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Notes from the May 15, 2011 broadcast of Meet The Press

May 15, 2011

Today’s broadcast featured Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) in his 35th appearance on the program.

Gingrich said, “We are at a great turning point in American history.” Doesn’t every candidate say that? Is it always (or ever) true?

On raising the debt ceiling, Gingrich says he would use the vote to force spending cuts. He would advocate passing very small increases, weeks at a time, to force cuts but avoid default.

He says Medicare pays a lot of money to crooks, and we need to clean it up. He is against both “Obama care” and the Paul Ryan plan. He is against all tax increases, and he wants to “change the shape of government.”

Gregory played a 1993 MTP clip where Gingrich spoke in favor of an individual mandate for health insurance. And he basically stood by that position today.

Host David Gregory asked Gingrich about his comment the other day where he called President Obama “the most successful food stamp president in history.” Gingrich was fairly passionate in saying this was not a racist comment. With unintentional irony, in his explanation he then asked, “Do we want the whole country to become like Detroit?” He added that a central theme of his campaign will be paychecks versus food stamps.

On national security, Gingrich said all recent presidents have underestimated the threat we face from Islamic terrorists.

My favorite quote from the former Speaker today: “Let me talk about me for a moment, not President Obama.”

On his personal life, Gingrich said he has made mistakes but has now matured. Gregory pointed out that Gingrich was 55 when some of those mistakes happened.

When asked if he would accept the #2 spot on a ticket, Gingrich said “Can you imagine anyone asking me to be their vice president?”

Moving on to the roundtable, Mark Halperin of Time magazine said Newt Gingrich, as a presidential candidate, seems to understand he can’t talk like an analyst or flame thrower. He has to talk like a president.

E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post said Gingrich is trying to be a “good natured flamethrower.” He added that this is the most unsettled Republican presidential field since 1940.

Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal said Gingrich was non-defensive and good natured today. She also said we have to remember that for young voters, Newt Gingrich is a “new figure.”

On the importance of Gingrich’s personal flaws, Halperin noted “there are no perfect candidates in this field.”

All agreed that former Governor Mike Huckabee’s (R-AR) decision not to run has left a hole in the field… the front-runner in Iowa and South Carolina has just walked away from the race. And no one knows where conservative Christian voters will go.

The program included the “Trends and Takeaways” segment today. Matt Bai of the New York Times tweeted, “Newt Gingrich says in the MTP greenroom this campaign is about 3 things: the economy, American identity and home security. The middle one is ominous.” Bai went on that “American identity” is a dark theme in US politics not an ennobling one. And Newt Gingrich can’t resist it.

On a personal note. I will miss the next three weeks of the program and this blog. This coming Sunday I will be in Paris for a pre-G8 Summit conference, the following Sunday I will be returning from covering the G8 Summit in Deauville, France. And then Sunday, June 4, I will be in London for a global security seminar with journalists from around the world.

Today’s Meet The Press transcript will be here.

Also follow the show on the MTP Facebook page, track Twitter feeds from host David Gregory, Meet The Press, and Executive Producer Betsy Fischer, watch the midweek PressPass interview, and don’t forget Gregory’s blog.

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