Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday used ominous Democratic talking points and pressed Newt Gingrich as to whether Republicans are willing to put uninsured Americans at "risk" by repealing Obamacare.
The former Democratic operative turned journalist also offered this complaint about GOP efforts to overturn the 2010 health care law: "This repeal is likely to pass the House tomorrow. But it's not going anywhere in the Senate. So, what's gained?"
Citing a new study by the Department of Health and Human Services, Stephanopoulos warned, "If President Obama's reform is repealed, they say that's going to put these people at risk. Are you willing to take that risk for the 129 million Americans?" The ex-Speaker of the House dismissed this document as "far-out left-wing propaganda" and added, "I don't particularly trust Health and Human Services on anything at the present time because it's a very politicized agency."
The GMA host put forth a sunny take on the President's current political position. Highlighting new polls, he hopefully speculated, "And he really seemed to speak to the heart of the country last week in Tucson. Our poll seems to reflect it. Has he gotten his mojo back?"
This segment was presented as the second in a new series on possible 2012 GOP challengers to Obama. The first edition appeared on January 11 and featured Stephanopoulos hitting Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty on his call for more tax cuts.
A transcript of the January 18 segment, which aired at 7:10am EST, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That vote is set for tomorrow. Joining us now to talk about all this, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. One of our 2012 contenders for the White House. He's also a Fox News contributor and his book, To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine, is now out in an updated paperback edition. I know you haven't made it official yet, Mr. Speaker. But, we know you're thinking about it seriously. We'll get to that-
ABC GRAPHIC: Newt Gingrich's Comeback: Is He Ready to Run?
NEWT GINGRICH: George, I love the way you define that. [Meaning the 2012 graphic] Can I say, I'm one of your 2012 candidates?
STEPHANOPOULOS: [Laughs] I knew you would get a kick out of that. Let's talk about President Obama first. Last time you were on was right after the November elections. You said he should take some time and recenter himself. Since then, he has replaced much of his White House staff. He reached some deals with Republicans during the lame duck Congress. And he really seemed to speak to the heart of the country last week in Tucson. Our poll seems to reflect it. Has he gotten his mojo back?
GINGRICH: Well, he's certainly got a lot of strength back. I think bringing in Bill Daley will be an enormous asset. I've worked with Bill over the years. He's a very solid, very competent guy who understands the business community. And then, the great Chicago tradition, understands getting things done. So, that was a good step. I thought that his speech in Tucson was very effective. It was what a President should do in a moment like that. I think he deserves the approval that you just showed in your poll. And I join the 71 percent of Republicans who approved of it. I think it was exactly the right tone for him. The audience wasn't always the right tone, but the President was. And I think that that certainly helped him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You certainly don't agree with the President on health care. The vote to repeal is set for tomorrow in the House. It comes on, this morning, a new study being released by the Department of Health and Human Services that says up to 129 million Americans, half the non-elderly population, could have health problems that could lead insurers to either raise prices or deny coverage. If President Obama's reform is repealed, they say that's going to put these people at risk. Are you willing to take that risk for the 129 million Americans?
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I just don't believe that the Department of Health and Human services, which is putting out left-wing propaganda. We're releasing, at the Center for Health Transformation, a chart. This is the third in a series of charts on Obamacare, that shows the Secretary of Health and Human Services has been given 1,988 additional grants of power, including the ability to cut off medicine, to establish waiting lists. If you go through the grants of power, they're extraordinary. I would say centering the health bureaucracy in Washington, decisions about everybody's health-
STEPHANOPOULOS [Incredulous]: But, do you have any evidence that they're making this up?
GINGRICH: All I'm telling you is- well, I don't know what you mean by making it up. These are people who claim they can cut $500 billion out of Medicare and not affect either doctors, hospitals or senior citizens. Now, I mean, if you can believe that, you can believe anything they're saying. These were folks who I think have consistently been dishonest about what they're doing. The Secretary of Health and Human Services has publicly threatened insurance companies that she would basically knock out of being able to bid on things. And she's been very overt in this. She's behaved like a politician, and basically threatening her critics. So- No, I don't particularly trust Health and Human Services on anything at the present time because it's a very politicized agency.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This repeal is likely to pass the House tomorrow. But it's not going any[here in the Senate. So, what's gained?
GINGRICH: First of all, there's 23 Democratic senators up for re-election in 2012. As people learn more and more about this bill, as they realize how expensive it is, how centralized it is in Washington, how much bureaucratic power is taken away from doctors, hospitals, patients, I'm not so sure pressure is not going to build on the Senate every month to repeal the bill. And the President will face a choice. Does he really want to run for re-election, opposing most of the American people? Or does he want to conceive that this was a badly-written bill that has a bunch of bad ideas. And that, in fact, it needs to be dramatically overhauled.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You have called Sarah Palin a phenomenon. She seems to have taken a hit in recent days. New poll out in USA Today this morning shows that she's at her lowest approval rating since she was picked to run for the vice presidency by John McCain. How does she turn that around?
GINGRICH: Well, I think she has got to slow down and be more careful and think through what she's saying and how she's saying it. There's no question that she's become more controversial. But she is still a phenomenon. I mean, I don't know anybody else in American politics who can put something on Twitter or put something on Facebook and automatically have it become a national story. So, she remains, I think, a very formidable person in her own right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, the question of whether you are going to be one of her opponents in 2012, if she decides to run, as well. I know you're not ready to make the decision until late February or March, but you have said recently that you're now more inclined to run than not. And we talked to the people in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire who say that say you're going full out on the ground there.
GINGRICH: Well, all I can say is that if I'm on George Stephanopoulos' list, that Callista and I are going to have to look at this more carefully than we intended. [Stephanopoulos laughs.] And I can promise you that by late February, we'll have a decision on whether or not to move towards an exploratory phase. And you'll know it by very early March.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Sounds like you're saying I may be on to something, Mr. Speaker.