Transcript: Newt Gingrich on 'FOX News Sunday'

Written by Chris Wallace / Published January 21, 2007 / Fox News Sunday

The following is a partial transcript of the Jan. 21, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: And joining us now, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Speaker, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."

NEWT GINGRICH: Good to be with you, Chris.

WALLACE: You said the other day that the president went about halfway to where he needs to go in Iraq, and you also said that his new plan has only a one-in-five chance of succeeding.

If that's true, if you really believe that he has only taken a halfway measure and that the chances for success are relatively slim, one in five, aren't Senators Biden and Levin correct in trying to block sending these troops in?

GINGRICH: Well, I think the question that they have to ask is, how important is victory in Iraq when you look at Iran, you look at Syria, you look at the threat to Israel, you look at the way in which the terrorists will respond to an American defeat?

And if, in fact, the president's plan is inadequate, they have one answer, which is to accept defeat and find a way to avoid the problem. I would argue that, in fact, we need to dig in and think through in a serious way what do we have to do.

And I think it would surprise most Americans to know that about 80 percent of what we have to do isn't about troops. It's about the absolute failure of the American bureaucracies to function.

We're about 10 percent of the way into effective intelligence reform. We aren't even 10 percent of the way into reforming the State Department. We have nonfunctional relations with the Justice Department, the Treasury Department, the Agriculture Department, the Commerce Department...

WALLACE: But is that...

GINGRICH: It's amazing.

WALLACE: ... why we're losing the war in Iraq right now?

GINGRICH: It's a significant part of it. When you have 50, 60 and 70 percent unemployment among young males and all of the economic instruments in the United States are incompetent — I mean, people talk about the Iraqi government being incompetent. I would argue that the non-combat components of the American system are fully as broken in their ability to deliver every day.

And what General Petraeus is going to discover when he gets there is that his ability to get decisions made, to get decisions implemented, to be directly effective, is going to be stunningly limited for a country which has now been fighting this war for four years.

WALLACE: Well, let me pick up on that, because one of the other things you said is that the real problem is the intensity of the decision-making in Washington and that this president has to be and has not so far been commander in chief every day.

Explain what you mean.

GINGRICH: I think the president ought to have a deputy chief of staff reporting directly to him, and the second briefing he gets every morning after the intelligence brief should be a briefing on what Admiral Fallon is going to need, what General Petraeus is going to need, and the president should be issuing orders.

What happens today is this interagency process, which all the bureaucracies love. And they get in a room together, and the secretary of state is comfortable and the second of defense is comfortable and the director of national intelligence is comfortable. And they all get together and they chat, and nothing happens.

I mean, I've been studying this now inside the system, year after year, and it is startling how bad it is.

And it's not new information. I first wrote on this in 1984. The system has been consistently broken.

The first report I got from General Thurmond after Panama in 1990 was the interagency system is broken. The first report I got from General Hartzog after Haiti in 1994 was the interagency process is broken.

Well, now what it means is, if you say to a local sheik somewhere, "I really want to help you and work with you," he's going to check it out and say, "Well, can this guy deliver or not? Is anything going to happen or not?"

And it is pathetic how bad our large non-combat bureaucracies are. I include parts of the Defense Department in that.

WALLACE: OK, but this brings me back to my point. If, 46 months into this war, four years into this war, it's pathetic, it's broken, the chances for success are only one in five, and you'd have no reason to believe the president is going to change this in the course of the next year — I mean, he didn't announce any of the changes you're talking about — don't the Democrats have a point when they say you shouldn't send 20,000 more troops in?

GINGRICH: Look, absolutely they have a point. And if the Democrats were prepared to explain the cost of defeat in Iraq, what will happen to the Iranians dominating the Persian Gulf, what the threat to Israel will be if the United States looks dramatically weaker and the Iranians decide they can use nuclear weapons — if the Democrats are prepared to argue the consequences of defeat.

I'm arguing we had better restructure the American system so it works, because we're in a long-term war. I mean, we're in a war where northwest Pakistan is gradually getting worse and worse. We're in a war where the Afghan government is under pressure. We're in a war where we had somebody picked up in Illinois, an American citizen who wanted to buy hand grenades to go have his own personal jihad in a Christmas mall.

I mean, people need to understand Iraq is a campaign. It's like Guadalcanal or Sicily in the Second World War. It's a piece of a bigger story.

WALLACE: Do you tell the president or somebody high up in the White House this?

GINGRICH: I tell people as high as I get a chance to.

WALLACE: And?

GINGRICH: They take notes.

I mean, look, these are sincere people. It's very hard to believe when you're in these large bureaucracies and everything works all day — the coffee is delivered, the staff is nice, the PowerPoint briefing looks good — it's hard to believe how broken it is. And then when you interview majors, lieutenant colonels, colonels, generals, and you say, "What didn't work?", it is startling how consistent the answers are.

WALLACE: All right. Let's turn to the domestic side. You know something about winning control of the House, and you know something about taking over as speaker.

How do you think Nancy Pelosi has done in her so-called first 100 hours?

GINGRICH: Listen, I wish I'd gotten the press she got. I mean, I think she has had a very good run.

First of all, every Republican should respect what Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emmanuel have done. I mean, they put together a campaign team. They recruited people who are fairly centrist. They learned a big lesson out of being too far to the left. Now, whether or not they can govern this way we'll see. But they certainly deserve a lot of respect for how they put together the '06 campaign.

Second, I thought the picture of her with all of her grandchildren was just charming. I mean, why would you not think this is a nice person surrounded by her loving family?

And I would say that they've had a reasonably good start. Now, they've been typically Democrat in that they had to have a tax increase as part of the first 100 hours. They have a very strange idea next week about empowering American Samoa and Guam and the Virgin Islands to equal Alaska, Wyoming and Montana in voting in the committee of the whole, which I think just will backfire a little bit on them.

And there's talk that she's going to take power away from John Dingell, who's chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and create a brand-new committee chaired by Ed Markey so they can have a liberal-enough committee.

Those kind of things I think are long-term signs of a potential weakness, but I give her very good credit for the opening round.

WALLACE: I was going to say, in these first six proposals, are you impressed by her discipline to at least appear to be governing from the center?

GINGRICH: I think it's smart. I mean, again...

WALLACE: And do you believe that she's going to be able to keep that up, keep that discipline?

GINGRICH: Well, we'll find out if she can keep it up.

But I would have to say that the Republicans are going to be going to their retreat this week to think about the future. They had better be planning — it's a little bit like looking at the Super Bowl. They had better be planning to be up against a first-class opponent who is going to be doing everything she can to keep power. And if they're going to win it back, they're going to win it back; she's not going to hand it to them.

WALLACE: All right, let's talk some politics. With Senator Clinton now officially in the race, how do you assess the Democratic field?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I think you have to give Barack Obama a tremendous amount of credit. And I think he forced Senator Clinton's hand by weeks. I mean, he has gained ground so rapidly that I think she sort of thought she had to remind her friends she was around.

Now, she's still — I don't care what anyone else says — she and her husband are the most formidable pair of politicians in America. He is the smartest politician in America. She is a hard-working, disciplined person. She has won the Senate race in New York twice by very large margins.

She is ahead in every poll. She can raise far more resources than any other Democrat, probably raise more resources than all the other Democrats combined. And you'd have to say, given those assets, that she has a six-out-of-10 chance or better of being the Democratic nominee.

WALLACE: Let's talk a little bit about Newt Gingrich. You continue to say that you won't decide whether you're going to run for president until this coming September.

Aren't you, in effect, admitting that your only chance is for all of the frontrunners in the field — McCain and Romney and Giuliani — to stumble and that then you can emerge?

GINGRICH: Well, I mean, I'm admitting it in a totally different way, which is to say if one of those three seals it off — and they're all good people, and if one of them ends up being clearly the nominee, then there's no reason for me to run anyway, because they would've been clearly the nominee.

WALLACE: Well, they wouldn't necessarily have sealed it off, but if you were running right now, they might not.

GINGRICH: No, but I am very happy. We've launched a program called American Solutions. We're launching a movement that looks at all 511,000 elected officers in the country, from 17,000 school boards, 3,300 counties, 14,000 state legislators.

I think we need a huge amount of change in this country. And if, at Labor Day, the best way I can help the movement keep growing is to run for president, I'll seriously consider it.

But if, at the same time, we can keep these ideas moving forward very aggressively without running for president, then I want to keep the ideas moving forward.

I don't think the problem in American politics today is either consultants, money or ambition. I think the problem in American politics and government today is we don't have solutions equal to the size of our problems.

WALLACE: But you sound as if you think about running for president as a last resort, not as a first resort.

GINGRICH: Exactly. I mean, nobody's ever said it quite that way, but you're right.

I believe that, as a citizen, that if I can provide solutions, if I can develop new ideas — and we're going to share these with all the candidates in both parties. If we can, as we have with the Center for Health Transformation, develop an entire generation of new ideas on health care, if we can do that on energy, on education, on national security, on immigration, that I've served as a citizen in a very effective way.

If, in that process, it becomes necessary to run, then I'll run. But I — and I know this sounds naive, but the Contract with America preceded winning; it didn't follow it.

WALLACE: Last resort, not first resort.

GINGRICH: Last resort.

WALLACE: Mr. Speaker, thank you so much. Always interesting. Please come back, sir.

GINGRICH: Thank you.

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