CBS Face The Nation-Transcript
BOB SCHIEFFER, host:
Today on FACE THE NATION, from right to left, two voices, Newt Gingrich and
Charlie Rangel. Where do we go from here in Iraq? Will Democrats continue
their drive to bring the troops home? And what if they are successful? And
then there are taxes, abortion and President Bush. Has he become an albatross too heavy for Republican candidates to carry? We'll talk about all of that with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is weighing a run for the
Republican presidential nomination. And then we'll talk to the Democratic
chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Charlie Rangel of New York. Finally, can we find the worst way to select a president? I'll have some
thoughts on that. But first, Gingrich and Rangel on FACE THE NATION.
Announcer: FACE THE NATION with CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer. And now, from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.
SCHIEFFER: Good morning again. And joining us this morning, the former
speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.
Mr. Gingrich, welcome. As I understand it...
Mr. NEWT GINGRICH (Republican, Georgia; Former Speaker of the House): Good to be with you.
SCHIEFFER: ...you are now in the process of putting together a task force to
come up with some solutions to what you see as some of the nation's problems. You're going to reveal that this fall, and then, after that, you're going to decide whether or not you want to get into the race. So we'll talk about all of that in a minute.
But let's start with the news of the day. The Democrats' opposition to the
war, as you know, took a new turn last week when Senator Clinton called for
repealing the authorization that the Congress gave the president to go to
Iraq. What is going to be the impact of that?
Mr. GINGRICH: Well, I think, frankly, it made her look foolish, and I agree
with Senator Edwards' critique of that. If she honestly believes that we
should get out of Iraq, vote no on the funding. And the Congress has every
authority, under the Constitution, to force the president out of Iraq. But
this idea of going through a political game, which will be totally misinterpreted overseas, undermine the morale of the American forces and accomplish nothing, I think is essentially an effort by Senator Clinton to appease her left, who are very angry at her for not--you know, for not having gone back on her vote on the war. She was the last Democrat running for president who had both voted for the war and supported it. And I think this is almost a desperation effort to say, `Oh, gee, I'm with you guys, too.' If she's serious about it, then move to cut off the funds. If they can't cut off the funds, then let's get on with trying to win the war. But I think this middle zone of politics while young Americans die is very bad for the country.
SCHIEFFER: Let's talk about where you think this should go. The president
has vetoed the Democratic bill that went to the Congress--I mean, went to the White House because it had a timetable for withdrawing the troops. There is talk now of putting binding conditions on the Iraqi government, some sort of benchmarks that they have to meet before they can get more funding. Is that a good idea?
Mr. GINGRICH: Look, I think the Congress can advise the president in this
area, but that it is--it is irrational to think that 535 legislators can write
a contract which has to be met by a foreign government on a date certain.
You're just going to tie the United States up and make it look pathetic. The
president, I think, would veto any binding provision. They've gone through
this dance now for over 75 days. It undermines the morale of our forces, it
weakens us around the world. If we, tragically, have to be in the middle of a
war, then let's get the money to the troops.
Interestingly, in 1848, Abraham Lincoln, who was a Whig opposed to the war,
always distinguished the policy debate and the money and always said, `We have to vote the money because American troops have to be supported. But I want to disagree with President Polk about the Mexican war.' We're in a similar point. I think any Democrat who wants to can argue about the war, but don't undermine the military in the middle of our taking casualties while we're trying to do a job.
SCHIEFFER: Well, now you, yourself, have been a critic of the war strategy.
I was looking up some things here, and it says in 2003, I think, you said we
went over a cliff...
Mr. GINGRICH: Yes.
SCHIEFFER: ...when Mr. Bremer, who was then running things, changed the
strategy. He did not put in an Iraqi governing council. You said then we were on a disastrous path. So why can you be so critical of Democrats who're now saying the same thing?
Mr. GINGRICH: Look, I've consistently been critical of how we execute things. In fact, there's an article this morning where I say flatly the machinery of executing American foreign policy and American national security policy does not work. That's why I favored appointing a very senior military person, in effect, as deputy commander in chief directly under the president. The system doesn't work. But I want to find a way to make it work so we can win in the world, not find a way to use that as an excuse to run and hide. I mean, the missing debate in America today is, after we're defeated--look, let's say that the liberal Democrats succeed, which is their constitutional right--after we are defeated, how do we manage the Middle East? How do we manage the Persian Gulf? What lessons do we learn the next time? And more importantly, what lessons do our allies and our enemies learn from the political defeat of the American system? Now, I think this is one of the most
serious historic moments we've ever had because, unlike Vietnam, we have an active enemy worldwide--the British just this last week sentenced five
terrorists to life in prison in Britain. We have an active enemy worldwide, and this defeat is part of a much longer war that we will still be in. The Democrats don't have the ability to lead the world.
SCHIEFFER: What do we do now to manage the current situation? I mean, you give--OK, you say fund the troops, but how long does that go on? Do we wait till this summer to see whether it's worked or not?
Mr. GINGRICH: Look, we--I want to say something which is very politically
unpopular. We are caught up in a worldwide war against an irreconcilable
enemy who seeks to destroy us and will use nuclear or biological weapons if
they can get them. And they mean literally destroy us. We had a 12-year-old
boy on videotape two weeks ago in Pakistan beheading a man. We had a couple in Britain in July who were prepared to use their eight-month-old baby to get a bomb on an airplane disguised as baby food. We're up against a savagery and a ferocity worldwide that we don't understand. And all I am suggesting is, whether it's Afghanistan, it's Iraq, it's Iran, it is the problems in Syria, it's the 300 people who were killed in Algeria a week ago, the 200 people killed in India a month ago, we had better have a national debate as we did over the Cold War. We didn't debate over the Cold War about Berlin--the Berlin blockade. We debated the larger question: What's the nature of the world? What would it be take for the United States to survive and its allies to survive? And I see no evidence this commit--I want to make a--one specific proposal.
Mr. GINGRICH: The president should extend to all of the members of the House and Senate, and to all of the candidates for president, the maximum
opportunity to get briefed on a regular weekly basis, to understand what the
president worries about. I think that it's very important to understand that--the American people made a choice last fall, a totally legitimate choice
on their part. We now have a Democratic speaker, a Democratic majority
leader. Somehow they have to be brought in to a combined American decision
process. We have a whole bunch of candidates for the next year running around making speeches. They have to be informed about the nature of the world. They don't have to be with George W. Bush, but they at least have to
understand the threats...(unintelligible).
SCHIEFFER: Let's talk a little bit about politics.
Mr. GINGRICH: All right.
SCHIEFFER: Let's turn to politics here.
Mr. GINGRICH: I'm shocked that you'd bring...
SCHIEFFER: Yes. The president, in the new Newsweek poll that's out today,
has the lowest approval rating of any president since Jimmy Carter. He's down now to 28 percent. We all remember that Richard Nixon had an approval rating of 23 percent at the lowest part of his presidency. How do Republican candidates deal with that? Do they separate themselves from the president? Do they ignore him, as they did during the recent debate, where he was mentioned one time and Ronald Reagan was mentioned 18 times? How do Republicans handle that?
Mr. GINGRICH: Well, if the French elections go as it--they look like they're
going to go today, I'm going to write in my newsletter tomorrow on a French
lesson to the Republicans, which is pretty ironic considering some of the
jokes we make in this country about France. Nicolas Sarkozy is in the Chirac
government. Chirac is at the end of 10 years, two terms. People are totally
fed up with him, they're very tired. And yet Sarkozy has managed to become
the candidate of change while Segolene Royal, the socialist opposition, has
become the candidate of status quo. No Republican will win in 2008 on keeping Washington as it is. If we--if the Republicans are going to win next year, they will win by offering a choice of greater solutions with dramatically more change than we've seen in American life, I think, since the New Deal. And unless they're prepared to offer that change, I think the country will almost certainly elect a Democrat because I think the 2006 election was a performance election, and I think the country is sending a signal. They might vote for a center-right change candidate, which is what Sarkozy is, even though he's in the Chirac Cabinet.
SCHIEFFER: Well, is President Bush just an albatross that's too heavy for
Republicans to carry now?
Mr. GINGRICH: Well, President Bush is not the future. He's not a solution.
He doesn't solve--he doesn't solve Social Security, he doesn't solve Medicare,
he doesn't solve the economy, he doesn't solve the environment, he doesn't
solve education. He's a current fact. It would be like saying that if the
Democrats decided to run on the grounds of that they can be as effective as
Senator Reid is in the Senate. Well, you'd never elect somebody--the Senate's an impossible place to be effective in. It's designed not to be effective.
The Democrats have got--have an easier job, because all they have to do is
say, `Not this.' That's exactly what the 2006 campaign was, `Not this.' The
Republicans have a harder job. The Republicans have to say this is not what
we want to debate, it's not in Baghdad, it's not in Katrina, it's not at Walter Reed, it's not with the US attorneys. But I have a better plan for a better solution that fits your values more than a Senator Clinton or a Senator Edwards or a Senator Obama.
SCHIEFFER: Or what you seem to be saying, or President Bush.
Mr. GINGRICH: Well, I think that's clear. I mean, again, you don't have to be hostile to President Bush to say that the country clearly wants more aggressive solutions that are more powerful, whether it's controlling the border or it is fixing Social Security for the next generation or it's having a health system we can afford that covers 300 million Americans or it's having
what I've described as a green conservatism that offers an aggressive solution on issues like global warming but does so using markets and incentives.
SCHIEFFER: You say it's absurd to start the campaign so early. In fact, your
quote that I want to ask you about, you said the other day, "If the American
people want an absurdity, they should pick one of the current candidates. If
they're still interested come October, maybe I'll think about running." What
did you mean by that?
Mr. GINGRICH: Well, the point is this, and I'm not--I'm not arguing with any
of the people who are running. There's a lot of smart people who are running
very hard. But they have allowed themselves to be talked into a
consultant-driven model, which is the equivalent--it's a mixture of "American
Idol," "The Bachelor" and "Survivor." The debates recently were ludicrous. I
mean, first of all, it's ludicrous to say--in the debate the other night, the
Republicans averaged seven minutes and 20 seconds apiece, split up into 25 to 30 second answers. The television celebrities are the kings, the television
celebrities dominate these things. They cut people off, they treat them with
disrespect. The potential president of the United States, the most powerful
governing office in the world, shrinks with each appearance in these--in these
shows, and we don't have a national discussion.
Mario Cuomo, Governor Cuomo and I, did a 90 minute discussion at Cooper Union recently, and Governor Cuomo has written a recent article, and so has Marvin Kalb, proposing that next year, whoever the two nominees are, they should agree in advance to a 90 minute dialogue, time keeper but no moderator. Ninety-minutes a week for nine weeks from Labor Day to the election. Let the American people have in your living room a chance to see two adults talk--by the way, the French election, the other night they had a very tough debate that ran 30 minutes over.
SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you one final question. You're going to put out
these ideas from this task force toward the end of the summer or September.
Mr. GINGRICH: Right.
SCHIEFFER: Then you will decide whether or not you're going to get into this.
Are you really serious about that, or are you just more into getting these
Mr. GINGRICH: We have--no, look, look. We have a solutions day workshop on September 27th, the anniversary of the contract. It'll be on the Internet,
available nationwide. We already have over 1400 people signed up, and over
600 sites, people have signed up for it at americansolutions.com. I'm going
to spend all summer developing a new generation of solutions that are
different than the current dialogue in Washington. We're going to give them
to all the Democrats and all the Republicans. If people adopt them and people campaign on them, I probably won't run. If, however, the ideas require an advocate and citizenship requires me to run, then in October, you know, starting on September 30th, we'll look very seriously at whether or not that's necessary.
SCHIEFFER: All right. Mr. Speaker, you always make it interesting.
Mr. GINGRICH: Good to be with you. Thank you.