- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 3, 2007

Newt Gingrich stood by his criticism of President Bush, saying yesterday that the government is “not getting the job done” and that his unpopularity could be harmful to Republicans running for office next year.

“The government is not functioning. It’s not getting the job done,” said Mr. Gingrich, a Georgia Republican who is considering a run for his party’s presidential nomination. “Republicans need to confront this reality.”

The former House speaker, who stepped down from his post after his party lost seats in the 1998 midterm elections, cited the debate over illegal immigration, Iraq and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as examples of where the administration has not met public expectations.

“All you have to do is look at the examples I’ve given you today where the government simply fails,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Nonetheless, he stressed that “this is not about the presidency. The government is not functioning.” He thinks Mr. Bush “means very, very well,” in his policy-making decisions.

Republican strategist Mary Matalin disagreed with Mr. Gingrich’s assessment that 2008 Republican presidential candidates should run against Mr. Bush.

“Newt, who is capable of bursts of genius, is also capable of just outbursts,” she said yesterday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And I don’t know where that came from or why it’s so, and it certainly makes no strategic sense.”

In a recent interview with the New Yorker, Mr. Gingrich is reported to have described Mr. Bush’s tenure as “a Republican version of the Jimmy Carter presidency, when nothing seemed to go right,” and called White House adviser Karl Rove’s 2004 election strategy “maniacally dumb.”

Last week, White House press secretary Tony Snow dismissed Mr. Gingrich’s comments as the work of a candidate seeking higher office.

“When it comes to presidential politics, you know that the first rule is if you’re running even in your own party, the first thing you do is you try to differentiate your product, and you always use the president as somebody that you’re sort of measuring yourself against,” Mr. Snow said.

Mr. Gingrich denied that he was advising Republicans to run against Mr. Bush.

“I don’t think you should run against President Bush,” he said. “I think what you do have to do is run in favor of radically changing Washington and radically changing government.”

Mr. Gingrich has said he is deferring any announcement on a presidential run until the end of September, when he will decide whether a consensus conservative candidate has emerged from the Republican field.

Asked whether former Sen. Fred Thompson, a Tennessee Republican who has formed a fundraising committee, could fill such a conservative gap, Mr. Gingrich declined to answer directly. Instead, he said that Mr. Thompson and candidates former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani were all “solid people” capable of “offering a very bold, dramatic vision.”

He did not mention Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a leading contender for his party’s nomination.

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