Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who has backpedaled from earlier remarks in which he called Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor a racist, said he still views many of her comments as racist but said its for the Senate to judge whether shes the right person for the court.
Speaking on CBS Face the Nation, Gingrich said of Sotomayors years-old comments that a wise Latina could reach a better judgment than a white male, its clear that what she said was racist. The former Speaker also said he would decide on a presidential bid after consulting his family and added, I wouldnt run unless we thought we could govern.
As to whether Sotomayors comments, some of which have surfaced recently, should disqualify her for the lifetime nomination to the nations highest court, Gingrich said it is the solemn obligation of 100 Senators to render a judgment.
But on the same program, David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, dismissed the controversy and called Sotomayors background a triumph, a great American story.
When asked on CNNs State of the Union whether Obama knew of Sotomayors past comments, Axelrod told John King: I dont know whether the president was aware or not, but he certainly is now. I dont think it has changed his view. ... I think this is kind of a sideshow.
On Face the Nation, Gingrich and Axelrod also sounded off on health care reform, with Axelrod reiterating that Obama wants to see a public option included in the forthcoming legislation.
That would lead to additional competition and better prices and would ultimately give consumers a better deal, Axelrod said, adding that he thinks a reform bill can be completed by summer with bipartisan support.
Health care costs are crushing families and businesses, he said. We need health reform. ... If we dont do health care reform, if we dont get costs under control ... then we will have a fiscal disaster in the future.
But Gingrich said the American public will ultimately come out against a plan that would destroy health insurance companies and empower bureaucrats to decide what treatment a patient can receive. I dont think thats a model were going to accept, he said.
But Axelrod said there is a sense of urgency about getting health care done, and unlike in 1993, there is not clear business and health insurance opposition to reform. You dont see that now, he said.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.