Former GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told Newsmax late on Monday that 20 percent of President Barack Obama’s second inauguration speech was “goofy left-wingism.”
“Eighty percent was a very good, American speech that Republicans can use to make their case to the American people: the Declaration of Independence, having a good work ethic,” Gingrich, the former House Speaker, told Newsmax in an exclusive interview. “The other 20 percent was just left-wingism.”
Gingrich, who attended the inauguration, was among many GOP legislators and conservatives who shared their opinions on Obama’s second address. Many attacked the speech for its lack of specificity and bipartisan outreach.
As for Gingrich, the former Georgia representative said President Obama’s lack of clarity gave Republicans much fodder as his new term begins.
“For instance, he talked about how children need to feel safe,” he told Newsmax. “One left-wing reporter asked me if it was a call for gun control. I said that it was a call for armed guards in schools. He wasn’t clear.”
This fuzziness marks the foundation of a new, effective GOP strategy, Gingrich said.
“To conservatives, we have a choice,” he added. “Because he talked about having a good work ethic, I’d say: ‘Let’s reform unemployment compensation, with a requirement that you educate yourself so you can get a new job - because we should not be paying people to do nothing’ - and we can cite it as being a part of Barack Obama’s agenda.”
Gingrich likened the 80 percent of the president’s speech to words that might have been spoken by former GOP President Ronald Reagan.
“I’d say, ‘Let’s look at this speech and underline everything you agree with,’” he said. “If Ronald Reagan had given this speech, and you read it - and, not knowing who gave it - you could see that it was almost identical to something he would have said.
“But 20 percent is goofy left-wingism - and we’d cheerfully fight him on that. The whole section about climate change is nonsense. The great energy revolution we’re living through is called ‘oil and gas.’”
“There are portions of his speech that we can totally support,” Gingrich added - and embracing those sections, in particular, “would totally confuse Obama and the Democrats. That’s not quite what the Left expects.”
Meanwhile, Arizona Sen. John McCain expressed displeasure with Obama’s failure to discuss bipartisanship.
“I would have liked to have seen some outreach,” the 2008 GOP presidential candidate told the Los Angeles Times. “This is the eighth [inauguration] that I’ve been to - and always there’s been a portion of the speech where [the president says] ‘I reach out my hand because we need to work together.’ That wasn’t in this speech.”
Ohio Sen. Bob Portman agreed.
“My disappointment was that in the speech, I think the president missed an opportunity to talk about where we can find common ground,” Portman also told the Times. “Instead, he chose to talk about it in the abstract - and the specifics were about the things he believes, but are not issues where we, as a Congress and an executive branch, can make progress.”
In a statement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed optimism about Obama’s new term.
“The president’s second term represents a fresh start when it comes to dealing with the great challenges of our day - particularly, the transcendent challenge of unsustainable federal spending and debt,” the Kentucky Republican said in a statement.
And the No. 4 GOP representative, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, said legislators will soon need to make “hard choices” once the Obama presidency gets underway for a second time.
“House Republicans are eager to be responsible partners with the president during his second term,” McMorris Rodgers, the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, said in a statement.
“Yet, the President’s eloquent words must be matched with deliberate actions to restore country’s fiscal health. In his Inaugural Address today, he said: ‘We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit.’
“Yet, it is almost four years since the Senate passed a budget,” she added. “In the meantime, spending has raged out of control and America’s debt has ballooned.”
As for former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, he described Obama’s speech as “a very lofty address” that did not speak to the true problems facing the nation.
“I don’t think it touched what most Americans are worried about,” Card, who served the George W. Bush White House, told Fox. “It didn’t talk about protecting us - and that’s the oath of office - but it didn’t talk about the real concerns we have in America.
“We have an economy that’s not growing and spending that’s out of sight. We also don’t have a situation where there seems to be any interest in working together to address those problems.”
Card said he was looking to next month’s State of the Union address for more specifics from the president.
“I hope the president comes out and says: ‘I care about what’s happening in America right now. I want to make sure people have a job, that people have an economy that’s growing - and don’t worry, I’m going to protect you. There’s a war on terror going on around the world, and I’m going to focus on that.’
“I think he was really speaking past us,” Card told Fox. “A lot of people have said, ‘Nice speech, but, really what are you going to do about the real problems we have in America today?’”
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