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Transcript: Christine Todd Whitman Talks with Hannity & Colmes

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Jan. 27, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Our next guest thinks that the Republican Party is in danger of moving too far to the right and losing the centrist vote that was critical in helping them win the White House in 2004.

Joining us now is the former New Jersey governor, and author of the brand-new book, "It's My Party, Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America," Governor Christine Todd Whitman.

How are you?

GOVERNOR CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN (R), FORMER EPA ADMINISTRATOR: I'm good.

HANNITY: Good to see you. You know, I read this cover-to-cover.

WHITMAN: Well, thank you.

HANNITY: It made me mad in many ways.

WHITMAN: Oh, that's OK.

HANNITY: But you know what? I've always been a fan of yours.

WHITMAN: Well, thank you.

HANNITY: I've always known -- I'm a fan of Rudy's, I'm a fan of Governor Schwarzenegger. I am pro-life. I disagree with you on most social issues. But I love what you did with taxes.

You've always been a part of the Republican Party. A conservative president invited you into his cabinet. This is how you describe people -- and maybe I took this wrong -- I think, like me, far-right extremists, conservative zealots, conservative extremists, social fundamentalists, far- right base, extremist agenda, extremist right, far-right constituency, ideological zealots. Am I a part of that?

WHITMAN: No, you are not one of those.

HANNITY: I'm not.

WHITMAN: No, because the party that I always knew was a party that accepted -- had moderates, and liberals, and conservatives in it. We had everybody. Now we have some people who are writing litmus tests that say you can't be a good Republican and, oh, by the way, we're going to attack you in primaries. We're going to come after you to teach you a message, because you better tow the line or we're not going to support you. They're writing litmus tests that are writing out people in the party. And my concern here is, let's start a dialogue. Let's recognize this is a big country, and our strength is our diversity.

HANNITY: All right. I read the book very closely. And, as I said, I read it cover-to-cover. This was my feeling, that it was particularly harsh.

And what I -- if I'm not it, and I was trying to get this out of you earlier, who specifically are we talking about? Because you don't -- you mention at different times [Dr. James] Dobson and [Jerry] Falwell -- I don't know. Is that who you're referring to? Who are you talking about in the Republican Party? What people?

WHITMAN: We're talking about the people that sponsored the challenge to Arlen Specter because of his positions on abortion and said, "We are going to take out other Republicans if they behave this way." The ones who were after Marge Roukema.

(CROSSTALK)

HANNITY: Well, you mentioned to me...

WHITMAN: And, you know, Marge Roukema for years was attacked. She finally decided she wasn't going to run anymore because she was so tired of these primaries before of her position on abortion. And people are saying, "We're going to make sure that you're not there anymore because you don't represent us."

COLMES: Well, you let the administration -- I'm guessing liberals like me, most of them, this is great. Right?

WHITMAN: I don't think so.

HANNITY: She's not becoming a Democrat.

COLMES: Now, when you become a Democrat -- how about you and Zell switch places? That's fine with me.

WHITMAN: No, thanks.

COLMES: Did you leave the administration because you were uncomfortable with them or were they uncomfortable with you?

WHITMAN: No, I left the administration because I really wanted to spend more time with my husband. And we were getting -- the timing was such there was a particular decision I'd been working on for a long time, that I was uncomfortable with where they were going to end up. And I decided, you know, hey, the president was the one who was elected, not me. It's his right to have policy the way he wants it.

COLMES: Did you leave because he was too far to the right for you? Was he going in a direction you were not comfortable with, especially on the environment?

WHITMAN: There was an environmental -- a particular issue in the environment that I disagreed with. It was his administration, and he had a right to have that policy the way he wanted it.

COLMES: Which issue was that?

WHITMAN: This is New Source Review, as it applied to power plants. And so I thought, "Let him put somebody in that position who would be comfortable signing that regulation." I wasn't.

COLMES: What did Karl Rove mean when he said -- you put this in your book. He said you were one of three cabinet officers that would help decide whether the president would be re-elected. This was the beginning of the first term. But you didn't elaborate in the book about what that really meant.

WHITMAN: Well, I thought what it meant was that we could go ahead with the kind of programs the president and I had talked about, about trying to bring some sense back into the environmental policy, to understand that you can do it beyond just command and control, that you can do partnerships and make it work.

COLMES: You said you were naive about it. What did he really mean?

WHITMAN: Because I think what he really meant was, "We don't want to talk about it a lot." That was the frustration. This administration has a better record on the environment in many areas than people believe, because we never talked about it, because the base doesn't like environmental policy towards regulation.

COLMES: So, in other words, we're going to do these things, but we're not going to publicize it, because that's going to hurt our base?

WHITMAN: Right, and we'll publicize some things that the base loved that...

(CROSSTALK)

COLMES: But be publicizing, they could actually expand their base, is what you're saying?

WHITMAN: Yes. Well, that's my concern about the parties on both sides. There seems to be this attitude now -- instead of you get elected and then you try to expand your base, it's you get elected and you just try to lock in that base. And the Democrats are just as bad on the left.

COLMES: Did you ever express some of these concerns to the president directly?

WHITMAN: No, that was never my position.

COLMES: Or to Karl Rove?

WHITMAN: When we went in, we talked about the issues of the day, I mean, whatever the environmental issue was.

COLMES: With this book -- and there was a lot of advanced publicity. Have you heard from anybody in the White House or high-ups in the Republican Party about their discomfort with this?

WHITMAN: No, and I don't expect to. The White House doesn't review books, nor should they.

HANNITY: We'll take a break. We'll come back with Governor Whitman.

And you go after Karl Rove and the president in the book.

WHITMAN: OK.

HANNITY: And we'll ask you about that when we get back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLMES:

We now continue with former New Jersey Governor and author of "It's My Party, Too," Christine Todd Whitman.

You miss being governor?

WHITMAN: I do. I mean, I did. I don't want to do it again.

COLMES: Would you ever run for public office again?

WHITMAN: I don't think so, no.

COLMES: Not after this book?

WHITMAN: Well, that's why I could write the book. Because I can say things -- I don't have a political agenda, no office that I'm running for, so I can say things that I really believe a lot of others think about but don't say.

COLMES: You say how we handled the Kyoto treaty, as much as the way we've handled Iraq, you say, and the failure to take into account the interests of other countries have cost lives. That's a pretty strong indictment of what the Bush administration is doing there.

WHITMAN: Not of what they're doing in Iraq. I mean, whether we believe that we got there for the right reasons or not, we're there and we have to stay. And, certainly, the world is better without Saddam Hussein. There's not much question about that.

We need to be -- understand that we can't, no matter what happens to the elections on Sunday -- and I hope they go quietly, and you get a good turnout, and it's across the country, not just in certain areas -- we can't leave the next day. We have got to stay there.

COLMES: But you're saying our failure to work with other countries in Iraq is much like what happened with Kyoto, and that's been...

(CROSSTALK)

WHITMAN: No. Really what it is, is the problem is, we didn't -- when we withdrew from Kyoto, we did it in such a way that we sent a message to the rest of the world that we really didn't care about what they cared about. We only cared about what we care about. And that made it more difficult when the president started to put together the coalition for Iraq. And you can add the steel tariffs and a couple of other things that we did, also, that made people think the United States only cares about itself, which they wanted to believe anyway.

COLMES: Is the Republican Party being disingenuous when at its convention they put up front George Pataki, and Rudy Giuliani, and Arnold Schwarzenegger -- who are pro-choice and are the kind of Republicans I think you're talking about in the book -- but that doesn't reflect the platform. It's certainly not what the Bush administration has been preaching. Is that disingenuous?

WHITMAN: No, those are real Republicans. And they represent real constituencies. That is the Republican Party that I know. And that's the thing that I want to do with this book is to get people to recognize that those are the people -- we need those people in the party, too. And that's why we have the Web site that is mypartytoo.com -- to give people a place to go to -- I'd like to start a grassroots movement, so that a Rudy Giuliani or George Pataki or a Tom Ridge could actually be considered. I'm not saying to get the nomination...

HANNITY: But it's also the party of conservatives. You can't hold out conservatives.

WHITMAN: Oh, no. You have got to have everybody.

HANNITY: Let me ask you this. I have read the criticism, for example, you have of Karl Rove when you say he focused so rigorously on the narrow conservative base. "We must ask at what price to governing, at what price to the future?"

You criticized the president on environmental issues. You said you couldn't sign on to the proposal, and you've been there in the environmental issue. You criticized not building a strong enough international coalition support. Is it loyal -- I mean, a conservative president invited a liberal Republican into his administration. It's your party, too. He invited you in.

WHITMAN: Right.

HANNITY: He's not finished with his administration. Is it loyal to criticize him and his top architect while they're still in office as soon as you get out?

WHITMAN: We are in the second term. 2008 will be the first time since 1952 where neither party has had an incumbent, either a president incumbent -- president running for reelection or a vice president standing in.

If this isn't the time to talk about the future of the party, where it is and where it's going to go, I don't know when you're going to have it. And, you know, again, the book does not go after the president. This isn't about the president. Yes, there are some things on which I disagree. And, as I said on the New Source Review, I left rather than say anything about it, because he deserved something who was going to be comfortable signing that. Not me.

HANNITY: But you said you could not have signed onto the regulatory changes...

WHITMAN: No, I couldn't sign on.

HANNITY: ... quote, "that would have undermined the environmentally important New Source Review,"...

WHITMAN: Cases that were being brought.

HANNITY: ... the cases that were there.

WHITMAN: Right.

HANNITY: You said, quote, "The White House effort to build a strong international coalition and support at the start of the war didn't yield results." And you talked about the interest and concerns of other nations that we have to "acknowledge our failure" to acknowledge these interests and concerns of other nations...

WHITMAN: Well, you look at Tony Blair. Tony Blair was on -- made a statement, I guess, to parliament or I don't know where he spoke. I saw him on the news yesterday. And he was talking about the United States and Kyoto, and saying, "We shouldn't give up on the United States, but we need to engage the United States." He's under a lot pressure at home...

(CROSSTALK)

WHITMAN: ... because of the way we seemed to have walked away from Kyoto. It wasn't necessary. That's all.

HANNITY: You know as a former cabinet member, when you attack the chief architect of the president, is Karl Rove...

WHITMAN: I'm questioning, not attacking. I'm questioning.

HANNITY: I think it's pretty harsh criticism.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITMAN: I'm questioning -- you mean we can't?

HANNITY: The whole premise of the book is to really -- you are against his strategy.

WHITMAN: But, yes, I think he's been brilliant, and it worked. But I think, for the long term, it's going to be a real problem.

HANNITY: And you know, as a former cabinet member, any criticism you make of the president is going to be big news. Is it the -- look, I'm not judging this. I'm asking. You knew going in when you wrote this that there was going to be a controversy about your statements. And you knew that a lot of Republicans -- the one thing that I wish you would do is I wish you would name the names of the people that you think are -- that you are describing in this book as zealots, as social fundamentalists. I mean, that's a loaded term.

WHITMAN: And that's why I used it, to differentiate between those people and real conservatives such as yourself, because there's room for all of us in the party, except for those people who...

(CROSSTALK)

COLMES: There's not room for me in the party. I don't think you've got room for me in there.

HANNITY: But I just -- because I don't know these people. I don't know the people that don't want you or Rudy or Arnold Schwarzenegger in the party. And I think I'm pretty connected to the Republican Party.

WHITMAN: Well, you read some of the stories, and you read who's behind it, you know, the people who are quoted who are going after the various Republicans, because they're not Republican enough.

But, you know, you're right. Any criticism or any comment that isn't 100 percent supportive of an incumbent is going to be taken as an attack. But you know what? This is still a free country. We have to have a discussion. And I was very, very careful. I tried to be as careful as I could, not to just criticize the president for no particular reason...

HANNITY: You see, I think...

WHITMAN: ... but use the stories to illustrate the point and why I was concerned.

HANNITY: With the differences, though, we have, it's working. See, I think it is working. You know, I think -- if you want to know why this election was close, it was because he took a tough stand on a very controversial issue, the war.

WHITMAN: Oh, yes...

(CROSSTALK)

COLMES: We've got to run. Look, anytime you want to switch places with Zell, let me know. We'd love to have you as a moderate Democrat.

WHITMAN: Oh, no. No, thank you.

COLMES: Thank you very much. So you're staying a Republican?

WHITMAN: I'm staying a Republican.

COLMES: Thank you very much for being with us.

HANNITY: You're welcome in the party.

(CROSSTALK)

COLMES: Good luck with the book. Thank you very much.

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