Politics & Policy

Gingrich Describes His Role at Freddie Mac

I’m rather late posting this, but I think some of what Newt Gingrich said about his role advising Freddie Mac to Fox News host Greta Van Susteren is worth reading, beginning with his account of how often he talked to Freddie Mac people:

GINGRICH: I think less than maybe once a month, they would drop by. We’d spend an hour. It would always start with me listening. I’d always say, What are you trying to solve? What are your concerns? What are you trying to get done?

And I’ve done this with many, many clients. I mean, it’s not at all unusual for us to have folks to come in and say, This is what we’re trying to get done, this is how we’re trying to solve a wide range of problems. Many of them involved health. As you know, we founded — out of Gingrich Group, we founded the Center for Health Transformation. And we ended up publishing books. We ended up with a whole range of things. …

And the value we delivered consistently was listening to people, offering them strategic advice, developing positive public policy positions with a very simple ground rule. I believe what I believe based on a very long period of life. If you’d like to come and have my advice, that’s fine. I don’t change any of my beliefs because somebody drops by and wants to pay me. I have no reason to.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, in terms of Freddie Mac, though, did you spot what was coming in terms of the housing industry crisis? Did you tell them, you know, Look, you know, this is a real problem? You know, this is about to blow up on the nation. Did you see that coming?

GINGRICH: No.

VAN SUSTEREN: And did you warn them?

GINGRICH: Look, you could see in conversations, particularly by 2007, that the loan standards were becoming absurd. That was just — that was patently obvious. What you couldn’t see was that the Federal Reserve would tighten up in a way that you suddenly had a huge credit crunch. And I think that’s a very different part of the problem.

I don’t think anybody, whether the chairman of the Federal Reserve or the Council of Economic Advisers or other folks — there were very few people who saw the intensity of the housing problem as it broke loose.

There were some people. Peter [Wallison] is a good example at the American Enterprise Institute, who had for a long time been warning that these government-sponsored enterprises were too big, that they were too overleveraged and that they need to be reformed. And Peter [Wallison] is probably as good an analyst today of what needs to be done now to repair the system and to get out of the mess we’re in as anybody I know. But he was a relatively rare voice in that period.

Full transcript of the interview here.

Katrina Trinko — Katrina Trinko is a political reporter for National Review. Trinko is also a member of USA TODAY’S Board of Contributors, and her work has been published in various media outlets ...

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