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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript

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CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley. And this is State of the Union.

Four months ago one prominent Beltway blog said of Newt Gingrich's troubled presidential run -- he looks a lot like the Bruce Willis character in the Sixth Sense, everyone but him thinks he's dead. But at last week's Washington Post/Bloomberg debate Gingrich remained very much alive and kicking.


GINGRICH: All of the spending cuts that are built in the debt ceiling bill, all of them are acts of congress. They can all be repealed at any moment. It is nonsense to say we're going to disarm the United States unilaterally because we're too stupid to balance the budget any other way.


CROWLEY: Former house speaker and Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich joins me now very much alive and kicking.

GINGRICH: Good to be with you.

CROWLEY: Let me talk to you first about some things that are in the news. Let's pretend that President Gingrich is in the White House. You received word and uncover a plot to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. in the U.S. There is a money trail that leads you to the government of Iran and some sector of it. Do you what?

GINGRICH: Continue the strategy that a Gingrich administration would have to undermine and replace the dictatorship.

CROWLEY: In what way?

GINGRICH: Using all the techniques President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher and Pope John Paul II used to destroy the Soviet empire. I think our goal should be the replacement of the Iranian dictatorship with a maximum amount of effort to rouse students, to arouse young people, to arouse ethnic dissent, to finance every possible element of opposition to build a radio and television-free Iran and to apply every possible economic sanction, including ultimately if necessary cutting off gasoline so that the regime collapses.

We will never, ever be safe if the North Korean and Iranian dictatorships survive. And we need to understand these are long-term strategic problems. This is one more tactical example of a war. They've been waging war against us since 1979. They think so. They plan for it. They kill us. They have plots around the world. They support terrorist organizations. And we -- at a strategic level the United States is absolutely clueless about what we should be doing.

CROWLEY: Well, but the president certainly has done his best when there were demonstrators on the streets early on in his administration, he was encouraging, they haven't put sanctions on them...

GINGRICH: No. You look at his confused statements about Iran and his confused statements about reaching out and talking with the regime and then you look at how much he supported the demonstrators in Egypt. Look how much he supported the effort in Libya.

We have done nothing of consequence to systematically undermine this regime. You just asked what would a Gingrich administration do. The Gingrich administration would have said to the country, see? This is one more in a 32-year process of waging war against us and is further proof of why we need to replace the dictatorship.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you also about something that's just in the news in the past 24 hours. And that is that the Obama administration is sending 100 U.S. troops to Central Africa to advise those who are staging an anti-insurgency against the Lords Resistance Army, one of the most brutal insurgencies on the face of the earth at this moment.

So 100 U.S. advisers are going in there most of them, we are told, or many of them at least, are special ops troops. Good idea?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I wish we would just be honest or say nothing. I don't think you send special ops troops in there with instructions not to kill anybody.

CROWLEY: Which were said they were going in as an advisory manner...

GINGRICH: I'm just saying. If the United States should intervene in a way that works, if it should a black operation, don't say anything about it, our guys show up, our technology shows up, the other side loses, we quietly go off again. If it is going to be overt operation, say we will now do what it takes to make sure we achieve our objectives. Period. That should be the rule of engagement.

Some kind of nonsensical we really don't want to shoot you but we're sending armed troops -- and we know it's a dangerous area, but really I would like not to do anything. It is just stupid. I mean, it doesn't make any sense.

The other question I would just raise with the president and congress is if you can't control the American border, why do you find places to disperse our forces at a time when you talk about cutting the defense budget? This is an evil person, this is a bad group of people, they're doing horrible things.

CROWLEY: And it is a hotbed for terrorism.

GINGRICH: Well, so is Somalia and so is Yemen.

I'm just saying, we have an almost feckless attraction, like bunch ball for children at soccer, to go to the next spot. What you need is, a -- a grand strategy, b, a sense of priorities. I would argue controlling the American border ought to be a much higher priority. But also, what happens next?

I mean Somalia -- I was in Congress during Blackhawk Down. I watched the United States under Clinton make a total mess of Somalia. Somalia is a disaster area. The Yemen is decaying.

So you look around the world and you say, how many places are there terrorist groups? West Africa has had horrible human rights violations, comparable to Uganda. I don't think we have any kind of larger strategy so we sort of respond to the press clippings of the minute or TV coverage of the minute and it doesn't, in the long run, serve the U.S. well. And frankly, it doesn't serve the humanitarian interest of people well.

CROWLEY: And let me bring you home to unemployment. If congress does not act, employment benefits for the long term unemployed, about six months or more, will expire on 2.1 million unemployed people in February. Would that be OK under a Gingrich administration or should those long-term unemployment benefits be extended again?

GINGRICH: Let me talk about right now since my administration doesn't start until January of 2013. I would urge the congress to pass an extension with a training requirement and to tie the training requirement to businesses that need work.

There are over 3 million unfilled jobs in the United States because we have a work force which is no longer trained for modern jobs. If somebody is going to get money for 99 weeks -- and they may need money for 99 weeks -- that's long enough to get an associate degree. We should not give people money for doing nothing.

So from day one if you sign up for unemployment compensation, you should also be signing up to get trained. We should expect you to actually succeed at the training, and we should have some kind of metric to follow it.

CROWLEY: This sounds a little bit like what the president has proposed... GINGRICH: There's some parallels. This has been done in Georgia, it's been done I believe in New Hampshire. The goal would be to make sure that every person who needs help gets it, but in return for getting help, they are improving their capacity to work, they are learning new skills, they're being taught by businesses and I think you could do it at a very inexpensive level and I think businesses would flock. You talk to people, for example, in the National Association of Manufacturers where there's a real shortage of skilled labor.

If you talk to people in -- there was an article recently that in Fresno, California there are like 3,000 jobs that are -- that can't get filled and there are like 3,000 unemployed people who don't have the skills. Well, if you turn unemployment compensation into a worker training program, no more money for doing nothing, you suddenly have a huge improvement in human capital in the United States.

CROWLEY: Let me turn to you to just good old-fashioned politics. What do you make of the Cain boomlet which seems to ride, in part, on perhaps some reluctance to sign on to Romney, but also in part because of his 999 plan, a plan to have income tax at 9 percent, and a sales tax at 9 percent and corporate taxes at 9 percent.

GINGRICH: I think three things are happening. First of all of, Herman Cain is a terrific person. He is a great, wonderful human story. He is a very enthusiastic and very competent person. And I think there's a certain attractiveness to Herman that a lot of people find very genuine. He's a good friend of mine and I'm delighted for him that he's having this kind of run. I wouldn't want it to go to the nomination but I'm delighted that he's having this kind of run.

Second, I think Perry stumbled. Perry was the natural alternative to Romney and if Perry had had a flawless campaign, he would have been the nominee. He stumbled enough in the debates that there was a vacuum created.


CROWLEY: Is he done? Is Perry done?

GINGRICH: No, nobody's done in this business. At this stage last time McCain was in third place. At this stage in 1991 Bill Clinton was an asterisk. I think he had like 2 percent. You know, this is a wide open process.

The third thing, though, which I find the establishment media can't come to grips with, Mitt Romney has a huge problem. He's a very likable person. He works very hard. He's very smart. And he is a Massachusetts moderate Republican. It is the Nelson Rockefeller problem. I mean, there is a natural ceiling. And if you go back and look at the race last time, he ran into a natural ceiling.

CROWLEY: But it is a natural ceiling in the primary, is it a natural ceiling ion the -- because in head-to-heads he tends do better against this president.

GINGRICH: Well, and Rockefeller always did better in the general election run but the problem is if you can't get the nomination you don't get to go head-to-head.

And Mitt's challenge is going to be that -- because he's now been running for six years -- that people look and they say, well, not yet. You know, so again and again -- I mean, there's a certain truth to the Saturday Night Live skit.

The challenge for somebody like me is to have -- because I am a very complicated candidate, right? We have a "21st Century Contract with America" that's at We're having thousands of people download it. It is gradually circulating. I am deliberately running a campaign of substance.

If Herman figures out how to do it all right and if he can explain a 9 percent sales tax so people decide they want it, he has a good chance to be the nominee. If, however, in New Hampshire, for example, where they have no sales tax at all and no mechanism for collecting it, or in Iowa where senior citizens are going to say, wait a second, as my 79-year-old mother-in-law said on her Social Security, in her fixed income she's now going to pay 9 percent more?

Herman has a -- as people look at 999 and disaggregate it, it gets to be a lot harder sale, I think.

CROWLEY: And maybe leave an opening, I suspect, you hope, for Newt Gingrich.

GINGRICH: Well, that's our goal.

CROWLEY: Mr. Speaker, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.


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