This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," July 25, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: We are less than six months away from the first votes being cast in the 2008 presidential election but former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, well, he may not be satisfied with the Republican candidates.
The Washington Examiner reported this week that the former speaker said at a breakfast sponsored by the American Spectator that the field of Republican presidential candidates are a pathetic bunch of pygmies. The former speaker, Newt Gingrich joins us. He is a FOX News contributor and author of the new book "Pearl Harbor."
Mr. Speaker did I see a little smile on your face there? Did you say that?
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: What I did was quote Charles de Gaulle describing the Fourth Republic and Jim Pinkerton, as you know well, actually got the quote accurate in his column, which was a totally positive column. And the point I was trying to make even though Mayor Giuliani, Governor Romney, Senator Fred Thompson are terrific people, the process by which we are currently trying to pick a president inevitably reduces them in stature and inevitably, I think, limits their ability to have a serious dialogue.
Something, frankly, you and I have talked about on this show and on your radio show and anybody who had been watching “Hannity & Colmes” would not have been surprised at how strongly I dislike the current presidential selection process.
HANNITY: Well, I know you don't like the process. But you have said many positive things about, for example, three top candidates. That would be Rudy Giuliani, assuming Fred Thompson gets in the race and Mitt Romney. I have only heard you say positive things about them. But you also are saying that they got it wrong on a strong inspiring vision.
GINGRICH: Look, absolutely. I mean, I was quoting General de Gaulle who was describing the absolute failure of the French Fourth Republic, a place I had lived as a child when my dad was serving in the army.
But the underlying point is really important. The Republican candidates, all of them, should be striving to describe in historic terms how they will change Washington, how they will change government, what they will do that is different. And they have to describe it so vividly that it gets past the elite news media. I don't see at the present time that level of clarity.
Although, again, it's not fair to say of Senator Thompson, who is not even in the race yet, how he will perform once he gets in.
HANNITY: Listen, I think your admonition and your criticism of the process has been dead-on accurate. I think the questions are often irrelevant, meaningless, there are no hard questions being, you know, put to the candidates.
But, this is one time, I'm going to have to press you on your specific comments and about your potential future because this is what you said. You said, “If in mid-October it's quite clear that one or more of the current candidates is strong enough to be a serious alternative to the Clinton/Obama ticket, you don't need me to run.”
And then you go on to say if it becomes patently obvious, as the morning paper points out, Democrats out raising Republicans by $100 million and at some point people decide we are going to get Hillary unless there is a radical change, then there is a space for a Newt Gingrich candidacy.
GINGRICH: But, Sean, that's exactly what I have been saying. All I said was very clearly, if in fact — and we have three fine people out there running right now. If they fill the space, then I'm going to continue to work on American solutions and I'm going to continue to develop new ideas. We are going to continue to do the kind of workshops we will do on September 27 and 29.
If, on the other hand, it begins to be very obvious that we need somebody who is willing to go toe-to-toe with Senator Clinton and talk through the fundamental differences in America's future, that's a different situation.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Are you suggesting…
GINGRICH: Come October, I have a hunch I will be talking with both of you on radio and TV and we will see where we are.
COLMES: I think you will be announcing on my radio show. I think that's the way we are going to do it.
But look, there is no question, and Sean brought up — the pygmy comment seemed to be an analogy. I know you brought up in the context of what Charles de Gaulle said, but it seemed to me you were comparing the current field to pygmies. If I were Rudy Giuliani I would have taken that personally. It seems to me that you were comparing the current field of Republican candidates to…
GINGRICH: No. First of all, it was not a reference to Republican candidates. It's a reference to the whole political process. Have you watched recently, Alan, the U.S. Senate? Have you watched the pathetic trivial public regions bologna that Senator Reid is carrying out?
COLMES: You were talking about the presidential candidates.
GINGRICH: I was talking about the entire current system by which this country tries to govern itself. And the fact is that the Congress has earned the lowest approval rating in the history of the Gallup poll and it has earned it because it is doing such a bad job.
COLMES: But you weren't taking a slap at Congress, you were taking a slap at the presidential race.
GINGRICH: I was quoting General de Gaulle about the entire system. Let me say it clearly, Alan. The entire current Washington system is a pathetic mess and we need his historic leadership to break out of where we are. And 30-second answers in an audition with 11 people standing there is no way to break out.
COLMES: Do you think, for example, Rudy Giuliani cannot offer that type of leadership?
GINGRICH: I hope he will. I hope that Governor Romney will. I hope that Senator Thompson will.
COLMES: How are you going to know ahead of time?
GINGRICH: Frankly, it would be nice to see some Democrats do it.
COLMES: I happen to think they can.
GINGRICH: The fact is right now what you have is people giving patently political speeches in patently political settings. You don't get the kind of sense you got from Ronald Reagan of a historic effort to define America's future in a way that takes on Washington.
COLMES: The New Yorker magazine reported a few weeks ago that Newt Gingrich is one of those who fear that Republicans have been branded with a label of incompetence. He says that the Bush administration has become the Republican version of the Jimmy Carter presidency when nothing seemed to go right.
And he went on to say not since Watergate has the Republican Party been in such desperate shape. Is that an accurate representation of your views? That's what you were quoted as having said.
GINGRICH: This morning it was quoted that the president is at about the same level of disapproval as Harry Truman at the bottom of the Korean War and as President Nixon just before he resigned. Now, I think to say that we need to do dramatically better is an understatement. The fact is the government isn't working very well. It's not because of Republicans. It's because the underlying bureaucracy of this country is failing.
As you know, Alan, I have on YouTube a FedEx vs. federal bureaucracy video that's been seen by over 650,000 people because it so accurately captures the gap between the ability of UPS and FedEx to deliver packages accurately and the inability of the federal government to even find 12 million people who are here illegally.
COLMES: Just a day after the YouTube Democratic presidential debate bickering broke out among two of the decided front-runners. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama went at it a bit over Obama's plans to meet with troublesome world leaders like Fidel Castro, perhaps, if he is elected next year.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The question was very specific as to whether either of us would talk to a list of leaders, five countries with which the United States has serious difficulties within the first year of becoming president and I thought that was irresponsible and, frankly, naive.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you want to talk about irresponsibility and naiveté, look at her vote to authorize George Bush to send our troops into Iraq without an exit and then asking the Pentagon what the plan is five years later, the point I made yesterday in the debate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLMES: We now continue with the former speaker of the House and FOX News contributor Newt Gingrich. I know conservatives love the idea that two Democratic candidates are going at it. But that's what debates are really for.
And Reagan went to Reykjavik and Nixon went to China. Everybody said, oh, how can they possibly do that? Isn't that also what the 9/11 Commission said, we should talk to those with whom we disagree?
GINGRICH: I think Senator Obama is an authentic voice of the left. I think meeting with Fidel Castro makes perfect sense if you come from the American left because the American left fears the U.S. military. They fear the CIA. They fear the American government. They never fear our enemies. It would make perfect sense for him to openly announce he will visit with virtually any dictator on the planet who would be willing to have him.
COLMES: The American left never fears our enemies but fears the American government. I thought it was the conservatives, the Goldwater conservatives who spoke out against the government. It was Ronald Reagan who said one of the great lies is, "I'm from the government, I'm here to help you."
I thought it was conservatives who feared the government, but to say those on the left don't fear our enemies and don't want to protect this country, which is what you seem to be implying, is just inaccurate.
GINGRICH: I just suggested that it made perfect sense for Senator Obama, given his base of his support on the left, to feel comfortable going to see Fidel Castro. There is this wonderfully romantic notion on the part of people who never look in Fidel's prisons, never look what he does to poets and never look at what he does to people in democracy. Never look at what happens with people who flee the country. My daughter lives in Key Biscayne and was telling me over the weekend that they routinely have people land from Cuba trying to flee terror.
It's just interesting that on the American left somehow Castro is a romantic…
COLMES: Well, not talking all these years hasn't accomplished a whole lot. But I want to get to — the left is always accused of hating the war, wanting to lose in Iraq. You said on "Meet the Press" that the Bush administration has to admit the war in Iraq is a failure or it will never develop a strategy to leave the country successfully.
You said the war is a failure because of the strategy. You have said the Iraq War is a failure. People on my side keep getting blamed for saying that. And, thus, wanting us to lose.
GINGRICH: No, there is a huge difference, Alan. I know this is a little tricky. But I want us to recognize our problems so that we can develop strategies for victory. People on the left want us to, in fact, leave, to withdraw, to retreat, to legislate defeat. People on the left want to cut off General Petraeus before he even has a chance to try out what he is doing. You explain to me, why are people on the left so eager to legislate defeat in Iraq and not give General Petraeus the time…
COLMES: You're the one who called it a failure.
HANNITY: Mr. Speaker, let me move back to the issue you are dealing with Alan moments ago here. Hillary Clinton's criticism of Barack Obama as irresponsible and naive. I found a quote from her both from three months ago and 2005.
Three months ago she said, talking about George Bush, of course, "I think it would be a terrible mistake for our president to say he will not talk with bad people. You don't make peace with your friends. You have to do the hard work of dealing with people you don't agree with. I would begin diplomatic discussions with those countries with whom we have differences to figure out what is the depth of those differences here."
It seems that she is calling herself naive and, you know, in that case…
GINGRICH: But it goes back to the point I made a minute ago. How can you have any doubt about our fundamental differences with Fidel Castro? He runs a vicious dictatorship. He puts people in jail permanently. He has been an avowed enemy of the United States for his entire career.
Our differences with Ahmadinejad and Iran are pretty straightforward. He said he wants to eliminate Israel from the face of the earth and defeat the Anglo-Saxons. He says that publicly. It strikes me you don't need to have long discussions with a guy who tells you to your face he wants to destroy you.
And so, the left always has this excuse. It's sort of like when President Clinton's secretary of state danced with Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang in what I thought was one of the more bizarre moments in American diplomatic history. Or when President Clinton's secretary of state sat on the runway in Damascus and the Syrian dictator wouldn't see him. Never got out of…
HANNITY: I want to ask you this. Based on what you see evolving here for the 2008 election, I don't really have any doubt that it's probably going to be Hillary Clinton. I have a very strong feeling she will probably pick Barack Obama as her running mate. Strategically, tactically, what do you recommend for the Republicans both in Congress and the presidential candidates? How do they compete with her?
GINGRICH: I wrote, as you know, in my newsletter that there is a French lesson for Republicans in the election of Sarkozy who called for a clean break with Chirac although he was in the Chirac administration. And he ran as the candidate for change.
I think Republicans ought to pick five or six items. I would start with English as the official language of government, for example, and draw the line sharply with the candidates of the left.
COLMES: Didn't the Bush administration just meet with Iran in Baghdad two days ago? Aren't those diplomatic talks going on?
GINGRICH: And it was a failure.
COLMES: Well, you can't go by that one day. Thank you very much for being with us, Mr. Speaker.
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