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'A Terrible Signal'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," April 17, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: This is a "FOX News Alert." A handshake -- President Obama and Hugo Chavez shaking hands. Can you believe it? This is the same guy who called President Bush the devil at the United Nations and said that President Obama has the same stench as President Bush. Awkward! Well, at least it was not a high five or a hug, or worse, a bow. The two came face to face at the Summit of the Americas on the island of Trinidad. So what's up with the handshake? Good move? Bad move? Or just plain awkward?

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich joins us live. Mr. Speaker, good evening. And what do you make of the fact that Hugo Chavez and our president shaking hands?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, the president recently bowed to the Saudi king. He has been friendly to the Iranians, despite their 7,300 centrifuges making nuclear weapons. He's basically backed off on his threats to the North Koreans. He has made life easier for the Castro dictatorship in Cuba. Why not embrace or at least be cheerful and friendly with Hugo Chavez?

I think it sends a terrible signal to all of Latin America and a terrible signal about how the new administration regards dictators. But this is an administration which doesn't want us to drill offshore, doesn't want us to find new oil and gas, so we become even more dependent on the Saudis and the Venezuelans. So apparently, being nice to the dictators is the way he intends to get oil. I think we'd better a lot better off drilling offshore in the United States and getting American energy, rather than being nice to dictators.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's the precise down side to -- in your opinion, to President Obama talking to Hugo Chavez?

GINGRICH: I don't think there's any down side to talking to him, but I think being friends, taking a picture that clearly looks like they're buddies, hurts in all of Latin America. Chavez has a big propaganda machine. They're going to be putting that picture all over Latin America. Chavez is going to say, See? I'm the future. Being an anti-American dictator is just fine, and the Americans need the oil so desperately that they will be nice to me, no matter what I do.

I think that's the real danger, is how does that picture get used all across Latin America? And what signal does it send to other dictators? If this is going to be much like Jimmy Carter, a pro-dictator administration, then I think, frankly, it sends a very sad signal about human rights around the world.

VAN SUSTEREN: In January, the president said that he wasn't going to be doing any talking with Chavez until Chavez at least had sort of denounced and moved away from supporting the revolutionary people in Colombia. Is that -- does that have any bearing on this whatsoever?

GINGRICH: No. I think that the president's words often don't last very long. Remember, last Sunday, a week ago, he was going to be very tough with the North Koreans. That lasted until a U.N. Security Council meeting, where the Chinese and the Russians refused to support him. Then that disappeared. I don't see any evidence that the president's words in January have any meaning on the president's grin and handshake in April. This is a very shallow administration that follows very shallow policies.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me switch gears to a speech that the president gave this week in Washington at Georgetown University. The White House asked that some religious symbols at the Catholic university, Georgetown University, be covered up during the speech. The university acquiesced. It is now beginning to sort of get out there and become somewhat of a controversy. What's your thought on this?

GINGRICH: Well, it should be a controversy. First of all, the university should have refused. The president wants to go to a Catholic university, he should respect the symbols of Catholicism and understand the importance of those symbols.

Second, this is an administration which has nominated Judge Hamilton (ph), who said that using Jesus Christ in a prayer was somehow wrong but that saying "Allah" was fine. That, frankly, should be filibustered in the Senate, and that judge should never get through. Third, you recently had two Democratic legislators in Connecticut introduce a state-level bill that would literally abolish the Catholic church in Connecticut.

People need to understand there's this underlying pattern of secular hostility to religion that's very real and that may show up again if the administration tries to eliminate the conscience clause which has allowed doctors who are Catholic or evangelical Christians or orthodox Jews to not perform abortions because their conscience won't permit it. There's serious talk the administration is going to try to strip the right of religious conscience from Americans.

VAN SUSTEREN: The whole thing was rather, you know, surprising to me that they even chose that venue, if, indeed, they wanted to sort of, you know, at least (INAUDIBLE) at least hide part of the venue, which is so important to the university.

But anyway, let me talk about the tea parties and the media coverage of the tea parties. There have been many people in the media who have been quite vulgar about the tea parties, using sexual references and jokes to belittle the protesters. Surprised about that or not?

GINGRICH: No, I think we're in a deep cultural war, and I think the tea parties were a direct threat to the elite left and the elite left is going berserk.

I was at a tea party, as you know, in New York City, at City Hall. It had 12,500 people there. It was led by a 26-year-old, Kellen Guida (ph), who's a nice young guy who's founded a small business, has three employees. His partner in launching it was an African-American.

The audience was young. It was from every political party. And I think it was very exciting to be there. Somehow, if you're a peace movement and peace protest, then you're somehow sanctified by the elite media. But if you're for smaller government and you're worried about big debt, then somehow that's inappropriate behavior.

VAN SUSTEREN: But it's sort of interesting. It's not just sort of a disagreement with the substance. It went even further. When you start sort of laughing and using vulgar references on the air about it, I mean, you're taking it a step further. You're not saying that the person -- you disagree with the person. You're not saying that. You are saying something, you know, much -- and -- much different.

GINGRICH: Look, this is a situation where anyone who happily and cheerfully stands for smaller government, lower taxes, less power in Washington, anyone who stands up for the rights of the American people, is going to be vilified in the media.

And frankly, look what the Department of Homeland Security did this week. If you are pro-life, you're a potential terrorist. If you're a returning veteran, you're a potential terrorist. If you are in favor of the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, you're a potential terrorist. If you like smaller government, more decentralization, lower taxes, you're a potential terrorist.

I think we need to understand that on the left, there is a deep hostility to anybody who's overtly patriotic, overtly for smaller government, overtly for taking power out of Washington.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, I asked on GretaWire, the blog, if anyone had any questions for you tonight, and Brenda Ell (ph) had a question for you which said -- and I guess it's in light of the fact that there are people from both parties who attended these tea parties, Republican and Democrat. She says, "I think we should have a third party and it should be called the American Principle Party." And some people have even said that a third party may arise out of these tea parties. Is that at all possible, that a third party would arise? And is that a good ideal or not?

GINGRICH: Well, I think if the Republican Party doesn't accommodate the energy and the drive of all these new people, and if it doesn't become, ultimately, the vehicle for their hopes, you could have something like that happen. But I think you have a number of people -- Congressman John Boehner and Congressman Eric Cantor, for example -- working very hard to find a way to bring all these elements together. Reagan faced this challenge in the late 1970s, and ultimately, he found a way to bring economic conservatives, social conservatives and national security conservatives together.

What I was struck by the other night in New York was these were not folks who had been in politics ever before. These are people frightened by the $9 trillion of debt that they see coming down the road under this administration.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is this, though, a one-time deal? I mean, that really is the question, and many people have been struggling with it and talking about it the last few days ad nauseam. But is this just sort of, you know, It's tax day, let's go out, let's make a statement that -- you know, whatever the protesters are making a statement about, that the government is spending too much, or is this truly something -- you know, a much larger movement?

GINGRICH: Adam Waldeck (ph) at American Solutions has been their leader on the tea party movement, and Rick Tyler (ph) at the Center for American Leadership -- for Renewing American Leadership -- has been working on tea parties. Both of them report to me that there are many, many people saying, What do we do next? How do we keep it going?

You know, when people realize, for example, Greta, how many trillion dollars the Federal Reserve has been spending without any oversight, without any transparency, without any accountability, I think the anger and the demand for more citizen movement is going to go up, not down. I think this is the beginning of a long-term movement, not just a momentary event.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think it'll be dependent upon whether our economy rebounds quickly. If the economy rebounds quickly, it's a one-day deal. If not, I think we'll see more. You disagree with me on that, that it's not -- the economy is not the indicator?

GINGRICH: I think -- look, the Obama budget that's in negotiations right now between the House and Senate has $9 trillion in additional debt. That means a 20-year-old today would pay $114,000 in taxes just to pay interest on the debt in their lifetime, without paying a penny of principal. When the average American realizes these politicians are using credit cards like crazy and don't intend to pay any of it, but intend to leave office dumping it on your children and grandchildren, I don't care what happens to the economy, the fight over whether or not politicians ought to dump debt on you is going to get bigger and bigger as people learn the facts.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, if you'll stand by, we're going to have much more with you after the break.

And now for tonight's "On the Record" live vote. Go to GretaWire.com and answer this question. What do you think about the sexual jokes made about the tea party protests by some members of the media? Your choices are, No big deal, get over it, or, It's disgraceful. We're going to read your results at the end of the hour.

And more with Speaker Gingrich is coming up in two minutes.

Plus: Seven senators write blistering letter to the Homeland Security chief. It's a direct, explosive confrontation. The senators say our veterans are being insulted. One of the angry senators tells you why he's so fired up.

Plus: Hero captain Richard Phillips is home. You're going to see his emotional reunion with his family. And for the very first time since facing down Somali pirates, you will hear the hero captain in his own words.

And Rush Limbaugh calls the media an embarrassing joke. Whoa! You'll hear Rush in his own words, and we're going to tell you about a huge event Rush has planned for Monday night. This is big! Trust us!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VAN SUSTEREN: We continue with Newt Gingrich. Mr. Speaker, President Obama was in Mexico this week. Did he accomplish anything, at least in your opinion?

GINGRICH: Well, you know -- you know, it was very interesting. The president of Mexico made a comment about U.S. purchase of drugs, and so forth. And it occurred to me that the right answer would have been to say, If you'll help us control the border, we'll stop all the illegal drugs from coming north. We'll stop all the illegal money from going south. We'll stop any guns from going south. So if we actually controlled the American-Mexican border, all of the Mexican president's complaints would disappear overnight.

And I thought that President Obama missed an opportunity to outline policy and see if the Mexican president actually wanted America to stop doing all that, or if it was just a public relations ploy.

VAN SUSTEREN: But I think at least everybody in the United States would like to control the border, or at least (INAUDIBLE) But how do you do it? I mean, you know, words are one thing, to say, Let's control the borders, but how do you actually control the borders? It is a huge border.

GINGRICH: Yes, but people have controlled huge borders before. You build fences where necessary. You use electronic techniques where you don't need fences. You have absolutely positive control over who crosses the border. People have done this historically over and over again. And to tell a sovereign country you can't control your border is an admission of absolute collapse.

And we ought to be clear. There's a huge difference between the Canadian border, which is overwhelmingly passive, non-threatening, and the Mexican border. And the Mexican president in his complaints has given us a perfect excuse to agree with him and tell him we're going to help him by controlling the border. And I think with a reasonable investment, if we were serious, we could get to 100 percent positive control of the border.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, tell me practically how you would do that.

GINGRICH: Well, we did it in the first 40 or 50 miles from San Diego. We built a triple-layer fence system that absolutely 100 percent stopped everybody until you got to the end of the fence, which were some wetlands that the environmentalists protected, and then people, you know, went around the end of the fence. So the next phase is you build around the wetlands and you keep going. And where you have to, you put fence up.

Where it's very vacant and you're out in the middle of the desert, you use Predators and other devices so you have look-down capability. And when you see somebody coming across the desert, you send a helicopter to meet them. If they don't have permission to come into the U.S., you turn them back. Pretty straightforward.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, when -- when we entered into the NAFTA agreement, one of the deals was, is that Mexican trucks could come into the United States. And at some point, we said no to that part of the agreement and Mexican trucks have not been able to come into the United States and Mexico is mad at us and now has imposed a huge tariff. What is the problem? What is the solution?

GINGRICH: Well, the problem is that the Teamsters Union doesn't want the trucks in the United States. So in order to take care of the Teamsters union, the Obama administration has violated the North American Free Trade Act, and the Mexicans are totally within their rights to be angry and they're totally within their rights to impose a retaliatory tariff. You know, the fact is, as long as the trucks...

VAN SUSTEREN: Is that something the Obama...

GINGRICH: ... are safe and inspected...

VAN SUSTEREN: Is that something the Obama administration did, or is this a carryover from the former administration, as well?

GINGRICH: No. My understanding is it's something they did after they took office very specifically to take care of the Teamsters.

VAN SUSTEREN: So now what? Because if we have this deal with the Mexicans and we're not keeping our side of the deal, they've imposed a tariff, and if President Obama is trying to keep the Teamsters happy because they don't want the Mexican trucks in the United States, now what?

GINGRICH: Well, I think the Mexicans are going to try to find ways to make it painful enough to get us to keep our word. And I assume at some point, the president's got to decide is paying off the Teamsters really worth the pain. And I think we'll see this play itself out over the next six or eight months.

But it's very dangerous for the world to start getting into these protectionist games because it slows down everybody's economy. It's one of the steps that made the Great Depression so much deeper and so much more painful. And I'd be very careful about starting these kind of fights over trade because it kills jobs on both sides of the border.

VAN SUSTEREN: And just so I'm clear, so you agree with the Mexicans for being mad at the Americans for not keeping the deal on the trucks.

GINGRICH: Yes. When we gave -- we gave our word that as long as the trucks are inspected and as long as they're safe, that they get to do it. They have -- and we have broken our word. And if I were -- frankly, if I were them, I'd be mad, too.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, thank you, sir.

GINGRICH: Thank you.




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