-By Warner Todd Huston
I just finished with a blogger conference call held by Speaker Gingrich in which he tried to further explain where he stands on Paul Ryan, the budget, and Obamacare.
Newt has have been characterized as "trashing Paul Ryan," and Ryan himself took a swipe at him on a Chicago radio show (Ryan said something like, "with conservative like him who needs enemies?"), and of course many see his purported attack on Ryan as a violation of Reagan's famed 11th Commandment. So Newt has a lot to answer for, for sure. He's badly confused the situation and some are calling for him to drop out and give it all up. Even Rush Limbaugh is claiming that Newt knows he can't win the nomination and this whole thing is just an effort at positioning himself for other things in the future (Rush says Newt might just be angling for a position at the Aspen Institute)
Newt, however, insists that his comments were entirely consistent, that he was taken out of context, and that he wasn't in any way attacking Paul Ryan.
Newt was asked directly if he supported Ryan's budget principles, the Path to Prosperity.
"I do support the Ryan plan," Newt said. "When it came out I wrote a piece titled, 'From Paul Revere to Paul Ryan' in support."
Newt was also asked why he seemed to support an individual mandate in the video clip that was used by David Gregory on last weekend's Meet The Press appearance. How could he have been for one then but not now?
"I don't regard a statement made 18 years ago concerning Hillarycare as having anything to do with today and Obamacare," the Speaker said.
"Conservatives in general in 1993 trying to defeat Hillarycare were saying exactly what I had said in that clip. It was a different world then as we were not in a situation of how far Obama has taken the government toward a [socialist] direction. The Democrats have reversed FDR and they have nothing to offer but fear itself," Newt added.
Gingrich went on to say that he was not necessarily against Ryan's plan but is against the sort of "coercion" that radical change in healthcare would force on the public.
"The scale of change we are proposing is very, very large and affects people's lives in a very personal way. We should not try to impose on the people a plan they don't understand."
One of those invited onto the call asked, "Would you still vote for Paul Ryan's plan?"
"Yes," Newt said. "But coming out of the proposal we have to write a bill and that is a vastly more difficult process. The budget statement is not the final bill. We are at the very beginning of an important national discussion. Does anyone think this plan will be signed by this president? This plan is only the first step of setting up the argument for 2012."
Still, some callers were confused as to why Newt seemed to be dissing the Republican plan as "radical change from the right."
Newt said that he felt that healthcare was too difficult to change in radical ways.
"I am worried about compelling the people to accept a radical change that hasn't been tested. Healthcare is ten times more complicated than national security. We were gaining ground with health savings accounts and medicare advantage that were a direct threat to the way that liberals want to do things. But these programs didn't require coercion."
Whatever Newt really meant, he most certainly caused himself some troubles right at the outset of his campaign. Some are saying that this is "Newt being Newt." This has a ring of truth to it. Like Mitch Daniels, Newt spends an awful lot of time re-explaining himself.
(Photo above of myself and Speaker Gingrich at the 2011 debut of his film "America At Risk.")