WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2010 -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich lashed out at Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today at the Values Voter Summit, accusing her of "behaving exactly in the spirit of the Soviet tyranny."
What drew Gingrich's anger was a letter Sebelius sent earlier this month to a leading insurance industry group complaining that some companies were "falsely blaming premium increases" on health care reform legislation.
"When Secretary Sebelius said the other day she would punish insurance companies that told the truth about the cost of Obamacare, she was behaving exactly in the spirit of the Soviet tyranny," Gingrich said. "And if she's going to represent left-wing thought police about Obamacare, she should be forced to resign by the new Congress."
Gingrich said Republicans should defund her office if they sweep back into the majority in Congress after the November elections, as he hopes.
"This idea that we the people have to tolerate some bureaucrat being paid with our taxes to dictate free speech to us should end in January," Gingrich said.
The three-day conference, organized by the Family Research Council, opened Friday morning with appearances by some of the biggest names in conservative politics, including Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. and Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind.
Pence was the winner of the summit's straw poll for their preferred presidential candidate in 2012, and was Pence was so popular among the voters that he topped the list of potential GOP vice presidential candidates, too.
"If he died he can replace himself," said Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, who announced the results of the non-scientific poll.
Pence received 24 percent of the vote, two percentage points ahead of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the winner of last year's Values Voter straw poll, who got 22 percent.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney received 13 percent, followed by Gingrich with 10 percent.
Sarah Palin, who did not attend this year's convention and instead spoke at a fundraiser for the Republican Party of Iowa on Friday night, received 7 percent of the vote.
Palin came in second on the list of potential vice presidential candidates, and Perkins called the pairing of Pence and Palin a "dream ticket."
On the opening day Friday, Romney accused the Obama administration of committing an "assault on American values" and predicted that Democrats would pay dearly for it in November.
Bachmann did not spare the Obama administration from criticism either, saying that the president had betrayed Americans and spent the last two years "trampling on the rights and values of the people."
Gingrich, who helped usher in the "Republican Revolution" of 1994, told the audience at this annual gathering of social conservatives that they had "seven weeks to change history" once again.
This year's primary season has left "the establishment in such a state of shock," he said, giving credit to Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-.S.C, who have helped tea party-backed candidates upset the mainstream GOP choices in several states.
Gingrich, who is often mentioned as a potential 2012 presidential candidate, gave them credit for leading the movement, praising Palin's "public capacity through Twitter and Facebook and other devices and Sen. DeMint's organizational ability."
He also gave a boost to Delaware GOP Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell, quoting from a line she used in a speech to the conference on Friday: "There are more of us than there are of them."
Gingrich referred to O'Donnell as the "candidate of paychecks" who was up against Democratic opponent Chris Coons, whom he called the "candidate of food stamps."
Speaking to a packed ballroom and pausing several times during his remarks for applause, Gingrich also advised O'Donnell's defeated Republican opponent, Rep. Mike Castle, to endorse her. So far, he has refused.
Gingrich also weighed in on Sen. Lisa Murkowski's decision to run as a write-in candidate in Alaska after failing to fend off a challenge from tea party favorite Joe Miller.
"Sen. Murkowski is fundamentally cheating," Gingrich said.
Aside from electoral politics, Gingrich served up even more red meat, critiquing the "left-wing elite," Democratic Congressional leaders and the Obama administration, especially on issues of national security.
He reiterated his opposition to the Islamic cultural center project near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, warned of the dangers "radical Islamists" pose to the United States and of efforts to impose sharia law in this country.
"We should make clear to Justice Breyer and Justice Kagan, who both seem confused on this topic," Gingrich said, referring to two Supreme Court Justices, "that no judge will remain in office who tries to use sharia law to try to interpret the American constitution."