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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript


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BLITZER: Today's primary drama revolves around the two frontrunners, at least for now. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich, they're really out in the spotlight, to a large degree. But they certainly are still in the presidential race. Both are looking ahead to one week from today, the Super Tuesday contests, 10 of them, a week from today.

Joining us now, the Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Speaker, thanks very much for coming in.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's great to be with you. It's a very exciting time.

BLITZER: Quickly, since you probably almost certainly are not going to win in Michigan tonight, who would you prefer Michigan tonight?

Would it be Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum?

GINGRICH: Look, I -- I think whatever the outcome tonight, the race is going to go on. I think Romney has much more at stake than Santorum does. If Romney loses Michigan, it's hard to understand the rationale for his campaign, because it was never built on ideas, it was built on the idea that he was inevitable. And you can't lose your home state and be inevitable.

On the other hand, if Santorum loses, I suspect we'll begin to see a lot more doubts about whether or not he can go the distance. And that's something I've lived through now with Pawlenty, Bachmann, Trump, Cain, Perry. So it would not be at all surprising to me to find out that this was one more brief period of -- of somebody being really exciting and then they disappear.

BLITZER: Let me rephrase the question, maybe, this way.

Who do you feel more comfortable with, Romney or Santorum?

GINGRICH: Well, I -- I don't approach it that way. I -- I've been out here talking about a totally new generation of ideas, different from either Romney or Santorum. I -- I prefer a much bolder approach to saving Social Security than they do, by giving younger people a chance to have a personal savings account. I have a proposal for American energy that leads to energy independence from the Middle East and leads to $2.50 a gallon gasoline. I have a proposal for very dramatic tax reform, including a 15 percent flat tax, which is very different from theirs.

I'm actually trying to create sort of a new solutions market that doesn't compete with either Romney or Santorum in terms of, you know, right-left. It competes as being the ideas of the future, the solutions that will work. And I hope to take votes away from both of them.

BLITZER: The super PAC that supports your campaign is out with a new ad. It's playing right now.

Let me play a little clip from it and I want to discuss it with you. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CAMPAIGN AD)


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I looked at Mitt Romney's record. I can't figure out what he stands for. It changes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just don't relate to Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really don't know if I can trust him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn't have the strength to stand up against Obama.


BLITZER: That ad is running in Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio, Oklahoma, four of the 10 states with contests one week from today.

If he does turn out the nom -- to be the nominee, can he beat President Obama in November?

GINGRICH: Well, I hope so. I was -- I'm -- I'm going to support the Republican nominee. But, you know, you have to admit, having somebody who invented RomneyCare debate somebody who has ObamaCare, it's going to be pretty hard for them to make a difference between the two of them. And I think that that's something -- the Republicans have to really look seriously at who could debate Obama and win?

Who could stand on the same platform, draw a sharp distinction and win?

And I think every time people ask that question, I start moving back into being the leader. Twice now, I've nationally been leading in the polls. Every time, it's based on new ideas, new solutions and a sense that I'm the one person who could actually debate Obama successfully and win that debate.

BLITZER: What's the minimum number of victories for you next Tuesday that you really need to keep your campaign going?

GINGRICH: Well, I think we have to pick up delegates in a number of states and we unequivocally have to win Georgia. But we have to gain delegates in a number of states and I think we will. I think we're -- we'll get -- we have very good opportunities, as you pointed out, in Tennessee, Oklahoma, Ohio. Also, I think we'll have a chance to pick up some delegates in Idaho, in Vermont, in a variety of -- North Dakota, for example.

So I -- I'm looking forward to next Tuesday. And we, frankly, made a decision that we'd put our resources into next Tuesday and beyond and recognize that we -- we weren't in a position to compete head-to-head in Michigan.

BLITZER: Let's get to some substantive issues right now, beyond the politics. Afghanistan, first of all. You've criticized President Obama for apologizing for the mistaken burning of the Korans in Afghanistan.

But you know that President Bush did very much the same thing back in 2008...


BLITZER: -- when he formally apologized when an American soldier started shooting his weapon into a Koran.

I'll play a clip from Dana Perino, the White House press secretary at that time.


DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I believe it was either the first or the second issue that the president brought up to tell Prime Minister Maliki he had heard about the incident when -- where a Koran was desecrated. And he apologized for that in the sense that he said that we take it very seriously. We were concerned about their reaction. We wanted them to know that the president knew that this was wrong.


BLITZER: I -- I don't know if you remember, but did you criticize President Bush in 2008 for apologizing to the Iraqis?

GINGRICH: Look, I wasn't a presidential candidate at that point. What I -- what I will say is, the U.S. Army destroyed bibles in 2009. I find it reprehensible that we have this double standard. I find it at the -- at the present time, you have Americans being killed in Afghanistan over this issue. I don't think the commander-in-chief apologizes when young Americans are being killed. I -- I don't find anything acceptable about Afghan religious bigotry leading to the kind of hatred we're talking about.

And the fact that Americans aren't even supposed to be allowed to talk about it is baloney.

Churches get burned in Nigeria.

Does anybody apologize?

Churches get burned in Egypt.

Does anybody apologize?

Churches are burned in Malaysia.

Does anybody apologize?

The Iranians, last week, sentenced a Christian minister to death.

Is anybody apologizing? I, for one, am tired of this one-sided process by which a -- by which -- and I don't care which president you describe it...

BLITZER: But do...

GINGRICH: -- I'm tired of American presidents thinking that they have to kowtow to whatever the Islamic frame is.

Do you think Assad worries about destroying Korans in -- in Syria right now?

Do you think Gadhafi worried about destroying Korans in -- in Libya?

They were using artillery. They're bombing people. They're destroying mosques. They're doing whatever they have to do to stay in power.

Do you see any riots over that? this was an excuse...

BLITZER: All right...

GINGRICH: -- just like the Danish cartoons.

BLITZER: Well...

GINGRICH: And I think we ought to be clear about this, this is an excuse to have anti-American hatred whipped up.

BLITZER: So I just want to be precise. I can -- I totally understand where you're coming from as far as President Obama is concerned, apologizing now.

But with hindsight, was it wrong for President Bush to apologize back in 2008?

GINGRICH: Look, I think we should always have respect for various religious documents.

But I would also ask you, Wolf, why was it OK for the U.S. Army to burn bibles?

I mean I -- I don't understand this one-sided nature that is always apologizing for Islam while it is dissing Christianity. And it was the U.S. Army policy to burn bibles in 2009. It wasn't the Obama administration.

And I am just -- I -- I personally am -- one of the reasons that I'm running for president is that I'm tired of the elite view in this country, you can do anything you want to to Judaism and Christianity, but you have to apologize for Islam as often as necessary and you can never stand up and just say that's baloney.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Afghanistan a little bit more. I blogged, I wrote a blog post on this yesterday. The U.S. is still spending $2 billion a week in taxpayer money maintaining about 90,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, building hospitals there, bridges there, infrastructure, new -- power plants, if -- if you will. One hundred billion dollars a year, Mr. Speaker.

Is this money well spent?

GINGRICH: No. I think it...

BLITZER: What would you do?

GINGRICH: Look, I think after -- well, first of all, I -- and I've said this over and over and over again. We need a complete and thorough re--- rethinking of our strategy in the Middle East. We're -- we're deeply focused on Afghanistan, which is not the ctrl front. We're time of -- the Obama administration is stunningly effective on Iran -- ineffective on Iran, which is trying to build nuclear weapons. The Pakistanis have now proven they're totally unreliable. When you learn that they keep -- they kept bin Laden for seven years in a compound in a military city a mile from their national defense university and then you learn they didn't go after the people who were hiding him, they went after the people who helped the United States find him, I mean there's something deeply rotten about our entire intellectual approach to this, our unwillingness to be honest about the problems and our unwillingness to be mentally tough.

If Karzai doesn't want to apologize for the killing of young Americans in the current Koran incident, I think we ought to seriously deeply reevaluate our entire attitude toward his government. And if the Pakistanis insist on going after people who are pro-American, I think we need to rethink our position toward them.

Would not have any long-term obligation to be in either Afghanistan or Pakistan. We can shift to a much deeper alliance with India very easily in a setting like this. We can also figure out new strategies that don't involve American forces in the region.

I do not believe we have to go around and appease corrupt governments and appease people who are killing young Americans just in order to stay some place where they apparently don't want us to be.

BLITZER: One final question, Mr. Speaker, because I know you've got to get going, but in last week's debate, the CNN debate in Mesa, Arizona -- you remember it. You were critical of the j what you called the elite news media for never questioning President Obama four years ago when he was running for president about his position on what you called legalizing infanticide.

We checked. In fact, I remember it, at the time, we did report on that extensively and we did question President Obama at the time. Our special contributor, David Brody, of the Christian Broadcasting Network, interviewed President Obama on this subject.

Here's a clip of what we ran right here in THE SITUATION ROOM on CNN.


DAVID BRODY, CHRISTIAN BROADCASTING NETWORK: Real quick, the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, I've got to tell you that's the one thing I get a lot of e-mails about.


BRODY: And it's not just from Evangelicals.

OBAMA: Right.

BRODY: It's about Catholics, Protestants...

OBAMA: Right.

BRODY: -- main, male. They're trying to understand it...


BRODY: -- because there was some literature put out by the National Right to Life Committee.

OBAMA: Right.

BRODY: And -- and they're basically saying that you -- they felt like you misrepresented your position on that bill and...


BRODY: -- you...

OBAMA: -- I -- let -- let me clarify this...


OBAMA: -- right now, because one thing...

BRODY: Because it's getting a lot of play.

OBAMA: Well, and because they have not been telling the truth.


BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to correct the record. So let it show that we did report on that.


BLITZER: We did question President Obama. And -- and it was played right here on CNN in THE SITUATION ROOM.

I just wanted to clarify that for the record.

GINGRICH: Well, listen -- listen, I -- I commend you for clarifying it. I'm going to go back and look at the full transcript. And I'll be curious whether or not anybody came back and said that, in fact, the person who wasn't telling the truth was Barack Obama, because the bill he supported did, in fact, protect doctors who killed babies after they were born alive in an abortion.

And the nurse who has been the most deeply involved in that has her own Web site. She held a baby for 45 minutes as it was dying. And I think her vision of that bill is radically different from the president's.

But I'm going to go back -- listen, Wolf, I always know when I deal with you, we're going to -- you're going to do your homework. So now I've got to go back and read the transcript. And I apo -- I promise you I will do that.

BLITZER: Please. Then we'll talk. We'll continue this conversation.


BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, as usual, thanks very much for joining us.

GINGRICH: Good to be with you.

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