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Transcript: Newt Gingrich on 'FOX News Sunday'

The following is a partial transcript of the Feb. 18, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

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

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

FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH: It's good to be here.

WALLACE: You say that this effort by Democrats to oppose the president's Iraq policy is, quote, "destructive and irresponsible". What effect do you think it will have on our efforts in Iraq and also on Democratic political fortunes here at home?

GINGRICH: Well, if you read what Congressman Murtha has said, that this week is the beginning, but they're now going to have a series of ways of trying to control spending, trying to micromanage what troop flow is — I mean, they're talking about a whole series of steps over the next six months.

I think that has to be very weakening for America, because if you are — I mean, people around the world are smart nowadays. They all watch and know what's going on.

And if you are either our ally or our enemy, you're watching the U.S. Congress begin the process of systematically undermining American foreign policy.

Now, there are a lot of sound arguments, and I'm not saying that you shouldn't be allowed to argue in a free society, but this is not a cost-free exercise.

WALLACE: But to be fair, Mr. Speaker, you have also been a critic of the president's new policy. You have called it inadequate, an unsustainable middle ground. And I want to put up what you said to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Here it is. "If Iraq matters as much as the president says it does, then the United States must not design and rely on a strategy which relies on the Iraqis to win. On the other hand, if the war is so unimportant that the fate of Iraq can be allowed to rest with the efforts of a new, weak, untested and inexperienced government, then why are we risking American lives?"

So question is if the president isn't pursuing a plan for victory, and you seem to say he isn't at this point, aren't Democrats perfectly entitled to say we shouldn't be sending more troops after the ones that are already there?

GINGRICH: There's a different — look, I can offer advice. The Senate can offer advice. Any American can offer advice. There's a difference between offering advice, which I think we should do, and legislating.

Senator Clinton said in New Hampshire the other day that if there was a Democratic president, we'd be out of the war. Well, there's a democratic Congress. If they want to come in and say we're cutting off all funding, the president has 60 days to leave Iraq, we are prepared to take responsibility, and we are rendering our judgment, that's one thing.

That's not what they're doing. They want what I think is the worst of all worlds. They want the ability to undermine the president, the ability to cripple the Defense Department, while disclaiming any responsibility.

Now, I think this strategy that Murtha and Pelosi have been very open about — in the Senate, it's not as open, but in the House, they've been very open that they intend to gradually grind down our ability to be effective in Iraq day by day, week by week, amendment by amendment. I think that is a very destructive approach to things.

WALLACE: You, I don't have to say, were the speaker of the House. You also were a student and a scholar of the Constitution. What powers do you think Congress has when it comes to waging war?

How much power does it have, aside from just cutting off funding, to micromanage, as they're talking about now, or, as Senator Levin suggested, the idea of reauthorizing and limiting what the mission of our troops is — how much power do they have to limit the commander in chief?

GINGRICH: I think they technically have some real power, although you have to pass a bill, override a veto. I mean, it's a very complicated process.

You know, the Marine Corps hymn starts with "from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli". Jefferson sent the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Navy to Tripoli, attacking Barbary pirates who had been capturing Americans, without notifying Congress.

Now, Jefferson had some knowledge of the Constitution and did not believe in a particularly large government, but he thought the president in foreign policy had to be able to act, not just to get involved in a debating society.

This was a lesson the founding fathers learned fighting the Revolutionary War for eight long years. The Continental Congress could authorize in general, but it couldn't manage the war.

Now, here you have — and this is why — even with the Congress. If they want to take responsibility — I mean, if Senator Clinton and her friends want to say we think this is so bad, we're cutting off the money, that is their constitutional prerogative.

But as long as the president has the duty and burden as commander in chief of trying to win the war, crippling him, it seems to me, doesn't just hurt George W. Bush. This hurts America.

And I think we have to be very clear about what we're doing in foreign policy. In the middle of very controversial impeachment process, President Clinton and I worked closely together on Saddam Hussein, on Operation Fox, which was a bombing campaign.

I consistently was supportive of what the president was doing in Bosnia and elsewhere, because I felt that when you got — I'm an Army brat. I grew up in a world where, you know, politics ended up at the water's edge and overseas we had to try to find ways to be Americans and to work together.

WALLACE: Let's turn to North Korea. You heard Senator Levin just say that he doesn't think there's any difference between the deal that the president got this week and the deal that Bill Clinton had in 1994, and this is a deal that George W. Bush could have had back when he had in office. Your reaction.

GINGRICH: Well, I think that, frankly, Senator Levin just explained what's wrong with the deal. The deal we got in 1994 didn't work. They lied to us. They were consistently trying to get nuclear weapons. They totally misled everybody who was a signatory in 1994. I suspect they're lying to us now.

I thought it was very revealing — the North Korean news agency said — this was their statement, "We are temporarily suspending nuclear production." Now, that's their statement. And I think there's a lot to that.

What they're saying, basically, is we will pretend to stop, you will give us a lot of oil and you will bail our economy out, you'll prop up the dictatorship, Condi Rice, the secretary of state, will meet with the North Korean foreign minister and legitimize the regime, and then a year from now, we'll decide what we want to do.

And if you read what the International Atomic Energy Agency had said, it was very similar.

WALLACE: So you agree with conservatives like John Bolton who thinks that this was a mistake that, in effect, is rewarding North Korea for bad behavior.

GINGRICH: I think the signal this sends to Iran is ignore the Americans, ignore the sanctions, get your nuclear weapons, and then cut a deal later because in the end, the democracies are going to cave.

WALLACE: And you think that's what they've done in the case of North Korea?

GINGRICH: Unless something dramatically changes, I see no evidence right now that they're going to give up their weapons, no evidence they're going to actually close their facilities, and no evidence that they're going to allow the kind of inspection regime to find out is there a totally different facility that they haven't told us about.

WALLACE: Let's turn to 2008. You have said that you're not even going to think about running for president until after Labor Day.

But take a look at our latest FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Republican horse race poll. It has you running third, ahead of Mitt Romney, even though you're doing nothing yet to build a campaign.

What does that tell you about what Republican voters are looking for?

GINGRICH: Well, Rick Tyler said to me the other day — my press secretary said, you know, we need to keep not doing whatever we're not doing, because it seems to be working.

So I want to start and say I think there may be a market out there for somebody who has enough sense not to run two years early, that if you think about it, these candidates are running for an entire year — to get into a campaign to run for an entire year to get sworn in in January of 2009.

And I just think the average — this is going to be like watching bad reruns of Survivor. People are going to say get them off the island, I don't want to see this anymore. You watch. Mark my word.

I'll come back this summer at some point, if you'll have me, and we'll talk about how bored people are with this campaign.

WALLACE: On the other hand, the latest FOX News poll also has some bad news for you.

GINGRICH: Yes.

WALLACE: And let's put that up. We asked people who under no circumstances would they vote for, and you came in second on that dubious list at 64 percent, behind Ralph Nader, but far ahead of everyone else. And I should add 44 percent of Republicans said they would not vote for you.

Why do you think that so many voters say Newt Gingrich, forget it?

GINGRICH: Well, there was a column written by Brent Bozell recently about Nancy Pelosi becoming speaker and me becoming speaker. And he contrasted the initial media coverage of the two of us.

And if you go back and look — you know, I had a — Time magazine savaged me as Scrooge who stole Tiny Tim's broken crutch — didn't just steal the crutch; I broke it, on the cover of Time. Newsweek had me as the Grinch that stole Christmas. I was a Dr. Seuss figure.

Then the Democrats — I think correctly, strategically — decided to run 121,000 ads in '95 and '96 attacking me.

We adopted a totally different strategy. We thought that instead of defending me, we would defend the majority. And as a result, in 1996 we became the first reelected majority since 1928 for Republicans.

In that process, I was badly damaged. I made some mistakes as speaker. And I think the combination of all of that left me, you know, with a fairly high negative.

Now, you know, one could argue that says I'm being very wise not to run. Or it could mean that over time, as people get to see what we've done at the Center for Health Transformation, what I've done in national security, what we're doing — we have a book coming out this fall called Contract With the Earth. It's a conservative entrepreneurial science and technology environmentalism.

You know, people may decide that, in fact, they want to take a second look. I'm pretty comfortable relaxing and letting the American people decide, not me.

WALLACE: You're a pretty smart political observer. Do you think those kinds of high negatives, 64 percent, under no circumstances — do you think that's irreparable or not?

GINGRICH: Oh, I think historically it's not — nothing in America is irreparable. This is a country where second, third and fourth chances seem a permanent part of our culture.

WALLACE: And we're all grateful for that.

GINGRICH: Exactly right.

WALLACE: Mr. Speaker, thank you. Thanks for coming in.

GINGRICH: Thank you.