Gingrich: 'Dereliction of Duty' by Obama in Gulf Oil Spill

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 26, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: The president isn't going to like this one. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is calling the president's response to the oil spill a "total failure." But it is not just the former speaker criticizing the president. Listen to Democrat James Carville.


JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He could be commandeering tankers and making BP bring tankers in and cleaning this up. They could be deploying people to the coast right now. he could be with the Corps of Engineers and the coast guard with people in Plaquemines Parish doing something about these regulations.

These people are crying, begging for something down here, and it looks like he's not involved. Man, you have to put somebody in charge and get this thing moving. We are about to die down here!


VAN SUSTEREN: Speaker Gingrich joins us live. He's the author of the book "To Save America, Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine." Mr. Speaker, nice to see you, sir.

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Good to see you. And I'm supposed to tell you that the people of Iowa love you and there's a big crowd out here watching this evening.

VAN SUSTEREN: Good, I love Iowa.

You have described President Obama's approach to the spill in the gulf of Mexico as a "total failure." James Carville is extremely passionate as well. Why is it a total failure, and what should he be doing?

GINGRICH: Let me say that first of all Alan Levine, a member of the cabinet for Governor Jindal, has been keeping me informed. And the average American would be astonished 35 days after this started to realize how bad a job the president of the United States has done and how much the federal government has failed.

For example, the Corps of Engineers is taking longer to do an environmental impact study of what or not to build a boom to stop the oil than the length of time it took the oil to get to shore.

A former vice president of Shell Oil has been going everyplace saying they ought to be getting supertankers exactly as James Carville said, that when this happened in the Middle East they pumped oil and water into the super tanker, separated the two, kept the oil, put the water back, and got a tremendous percent of the oil out of the ocean that way. It has been done before. They know how to do it.

Over the weekend, 50, 60 boats that have been leased by BP to try to stop the oil are all sitting idle with no authorization to go anywhere. And finally one of the parishes in Louisiana basically commandeered the boats and the governor backed them up in doing it.

Every time you turn around there's a sign of no organization, no structure. The coast guard admitted two days ago they have too few people in the area. This is 35 days after this started. It is a real dereliction of duty by the commander in chief.

VAN SUSTEREN: I realize people have to raise money to run, but the visual of him going out to California doing a second fundraiser for Senator Barbara Boxer is not a particularly good one to position against the passion in the Gulf States.

I'm trying to think what hands on thing should he be doing? He's going down there this week. What can he done? I understand all the disorganization and frustration, but what should he be doing?

GINGRICH: First of all, I think if you were to take every single day since the spill started and listed what the president was doing as opposed to focusing on this, it would be an appalling 35 day record.

Second, the coast guard five days after this started, the person in charge of the Gulf said it wasn't a big problem.

Third, the chief of staff of the department of interior went off on a trip to the Grand Canyon after this started and they had to helicopter him out to get him back into action.

Fourth, they still don't have a sophisticated command post coordinating the public and private activities. You can get a list from Governor Jindal that would be as long as this show of things he's been trying to push, bully, and browbeat the federal government into doing they ought to be doing on their own.

The Corps of Engineers is dysfunctional --

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me say about the Grand Canyon -- that was legitimate government business. It looked bad and sounded bad, but the guy was doing government business. It wasn't like he was floating down the raft.

GINGRICH: But, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: It was a bad decision.

GINGRICH: OK, It was bad timing.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is he not acting because, in your mind, because he doesn't get it, the president, or because he's worried about the politics and wants to keep some special interest group happy?

GINGRICH: No, I think that they have consistently underestimated how big the problem is. And they've been confused.

There are two problems. One is how do you stop the rupture from putting oil into the ocean. The other is what do you do about the oil once it gets into the ocean?

There's been no command authority, no focus that said let's look at everything that has been tried anywhere in the world and do all of them simultaneously. Let's save the Louisiana coast, save the fisheries, save the wetlands.

Instead we've seen the federal government slowly, ponderously, bureaucratically failing to come to grips with reality while the governor of the state has been begging them to pay attention.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me go to immigration. Yesterday when the president met with the Republican senators he didn't tell them about the 1,200 troops and then told them they would be getting those troops.

Do you have any problem with the way that was done? I hate to harp on it, but it seems so high school he didn't tell them when he was there. Maybe there's an explanation.

GINGRICH: Look, the 1,200 troops are high school. The idea we are faced with crisis on the border and that the crisis involves hundreds of thousands coming across the border, and the president thinks the rest of us are dumb enough to be impressed by a public relations stunt.

And that's what this is. This is a public relations stunt, and it is insult to every American who is worried about immigration, and it is an insult to the people of New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Texas. This is not a serious response.

Frankly, the country is going to get tired of government by public relations.

VAN SUSTEREN: and is he trying to keep some group happy or not?

GINGRICH: Look, I assume that somewhere after he attacked Arizona, engaged in what I think was a racist dialogue to try to frighten Latinos away from the Republican Party, stood next to the president of Mexico and said borders don't matter because we have strong bonds, had the president of Mexico get a standing ovation from Democrats for attacking an American state, and has his own State Department apologize to the Chinese for the Arizona law, somewhere in that process this pollster said maybe you are positioned a little bad on this issue.

And somebody on his staff said, I've got a great idea. Let's 1,200 troops to the border, that will sound tough. It is baloney. It is not a serious reaction, trivializing the problem.

And frankly this administration is trivializing the economy, Iran, the oil problem, the border. There comes a point when you can't do enough fundraisers to make up for the damage you are doing in our own administration.

VAN SUSTEREN: Speaker Gingrich, if you will stand by, sir. As you just noted, he is in the great state of Iowa. What possible reason? We'll ask him next.



VAN SUSTEREN: Continuing with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. He's live in Des Moines, Iowa. So why is he in Iowa? Mr. Gingrich, is there an innocent explanation or should we all be suspicious about 2012?

GINGRICH: Well, you know, Calista went to Luther College in Iowa. She always encourages know come back here. And the Polk County Republican Party was having a fundraising event. They will have a big year this year, a good chance to pick up the governorship and control the state legislature and reelect Senator Grassley and pick up one or two House seats in the Congress.

So how could I turn down an opportunity to come here and be with my many friends in Des Moines? Earlier today we were in Cedar Rapids. Iowa is a great place to visit.

VAN SUSTEREN: Good answer, but I remain suspicious.


How in the world is the White House going to get out of this mess with Joe Sestak? You have Sestak saying that he got offered a job to get out of the race, he said it twice, on camera the second time on Sunday.

You have Robert Gibbs saying it is not a problem, I'm told whatever conversations have been had are not problematic. But it is a quid pro quo situation as far as Sestak is concerned. So now what?

GINGRICH: First of all, Sestak I think has an obligation to tell who he was talking with. He has made an allegation that I believe would be a felony. I'm not a lawyer, but my attorneys have told me it would be a felony it was a direct quid pro quo, that is they offer him a job for dropping out of the fence. That would be a felony offence. And whoever did it at a minimum would have to resign from the White House.

So who did he talk to? Was it the president, was it Rahm Emanuel, Axelrod? It had to be somebody high up for him to believe they could offer him the secretary of the Navy job. So he owes the country -- don't give us half the story. Once you start down this road, you owe the country telling us the truth.

Second, I think the White House has to say who talked to Sestak, and those people have to appear and answer the questions. If their answers aren't convincing, I believe that Attorney General Holder has to appoint an independent counsel. After all, that's what happened in the Bush administration for a different offense, but an offense that was in the end much less significant.

If you have somebody in the White House who has been accused in effect by a retired admiral who is a member of Congress of his own party of having committed a felony by offering him a job in return for dropping out a race, the White House has an absolute obligation to identify who did Sestak talk to? That's a matter of record. And then have that person or persons show up and answer questions.

I think it is a big problem, not a small problem, particularly on top of the situation in Illinois where there are all sorts of allegations involving the former governor, who is now facing a criminal trial, in a situation which also involved the president's Senate seat where there were similar allegations that various deals were being offered.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm a little rusty on law, but I got a job for viewers if they should research after "On the Record," the failure to report a felony. I don't know if it applies or not, but it might put pressure on Congressman Sestak -- I'm not suggesting he be charged with a crime.

I just don't get his unwillingness to come to say what happened. It makes him look -- it actually makes him look small and dishonorable to say -- he's accuse the White House of a crime but then doesn't have the guts to say what he claims happened.

GINGRICH: It should be a matter of pretty straightforward public record. Who did he talk with? When did he talk with them? There can be that many people involved in these conversations. And those people have to testify under oath, and they have to be prepared to answer questions of the press.

And I think the president really has a tremendous problem here because every promise he's made on transparency he's broken. Here we are once again now faced with the possibility of a crime being committed by his White House staff and he is still stonewalling and Gibbs is stonewalling.

And it is not a laughing matter. This is a very serious question.

VAN SUSTEREN: Worse than stonewalling, I don't like the arrogance. I'm told that whatever conversations have been had are not problematic, like we're supposed to accept what Gibbs says because he's telling us. That is a little insulting. I think we need the facts from Mr. Sestak and anybody else involved.

But anyway, enjoy Iowa, Mr. Speaker. I'm sure you have plans to go back there, so enjoy it while you're there, sir.

GINGRICH: See you soon.

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