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Gingrich accepts Trump debate invitation, praises Cain and Bill Clinton

STATEN ISLAND, NY --- Newt Gingrich on Saturday accepted an invitation to appear at a December debate moderated by bombastic TV personality Donald Trump, smilingly as he asked reporters, "Who can resist The Donald?" 

"I would want to go just for the entertainment value," he added. "I can't imagine what a debate hosted by Donald Trump would be like." 

A spokesperson confirmed to NBC News that Gingrich will attend the Dec. 27 event. 

"In all seriousness, Trump is a unique American character," said the former House speaker. "It'd be like if Bill Gates called and said, 'Hi, I’d like to host a debate.' The correct answer would be, 'Yes.' You wouldn't say, 'Hi, I gotta check my calendar." 

Gingrich's remarks came at a press conference held moments after Herman Cain announced the suspension of his scandal-plagued campaign. 

He said that he "appreciates" Herman Cain's reasons for bowing out, and praised the Atlanta businessman for having "the courage" to run for president. 

"He deserves credit for having the courage to talk about big ideas and to focus on the economy," Gingrich later told a town hall crowd of more than 500 at a Staten Island hotel. "I know he's going to create a new citizen organization and stay active in public life." 

Gingrich told reporters that he spoke to Cain today, but would not characterize the "personal conversation." Asked if he anticipates to be the recipient of Cain's endorsement, Gingrich responded, "I don't anticipate anything. Herman Cain's gotta make up his own mind." 

But, he added,  "I hope to meet with him sometime next week."

In addition to praising his fellow conservatives, Gingrich also had kind words to say for his one-time bitterest rival, former President Bill Clinton -- and he alluded to Clinton's "little courtesies," including one that rankled the speaker back in his congressional heyday. 

"We couldn't have gotten done what we did without Clinton" Gingrich said, "Clinton had been governor for 10 years. He understood negotiating with a legislature. Little things. Having the right picnic for families. Having families with children bring the kids over. Having people fly on Air Force One. Little courtesies."

The comment is noteworthy because Gingrich famously complained that Clinton made himself and then-Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole sit in the back of Air Force One on a 1995 flight. "It's petty, but I think it's human," Gingrich said at the time. Gingrich also helped lead the effort to impeach Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair. 

(Ironically, on Saturday, Gingrich praised "all the little human things" that Clinton knew how to do to win favor.) 

NBC's Alex Moe contributed to this report.