Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich criticized President Obama on Tuesday for his handling of the near-government shutdowns during his term, calling Obama's warnings that military personnel may not be paid on time "insanely stupid."
Gingrich, by his own admission, knows a thing or two about government shutdowns. He was Speaker of the House when the federal government closed shop in 1995 and 1996 as a result of the budget battle with former President Clinton. The Washington monument may have closed down for a few days, Gingrich said, but Social Security checks and military paychecks were sent out on time.
"We handled the government shutdown correctly," Gingrich said during a speech Tuesday at Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. "Everybody got paid Social Security. Everybody got paid in the military. Everybody got paid in air traffic control. You don't have to be insanely stupid and threaten everybody in the country because you're incompetent."
Gingrich was referring to Obama's warning in April--just days before the government would have shut down had Congress not passed a short-term budget bill--that paychecks for troops serving overseas might be delayed. Obama also stressed in the weeks leading up to the Aug. 2nd deadline to raise the debt ceiling that the federal government might not send out Social Security checks if Congress failed to raise the limit.
"I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven't resolved this issue," Obama said in a July interview with CBS News. "Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it."
In his speech, Gingrich also knocked both parties over the ongoing trend toward resolving problems through special committees and secret deals, calling Congress' actions of late a "total disaster." At Thursday's Republican presidential debate in Ames, Iowa, Gingrich called the new bipartisan debt commission established in the wake of the debt limit deal "as dumb an idea as Washington has come up with."
"Just think about the whole concept," Gingrich said. "You have a super committee. What does that even mean? Why is it it super, other than they've aggregated power into 12 people who will spend the next few months fighting?"
Instead, he suggested, Congress should vote on a series of smaller bills and scrap the talk about "grand compromises" involving trillions of dollars.
"These grand compromises don't work very well, he said. "But a thousand small smart things would actually get more done."