Newt Gingrich Becomes Democrats' Weapon Against GOP Medicare Plan

May 16, 2011

Who knew Newt Gingrich would enter the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination and immediately become the Democrats' not-so-secret weapon against the House GOP's Medicare proposal?

But that's what Gingrich essentially did during his appearance on Meet the Press Sunday. He shot down the Republican plan to give future seniors a set amount of money with which to buy private health insurance instead of having Medicare serve as a single payer as it has since 1965.

Here's Gingrich's exchange with NBC News' David Gregory:

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: No. 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. ... I'm against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change. And I would be against a conservative imposing radical change.

As you might expect, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the House Budget Committee chairman who gets credit for the Republican plan which was part of his 2012 budget proposal, was not amused.

The Hill reports on Ryan's reaction on a conservative talk show Monday:

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) took a swipe Monday at Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich after the former House Speaker criticized hiss proposed Medicare reforms.

"With allies like that, who needs the left?" Ryan told guest host Raymond Arroyo on conservative talker Laura Ingraham's radio show.

Gingrich's statement now allows Democrats to argue that their opposition to the Ryan Medicare plan isn't reflexively liberal because no less a conservative than Gingrich agrees with them that the it's extreme. notes that Gingrich in 1995 made a proposal that was very similar to Ryan's. Of course, that was 16 years ago so Gingrich could always say that was then, this is now.

ThinkProgress also points to a Weekly Standard piece offering other examples of times Gingrich switched positions on issues. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit