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Gingrich: If Obama ‘sincere’ about deficit plan, GOP has to go along

Former House Speaker and onetime presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) on Monday said that if President Obama was “sincere” about forging a plan to avoid the looming “fiscal cliff” and cut the deficit, Republicans would have no option but to work with him.

“The president faces the biggest choice since January 2009: Does he sit down in a room and honestly, openly negotiate with Speaker [John] Boehner [R-Ohio] and [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell [R-Ky.], or does he come in, give a set of demands and go hold a press conference?” said Gingrich on NBC’s “Today.”

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“If the president’s willing to do it, the Republicans have no choice,” he added. “You can’t turn down a president who’s just won reelection if he’s sincere.”

The president and lawmakers will meet this week to begin hammering out an agreement to address the impending rise in tax rates and automatic spending cuts set to take effect in 2013. Many economists warn that going over the fiscal cliff could trigger a new recession.

Gingrich also said the GOP had to better understand the nation’s changing electorate, after an election that saw them hold the House but fail to take the presidency or Senate.

“We need to stop, take a deep breath and learn,” said Gingrich. “I was wrong last week, as was nearly every major Republican analyst. You have to stop and say to yourself, ‘If I was that far off, what do I need to learn to better understand America?’

“The president won an extraordinary victory, and the fact is we owe him the respect of trying to understand what they did and how they did it,” added Gingrich. “If you had said to me three weeks ago that [GOP nominee] Mitt Romney would get fewer votes than [Sen.] John McCain [R-Ariz.] and that he would be 2 million short, I would have been dumbfounded.”

Gingrich also addressed the departure of former CIA Director David Petraeus, who stepped down Friday, citing an extramarital affair.

The former House Speaker said there was “no question” that Petraeus would eventually testify before Congress on the Benghazi, Libya, attack, which claimed four American lives.

“There’s no question he’ll testify,” said Gingrich. “I can’t imagine Gen. Petraeus wouldn’t want to testify and I can’t imagine that the two House and Senate Intelligence committees wouldn’t insist that he come in, and he will at an appropriate time.”

Petraeus was slated to testify this week before Congress on the September attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

This weekend, lawmakers said they expected that Petraeus would still testify if called to Capitol Hill.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Petraeus’s testimony would be “essential” to understanding the administration’s handling of Libya.

“I don't see how in the world you can find out what happened in Benghazi before, during and after the attack if Gen. Petraeus doesn't testify,” he said Sunday.