By Heidi Przybyla
June 9 (Bloomberg) -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said President Barack Obama’s plan to fix the economy through stimulus spending and government intervention to boost companies like General Motors Corp. has “already failed.”
“Bureaucrats managing companies does not work, politicians dominating the economy does not work,” Gingrich told about 2,000 Republicans who attended a fundraising dinner at the Washington Convention Center last night.
Gingrich was the keynote speaker at the event, which raised $14.5 million for the Republican House and Senate campaign committees as they gear up for the 2010 congressional election. After last year’s vote, Republicans find themselves outnumbered by Democrats in the House 256 to 178 and 59 to 40 in the Senate.
Some Republicans are hailing Gingrich, the leader of the 1994 “Republican Revolution” that brought them congressional majorities, as de facto head of the party at a time when they are looking the path back to political dominance.
In introducing him, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin called Gingrich the “architect of the last reform movement” and “the man of ideas.”
The Obama administration didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Ryan Rudominer, said the comments by Gingrich and other Republican speakers at the dinner showed they “would rather bank on failure than work with Democrats.” Congressional Republicans have “no new ideas,” Rudominer, said.
Gingrich was preceded by a series of speakers who also took aim at Democrats and the government bailout of Detroit-based GM, New York-based American International Group Inc. and other companies, as well as the $787 billion economic stimulus legislation passed by the Democrat-controlled Congress in February.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Obama has a “radical agenda.” Republicans have “watched them take over banks, insurance companies, auto companies,” he said, “and now they want to take over your health care.”
“We’re going to need some wins next November to slow down their agenda,” said McConnell. House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio said Democrats are using their control of Congress “to bury our children and the middle class under a mountain of debt.”
Actor Jon Voight, the master of ceremonies, opened the evening with a series of sharp attacks on Obama, something many Republican leaders have been hesitant to do in light of the president’s high approval ratings.
A USA Today/Gallup Poll taken May 29-31 gave him a 61 percent approval rating.
“We are becoming a weak nation,” said Voight, calling Obama a “false prophet.” Republicans need to find their way back to power to free the nation from “this Obama oppression,” he said.
McConnell and Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who followed Voight, seemed pleasantly surprised.
“I’m still just reveling that someone from Hollywood made a speech like that. I hope you’re going to be able to find work after this,” said McConnell. “I really enjoyed that.”
Senator John Cornyn of Texas, among the 150 members of Congress who attended, called the speech “refreshing.”
Alaska Governor and last year’s Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell were among the guests.
Gingrich dialed back his criticism of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, only saying she is “wrong” on the issue of quotas, without citing any rulings she had made in favor of racial quotas.
After Obama nominated Sotomayor on May 26, Gingrich posted a comment via the Internet saying, “A white man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.” The statement was criticized by Cornyn and other Senate Republicans.
On June 3, Gingrich took back his description of her as a “racist,” though he continued to highlight her words in a 2001 speech as a “betrayal” of fundamental principles. In the speech, Sotomayor suggested a “wise Latina” would reach “better” decisions than a white male.
Obama nominated Sotomayor, 54, last month to succeed retiring Justice David Souter. If confirmed by the Senate, she would be the first Hispanic to sit on the nation’s highest court. The president said last week that Sotomayor probably “would have restated” her remarks if given the chance and that she was saying that her life experiences would help her understand other people’s struggles.
Democratic strategist Dan Gerstein said Gingrich’s comments and the attack on Obama showed “the double-edged sword” that Gingrich represents for the party.
“The people who generate the most buzz are the most polarizing, divisive and problematic leaders for the Republican Party,” he said. “The worst thing they could do would be to focus on energizing their base and dredge up this hyper- partisan, polarizing politics Obama ran against and won on.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Heidi Przybyla in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Updated: June 9, 2009 10:55 EDT