Transcript: Newt Gingrich on 'FNS'

The following is a rush transcript of the May 10, 2009, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Joining us now is the former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. He is also the author, along with his daughter, of a new book called "5 Principles for a Successful Life."

And, Mr. Speaker, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."


WALLACE: House Speaker Pelosi continues to deny that she was ever briefed on the enhanced interrogation techniques that were actually used against Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah.

But a newly released list of congressional briefings — and let's put it up — says that Pelosi received, quote, "a description of the particular EITs," or enhanced interrogation techniques, "that had been employed," this just a month after Zubaydah had been waterboarded 83 times.

How do you explain the discrepancy?

GINGRICH: Well, I think she has a lot of explaining to do. I don't. She clearly — she's now changed her story again and said well, she'd been reassured they were all legal. So initially she didn't know about it, had not been briefed. Then she had been briefed, but it wasn't clear. Now she'd been briefed and, in fact, had been told it was all legal so she didn't worry about it.

I think she has, you know, a lot of explaining to do. I think on national security matters, she has an obligation either to say nothing or to tell the truth. And it's pretty clear in this case she's not telling the truth.

But I think it leads to a much deeper issue, which is since 1993 when seven people were killed at the World Trade Center, we've had two cycles. We had a Clinton administration that thought this was a criminal problem, that issued — that refused to allow the CIA and the FBI to cooperate, that refused to pressure Saudi Arabia or Yemen to go after people who were killing our folks. And then you had a bush administration that said this is a war. I think the administration — if the Obama administration can release documents from the last eight years, they ought to go back and release documents from the previous eight years. I mean, what — what were the legal rulings of people like Holder who, after all — you look at this administration, they've got at least...

WALLACE: Attorney General Holder, who then...

GINGRICH: Attorney General Holder.

WALLACE: ... was the deputy attorney general.

GINGRICH: But you look at — when you look at the Obama administration, the number of attorneys they have appointed who were defending alleged terrorists — I mean, there's this weird pattern where the Bush people wanted to defend Americans and were pretty tough on terrorists.

These guys are prepared to take huge risks with Americans in order to defend terrorists. And you look at who...

WALLACE: Who is defending terrorists?

GINGRICH: Oh, I think — well, Holder's firm has 17 alleged terrorists that they're representing on a pro bono basis, for no fee. It's the largest single thing they were doing for free — was defending Yemenis.

I think there are five different attorneys in the — in the Justice Department appointed by Obama who had direct — their firms were defending alleged terrorists.

WALLACE: I want to ask you about one other aspect of this. Pelosi says even if she was briefed on this that there was nothing she could do because these were classified briefings. She and the Republican chairman of the committee got this information. There's nothing they could do.

You as House speaker received these kinds of briefings back in the '90s. If you objected to a secret operation, was there something you could do?

GINGRICH: Sure. I mean, the first thing you do is call the president and tell him you will feel compelled to pass a law cutting off the money. I mean, there are lots of things you can do if you want to do it. The Congress is pretty powerful if it wants to be.

And second, you know, they've had control since January of 2007. They haven't passed a law making waterboarding illegal. They haven't gone into any of these things and changed law. In fact, they've had several — they — recently, you find that Attorney General Holder's own Justice Department is saying, "Well, you know, some of these memos are actually right. They're not wrong."

So this is — what we're seeing now in a very sad way is as bitter a partisan attack on the Bush people as we've seen since the McCarthy era. The degree that they're putting specific people at risk for criminal prosecution is unprecedented in modern America.

WALLACE: Meanwhile, the Obama administration says that it will close Guantanamo by next January and that some detainees who are judged not to be security risks will be released in this country.

Question: If you're going to try to get other countries to accept these detainees, don't we have to do our share?

GINGRICH: This is nuts. I mean, this is just crazy. These are — these are not American nationals. We have no obligation to keep them here. They ought to go home. Now, are their home countries saying, "I won't take my own citizen?"

The idea we're going to put alleged terrorists on welfare and have you pay for them and me pay for them, so they get to be integrated into American society — remember, all these people were brought in on the grounds that they were trained in terrorist camps.

So we're now going to take a guy who we don't have conclusive proof and we're going to put him in American society paid by the American taxpayer because his home country won't accept him? Why is his home country not accepting him?

WALLACE: Well, let me get — let' take one example, the Chinese Uighurs, Chinese Muslims...


WALLACE: ... who were arrested in Afghanistan, brought to this country. The Pentagon says they're not enemy combatants. At least one federal judge has said they're not a threat. But if they go back to China, they're going to be prosecuted.

GINGRICH: Why is that our problem? I mean, why — what — if the — if the — what — what is it — why are we protecting these guys? Why does it become an American problem?

WALLACE: So what, send them to China and...

GINGRICH: Send them to China. If a third country wants to receive them, send them to a third country. But setting this precedent that if you get picked up by Americans — I mean, the Somalian who was recently brought here who's a pirate — I mean, if you get picked up by the Americans, you show up in the United States, a lawyer files an amicus brief on your behalf for free, a year later you have citizenship because, after all, how can we not give you citizenship since you're now here, and in between our taxpayers pay for you — this is, I think — verges on insanity.

WALLACE: Well, let me give you something else that I think you're going to like. There are also reports that after suspending the military commissions in January, the Obama administration now intends to revive them, although with added protections, legal protections, for the suspects, for the defendants.

Is it good news that they at least recognize that they can't actually make cases against these people in regular courts?

GINGRICH: It's very good news that they're backing off from regular courts, but they still haven't come to grips with how hard a problem this is. You pick somebody up because you have a confidential informant who tells you this person is, in fact, a terrorist.

You may have gathered information out of wiretaps. You have a variety of other sources. Now, his defense attorney would like you to share with them all the ways in which you spy on terrorists, which they will then promptly give back to Al Qaeda and other terror organizations.

I think the best case to look at is the Italians who used very, very strict methods in going after the mafia in Sicily after they killed Judge Falcone. And they found that if you share things with the lawyers, the lawyers take it right back to the organization, and — and therefore, they adopted very strict rules.

WALLACE: Let's turn to the economy. The unemployment — where there has been some good news. Unemployment appears to be slowing. If you believe the stress tests, the banks are more solvent than we had believed. Is the Obama economic plan working?

GINGRICH: I think it's certainly slowing down the rate of decay, and I think we have to recognize that this particular Mother's Day we have a lot of families that are in very difficult circumstance, and there are likely to be more over the next six months.

The challenge for the — and frankly, when you spend as much money as Treasury has been spending and the Federal Reserve has been spending and the administration in general has been spending, if you weren't slowing down the rate of decay, it would be truly terrifying.

I mean, these folks have been pouring billions of dollars into the system. They paid one French bank $15 billion, for example. And you would think at some point that volume cash will have a short-term effect.

The challenge for the Obama administration is going to become when we finally level off at a much lower level than we were three years ago. And it's very hard to get economic growth with a trickle- down bureaucracy, a $9 trillion debt, and tax increases on people who are productive and create jobs.

WALLACE: You and Reverend Al Sharpton — some would say it's an odd couple — met with the president privately this week to discuss education reform. I don't want to talk specifically about that.

There were stories back when you were speaker that you would be very upset and then you'd get into the presence of Bill Clinton and he could charm you.


WALLACE: Can Barack Obama charm you?

GINGRICH: Well, he's not charming in the same sense that Clinton is. I mean, President Obama is a very smart, very gifted person, a very good strategic thinker. He's a pleasant person.

The fact is Clinton was charming, but we got welfare reform. Now, he was charming, but we got a tax cut. And he was charming, but we balanced the budget. So I'm perfectly happy to be charmed by somebody who says yes.

In the case of President Obama, he made very clear that he is committed to eliminating the caps on charter schools, which is very good news for children around the country. He and I disagree about vouchers in D.C. for children, but he would like to — but he's prepared to fight to lift caps on charter schools everywhere. That's good news.

And he made clear that Secretary Arne Duncan should work with Mayor Bloomberg and Reverend Sharpton and myself to try to arouse public interest in dramatic education reform. I take him at his word. I mean, we're going to disagree about tax increases, but we could agree on the need for dramatic school reform.

I think you ought to work with the president of the United States when you can.

WALLACE: A couple of questions I want to ask you before we run out of time. The last time you were here we talked about the fact that you have converted to Catholicism. President Obama is speaking at the commencement at Notre Dame a week from today. And this week, the head of the Vatican's highest court spoke out very sharply against that. Let's watch.


ARCHBISHOP RAYMOND BURKE: The proposed granting of an honorary doctorate at the Notre Dame University to our president, who is so aggressively advancing an antilife and antifamily agenda, is rightly the source of the greatest scandal.


WALLACE: Is Notre Dame wrong to honor the president?

GINGRICH: I think that to the degree that Notre Dame still thinks of itself as a Catholic institution, it raises real questions.

One, it invites somebody who, as a state senator, voted to protect the right of abortionists to kill babies who were born — who were still alive after the abortion. And I think the president's position has been the most radical pro-abortion of any American president. So I think there is a legitimate question there.

But look. I'm a new convert. I'll let — I'll let the Vatican speak for the church. I'm just speaking for Newt Gingrich.

WALLACE: Wait a couple of years, and then you can start speaking for the pope.


Finally, there was a lot of talk this week about the future of the Republican Party, and I want to put up some of the comments.

Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and, obviously, brother of the former president, said, "There was a lot of nostalgia and the good old days, but it doesn't draw people toward your cause."

Colin Powell said, "The party must realize that the country has changed. Americans do want to pay taxes for services. Americans are looking for more government in their life, not less."

Mr. Speaker, what...


GINGRICH: Look, if Colin Powell was right...

WALLACE: Pardon?

GINGRICH: If Colin Powell was right and Joe Biden was right, and paying taxes is a terrific opportunity, let the president propose a general tax increase on every American. Let's get every single American to pay taxes.

That's not what the president is proposing, because in fact, Colin Powell's wrong. The average American doesn't want to pay higher taxes. And at a time of a severe recession, raising taxes is very destructive of economic growth.

WALLACE: And is your party stuck, as Governor Bush seemed to suggest, in the past?

GINGRICH: I think that the party, for example, of Governor Jindal, who's doing a great job in Louisiana, of Governor Pawlenty, who's doing a great job in Minnesota, or Governor Barber, who's doing a great job in Mississippi — I think that party's going to have a great future.

And I think people like Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy are going to have a great future in the Congress. We did — Calista and I did do a film about Ronald Reagan, "Rendezvous With Destiny."

I have a deep belief that Reagan's principles, like Thatcher's principles, like Lincoln's principles, relate to the future. But I don't - - I'm not for nostalgia, but I am for learning from the past in order to create a solution-oriented Republican Party.

WALLACE: Mr. Gingrich, we're going to have to leave it here. Thank you for your insights. You really have to learn to get things off your chest here.


Always good to see you.

GINGRICH: Good to see you.

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