FOX "Fox News Sunday"-Transcript
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Well, the always provocative Newt Gingrich was back at it again this week, eviscerating the presidential campaign process as well as the solutions being offered so far by Republican candidates.
Joining us now to discuss his comments, the former speaker of the House.
And welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."
FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH: It's good to be with you.
WALLACE: Pulling your punches as usual, you called the current campaign process pathetic and compared the candidates lined up in the debates to so many trained seals waiting for fish to be thrown at them. Is the process that demeaning?
GINGRICH: I think the process first of all, the actual quotes are all and the actual audios at Newt.org for anybody who wants to listen to it.
And I believe that the process is fundamentally broken. When you have 10 people or 11 people or 12 people standing in a row patiently waiting for 30 seconds to be allowed to finally answer questions chosen by a personality other than the candidate, I think that you have demeaned seeking the president of the United States to a level that is an absurdity.
I mean, we are faced with enormous problems. In 1860 Abraham Lincoln gave a two-hour speech at Cooper Union. In 1858 Lincoln and Douglas debated seven times for three hours each.
We're faced with problems I think that are fully as great as those that faced Lincoln and Douglas in the 1850s, and yet we have reduced our political dialogue to a point where literally potential would-be leaders of the most powerful government in the world stand meekly in line waiting for somebody to pick a question, and the question can be anything.
I mean, it's entirely up to the television personality to pick what to ask. I think it's a fundamentally flawed system.
WALLACE: You also had some harsh comments for the Republican field, saying that so far they have failed to describe in historic terms how they would change Washington.
GINGRICH: I think the great dilemma of America today and if we don't solve it, it will become a tragedy is that the Republicans don't recognize the scale of the performance failure of government as a system, and the Democrats are living in a fantasy land in terms of their policy proposals.
And so you have two parties, each of them disqualifying itself in different ways. Republicans are closer to reality in terms of what we ought to do for policy, but they don't understand that the system is broken, doesn't work.
The Democrats are offering a series of policies that have no hope of working in the real world, but they at least sound better than the performance failure.
I think this is truly one of the most important political processes in American history and that we have to come to grips with how much trouble we're in and how deep the problems are.
WALLACE: All right. So people are going to say, "All right, Newt Gingrich, you come up with some ideas."
You're putting together what you call the American Solutions Conference where you're going to come up with big ideas. It's going to be in late September.
Give us an example. What is the kind of bold, transformational change that you're talking about that would really shake up Washington?
GINGRICH: Well, let's start with education. The Detroit public school system currently graduates 22 percent of its entering freshmen on time and fails to serve 78 percent of the young people in Detroit.
And if you're an African-American male, you have a 73 percent unemployment in your 20s if you drop out of school and a 60 percent chance of going to jail.
Now, faced with a catastrophic collapse of that scale, we should basically fundamentally replace the Detroit school system with a series of experiments to see if they'll work.
I would include paying kids in very poor neighborhoods the equivalent of working at McDonald's if they took math and science and got a B or better.
I would include the KIPP system, which is a private school system that graduates 85 percent of its students in the inner city go to college.
Instead, because of the unions and let's be clear. This is entirely about the unions. It's about union dues. Because of the unions, in San Diego, I was briefed yesterday, there's a school that has great scores that is a charter school that's going to be closed because the teachers aren't unionized.
And you look at Detroit, which is a disaster. Just one quick thing. Detroit in 1950 had 1,800,000 people and the highest per capita income in the United States. Today, Detroit is at the 62nd per capita income with 950,000 people.
WALLACE: And is that the kind of thing that you as president would want to get involved in and run, or is it the kind of thing, I mean, that you would leave most people would say you'd leave that to the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan.
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I think that the reason we created American Solutions and we're having workshops nationwide online in late September is because there are 513,000 elected offices in the United States.
And the reason that I've chosen to focus on creating a nationwide movement is precisely your question. I think we ought to challenge the Detroit school board. We ought to challenge the Detroit city council. We ought to challenge the Michigan legislature. We ought to challenge the governor of Michigan.
But by the way, while you're doing that, if you don't challenge the union and the education bureaucracy, and you don't challenge the UAW, you are not going to save Michigan.
Michigan has lost more jobs than any state in the United States except the impact of Katrina on Louisiana. And nobody stops and says, "What is the systemic reason for this collapse?"
I do think a president has an obligation to say to the country, "You can't compete with China and India if your education system is failing," and that has to be solved locally.
And frankly, I think the federal Department of Education is not a useful asset in trying to solve that.
WALLACE: Not surprisingly, your comments this week drew some pushback. You compared yourself to French General de Gaulle being asked in the '50s to join the pygmies, and here's what someone on the American Spectator blog wrote.
Take a look. "Newt is brilliant. Unfortunately, Newt knows he is brilliant. As a result, he has little control over his ego."
Mr. Speaker, how do you plead?
GINGRICH: Well, look. I was a child living in France in 1958. My dad was serving in the U.S. Army. We lived in Orleans. And I experienced what happened in France.
I watched the French Fourth Republic die, literally killed by the paratroopers after the Algerian war. I watched President de Gaulle, who had been the savior of France after World War II, who had retired to get out of politics because he thought it was a hopeless mess, brought back to create the Fifth Republic, which just elected a new president, the longest serving French system since the monarchy.
And my reference was as a teacher. I mean, I find it fascinating in the city that if you actually studied something and you actually know about something, you must be egocentric because you're actually talking about facts as opposed to what my consultant advised me that the focus group said last night that I should memorize.
I was relaying the systemic failure of the American system, Democrat and Republican, systemic in Sacramento, systemic in Detroit, systemic in Albany, systemic in Washington, D.C., and the fact that neither political party is producing the kind of campaign and the kind of candidates not just for president but across the system.
We are not coming to grips with how big our problems are.
WALLACE: Of course, people wonder whether you're going to get into the race or whether you're going to stay on the sidelines.
There was a report the other day, and this is the level of political reporting these days, that the Gingriches had dinner a couple of weeks ago with Fred and Jeri Thompson at the Thompsons' house and that you discussed policy.
So I don't care so much about the menu. Are you going to endorse Senator Thompson for president?
GINGRICH: Chris, I love this business, and I know why you enjoy every Sunday morning. We've now gone from the systemic crisis of the French Fourth Republic to did we have dinner.
Calista has given me permission to tell you that yes, we had a very nice dinner with Jeri and Fred and with Bob Livingston. It was a delightful discussion. They've been good friends for many years.
And I think that Fred will be a very formidable candidate. And I start with American Solutions is offering all of its polling data and all of its ideas to every candidate in both parties. We literally delivered our last poll to every candidate in both parties.
Fred Thompson will be a serious candidate. I think the Republicans have three major choices in Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson. I think any of the three will be...
WALLACE: And not John McCain.
GINGRICH: I think Senator McCain has taken positions so deeply at odds with his party's base that I don't see how he can get the nomination.
But I think that either Mayor Giuliani or Governor Romney or Senator Thompson would be a very formidable opponent for what I expect will be a Clinton-Obama ticket, and I think that there's a possibility that will work.
After we're done with our workshops at American Solutions in September, if there is a vacuum and if there's a real need for somebody to be prepared to debate Senator Clinton, then I would consider running. I think we'll know that in October.
But these three are serious people. They're working very hard. And if they can fill the vacuum, I don't feel any great need to run.
WALLACE: We're going to talk to Senator Russ Feingold in a moment. This week he joined other democratic senators in calling for a special prosecutor to investigate whether Attorney General Gonzales has lied to Congress.
In April, you said here on this program that the country would be better served with a new attorney general. How damaging is it, in the middle of a war on terror, to have an attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer of the nation, who has so little credibility?
GINGRICH: I think it's very damaging, and it's not a question I don't agree with Senator Feingold and the Democrats' 293rd request for more investigation. I think they've gone sort of almost irrational in their desire to investigate everything in the executive branch.
But we badly need an attorney general who is above any question. We need somebody you know, President Ford solved this by bringing in the dean of a law school, bringing in somebody who was a Republican but a widely accepted senior person who had never been in politics.
Both the president and the country are better served if the attorney general is seen as a figure of probity and a figure of integrity and a figure of competence.
And sadly, the current attorney general is not seen as any of those things. And I think that it's a liability for the president. But more importantly, it's a liability for the United States of America.
And we've got to get beyond whether it helps the Democrats or helps Republicans and set a standard of does it help America.
WALLACE: Finally, and we have about a minute left, on Iraq, Senator Feingold is already calling and already voting to start pulling troops out starting in 120 days, with most forces out by next April.
Why do you think that some Democrats want to start pulling out troops even before General Petraeus gets a chance to issue his progress report in September?
GINGRICH: The left wing of the Democratic Party is deeply opposed to American victory and deeply committed to American defeat.
In 1975, when there were no Americans left in Vietnam, the left wing of the Democratic Party killed the government of South Vietnam, cut off all of its funding, cut off all of its ammunition, and sent a signal to the world that the United States had abandoned its allies.
What I would say to any Democrat who wants America to leave is quite simple. Millions of Iraqis have sided with the United States. They are known in their neighborhoods. They are known in their cities. If we abandon them, they are going to be massacred.
How can you, in good conscience, walk away from these decent people and leave them behind to a fate which we've seen, for example, in Afghanistan, where the Taliban recently was machine-gunning girls as they walked to school because the Taliban is determined to stop women from getting educated?
We are faced with evil opponents. Those opponents need to be defeated. And if General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker come back in September and say, "We actually can win this thing," I want to understand the rationale that says, "No, we don't want to let America win. Let's legislate defeat for the United States."
WALLACE: All right. That's a good question. We'll be asking Senator Feingold on the other side of the commercial.
Speaker Gingrich, thank you for coming in...
GINGRICH: Good to be here.
WALLACE: ... and continued success with your book, "Pearl Harbor."
GINGRICH: Thank you.