OTR Interviews

Newt Gingrich Rising: 'There's a Real Desire Out There for Somebody with Substance'

2012 presidential candidate discusses new jobless rate numbers, his momentum in recent polls, the state of the White House race and more


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 4, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Republican presidential candidate Speaker Newt Gingrich goes "On the Record."


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


VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I'll give you the easy one first. Where are you?

GINGRICH: I am in Des Moines, at the annual Republican state party Reagan dinner.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now I'll give you the -- now we go into a little bit harder ones. Breaking news out of Greece tonight, the prime minister has survived the vote of no confidence. What does that mean for him, and what does that mean for us?

GINGRICH: Well, it means that the effort by France and Germany to bail out the euro zone will continue. It postpones a crisis probably for another month or two. And I think in that sense, it's probably better news than having Greece collapse tonight, so -- it was frankly a surprising result. The country is overwhelmingly against what's being done.

The two major parties, both of them, have less than 10 percent support each -- and they're the major parties -- because the country is so angry. So it's a great achievement I think in the face of very, very stern blackmail from Germany and France, saying that they would cut off the Greek economy totally if he lost it.

So -- but it does buy them a couple of more months. I think it means slow continuing decay. Italy is decaying. The crisis is a long way from over, but at least it's not a disaster.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you say it's going to buy it a couple more months, but as I understand it, is that the reason we sort of got into this no confidence vote is because the prime minister wanted to put to the people of Greece the question of whether or not to accept the austerity measures that Merkel and Sarkozy wanted in order to bail out Greece, and that sort of backfired. I mean, the people of Greece are not happy with the thought that they're going to have a lot of their benefits cut. So it is -- I mean, I don't understand how this is necessarily anything but, like, putting the lid on for a very short time in a very combustible situation.

GINGRICH: Well, I don't -- I don't -- to be honest, Greta, I don't know when the Greek next election is. I suspect if things don't improve -- and I don't think they will -- you'll see virtually every incumbent wiped out in every party. I think you're going to see a populist rebellion in Greece. You could see one in Portugal. You could see one I think in Italy.

There's a really deep level of popular anger in Europe. But the European system is designed to block the people from having power. The elites in Europe work very hard at controlling the European people by indirect means. And it's only when you get to referendums that you see how decisively the people of Europe are unhappy with the current governments.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, but we're not -- we're not simply bystanders on this. I mean, this really -- this matters to us, does it not? I mean, this rattles our economy?


VAN SUSTEREN: Maybe we're a little bit off to the side, but this really matters to us, what happens.

GINGRICH: Well, and I think, in that sense, you know, if you take the view it's better to wait and maybe the disaster won't happen, then this is semi-good news. Doesn't cure anything, pushes it further down the road.

After all, the Greeks last week agreed that the private banks would take a 50 percent loss, and people were immediately saying that's not deep enough. They need to take another 20 percent off. They should have taken a 70 percent loss on bonds.

This is part of what happened, as you know, with Jon Corzine, who turned out to be involved in a company that had been betting that these sovereign debts could not be repudiated. And when they took the 50 percent loss, the company he was involved in basically went bankrupt. So that's a piece of what's going on out there.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, let's -- I mean, to go back to -- at least deviate for a second to Jon Corzine's situation for MF Global. I mean, that's gambling. I mean, they -- I mean, they gambled...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... in a very risky venture, and now the company has declared bankruptcy. I mean, there's no other way to describe this one, I don't think.

GINGRICH: Well, and the challenge they've got -- and I'm not rendering any judgment here because I don't know enough. But the newspaper reports indicate the FBI is involved because there's some evidence that the company leadership was lying in their reports and was manipulating their debt in order to look like they owed less than they do.

So I think that that's a very significant possibility that you're going to see some criminal action there, just as you're seeing now problems with Solyndra. It could turn out that that particular company that Corzine is involved in was actually lying to its investors.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, we'll see what happens with Jon Corzine's company. All right, now to the United States. The news today, unemployment at 9 percent. That's the trend downward, but people are not taking to the streets and popping the champagne corks. Your thoughts on -- I mean, do you give it at least any credit for going in the right direction?

GINGRICH: Well, in the same month in his first term, Ronald Reagan was creating four times as many jobs. In September in his first term, he created 10 times as many jobs as Obama. When I was speaker, we created more jobs every one of these months than Obama's creating.

You know, the American economy has a natural desire to be prosperous and a natural desire to work, and so despite extraordinarily bad government, there are occasional brief signs of life. But I don't think anybody can take much confidence out of this. You're still in a situation of unusually high unemployment and unusually high long-term unemployment.

And you know, one of the, quote, positive signs today was you may now start seeing people drop out of the workforce by taking early retirement, so the numbers will look better because people quit looking for work. I somehow don't think that's a very positive sign about the American economy.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, actually -- actually, that's why I'm a little bit suspicious of this 9.0 number because there were 80,000 jobs added in the month of October, and the unemployment level went from 9.1 down to 9. In the month of August, I think that there were 100,000 jobs added, but the unemployment level stayed the same. So you would think -- you know, you would think that, you know, it should have declined in August, and it didn't.

So I actually think it might paint the situation that people are getting so discouraged, they're dropping out of the workforce, thereby, the number is going down a bit.

GINGRICH: I think this is the smallest male participation in the workforce in peacetime that we've recorded since the Great Depression. You're seeing people just literally drop out, quit looking for work. So what you're getting is 9 percent of a smaller workforce, when if we went back up to what had been our natural workforce in the '90s, when I was speaker, you'd probably be at 12 or 13 percent unemployment right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's also -- we're coming to the holiday season, and there will be some part-time or seasonal workers hired. But I did read a distressing report. I think it was Wal-Mart is hiring about half of what it did last year. So we're going to see even on the seasonal part-time work going into December, some numbers that probably are going to be discouraging to many.

GINGRICH: Look, I think it's a sad commentary on the president's total lack of economic understanding. But as an analyst -- and obviously, I'm candidate and I have a candidate's biases, but also as an analyst and a historian, I can't imagine this economy starting to recover until he's defeated simply because everything they're doing is destructive.

And I think that it is so difficult to look around and say, Well, tell me something they're doing that creates jobs. And I think in that setting, by stark contrast both with Reagan and with what President Clinton and I did on a bipartisan basis in the '90s, this is really a very difficult time, easily the worst period since the Great Depression.

VAN SUSTEREN: Which brings me to the question that -- you know, everyone who's running for president on the Republican side, no one wants to raise taxes. Everyone's against regulations because that's strangling the businesses, I'm told, the small businesses, and health care. Each wants to repeal health care because of -- the assertion is that that's also strangling businesses.

So I'm curious. I mean, like, if you all have the same economic policy in general, I mean, like, what's the difference? I mean, how does the voter decide?


VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, are you a little bit different than the others in policy?

GINGRICH: Look, I think different people are very different. Herman Cain has a 9-9-9 plan, which is probably the boldest. I don't think it works, but it's a very bold plan and a very big plan. Rick Perry and I both have an optional flat tax, which are sort of generally similar. There are some specific differences. Romney has I think the most cautious and almost the most traditional of the plans. It has the fewest changes.

But you're right. I mean, we're the people who believe in the private sector. We're the people who believe in small business. We're the people who believe in job creation. The Democrats are the folks who believe in big government and high taxes and bureaucratic unions.

And so there is, in fact, a natural pattern for us to move in the same direction. But I think you'll see -- if you were to put side by side Cain and Perry and Gingrich and Romney, you would actually see some fairly significant differences. And then in some cases, you'd see some things that are the same. And they sort of ought to be, if you think about it. I mean, we broadly believe in a similar playbook, even though we approach it somewhat differently.

VAN SUSTEREN: But you can see how, you know, it's, like, if you're sort of in the weeds and you're sort of a policy wonk, you might lay it side by side and see the differences. But I think, you know, I would suspect to the voter, is that, you know, you have so much in common that it really is hard to distinguish. It is -- it's hard to get in the weeds and to compare them. Now, the 9-9-9 is profoundly different, so that's an easier one. But the other policies are a little more...

GINGRICH: Well, and by the way, Romney's in the other direction. The way I would describe it is if Cain's over here with boldness, Romney's over here with timidity. And then you got Perry and Gingrich with optional flat taxes and other steps that are sort of in the middle of the four of them. And that's kind of how I would lay it out right now.

I have a lower flat tax than Perry. I'm at 15, he's at 20 percent. I have zero capital gains for everybody. He caps it at $500,000. I have 100 percent expensing for all new equipment. I don't think any of the other people deal with how do you modernize manufacturing and create manufacturing jobs in the U.S. the way I do.

But these are serious plans that are worth being studied. And I don't mind saying, frankly, that the primary voter, or in Iowa, the caucus goer, will have a chance to see them side by side. And it's useful thing for them to take a few minutes and look at them and try to understand what each of us is trying to do.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you know your plan is right? You know, it's, like, I mean, 15 percent is yours, Perry's is 20. Got a lot in common. I mean, like, you know, how do you know yours is right?

GINGRICH: Well, I know that mine is designed based on the years I spent with Art Laffer and Jack Kemp and Jude Wanniski developing supply- side economics, the years I spent helping pass the Reagan program, which did create millions and millions of jobs, and the years I spent as speaker of the House both bringing unemployment down from 5.6 percent to 4.2 percent and balancing the federal budget for four years.

So I at least have -- it's a little like going to a chef and saying, you know, How do you know what you're cooking in the kitchen will work? Well, I've done a lot of cooking in my career, and I'm pretty sure we can cook a lot of lot jobs. We can cook a lot of balanced budget. We can cook a lot of reform because I've been in the kitchen before and I've done it. So that's part of my confidence is just having done all this before.

VAN SUSTEREN: Except then you can get spiked, though, by something like, let's say, China all of a sudden really devaluing its currency down to, like -- down to the basement, something unexpectedly. And suppose that you had a Democratic House and a Democratic Congress that didn't want to work with you. Now you got a real problem.

GINGRICH: Well, then you have a different problem. But on the other hand, the purpose of leadership is to live in a real world, and so you have to respond to the things that do happen, you know, and you have to try to figure out how you're going to solve the problems that really do exist.

And both in the Reagan years, where we started with very high inflation, very high interest rates -- it looked like it was going to be a terrible period, and we worked our way out of it. And then when I worked with Clinton in a bipartisan effort to reform Welfare and to balance the federal budget, in both of those cases, you have to adapt yourself.

You know, what we got done was working with a liberal Democrat in the White House. So I would argue if you had a Gingrich White House and we if pick up a Republican Senate and keep the Republican House, we ought to be able to get a great deal done to put America back to work.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you must be happy with the ABC News/Washington Post poll. It shows that you're -- you're coming up to -- pulling up the rear. You're now up to 12 percent. You're in the double digits. Why is that? What do you think -- why are you numbers coming up? Does it have any impact on what's happening with the others, or is it your message?

GINGRICH: Well, I think the debates have really helped, and I think that the sense that substance matters. This is probably the most worried the American people have been since the Great Depression, and I think that there's a very deep sense that things aren't going right, that Washington is on the wrong track. I think Congress is at, like, 9 percent approval.

And so think that there's a very real desire to have somebody who has substance. And you know, I think the model of our campaign is the tortoise. Every day, we go a few more feet. We keep moving forward. There's a new poll coming out in Iowa tonight that's very encouraging and shows us really moving in a very good direction, almost tied for second with Romney here now.

And so I think these things keep coming. We're going to keep talking about how do you develop really bold proposals. People who can go to Newt.org, see our 21st century "contract with America." And I think you'll see this is the most substantive campaign in modern times. And we're going to keep growing and adding even more substance over the next few months.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I think it's -- I would think, you know, for the people who love to watch these races, another variable in this is that 45 percent said that they would change their mind, which to me is a huge element of intrigue. There's a lot of people out there -- I mean, even those who have made up their mind, that they're willing to change their minds. I mean, I think that makes the...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... a very fluid situation.

GINGRICH: Look, I don't believe anybody can tell you what's going to happen. Experts out here have told me that they believe when the Iowa caucus occurs on January 3rd that at least a third of the people walking into the room will not have finally made their mind up.

Now, when you have that level of fluidity and that level of opportunity, then if you're an optimist like I am, you think there's a real value to going out and talking about your ideas, talking about your solutions and encouraging people to look at substance.

And hopefully, we'll convince them that, you know, having tried somebody who was inexperienced and clearly is a failure, it would be nice to take somebody who actually knows how to do this and see if we can't get it done together.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, which brings me to -- which reminds me (INAUDIBLE) a great question. January 3rd -- will you do "On the Record" on January the 3rd?

GINGRICH: I'm confident I'll end up doing "On the Record" on January 3rd. I can't imagine, Greta, how I'd get out of it.


VAN SUSTEREN: Neither can I, now that you've said it (INAUDIBLE) the entire nation on television. So I'll see you before then, but January 3rd, we'll have it marked off. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

GINGRICH: Talk to you soon.