Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

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Tim Murphy is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy@motherjones.com.

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Your Daily Newt: "I Don't Do Foreign Policy"

As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich—until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.

Newt Gingrich created a minor international incident in July of 1995 when, in an appearance on CBS' Face the Nation, he declared that the United States should recognize Taiwanese independence and seek to "undermine" the stability of the Chinese government. Secretary of State Warren Christopher and GOP foreign policy yoda Henry Kissinger told him to step back. So did China.

What was Gingrich thinking? He told the New York Times shortly thereafter that he didn't actually believe the US should recognize Taiwan; he was simply acting out a scene from a novel he had read:

[There] he had been, enduring questions about China policy under the bright lights of "Face the Nation." He had to say something, and the fictional President in Allen Drury's classic novel about power in 1950's Washington flashed into his mind.

"It came out of a scene in 'Advise and Consent,' toward the end of the novel, where the Russians are bullying the new American President," Mr. Gingrich said in an interview. "And he says, 'Here are the three things I can do.' And he goes through three things, all of them so outside the Russian planning that they were aghast. They said, 'You can't do this.' And he said, 'Watch me.'

"On reflection, Mr. Gingrich said, "I don't particularly care about having said the thing about Taiwan either way."

When the Times asked Gingrich if he'd consider traveling to China to smooth things over, he was blunt: "I don't do foreign policy."

Your Daily Newt: The Speaker's Amazon Adventure

Editors' note: As a service to our readers, every day we are delivering a classic moment from the political life of Newt Gingrich—until he either clinches the nomination or bows out.

The Republican presidential field was stale and uninspiring when Gail Sheehy profiled the speaker of the House for Vanity Fair in 1995. Sheehy reported that Newt Gingrich first began eyeing the Oval Office 19 years earlier, when he was an assistant professor of history and geography at West Georgia College. "[I]gnoring the minor setback of having just lost his second campaign for Congress, he and his acolytes began to plot a presidential run scheduled for 2000 or 2004." But Gingrich, at least publicly, wanted nothing to do with the nomination:

Today, Newt asserts unconvincingly that the presidency is not "one of the three highest items" on the checklist for the rest of his life. "But," he says, "hanging around with Marianne is pretty high on the list…I really do want to experience a lot of marriage."

When I ask what else is on the list, Newt rolls out a wish list that sounds like the contents page from Men's Journal. "I've always wanted to cross the Owen Stanley Range in New Guinea…I would love to go and collect dinosaur fossils for a while. Probably in Montana or northern Arizona. I would really love to spend six months to a year in the Amazon basin, just being able to spend the day watching tree sloths."

Out of spite, surely. The tree sloth, content to eat and sleep away its existence, is the very embodiment of the corrupt welfare state. Here's a video of a sloth refusing to cross a road without assistance because it wasn't raised in a culture that valued hard work:

Mitt Romney is very wealthy. The Boston Globe pegged his net worth at somewhere between $190 million and $250 million. So it was probably a bad idea for him to respond to a challenge from Texas Gov. Rick Perry at Saturday's GOP debate by offering to wager $10,000—more than a lot of Americans have in their savings accounts right now—that he had never supported a national individual mandate. Here's video, via TPM:

To make matters worse, Romney didn't just give President Obama grist for a campaign ad—he'd also lose the bet. Romney did, at least until recently, believe that his Massachusetts health care plan offered a model for the rest of the country.

Update: On further review, it's not clear whether Romney would lose the bet, since he didn't specifically call for a federal mandate in his (since-revised) book. But Perry's right that Romney supports mandates on principle, and he has, in other forums, endorsed their implementation at the federal level.

Newt's Big Whopper on the Individual Mandate

Newt Gingrich

Pressed by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) at Saturday's GOP presidential debate, Newt Gingrich offered a clever explanation for his longtime support for an individual mandate for health insurance. As the former speaker of the House told it, he had supported the mandate in 1993 specifically as an alternative to Hillarycare. The mandate was, he noted, a Republican idea. But "after Hillarycare disappeared…people tried to find other techniques."

There are a couple of problems with Gingrich's alibi, but none more glaring than the fact that he didn't simply abandon the mandate after Hillarycare failed. As David Corn reported, Gingrich was calling for an individual mandate for health insurance as recently as 2007. As Gingrich wrote:

In order to make coverage more accessible, Congress must do more, including passing legislation to: establish a national health insurance marketplace by giving individuals the freedom to shop for insurance plans across state lines; provide low-income families with $1,000 in direct contributions to a health savings account, along with a $2,000 advanced tax credit to purchase an HSA-eligible high-deductible health plan; make premiums for these plans tax deductible; provide tax rebates to small businesses that contribute to their employees' HSAs; extend and expand grant funding to high-risk pools across the country; and require anyone who earns more than $50,000 a year to purchase health insurance or post a bond.

Here's a video of Gingrich pitching his proposal while seated across from Hillary Clinton, herself, in 2005:

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