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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Katrina Aftermath

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," September 5, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "The O'Reilly Factor" weeknights at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and listen to the "Radio Factor!"

BILL O'REILLY, HOST:The top story tonight. Another look at this complicated but vitally important Katrina situation. Joining us from Washington, FOX News analyst Newt Gingrich. So where am I going wrong, Mr. Speaker?

NEWT GINGRICH, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, let me say, first of all, I agree almost entirely with the first two-thirds of your "Talking Points". But then you go off on this — total giving up on government, which I think is just wrong. And I think frankly is un-American.

We have a long history in America that government can do a lot of things. And government can be successful in a lot of ways. And I think that government sometimes does it by incentives. We built the Transcontinental Railroad (search). We sometimes do it directly. We built the Panama Canal (search).

And I think that part of why Americans reacted so strongly, Bill, and this is where I guess where I want to take issue with you, I think Americans think if there's a major crisis, first of all, the mayor of New Orleans had a real obligation to make sure the four pumps could work. Three of them didn't. It would have kept water pumped out.

Second, the mayor of New Orleans had an obligation to see that the city bus system helped the poor leave the city. They failed to do that.

As you point out, the governor failed to call it an emergency And initially, it was the governor who had to call an emergency. And the governor failed to see that there was enough police — state police and enough help to get the people evacuated.

Finally, when the Feds came around, they were too slow, too ineffective. And the result has been, I think, a result that no American can be comfortable with.

But I can't agree with you that the answer ought to be to give up on government being effective. And to say to everybody, you know, you better be wealthy enough that you can leave under your own power because nobody's ever going to help you...

O'REILLY: Well, I disagree with you strongly on this. I don't think the government is equipped in any way, shape or form to solve anybody's problems and to get them out of harm's way at all.

Some things the government does well. The military — our military is the best in the world. Our capitalistic system provides opportunity for many more people than anywhere else in the world.

But the government cannot help you personally. And that was my point.

GINGRICH: But...

O'REILLY: You know, we can develop that — we can debate that philosophically.

GINGRICH: OK.

O'REILLY: But you said your piece, I said mine. I want to get into the micro. Why do you think President Bush was 24 hours too late on this? Because he's now the flashpoint of the whole situation. Nobody really cares about the mayor or Blanco, the governor. Now why do you think he was 24 hours too late?

GINGRICH: I think that the entire system of homeland security failed. And I want to draw a distinction, which you drew in your "Talking Points".

This is not about the brand new secretary of homeland security. It's not about any individual person. The process by which we try to solve these problems is so bureaucratic, so slow, and so cumbersome, you just had this amazing quote that you showed there, where a very, very smart man, and the secretary's a very smart man, is explaining that he's listening to all these meetings and having all of these conference calls while the television on his desk is telling him about a reality that is totally different.

O'REILLY: Which he ignored...

GINGRICH: Which he ignored.

O'REILLY: Which he ignored. So...

GINGRICH: But that's not...

O'REILLY: But that's on him. See, look, leadership is what is necessary here.

GINGRICH: OK.

O'REILLY: And the government only works well when there's strong, effective leadership. I think you'd agree with that. You've written a book on that.

GINGRICH: I do agree with that.

O'REILLY: OK.

GINGRICH: I do agree with that.

O'REILLY: All right. So I'm going to submit to you that Michael Chertoff (search) isn't a strong leader. And neither was governor, the first homeland security...

GINGRICH: Tom Ridge.

O'REILLY: Ridge. They're bureaucrats first, not strong leaders. They don't have a vision.

GINGRICH: OK.

O'REILLY: We know Chertoff doesn't have a vision by his border situation. By that — and that's another disaster just waiting to happen down there.

GINGRICH: OK, but I don't — OK, I think if tomorrow morning you put in the third secretary of homeland security, even if it was you, and even with all your drive and all your energy, you would be stunned within 24 hours, between the Office of Management and Budget, the White House staff, the congressional oversight, the federal regulations, the inspector-general of your department, how crippled you were at being able to lead.

O'REILLY: But that's — you're making my point. You are absolutely making my point. It is so unwieldy...

GINGRICH: Right.

O'REILLY: ...so enormous, so bureaucratic, that any individual American, that thinks this colossus can react on a dime and come in and lift them off a rooftop, after a storm or a terror attack or anything, is crazy. You're making my point. Look...

GINGRICH: OK, I agree with you, but...

O'REILLY: ...9/11 was 10 square blocks, Mr. Speaker.

GINGRICH: Right.

O'REILLY: And they got it under control because it was 10 square blocks. If it had been all of New York City, nobody would have gotten out of here. Looting would have been crazy. No command — it is, if any major city gets hit with a storm or a terror attack, the bureaucracy that we've set up to deal with it, is not going to work. Go:

GINGRICH: Bill, you and I have an exact agreement on the problem and a profound disagreement about the solution. I agree with you. The current system, the city system, the state system, the federal system isn't working.

The difference is, I think, starting this week, the Congress and the president up here, the governors and the state legislatures in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, had better get to work fixing the system.

O'REILLY: Well, we hope they will.

GINGRICH: Because in a real terror attack, or in the next great hurricane, we're all going to be relying on a system that you and I agree...

O'REILLY: ...is broken.

GINGRICH: ...is incapable of working.

O'REILLY: OK. But let me get back. And I need you to answer this in 30 seconds, we'll take a break, and then we're going to bring you back. Why was President Bush 24 hours late?

GINGRICH: I think the information he was getting was wrong.

O'REILLY: Getting from whom?

GINGRICH: From the Department of Homeland Security (search) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (search).

O'REILLY: OK. We'll have more with the Speaker in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'REILLY: Continuing now with FOX News analyst Newt Gingrich from Washington. Does this cripple the Bush administration for the next three years? Because you know what the Bush haters are going to do? They're going to say, look, they can't handle Iraq, they can't handle a storm, they can't handle anything. Does it cripple him?

GINGRICH: Well, I think it depends in large part on how the president and his team react. This is why I think the discussion you and I were just having is so important.

If the president gets a grip on what the level of change we need, if he comes to Congress with a serious plan for rebuilding the Gulf Coast so that it's better, more prosperous, more modern than ever, if he convinces the country that that's a plan worth having the country invest, not just the government, and if he's prepared to make the kind of changes, and I agree with you for example, about the border, where the Department of Homeland Security becomes dramatically more effective, I think he could end this year on a very strong note.

O'REILLY: But he takes a short-term hit. We already see the polling numbers coming in.

GINGRICH: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: He's going to take a big hit.

GINGRICH: Look, you can't - I mean, Bill, maybe you and I don't agree on this. But I just think as an American, forget Republican, Democrat. As an American, you can't look at these pictures and see a great American city in this kind of a mess, and think that things were working.

O'REILLY: Right. No, listen, I don't disagree with you on that.

GINGRICH: OK.

O'REILLY: I mean, there's no question there.

GINGRICH: So my guess is the president, the governor, and the mayor have all taken a big hit.

O'REILLY: Yes, they all have.

GINGRICH: The question for the president is does he become the defender of the failure, or does he become the leader of fundamentally changing the Department of Homeland Security and the entire process by which we got here?

O'REILLY: Well, we'll see. Now...

GINGRICH: I think that's exactly the choice he's got to make.

O'REILLY: The race-baiting. You're from Georgia. And you know, you know how sensitive race is in the South. I mean, I am just appalled at Jesse Jackson, [California Congresswoman] Maxine Waters. I mean, look, Kanye West (search), the dopey little rapper. We don't care what he says. I just want to illustrate how insane it was. But to say...

GINGRICH: But what's wrong there is for — what's wrong there is to give a person like that any level of coverage for things that are that despicable and that dishonest.

O'REILLY: Yes, but he was on national television. So I had to define it.

GINGRICH: No, no, I'm talking about you. I'm talking about the way NBC put him up there.

O'REILLY: Well, they didn't know. And to be fair to NBC, they didn't know what he was going to say. And they knocked him out. He was live. And then they knocked him out for the West Coast.

But the race-baiting and the coming in saying that because they were black, that nobody cared and would leave them on the rooftops, when Americans from every walk of life are donating hundreds of millions of dollars, even as we speak to help these people, I just — is there anything we can do about it?

GINGRICH: Look, well, there are some people in America who have made a career out of being despicable racists on their own side. And I think Jesse Jackson in that sense behaves essentially as a racist.

And the fact is he wants to see a color-defined America, that is is a purely racist position.

When I watch young men and women in Coast Guard helicopters risking their lives to save the poor, the elderly, the young, the weak, the sick — and I realize that these young men and women representing America are literally doing everything they can to save the lives of every American, I think for someone like Jesse Jackson not to be out there applauding them, helping them, encouraging them, praising them, weakens America.

And I think the rest of us ought to take this kind of vicious attitude head on and just point out that there were an awful lot of New Orleans policemen of all backgrounds ethnically, trying to protect that city. That there were an awful lot of people out there of all backgrounds, firemen and volunteer workers, trying to help those people. And having Jesse Jackson's viciousness undermines that entire process.

O'REILLY: Well, I think Jackson, to be fair to him, would say it's not the folks that are the problem. It's the establishment.

Mr. Speaker, always a pleasure to talk with you. I hope you'll come back. I know you're very busy...

GINGRICH: OK.

O'REILLY: ...sometime this week. And because I have a whole bunch of other stuff I want to talk to you about, about performance in government, what Americans should expect from their government. Since I think that's a vital topic and I want to get into it more. So if we could get you back, I'd like to do that.

GINGRICH: We'll try to do it.

O'REILLY: OK. Next, we would like you to vote. Yes, this is — talk about we want to know what you think. Please grade how the authorities have handled Hurricane Katrina on billoreilly.com. This is our poll question. One of the most important poll questions we've ever had. So you can grade the authorities from A to F on billoreilly.com. So please do that.

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