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Fox News "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren" - Transcript

Interview

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is confident. Says he can and probably will win Florida. And that's where we are, in Florida. And today we jumped on Speaker Gingrich's bus and hit the campaign trail with him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, I like your new bus.

NEWT GINGRICH, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's fun. It's a very exciting part of the campaign.

VAN SUSTEREN: In fact, we just joined the bus. You were coming out of a fund-raiser?

GINGRICH: Yes. And we were -- met with a whole bunch of folks who are very excited about the campaign and helped pay for the ads. So it was great.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, last night, I should tell you that we all thought you were going to come out swinging, and you seemed a little more sober to -- your responses to some of the things that Governor Romney said about your record.

GINGRICH: Well, actually, Mitt was so systematically dishonest...

VAN SUSTEREN: Is that lying?

GINGRICH: Well, I'll let you decide. But he -- the easiest example is he said that he only voted for Tsongas in the Democratic primary because there was no Republican primary. And during the debate, Larry Sabato tweeted that that was baloney, that, in fact, George H. W. Bush and Pat Buchanan were on the very same day.

VAN SUSTEREN: Could he have just a faulty memory?

GINGRICH: Well, he's said enough different things that it strikes me as implausible. I think -- I think that the governor says what he needs to say to get through this minute without remembering that there's a tomorrow.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the audience seemed to be not the same type of audience you had in South Carolina. The audience didn't seem to be with you so much last night.

GINGRICH: Oh, I think -- I think that that was probably his base. I mean, he's had -- his state office is in Jacksonville. I think they probably did a pretty good job making sure their people were at the event.

But that was fine. I mean, I don't mind -- what -- what stopped me was he would say things -- I'd find myself standing there, going, That can't be true. And he said it again and again. And in fact, by the time the debate was over, there were various fact checkers -- you saw one of them live, Wolf Blitzer said to him, That is your ad, your voice is on it.

At another point, he talked about his investments being in a blind trust. And literally, by the time the debate was over, there was a fact checker who said it's just not true. And so every time you'd turn around, there was a new falsehood from Romney.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, do you think those falsehoods that you allege -- I'll assume that they're true -- are those resonating here in Florida? I mean, is it going to have an impact on the vote?

GINGRICH: I think it has an impact because the presidency is so important and the ability of a president to lead the American people by telling the truth is so important that if you begin to get a sense that this is a person who will say anything, do anything, make up anything, you really undermine your credibility as a potential president.

VAN SUSTEREN: But is it enough for to you say in a debate -- and I know that have you some ads, as well -- is the media with you, do you think, or against you on this?

GINGRICH: I think on this one, oddly enough, the media's with me. And the reason is I think the media is kind of amazed at the level of dishonesty. I mean, I've done three or four interviews today where people have gone, How could he think he can get away with this? I mean, it'll be interesting to watch them when they go talk to Romney because some of these are so factually clearly false that it's very hard for him to claim anything except he just wasn't telling the truth.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's he like to you before the debate, during breaks, and after the debate?

GINGRICH: We're collegial. I mean, it's -- you've been a lawyer. It's a little bit like lawyers in the middle of a trial.

VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, no, I never -- I mean, if I was mad at somebody, I was not collegial.

(LAUGHTER)

VAN SUSTEREN: I was not collegial! Believe me, if I thought someone was doing me wrong, I was not collegial. I would be in that person's face.

GINGRICH: No, I think -- I think you -- and this is part of why I debate the way I do. I think you have to, as a potential president, maintain a standard of dignity, or people think you're not capable of being president.

People want a sense of stability because the level of power we give presidents is so great that you want a sense of, This is a person -- it's a little bit like hiring a school bus driver. You don't want to hire a person who might take the bus off a cliff. You want to hire a person who's going to be safe with your children. Well, the president, in that sense, has 305 million people to be safe with.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you raise that sort of -- the safe issue, or I guess let me take it a little bit further. One of the allegations against you is that you're, quote, "erratic." And I know that Bob Dole has made that allegation. Why do you think he would say that?

GINGRICH: Oh, look, I think the Washington establishment is hyper. There's a new Wall Street Journal poll out that says I would beat Romney 52-39 nationally if it was a two-person race. I think the prospect of Gingrich actually becoming president for the old guard is horrifying. I mean, they're all comfortable. They're all set in their ways. They're all part of an establishment. I come along. I'm a genuine populist. I know enough about Washington to change it, and I'm distanced enough from Washington to change it. And I think they find that a nightmare.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you anti-establishment?

GINGRICH: Yes. Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes?

GINGRICH: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Tom DeLay...

GINGRICH: This, by the way, is a pretty sick establishment. It could use some changing.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. We'll talk about that. Tom DeLay, who was the whip when you were speaker of the House, he's come out against you, as well.

GINGRICH: Tom DeLay tried to engineer a coup against me when I was speaker. Tom DeLay engaged in behaviors which ultimately led him into court. We are very different people. I don't agree with his style. I don't agree with his approach. And I don't agree with his tactics.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there some...

GINGRICH: And by the way, if the average American understood DeLay fully and Gingrich fully, I'd win in a landslide.

VAN SUSTEREN: It seems that there's a recent coordinated effort, all these people who worked with you have come out against you. It's almost like everyone -- they got on the phone and they said, Let's all do it today, rather than, you know, spread it out. Does it seem that way to you?

GINGRICH: Look, Romney has an enormous amount of money and he is able to go out and organize a lot of things. And he has hired lots of lobbyists, which is the great irony. While attacking me falsely about Freddie Mac, he, in fact, is surrounded by Freddie Mac lobbyists. So he has lots of people to organize things.

And if you get three or four parallel articles attacking me falsely about Reagan in the same morning, what you know is that's an orchestrated attack. That's the Romney machine doing its job.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Can you overcome that?

GINGRICH: Yes. We're going on beat him.

VAN SUSTEREN: You're going to beat him here in Florida?

GINGRICH: I think so.

VAN SUSTEREN: By how much?

GINGRICH: I have no idea.

VAN SUSTEREN: Polls are...

GINGRICH: One vote would be good, and I'd like more.

VAN SUSTEREN: Because it's winner take all, right, here?

GINGRICH: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Either you get the 50 or you don't get the 50.

GINGRICH: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: How important is Florida -- obviously, you want to win Florida, but is Florida -- if you don't win Florida, is it catastrophic to your campaign?

GINGRICH: No. No.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's the path if you don't win?

GINGRICH: South Carolina would have been catastrophic. Florida I want to win. I think we can win. I think we probably will win now. But if we come very, very close, the race will go on.

And I think the more people know about how liberal he was in Massachusetts and the more they learn about how little regard he has for the facts, the harder the race is going to be for him. I think this is going to get steadily worse, not better, from Romney's standpoint.

VAN SUSTEREN: It seems everyone's trying to hijack the word "conservative." Everyone's trying to claim he's the true conservative. Tom DeLay says that you're not a conservative. First of all, tell me, what -- define conservative for me, that they're all struggling to identify.

GINGRICH: Well, let's say somebody who believes in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, limited government, lower taxes, more private sector activity, stronger citizens and weaker bureaucrats, would be the starting point. Strong national defense, a belief that there is danger in the world and you need to be strong enough to defend yourself, would be another example.

All I can report to you is I had a 90 percent American Conservative Union voting record for 20 years, I was an ally of Reagan. I was an ally of Kemp going all the way back to the '70s. We reformed Welfare, cut taxes and launched a balanced balance process that led to four consecutive balanced budgets for the only time in your life.

If that's not a conservative, I'd like to know what these guys think a conservative is. Sure isn't Mitt Romney, who is pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase. You look at his record in Massachusetts...

VAN SUSTEREN: He's now not pro -- he's now not pro-abortion.

GINGRICH: Of course not. Now he's running for president, so he's given up everything he used to have because he didn't really do those things because if he'd done those things, he couldn't run for president. So therefore, they couldn't have happened because that would not be accurate for his current ambition.

But the fact is, when he had power, he governed as a pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase governor. He ranked third from the bottom in job creation in Massachusetts.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator Santorum a conservative?

GINGRICH: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: And a true conservative?

GINGRICH: I think so. And again, there are minor things. He voted for big labor. But if you're from Pennsylvania, you know, there are certain parallel realities there.

VAN SUSTEREN: If you're both conservatives, why should -- what's wrong with -- I mean, obviously, you want to be president, but what's wrong with...

GINGRICH: Rick Santorum is a terrific guy and I like him as a friend. I am the only person in the race who has helped organize and run national campaigns that were decisive victories for conservatism -- 1980, 1984, 1988 and 1994 and '96. I'm the only person in the race who has organized very large-scale change -- welfare reform, balancing the budget, things on a scale that -- you know, that are very, very difficult to do.

It's not just a question about ideology. It's a question about, You can turn it from a speech into a program? Can you turn it from an idea into an achievement? That's very, very hard.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, let me ask you a question. I'm old enough to remember all the discussion about JFK and saying that we were going to go to the moon. And people didn't laugh when he said it. Everyone felt inspired. Why are people laughing at your moon idea?

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: ... that was a big, big -- you know, we...

GINGRICH: I'll tell you why.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK.

GINGRICH: And it's the very reason I'm running. We have gone through a period of decay as a country, where we lack self-confidence, we lack a romantic vision of being an American, we lack connection with American exceptionalism. We know -- we have a national elite which wants to manage the decay. They don't want to go through the process of change.

And so when somebody comes along -- we doubled the National Institutes of Health while balancing the budget. We know how to do these things. And if you actually look at my speech in Cocoa Beach to the people from the Space Coast, it's a very sophisticated outline of a very bold new approach which largely relies on private sector dollars.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it any bolder in what you seek to achieve and your thoughts than what JFK thought in 1961, May of '61?

GINGRICH: No. It is, in fact, the speech that I wish Richard Nixon had given in 1969 because we had -- I wrote a book called "Moon of Opportunity." I actually talked to young scientists of NASA and developed this model. We had a momentum of excitement in the Apollo program that was moving us forward. It was attracting young people into science and math, engineering, technology. We had a rhythm. And then we bureaucratized the whole thing and it became boring.

VAN SUSTEREN: Because that -- because I think -- I assume you've seen the people have made fun of that.

GINGRICH: Of course. I expected them to.

VAN SUSTEREN: And the media's had a little bit of a field day with it.

GINGRICH: Sure. And it's -- I'm perfectly happy to have this argument. It's very simple. Are you comfortable if the Chinese now become the dominant country in space? And are you comfortable if the Chinese end up colonizing the moon? Because the Chinese have announced publicly a plan to get to the moon before we do.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you want with the moon?

GINGRICH: What?

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you want from moon?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, the moon has a tremendous amount of water. Water is a very useful thing to have if you want to go to Mars because water is a terrific shield from radiation. And so if you're serious about going out into the solar system, having the moon as a refueling place, so you don't try to lift water off the earth, but you stop off at the moon to pick up water, is very important. The moon also has all sorts of minerals.

But more importantly, there are times in the history of the human race when you have to have people with the courage to go into the future. And countries that have that courage -- Elizabethan England, America at the turn of the 1900s -- those countries create brand-new futures for the whole human race. And countries that turn their back on the future and settle down to decay gracefully, those countries give up their heritage, and in the long run, they give up their power and their capabilities.

VAN SUSTEREN: I confess when I first heard it, I thought, Uh-oh, that's going to be -- you know, now Newt's done it with the -- you know, the colony on the moon. Then I thought back to the JFK speech, and I thought, I wonder if in 1961, everyone thought, you know, that was ridiculous.

GINGRICH: Callista and I did a movie called "A City Upon a Hill" in which we have a segment of Kennedy's speech. Actually, we have the version he did at the Air Force Academy. And immediately afterwards -- we had Buzz Aldrin, one of the great astronauts, who said -- he said, You have to realize, when Kennedy said in May of '61, We're going to go to the moon in this decade, no American had been in orbit. The only person who'd orbited was Yuri Gagarin, a Russian. One American had been in suborbital space. That's all.

And here's the president saying, in less than 9 years, we're going to find the technology and we're going to build the organization, we're going to train the astronauts, we're going to learn how it do it, and we will be on the moon, July of 1969. That's pretty cool.

And I'm for an America that unleashes its people to be pretty cool again. I have friends who are stingy, boring and have no vision. I don't think that makes for a very good president.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I guess that your concept is that much -- like, 10 percent would be a sort of federal partnership --

GINGRICH: I'd like to get between 80 and 90 percent of the money out of the private sector. But think about billionaires. I mean, one of the things I want to do is establish the president's council on inspiration, which is exactly what the Royal Society was when it started in the 1700s. People would get together once a month. And I'd like to find enough millionaires and billionaires who say, You know, I'd love to be part of space and I'll kick in my share.

And you get the rhythm of those kind of people moving and designing things and -- first of all, you don't have 15 years of bureaucratic planning. You have about three weeks. And then they go build something because that's how they behave. That's what entrepreneurs are like.

If you look at what Elan Musco's (ph) done with the Falcon 9, amazingly less expensive. You look at the experiment that's under way between the founder of British Virgin and a great American innovator, where they're going to try to find a very low-cast way -- build an entire new airplane to find a very low-cost way to take tourists into space.

I mean, these are all guys out there just doing t. They're not waiting for the Congress. They're not hanging around, waiting for 12 bureaucrats to say it's OK. If we made that rhythm and pattern our goal, we'd have in five or six years the most dynamic space industry you could imagine.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I guess that, you know, I was thinking that -- how different the country seems -- you know, that we now sort of, you know, chuckle at things that seem beyond...

GINGRICH: Right. We have lost the sense of being an American. I'll never forget...

VAN SUSTEREN: But then we shouldn't be -- but on the other hand, we shouldn't be unrealistic, impractical and off the charts.

GINGRICH: Well, Ronald Reagan gave a speech on the Strategic Defense Initiative and it helped break the Soviet empire. It was unrealistic, impractical and off the charts.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, you got me on that one.

GINGRICH: OK. I'm just saying -- I'll never forget in his inaugural address, he says something like, We have every right to dream heroic dreams. After all, we are Americans. That's what I intend to recreate.

VAN SUSTEREN: People say you have lots of ideas, lots of great ideas, but that they don't get carried out. Any thought on that criticism of you?

GINGRICH: First majority in 40 years, first reelected majority since 1928, Welfare reform 30 years after Reagan started the conversation, the only four balanced budgets in your lifetime.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what do -- why -- why do your critics -- why do they seize upon this stuff? I mean, is it just convenient or -- what is it? Because you've rubbed a lot of former colleagues the wrong way.

GINGRICH: Yes. Because I'm a real leader who actually wants to get the Congress to do things. I'm not particularly interested in guys getting their little pork project. I'm not particularly interested in guys getting their little piece of turf. I'm interested in getting things done.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's the difference between getting things done and being a bull in a China shop and not accomplishing something?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, it's thoughtful purpose. I would have thought four balanced budgets was accomplishing something. I worked with the Army's training and doctrine command starting in 1979 on how you develop, implement and train new battle doctors. I am the longest serving teacher in the senior military, 23 years, just steadily, methodically doing something.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Straight ahead, more with Speaker Gingrich. We asked him why former governor Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio are not only not going to back him, but they are criticizing him. The Speaker will tell you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: Tonight, we are live in Florida, perhaps the next stop on the road to the White House. We spent the day with former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Here's more of our conversation from the campaign trail.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, Mr. Speaker, welcome back to your own bus.

GINGRICH: It's great to be here.

(LAUGHTER)

VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, good. I'm glad. All right...

GINGRICH: (INAUDIBLE) keep chatting.

VAN SUSTEREN: Indeed. I want to talk about the economy. When we talk about the economy and the unemployment rate nationally, it's 8.5 percent unemployed, you know, one of the things that is never sort of discussed is consumer spending, which is about 70 percent of our economic activity. But nobody wants to go out and spend money, worried about unemployment. And so it's a little bit of a Catch-22.

If you were president, how would you convince the American people that, OK, it's a good risk to go out and spend money, because when they buy things, consumer goods, that revs up the economy and helps the economy?

GINGRICH: Well, I think, first of all, have you to start creating jobs. And if you build an American energy program, it both lowers the price of gasoline and creates more American jobs. And so the combination - - the minute people start feeling comfortable that the job recovery's under way, they'll begin to feel comfortable about buying things.

There's a lot of pent-up demand that is currently hidden by the fact that people are afraid. And so the minute you start reestablishing confidence that you have a pro-jabs plan that is real, and the minute they see it starting to work, I think you see an almost immediate rebound in consumer confidence and in the willingness to buy things.

VAN SUSTEREN: Two problems. It's -- it'll take a while to create jobs. I mean, jobs aren't created overnight with any sort of plan. That's the first thing. The second thing is that we have an accumulated inventory, so people aren't going to be hiring so much. We've got to get rid of that inventory. It's got to get purchased first. So it really would behoove us if we could convince the American people that jobs are -- they're there, they're coming, go out and spend the money you may be hoarding right now.

GINGRICH: Well, but I think it's important that they actually be there. I think part of the reason people are very cautious is they've watched the mismanagement of this economy in the last four or five years, in both parties. And they've had a sense of, Why would I trust these guys?

So I think -- one of the purposes of developing supply-side economics was the idea, you know, if we make it really desirable to find oil and gas and coal and other American energy sources, that energy of going out and looking for that, building it, developing it, creates jobs. If we create the opportunity for people to invest and start creating jobs, almost overnight people will change their plans.

I mean, I really believe the recovery begins late on election night, when the American people realize Obama's gone. And I think if you -- my goal would be to ask the new Congress to come in on January 3rd, stay in session and repeal "Obama care," Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley before I was sworn in on January 20th, so that I could sign the repeal literally within hours of becoming president.

And the reason is "ObamaCare" threatens every small business, and so they just won't hire anybody. Dodd-Frank is killing small independent banks, cutting off financing for small business and driving down the price of housing. And Sarbanes-Oxley adds a great deal of bureaucracy and red tape and cost with almost no benefit.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why don't have you more friends in high places here in this state? Governor Jeb Bush -- he hasn't endorsed, but he jabbed you a little bit recently. Senator Rubio has jabbed you over an ad that you've actually taken down and...

GINGRICH: Yes, but Marco -- Marco and I talked the other day, and I think we're pretty good shape. Jeb and I have known each other a long time. Governor Rick Scott has been very helpful in private conversations. Bill McCollum, who was the other candidate for governor, is chairing my campaign statewide.

VAN SUSTEREN: But why -- why didn't -- why isn't Jeb Bush -- he didn't endorse you.

GINGRICH: Well, I wish he would. You'd have to ask Jeb.

VAN SUSTEREN: How about Governor Rick Scott?

GINGRICH: I think he's trying to help everybody but not necessarily get drawn into the middle of the fight.

VAN SUSTEREN: So are you saying it's because they're sort of politically protective of themselves?

GINGRICH: No. Look, I think almost every state in the country, the establishment is not going to take a big risk on Newt Gingrich. Go back and look at South Carolina. You know, the governor was for Mitt Romney. All I had were people. Well, look around this state. I mean, look at the size of the crowds. We have lots and lots of people. And the question's going to be, can we generate enough people power to offset Romney's money power?

VAN SUSTEREN: And?

GINGRICH: Oh, I think we will. You know, the history of America is that popular insurgencies usually beat establishments, particularly in a period when people are feeling pain and they're angry and they're going, you know, Why would I vote for him?

VAN SUSTEREN: Let's talk foreign policy. Egypt is undergoing an incredible transformation right now, a lot of fear that it's going to get - - it's not going to go our way. We have Ray LaHood, the secretary of transportation's son, who cannot leave Egypt right now. Italy -- Israel is worried about what happens in Egypt.

Would your foreign policy be any different than the president's foreign policy as it relates I guess to Egypt and all the countries surrounding?

GINGRICH: Yes. I think we need to very fundamentally rethink everything we think we know about the region. I think that we are on the edge of catastrophic change, almost all of it anti-American. And it's one of those periods -- it's a little bit like when a tornado comes through, when a hurricane comes through, you don't know what's going to happen next.

I mean, the scale of the change is so -- you know, for example in Egypt, about 75 percent of the votes in this first round went to the -- the Muslim Brotherhood, and more Islamic groups than the Muslim Brotherhood. So you now have a pressure building for the Muslim Brotherhood to move towards an even more radical position.

VAN SUSTEREN: Which hurts -- or I would think would put Israel on end because Egypt under Mubarak, at least, was friendlier towards Israel.

GINGRICH: Well, it hurts Israel. It hurts the United States. It hurts the forces of modernization. It hurts the role of women. It's a reversion to a much more medieval style of life. And I think it's a very serious challenge. I think it's enormously serious.

VAN SUSTEREN: Would your foreign policy be more engaging than President Obama, or would you sort of step back more?

GINGRICH: No, I'd be more engaged, but with some kind of strategy and some kind of understanding. I mean, we're not going to change Ahmadinejad. We're not going to change the new leadership in Libya. We ought to think about, can we in the long run find the next generation of leaders, and can we in the long run shape those societies?

But these are people who are pretty clear about what they want to do, and very little of it is good for the United States.

VAN SUSTEREN: What would you do about Ahmadinejad? I mean, he says now that he wants to restart talks with the world about nuclear weapons.

GINGRICH: Well, I mean, he could easily prove that by dismantling his program. I think he just plays everybody for fools.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what would you do?

GINGRICH: I would try to use the same techniques and strategies that President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher and Pope John Paul II used against the Soviet empire and I would try to -- I would have a conscious goal replacing the dictatorship.

(END VIDEOTAPE)


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