This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," September 6, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: The Republican candidates really went at it last night in New Hampshire, but someone was not there, Speaker Newt Gingrich. His book, "Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract With America," is another New York Times bestseller, and some people still believe he will get in the race. Joining us now is former Speaker Gingrich.
I won't ask you the question, but the reason that I wanted you to be here tonight is because last time when we did our Internet show, I had so many comments. People wanted to hear from you.
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, I mean, I'm very flattered. And I watched the debate, which I have not done up until now, and I actually thought it was fairly lively in places. I thought there were some interesting exchanges.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did you learn anything about any of the candidates?
GINGRICH: I thought John McCain was re-energized and was more direct. I actually thought there was a terrific exchange between Ron Paul and Governor Huckabee and that Governor Huckabee really communicated a sense of statesmanship at that point.
yes, otherwise, it was just interesting to watch. I thought — it was interesting. I thought Governor — or rather, Mayor Giuliani was doing a good job explaining being mayor and what he had achieved, which is really quite substantial. And Frank Luntz's group of — focus group of voters didn't like how often he used being mayor. And so I found myself learning, watching FOX last night and watching the reactions because I actually thought it was a good performance, and the voters who were there in that focus group didn't like how often he referred to being mayor. So I was just wrong.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is this a beauty pageant, though, these debates? Or do you think the American people are sitting back, thinking, you know, I may decide who my candidate is based on this?
GINGRICH: I think relatively few people decide from these because they're so cluttered. There's so many people talking. They all have very short answers. I think you get some sense of who they are as people. But I thought — I mean, in all fairness, I thought they were fairly respectable, fairly substantial people last night, trying to communicate what they believed.
The problem is, the problems we face are all bigger than a 30-second answer. And so in a sense, the very act of trying to compress whatever you're going say into 30 seconds, whether there's a beeper going off or whatever the signal is, shrinks you in a way that I think is very unfortunate for the country.
We are in a period of big challenges. We need big solutions. And we need big leaders to carry the solutions out. And the current process — this is not a reflection on the individuals. The current process doesn't necessarily grow leaders very well.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, the thing — as I sit and watch, I think the viewers must wonder, like, What about me? What about my mortgage? You know, I've been foreclosed on. Or I don't have health care. These debates tend to be sort of big pictures, like, you know, what direction — but — I mean, and it's not a fault of the candidates, but it's just we don't have the time. But, like, What are you really going to do, is sort of the thought.
GINGRICH: Look, there's two parts to this. One is that the news media and the consultants and the candidates get involved in this world that's very ephemeral. I mean, it's all up here. It's all kind of fluff. The other is that you haven't heard — and I think this is partly because people are not willing to break out in either party. You haven't heard the depth of conversation we need about the very real problems that normal everyday people have.
Now, to be fair — this may surprise you — I think Senator Edwards has tried in a very serious way to talk about health care and has made some very bold proposals, much too far to the left for my taste, but nonetheless serious. I think that You've seen Senator Clinton talking about what she would do in health care in a serious way. Mayor Giuliani has outlined a health program. Governor Romney actually passed a health program in Massachusetts.
And I think for a lot of people, health is a very big issue, but I don't think — if I was an average person and I was sitting at home and looked up for four or five minutes of this stuff, I probably would have gone to the U.S. Open and watched tennis or I would have done — I mean, I don't...
VAN SUSTEREN: Everyone wanted to hear from you because I can tell you (INAUDIBLE) maybe they would have stayed longer and not gone to the tennis. But we need to take a quick break. Stand by.
We're going to have much more after the break.
VAN SUSTEREN: He is the author of "Winning the Future," which is a New York Times bestseller. And some people still believe, even hope, he will run for president.
But what does Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, think about the latest candidate to jump into the race? We continue with former Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Thirty seconds on Senator Thompson.
GINGRICH: OK. I think Fred Thompson has a very good resume. I think he has a terrific style on television. He enters the race as the number two candidate after Rudy Giuliani, and I think he's one of the three people that I think is really in the hunt.
Governor Romney, Mayor Giuliani and Senator Thompson are, clearly right now, the three frontrunners, with Senator McCain a substantial distance behind them, and with Governor Huckabee beginning to gain energy.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, we'll be watching Senator Thompson and the rest of them.
I understand you're about to raise hell on a speech?
GINGRICH: That's no way to put it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Let's just say it's not going to be one that is going to make waves.
GINGRICH: At the American Enterprise Institute next Monday, I'm going to outline a theme partly developed partly developed from a novel I wrote called "Pearl Harbor," where we looked at how did Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill deal with the Second World War?
And if you put our current mess in Iraq and Afghanistan with bin- Laden, the very fact that bin-Laden is releasing a tape six years after 9/11 tells you something. We clearly didn't get him.
VAN SUSTEREN: And you used the term "mess."
GINGRICH: It's a mess.
And so what I've done for the speech next Monday at the American Enterprise Institute is I have outlined an alternative history of the last six years. I've said, "What if we had on September 12, 2001, taken this war with the irreconcilable wing of Islam as seriously as we took the Second World War or the Civil War or as Ronald Reagan took ending the cold war?"
VAN SUSTEREN: You're saying, then, that President Bush did not.
GINGRICH: I think the national establishment, the CIA, the State Department, the Defense Department, the president, the congress, the news media—let me give you an example. If you're looking at the 1990's, in Algeria there was a war between the irreconcilable wing of Islam and the Algerian government. And 100,000 people were killed in that war in the 1990's. It was a hidden war. We paid no attention to it.
That gives you a sense of how bitter and how deep this fight is. It's not about Israel and it's not about the United States. It's about a small wing of Islam which wants to impose a medieval vision of the world on the rest of us, which would not allow you to be on television, would not allow women to appear in public.
VAN SUSTEREN: You mean I could be home eating chocolates and watching movies on TV?
GINGRICH: Exactly. And not allowed to go out.
Recently the Taliban machine-gunned young girls who were on their way to school.
VAN SUSTEREN: It is horrible. But your saying it's a mess and, looking back, we didn't take it seriously. What should we have done?
GINGRICH: We should have, first of all, recognized and had a national dialogue about the fact that if these people get nuclear or biological weapons, we are mortally threatened as a free country. We should have insisted on a real Homeland Security Department capable of dealing with a nuclear attack or biological attack, which, by the way, would have been capable of dealing with New Orleans.
We should have insisted on a fundamental thinking of our policy overseas, including holding Saudis to account for the fact that most of the terrorists were Saudis, most of the money is Saudi money.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why didn't we?
GINGRICH: I think the national establishment, bipartisan—
VAN SUSTEREN: Who is that?
GINGRICH: That's the people who run the State Department, the CIA, the Defense Department, the White House, the Congress, much of the news media. I think that they are so used to business as usual.
Remember that, for example, in the 1990's, President Clinton blocked the FBI Director Louis Freeh from learning who had bombed and killed Americans at Khobar Towers because the Clinton administration knew the Iranians did it and they didn't want to officially know because they didn't want to have to confront Iran.
VAN SUSTEREN: But if everyone goes back and revisits and starts pointing fingers, whether it's the Bush administration, Clinton administration, I think most American people are thinking "What are we going to do now?"
GINGRICH: And my point in making this speech at the American Enterprise Institute next Monday is I think we need to have a dramatically new, fundamental debate. Not about the Petraeus report, not about Iraq, but about the total war.
And the very fact that you have terrorists being picked up in Germany, just as we had terrorists being picked up in New Jersey, just as we had terrorists being picked up recently in Great Britain—the very fact that bin Laden is releasing a tape from Pakistan says to me that the Petraeus report and the Iraq debate down here, which all of Washington wants to become absorbed in, has to be surrounded by this much bigger question of what's the real war? And what are we going to do to organize ourselves to win the real wore war?
And so I decided, based on having written three novels about the Civil War and a novel, "Pearl Harbor," about World War II, I decided to write an alternative history to say "What would it have been like if we had decided on September 12 to take this war truly seriously as a country? What would we have done differently, and where would we be today?"
VAN SUSTEREN: And we're not going to get a chance because we're out of time to talk about September 29, which is your solutions day, but I guess that's a good trick, because I'll have you back before the 29th so we can talk with you.
GINGRICH: I'll be back.
VAN SUSTEREN: Always nice to see you, sir.
GINGRICH: Good to see you.
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