Gingrich apologises for attack on rising party star
Published 19/05/2011 | 05:00
Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign, barely a week old, is already in trouble after he was forced to apologise for criticising a rising star from his own party.
Mr Gingrich also suffered embarrassment when it was disclosed that he had at one point owed up to $500,000 (€360,000) to Tiffany, apparently for jewellery bought for his third wife, Callista.
The former speaker of the US House of Representatives has refused to talk about the bill.
Both incidents appeared to confirm what even his supporters fear -- that he is too undisciplined and has too much personal and political baggage to be a credible contender for the Republican nomination.
They also underline Republican concerns about the strength of its primary field a year ahead of the presidential election. No single candidate has broken out of the pack and several senior figures have opted not to run.
Mr Gingrich labelled a health care plan drawn up by Paul Ryan, who is viewed by the Republican establishment as a conservative "wunderkind'' and future star of the party, as "right-wing social engineering".
Mr Gingrich spent 48 hours attempting to explain his comments, but when that did not work, he had little option but to apologise to Mr Ryan.
Republican strategists believe Mr Gingrich's error could be fatal because it handed the Democrats a ready-made sound bite with which to attack the Ryan plan.
Under Mr Ryan's plan, the government would provide a certain amount of money to health insurers covering the elderly, allocating more to poorer people and less to the wealthy, rather than the state covering all health expenses for senior citizens as happens under the current system.
Rich Lowry, editor of National Review magazine, said Mr Gingrich " is drawn irresistibly to operatic overstatement." (© Daily Telegraph, London)