OTR Interviews

Newt Gingrich Goes 'On the Record'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," August 17, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, is fed up, so fed up, in fact, he thinks Congress should be called in right now for an emergency session. What's his gripe? Former speaker Newt Gingrich went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, nice to see you, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: Brand-new book, "Pearl Harbor." You wrote it?


VAN SUSTEREN: Did you have fun writing it?

GINGRICH: Yes. It's very exciting to be able to imagine characters and imagine events and try to put them together.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you didn't copy, like, the World Book or the Britannica.


VAN SUSTEREN: When you write these books, how do you do that? Do you, like — do you have a set time every day?

GINGRICH: Well, there are three of us, Steve Hanzer and Bill Forstchen and I. We're all three historians. We start a year, year- and-a-half out, and we begin to argue and put together a book and do research. And then we get down to one day at a time. So what would happen then and how do you do it and how do you put it together? Then Bill Forstchen does the first draft, and it comes to me. I do an entire second draft. Goes to Hanzer. Comes back to Forstchen. And we do it all on word- processing track change. I do most of my writing actually on the airplane, so you know, I'll pull out my computer and start banging away.

VAN SUSTEREN: Switching gears — very tough words you had about immigration and about the president and Congress in the last few days. "Sickening," I think was the word that you may have applied to both of them.

GINGRICH: Well, what I said was that when you have three young college students executed on a Newark street, and we talk a lot about violence in Iraq, we talk a lot about violence in Afghanistan, these three young students were executed on an American street in Newark.

VAN SUSTEREN: Told them to kneel against the wall.

GINGRICH: And then just shot. And the fourth one was shot but luckily so far has survived, and then you learn that one of the people who did the shooting was an illegal immigrant who had just been indicted one month earlier for raping a five-year-old and threatening to kill her family, so you take that, and, you know, I have a wife that I love. I have a mother-in-law. I have two daughters. I have a granddaughter and a grandson.

And I start — and this goes to the way I write history. You personalize this, and you say to myself, what if those were my children? What if those were my grandchildren. And you think yourself, it is absolutely unacceptable for the government of the United States to fail to protect Americans at home. It is unacceptable for the State of New Jersey to fail to protect Americans at home, and Mayor Booker cannot defend Newark if the government of the United States does not defend America.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you're sympathetic to the mayor?

GINGRICH: Absolutely. The fact is that that person should never have been in Newark. He should never have been put back on the street by the criminal justice — You know the system better than I do. How do you release a person who has just been indicted on 31 counts for the level of violence and evil that he was indicted for? Why would you put him back on the street?

VAN SUSTEREN: Here is the even more appalling part about this. There is a young woman in Oregon, a 15- years old, who was just murdered. The two who were in jail also here in the country illegally trying to rape her and apparently standing on her throat so she could not resist. She died. That's the allegation.

The Newark story got a lot of attention, but immigration — this is not really a new issue where you have illegal immigrants who have been accused of crimes in this country. So what does it take to wake up?

GINGRICH: The reason I called for an emergency session of Congress, just a three-day session, to pass a very simple law, to say, one, the government of the United States will have a database that will be able to access real- time that you can access to find out whether a person is legally here, two, every person picked up anywhere in America by any jurisdiction for a felony, will automatically be checked to see if they are here legally, and three, if they are here illegally, they will never again be let on American streets. We will never let them go.

Now that is a pretty straightforward law.


GINGRICH: And my final was to say the following. One. Why are the politicians on vacation for August while Americans are dying? We talk about the war overseas — what about the war here at home?

VAN SUSTEREN: And you include the president and Congress.

GINGRICH: Absolutely. And what I said was that the president should call the Congress back into an emergency session. The entire country should watch for three days, and at the end of three days, they can either pass a law that defends Americans, or we all know we should replace all of them in both parties. Because this is not a partisan or Republican comment. I am fed up.

We were talking about the Minneapolis bridge earlier, we were chatting. I am fed up with the idea that we cannot control the border. We cannot build levees that work in New Orleans. We cannot help the people of New Orleans when the levee breaks. We cannot expect a bridge to know whether or not it is going to fall. We cannot protect three college students.

You just described a young woman who was not protected in Oregon. We have the folks who were burned to death by Americans tragically in Connecticut, tragically. But we have a level of violence and a level of bureaucratic incompetence coming together and I think the average American — I hope every person who watches this, if you see your congressperson or senator and they are at home, ask them why aren't they in Washington passing this very simple bill which we named in honor - we actually wrote the bill. We named it in honor of the three people who were killed in Newark, but you can imagine naming it for every person killed by an illegal in the last two years having a really long title of the bill.

And saying in their memory, why doesn't this Congress not come back and pass this law? Why doesn't the president signed the law? And then why doesn't the president drive the bureaucracy to do its job?

VAN SUSTEREN: What is it going to take?

GINGRICH: I think it is going to take a level of public outrage that breaks through the bureaucratic resistance, the political elite resistance. In the sense that if I describe this, I must be a racist, as opposed to the notion that these were three African American college students who got killed. Why is not legitimate to defend their right to be alive? They did not get to go on vacation. They got killed. And I think until the country is angry enough, the politicians are not going to do anything of substance on this topic.

VAN SUSTEREN: But these topics, you hear about them on the nightly news and we are all outraged for a week and everyone moves on until the next one.

GINGRICH: That is what we should ask every presidential candidate in both parties. Would you call the Congress back in to session? We ought to ask the ones who are currently serving in Congress, would you ask your leadership to come back in special session?

But I think - and here's why I think we ought to have an emergency session. We have to break out of the rhythm that everything goes at the pace of bureaucracy and political correctness and business as usual, and we have to say, Americans are dying overseas and we better do a better job, Americans are dying here at home and we'd better do a better job, and let's break up the bureaucracies that are failing, change the rules until they work, and get to a point where America can be safe again.


VAN SUSTEREN: Is the former speaker going to call President Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas? We have much more with former speaker Newt Gingrich in a minute.


VAN SUSTEREN: Former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is fired up. He wants to make America safer, he wants to end bureaucracy, and guess what? The former speaker has a plan. We asked him why he is speaking out now.


GINGRICH: The reason I now say these things publicly is that for six years I tried to get these ideas across.

VAN SUSTEREN: And they ignored you?

GINGRICH: There is always an excuse. There is always a be reasonable, there's always a later, there's always a you don't understand, there's always — and I just decided that as an American citizen, my obligation is not red versus blue. It is red, white, and blue. My obligation isn't as a Republican, it's as an American. My obligation as a husband, as a parent, as a grandparent is to say I am not going to wait around till it happens to somebody in my immediate family. I want something done to give this country a chance to defend itself. And we have to recognize there is a war here at home, and we have to fix it until we are safe, and if the news media aggregated killings in America the way we do with the kind of headline we get for Iraq, is that 15-year-old girl had been a headline, if every single time somebody was killed, it was a headline, this country would be in a frenzy to force its political class to act, not just a federal level, at the state level, at city level, at the sheriff's office.

VAN SUSTEREN: One of the people who is wanted - or who is under arrest in this New Jersey case was here in this country illegally. And that was abundantly clear last January when he made his first court appearance. There has not been a groundswell of interest in protecting our borders. There is a lot of talk and chatter, but I have not seen a lot of movement and progress.

GINGRICH: There is enormous interest outside the political class. Everywhere I go in America. I was in Dallas last night. I was in New York yesterday morning. I was in Ames and Des Moines over the weekend. Everywhere I go in America, when you get away from the politicians, the average American is totally fed up, and the problem is we have not raised the heat — Ronald Reagan used to say, he would show the public the light, and then they would turn up the heat in Congress.

This president and this Congress, these governors, these state legislatures, need to be put on notice by the American people that we are not going to risk being killed because of their unwillingness to do the job.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, the dopey question. When are you going to decide?

GINGRICH: After we finish the American Solutions workshops on September 27th and 29th. We will start assessing things on the 30th of September. And I will be talking to you, I'm confident, in early October about them. And I honestly do not know what we will do at this point. And things like the Newark murders push me in one direction and make me think we need much more aggressive leadership, and then you look at the cost and you look at the structure and you look at the way it is designed right now, and that sort of pushes me back the other way, so I try not to think about it. I try to think about solutions and on creative ideas, like having an emergency session to pass a very specific bill to protect Americans, and I am going to keep doing that for the next 60 days, and then we will see.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me ask you. If the president did take your advice tonight and did ask for an emergency session, how would he do it mechanically?

GINGRICH: He would send a letter to the speaker and the Senate majority leader calling the Congress back into session, probably 96 hours notice and defining for them what they should cover.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why doesn't he do that? Politically it puts - it boxes them in.

GINGRICH: We have no evidence that this administration has been serious about controlling the border. We have no evidence it has been serious about picking up illegal aliens and we have no evidence it's been serious about changing the Department of Homeland Security, whose bureaucracy is broken.

So .

VAN SUSTEREN: No - inept or self-interest or — it is just no interest?

GINGRICH: You should ask Tony Show. It's a perfectly legitimate question to say, given the murder you described in Oregon, the murders we have been describing in New Jersey, the obvious evidence the system is not working. Why isn't the president leaning forward to fix it? I do not know. I don't know. I am here on television with you because after six years of trying, I do not know.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think he does not know about this?

GINGRICH: No. I suspect he knows about it. And it takes a Churchill or a Roosevelt or a Reagan or a Lincoln to break out of normalcy, to do things that are risk-taking and divisive and to keep the system moving despite itself.

Protecting American lives from illegal immigrants who should not be here in the first place would be amazingly popular.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is also their job. That is what we hired them for whether it's in Congress or the White House or whatever. That is their job.

GINGRICH: Exactly. You would think that this would be very obvious, and you would think that it would be morally overwhelmingly important. I mean, again .

VAN SUSTEREN: If the president were here right now and the speaker of the House and I said, why are you not doing something? What do you think — let's take them one by one. What would the president say?

GINGRICH: I do not know. I cannot role play for them. I am here out of total frustration, because it strikes me as so obvious that we should pass these very simple building blocks steps, these first steps — I cannot imagine why anybody would say to you that we should not know if a felon is illegal.


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