In an interview with Newt Gingrich on Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer hoped to get the former speaker to denounce recent comments by Rick Santorum about higher education: "Santorum said, 'President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college, what a snob.' As a former college professor, how did you feel about that exchange?"
Despite Lauer's attempt to appeal to his academic background, Gingrich refused to take the bait: "You know, you have to ask Santorum why he said that. I do think every American ought to get trained. I think it doesn't matter what your degrees are, it matters if you're employable....So, I think there's a middle ground here..."
Earlier in the interview, Lauer remarked on the recent lack of media attention for Gingrich: "And in some ways, you've dropped out of the headlines. Why?" Moments before, Lauer pointed out that the last time Gingrich was given air time on Today was in late January.
Lauer wondered about the ability of Gingrich to win further contests: "What are you seeing in the polling there that makes you optimistic?" After Gingrich outlined several states in which he could compete, a dismissive Lauer concluded: "...a lot of people feel the train has left the station and there are only two guys on it, and you're not one of them."
Here is a portion of the February 28 interview:
LAUER: I want to ask you about something else that made some headlines recently, it was a comment that Rick Santorum made this weekend in Michigan, referring to a speech that President Obama made to Congress back in 2009, where he said, "I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school, vocational training or apprenticeship." Now, in referring to that comment this weekend, Rick Santorum said, "President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college, what a snob." As a former college professor, how did you feel about that exchange?
GINGRICH: You know, you have to ask Santorum why he said that. I do think every American ought to get trained. I think it doesn't matter what your degrees are, it matters if you're employable. In North Dakota, because of the oil boom, they have 3.5% unemployment but they have 16,000 jobs in the oil industry that are unfilled because the 3.5% who are unemployed don't have the right skills. So, I've proposed that we add a requirement to unemployment compensation that you have to sign up for a business training program to learn some skill if we're going to give you money. But we wouldn't give people money for doing nothing for 99 weeks. So, I think there's a middle ground here, the total quote you just read strikes me as perfectly reasonable. Everybody in America is going to have to get re-educated all the time because jobs are going to change, technology is going to change. And if we're going to compete in the world market, we both have to have the best equipment and we have to have the best training.