Ryan turns the other cheek 

NBC’s David Gregory tried at least five times, today, to get House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan to criticize Newt Gingrich for his comments on last week’s Meet the Press. And five times Ryan politely declined to attack Newt.

His prepared answer, given in response to Gregory’s first two attempts: “The quote was deeply inaccurate and Newt has retracted it.”

After playing video of Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin saying Newt had cut Ryan off at the knees, Gregory asked: “How much damage has he done?”

Ryan’s answer: “That’s up to the voters. … The people of Iowa and New Hampshire can figure that out for themselves.”

Gregory’s final question on Gingrich: “How much do you feel undercut?” Ryan again shifted focus away from Gingrich and instead pushed back against Gregory’s claim that his budget plan was unpopular: “Leader are elected to lead. Leaders change the polls.”

Ryan did accept Gregory’s premise that the Gingrich episode proved that acceptance of the Ryan plan has become a new litmus test for the Republican nomination. Asked to endorse a Wall Street Journal op-ed by FreedomWorks Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe suggesting that “A candidate who is timid on entitlement reform is not qualified to lead the country,” Ryan responded, “Yes it is my view.”

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