By Aaron Gould Sheinin
Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich said Wednesday that he believes Congress and the president will reach a deal to avoid defaulting on the nation's debt, but said President Barack Obama owns the blame for the situation.
"This has been, I think, a really sadly destructive process," Gingrich told reporters after touring the Genesis Shelter near the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in downtown Atlanta.
The former speaker of the House and longtime Georgia congressman said the stalemate in Washington between Obama and the Republican-led House of Representatives reminds him of his own negotiations with then-President Bill Clinton over the federal budget.
"I look back on negotiating with President Clinton, and I'm amazed at the rigidity President Obama has shown," Gingrich said. "President Clinton, although we disagreed deeply, he understood we wanted to get things done. He accepted certain things I don't think President Obama is willing to accept."
The country faces an Aug. 2 deadline to raise its debt limit or risk defaulting on its loans, an outcome that some believe could lead to markets collapsing and another deep recession.
But Gingrich said Obama has to understand that many Republicans elected to Congress in 2010 are simply not going to raise taxes.
"The president can pout. He can throw temper tantrums. He can do 30-minute television explanations of his anguish," Gingrich said. "It's not going to happen."
After blistering Obama's handling of the crisis, Gingrich lamented the coarsening of Washington politics.
"Our system right now is spiraling downward into being pettier and pettier and less and less capable of big solutions at a time when the world is going to force us to make very big changes," he said.
During his Atlanta visit, Gingrich praised the Genesis Shelter, a 20-year-old facility that provides emergency transitional housing for homeless newborns and their families. Gingrich's daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman , has served on the shelter's board for 10 years.
The shelter, Gingrich said, "provides a very important service to the community and is also a great example of a public-private partnership."
The shelter, which serves about 70 families at a time, gets about 75 percent of its financing from private contributions; the rest comes from various government sources.
"There are times in life when people need really systematic intervention, and Genesis is one of those places that works very hard to give people a second chance at life and a second chance at having a positive future," he said.
Later Wednesday, Gingrich visited his campaign headquarters in Buckhead , where volunteers were calling Republican voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Gingrich delivered Domino's pizzas and cookies to two dozen supporters and said he has the experience necessary to fix the nation's economic woes.
"We have done this before," he said. "We did balance the budget. We did cut welfare. We did lower taxes and create jobs. We know it's doable because we've done it, and with your help -- you've become personal witnesses to it."
Speaking to reporters afterward, Gingrich said his campaign has largely recovered from the massive staff shakeup that saw most of his top aides and consultants abandon his effort.
"We are improving," he said. "We went through a period that was disruptive with the consultants."
Gingrich said he's moving his campaign away from one that is consultant-driven and toward one he said was comparable to Ronald Reagan's runs for the White House.
"As we moved away from the consultants and back to that model, we're getting more and more coverage and having more impact," he said.