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


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CROWLEY: Thank you so much. And congratulations. It was a big victory for you last night.

As you look at this race going forward, what is your feeling on first the Rick Santorum. Is he still a factor?

FORMER REP. NEWT GINGRICH, R-GA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, of course Rick's a very, very good guy. He's a very solid conservative. And he'll be a factor as long as he wants to be. I think my job in Florida is to convince people that I am the one candidate who can clearly defeat Obama in a series of debates and the one candidate who has big enough solutions that they would really get America back on track.

We're a big country. We have big problems. And we need big solutions. And the people of Florida know that as well as anybody in the country.

CROWLEY; I had an opportunity to speak with Congressman Clyburn, in an interview that's going to air later in the show. And he talked to me about the -- the language of the south. And I know you have heard this, too, that a number of African-American leaders have been upset, saying that the language that you use, calling President Obama the Food Stamp president, other things that you do, is a way to appeal to folks that they believe are attracted to sort of a racist element.

He didn't -- I asked him specifically if he thought you were racist, and he said no. But he does believe you use that language, and that's what contributed to your victory here. Your reaction?

GINGRICH: Well, I think it's unfortunate that liberal leaders, whatever their ethnic background, can't have an honest, open debate about policies that fail. The fact is, far more whites than blacks are on Food Stamps. The fact is, I've been talking about Food Stamps both with regard to Speaker Pelosi and with regard to President Obama since August of 2010, actually wrote a newsletter on it in 2010 in August.

The fact is that we have a real national debate under way. Do you want a paycheck president, in which case my years in office first with Reagan and then as speaker combine 27 million jobs created by the American people in those two periods, as a pretty good test, or do you want a Food Stamp president?

President Obama's policies consistently kill jobs. He just killed jobs on the Keystone Pipeline decision. He doesn't seem to be able to help himself.

So I think it's fair to say, let's have a debate.

Florida is a state which has suffered terribly through bad government policies as it relates to housing. No state in the country would be better served by repealing Dodd-Frank which is killing the housing industry than the state of Florida. So let's have a debate in Florida over good policies versus bad policies and liberals shouldn't get away with hiding from the consequence of their bad policies by yelling racism.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you -- and I want to remind our viewers first of sort of a storyline that has been out there with your campaign by playing them something you said in New Hampshire recently.


GINGRICH: Those of us who believe in free markets and those of us who believe that, in fact, the whole goal of investment is entrepreneurship and job creation would find it pretty hard to justify rich people figuring out clever, legal ways to loot a company, leaving behind 1,700 families without a job.


CROWLEY; So basically what we're seeing here and what some Republicans have complained about is that you're suggesting that a man who might be the Republican nominee just went in and looted companies and left people jobless. Are you worried that you've got anything out there that's going to be very difficult to walk back if Mitt Romney becomes the nominee? GINGRICH: Nothing that a Republican is going to say will be nearly as negative as what President Obama and Axelrod and others will do with their billion dollar campaign. There's a reason they're raising $1 billion. There's a reason President Obama already has $240 million in the bank.

Whichever person we nominate had better be able to take Obama head on, because they're going to throw everything that they can at them.

One of the reasons I think people in South Carolina voted for me was a belief that I could debate Obama head to head, that I could convey conservative values, and that I could, in an articulate way, explain what American exceptionalism was all about and why the values that he believes in, the Saul Alinsky radicalism that is at the heart of Obama, are a disaster.

So I think we had better be prepared for a tough campaign, whoever we nominate. And I think that's part of why we need somebody who can win the debates in order to undo the damage that they'll try to do with their billion dollar campaign.

CROWLEY: Well, then, you know, there's lots of tough rhetoric to go around. And I want to move you on to something that Mitt Romney said in South Carolina on Friday when he was talking about you and calling on you to release some of the records from the ethics committee. Here's what he had to say.


ROMNEY: He was pushed out of the House by his fellow members. I think over 80 percent of Republican congressman voted to reprimand the speaker of the House. First time in history. And Nancy Pelosi has the full record of that ethics investigation. You know it's going to get out before the general election. Sure, he ought to get it out now.


CROWLEY: Now, the Romney camp, I asked him about this. He said, look, the whole ethics committee report is out there. It's on the web. People can look at it. And they noted that, in fact, you yourself said, when Nancy Pelosi said, boy, I know stuff about him and at some point we'll let it loose, she said, yeah, and then if she does she'll be violating the rules of the House.

GINGRICH: Right. CROWLEY: So clearly there is something else there, and that's what they're talking about. Do you intend to, a, release any of those records and, b, just because our time here is short, let me give you a double-barrel, that is how about your contracts or your work product to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae?

GINGRICH: Well, they're very different questions.

Let me just say the work product with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was clearly ultimately in the public interest as The New York Times reported in July of 2008 that I went to the House Republican conference and said vote no. Do not give them anymore money. They need to be totally reformed and totally overhauled.

So the only public record of any kind about my talking to the congress about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, I urged that they not get a penny of money, that the House Republicans vote no on bailing them out, which is the opposite of what my critics would suggest.

On the first one, I invite everybody...

CROWLEY: So would you release those reports that you gave them?

GINGRICH: The only thing that we gave them in writing they've actually published...

CROWLEY: Would you release...

GINGRICH: The only thing we gave them in writing was actually -- they published it. And it included a call for more regulations of their kind of institutions. And you can read it. It's on their website.

That's the only thing we gave them of that kind.

So the rest was just sitting and talking about ideas and talking about strategies. I'd worked with Habitat for Humanity for years trying to find ways to help poor people own a home and we'd talked about various strategies.

But let me go back to the Romney challenge, because I think it is...

CROWLEY: Sure, yes, please.

GINGRICH: ...almost bizarre. Here's a governor whose staff erased -- excuse me. Here's a governor whose staff erased all of the computers for Romneycare. He's released no information on how they developed Romneycare. Here's a governor who has not yet released his taxes.

Now, my taxes are posted at You can go see them. I helped found -- I helped create the Thomas system. You can go online. You can see a 1,300-page report on the ethics investigation.

By the way, it's been pointed out that in every single count, I was exonerated. And, in fact, after the case, remember that Nancy Pelosi and others were on that committee. After the case, a federal judge, the federal election commission and the Internal Revenue Service all three exonerated me. So this was a political game...

CROWLEY: But wait, you were reprimanded by the House, though, I think is what they're talking about.

GINGRICH: Right. And I urged the House Republicans to vote yes because we had to get it behind us if we were going to go ahead and balance the budget. All four of the balanced budgets occurred after that fight. This was over the Christmas of 1996. We had to get it behind us.

GINGRICH: The Democrats had filed 84 charges, 83 had been thrown out as totally phony. One we got hung up on because of a letter a lawyer wrote. I was not fined. I paid the cost of the investigation about that letter. It was a mistake.

So the one mistake I made was signing a letter written by our lawyers, a firm which frankly did me a great disservice and that's the only thing.

Now, I personally asked House Republicans to vote yes because we had to get it behind us to get back to the things that mattered: balancing the budget, reforming the government, beginning to look at the entitlements. These were the things we were working on at that time.


We have to take a quick break here, Mr. Speaker. But after the break, more with Newt Gingrich. We will go beyond the Republicans and ask him about his potential general election rival, President Obama.


CROWLEY: We are back with Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Mr. Speaker. Let me just ask you quickly, Nancy Pelosi, again, just to wrap this up, has suggested there are other documents. Would you call for the release of those?

GINGRICH: No. I'm not going to play games with Speaker Pelosi. She's a hard core Democrat. she's going to do everything she can to attack us. You know, we're not going to chase our tails.

But I would just point out to you as a said a while ago, for Governor Romney to decide to make this a big issue when we won't release his taxes, when his staff apparently cleaned the computers when they left the governorship and when we know nothing about how they developed Romneycare, I think is starting a fight in an area that he isn't necessarily going to prosper in. But I'm happy to.

Anybody who's concerned, go read the 1,300 pages. It's online for free. It's on a system, was one of the first things I set up for the American people.


Let me do a political question. This was from a CBS/New York Times poll. When asked who would you vote for in November if the candidates were Barack Obama and Newt Gingrich, Barack Obama 50 percent, Newt Gingrich 39 percent.

In that same poll, it showed Governor Romney in a dead even tie with President Obama.

How do you make that electability argument in the face of those numbers?

GINGRICH: The same way Ronald Reagan did. Ronald Reagan in December of '79 was 30 points behind Jimmy Carter. And he made the case that the candidate with ideas, the candidate with conservative values, the candidate who could articulate and defend his position was in the end going to be the best candidate.

The country decided he was right.

I think if you look at and you look at all the things we've developed, I can go toe to toe with President Obama on big things. There are big differences.

You know, Romneycare and Obamacare is about this far apart, pretty hard to have a debate. Conservatism I'm for dramatically lower taxes. The president is for much higher taxes. I'm for less regulation. The president's for more regulation. I'm for strength overseas to defend Israel and to defend the United States, the president's for weakness overseas.

I think you can draw a very strong case that in the end the dynamics of a Gingrich/Obama fight are much better for Republicans than the dynamics of a Romney/Obama fight.

CROWLEY: And let me ask you, you released your taxes as you've noted in the middle of a debate, actually. And I listened to you talk last night, sort of talking about how the people who voted for you in South Carolina feel so disconnected from the elites in Washington and New York. And you talk about the elite media.

And I remember in those tax returns, last year you made $3 million. You worked for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, two government agencies people think helped create the housing mess. You were speaker of the House for several terms. So how are you not an elite? What makes the difference between an elite New Yorker and an elite Washingtonian and Newt Gingrich?

GINGRICH: Well you know, Ronald Reagan did very well for a long time, and people understood that he -- he was never in Washington even when he was president. I think it's a matter of attitude. I ran for congress to change things in Washington. I worked with President Reagan to change things in Washington.

As Speaker of the House, we did change things -- welfare reform, first tax cut in 16 years, first cut in spending in over a decade. The only two times we've cut domestic spending, I was there -- as a sophomore when President Reagan did it and as speaker of the House when we did it the second time. I think virtually everybody who looks at the campaign knows I represent the largest amount of change of any candidate, and I think that's why they see me as representing their interest and their concerns, not representing Wall Street or representing the politicians of Washington.


Thank you so much. Newt Gingrich, the victor here in South Carolina. On to Florida.


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