Aug. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich rebuked his fellow Republicans for not being more positive and failing to offer better alternatives to the health- care measure steered into law by President Barack Obama.
Gingrich, who unsuccessfully sought his party’s 2012 presidential nomination, made his remarks yesterday at the opening session of a four-day gathering of the Republican National Committee in Boston.
Saying that most Republican lawmakers have “zero answer” for how they would replace “Obamacare,” Gingrich also said, “We are caught up right now in a culture -- and you see it every single day -- where as long as we are negative and as long as we are vicious and as long as we can tear down our opponent, we don’t have to learn anything.”
He termed that approach “a very deep problem.”
“If we’re going to take on the fight with Obamacare, we have to be able to explain to people what we would do to make your life better,” Gingrich, a former U.S. representative from Georgia and House speaker, later told reporters. “It can’t just be going back to the world that led to Obamacare.”
Obama aimed a similar criticism last week at Republicans, who since becoming the House majority party in 2011 have voted repeatedly to repeal or hinder implementation of the health-care law that passed in 2010.
Republicans “don’t have an agenda to provide health insurance to people at affordable rates,” the president said at an Aug. 9 White House news briefing before his departure for a vacation this week on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard.
Gingrich’s remarks prefaced an appearance today at the RNC gathering by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican who has angered some in the party over the past year by making high-profile appearances with Obama and former President Bill Clinton and offering praise for both Democrats.
Christie also traded barbs earlier this month with U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky over national security and federal spending. Christie and Paul, both 50, are frequently mentioned as potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate.
Although Christie normally isn’t media shy, current plans are for his RNC speech to be closed to reporters.
Gingrich, 70, cautioned against a political standoff that leads to a federal-government shutdown, as some Republicans in the House and Senate have said they are willing to live with as part of their effort to stymie the health-care law.
“We absolutely should pass funding the government,” Gingrich told reporters. “We just shouldn’t include Obamacare, and then Obama can decide whether he wants to pick a real fight” on that issue.
During Gingrich’s tenure as House speaker, a budget fight between Congress and the Clinton administration led to government shutdowns in late 1995 and early 1996. Clinton went on to easily win re-election in 1996. Gingrich gave up the speakership after Republicans lost House seats in the 1998 congressional elections, and then resigned from the chamber in early 1999.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, in comments to reporters in Boston yesterday, said he supports repealing or de-funding the health-care law. When asked whether he backs a government shutdown to accomplish those goals, he said he didn’t want to discuss tactics.
Priebus is trying to keep his party focused on expanding its reach and boosting its technology infrastructure following the Republican failure to unseat Obama and the loss of Senate and House seats in the 2012 elections.
In Boston, RNC members are expected to discuss scheduling issues for the 2016 presidential primaries and that year’s party national convention, although no final decisions are expected.
“We need a very clear start-date and a very clear end- date, and those are things that I think I’m going to be able to get done,” Priebus told reporters. “Our convention has got to get moved to no later than late June, or maybe, maybe, the early part of July.”
The party’s 2012 convention was held in late August in Tampa, Florida, and was followed the next week by the Democratic conclave in Charlotte, North Carolina, that re-nominated Obama.
As part of its focus on the 2016 White House race, the RNC is poised to vote tomorrow on a resolution that would block the party from presidential-primary debate partnerships with the NBC and CNN television networks because they’ve declined to cancel planned specials spotlighting Hillary Clinton. The former first lady and secretary of state is currently viewed as the odds-on favorite for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination if she decides to enter the race.
Priebus has called the programs -- one a mini-series, the other a documentary -- free advertising for Clinton.
Gingrich, who next month will debut as a host on a new version of CNN’s “Crossfire” program, offered his own take on the Clinton situation.
“I think NBC and CNN ought to offer the RNC equal time,” Gingrich told reporters. “If they want to run two or three hours of documentary on Hillary, give the RNC two or three hours to make their case.”
The former House speaker’s push in his RNC remarks for a more positive tone in political discourse isn’t advice he has always followed. During his presidential bid, he called Obama “the most dangerous president in modern American history,” and termed him “incapable of defending the United States.”
--Editors: Don Frederick, Ted Bunker.