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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

Interview

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BLITZER: And joining us now from Las Vegas, the former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. He's running for president of the United States. Mr. Speaker, good job numbers that came in today, 243,000 jobs created last month. The unemployment rate has gone down to 8.3 percent.

Does President Obama deserve credit for this positive trend?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, he's going to take credit for it. We've been in a -- the longest, deepest race since the Great Depression. We already have a report out from the Congressional Budget Office this week, warning that it's likely to go back up this fall and that we're likely to see more unemployment. They're now projecting no end to this before 2014.

I think -- think, you know, vetoing the Keystone Pipeline, the -- proposing the kind of taxes he has don't help the economy any, but I'm sure the president will take credit while explaining that all the months of unemployment aren't his fault.

And the truth is that if it gets better and better and better between now and the election, he will get some credit. On the one hand, if this is a lull before it starts getting worse, his reelection will be in enormous trouble.

BLITZER: I asked the question because if the numbers were going in the other direction, unemployment going up, jobs weren't being created, you would be blaming him, at least in part, for that disaster.

GINGRICH: Right. And I -- I think he will get some limited credit. And it depends on how much the economy recovers and what the rest of the year looks like.

BLITZER: But -- but you don't think, as of now, he deserves any credit, is that what you're saying?

GINGRICH: No, Wolf, it's irrelevant. Give him some credit. If it makes you happy, give him some credit. The fact is he's -- his policies in general have driven up the national debt massively. They have weakened the United States economically. They have increased the price of gasoline so it's double what it was when he came in. The economy, even at 8.3 percent, is dramatically weaker than it was under Ronald Reagan at this exact same point in his first term. And he's not going to be able to go to the public and say look how successful I've been. The most he'll be able to say is, I'm -- I'm less destructive now then I was a year ago.

BLITZER: Mitt Romney now says he misspoke the other day when he said he really wasn't concerned about poor people because there's a safety net, if it needs some tweaking, they can fix it.

Do you accept that from him?

GINGRICH: look, I think what he said and the underlying part of that is very revealing. I don't -- I think we want to replace the safety net with a trampoline. We want to have policies -- Jack Kemp and I used to work on policies to help the poor become middle class, to help people get out of poverty.

I -- I'm not comfortable saying, oh, well, at least they have a safety net. I think that we ought to be -- in fact, my campaign is based on paychecks, not food stamps.

So I want people to have a chance to leave welfare, leave unemployment, leave poverty behind and live a better life. And I thought that, while I'm sure he didn't mean the exact comment about not caring about the poor, I think his underlying rationale, which is they have a safety net, we don't have to worry about them, is wrong.

Leaving Americans trapped in a safety net is not pursuing happiness, it's not their creator endowed right. We should have an aggressive conservative position that we can do better than liberals at helping people rise and helping them have jobs.

BLITZER: I just want you to clarify the whole George Soros comments, the billionaire, the liberal billionaire. You've been suggesting and a quoting source there's not much of a difference between Romney and President Obama.

But you believe there is a significant difference, I assume, right?

GINGRICH: Well, I think if you go to Newt.org, you'll see a fascinating George Soros videotape where we take Soros sitting in Davos with all the other big guys talking to a European reporter, saying you know, there really isn't much difference between Romney and Obama, we don't care which of them wins, because they'll bring different people with the same policies.

And then the rest of it, to the -- to the YouTube piece puts together Romney and Obama. It takes -- it takes ObamneyCare and it shows you that Tim Pawlenty was right, they're remarkably similar. It takes their position on gun control, which is remarkably similar. It takes their position on taxes, which, in many ways, is similar.

It's a -- it's a pretty interesting -- you can see it at Newt.org. It's a pretty interesting video and I -- it also points out that all of the big guys in Wall Street who supported Obama have now switched to supporting Romney almost uniformly. That -- that is actually from a news report from one of the -- actually, from Fox News.

So it's interesting to watch -- look at this developing. And what I've said to audiences is, we need a conservative alternative to the Soros approved candidates. And I think that's part of why we're doing better and better.

Our fundraising has been up since Florida, frankly, as people look at the race and they look at Romney's record and they look at things like his recent mistakes and they think, geez, is this the guy I really want to send to Washington when, in fact, "The Wall Street Journal" said his tax program is so timid, it could be Obama's.

BLITZER: All right, let me move on. I want to get to some... GINGRICH: But they're...

BLITZER: -- issues of the day.

GINGRICH: -- that's their quote, that's not me.

BLITZER: Right. I want to get to some other issues of the...

GINGRICH: OK.

BLITZER: -- the day.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure, they've now reversed themselves. They said they are going to continue, after all, to provide funding for Planned Parenthood for breast screening examinations.

Are you OK with that?

GINGRICH: Well, I think it's unfortunate. I think that they were beginning to make progress. Planned Parenthood needs to split into two totally separate organizations, because what it does today is it takes money for seemingly positive health things to sustain the largest abortion clinics in America. Planned Parenthood performs more abortions than any other institution in the United States. The money is all fungible. So when you -- when you lure people in for women's health needs and, by the way, right down the hall you have an abortion clinic, I think that's inappropriate. And I think if Planned Parenthood is going to get any kind of help, they ought to split into two agencies.

As president, I would eliminate all of the Planned Parenthood funding and transfer it to an adoption service to give young women the choice of life rather than death as part of their future. And I think that, in that sense, that Planned Parenthood does not do the public a good service when it actively encourages abortions.

BLITZER: It's been reported, as you probably know, the Defense secretary, Leon Panetta, is suggesting that Israel may attack Iranian nuclear facilities as early as April, May or June of this year.

Here's the question to you.

If you were president of the United States, what would you do if you had intelligence that the Israelis were likely to go after Iranian nuclear facilities?

GINGRICH: Well, if I were this administration and I had failed totally in my effort to stop the Iranians from getting nuclear weapons, I don't know what they can do.

Israel has the right to defend itself. Israel cannot tolerate an Iranian nuclear weapon. Three nuclear weapons are a second Holocaust. It is an -- it would annihilate the Jewish population of Israel.

And therefore, if you were the Israeli primary state, you would be faced with a very tough decision. I don't think they will ever allow the Iranians to have an operational nuclear weapon. And I think that the -- that's a fact.

If I were the American president, I would tell the Israelis that I would do everything I could to ensure that they went conventional. I would rather provide support to the Israelis at a conventional level than force them, out of desperation, to use their nuclear weapons.

And people should not kid themselves. The Israelis are not going to take the risk of a second Holocaust. And that is exactly what Ahmadinejad with a nuclear weapon represents.

BLITZER: So basically, just to be precise on this, if the prime minister of Israel said to you, as president of the United States, this is what Israel is going to do, you would insist on being a full partner in that operation?

GINGRICH: I wouldn't insist. I would say if you believe the survival of your country is at stake, what is it we can do to help you?

BLITZER: Well, that's pretty precise.

GINGRICH: But I think that...

BLITZER: All right...

GINGRICH: -- you know, no -- look, no -- no American has the moral right to -- to lecture an Israeli primary state about what risk he or she should take with the survival of their country. And given the record of World War II and the massacre of seven million Jews, I think people should be a little cautious when they listen to Ahmadinejad and they understand this guy will -- will destroy Israel if he has a chance. He says so publicly.

He cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons.

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BLITZER: All right, go ahead and respond. He says fiscal insanity on your part, that from Rick Santorum's campaign.

GINGRICH: Well, first of all -- first of all, if you look at the speech I gave at Cocoa Beach on the Space Coast, I don't talk at -- at all about increasing federal spending. I talk about a complete redesign of NASA and attracting private capital in huge quantities to do things med -- much more efficiently and much more boldly than NASA does. But I don't talk about increasing federal spending.

Second, I'm -- I'm really surprised at both Santorum and Romney. Both of them seem to be prepared to say, OK, so the Chinese have announced they're going to the moon, the Chinese have announced they're going to try to dominate space, we're not going to compete.

I mean what a -- what a tremendous gap from John F. Kennedy saying we can get to the moon inside a decade and we should do it to politicians today, who are too timid, too stingy, too lacking in imagination. And they're literally prepared to cede dominance of space to Russia and China?

I -- I can't imagine, for national security reasons, why they would be thinking like that. And I think, in the end, the American public is going to say we do not want the Chinese and the Russians to dominate space.

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, after you won decisively in South Carolina, Mitt Romney called you and congratulated you. After he won decisively in Florida, you didn't call him to congratulate him.

What happened? GINGRICH: Well, if you read "The New York Times" article, which said that on Sunday morning after South Carolina, they had a meeting in which they decided they had to, quote, "destroy Newt Gingrich," that's their quote.

They then outspent me five to one to, quote, "destroy Newt Gingrich?"

You know, I think that that doesn't deserve congratulations. I think that's reprehensible. I think it's dishonest. And I think it's shameful. And if you'll notice, in the -- in the counties he carried, the Republican vote was down. In the counties I carried, the Republican vote was up, because people actually want a positive leader with positive solutions offering positive ideas.

In South Carolina, where I won by an historic margin, we had a one third increase in turnout, because people like a positive campaign.

It's pretty hard to see how somebody is going to negatively carpet bomb their way to the nomination. It's pretty hard to imagine that nomination is going to be worth much if that's all they've got to show for themselves.

So I -- I feel very comfortable with exactly what happened after Florida.

BLITZER: It sounds like you're pretty angry at him?

GINGRICH: No. I'm just -- I'm -- I'm reporting back the facts. I'm not angry at all. I'm very -- I'm very comfortable. He -- I'm -- I'm going to be the conservative candidate. He's going to be the Soros -- the approved candidate. We're going to see whether the Republican Party really wants to nominate somebody that is acceptable to George Soros. I don't think they are.

So I think the rest of this campaign is going to be fascinating. I'm -- I'm looking forward to it. We're having a great time in Nevada. We're going to have a great time in Minnesota, Colorado, Arizona, Ohio, Maine. This is going to go on all the way to Tampa.

BLITZER: One final question. I interviewed Donald Trump yesterday after he endorsed Mitt Romney. He said if Romney gets the nomination, he's not running. But he ruled -- didn't rule out the possibility of his running as an Independent, third party candidate, if, for example, you were to get the nomination, even though he said he liked you personally.

I wonder if you want to react (ph) to Donald Trump?

GINGRICH: Donald Trump is -- is as brilliant a self-publicist as we have in America. I know him personally and -- and he's an interesting guy. We'll cross that bridge when I get the nomination. But my hunch is, if I'm the nominee, that he won't run. But we'll cross that bridge when we get there. I can't imagine anybody responsible splitting the vote against Obama when they know that that would reelect Obama. So I -- I suspect, in the end, he'll support the Republican nominee.

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, thanks very much for coming in.

GINGRICH: Thanks.

It's good to be with you, Wolf.

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