This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 30, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich blasts President Obama for not firing one of his cabinet secretaries. So which cabinet secretary? And why should he fire that person? Here's the former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, nice to see you, sir.
NEWT GINGRICH GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE/FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: It's great to be with you.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK, so yesterday, you unveiled your "21st century contract with America." And I've gone through it, or at least the 23 pages that I have of it, and frankly, I don't know how it's any different, essentially, from the other Republican candidates, other than that it's sort of it's your name on it and it's your packaging.
So help me out. How is it different from the other candidates' proposals?
GINGRICH: Well, all of our viewers can go to Newt.org and get their own copy of it. It has an entire section on brain science and things that would save trillions of dollars. I don't think anybody else has even talked about it.
It has a section on taking the judiciary back into balance. I don't know of anybody who's talked about that at the present time. It talks about a substantial rethinking of our national security strategy in a way that I don't think anybody else has addressed.
It talks about the use of modern management techniques, starting with "lean six sigma," to save up to $500 billion a year, fundamentally replacing the entire Civil Service process that goes back to the 1880s.
In addition, there are specific proposals to replace the Environmental Protection Agency with a environmental solutions agency. I don't know anybody else who's talked about that. There's a proposal for an optional flat tax, which is different than anybody else, I believe. And there's a proposal to create a 21st century Food and Drug Administration that is, I think, again, pretty significantly different from other folks.
So you know, some pieces, we overlap. There's no question. A number of us believe in zero capital gains tax to create economic wealth. I think Herman Cain and I both talked about the Chilean model of allowing young people to have personal Social Security accounts. Michele Bachmann introduced the bill to repeal Dodd-Frank, which I also believe in.
So there's some overlap of good ideas that we share, and then there's some areas that are really uniquely Newt Gingrich's "21st century contract with America" that I don't believe any other candidate has talked about yet.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, one place that was quoted saying that to secure the border, you might send one half of the 23,000 based (ph) Homeland Security employees there, the ones that are based in Washington. Does that mean that someone from Homeland Security accounting here in Washington is now going to be marching the border?
GINGRICH: Well, they might well end up being retrained. My point is, don't tell me in a multi-trillion-dollar budget we can't find the resources to control the border. And I've proposed two things. One is a bill to be offered very early in my term which would waive every other federal requirement and allow us to focus on getting the border controlled by January 1, 2014, period. No environmental impact studies, no complexities, no Bureau of Land Management problems. Just get it done as though it was wartime.
And the other I've said is if we need manpower, I'd rather have a wave of Homeland Security people in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona controlling the border than having them sit in Washington doing paperwork.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, every good idea that comes through Washington can run into an obstacle in the event that you have a divided House and Senate. I know the Republicans, you know, are hoping that they're going to have two Republican houses, and the Democrats hope for two Democratic houses. But is there anything that you can tell the American people -- let's say you have a divided House and Senate -- that would make any of your ideas more likely to pass? Is there any sort of unique skill that you might have or any way you can navigate these horrible waters of Washington?
GINGRICH: Sure. I'll give you a specific example that could be done right this minute if House Republicans wanted to do it. But before that, let me just say my past shows we can work together. In the Reagan years, I worked with Bob Michael and others. We had -- you know, Tip O'Neill was speaker. We had a Democratic House. In order to pass the Reagan program, which was very bold, we had to get about a third of the Democrats to vote with us, and we did. When I was speaker...
VAN SUSTEREN: How? How?
GINGRICH: ... in order to get our bills...
VAN SUSTEREN: How, though?
GINGRICH: ... signed by President Clinton, we had to find a way to work in a bipartisan manner, Democratic president, Republican House. When we passed Welfare reform, one out of every two Democrats in the House voted with us. It was 101 to 101. That's pretty darn bipartisan.
I would urge the House Republicans right now, pass the Webb-Warner bill -- Senator Webb, Senator Warner, both Democrats from Virginia. It provides for development of oil and gas offshore. It gives the federal government half the royalties, 37.5 percent to Virginia, 12.5 percent to land conservation and infrastructure. Send it exactly as it is to the Senate. I don't think Harry Reid could bottle it up.
You have two Democratic senators introduced it. Tim Kaine, the former Democratic national chairman, has endorsed it. If it goes through the Senate, I don't see how President Clinton could veto it -- I mean, President Obama could veto it. The fact is, it increases American energy, increases American jobs and increases revenue to the federal government. How's Obama going to veto that?
I think people have got to be a little more agile and a little more focused on finding bipartisan things that we agree on. You don't have to go out and compromise your values. But virtually every Republican would agree with the Webb-Warner bill. So why not pass it? It's the combination of those two things...
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, why isn't it passed?
GINGRICH: ... back home, as Reagan did...
VAN SUSTEREN: Why isn't it being done?
GINGRICH: ... and then finding things you can agree on.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, why isn't that done, if you say that it can be done? Because every single Republican and Democrat I speak to is pointing fingers the other direction, and each says that he wants to, she wants to, get things done. But here we are, locked up all the time.
GINGRICH: Well, that's part of why I'm running for president. I mean, I've lived through this twice in my life. I lived through it as a very junior member in the Reagan years. I lived through it as Speaker of the House when I -- in the '90s. I know how to do this.
I'm frankly as disheartened by everyone else by the mess that Washington is today, and I think I really could make a pretty big difference, and that's why I'm running and that's why at Newt.org, we have laid out a "contract with America for the 21st century" that I think is a very bold document.
But it relies on the American people. If the American people -- you know, if the House were to repeal Dodd-Frank, which it could do easily because every House Republican voted against it -- if the House would repeal it, then the American people would put pressure on the Democrats in the Senate to repeal it.
But you've got to get motion. You've got to have things happening, not just press conferences and arguments. You've got to have legislation under way. And as president, I would work very hard with both Democrats and Republicans to find the ways to pass the "contract with America," which is a very bold bill for job creation, balancing the budget and returning to constitutional government.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me hit you with some issues of the day. Let's start first with the Florida primary date being moved to January 31st. Last night, Senator Rick Santorum said in anticipation of it happening today, he thought, in essence -- my words -- that the fix was in, that this was a Governor Perry, Governor Romney influence, that one of them had something to do to move it up to their advantage.
Your thought about the Florida primary January 31st.
GINGRICH: I think the Floridians want to maximize their impact. They want to be the first really big state. They have been talking about this long before Rick Perry got in the race. And frankly, since Governor Romney lost the state after -- he outspent John McCain 10 to 1 in Florida and lost the primary. So I don't know that it's a fix for Governor Romney, either.
I'm going to do what the states decide. My guess is we're going to be in Iowa over Christmas and we're going to vote either on January 2nd or January 9th. I am assuming that the first primary will be in New Hampshire a week later, and we'll be going to New Hampshire and then we'll have South Carolina probably the Saturday -- either Saturday after that or Saturday a week after that, and then will come Florida. And I think there's a possibility you may get one or two more states piling on at about the same time as Florida.
This is going to make it very complicated. I don't believe anybody will have the pure amount of money to dominate this. The earned media, the debates, the ability to have a message, all those things are going to be very, very important. If you go back and look at Iowa, which Mike Huckabee won decisively, he was outspent I believe about 10 to 1 in Iowa and won. I think that money's useful, but money's not a substitute for ideas and it's not a substitute for people deciding you can be the best president.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, President Obama today -- or at least, it happened yesterday, but he was quoted today, saying this that has incurred the wrath of many people in the country, especially Republicans -- quoted as saying, "The way I think about it is, you know, this is a great, great country that has gotten a little soft. And you know, we didn't have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades. We need to get back on track."
He said that to an NBC affiliate in Orlando. And that reference about a little soft is what has grabbed the headlines. Your thoughts, sir.
GINGRICH: Well, we have been the most dynamic country in the history of the world. We have the most powerful military in the world. We've had an economy of extraordinary capability. You know, this is like Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter was in a total economic mess. He couldn't figure out how to solve it. None of his ideas worked. So he gave a speech on malaise and basically said, Look, we're all going to be miserable, but at least we can share the misery.
And the American people looked at it, said, No, the problem is you. And they fired him, brought in Ronald Reagan, and the recovery started almost immediately. The only thing soft about America is a president of the United States who doesn't understand America. If Barack Obama ceases to be president, we'll start to have a recovery. And I think that that's what he can't come to grips with.
He doesn't learn. He doesn't listen. He doesn't understand America. He doesn't understand economics. He doesn't understand job creation. He's the person who's soft, and it's his ideas that are soft because they're wrong. The American people are as tough as ever.
The young man I just talked to who had just come back from Afghanistan in the Iraqi National Guard -- I don't think they think they're soft. The business owner in Philadelphia I talked to two days ago who runs a small steel mill -- he doesn't think he's soft, nor does he think the people who work with him are soft. The school teacher I just talked to in Ames, Iowa -- she doesn't think she's soft.
It's Barack Obama who's soft, and the sooner he leaves, the sooner we'll get back on track.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do we seize in this -- in the media, in its environment, do we seize too much on words? He says the words about going -- about getting a little soft, and immediately, it completely saturates the airwaves as though that's his entire thought. And if you look at him at least -- you know, I mean, he certainly has today a significant event to put under his belt with the killing of two al Qaeda in Yemen. So I mean, is it fair for all of us to seize upon the one comment and hit him over the head with it?
GINGRICH: Look, I think it's inevitable. Every time I made a comment that gets hit over the head, you know, it's part of the business. It's what you have to be careful about.
Let me say about today -- he did the right thing. I want to praise him for that. It was exactly the right decision. He has -- in his role as commander-in-chief, while I disagree with him about some other things, on this particular decision, he did exactly the right thing.
Any American who is actively at war with the United States, any American who is encouraging the killing of other Americans is clearly an enemy combatant, is subject to being killed as an act of war, is not protected by our criminal justice system. And President Obama did the right thing in ordering the killing of these two people in Yemen.
VAN SUSTEREN: If you were the President of the United States and a Solyndra-type scandal happened under your watch, would you ask for the resignation of the secretary of energy? And if you didn't get it, would you fire him?
GINGRICH: I would fire every person involved in the decisions. I'd make the decision process public. I'd make all the documents public. And I would get every single person out of the government who approved it, including those in the White House who kept scheduling the meetings with a billionaire Democratic contributor who'd invested in Solyndra.
This thing smells. And there's information that there are more things coming down the road that smell. And a president like Eisenhower, who was concerned first for the reputation of the United States, would have cleaned house and would have made sure that everybody was gone who was involved in that decision process.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, a consumer question. Bank of America announcing it's going to charge $5 a month for using its debit cards. As president of the United States, or even what's your position on -- you know, Bank of America got a nice, big, handy bail-out from the American people. Did pay it back, but a lot of people are very upset about being charged $5 a month for this debit card.
GINGRICH: My advice is, if you don't want to pay it, go to somebody else and get a new debit card. You're not trapped by Bank of America. If you think that's too much to pay for it, don't buy it. Don't pay for it. Go somewhere else. Some bank is going to come along and have a free debit card because they're going to want the use of your money.
So I'm -- you know, I think there are times I'd let the market work its way out. If people will pay it -- I mean, it's a little bit like the ads I watch -- you know, as I fly around the country, the ads that I watch where Southwest has decided that free baggage is a really big selling product. They've got very funny commercials about getting -- you know, being able to ship your baggage for free when you fly on Southwest.
People will decide. You want to a slightly lower fare but you got to pay for luggage, or you're willing to pay a slightly higher fare and you don't pay for luggage. And you know, these things all sort themselves out. That's why we have markets. If people don't like it, don't buy it.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, what about the buzz with Governor Christie? Everyone's wondering whether he's in or out. He denies it. And then you've got the surge of Herman Cain. You know, tell me -- step back for a second, pretend that you're not one of the candidates candidate. Reflect on this race.
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, Herman Cain has had a great couple weeks. He was very, very powerful in the debate the other night in Tampa. He did very well in the Florida poll. My hat's off to him. You know, I've known Herman for many years. We fought "HillaryCare" together. He served on a tax commission that I helped create in the mid-90s. He is a terrific person. He has a great future, I think, in American politics and government.
Ironically, the two candidates who hailed originally from Georgia actually have more votes -- the two of us currently in the last poll have more votes combined than Romney and a lot -- and 10 percent more votes than Perry. So it's kind of interesting to see the Georgians are doing all right.
I'm not doing quite as well yet as Herman, but I think I'll catch up with him. But I've very happy for Herman. He's earned it. And he's a terrific person.
I think if Governor Christie wants to come in, he ought to come in. My only observation, as somebody who admires him and thinks he's done a very good job in New Jersey, is understand, as I think Governor Perry's discovered, the second you cross the line and you become a presidential candidate, you're in a different league. Different questions get asked. Different people start investigating you. There are different news media all over you every day. You know, it's a rough and tumble business.
He's a good guy. He was an effective prosecutor. He's being a very effective governor. He would certainly be an interesting person to have in the race. I'd say the same thing to Governor Palin if she decides she wants to comes in. This race is still wide open. Everybody who told us a couple of weeks ago it was a two-person race now understands how silly they look. It's a wide open race. It'll be wide open.
The first vote's going to be in Iowa about the 2nd or 9th of January. The second vote is going to be in New Hampshire in the first primary in the nation. Until those votes start coming in, nobody knows anything for sure. And so if Governor Christie wants to come and play, I'd be honored and delighted to have him at the next debate.
VAN SUSTEREN: Any chance you think there'll be anyone coming in as an independent? We hear noise -- I mean, Donald Trump, of course, has -- you know, has made that remark a lot of times to us. Governor Sarah Palin -- there's been some noise whether she'd come as a Tea Party candidate. Do you expect anything sort of unusual?
GINGRICH: Look, if we do nominate somebody -- I don't see anybody that fits this, so I'm going to be very careful. If we were to nominate somebody who infuriated the conservatives, then we'd have a problem because they would be so angry. The fact is, Americans want to beat -- those American who want to beat President Obama want to beat him so badly, they are so committed to getting him out of the White House, that they would be very hostile to a third party.
I get more comments that are positive about the fact that I refuse to attack my fellow Republicans because people are so concerned that we be unified in order to defeat Obama. I don't think there is any space in 2012 for a third party on the right. There may be on the left. If he continues to decay, if the economy continues to decay, I think you could see a third party on the left. But I don't think there is room for one against Obama. I think everybody who wants to beat Obama is going to vote for the main candidate to beat Obama.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, let me take the bait on that. Are you suggesting not necessarily a third party on the left, but someone within the party challenging him? Do you foresee any of that at all?
GINGRICH: I'm -- I'm not suggesting it. I'm just saying you can't have a president who is this ineffective and who wanders around doing things that make no sense and who -- he's given up being president. He just runs around and campaigns all the time. He doesn't seriously sit down with the Congress. He doesn't really try to get anything done.
If this economy decays much more and we end up with unemployment going up instead of down, I could imagine a circumstance where some Democrat is going to decide to run against him. And I'm not saying it will happen today, but I think that he is in greater danger of a third party from the left protesting his presidency than we are in danger of anybody splitting the anti-Obama vote.