Published January 26, 2010
This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 25, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Time for another "On the Record" road trip. Moments ago, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich went "On the Record" from his personal office here in Washington.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, nice to see you.
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Good to be with you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to be in your office, of course, as well.
GINGRICH: Well, good to have you back.
VAN SUSTEREN: In a short time, we're going to have the president's going to give his State of the Union. What is the function of the State of the Union? Is it truly to tell the state of the union? Is there a political element to it? Is it to inspire, to be blunt? What's the point of this?
GINGRICH: Well, I think all the above. Originally, when George Washington did it, it was a report on the country. This is -- this is what's working, this is what isn't, this is what we have to change. Over time, it became sort of one of the major political moments of the year, where the president comes in, for a brief period, he gets the country's attention reasonably well, and he tries to outline what is he going to try to get done this year. And then so it's become a very presidentially- driven "This is my agenda, this is what we have to do" kind of thing.
And of course, for President Obama, this is a big moment because coming off of what seems to be the collapse of the health bill and the defeat in Massachusetts, I think there's a sense that he's really got to somehow re-center his presidency in the near future.
VAN SUSTEREN: Does he acknowledge or is it prudent for him to acknowledge that, Look, I see the message on the wall in Massachusetts? Maybe -- I mean, I think that he sees it as somewhat of a message -- that there has been some taxpayer protests, not a huge amount, but certainly caught the attention of many Americans. Does he acknowledge that and say, Look, I'm now going to respond to that, and we're going to move farther towards the center, or doesn't he do that at all?
GINGRICH: Well, I think, first of all, it would be very clever to start the speech by recognizing Scott Brown and saying, I want to congratulate you on having won, it's good to have you here this evening and I look forward to working with you. Presidents ought to always be inclusive, at least in their language.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you expect Scott Brown to be there? He won't be sworn by that point.
GINGRICH: I would be very surprised if they don't make a special provision for him to be there.
VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of Senator-elect Scott Brown, was that a referendum on...
GINGRICH: And by the way, if he's not on the floor, it would be fairly prudent of the president to have Scott and his wife and daughters invited by Michelle to sit up above.
This is a moment for the president to re-bond the country, and instead of pulling back into fortress leftwing America, to say, OK, I've gotten the message out of New Jersey, Virginia, Massachusetts. Clearly the American people want a more centrist government, and I'm going to listen to the American people.
VAN SUSTEREN: A lot of people have said that the Scott Brown election was, quote "a wakeup call," as they though they ignored the tea party protests, the town hall protests, the elections in Virginia and New Jersey. What took so long, if it is a wake-up call?
GINGRICH: First of all, I'm not sure they are awake yet. It may be a wake-up call, but I don't see evidence that the White House has changed what it is doing.
But what is interesting is I think, you know, this was Teddy Kennedy's seat. This was a state, Massachusetts, which Obama carried by 31 percentage points. There's a point when you lose a seat like that that it really jars the whole system.
And that's why I think even though Virginia was very big in Governor McDonnell won by a big margin, 59 percent and Chris Christie was a strategic victory in a very tough state for Republicans in New Jersey, I think this was so big, so focused, so clear that it really jarred the system as much as any special election in my lifetime.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think this was an endorsement of the Republican agenda, whatever that may be? We'll get to that. Or is this an independent movement, this is something brand new and like, you know, they are sick of the Democrats, they are sick of the Republicans, and we are independent and we are going to do what we intend to do?
GINGRICH: Closer to being independent. Scott Brown did a very good job, if you heard his acceptance speech and his interview since then -- he represents independents and Republicans and moderate Democrats. He's very clear about that.
VAN SUSTEREN: There aren't very many Republicans in Massachusetts. If you are going to win you have to have the independents there.
GINGRICH: Right. But I think to position himself as moderate Democrats, which I think he got about 20 percent of, and independents, which he carried but about three to one, and Republicans, that means he's not just a Republican regular.
So they weren't endorsing regular Republicanism. They were electing a unique guy who spent 20 years in the military as a reservist and who has served for years in the minority in the state legislature, has a real career in Massachusetts.
And I think that he's going to come down here not automatically doing exactly what traditional Republicans do, but trying to measure it against the voters of Massachusetts and the concerns they have.
VAN SUSTEREN: What was sort of peculiar when we were in Massachusetts -- we were there twice last week, beginning of the week and the end of the week -- and while this is in no way a scientific study, I was struck by how many people came up to me and said I voted Democrat my entire life and I am so angry that I voted for Scott Brown.
These are people who spotted us and they see Fox News and maybe that attracts people who are more conservative to come up to an anchor. But I was struck by the passion of so many Democrats.
GINGRICH: Callista and I had the same experience. We were there Monday, a week before the election, had lunch with two moderate Democrats who both said they were voting for Scott Brown. And these are not people I expected to see do that.
And I think they felt the attorney general was way too far to the left and that the administration and Pelosi and Reid had gone too far to the left. And so this was a chance for them to send a signal to come on back.
At the time, this was eight days before the election, they did not think Scott would win. They were going to vote for him, but they thought he'd come close buy not win. And that momentum built all week.
And then he did such a good job in the debates and she did such a bad job. And she made several big mistakes on talk radio and interviews and what have you, so by the end of the week it began to be obvious that Scott Brown was going to win.
VAN SUSTEREN: Health care is it dead as we know it, because now we have Senator Landrieu of Louisiana saying to Speaker Pelosi saying she should go ahead and pass the Senate version. Speaker Pelosi says I don't have the votes. That's not going to happen. So where is healthcare?
GINGRICH: Well, let me say first of all I'm disappointed in Senator Landrieu's view, because I think the country has sent every signal from polling data to elections that they don't want this bill. They don't want the House version, they don't want the Senate version.
I would hope that the president, and at the Center for Health Transformation, we are going to make a proposal that they ought to start over.
First of all, the number one gel for America right now would be jobs. The number two goal ought to be cutting spending and getting back to a balanced budget. The number three goal ought to be national security. And the number four goal could be a modest, thoughtful, bipartisan health bill.
But I think that requires a totally new realization on their part that they are going to ram through leftwing legislation. The country won't tolerate it.
VAN SUSTEREN: The polls have shown a growing unhappiness with healthcare reform over the last year, you agree with that?
VAN SUSTEREN: I assume that the House and the Senate and the White House were looking at that polling data. I guess I get back to the question that suddenly Scott Brown's election is a wakeup call. If you saw the downward trend and heard the grumblings among some sectors of the population, who is championing this at this point?
GINGRICH: I think that the president and Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid, and I think the leftwing activist groups who always wanted a big government run health approach, they are desperate to try to get this through, because if they collapse, which I think they are going to, this may be the last time for generation that you have an effort to create big government health care.
If they have a huge majority in the House, a newly-elected president, a 60-vote majority in the Senate and they can't get it, maybe there's a hint here.
VAN SUSTEREN: If then that the president for the state of the union moves to the right of where he's been, and in recognition of the fact that, as people say, it is a wakeup call, or the downward trend for health care, doesn't he run the risk of alienating those who were so passionate about electing him? And doesn't that create longer term political problems for him?
GINGRICH: If you saw either Paul Krugman's column or Morty Zuckerman's column, people on the left are just savaging the president. And they're saying why are you so incompetent and why are you so timid and why are you so incapable of getting things done?
He has had attacks from the left in the last two weeks that are as ferocious as anything he's had from the right. And that has to be a challenge for the White House. I suspect the White House is a little disoriented right now.
I mean, who are they trying to please? They were elected by anti-war left which nominated them over Hillary. Now they are sending more troops to Afghanistan. They were elected to pass leftwing things like giant energy tax, which is bottled up in the Senate, a giant health bill which is now collapsing.
There is a point where you look around and begin to think, if you are on left, you begin to have real doubts this administration or the Congress for that matter is going to do what you want.
VAN SUSTEREN: Then I guess I go back to where we start. What is the point of the state of the union? Do you say I'm getting squeezed from the left, I'm getting squeezed from the right. I'm trying to find out what the American people have? This is where we are on jobs, this is where we are on health care, but this is what I'm going to do from this day forward?
GINGRICH: I think he's got to make a huge decision. And I'll be watching Wednesday because I'll be curious which way he goes. He either has to double down as a liberal and say I'm going to defy Massachusetts and Virginia and New Jersey, I'm going to defy the polls. Let's go do it even though people don't want it.
Or he's got to say, as Bill Clinton did, the era of big government is over. I hear you America, I'm going to become more reasonable, more moderate. And he seems to be zigzag right now and to be undecided about which one he's going to do.
VAN SUSTEREN: Next, more with former Speaker Gingrich.
And this is hot -- in 2012, will Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid, and President Obama all be in office? Speaker Gingrich makes predictions, we make headlines.
VAN SUSTEREN: Continuing with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich from his personal office here in Washington.
VAN SUSTEREN: Jobs, another topic. What's the story with the economy?
GINGRICH: I think that the -- look, I have a deep bias. I'm a philosophical conservative who believes that small business, entrepreneurs, venture capital, are how you create jobs.
I think big government spending is a lot like taking some kind of upper. It gives you a brief moment of feeling better, and then after it is over it goes away and you are still not better than with you were before you started.
This administration has spent a year trying to figure out there's a socialist model for running America. The most recent was the demagogic attack on the banks last week, which led to the worst drop in the stock market since March of last year.
VAN SUSTEREN: We bailed them out and now they turn around with these gigantic profits and are paying these huge bonuses. And then turn around and lend us money at 29 percent and we lend them at five percent, or something.
GINGRICH: There are lots of problem with the banks. I feel letting them go bankrupt. I don't think we ought to bailout rich people. I know it's a bold position. I wouldn't have given $13 billion dollars to Goldman Sachs. I think this stuff is nuts.
But I also think, as an objective matter, when you have an administration which wants to raise taxes, wants to create bigger government, is inherently anti-business in its rhetoric, it is very hard for them to get the economy back on track. And that's why they have a huge problem.
They are going into this election with the worst unemployment numbers since the Great Depression. That's pretty amazing. Charley Cook made the point in a very powerful article that in the entire period since World War II there have only been 12 months in an election year in which unemployment was above eight percent. All 12 months were in 1982, and my party lost 26 seats that year from a base of only 192.
I think now you are likely to see every single month be above nine percent, and that is very bad for the Democrats.
VAN SUSTEREN: The president said Republicans have been obstructionists, that they have basically been the party of no on every effort to improve things, whether it's the economy or if it's on health care. I assume you disagree with that?
GINGRICH: John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House, offered an energy plan that would have created more American energy, increased income to the government, created more jobs.
The Republicans in the House created an alternative on health care that was actually scored by the Congressional Budget Office as being dramatically better financially and would have covered one-third of the people without insurance without raising taxes, without increasing government.
Mitch McConnell mentioned the other day, the Senate Republican leader, that something like 150 times on the Senate floor during the debates the Republicans talked about an alternative. It is fair to say the news media doesn't want to cover it very much, and it's fair to say if you're the president you don't want to admit it exists.
But the fact is if the president wanted a genuine bipartisan meeting on health care, on the economy, on energy, the Republicans have a number of positive ideas, some of which helped create at the Center for Health Transformation and at American Solutions, some of which come from a bunch of really smart guys like Paul Ryan or senators who have been working really hard on these issues, like Barrasso and Corker.
And I wouldn't underestimate that, but it's very hard for the Republicans to get the kind of publicity they need to get. And frankly, they need to be much more persistent in taking three, four, five, big ideas and talking about them for six solid months.
VAN SUSTEREN: In 2012 will it be Reid, Pelosi, and Obama after Election Day?
GINGRICH: I'm not sure. I think there's a 50/50 chance that Pelosi will be defeated for Speaker. She'll get reelected in the House, but I think there's a 50/50 chance Boehner would be speaker. I think right now the Republicans could just to about 47, or maybe 48 seats. It's a little hard to see how they get to 51. And they need 51 because the vice president breaks a tie.
But not very hard, particularly with the announcement today that Vice President Biden's son is not going to run. You have -- state by state, I think Mark Kirk is going to win the primary in Illinois, he's probably going to win the Illinois seat. And this means Mike Castle is probably going to win in Delaware.
You can go around the country and realize, gee, you could end up with 47, 48 Republicans in the Senate. That would be an enormous shift of power.
VAN SUSTEREN: You missed one, the president. Is he going to win in 2012?
GINGRICH: I think he's probably a one-term president.
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