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Gingrich downplays 'life-long politician' jab


GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Newt Gingrich pushed back this morning on recent criticisms of his record from Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann after finding himself in his opponents' crosshairs as of late.

Gingrich declined to respond to the former Massachusetts governor's criticism of Gingrich as a "life-long politician." The former House Speaker told a group of reporters that he prefers to think of himself as a "lifetime citizen" instead.

Gingrich also said Bachmann was “technically correct” when she told the Greenville News this morning that he was the “grandfather” of the individual health care mandate, which he advocated at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, though he said he later came to oppose it.

"I’ve said all along that when we were fighting Hillary Clinton and Hillarycare, the Heritage Foundation and virtually the entire conservative movement thought the mandate was better than Hillarycare," he said at Tommy’s Ham House, where the town hall was held. "Nobody’s disputed that. Nobody has said it wasn’t factually accurate. So I commend her for being actually technically correct."

Gingrich also addressed a key period during his tenure on Capitol Hill: the 1995 budget impasse that led to a government shutdown. 

"We stopped it twice when we were fighting Clinton but we did it very carefully. We paid Social Security, we paid the military, we paid air traffic controllers, we paid the FBI," Gingrich said, answering an attendee’s question about whether he would be able to keep the government going.

He asserted that during the budget negotiations, "Clinton and I understood how to fight in a way that was mature and confused the Washington press corps."

But during the 1995 dispute, Gingrich reportedly said a "snub" aboard Air Force One, during which he sat at the back of the plane during a 25-hour flight to Israel, contributed to the standoff.

According to a CNN report from Nov. 16th, 1995, Gingrich said, "You've been on the plane for 25 hours and nobody has talked to you and they ask you to get off the plane by the back ramp ... You just wonder, where is their sense of manners? Where is their sense of courtesy?"

The report continued: "That 'snub,' the Georgia Republican said, was part of why you ended up with us sending down a tougher continuing resolution -- the stopgap spending bill that Clinton vetoed Monday. That veto led to the partial shutdown of the federal government, now in its third day."