NBC's Lauer Frets 'True Conservative' Paul Ryan Will Be 'Immovable Object'

In an interview with former House speaker Newt Gingrich on Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer worried about vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's commitment to conservative principles: "I've heard Paul Ryan described as a true conservative....Do you honestly think he is someone who will work and reach across the aisle to Democrats or will he be an immovable object on key social issues and issues of ideology?"

Earlier in the interview, Lauer pushed Gingrich to criticize Ryan's plan to reform Medicare: "...on the weekend you announced that you wanted the Republican nomination...you were talking about that version, Paul Ryan's version then of reforming Medicare, you said it was 'right-wing social engineering.' He since has evolved. Is there anything about his current version of that plan that is still right-wing social engineering?"

Gingrich replied that Ryan's ability to take and respond to criticism was "one of his strengths, unlike President Obama, who doesn't seem to listen." Gingrich then explained: "And the result was he worked with [Oregon Democratic] Senator Ron Wyden. It's important to remember, the only bipartisan proposal to save Medicare for the long run is the Ryan-Wyden plan."

Gingrich later used Ryan's work with Wyden to dismantle Lauer's "immovable object" argument against Ryan: "...you ought to talk to Senator Ron Wyden, who's a Democrat from Oregon, who in a very big bold reform has worked very closely and can tell you what his relationship has been like with Paul Ryan."


Here is a full transcript of the August 14 exchange:

7:06AM ET

MATT LAUER: Newt Gingrich is the former speaker of the House and one-time favorite in the GOP presidential race. Speaker Gingrich, good to see you.

NEWT GINGRICH: It's good to be with you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Defining Paul Ryan; Newt Gingrich on Romney's Choice for VP]

LAUER: Let's talk about your first reaction. I've heard in the last 36 hours Paul Ryan described in a couple of very different ways. On the one hand, I hear he's a game-changer for the Romney campaign. I also hear he's a dream come true for the Obama campaign. What was your first reaction when you heard he was on the ticket?

GINGRICH: Well, I think both are true. My reaction was very, very positive. Callista has known him since he was an intern for Senator Kasten. He is a remarkably bright guy, he worked under Jack Kemp and Jeane Kirkpatrick, he has a wonderful understanding of economic growth and how to create jobs and he has enormous courage.

Now, he's also a game-changer from the Democrat's standpoint. He virtually guarantees this is going to be a big-issue, big-choice election. And our job is going to be to insist on telling the truth about it and to work on issues such as, for example, the fact that no one 55 or over, no one has anything happen to Medicare under the Ryan proposal.

LAUER: Yeah, well let's-

GINGRICH: So to scare current senior citizens is just false.

LAUER: Well, let's talk about Medicare. Because we do have to go back to what you said on the weekend you announced that you wanted the Republican nomination. And when you were talking about that version, Paul Ryan's version then of reforming Medicare, you said it was "right-wing social engineering." He since has evolved. Is there anything about his current version of that plan that is still right-wing social engineering?

GINGRICH: Well, he doesn't care for the criticism, which is one of his strengths, unlike President Obama, who doesn't seem to listen. And the result was he worked with Senator Ron Wyden. It's important to remember, the only bipartisan proposal to save Medicare for the long run is the Ryan-Wyden plan. And what it says is you can keep the current Medicare system if that's what you want. So even if you're 23 years old, if you really want to keep the current system, you can do so.

Now, the challenge for the President is simple. He did transfer something like $716 billion out of projected spending in Medicare in order to cover the cost of ObamaCare. He did create a 15-person bureaucratic board which ends Medicare as we know it as a doctor-patient system. And for the President to go around pretending that he's going to protect Medicare is simply not accurate and not frankly being fair to the American people. Let's have an honest debate and let's ask the President and Vice President Biden to be honest about what they've already done and to be honest about the Ryan plan, which does not affect anyone at all over 55 years of age.

LAUER: You talk about a bipartisan plan. I've heard Paul Ryan described as a true conservative. Of course you used to describe yourself as that in this race. Do you honestly think he is someone who will work and reach across the aisle to Democrats or will he be an immovable object on key social issues and issues of ideology?

GINGRICH: Well, I think, first of all, you ought to talk to Senator Ron Wyden, who's a Democrat from Oregon, who in a very big bold reform has worked very closely and can tell you what his relationship has been like with Paul Ryan. But in addition, Paul's entire experience – remember, he represents an industrial blue-collar auto worker district in Wisconsin. He is very attuned to trying to reach across the aisle to find Democrats, to find common ground. I think that his interest is finding a solution, not just going out and having ideological speeches.

But he also feels passionately as a father of three that his children are going to be left a bankrupt country unless we do something dramatic. And he knows when you look at Greece, where there's now 55% teenage unemployment and youth unemployment, 24% unemployment overall, we can't go down that road, which is why frankly Governor Christie is a great choice for keynote speaker. Because he was one of the first leaders in taking on the cost of government.

LAUER: Former speaker, Newt Gingrich. Mr. Gingrich, always good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning.
 
GINGRICH: Good to be with you. Thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC