from politics like a troubled adolescent: whining, blustering, and guilty as charged…. Now Gingrich is back and he expects Republican women to forget his treatment of women. He expects Republicans to forget how he bungled the 1998 off-year elections, claiming at one point that Republicans were actually going to pick up seats when — truth be known — they were lucky to preserve their margin. One of the reasons for the Republicans’ losses that year was that the Boy Speaker rushed an omnibus spending bill laden with pork through the House to the dismay of Republican voters. The other was his sophomoric handling of one of the most important constitutional crises of the 20th century, Clinton’s impeachment. One day he would summon Republicans to attack. The next day he would claim to be aghast at their combativeness. Again Clinton bested him. Now he believes that he is a plausible candidate for the presidency. Given his erratic record, do I need to adduce any more evidence that he is a fantasist? He fashioned the Republican takeover of the House in 1994 with the indispensable assistance of his co-generationists from the gaseous 1960s, the Clintons. In 1998 he recklessly imperiled his party’s dominance and disgraced his name. Since his fall he has, as has his Democratic look-alike, strutted and pontificated tirelessly. Both had their moment in history, and both blew it.