BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Back in 1994, when House Republicans were in the minority, one of their leaders had an idea that he thought would help them regain the majority. Well, that idea, called "The Contract with America," worked.
Now, 10 years later, that leader, Newt Gingrich, has a new book out called "Winning the Future" that argues that America is ready for a new contract, one for the 21st century.
Good morning, Mr. Speaker. Welcome.
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Good to be with you.
HUME: It's always good to have a Fox News Contributor adding something to the nation's literature.
Your book is built around a set of policy prescriptions to deal with certain what you think are major problems. Could you, sort of, tick them off so people know what you're talking about?
GINGRICH: I think there are five big areas. The first is national security: What do we have to do to win the war against terror, including winning the war in Iraq?
The second is recentering the society around the notion of our creator. We're endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. That's the Declaration of Independence. But for 40 years, courts have been trying to crowd the notion of God out of public life, and I think that's very dangerous.
The third is: What do we do about patriotic education and patriotic immigration? I think part of the reason people worry about immigration is that we don't have a system of teaching American history, teaching American values, teaching American civilization. But guess what? We don't have it for our own students.
The fourth is the economy. If we're going to compete with China and India, and I think we have to, then we need better math and science education. We need a better tax code. We need litigation reform. There are serious breakthroughs.
And finally, since my generation is going to be the first really big retirement generation in human history on a grand scale, and we're going to live a lot longer than anybody ever planned, we need to look at fixing Social Security, fixing Medicare, rethinking work so that people are able to stay active for a long time and have active, healthy aging.
Those are the five big areas I tried to cover in "Winning the Future."
HUME: Let me just get one thing out of the way. I notice that in the book you point that each of these prescriptions, each of these ideas enjoys, according to polls that you have researched, very large majority support.
The original Contract With America was, among other things, an election document...
HUME: ... as we noted earlier. Could this become the platform for a Gingrich presidential bid?
GINGRICH: Well, we're going to give copies of "Winning the Future" to every candidate. And so we're happy for any of the very fine people who want to run to use the material and talk about the ideas and use them. And I think that's the important thing.
I want to keep the conversation for right now focused on: Are these the right ideas, are these the right solutions?
And part of the reason I emphasize popular support — and let me give you the one example.
Mr. Newdow again filed a lawsuit saying that George W. Bush, the president, should not be allowed to put his hand on the Bible when he is sworn in for his second term. Ninety-one percent of the country believes that you have the right to say, "one nation under God."
Now, I think the politicians in Washington underestimate how much support there would be for saying that a federal district judge who doesn't understand that "one nation under God" is the American system, frankly, shouldn't be serving in federal court.
HUME: What do you think is the proper way to deal with it? Are you talking about a constitutional amendment which would underscore the...
GINGRICH: No. Thomas Jefferson, who had something to do with all of this, and his Congress in 1802 abolished half the federal district judges. The Congress and the president have every right to serve notice that judges who don't understand American history and judges who don't understand American culture frankly just need to be retired. You don't need to impeach him. Just retire them.
HUME: Let me just get back to — you're not ruling out — my original question was: you're not ruling out the possibility of...
GINGRICH: I'm not ruling that out but I'm also — this book is designed for — it's a public document.
Anyone who wants to run, I am thrilled to give them the book. I am thrilled to sit down and talk to them and tell them why we did it, why we think these issues matter. And I'm thrilled to work with them.
So I don't want to, you know, I don't want to look ahead. We just finished a presidential election. Well, it'd be nice to talk about ideas for a few months.
HUME: One of the issues — it's not the first one by any means — that you ticked off was this problem of Social Security, which this president is trying to address.
One of the prescriptions you talk about are the very kind of private accounts within Social Security, private investments accounts, that the president's proposing or is prepared to propose.
First of all, is he doing essentially what you think needs to be done within that program?
GINGRICH: I am very strongly supportive of President George W. Bush on this whole issue. He first started talking about it in 1999. It took real courage. He did not back off one inch during the debates in 2004.
And if you look at the country, 72 percent of young people would like to have the right to take part of their FICA tax and put it in a personal Social Security savings account.
The difference, economically, for them and for the country will be massive. It's a fight we should undertake and it's a fight I think we can win.
HUME: The administration apparently plans in doing this to figure out a way to cover the costs, the initial costs to the system as it now exists, of allowing people to begin putting money in private accounts.
That money, of course, would not, therefore, be available, like all your other Social Security taxes, to pay current benefits.
So you've got a short-term problem that will last for some number of years. The administration proposes to address it by some formula that might have the effect of reducing benefits or other ways.
Do you believe that you have to accompany the private accounts proposal with a way to pay those short-term costs?
GINGRICH: I devote a whole chapter in "Winning the Future" to this question of how do you fix Social Security.
The Ryan-Sununu bill is a very important — Congressman Ryan, Senator Sununu have a very important bill that moves in the right direction.
None of us buy a house under Congressional Budget Office rules. None of us try to, unless you're really, really rich, try to pay these things off immediately. We understand 30-year mortgages.
Social Security is a national contract. You can fix it over 30 years, I think, in a very comfortable way. You build an off-budget trust fund. It pays itself off as the system works.
The numbers that the Social Security actuary scored said that, by 2058, you actually have to cut the FICA tax, because the surplus is so big.
But I don't think you can solve it inside the normal Congressional Budget Office scoring, which is, frankly, an artifact. It's six or seven guys sitting in an office, not very far from here, making up rules.
HUME: I understand, but as a matter of politics in this debate, it is universally recognized and believed that we're going to incur these short-term costs.
HUME: The administration proposes to go ahead and try to deal with them, so that they basically are paid off as we go.
GINGRICH: Right. I think...
HUME: Do you think that's a mistake?
GINGRICH: I think that — politically, I think you're much better off to go to the country and talk about the equivalent of a home mortgage. The country understands that. Talk about the equivalent of a student loan. The country understands that. And say, "Look, over a 20- to 30-year period, you can create a sinking fund, you can do this whole thing, you can do it like Chile has done it." There are examples around the world.
And it can be done, frankly, with declining interest rates, because you increase the savings pool — having these personal accounts increases the savings pool about five times faster than the amount you have to borrow to implement. So you actually have a downward pressure on interest rates.
HUME: That has been described, in some places, even by some of your conservative friends, as the free lunch option. How do you respond to that characterization?
GINGRICH: Well, if you think that student loans and home mortgages are free lunches, then it's a free lunch. If you think they are smart ways, over a lifetime, to deal with letting middle-class people increase their assets, then they're a good thing to do.
HUME: What is your reaction to this dispute we had this week and last involving the House Ethics Committee and the apparent effort to shield Tom DeLay from some of its consequences? What's your view of that whole matter?
GINGRICH: Well, I have a chapter in "Winning the Future" in which we talk about congressional reform. And ironically, I suggest the Senate needs to tighten up, and the House needs to loosen up, in terms of how they deal with each other, not on ethics issues, but on rules of the House, allowing amendments...
GINGRICH: ... allowing minorities to have a right to vote, and that sort of thing.
On ethics issues, I think it's always a mistake, particularly for Republicans, because I think we're the natural reform party, it is always a mistake for us to attempt to change rules to fit one person.
I ran into a problem when I was speaker. I consciously, deliberately was under the rules. I did what the rules required to do. I didn't ever try to fix it in terms of saying, "Let's have a carveout for Newt Gingrich."
I saw Tom DeLay Friday night at the tenth anniversary of the Class of 1994 and I commended him, because he listened to his colleagues, he understood that he had put them in an uncomfortable position, and he led the way to go back to where the rules had been prior to last fall. I think it was the right thing to do.
If there is, as some fear, a political indictment from this one state prosecutor, who, after all, once indicted Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison four days before an election and then dropped it after the election, if it's purely, blatantly political, the House can deal with that as a case. But I don't think they should change rules to try to shield anybody.
HUME: You say in the book that, in winning the war on terror, we need to win the war in Iraq. Does it appear to you now that we are winning or losing, as we approach that election?
GINGRICH: I think we're winning, but I think it's very difficult, and I think that we need to redouble our efforts...
HUME: More troops?
GINGRICH: ... to strengthen the Iraqis.
I don't think the answer is more American troops. I think the answer is we need more translators, frankly. The troops that are there need probably as many as 4,000 additional translators, because you can't go door to door and not speak Arabic and do any good.
I think that the underlying problem is, what worked in Afghanistan, which was transferring the government back to the Afghans within three weeks of winning the campaign, did not happen here. We're now digging ourselves out of a hole.
It is very much to our interest to make sure that General Petraeus and the training program works. It's very much to our interest to have Iraqis policing Iraq. We should be reinforcers, we should not be enforcers.
And we want to get Americans out of the cities and have them provide firepower and backup, but in the end have the Iraqis running their own cities.
HUME: That appears to be the policy, doesn't it?
GINGRICH: It is. And the question is accelerating it. And I mean the machinery, the bureaucracy, still moves at a peacetime pace and it's a very constant problem.
HUME: Mr. Speaker, it's a very interesting book. Again, it's called "Winning the Future," correct?
GINGRICH: That's right.
HUME: All right.
GINGRICH: Thank you.
HUME: Mr. Speaker, it's always a pleasure to have you. Good luck with the book.
HUME: And what did you say?
POWELL: I said that it is necessary for us to find a peaceful solution to the problem in Darfur through political reconciliation between the government and the rebels, and also bringing the Janjaweed under control, and to do everything we can to stop rebel attacks as well.
Both sides are at fault, not just the government. We have rebels who are out there who are creating trouble that the government initially responded to.
But this is all, sort of, interesting, but beside the fact. The fact is that, whatever you call it, whoever is responsible, there are people who are dying, people who are being pushed out of their homes, out of their villages, and pushed into camps.
And we want that situation to end. The government has a responsibility, as do the rebels.
HUME: You said this week, Mr. Secretary, upon visiting the areas stricken by the Indian Ocean tsunami, that you had never, with all you've seen, seen anything like that.
What was it that you saw that you could describe for the audience that made you say that? We know of the size of it, we've seen the pictures. What did you see?
POWELL: When you landed at Banda Aceh and you saw what happened there in northern Sumatra, it looked like a little piece of Hiroshima from 1945. The entire city, or a good section of the city, just scraped clean, as if an army of bulldozers had simply flattened everything for several miles inland and several miles wide -- total, complete devastation -- homes, schools, bridges, roads, but, above all, people. Thousands and thousands of people, in the midst of all this destruction, were drowned in their homes, or swept out to sea to be washed back up later on.
POWELL: It's something I've never seen before.
HUME: Mr. Secretary, there's now a considerable American military presence there doing what, from all accounts, is very indispensable work. How long do you anticipate and how large a commitment will we be making militarily in that region, sir?
POWELL: I can't give a precise answer. Right now we have some roughly 14,000 to 15,000 troops. The ships can't stay on station forever, because there are other requirements and missions, nor do I think we'll need those ships with their embarked helicopters forever.
Hopefully, the roads will be opened and international organizations will be able to use those roads as a way to deliver supplies, as opposed to using helicopter transport, and after a while, our patrol planes won't be needed. But I would say, for another several weeks, but I really can't make a firm prediction.
But you're absolutely right, our troops are doing a great job. Our USAID officials, our diplomats, our private organizations are all doing a great job.
HUME: I want to turn to Iraq, sir, if I may. Your old friend and first Bush administration colleague, Brent Scowcroft, said this week that he now believes that the elections in Iraq, far from having a healing effect, held what he considered great potential for deepening the conflict. What's your reaction to that assessment?
POWELL: Well, I'll give you a brief answer, Brit, and then I have to leave to get to a signing ceremony for this historic accord.
I know Brent's concerned and we all are concerned that this insurgency is going to continue. But the alternative cannot be, "let's just keep postponing elections or not have elections." We need to give the Iraqi people this opportunity, on the 30th of January, to speak out for how they wish to be led.
We're going to have to defeat this insurgency in the field with coalition troops, with Iraqi troops, and hopefully with an elected government that the people will now turn to as their government, not just a government appointed by the coalition or appointed by the United Nations.
And I hope these pieces coming together, coalition military pressure, Iraqi increasing military pressure, and an elected government, will start to defeat this insurgency.
But we have no illusions that the insurgency is going to continue until it is defeated. And we have the concerns that General Scowcroft had, and we will be addressing all of our efforts but making sure that that worst-case scenario he pointed out does not occur.
HUME: One last question...
POWELL: Thank you very much, Brit. I've got to run.
HUME: Alright, thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you very much.