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Democratic National Committee

"Litmus Test" +
  2:01 web video from May 20, 2011.

[Music] Male Announcer: On Sunday Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said this about the Republican House plan to end Medicare:
MTP clip of 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?
MTP clip of 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 that that is too big a jump and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change. 

Male Announcer
: On Monday the Republicans and the right wing fought back, launching brutal attacks against one of their own.
Clip of Andrea Mitchell: The Republican conservatives are all over Newt.  I mean he has been just hammered from all over the right.   

Clip of unidentified: He did nothing less that attack a sacred cow within the Republican Party.
Audio of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), chairman of the House Budget Committee: With allies like that, who needs the left...?
Female Announcer: And now Republicans well they're all fired up.  Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer told FOX's Bret Baier quote, Mr. Gingrich didn't have a big chance in the beginning, but now it's over.  And Rush Limbaugh had this to say.
Limbaugh: I am not going to justify this, I'm not going to explain this.  The attack on Paul Ryan—folks don't ask me to explain this.  There is no explanation.

FOX News clip:
Man: Mr. Gingrich what you just did to Paul Ryan is unforgiveable.
Gingrich: I didn't do anything to Paul Ryan.
Man: Yes you did.  You undercut him and his allies in the House.
Gingrich: No, I said—
Man: You're an embarrassment to our party.
Gingrich: I'm sorry you feel that way.
Man: Why don't you get out before you make a bigger fool of yourself.
Gingrich: Sorry...

Male Announcer: So on Tuesday night, this happened.

Gingrich on FOX News: I made a mistake.  And I called Paul Ryan today, who's a very close personal friend, and I said that.  The fact is that I have supported what Ryan has tried to do on the budget, the fact is that my newsletter strongly praised the budget when he brought it out, and the budget vote is one that I'm happy to say I would have voted for, I will defend...

Male Announcer: Newt learned the hard way: Ending Medicare is the new GOP litmus test.


Notes: Freshly minted Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's remarks on Medicare during a May 15 appearance on NBC News "Meet the Press" generated a lot of criticism from the right.  Democrats also seized on the remarks, trying to sow division among Republicans, evidenced for example by "Pages",  an ad from the new super PAC Priorities USA Action that came out the same day.

Gingrich has a difficult history with Medicare and no doubt wanted to step gingerly.  In 1996 the DNC hammered him and the Republican ticket (Dole-Gingrich) relentlessly for his "wither on the vine" remark.  What he said, which is pretty similar to what he said above, was that there needs to be a transition to a new system where people would want to leave the old program voluntarily:

"O.K., what do you think the Health Care Financing Administration is? It's a centralized command bureaucracy...  Now, we don't get rid of it in round one because we don't think that that's politically smart and we don't think that that's the right way to go through a transition.  But we believe it's going to wither on the vine because we think people are voluntarily going to leave it -- voluntarily."