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


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Looking to jumpstart a campaign that hasn't won a state since mid-January, Gingrich is pressing hard with a plan for $2.50 gallon gasoline, double-barrel blasts at Republican rivals and the president and superlative predictions.

GINGRICH: I believe we have a chance, a very real chance to win a historic election of landslide proportions carrying in control of the Senate, increased votes in the House and decisively defeating the Left for the first time since 1932.

CROWLEY: And former Speaker Newt Gingrich joins me now. Thank you so much for being here this morning.

Let me start with that comment you made in Ohio about the possibility of a landslide victory, a historic proportions, taking over the Senate and the House and the White House. If we kind of review where we are at the moment, we see the president strengthening, his numbers are better.

We see this week two seats that Republicans really had pretty much counted on in terms of picking up or retaining, going by the wayside, thus, making a Republican Senate harder to get. What brings you the kind of optimism that makes you predict a landslide victory for Republicans?

GINGRICH: Well, we lived through this in 1980, and in the end issues matter and reality matters. The fact is that Ronald Reagan didn't pull ahead of Jimmy Carter until September. When he did pull ahead of him, he ultimately carried more states than Franklin Roosevelt carried against Herbert Hoover in 1932, and the reason is people take stock.

The price of gasoline is becoming a genuine crisis for many American families. If it continues to go higher, it will crater the economy by August because people will have no discretionary income.

And as a result, the president's going to go into the fall with very expensive gasoline, a weakening economy, a disastrously bad policy in the Middle East and a trillion-dollar deficit. I think that's a pretty big burden while he's waging war on the Catholic Church and apologizing to Islamic extremists. I think that's a pretty heavy burden for the President of the United States to carry for re- election.

CROWLEY: I want to -- first, obviously, you will have to get the nomination in order to take on President Obama. And I wanted to remind you of something you said January 17th. You were talking about both Rick Perry, who was still in the race at that time, and Rick Santorum. You were leading them both in the Gallup polls at that time, and here's what you said.


GINGRICH: So I'm respectful that Rick has every right to run as long as he feels that's what he should do. But from the standpoint of the conservative movement, consolidating into a Gingrich candidacy would, in fact, virtually guarantee victory on Saturday.


CROWLEY: We are now at a point where Rick Santorum has more delegates than you do in the delegate forecast. He's leading in the national polls. I wonder if you think it's -- and, by the way, his top adviser is asking you to get out so you can consolidate the conservative vote.


CROWLEY: What's your reaction?

GINGRICH: Well, you can tell his top adviser -- tell his top adviser I'm taking Rick Santorum's advice. He stayed in. He was running fourth in every single primary. Suddenly, he went -- very cleverly went to three states nobody else went to, and he became the media darling and bounced back.

We have had a steady closing in the Gallup poll between Santorum and me every single week now for the last two weeks. I'm very confident that, in the larger state that is going to vote Tuesday, Georgia, which has more delegates than any other state, we're going to win a very, very decisive victory.

We've going to do pretty well, I think in Tennessee and Oklahoma and Ohio and a number of other states and I'm happy to continue -- I have basically a big solutions campaign, proposals like a personal Social Security savings account for younger Americans.

And, you know, I think Santorum gets out of the industrial states and gets into states where, having voted against right to work, having voted for Davis-Bacon on behalf of unions to cause billions of dollars of extra payments by the government, having voted for every single minimum wage the unions asked for, I think he has a much harder time when we go outside of places like Michigan. So this is going to be a long nominating process.

CROWLEY: Apparently, no one seems ready to get out, least of all you. Let me turn you to some of the issues that you brought up at the beginning. You've been quite critical of the president for apologizing for what apparently was the accidental burning of the Koran by some U.S. personnel in Afghanistan. It's caused obviously riots in the streets, the deaths of some Americans.

I wanted to play for our listeners and for you the president's explanation of why he apologizes, as given to ABC's Bob Woodruff.


OBAMA: The reason that it was important is to save lives and to make sure our troops, who are there right now, are not placed in further danger.

BOB WOODRUFF, ABC REPORTER: Think it has improved it, your apology?

OBAMA: It calmed things down. We're not out of the woods yet.


CROWLEY: Mr. Speaker, as president, would you not issue an apology if you thought it would save American lives?

GINGRICH: If the commander in chief apologizes in a setting like that, where, remember, the Korans we're describing were defaced by Islamist radical prisoners, they were defaced by them, it would have been pretty easy to have said I certainly hope every cleric in Afghanistan is going to condemn the defacing of the Koran by these extremists.

When the President of the United States says, I apologize, he is basically taking on blame. Now, what's happened --

CROWLEY: No, wait, no, lots of people apologize for accidental things.


GINGRICH: The nation's officials said --

CROWLEY: You know, lots of people -- you know, you bump into someone, you say I'm sorry.

GINGRICH: Candy -- CROWLEY: It's not unheard of to do that and so what I'm wondering is --

GINGRICH: Would you like to hear my answer?

CROWLEY: I would but let me just add to --

GINGRICH: Listen, would you like to hear my answer before you do? I know you -- go ahead.

CROWLEY: I just wanted to get back to the question, which was if you thought it would save lives, as the president said he did think this apology would help protect Americans, wouldn't you do the same?

GINGRICH: I don't believe that the president saved lives by what he did. I believe the president set a terrible precedent of a commander in chief not standing up for American troops. I think he should have called Karzai and said, you know, it was Karzai's soldier who killed those first two Americans.

Have we heard any apology from the Afghan president for his soldier killing young Americans? No. And I think that this one-sided policy -- Obama went around the world apologizing -- this excuse of his is baloney. He has apologized so many times, around so many countries, it is, frankly, embarrassing to have a president who thinks that apologizing for the United States is a good policy.

I don't believe the President of the United States has an obligation to apologize and I think the commander in chief has an obligation to step up and say, I am proud of our troops, I think our troops are doing the best they could to help Afghanistan, and, frankly, if the Afghans don't want us there we don't need to be there.

But the idea that we are apologizing while religious fanatics kill young Americans, I think is reprehensible and I think the average American thinks it's just profoundly wrong.

CROWLEY: Mr. Speaker, I have to move you along to a couple of other issues. One of them is about the president's commitment to Israel.

He said in an interview with "The Atlantic" recently, "Every single commitment I have made to the state of Israel and its security I have kept. Why is it that despite me never failing to support Israel on every single problem that they've had over the last three years, there are still questions out there about that?"

Do you doubt the President of the United States' commitment to Israel?

GINGRICH: Of course.


GINGRICH: You have Secretary of Defense -- you have Secretary of Defense Panetta pounding the table and saying, come to the table, and then using curse words and repeating it, come to the table, lecturing the Israeli government in public during a period where rockets were being fired into Israel from Gaza.

You have the president's new budget, which cuts aid to Israel for its ballistic defense shield. You've had no evidence that the president is prepared to take steps to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. They talk and the Iranians build. They talk and the Iranians build.

I mean, we're being played for fools. You have every evidence that this administration is desperately trying to get the Israelis not to preempt, and, frankly, an Israeli prime minister faced with the threat of nuclear arms in Iran is going to preempt.

They cannot -- no Israeli prime minister could responsibly allow the Iranians to get nuclear weapons, because Israel is such a small country, it is so compact that two or three nuclear weapons would be the equivalent of a second Holocaust.

CROWLEY: And, finally, I have to ask you, you have called the president opportunistic for calling the young woman who at the center of a controversy involving Rush Limbaugh and contraception, the availability of it in health care. Limbaugh called the young woman a slut and a prostitute. She is, in fact, a law student at Georgetown Law. Can you tell me what you think of Rush Limbaugh in this whole case?

GINGRICH: I think he's indicated himself he made a mistake. And I think he did the right thing. As you point out earlier, but, again, let me draw the distinction, he isn't commander in chief. His apology didn't do anything worldwide. It didn't put any blame on the United States. He did the right thing. I'm glad he did it. That issue ought to be behind us.

CROWLEY: He is seen as kind of a spokesman for the Republican Party, though, and it hurts the party, wouldn't you think?

GINGRICH: Oh, come on, Candy. I know everybody in the media is desperate to protect Barack Obama. That's silly. The Republican Party has four people running for president, none of whom are Rush Limbaugh. One of them will end up as the nominee, that person will be the Republican spokesman and I don't think any of the four of them were involved in this controversy at all.

CROWLEY: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, thank you so much for joining us.

GINGRICH: Thank you.


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