In the wake of his highly critical comments about the House GOP budget, and in particular the Medicare reform it proposes, Newt Gingrich has been pounded by the likes of Charles Krauthammer (see here), Rush Limbaugh (see here), Bill Bennett (see here), Brit Hume (see here), and the Wall Street Journal editorial page (see here), among many others. And this interesting exchange took place yesterday with a voter in Iowa, who advised Gingrich to “Get out now before you make a bigger fool of yourself.”
The criticism from so many different quarters suggests the degree to which Representative Paul Ryan, in only a matter of months, has shifted the political and philosophical debate within conservatism. Although he himself is quite a large figure in the history of the modern GOP, Gingrich thought it would be a good idea to launch a withering attack on the Ryan plan—and for his pains he found himself ground to dust in fewer than 24 hours. Other Republican presidential candidates must have taken notice.
For decades reforming entitlement programs along the lines Ryan has proposed was considered insane, a political death wish. Now it has become a key part of the GOP agenda, and most conservatives, including intellectual conservatives, believe it merits support and defense. That may change over time, of course, depending on how events unfold. But for now, reckless attacks against what Ryan has proposed will be met by powerful criticism from a spectrum of influential figures within conservatism. And it’ll have an effect. Just ask Newt Gingrich.