- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Monday said the U.S. economy is headed “off a cliff” and that President Obama has failed to bring fresh and original thinking to the problem so far.

Mr. Gingrich, 65, said top financial officials used a nightmare scenario to persuade President Bush to agree to the $700 billion bailout last fall.

“At the time, I flinched. … Probably I would have voted yes,” Mr. Gingrich said of the bailout, “just because if you have the secretary of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve chairman saying to you, ‘Vote yes or we’re all going to go off a cliff.’

“Well, the fact is, we’re all going to go off a cliff. That’s what’s happening. This is a much more profound problem than people think,” said Mr. Gingrich, a Republican from Georgia, during a breakfast with reporters and columnists organized by the Christian Science Monitor.

Mr. Gingrich, who has earned a reputation for irascibility, slammed the Obama administration’s economic efforts.

“The continuity between the Bush bailout and the Obama bailout will be mildly amazing. This is not the change you can believe in. This is more of the same,” he said, mocking one of Mr. Obama’s campaign slogans.

Mr. Gingrich’s harshest words were reserved for recently confirmed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

“Geithner is fronting for the banks. Frankly, that’s what I think [former Treasury Secretary Henry M.] Paulson ended up doing. Paulson ended up being a Wall Street deal maker who was happy to take your money to bail out Wall Street deal makers. That’s not the purpose of the secretary of the Treasury.”

The former speaker, who led the Republican revolution in 1994 but was undone by GOP infighting and fights over the federal budget with President Clinton, now leads the American Solutions think tank.

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