This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," March 21, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.
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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Now for the top story tonight, a look at today's press conference, joining us from Washington, FOX News analyst, Newt Gingrich.
You know, this Helen Thomas has been out of bounds for a long time. And I was happy to see him make it a little bit personal. I think he should have done it a long time ago. What say you?
NEWT GINGRICH, FOX NEWS ANALYST: Well, I think he needed to make it very direct. When somebody gets up and accuses the president of the United States of systematically lying and of wanting to go to war and risk the loss of young Americans, I think a president has to come back very aggressively or they are going to give some credence to the attack. And I thought the president was effective. I thought the fact that he kept coming back, he kept basically following through with his explanation, he did not let her try to interfere and knock him off balance. I thought it was good.
Plus, I think sometimes people in Washington get too cynical, too professional, too aloof. It's good for a president when it's life and death, war and peace — it's good for a president to show the passion and the depth of his own feelings and his own emotions so the country knows that this guy is real and not just posturing. I thought it was an effective presentation.
O'REILLY: Now, there is a difference between being skeptical as the Washington press corps should be. Would you agree that the Washington Press Corps has to be skeptical, that is their job?
GINGRICH: Look, I think reporters — I think citizens should always be skeptical.
O'REILLY: Alright, let me just walk through this...
GINGRICH: All right, trust but verify.
O'REILLY: So people get angry at David Gregory and we're going to see him a little later on with Laura Ingraham and Sam Donaldson and Dan Rather and people like this who are very aggressive in their questioning. But I say that's fine. You have got to be aggressive, you have got to be respectful, but now we're in a situation in America where I believe — and tell me what you think, because I'm very interested to hear it — that a good part of the American media wants to undermine the Bush administration. They're not reporters anymore, they're not analysts anymore. They're looking to undermine the president because they think he's a dummy or they don't like him for whatever reason. Am I wrong?
GINGRICH: No. I think it's clear that there is a — first of all, as you pointed out earlier, that the overwhelming majority of reporters voted for John Kerry, voted for Al Gore, voted for George McGovern, for that matter, way back years ago. So the underlying bias of the elite media is somewhere in the 85 percent or 90 percent range. I think people generally accept that. I do think that sometimes the press starts to run in a pack, and I think the current model is Bush is down, let's go kick Bush, you know, what's wrong with Bush.
And you know, frankly, he is about where Abraham Lincoln was in fighting the Civil War. He's in a situation that's very tough. He can't come in tomorrow morning and guarantee peace and he's got to do what he thinks is right, just as General Washington did in an eight-year American revolution, just as President Lincoln did in our bloodiest and most painful war. A president has to do what he thinks is right and live it out, and when reporters get too aggressive and too hostile, I think the president should in effect assert the authority of his office.
O'REILLY: Yeah, I think he should call them out, you know, Helen Thomas sitting there saying, you know, why did you want to go to war from the first moment you walked into the White House? That's absurd on its face. I mean, you could criticize President Bush for being too soft on Al Qaeda the first year he was in the office just as Bill Clinton was for eight years. You can make — that's a valid criticism and it's been made by Richard Clark and others, that he just didn't pay attention. So, the fact that he wanted to go in and cause, you know, the War on Terror is absurd. But I think that President Bush should have done this a long time ago. I think he should have put the press on notice a long time ago, that there is a line that if you cross over that, you know, I'm going to confront you and I'm going to call you on it.
GINGRICH: Well, I think the more important conversation the president has to have is with the American people. And I don't think he should ever lower himself to being the equal of a reporter, now, no offense to the reporters who may be watching, but the president of the United States is the only nationally elected unifying symbol of power in America. The vice president is a much lesser figure and the president of the United States stands for all of us. You may like him, you may dislike him. And when you get to control and you get to war and peace and you get to young Americans risking their lives, I think the president deserves a certain substantial amount of respect. And when he doesn't get it, he, I think, should reach past those reporters and go straight to the American people.
O'REILLY: But, I'll submit to you that what he did today and what the folks just saw here on THE FACTOR have a lot of people applauding.
GINGRICH: I think that's right. And I think that not just applauding, but a lot of people who may have been wondering whether Bush really deeply believed what he was doing. I think having the passion of communicating that this is painful but necessary and he's going to do his duty is very helpful to the president.
O'REILLY: All right, we're going to take a break and then we're going to come back and talk nuts and bolts Iraq with the speaker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe Rumsfeld should resign?
BUSH: No, I don't believe he should resign. I think he has done a fine job of not only conducting two battles, Afghanistan and Iraq, but also transforming our military which has been a very difficult job inside the Pentagon. Listen, every war plan looks good on paper until you met the enemy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'REILLY: And I'm continuing now with our lead story, the presidential press conference today. We're talking with FOX News analyst Newt Gingrich. Here's the problem. In Iraq, everybody is saying OK, we may now be doing the right thing, but two years were totally botched, and then one year was a transition into doing the right thing. And then the reporters and many Americans also say well, well nobody paid a price for those mistakes, Rumsfeld's still sitting there. Is that a valid criticism?
GINGRICH: Well first of all, the biggest mistakes made in Iraq were not made by Secretary Rumsfeld. We had a decision to go with an American-centered occupation led by Ambassador Bremer. It was a terrible mistake. It cost us probably two years out of the three-year process. We're only now get getting right back on the right track with Ambassador Khalilzad who under Secretary Rumsfeld, by the way, had done exactly the right things in Afghanistan where we've had, generally speaking, a pretty big success.
Second, the bureaucracy just simply doesn't work. The military works extraordinarily well, but if you took the $18 billion the Congress thought was going to be spent in Iraq to help the Iraqi people, it would make you want to cry to realize how much of it was wasted.
O'REILLY: How much — I think you're letting.
GINGRICH: But these are not Rumsfeld problems.
O'REILLY: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait, wait.
GINGRICH: These are federal government problems.
O'REILLY: You got one of the commanding generals, last Sunday in the New York Times saying look, I was there. We told Rumsfeld and Tommy Franks that you can't let the Fedayeen melt away, they're going to come and get you. We told them that they had to have security in and around Baghdad so they couldn't loot all the weapons caches and they did. Now, you're telling me that the defense secretary didn't have anything to say about Fedayeen and security on weaponry? He'd have to.
GINGRICH: No. I'm saying that we went in there, and I don't know who made the final decisions, but I think they were above Secretary Rumsfeld pay grade. We went in there with a very specific plan of a light force hitting very hard, replacing the government of Iraq, the dictatorship in 23 days. If they had then followed through and turned over security to local Iraqi forces in the following three or four months, as for example, General Petraeus was doing in the north, I think you would have a totally different situation by the end of summer.
O'REILLY: But whose fault is that?
GINGRICH: The president of the United States as commander-in-chief.
O'REILLY: So, you think in Bush's corner, he made the mistake, not Rumsfeld?
GINGRICH: You'd have to look at why was Bremer sent over, why did they create a green zone, why did they set up a system that was American centered, with an American giving television speeches on Iraqi television, which is just wrong. It was just strategically wrong.
O'REILLY: No, I agree with you that there are mistakes made and also the president in every battle theater. You know this. You're a historian, I'm a historian. Every battle theater there are mistakes made. It doesn't do us much good to look back upon those mistakes now. But, we don't have a lot of time. I don't think the American people this time next year are going to still — and he's in the mid 30's now, favorability, are going to still back a stalemate. Am I wrong?
GINGRICH: Well first of all, I don't think you're seeing a stalemate. I think every week that goes by you're seeing more Iraqi policemen, more Iraqi soldiers, you're seeing a more coherent Iraqi society. And I think that frankly we're beginning to move into the right fight which is the anti-Iraqi terrorists having to fight Iraqis. The more Americans can pull back and be the reinforcement rather than the enforcement, the better off we're going to be and the fewer causalities are going to happen.
O'REILLY: Are you optimistic about Iraq?
GINGRICH: Strategically, yeah. I think eventually we'll win and the terrorists will lose.
O'REILLY: Eventually. How long is that?
GINGRICH: Look, Abraham Lincoln...
O'REILLY: Yeah, but that was on our soil. It's different. This is 5,000 miles away.
GINGRICH: No, it's not any different. The number of people who wanted to fire George Washington as general, the number of people who wanted to dump Abraham Lincoln.
O'REILLY: I know.
GINGRICH: You know, I understand. My prediction is that in the end the American people will — today in the last poll I saw, over 60 percent of the country is opposed to a sudden unilateral withdrawal.
O'REILLY: No, I think most people understand that would be a disaster. I just don't know the patience factor here.
GINGRICH: It's big — the patience of the American people is a lot bigger than the patience of the American news media.
O'REILLY: Well, that's for sure. Mr. Speaker, always a pleasure. Thank you.
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