Transcript: Newt Gingrich on 'FOX News Sunday'

The following is a partial transcript from the April 16, 2006, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Many Republicans here in Washington are worried about whether the party will keep control of the House and Senate this November. How much trouble is the GOP in? We turn to the former speaker of the house and possible presidential contender Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Speaker, happy Easter, and welcome back.

FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH: Happy Easter. Glad to be here.

WALLACE: I want to start by showing you the latest Washington Post poll that is out recently. Take a look here. Fifty-five percent of voters now say that they plan to vote for the Democratic House candidate in November, while 40 percent back the Republican. That's plus 15 for the Democrats.

By way of comparison, back in 1994 when you led the Republican revolution that picked up 52 seats, Republicans led by only 41 percent to 36, or plus five, one month before the elections.

Mr. Speaker, are Republicans in serious danger of losing the House this November?

GINGRICH: I think they're in very serious danger of having a very bad election this fall. And I think that you have to respect — when you get poll after poll telling you basically the same thing, you have to respect the right of the American people to say they want change.

And the question for the Republicans in the next 90 days is are they going to become the party of real change, and are they going to learn some lessons and get their act together, or are they going to try to go into the fall campaign focusing one district at a time, hoping that somehow incumbency will survive public anger.

I think it's very dangerous to stay on defense when you get these kinds of numbers, and I would hope they would take a real message to the American people, which is not about general direction. It's about performance, and it's about specific components of what they're doing.

And this is true for the White House and it's true for the House and Senate. And I think, frankly, the debacle two weeks ago on immigration is one more piece of this. The McCain-Kennedy bill and the compromise that followed is so far from the average American that it further widened the gap and raised the danger of Republicans staying home.

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about that, because you keep talking about the Republicans, 90 days, get their act together. In fact, it seems to be exactly the opposite.

In the case of immigration, you had the House pass an enforcement-only bill which a lot of people reject. On the other hand, you had the Senate and Senate Republicans backing a bill that you call amnesty, in effect. So are you...

GINGRICH: Well, that's because it is amnesty.

WALLACE: All right.

GINGRICH: I mean, let's be clear what the bill is.


GINGRICH: It's amnesty.

WALLACE: If that's true, then both sides have got it wrong.

GINGRICH: I think that's right. I mean, look. I'm not here to be for the House or the White House or the Senate. I'm here to say as a Republican leader that the country tells us what they really want. I mean, the country is very clear about big issues.

The country absolutely wants a voter I.D. card. Eighty-five percent support says in a time we have 11 million illegals, you ought to know it's an American who's voting.

The country absolutely wants control of the border. I would be perfectly happy for the Senate Republicans to bring up a border control bill and have Hillary and Schumer try to stop it.

The country absolutely wants us to insist that becoming an American citizen requires you pass a test in history, in English. These are all 80 percent, 85 percent, 90 percent issues.

Now, I think that we do have to ultimately have a temporary workers program, which I'm very strongly for, and there's a way to design it, as the Krieble Foundation indicated, where you can get 75 percent or 80 percent of the country to agree.

Have a background check. Have a biometric requirement. Have a card that is run by somebody other than the U.S. government, because nobody trusts the government to do this in a competent way right now. I mean, we've had a terrible cycle — look at Katrina — of the government not performing.

I would also hope the president would get very angry about the level of non-performance in the federal government and send up a series of bills demanding real change in the federal government.

WALLACE: Let me ask you about another aspect in which some people would say that there's been Republican failure. Earlier this month, House Republicans couldn't agree on a budget bill to crack down on spending.

I want to show you a tough editorial in the Wall Street Journal this week that said — and let's put it up on the screen — a Category 5 political storm is building in GOP precincts around the country, and it is going to blow Republicans right out of the majority in November if they don't soon give their supporters some reason to reelect them.

Mr. Speaker, are Speaker Hastert and Majority Leader Boehner the right people to turn things around?

GINGRICH: I think they certainly have that potential. And they're the people who are going to have to turn things around because they're in charge. The fact is we're the party of taxpayers who pay for the pork. We are not the party that applauds the pork.

And I think sometimes incumbents forget that we're sent here to reform Washington. We're not sent here to be coopted by Washington. And I think this is a very real identity challenge for the Republican Party.

WALLACE: But I mean, that's a nice speech to make. But in fact, if you look at issue after issue, whether it's spending where the appropriations chairman, Jerry Lewis, opposed this bill that cut down on spending, or Boehner and Hastert, who seem to have backed off dramatic lobbying reform, I mean, truth to tell, haven't Republicans grown all too comfortable with power in Washington?

GINGRICH: Well, I said a couple minutes ago I believe for the Republicans to succeed in '06 and '08, we need real change, because I agree with you, what you just said.

Now, my hope is that looking at these numbers, going back home, listening to their constituents, that Republicans are going to come back to Washington determined to make a real difference and determined to change.

My hope is that the president, who's also looking at these numbers, is going to realize that the country is sending a signal. It's not a signal that they want liberal Democrats. The country does not want a contract with Vermont and San Francisco. The country does not want to go dramatically to the left.

But the country does want a much higher level of reform and tougher sense of performance.

WALLACE: So what do you do? I mean, first of all, you're talking about sort of a personality transplant in 90 days. There's no indication whatsoever that the people that are leading the House are interested in a Republican revolution.

GINGRICH: I'm not talking about a personality transplant. I'm talking about a group of 230-some elected officials getting together in a room, which we used to do all the time, and having a real argument, talking through a real strategy. I'm talking about the senators on the Republican side getting together.

And I am saying that if the president would aggressively look at the failures of performance of the bureaucracy and lead the Congress toward changing the bureaucracy, that the country could, in fact, get very excited again about the opportunity to make government work.

And today, if you look at the response after Katrina — and it's going to be really bad by September when we go back and have a one- year review and we realize how much of New Orleans is not fixed as of this coming September.

All I'm saying is, as a leader of the party, as somebody who's been down this road many times — I first ran in '74 the middle of Watergate. I got beat. I mean, I'm just telling you, you know, I've been down these roads. And I ran in '82 when we lost 29 seats. So I prefer to run in a year where we have a win behind us.

Nothing in the polling you've shown me and nothing — any pollster I've talked to says we have a win behind us. That suggests to me we had better think through tacking the sailboat, not just sailing into the storm blindly.

WALLACE: You made a stir this week with a speech in South Dakota in which while, on the one hand, you continued to support the basic — or you certainly didn't call for cut and run, after I read the full speech and not some of the news reports about it. You did say that the U.S. has made major mistakes in Iraq.

Do you agree with any of the criticism from those six retired generals that Secretary Rumsfeld went in with too few troops, went in without a plan, hasn't been listening to the generals?

GINGRICH: Look. First of all, Don Rumsfeld listens to generals. He doesn't obey them. We have civilian control. The president is in charge as commander in chief. The secretary of defense works for the president. The generals advise. The generals don't control.

But to say that Tommy Franks is not a general, to say that John Abrams is not a general, or Abizaid is not a general, to say that the people in charge of the Afghan campaign weren't military officers — that's an absurdity.

The fact is the old Army would have had six divisions in Afghanistan. The president and the secretary rejected that plan and insisted on a special forces air power system that worked. The old Army would have used 600,000 men.

And by the way, you can make a case, and I think it's a fair case, that Bremer's decision to disband the Iraqi regular army in June of 2003 — and I said this in 2003; this is not hindsight — that that was a mistake, given the size of the force that the secretary and General Franks created.

The secretary and General Franks created exactly the right size force to liberate Iraq, create an Iraqi interim government by June or July and pull back. It was the wrong force — and Shinseki would have been right and Colin Powell would have been right — if our goal was to occupy Iraq.

Bremer was confused. He behaved as though he had a 600,000-man force when, in fact, he had...

WALLACE: Rumsfeld agreed.

GINGRICH: Listen, I agree. I think that's the one major mistake you can say the secretary's made. Remember, the generals who are complaining now are symptomatic of the fact that in August of 2001, before 9/11, there was a cover of a major magazine that said Rumsfeld would be the first to go because the old Army was already objecting in August of 2001 to the kind of changes that are underway in the Pentagon.

WALLACE: Mr. Speaker, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you so much for coming in on a holiday.

GINGRICH: Thank you.

WALLACE: And we look forward to having you back again.

GINGRICH: Have a happy Easter.