WASHINGTON – In the span of three days, he went from lambasting the GOP Medicare privatization plan as too radical to endorsing it and declaring his full support.
"I would have voted for the budget," former Republican House speaker and presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich told Media Matters in a video captured Tuesday night at an event in Minnesota. Would he vote for it today? "Sure," he said. "[Ryan]'s a very good friend of mine. And I think he's doing a brilliant job."
The remarks came hours after Gingrich personally called and apologized to Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), the author of the House-approved blueprint, for deriding it as "right-wing social engineering" on Sunday.
Gingrich's transformation didn't happen on its own. It came amid a vicious tongue-lashing from conservatives. The 2012 candidate felt the wrath of the Republican establishment like none other after declaring on NBC's Meet The Press that the proposal would "impose" "radical change" on Americans.
"With allies like that, who needs the left?" Ryan responded, as other conservatives tagged it as the implosion of Gingrich's 2012 ambitions.
Columnist Charles Krauthammer, who previously hailed Gingrich as a bastion of big ideas, declared that "he's done," and "it's over." Talk show host Bill Bennett had him on as a guest and tore into him. Across the web, conservatives who seldom lay a glove on the ex-speaker were furious. An Iowa voter even walked up to him and called him an "embarrassment to our party."
The apology and 180 degree flip came after Gingrich tried and failed to claim his remarks were simply overblown and taken out of context. "I used language that was too strong, although the underlying principle, I think, was right," he said Monday, before singing a different tune the next day.
Democrats have hardly contained their glee. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer tweeted: "Biggest takeaway from the Gingrich flap - ending Medicare as we know it is the new GOP litmus test."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out an email to supporters declaring that it's "clear" that the GOP plan is "too extreme when even Newt Gingrich think it's radical."
Gingrich, for his part, offered a disclaimer Tuesday night on Fox News: "Any ad which quotes what I said Sunday is a falsehood."