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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript


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Mr. Speaker, last week we joked about you coming on every week. Here you are again. Congratulations on a significant victory.

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Well, David, thank you and the people of South Carolina were very generous and very hospitable and we really had a wonderful evening last night.

MR. GREGORY: So what is the message that South Carolina has sent, and what does it mean for this race?

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: I think they sent two really big messages to--which I wish the national establishment could pick up. The first is real pain. There's tremendous unemployment, people really are hurting. The number of people who walked up to me who've been out of work for a year, a year and a half. People who want to work hard, who want to have a better future, who want to provide for their families. That was really there.

The second, though, which I think nobody in Washington and New York gets is the level of anger at the national establishment. People who are just sick and tired of being told what they're allowed to think, what they're allowed to say. Again and again, it came up, as you know, in the two debates. The highest, the most intense passion in both debates was a head-on collision about what the news media was doing. And I think there's something real and deep there that happens all across the country and that we're seeing everywhere and certainly in Florida, which has had one of the most painful periods with housing mortgages and the price of housing and the difficulties in the housing area. As they look at the big boys on Wall Street they look at the guys in Washington, they know none of that help got down to average everyday Floridians. And I think that gap creates a real anger against the national establishment.

MR. GREGORY: You are running against the establishment, you're trying to run as an outsider. You talk about housing in Florida. You were a consultant or depending on your point of view, a lobbyist...


MR. GREGORY: ...for one of the mortgage giants. I'm wondering how you think you win that inside/outside game given...

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Well, David...

MR. GREGORY: ...your history?

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: ...wait a second, wait a second, David. David, you know better than that. I was not a lobbyist, I was never a lobbyist, I never did any lobbying. Don't try to mix these things up. The fact is I was an adviser strategically and if you look at the only thing ever published by Freddie Mac I said, "You need more regulations." If you look at the only article ever written about my talking to the Congress it was in The New York Times in July of 2008 and I said, "Do not give them any money." Now I opposed giving money to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I think they both should be broken up into four or five much smaller companies. And I've long felt that. And so I think that to jump from one to the other is simply wrong.

In Florida my case is going to be very simple. You have a clear establishment candidate in Mitt Romney. Look where his money comes from, look at his background, look what he did in Massachusetts. And you have somebody whose entire career has been a Reagan populist conservative going all the way back to the 1970s. I think that's a pretty clear contrast and I think Floridians would like somebody who speaks for them to Washington, not, not somebody who speaks to the establishment to them.

MR. GREGORY: You've raised questions about Romney's business background, particularly his time at Bain. As he was conceding last night in South Carolina this is one of the shots that he fired across the bow. Listen.

(Videotape, last night)

FMR. GOV. ROMNEY: Those who pick up the weapons of the left today will find them turned against us tomorrow. And let me be clear, if Republican leaders want to join this president in demonizing success and disparaging conservative values, then they're not going to be fit to be our nominee.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: The question, Mr. Speaker, after all of these questions about Bain, is there anything beyond the questions? Where's the beef, as was once said in politics when it comes to his management of Bain?

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Well, I think, first of all, you don't get any beef because you don't get any answers. The fact is he is trying to cleverly hide behind an argument that no high school debater would ever let stand. The questions about the character, the judgment, the record of a presidential candidate, is not an attack on business. That's silly. That would be like saying that my critique of Romneycare as resembling Obamacare means that I'm against any kind of government involvement. That would be silly. The governor's trying really hard to avoid answering anything whether it's on his--the Romneycare, for example, where the news reports are that they cleansed every single computer, we have no real record of how they developed it, and we have no real understanding of the overlap between his advisers and Obama's advisers, although President Obama says they are the same people. So I think the governor keeps trying to make these kind of ad hominem arguments that even in high school debate he would lose if he can't do better than that.

MR. GREGORY: Mr. Speaker, if it appears likely now that Governor Romney will release his tax records, as you called for him to do last week, will you be satisfied and do you agree with him that there could be facts in there that both you and President Obama would use against him?

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: I don't know. I mean, I think if there are things in there that can be used against him we better know it before the nomination. You don't--the last thing Republicans want to do is nominate somebody who collapses in September. Beating Barack Obama has to be the number one mission of the Republican Party. A second term for Barack Obama will be a disaster for this country and I am committed to beating him and I think I've proven in the debates I could take him on in a series of debates and undo his billion-dollar campaign. And I think it's very important that we have a candidate who's strong enough and tough enough to be able to take on President Obama in a series of debates.

MR. GREGORY: To give you your due on that electability question last night in South Carolina, you had the edge, not Governor Romney, who's had the edge both in Iowa and New Hampshire. That's important to say. Having said that, there are still real questions about your electability. Look at the most recent Fox News poll. Your unfavorability rating was still very high at 56 percent. And there are those that have worked with you, those that know you in the establishment who describe you as erratic or risky. This was something that Tom DeFrank wrote today in the New York Daily News. I want to put a portion of it and have you respond. "`The winner in South Carolina was Barack Obama,' a prominent Republican strategist glumly volunteered. `This plays perfectly into his hands. We've prolonged the process and that's good news for the president.'" It goes on. "`Newt's absolutely brilliant,' recalled an admirer who negotiated with him in Congress. `He has 100 ideas; 97 are real good, the other tree will blow up the world.' So look for more party leaders currently `neutral-for-Romney' to get off the fence to inoculate against a Gingrich surge. `Newt means losing 45 states,' a Mitt-leaning GOPer told the Daily News. `It would be a catastrophe for the country.'"

So that kind of sums up that establishment view of Newt Gingrich as the nominee.

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Well, the establishment is right to be worried about a Gingrich nomination because a Gingrich nomination means that we're going to change things, we're going to make the establishment very uncomfortable, we're going to demand real change in Washington, real audit of the Federal Reserve, real knowledge about where hundreds of billions of dollars have gone. And I think if you look at a lot of these guys, they have really good reason to worry about an honest, open candidate who has no commitment to them, who has no investment in them. And I think they should be worried because we intend to change the establishment, not get along with it.

On the other hand, everything they just said and that you read was said about Ronald Reagan in 1979, 1980. In '79, Reagan was 30 points behind Carter. One of his Republican opponents described the Reagan economic growth plan as, "voodoo economics." You know, some voodoo. It created 16 million new jobs. We came back and used the same model when I was speaker, it created another 11 million new jobs. So I'm happy to be in the tradition of Ronald Reagan as the outsider who scares the Republican establishment and frankly after the mess they've made of things maybe they should be shaken up pretty badly. And one of the things the Florida voters get to decide is do you want the establishment's candidate, Governor Romney, or do you want somebody who stands for a conservative, populist approach that would profoundly change Washington. And that's Newt Gingrich.

MR. GREGORY: Mr. Speaker, you were outspoken this week about your views of questions about your personal life. On this program in the past you've said that they were fair questions. We've had those conversations. Let me ask you more generally, if, if voters are going to consider your family values vs. the family values of Governor Romney, should they judge your conduct?

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Sure, of course they should, and they should judge who I am. And I think the people of South Carolina did just that and they did it by a huge margin. And they repudiated the effort to go back and drag up things, particularly at the very opening of the national debate. Last night on stage Callista and I were together, we have a wonderful marriage. My two daughters and their husbands were there, they're tremendous supporters. My two grandchildren were there, my chief debate coaches. Everybody who's watched us knows I'm a 68-year-old grandfather. I've done things in my life that I regret. I've had to go to God for forgiveness and reconciliation, but I have a great relationship with my wife, a great relationship with my children, a great relationship with my grandchildren. And at 68, I think I'm the person best prepared to know how to get this country back on the right track. And I'm the person who's tough enough to take every single hit and keep coming and I'll do the same thing as president and we will get America back on track with the help of the American people. I always ask them to be with me, not for me, because this is going to be a very, very difficult job.

MR. GREGORY: Let me end with this, Mr. Speaker. Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida whose nomination is highly sought after, he says he's going to stay neutral in the race, has called on all of the candidates to have a very positive tone and think about the independent voter as we move forward in the general election. I want to play something you said about President Obama last night and ask if you think you're consistent with that admonition. Watch.

(Videotape, last night)

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: The founding fathers of America are the source from which we draw our understanding of America. He draws his from Saul Alinsky, radical left-wingers and people who don't like the classical America.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Can you win independent voters in a general election campaign with that message?

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Absolutely. Ronald Reagan did it by a landslide in 1980. He carried more states against Jimmy Carter than Franklin Delano Roosevelt carried against Herbert Hoover, and the reason's simple: What I said last night is the truth. Nobody in the elite media wants to cover it. Nobody's ever gone back and looked at what Saul Alinsky stands for. Nobody ever asks what neighborhood organizer meant. He wasn't organizing Boys and Girls Clubs. He was teaching political radicalism. It explains his entire administration. He is who he is. It's--you know, it's not that he's a bad human being, my impression is that he has a good family, that he really loves his children and his wife, that he's a very pleasant person in some ways. But the objective fact is he believes in a very radical vision of America's future that is fundamentally different from probably 80 percent of this country. And nobody in the elite media has ever wanted to dig into it, ever wanted--why would he veto the Keystone pipeline? Why would he kill jobs in America? Why would he have a National Labor Relations Board attack Boeing? Because it fits the model of Alinsky radicalism.

MR. GREGORY: Mr. Speaker, before I let you go, there's news this morning. Governor Romney is saying on another network that he will release his tax returns on Tuesday from 2010 and an estimate for 2011. Are you satisfied?

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: I think that's a very good thing he's doing and I commend him for it and I think it's exactly the right thing to do. And as far as I'm concerned, that particular issue's now set to side and we can go on and talk about other bigger and more important things.

MR. GREGORY: All right. Mr. Speaker, good luck on the campaign trail. We'll be watching.

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Thank you.


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