During an interview with Rush Limbaugh today, former Speaker Newt Gingrich said that the controversial words “right wing social engineering” that he said on “Meet the Press” were not in reference to Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.
“It was not a reference to Paul Ryan. There was no reference to Paul Ryan in that answer,” he said.
Here’s an excerpt from the “Meet the Press” interview:
MR. GREGORY: What about entitlements? The Medicare trust fund, in stories that have come out over the weekend, is now going to be depleted by 2024, five years earlier than predicted. 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…
REP. GINGRICH: Right.
MR. GREGORY: …some premium support and–so that they can go out and buy private insurance?
REP. 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. But there are specific things you can do. At the Center for Health Transformation, which I helped found, we published a book called “Stop Paying the Crooks.” We thought that was a clear enough, simple enough idea, even for Washington. We–between Medicare and Medicaid, we pay between $70 billion and $120 billion a year to crooks. And IBM has agreed to help solve it, American Express has agreed to help solve it, Visa’s agreed to help solve it. You can’t get anybody in this town to look at it. That’s, that’s almost $1 trillion over a decade. So there are things you can do to improve Medicare.
MR. GREGORY: But not what Paul Ryan is suggesting, which is completely changing Medicare.
REP. GINGRICH: I, I think that, I think, 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, not one where you suddenly impose upon the–I don’t want to–I’m against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change.
It seemed clear to me (and everyone else) that Gingrich was, in fact, talking about the Ryan Medicare proposal (premium support) — even if he didn’t technically say Ryan’s name prior to the “right wing social engineering” line.
This parsing of words seems ironically Clintonian …
Overall, I thought Gingrich’s interview with Limbaugh was a net positive, and that it might help him turn the corner on this story. But my guess is this denial was too cute by half and will trip him up even more …