|MAY 21, 2012|
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Health care. Global warming. Social welfare. Intervention in Libya. Federal subsidies. This is a list of things — though not a complete one — that former House Speaker and likely GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich has changed his mind about. He once favored insurance mandates, but now blasts them as unconstitutional. He once felt global warming was a danger and that a cap-and-trade system was needed, but now derides such an approach as vile “energy taxes.” This week, we first reported that Gingrich performed a widely noted shift on Libya, from urging intervention to blasting President Obama for doing so. It’s almost hard to keep track of how many colors Newt can have.
EPIC FLIP ON LIBYA: Speaking about the Libya situation on February 22, Gingrich argued there was “an opportunity to replace [Qaddafi's] dictatorship,” and said, “I think the United States ought to be firmly on the side of the Libyan people in replacing this administration.” On March 3, President Obama voiced the same opinion, saying “Colonel Qaddafi needs to step down from power. You’ve seen with great clarity that he has lost legitimacy with his people.” On March 7, Gingrich pressed Obama to act. When asked by Fox News’ Greta van Susteren what he would do about Libya, Newt said “[e]xercise a no-fly zone this evening.” Gingrich said that humanitarian reasons demanded intervention, which should be done through the air: “All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we’re intervening. And we don’t have to send troops. All we have to do is suppress his air force, which we could do in minutes.” Once again, Obama undertook action that Gingrich would have presumably favored: On March 18, Obama told the nation that the U.S. had joined an international effort to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, because “Qaddafi chose to ignore the will of his people and the international community” and “launched a military campaign against his own people.” So did Newt support the president’s efforts? Well, no. Less than 24 hours after the military campaign began, he inexplicably blasted the move and told Politico “it is impossible to make sense of the standard for intervention in Libya except opportunism and news media publicity.” Three days later on the Today Show, he said plainly that “I would not have intervened.” He blasted the humanitarian justification for invading, saying “the standard [Obama] has fallen back to of humanitarian intervention could apply to Sudan, to North Korea, to Zimbabwe, to Syria this week, to Yemen, to Bahrain.” He also said he would have liked to have seen Obama utilize ”a lot of other allies” and that “I would not have used American and European forces.” Last night, in a return appearance on van Susteren’s show, he also said the U.S. shouldn’t use air power: “If they’re serious about protecting civilians, you can’t do that from the air.” So how did Newt go from being pro-intervention, pro-removing Qaddafi, pro-using air power — to suddenly being against intervention, angry that U.S. forces were used, and blasting air power as a mechanism? In a convoluted note on his Facebook page, and again on van Susteren last night, Newt basically made the case that he was against intervention all along, but made his comments urging Obama to act on March 7 because Obama had already called for Qaddafi to leave power, so he was giving a piece of advice that he didn’t agree with but thought was necessary. If that doesn’t make sense to you, you’re not alone. Politifact has rated Newt’s changing positions a “full flop.”
WE MUST COMBAT GLOBAL WARMING…OR NOT: On an even larger issue, Gingrich has undergone perhaps an even more dramatic conversion of beliefs. Believe it or not, Gingrich used to believe not only that global warming was a threat, but that it demanded government action — in the form of a cap-and-trade system. As far back as 1989, Gingrich was backing legislation to combat global warming, co-sponsoring the Global Warming Prevention Act. In 2007, Gingrich called for a cap-and-trade system and clean energy incentives. He told PBS’ Frontline that the appropriate ”conservative approach should be to minimize the risk of a really catastrophic change.” He added that “I think if you have mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur, and if you have a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions, that there’s a package there that’s very, very good. And frankly, it’s something I would strongly support.” In 2008, he appeared in an advertisement funded by Al Gore — the bete noire of anti-cap-and-trade conservatives. Worse, Newt was sitting next to Nancy Pelosi and delivered a message that “we do agree our country must take action to address climate change.” But once again, Newt changed his colors. Slowly, he began attacking the idea of a cap-and-trade system and even the very idea that global warming was dangerous. In April 2008, he wrote on his site that “I don’t think that we have conclusive proof of global warming. And I don’t think we have conclusive proof that humans are at the center of it.” In a later Washington Post chat, he rejected a cap-and-trade system because he believed it “would lead to corruption, political favoritism, and would have a huge impact on the economy.” He blasted cap-and-trade as an “energy tax” at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2009. Now, Gingrich is full-on against cap-and-trade, and even wrote a book advocating for increased oil drilling, which will of course increase greenhouse gas emissions. This was a remarkable transformation.
NEWT’S OTHER FLIPS: On a wide variety of other very important issues, Gingrich has held a dizzying array of differing opinions and took many actions that contradicted his stated positions. In the 1990s, Gingrich waged his campaign to destroy unemployment insurance and aid for needy families, yet he made his own district the recipient of huge amounts of federal aid. Under Gingrich, his district in Cobb County, GA received more “federal subsidies than any suburban county in the country, with two exceptions: Arlington Virginia, effectively part of the Federal Government, and Brevard County Florida, the home of the Kennedy Space Center.” (It should be noted that also in the 90s, Gingrich was blasting Bill Clinton’s infidelities and “secular socialist” agenda that was destroying American families — all the while having several affairs outside of marriage). In recent months, Gingrich has pushed a theme that Democrats are the “party of food stamps” because they believe in federal food assistance for the indigent. Yet in 2002, when President George W. Bush proposed expanding some food stamp programs, Gingrich backed him , saying that the “welfare reform” law — that he himself helped author in the 1990s — went too far in cutting food assistance. On the crucial issue of health care, Gingrich has undergone yet another monumental shift. In 2008, Gingrich suggested “insurance mandates for people who earn more than $75,000 a year.” Yet by 2010, he was blasting the mandate as unconstitutional. Gingrich’s shifting opinions on virtually every crucial matter before the country are puzzling to say the least, especially now that he is likely to seek the presidency in 2012. To accomplish that, Newt will have to flip on one more issue: in 2004, he said “You can’t flip-flop and be commander-in-chief.”
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