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Newt Gingrich: Administration's Oil Spill Response Is 'Pure Incompetence'

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," June 16, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Today on Capitol Hill BP stood for "bully pulpit" as the giant CEO Tony Hayward gave his first testimony on the disaster in the Gulf. And Democrats were not about to let this moment in the spotlight slip away without doing a little bit of grand standing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

CONGRESSMAN HENRY WAXMAN, D-CALIF.: It's clear to me that you don't want to answer our questions.

I'm just amazed at this testimony, Mr. Hayward. You're not taking responsibility. You're kicking the can down the road.

CONGRESSWOMAN JAN SCHAKOWSKY, D-ILL.: Simple fact remains that if BP had thought more about the residents, as these widows said and the workers — as these widows said, rather than the already exorbitant profits of its shareholders, we would not be here today.

CONGRESSMAN BART STUPAK, D-MICH.: In your opening statement you said as long as you are CEO of BP — CEO of BP — these things would occur. Do you expect to be CEO of BP much longer?

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

HANNITY: All right, when Hayward was actually afforded the opportunity to speak he sent this message to you, the American people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY HAYWARD, BP CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER: I've been to the Gulf Coast. I've met with fishermen, business owners and families. I understand what they're going through. And I promised them, as I'm promising you, that we will make this right.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: Now Hayward's testimony comes one day removed from BP's announcement that the company would set aside $20 billion in a compensation fund. As he noted in his remarks today, it was a move that BP had planned to make all along.

But in order to score cheap political points, the White House yesterday attempted to spin all of this as if the fund was the administration's idea.

Now some members of Congress have spoken out again the administration's bullying of a private corporation and so has U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. He reportedly voiced his concerns during a phone call with the anointed one, President Obama, saying, quote, "I'm not out to wreck BP."

It's clear the president and the radical environmentalists in his administration don't feel the same way.

And joining me now with more is the former speaker of the House, Fox News contributor, co-producer of the documentary, "Nine Days That Changed the World," former speaker, Newt Gingrich.

Welcome back to "Hannity."

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Good to be with you.

HANNITY: All right. First of all, what do you make of the — it really is frustrating to me because none of this grandstanding is going to help plug the damn hole. And none of this is going to clean up the Gulf, save jobs, save tourism, fishing. So I found this whole exercise today frankly obnoxious and I think it has to be related to the campaign 138 days from now. Your thoughts?

GINGRICH: Well, I — look, there's so many different things wrong right now that it's a little hard to put them all on one TV show.

HANNITY: That's sad.

GINGRICH: By what — yes, I mean — well, just to start with this compensation fund. Is this an effort by BP to avoid potentially lawsuits of much more money? How did they arrive at $20 billion? Was Obama the person who picked $20 billion? How would he know?

Should it have been $10 billion or $40 billion? Is the president really going to appoint a political crony to run this compensation fund? I mean, has America degenerated into a Venezuelan-style country where the leader gets to pick somebody to hand out $20 billion and we think that's not going to be corrupt?

All of this is outside the law.

We have bank — we have laws for suits that the Congress could create and the president could sign; a bill that have some kind of compensation process.

But to have it handled by press release? This is the kind of stuff that's going to convince every major business in the world to avoid the United States, to invest outside the United States because our political class seems to have lost any sense of balance and any sense of the rule of law.

HANNITY: If we want stay just technically for a second on the law and stay away from the politics for a minute, we already have a law. It's the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. And it very specifically says that — that the company responsible will be responsible and will have liability for all removal costs. And then they have a cap of 75 million unless there's some type of negligence proven.

So BP did not have to do this. And there's questions about whether or not in the end they're going to be able to fund all this or go bankrupt.

GINGRICH: Well, but first of all I think you have to assume that BP is going to be proven negligent. This was a terrible mistake. And it's clearly BP's fault.

HANNITY: Well, but the words in the law are gross negligence and willful misconduct. But every step of the way our federal government had to approve everything that BP was doing.

GINGRICH: OK, yes, but Sean, you know, I spent three years at Tulane in New Orleans. My younger daughter Jackie Kushner was born in New Orleans.

HANNITY: Yes.

GINGRICH: Would you like to go to — would you like to go to a jury trial in Louisiana right now as BP and have the U.S. attorney — have the U.S. attorney charge you with gross negligence? Would you like to bet on your odds of getting off? They're going to — they're going to lose this.

HANNITY: They probably would. But we've got to be fair and objective here. And the fair objective is, is that the government approved the lease. The government has an inspection process which we've since realized they've ignored. The government approved every action that they took out there in the Gulf. Gross negligence would also — or malfeasance would also — that burden would be on the government, too, would it not?

GINGRICH: Sure. The government would have to prove it.

But look, I believe both bureaucracies have been incompetent. I believe the BP bureaucracy was incompetent.

HANNITY: Agree.

GINGRICH: And has been every — and has been every single day since the disaster.

I believe the United States government is incompetent and has been every single day since the disaster.

If you listen to Governor Jindal, he — or you listen to James Carville, a Democrat — they're vivid in their description of how bad the government has been. I think the president is desperately playing PR games but he's killing jobs while he does it.

He killed jobs the other day, by putting in a freeze that was totally unnecessary on current activity in the Gulf. They had 30,000 wells in the Gulf. They've had one problem in the last — since World War II out of 30,000 wells.

The president is going to kill the industry in Louisiana if he's not careful. You have — in fact it turned out today in the lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal that the experts the White House claimed favored their position have unanimously repudiated it and said that it's false, they didn't do it, and in fact, they think this makes it more dangerous because it sends all of the people out of the Gulf who know what they're doing.

HANNITY: Look, and for my mind, there's plenty of time for finger- pointing. There's plenty of time for blaming. There's going to be plenty of time for lawsuits. But we're not — even to this stage, 60 days into this, we are not taking the action that is necessary to help solve the problem.

If you look at the front cover of Drudge, it links to a story "Against Governor Jindal's wishes, crude sucking barges were stopped by our Coast Guard." We still have not put a lift on the Jones Act and we still have 13 countries that we have now learned from three days in after the explosion that offered help, that we haven't accepted their help and assistance for this.

That seems to me — our priorities seem all screwed up here. And that's what's frustrating.

GINGRICH: I think — I think the Obama administration handling of phase II. Phase I is a disaster which is BP's fault. Phase II is the cleanup. I think the Obama administration has handled this worse and more incompetently than any major crisis I can remember in recent American history.

Everything you just said is true. I have a number of friends in Louisiana who've been keeping me briefed. And their level of anger at this administration is almost unspeakable. Because they see things like, the Corps of Engineers blocking the Coast Guard.

It turns out that building berms to block the oil was in the Coast Guard's original plan. And yet the Corps of Engineers has blocked another branch of the federal government. The point you just made, many foreign countries offered to loan us technical skills. It wasn't taken advantage of.

The point I just made: You look at the president's commission, there is no deep drilling expert on the entire commission.

HANNITY: Not one.

GINGRICH: And the president has this — he has an affectation or an affection for academic professors who write books, but he doesn't understand about the real world and real effectiveness.

HANNITY: Do you agree with me that I think the biggest problem we have here is that the environmental movement that pushed us offshore because we couldn't drill in ANWR or in shallower waters — the environmental movement that wouldn't allow us to burn which was pre-approved, that wouldn't allow chemical disbursements, we couldn't put aside our political differences to allow the Dutch skimmers that would have taken out 20,000 tons of sludge a day, probably from the first week moving forward.

Do you think that they're controlling everything here? Do you think there's another hidden agenda here that the president is so beholden to them that he doesn't —

GINGRICH: No.

HANNITY: No?

GINGRICH: I think he's — I think this is just pure incompetence.

HANNITY: It's pure incompetence.

GINGRICH: I don't think it's an agenda. I think it's incompetence.

HANNITY: Wow. Well, this is — this is incompetence that we will pay for for decades.

All right, we'll take a break. I have a lot of questions for you when we get back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: And we continue now with former Speaker of the HouseNewt Gingrich.

Mr. Speaker, there is — we have the show on Capitol Hill today. And Joe Barton, congressman, said you know what? This is a shakedown. We have a lot of other congressmen, you know, debating whether or not the White House is exceeding their constitutional authority by demanding that BP put all this money in escrow when in fact we have a law in place.

Does that question mean anything to you?

GINGRICH: Well, sure it does. I think the reports I've seen so far, that the president's claiming that he was responsible for this. BP is claiming they were going to do it anyway. But let's say the president was responsible. By what right does a politician decide that $20 billion is the right number? Why wasn't it 30 or 40?

HANNITY: Well, that's a down payment.

GINGRICH: Furthermore —

HANNITY: They left open the door. It's going to be a heck of a lot more.

GINGRICH: I think it will be a lot more. But I just think the idea that if the president is directly engaged in extorting money from a company, this is like General Motors and Chrysler where the administration basically stole money from the creditors who own stock and who had bonds to give that money to their union allies.

And what it's going to — what it says to the world is, be very careful about investing in the United States because the political class may take the money away from you if the trial lawyers don't get it first.

I think that kills more jobs. Makes it harder to recover.

HANNITY: Look, we're 138 days out of an election. I think this is going to be a huge political liability for the president and all those people that have supported him all along the way since he's been elected in 2008.

If you had to go back to day one in all of this, and I'm not saying 20/20 hindsight, what would you have done? If you were in charge and if you were put in charge tomorrow, what would you do? Because obviously it'd be a little bit different.

GINGRICH: Look, look. Those are two totally different situations. What the president should have done at the end of the first week was assign people to reach out across the planet to find every technical expert available on two topics. One is, what do you do about capping the well and stopping the oil flow? And the other is, what do you do about cleanups?

Now the first thing you'll discover is most of the experts are in the private sector, which of course if you are a left-wing Democrat it's very hard to imagine. So you've actually have to reach out to all the people who actually do this work for a living because they're the only people with real experience.

The second thing I would do is you'd call as many experts as you could to a meeting in Washington. You'd have Shell executives who 17 years ago used super tankers to clean up the Middle East. You would have the Dutch facilities, you'd have the Norwegian and Swedish facilities, you have the Japanese facilities.

You get them all in a room and you say, "We need a plan to throw everything we can to cleaning up the oil so it doesn't reach the shore." And you go to overkill. You do more than you need do to stop the oil from coming back into the United States and hitting the shore.

The next you do is you order the Corps of Engineers to get out of the way. When you realize the Corps of Engineers took longer to do an environmental assessment of buildings some islands, barrier islands, than it took the oil to reach shore. I mean if your environmental assessment takes longer than it takes to damage the environment, that's a bureaucracy that's stupid beyond belief.

HANNITY: Yes.

GINGRICH: And it's a good argument for fundamentally overhauling the Corps of Engineers. So there were a number of action items that could have been done from day one. And you would have integrated, frankly, Governor Jindal in the decision-process.

And the president should have been having a video conference every morning with the Gulf Coast governors to get — and eyes on assessment by the people elected by the local community.

HANNITY: What would you do now? I mean at this point, this late in the game, oil coming onshore, the hole has still not been plugged, where — would you start there then at this moment?

GINGRICH: You've got to now, I think, good move in parallel on three fronts. You've got to do whatever it takes to plug the hole and you've got to do them in parallel. You can't do one thing and then wait a week and do another thing and then wait a week and do another thing.

You say, "Tell me every possible device we could use. Get all of them here simultaneously." Even though that means you're wasting some money get them here at once and let's go at it head-on as fast as we can the way we fought World War II, which is to throw everything at a problem until you drown it.

The second you got to do , call the countries that have given you ideas and opportunities and say yes, let's stop the oil still coming out from getting to the beaches. And most of the oil, remember, is still offshore and you could be cleaning it up.

HANNITY: All right, Mr. Speaker, appreciate you being with us. Unbelievable. I can't believe the president still doesn't seem to get. Pretty incompetent.

Thanks for being here.

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