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FOX News "FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace" - Transcript

Interview

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BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

WALLACE: Steve Harrigan reporting from Tripoli. Steve, thanks for that. Joining us now fresh off of a weekend visit to Iowa, possible presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. Welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Good to be back here.

WALLACE: Let's start with Libya. You are taking some heat for what a lot of people are calling is a flip on what the U.S. should do in Libya.

Let's watch what you said a few weeks ago about U.S. intervention and what you said this week about what the U.S. should do. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: Exercise no-fly zone this evening, communicate to the Libyan military that Qaddafi was gone, and that the sooner they switch sides, the more likely they were to survive.

I would not have intervened. I think there are a lot of other ways to affect Qaddafi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Some are saying that whatever the president does or doesn't do, you're against.

GINGRICH: Well, you should have played an earlier clip when I was on Greta's show in late February and I said we should be for replacing Qaddafi without using the U.S. military.

Now, the president on March 3rd changed the rules of the game. The president came out publicly and said Qaddafi must go. And so I was citing there my original position, which is if you are not in the lake, don't jump in.

Once you're in the lake, swim like crazy. Our goal should -- now that the president said Qaddafi must go, our goal should be the defeat of the Qaddafi government and the replacement of Qaddafi as rapidly as possible, ideally by using western air power with Arab forces, including I think Egyptian and Moroccan and other advisers to help with the ground campaign. But I see no reason for American ground troops to go in.

But I think the president has positioned us where once the president of the United States says Qaddafi must go, we have an obligation as a country to get rid of him.

WALLACE: Here is where I'm a little confused because on Greta's show on March 7, which is the first clip, you said that we should start the no-fly zone immediately. All she asked you was what should we do about Libya?

You made no mention about what the president had said, you just said we should intervene -- let me finish and you can answer -- right away. Even if all you were doing was being a good soldier, why on earth would you say I wouldn't have intervened after the president committed U.S. service men and women this last week?

GINGRICH: Because there is an earlier Greta show in February, which is where this all started. In February, I said we should find ways to get rid of him using the kind of strategies that Reagan and Eisenhower used, which was to help freedom fighters without using American force.

That became impossible once the president publicly said Qaddafi must go. So she said, this is March 7, four days after the president said Qaddafi must go and my answer was the context of if Qaddafi must go, you establish the zone, but notice immediately after I said it, you take steps and you need to get rid of it.

I'm against a no-fly zone if it's 90 or 120-day or six-month experience of the truce. The goal should be to get rid of Qaddafi. That should be communicated publicly so Qaddafi's forces lose their morale.

It should be unequivocal. You can't find any unequivocal statement anywhere that Qaddafi must go. In fact, the alliance is saying, well, this is really humanitarian, it's really not directly, you know --

WALLACE: Well, OK. Let's -- enough of the past.

GINGRICH: OK.

WALLACE: And the February Greta show versus the March Greta show. If you are President Gingrich and speaking to the American people as President Obama will be tomorrow night, first of all, would you say that I want the U.S. be in control rather than cede control of this operation, the entire operation, to NATO?

And secondly, you say Qaddafi must go. As president, what would you be willing to do?

GINGRICH: Well, I think I hope the president tomorrow night will be dramatically clearer than he has been up until now. I hope the president will say, first of all he is consulting the U.S. Congress, not just the Arab League and United Nations.

I hope he will say second that it's clear that the Qaddafi dictatorship has to leave, and that we are prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure the Qaddafi dictatorship leaves.

WALLACE: When you say "do whatever it takes," does that mean we should strike at Qaddafi?

GINGRICH: Yes. Once you engage air power, you should use the air power in its most effective way. You don't need to send in ground forces. We have been supporting and sustaining Egyptian, Moroccan, Jordanian and Iraqi forces for years. We should be able to find allies who are prepared to go on the ground. You don't need much ground force if you have air power. But you do need accuracy in the bombing campaign and you do need to be able to drive Qaddafi's forces to defeat.

WALLACE: But full-out, to defeat, topple Qaddafi and his regime?

GINGRICH: Yes. Otherwise, this campaign makes no sense at all. If Qaddafi is semi in charge -- this is a ruthless dictator with a powerful secret police. He is going to win a long-term stalemate.

So once you have the momentum -- the other point I'd make is American force has to be used as rapidly and as effectively as possible. You cannot sustain a six-month or a year or two-year campaign in Libya.

And I think the president should call on the Congress for a supplemental. The word from the White House yesterday that they were going to take it from the current Pentagon budget. I think it is impossible. I don't think the Pentagon can sustain a war within the current budget.

WALLACE: Meantime, there are protests and violent government crackdowns across the Middle East, in Syria, in Yemen and Bahrain. What should the U.S. do in those countries? And does it matter that Syria is an adversary and the other two are allies?

GINGRICH: Well, I think as a general principle, we want to be in favor of people being in charge of their own lives. That has a lot of complications in some parts of the Muslim world, because you do have al Qaeda and you do have extremists groups.

So it's not a simple thing, but I think in general, we should be in favor of moving towards freedom and moving towards self-government. But again, this is part of why I was very cautious back in February.

I don't think you want to have the U.S. in Syria and the U.S. in Bahrain and the U.S. in Yemen. I mean, this thing is going to unfold in all sorts of very complicated ways. And we don't have either the wisdom or the resources to get into every single place that has a problem.

WALLACE: Let's talk about 2012. You have been, forgive me, been playing Hamlet for several months now about whether or not you're going to run for the White House next year. Are you running for president?

GINGRICH: I think within a month, we'll have that taken care of and we'll be running. We're not yet running. We are looking at it carefully. We have a variety of reasons to do it in this methodical way. I think we're assembling a very good team. I have recently been in South Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa, the places you need to go, as well as Texas and Florida and North Carolina, and the water is pretty warm. My hope is that within a month we'll be in swimming there very rapidly.

WALLACE: But you just said, "in a month we'll be running."

GINGRICH: I hope within a month, we'll make that decision. But we're still finishing up the exploratory phase and we have specific things we're getting done that we think we need to do before making a final decision.

WALLACE: Do you intend to run for president?

GINGRICH: It's my hope that all of this will work out and I'll be able to run.

WALLACE: Now, the fact is that you just hired Rick Perry, the governor of Texas' campaign manager. He's going to play a big role in a Gingrich campaign. Why wouldn't you run at this point?

GINGRICH: There are specific things we're getting done in terms of our private activity businesses and our private activity.

WALLACE: But you're basically saying it's the use --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: It's logistics.

GINGRICH: Look, we sadly live in a world where lawyers define an amazing number of things. Federal Election Committee has very specific rules about different stages. And so, to some extent, we're over-lawyered because it's a requirement, objective of reality.

I was delighted that Rob Johnson agreed to join us as senior advisor in the exploratory process. He ran a great campaign for Rick Perry. He understands Texas politics very, very thoroughly, have earlier running the lieutenant governor's race. And I think he brings a level of talent to finishing up the exploratory process that's very formidable.

WALLACE: And you wouldn't have hired him if you weren't running for president.

GINGRICH: If we weren't -- look, this is a serious exploration. And I know (INAUDIBLE). This is a very serious exploration and we're bringing together very competent people. Katon Dawson in South Carolina is helping. Dave Carney in New Hampshire is helping.

WALLACE: The rap on Gingrich -- the look on your face -- is you're brilliant. You're brimming with ideas. But you lack discipline. And that discipline -- you've heard this. And discipline is vital in a presidential campaign.

I want to talk about your personal life. I hate doing it. But you know it's going to be an issue in the campaign.

GINGRICH: Sure.

WALLACE: So, I'm going to go there. You were asked recently about the fact that you cheated on your first and your second wives. And here's how you responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: There is no question that at times in my life partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard, and that things happened in my life that were not appropriate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Speaker, you've had more than a decade to come up with an answer. And in all honesty, there were a lot of people who thought that answer was kind of lame. I know it's heart-felt.

But let me explain why. You love your country and you're working hard. And so you strayed. That wouldn't work with my wife.

GINGRICH: No, it didn't work in my life. I went on to say that I had to seek God's forgiveness and I had to seek reconciliation and I had to believe that being genuinely repentant mattered. As you know, first, I have a great marriage.

WALLACE: I did know that.

GINGRICH: Two wonderful daughters, two great wonderful grandchildren. (INAUDIBLE) measured at 67. Have I matured? Am I a person that they can trust and rely on as a leader? And discipline is part of it. And I think that's a legitimate question.

I expect the American people in the end will be remarkably fair. They'll render judgment and they'll decide whether or not Newt Gingrich is somebody that they think can solve the country's problems and be the kind of leader they want for this country.

WALLACE: There's something else that bothers people. You were leading the charge to push Bill Clinton from office for lying about an affair and yes, he lied in a court proceeding, in a deposition, where he was sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth, but nothing but the truth. At the same time, you were leading that charge, you were having an affair. Isn't that hypocrisy?

GINGRICH: No. Look, obviously, it's complex and, obviously, I wasn't doing things to be proud of. On the other hand, what I said, very clearly -- I knew this in part going through a divorce -- I had been in depositions. I had been in situations where you had to swear to tell the truth.

I understood that in a federal court, in a case in front of a federal judge, to commit a felony, which is what he did, perjury was a felony. The question I raise was very simple: should a president of the United States be above the law? I don't think the president of the United States can be above the law.

And it's not about personal behavior. It's about whether -- it's not about what he did in the Oval Office. You can condemn that. You can say it's totally inappropriate.

But it was about a much deeper and more profound thing, which is: does the president of the United States have to obey law? Or as long as he's popular or she is popular, can they flout the law and become a third world country where the leader gets to get away with anything they want to, but you and I obey the law?

I thought the notion -- I mean, I don't know what you would have had me do because I think the notion that the president of the United States committing perjury -- remember, he is a lawyer. This is not some accidental thing. And I thought the outcome was about right. The House indicted - in effect indicted him. That's what impeachment is.

WALLACE: But I'm just going to ask you man-to-man. Did you ever think to yourself "I'm living in a really glass house"?

GINGRICH: Yes.

WALLACE: Maybe I shouldn't be throwing stones?

GINGRICH: No. I thought to myself if I cannot do what I have to do as a public leader, I would have resigned.

Now, look, I think you have to look at whether or not people have to be perfect in order to be leaders. I don't think I'm perfect. I admitted I had problems. I admitted that I sought forgiveness.

But I also think over time, if you look at my total record, I'm a pretty effective leader. I fight for this country and I fight for the changes we need with tenacity and I take a fairly tough beating, including from you and others, in order to stand in the arena and stand up for what I believe is really important.

And I think this country is worth that kind of a fight. And we'll find out six months or a year from now whether people are forgiving and whether we put in context events that are 15 and 10 years old. We'll see.

WALLACE: Thank you for being so forthright in answering that.

I want to ask you one more thing. We only got about a minute left. You say that congressional Republicans should take a hard line on government spending and all funding for Obamacare this year. Would you let the government shut down? Would you refuse to increase the debt limit in order to push those two objectives?

GINGRICH: I would try to create a circumstance where the president had a choice. And the president either had to agree to some very substantial changes, or the president would have to bear a fair amount of responsibility. I think people in the city must understand the 1995 shutdown. Republicans came out of that and for the first time since 1928 were re-elected because we stood for something. We stood for balancing the budget, reforming welfare and cutting taxes. All I would say to Republicans today is: you better figure out what you're prepared to do so people believe you're serious, or you're going to end up caving to whatever Obama wants. And I think that would be a disaster.

WALLACE: And a government shutdown and refusing the debt limit -- you'd be willing to go to both?

GINGRICH: If the choice is cave in to Obama and allow Obama to dictate the terms, or to go to the country and say, this is how serious this is, they are far better off to go to the country and draw a sharp line because if they cave to Obama, they lose all their credibility to the country.

WALLACE: Speaker Gingrich, I want to thank you so much for coming in --

GINGRICH: Thank you.

WALLACE: -- and being so straightforward with us. Thank you, sir.

GINGRICH: Thank you.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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