GULFPORT, Miss. – Reacting to the latest jobs report, Newt Gingrich suggested Friday that the Labor Department fudged its calculation of February unemployment.
“If we had the same level of participation in the labor force we had the day Obama was sworn in, it would be 10.8 percent,” Gingrich said, disputing the calculation released Friday that unemployment hovered at 8.3 percent for a second straight month.
The candidate was basing his statement on analysis by James Pethokoukis of the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, who said that if the size of the labor force as a share of the total population was the same as it was when President Obama took office, then the unemployment number would be 10.8 percent.
Gingrich slammed President Obama’s handling of the economy, saying “his achievement has not been creating jobs, his achievement has been driving people out of the workforce. That's not progress, that's going backwards and it makes him the best food stamp president in American history.”
It was a particularly feisty speech for Gingrich, who showed up over an hour late for his appearance at Gulfport High School. He apologized to the audience of over 200 people for his tardiness, explaining he was late because he made an impromptu decision to record a video after learning there was a drilling rig along the way to Gulfport.
The campaign video, described by Gingrich as part of his “Educate Barack Obama Tour,” shows Gingrich grandstanding in front of an oil rig with a message for the White House: “I just wanted to point out Mr. President that this is how they get natural gas. This is drilling. They don’t get natural gas from algae. They don’t get it from electric batteries, they get it by drilling.”
“I want to invite the president to come down to Mississippi and maybe spend part of Monday with me and we can go to a couple of natural gas drilling rigs and he can see for himself, it actually works,” he told the Gulfport audience. “It’s actually worked historically. It’s actually working right this minute.”
And while Gingrich may say that Mitt Romney likes to fire people, he indicated no hesitation in calling for a third member of President Obama’s cabinet to resign.
“I have been told that the Secretary of Defense has suggested that international agreements override the Congress,” Gingrich said, drawing boos from the audience. “If he believes that, he should resign tonight!” The audience cheered.
“Let me be clear, Leon Panetta needs to learn we do not have a United Nations secretary of defense, we have a United States secretary of defense,” he said. On the campaign trail, Gingrich has also called for the resignations for Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Gingrich’s castigation of Panetta was based on remarks the defense secretary made before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. Pushing back against fresh calls for the U.S. to act unilaterally in Syria, Panetta said the administration would “seek permission” from the United Nations to intervene.
The remarks came after Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., criticized the White House for bypassing Congress when it decided to participate in the NATO coalition in Libya.
"We spend our time worrying about the U.N., the Arab League, NATO and too little time, in my opinion, worrying about the elected representatives of the United States. As you go forward, will you consult with the United States Congress?” Sessions asked.
Panetta replied, "You know, our goal would be to seek international permission. And we would come to the Congress and inform you and determine how best to approach this, whether or not we would want to get permission from the Congress."
Defense officials have reportedly said Panetta wasn’t ceding U.S. authority to an international governing organization but emphasizing the need for an international mandate.