OTR Interviews

Gingrich: I Think Voters Are Looking for 'Substance and Practical Experience'

GOP presidential hopeful on surge in polls, how he would address the problems of the inner city poor, an upcoming meeting with Donald Trump and more.


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 1, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: First, the GOP frontrunner, Speaker Newt Gingrich.


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


VAN SUSTEREN: All right...

GINGRICH: How are you doing?

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm doing very well. But you must be doing really well. I've seen the polls. You have a very bold statement tonight saying, I'm going to be the nominee. You have no doubt in your mind?

GINGRICH: Well, look, it's always up to the voters. And so we have to win Iowa on January 3rd. We have to go on and be very, very competitive in New Hampshire, which is Mitt Romney's base, and then we have to win South Carolina and Florida.

But I think we have a real chance to do that, and I feel very good about it tonight. The people decide. And in the end, they've got to make the decision. But certainly, it's moving in the right direction. You know, for a guy who was dead in June, this is pretty exciting.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it's one thing to say that you think you have a real good shot at it, it's another thing, at least you were quoted as saying that are going to be the nominee. Have you gotten a little bit more humble since you first made that statement?

GINGRICH: Well, look, it always comes down, in the end, to the voters. They're going to make the decision, not the news media, not the candidates, not the consultants. The voters will decide.

My hope is -- and I -- and I believe that they're looking for substance and I believe they're looking for practical experience in actually getting it done. And so I feel very good going into the Iowa caucuses. We have a very real chance to do much better than people would have guessed a few weeks ago.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you talk about substance. One of the -- one of the issues you were quoted on today, and I think a very important issue -- I'm finally glad to see it as part of the campaign. I haven't seen a lot of talk about it. But it's an urban policy because, you know, there's a lot of talk about the middle class, a lot about the rich, but there has not been a lot of talk about these urban centers that are suffering tremendously.

But it's sort of interesting you said that children in poor neighborhoods have no habits of working nor getting paid for their endeavors unless it's illegal. So explain that.

GINGRICH: Well, think about somebody who grows up in a neighborhood where nobody goes to work. They live in -- they live in a housing project where there are no examples of success. They don't acquire any of the habits. I first started thinking about this years ago, when liberals would say, Oh, you don't want to get a hamburger-flipping job. And I thought to myself, That's exactly backwards. Any job beats no work experience. Any job is the first step up on the -- on the ladder of success.

And when I interview really successful people, they very often started work 12, 13, 14 years of age selling newspapers, mowing lawns, doing something that enabled them to learn.

And so what I'm trying to think through is, could we build a new program that allows children who have come out of very poor neighborhoods to have some work experience that's practical, that's real, that gives them a little bit of money, teaches them there's a relationship between effort and discipline and a better future?

And I am absolutely dedicated to the belief that when we say we're endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among those, your life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that that applies to the poorest children in the poorest neighborhoods in America. And I welcome people to go to Newt.org and give me their best ideas.

But let's break out and let's start some new experiments and let's help the poorest children in America have a better future of actually pursuing happiness within honest, law-abiding jobs. And I think that means you want to start at a fairly early age, doing very light work, but nonetheless learning to show up, learning to do it, learning to be part of a serious, productive team.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I'm glad to see this as part of the discussion because even if you don't think that, you know, it's -- I think that the poor people get left behind in a lot of these debates. And even if you look at the economy as sort of like a three-legged stool, there's the rich, the middle class and the poor, is that all three have to thrive in order for the economy really to roar.

And there's a lot of attention on the rich and the middle class, but they're in -- in this environment, there has not been any -- a lot of talk about sort of lifting up the poor to really make them have success and opportunity. At least I haven't seen that.

GINGRICH: Well, and -- and part of this grew out of a -- a speech I gave at the American Enterprise Institute in response to then candidate Barack Obama's speech in Philadelphia. And the point I made was one of the keys to income inequality is the fact that we don't find mechanisms to help the poor learn how to be productive, learn how to be prosperous, learn how to budget.

And the trick is not just income transfer because if -- if all we do is give you money that you waste and you don't gain any new habits, you -- you, in the long run -- it's the opposite of Lao Tzu, who said, you know, to feed a man for a day, you give him a fish, but to feed him for a lifetime, you teach him how to fish. I want us to learn how to help the poorest children in America learn how to fish in a modern information age and learn how to make money and how to have jobs.

And that's why I'm trying to experiment with ways of, how do we help them break out so they can join the rest of us in leading productive, prosperous lives?

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, let's go from the big principles to actually sort of, you know, what would you do. Jack Kemp used to talk about empowerment zones. We've got cities like Detroit, which I always use as an example. It has an unemployment rate something like around 26 percent in the inner city, just horrible numbers.

What would you actually do, as the president, to sort of lift those communities up?

GINGRICH: Well, part of it is to create tax advantages for actually going into the city. When I was speaker of the House, we took a number of steps to increase people moving back into D.C., to make it more desirable for businesses to go into D.C. And Democrats like Donna Brazile will tell you that in their experience, I was probably the most focused on the District of Columbia of any speaker in their lifetime because I really wanted our national capital to prosper.

I gave a speech to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce two years ago in which I suggested in Mackinaw Island -- in fact, I think you were there that day -- that day -- I suggested that...

VAN SUSTEREN: I wasn't there...

GINGRICH: ... we look at...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... but I've been to Mackinaw Island a million times. I just dream of being there.

GINGRICH: Yes. Well, you were there with me one night, which is why I was thinking of this. But I was there and I said, We ought to consider - - if you have a zone that isn't paying any taxes anyway, consider having a tax-free component that would encourage businesses to invest, but combine it with deregulating the city bureaucracy, physical protection through a better police force, reforming the schools through parental choice so that the kids actually learn, taking it, combining a training program component to unemployment compensation, so if you get unemployment compensation, you have to sign up to be retrained so you're learning a usable, marketable skill.

You've got to have a holistic package like that to really begin to change things. And as you'll remember, Greta, one of the things that Jack Kemp and I worked on in the '80s is the idea of sweat equity in public housing to begin the process of letting poor people in housing actually learn how to take care of their apartments, learn how to take care of their building, learn how to ultimately, over time, earn some kind of equity because we want to migrate people away from being dependent and helpless and doing nothing and expecting other people to take care of them.

And we want to migrate them towards opportunities to earn how to be prosperous and take care of themselves.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, not attempting a "gotcha" question at all, but in order simply to understand, since you and Governor Romney are sort of the two lead characters -- two lead candidates, rather, not characters -- candidates, explain to me -- just give me one...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... one economic difference between the two of you, economic policy difference (INAUDIBLE) because it's hard to distinguish sometimes on the economic issues.

GINGRICH: Wait, wait. I'm still back on that -- was that a Freudian slip?

VAN SUSTEREN: I -- I fear it was.



VAN SUSTEREN: I -- I -- I definitely fear that it was, and I don't know how I can get a do-over on that, but I'm stuck with it. Anyway...



VAN SUSTEREN: So does -- so having made that mistake...

GINGRICH: Well, look -- look, I -- I -- I'll give you -- I'll give you an example.


GINGRICH: I want to have zero capital gains tax to bring hundreds of billions of dollars into the United States. And I actually asked Governor Romney at the Dartmouth debate -- we had a chance to ask questions -- why he capped his capital gains tax cut at $200,000 income because that's even lower than Barack Obama.

So here's a good example of the difference in our two approaches. I'm not -- I'm not concerned about fighting some kind of fairness fight with The New York Times. I'm concerned with creating the maximum number of new jobs. And I believe that a zero capital gains rate will bring literally hundreds of billions of dollars in to build new factories, build new -- new companies, create new opportunities almost overnight.

So that would be an example of the difference in our two economic approaches.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, today you signed a pledge to build a fence on our border. Where are you going to get this cash?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, all these (INAUDIBLE) baloney. You know, what we've done is we've created this muscle-bound, litigation- ridden federal government that can't do anything. We fought all of World War II in 44 months. Think of this. From December 7th, 1941, when the Japanese attacked us, to the surrender of Japan in August of 1945, is three years and eight months. In three years and eight months, we beat fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and imperial Japan.

Nowadays, we are so tied up in incompetent bureaucracy and in litigation, we can't do anything. Reagan wrote 25 years ago, in 1986, in his diary, "We need to control the border" -- 25 years.

I have pledged at Newt.org, if you go to the "21st Century Contract with America," that we will have the fence completed and be in control of the border by January 1, 2014. We are drafting a bill right now that eliminates all federal requirements. It goes back to a World War II model and says, Get it done.

And I've said over and over there are 23,000 Department of Homeland Security employees in the Washington area. I'm prepared to move up to half of them to Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, if that's what it takes to have the manpower to control the border.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, one of the biggest problems, as we all know, in Washington is the logjam, trying to get anything accomplished. Assume you're president and assume that you have a Democratic Senate. And I'll give you a Republican House. What makes you think you're any different from President Obama in actually sort of trying to break through the political divide, that you can accomplish something?

What makes you -- because that's -- that's the dynamic that we're missing right now, is the ability to sort of -- is to bridge that gap and get things done.

GINGRICH: Well, I think one of my biggest advantages as a potential president is the fact that I served for 20 years in the House. I was speaker of the House. I understand the legislative process. And I know that the first thing a president would have to do in the circumstance you're describing is reach out and find some Democratic senators who would work with us to get things done in a bipartisan way.

I've been trying to convince the House Republicans for several months to pass the Webb-Warner bill that allows Virginia to develop oil and gas offshore, written by two Democratic senators, absolutely the same principles that the House Republicans believe in. And it would allow us to pass a bill with no amendments, send to the Senate a Democratic bill. Now, how is Harry Reid going to stop that bill?

VAN SUSTEREN: Why aren't they -- why -- why didn't the House...

GINGRICH: You've got two Democrats who authored it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why aren't the House Republicans doing that? If that - - if that -- I mean, that's...

GINGRICH: I don't know.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... just the kind of block I'm talking about. How do you get the -- if -- if that's something you think is a good idea, how -- how do you get them to do that?

GINGRICH: I don't know. I keep telling them on television that they should do it. We'll find out.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right.

GINGRICH: But as president -- as president, that's the kind of thing I would try to do every day, is find some way to build some bridges so you have -- you don't need all the Democrats, but you need the most moderate 8 or 10 or 12. And then you can let the liberals, you know, be mad at you all the time.

I did this when Ronald Reagan was president. I was a junior member in the House Republicans. When Tip O'Neill was Speaker, we always had to get about a third of the Democrats to pass the Reagan program. And we did it over and over again by working the grass roots and by listening carefully to the Democrats that we wanted to work with.

VAN SUSTEREN: So I mean, I guess you're in agreement with me that that's a huge problem in Washington...

GINGRICH: Big problem.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... and a huge -- and in some ways...

GINGRICH: Big problem.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... it's almost seemingly insurmountable, which is so we -- you know, with the political divide.

GINGRICH: Well, it is right now. But you know, 1979, 1980 under Carter was a mess. Reagan turned it around in six months. I believe we could -- we could have a huge impact in a positive way in the opening weeks because I know so many folks and I've served there so long that I really do have a sense of how the Congress works.

And I think you've -- you've got to have a formula that lets you bring people together after the election. You can't just let the country fight for four solid years.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, now, one last question -- well, maybe not one last one. You are coming here to New York to see Donald Trump. You're making the pilgrimage on Monday. Why are you doing that?

GINGRICH: I was going to be in New York anyway and "The Donald" called and said he wanted to get together. I've known him for years. I -- I think he's a remarkable guy. He was in a -- a movie Callista and I did, a documentary called "City Upon a Hill." He was very generous and showed up in the movie.

I'm glad to drop by and see him. He's a very successful businessman, and he's one of the great characters in American life, you know? And I think -- who would turn down a chance to chat with Donald Trump for a couple of minutes and see what he has in mind?

VAN SUSTEREN: But you have to admit, it's sort of unusual. He has sort of emerged as the guy that all the Republican candidates are stopping in New York City to see, whether it's to have pizza or to sit in his office or whatever. I mean do you not think that it's interesting or novel or sort of -- how did this -- how did this evolve?

GINGRICH: Well, look, I -- I -- I -- look, I think he's become a phenomenon. Here's a guy who has his own TV show. He's obviously extraordinarily good at business. He is a character. And he's fun to visit with.

But I visit with people all the time. I wouldn't put any -- any unusual emphasis on this except to say I'm very interested to hear what his observations are. Obviously, I'd love to have his support down the road, just as I'd like to have lots of other people's support.

The difference is, there are very few people you go to visit with where you get the kind of publicity that you get from Donald Trump. And so that's -- but I'm sure -- you know, Callista and always look forward to seeing him, and he's always been very kind.

We once did a -- a fundraiser for the Palm Beach Zoo at -- at his place down there and raised a bunch of money for my good friend, Terry Maple. And he's always been very generous as a citizen. So I'm glad to see him.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, here's a fun question. I told you that was the last question. I guess I wasn't telling the truth on that. Congresswoman Bachmann told me last night she would consider Donald Trump for vice president. Would you?


GINGRICH: I don't think "The Donald" would take the pay cut. I think - - you know, I think he'd be -- I told him one time, You got to do apprentice presidents and do an entire show on who he would pick and how and why. But I doubt very much if he'd want to take a pay cut to be vice - - I don't see him as being vice anything.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Monday night, do you want to come back and talk to us about your meeting? Can we come back?

GINGRICH: Well, if we get a chance. I'm not allowed to schedule myself on the air. But if we get a chance, I always love being with you. You know that.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I...

GINGRICH: Nice try, though.

VAN SUSTEREN: I've gotten crafty too many times. I know your staff is finally hip to that. Anyway, thank you, Mr. Speaker.

GINGRICH: Thanks. Good to see you, Greta.