This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 8, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
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BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Tonight we welcome to our "Center Seat" former House speaker, current Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Mr. Speaker, thanks for being here.
NEWT GINGRICH, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Great to be here.
BAIER: Well, listen, there are some in the Washington pundit arena who in the summer said your campaign was all but dead. Some of them may have even been sitting on this panel.
BAIER: Now, you look at national poll. USA Today/Gallup, you are at 12 percent, currently in third place. In the Des Moines Register poll you are at seven percent, although anecdotally in Iowa you are doing very well from the crowd size. What is the path? What is the path to the nomination? What do you tell supporters out there who are questioning whether you have the support staff and the ability to make this happen?
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, this summer we came close to not surviving. So I think there was a period there when it was reasonable to wonder what was going on.
We have built a campaign of solutions. If you go to Newt.org you will see a proposed 21st century Contract with America that's pretty elaborate, probably the most substantive of any campaign in recent times. And we are now methodically doing better and better.
People both from the debates and from the various speeches are responding very strongly. There were three major speeches in Iowa in the last 10 days. People I think in every single news story said I won all three events. There were multiple candidate events.
And we are seeing it in our fundraising. We have already raised $2 million in five weeks which is almost as much as we raised - in fact, almost as much as we raised in the rest of the campaign. And it's accelerating, largely online. We are opening offices in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. We already have offices in Georgia and Florida. And I think we will continue to accelerate.
BAIER: Do you have to win Iowa?
GINGRICH: I think we have to be in the top two or three in Iowa, we have to be competitive in New Hampshire, where Romney, it may be his strongest state in the country, either that or Massachusetts. And then we should -- our goal is to win South Carolina and then to go on to win Florida, and then from that point on be a very very competitive environment.
BAIER: On "Meet the Press" you were asked about Paul Ryan's Medicare plan. This is what you said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRICH: I don't think right wing social engineering is any more desirable than left wing social engineering. I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The radical engineering in that case I suspect was the fact that the Ryan plan would substitute existing Medicare for a subsidy, where the government would give a subsidy for individuals to buy private insurance. Romney has come out with a plan that incorporates what Ryan is doing but would add the alternative of keeping Medicare as it is. Is that your position, and is that not radical social engineering? Or is it less radical social engineering?
GINGRICH: Well, you know you should go back and play David Gregory's question. David Gregory said if there is a very unpopular plan, he didn't say Ryan.
BAIER: But that was the plan on the table.
GINGRICH: No, he said if something is very unpopular should Republicans ram it through? Now we had just lived through Obamacare being rammed through. My advice, having successfully passed welfare reform, having by the way successfully reformed Medicare so well in '96 nobody noticed it, having balanced the budget for four years in a row for the only time in your lifetime, my advice is that you ought to make sure people understand what you are doing and they support it.
Now I actually do think Romney has improved, and I suspect Paul would agree that Romney has improved Paul's proposal because he does allow you to say you can take money and stay in current system or you can go over to get brand new.
KRAUTHAMMER: Is that your position?
GINGRICH: That is not, I wouldn't object to that. That is a piece of it. It is a much larger question if you're talking about health care. But there is another part to that. I would actually make that offer next year. I'd say, fine, if the choice is let's allow people to have the choice of a private sector insurance plan, which they buy, and I would also, as Congressman Tom Price says, allow them to pay more out of their own pocket if they want to, you can go to a voluntary premium support plan this next year. That is assuming you think people want it. Now --
KRAUTHAMMER: Do you think people want it?
GINGRICH: I think some people will want it. I think a lot of people will be very cautious. But I think imposing it is a real gamble.
KRAUTHAMMER: And that is the radical social engineering, giving no alternative?
GINGRICH: I think when you impose upon people no alternative, about a plan they don't understand that they think is at the center of their life, it's very dangerous for any party.
JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Mr. Speaker, you started the drill here, drill now movement through your group Solutions Now. And I don't know if you know this, but over the weekend there were several hundred protesters outside the White House demonstrating against the Keystone XL pipeline. And you're aware that previously pipelines, like Prudhoe Bay there have been spills, accidents. Do you have any reservations about backing a pipeline or more drilling given the bad track record?
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, there's not a very bad track record. And I don't think any Alaskan would suggest to you that they ought to close the pipeline, I don't think any Texan would suggest to you that they ought to close the pipelines in Texas. If you look at a map of the U.S. and where there are pipelines around this country, it's astonishing how much natural gas and how much oil we move around this country with an extraordinarily safe record.
And most of the allegations against the Keystone pipeline are just plain baloney. They involve a supposed threat to an aquifer which is clearly geological impossible. It's not going to happen.
So, what the president's doing, is the president doesn't want to make environmentalists mad and he doesn't want to infuriate everybody who wants a job. So in the middle of 9 percent unemployment he is doing exactly what he used to do when he was a state senator. He's voting present.
WILLIAMS: So you think that basically on Prudhoe Bay and what happened down in the Gulf, no problem?
GINGRICH: I don't know of anyone in Louisiana who isn't angry that the president has crippled their economy and cost over 100,000 jobs and basically, forced the major big deep drills to leave. When a company issues a report that says because of political instability in the United States we're now moving to the Congo, there is something profoundly wrong with the Obama administration.
HAYES: Mr. Speaker, I want to stick with energy policy and play a clip from an ad that you stared just a couple of years ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, D - CA, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: We don't always see eye to eye, do we, Newt?
GINGRICH: No. But we do agree our country must take action to address climate change.
PELOSI: We need cleaner forms of energy and we need them fast.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was a striking ad for me, striking ad for, I think a lot of Republicans around the country. Is the earth warming? If so, why is it warming? And what is that urgent action we need to take?
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, that is probably the dumbest single thing I've done [INAUDIBLE]. It is inexplicable that -- somebody used to say, you know, there aren't enough hay wagons to stand on to get people to understand that one. So, you just need to kind of relax and go that was dumb.
KRAUTHAMMER: Were you being held hostage?
GINGRICH: No. That was just dumb. I was trying to do something I failed to do. Because I do think it's important for conservative to be in the middle of the debate over the environment. And I wrote a book with Terry Maple called 'Contract with Europe', outlining a pro-market, pro-entrepreneur, innovative environmentalism.
Let me say first of all, and this will probably get me in interesting arguments, I actually don't know whether global warming is occurring. The vast majority of the National Academy of Science says it is, a minority says it is not. Science is not actually voted on. Science is a function of truth.
What I do know is that if you look at exactly what was said in that ad, finding innovative new ways of getting cleaner energy ought to be something most Americans feel pretty comfortable about. I testified against cap and trade the same day that Al Gore testified in favor. American Solutions fought to defeat it in the Senate and were part of defeating it. I do not think you should have a gigantic central government model of solution, and I don't think that you should spend trillions of dollars --
HAYES: Did you back then believe in warming, or no?
GINGRICH: No. Back then I said look, I'm an amateur paleontologist. I wanted to be a [INAUDIBLE] paleontologist as a child. The earth's temperatures go up and down over geologic times over and over again. As recently 11,000 years ago the Gulf Stream quit for 600 years. And for 600 years we had an ice age in Europe because there was no warm water coming up. And then it started up again. Nobody knows why it quit, nobody knows why it started up. So I'm agnostic.
But what I am saying, I would say to all of my conservative friends, don't assume automatically the entire National Academy of Sciences is wrong. And I would say to the National Academy don't assume that a vote by renowned scientists is necessarily true.
BAIER: Speaker, we're going to have more with you and the panel after a quick break. And don't forget to log on, your questions on "Special Report" online.
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BAIER: We're back with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in the "Center Seat." Now to foreign policy. Charles?
KRAUTHAMMER: Mr. Speaker, the IAEA is gonna be delivering a report in a couple of days which will show that Iran is clearly on a path to acquiring a nuclear weapon, and it could be on the threshold. If you were president today, what would you do about that? Would you threaten or would you carry out a military strike? And if you didn't, and the Israelis were going to, would you give them a green light, a yellow light, or a red light?
GINGRICH: Well, let me work backwards, if the Israelis decide as matter of national survival that they have to eliminate the Iranian nuclear capacity, I would strongly support them automatically.
BAIER: Green light?
GINGRICH: I don't think the United States has the moral right to say to a country whose people have already gone through one holocaust -- two nuclear weapons is a holocaust. And I think to ask them to take that risk is unconscionable.
Now let me go back to the United States. Because we are vastly more powerful than Israel. I think this country, and I said this as always since 2001, this country should have as its policy with Reagan, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II did in the 1980's. We should be for the absolute replacement of the current regime. We should apply economic, real sanctions. In the worst case we should blockade the flow of gasoline into the country and cripple their economy. We should be actively subsidizing every dissenting group in the country and actively be helping them with communication gear and other things and make it quite clear worldwide, we are in favor of replacement of the regime. Anyone who sustains the regime and engages in active violence of human rights should expect to be tried as a criminal. And I would do everything I could to break them down as rapidly as possible, both in North Korea and in Iran.
We keep trying to find ways to deal with regimes that are outlaw regimes. And in the Iranian case they have a leader overtly calling for the destruction of Israel and overtly calls for the defeat of United States, and in a country that has consistently fought us since 1979, and we keep pretending that there is some common ground.
KRAUTHAMMER: But if regime change is over the horizon and they are on the threshold of acquiring a nuke, would you consider and would you carry out a military strike given that, as you say, our capacity is infinitely more effective --
GINGRICH: In a hypothetical circumstance.
KRAUTHAMMER: It's not hypothetical --
GINGRICH: It's hypothetical in the sense that you'd have to be in the room, look at the information and make your best judgment at the moment. There are a lot of different ways of taking out things, starting with covert operations. I would actively favor very aggressive covert operations, but I'd also favor covert operations that take out the only refinery in the country, because you can bring that country to a halt in 30 to 60 days.
HAYES: Mr. Speaker, last week Major General Pete Fuller was dismissed in Afghanistan because of comments he made criticizing Hamid Karzai after Karzai had said that he would side with Pakistan in a war against the United States. Do you think he should have been fired? And if not, why not?
GINGRICH: Look, I don't think it's generally a good -- I don't know what is going to happen to his career, as opposed to being reassigned. But I think it's generally not a good idea for two-star generals to pick arguments with presidents.
I once went to see a great Commander Don Starr, he was a three-star at the time. And I couldn't see him. I was writing a book before I got to Congress. He had been sent back because he had given a speech at a high school in which he had explained that the real likelihood of war was between Russia and China. And the Carter administration thought the three-star general commander of corps probably shouldn't be speaking like this.
Now they talked sincerely, he got a fourth star, became the head of the Training and Doctrine Command, I worked with him for years. But I do think it's fair to say that generals ought to be relatively cautious about public speeches and probably shouldn't take on the host country president.
WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, you know, whether we like it or not, the voters and the media are very interested in your personal life.
WILLIAMS: And your daughter wrote I guess back in May trying to clear up an episode that has become sort of legendary about you and your wife -- your first wife, in a hospital serving divorce papers. And I'm just wondering if you think, given this kind of personal baggage and the fact that it's so widely discussed that this is too much baggage and would prevent you from winning in the primaries or the general election?
GINGRICH: Well, the number of non-news people who ask me about it is remarkably small. Anybody who does ask though, Jackie Cushman is my daughter she writes a weekly column, she has a website. You can look up Jackie Cushman. She wrote her experience as my daughter. And I think you will find there that it's thoroughly explained and that that particular story is purely and simply false. It's a lie.
WILLIAMS: But what about the baggage?
BAIER: Juan, we will follow up on this question and many others online. More substance and viewer's questions as well on "Special Report" online. Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. Stay tuned to see one way speaker Gingrich apparently deals with some critics on the road.
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