OTR Interviews

Gingrich: Pelosi Attacks a 'Badge of Honor' in GOP Primary, Candidates Not Showing Up at Trump Debate Is 'Very Weak'

Surging GOP frontrunner on Pelosi's threats, White House race polls, Obama's speech and more

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 6, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Right now, former Speaker of the House and current GOP presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich. Good evening, Mr. Speaker.

NEWT GINGRICH, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I suppose I should just say I handed you the latest CBS polls and...

(LAUGHTER)

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VAN SUSTEREN: You laugh. Are you happy with these polls?

GINGRICH: Well, I've been on the show with you when I was really unhappy in June and July. So yes, this is a nice Christmas present. It's the holiday season, and I feel better about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I should point out that the new CBS poll has you -- commanding lead in Iowa. But that's tonight.

GINGRICH: That's tonight.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's tonight. OK. All right. Now, let me turn to the question of Speaker Pelosi. You said that she had given you a Christmas present. But in sort of seriousness, this could be rather punishing in a race when someone comes out and says something like, I have secret information about the person.

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, she doesn't have any secret information. It was all published. Second, I think...

VAN SUSTEREN: But she leaves the impression.

GINGRICH: I know. But it would be against House rules and she'd be severely sanctioned if she actually used secret information. I think what it does is it reminds people who probably didn't know this that she was on the Ethics Committee, that it was a very partisan political committee, and that the way I was dealt with related more to the politics of the Democratic Party than the ethics.

And I think in that sense, it actually helps me in getting people to understand -- this was a Nancy Pelosi-driven effort. They filed 85 charges, 84 were dismissed. The only one -- there was a conflicting lawyer's letter, and then the Democrats just held out for partisan reasons.

VAN SUSTEREN: See, I look at it a little differently, and that's this, that...

GINGRICH: OK.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... yes, you can say it's against House rules for her to release it, but what's sort of out there in the public domain is that you have the former speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, saying that she has secret information, she can't reveal it because of House rules, and so she's not going to tell, but she was locked away in this room and she sees all the documents. And I -- frankly, I don't -- I think it's an unfair statement because I don't know how you fight against something like that.

GINGRICH: I think -- I think in a Republican primary, being attacked by Nancy Pelosi is a badge of honor. And I would be happy for her to attack me once a week between now and the Iowa caucuses.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. Donald Trump -- you are in for this debate.

GINGRICH: (LAUGHTER)

VAN SUSTEREN: And you laugh again. Why?

GINGRICH: Oh, because I met with the Donald yesterday. He is -- as you know, he is such a character. I mean, this is this larger-than-life entrepreneur who has now found television, is having the time of his life, and is, you know, a celebrity in his own right. He just -- he adds a level of excitement and zest that's interesting.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you thought through, though, what this might be like?

GINGRICH: I assume it's like "The Apprentice" presidency. I mean, you know, I can't imagine what it would be like, which is part of why -- this is a very serious business and we're picking the President of the United States and we all have to be very serious. But every once in a while on the campaign trail, to have something that just sort of breaks out is good. And I think -- I believe that having Donald Trump in that kind of environment will absolutely be amazing.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, let's think this through, though. As a lawyer, I always sort of think these things through. Imagine being up on the stage. These are very important -- I guess you're going to -- you may be the only one up there -- up there. I don't know if anyone else is going to be up there with you. But suppose he tosses a question to you like the birther question. What are you going to say?

GINGRICH: I would answer it.

VAN SUSTEREN: And?

GINGRICH: Oh, I think the president was born in Hawaii. I think it's -- in my mind, it's very clear the president was born in Hawaii.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have any doubt in your mind whether or not Donald Trump is going to run for president?

GINGRICH: I don't think he'll run for president for practical reasons that you just showed. He is enormously frustrated with Barack Obama. He thinks Obama is killing the economy of this country and is a terrible president. And he knows that any third party would help reelect Barack Obama. I don't think Donald Trump does things that are foolish, and it would be foolish to have a third party when Barack Obama is up for reelection.

VAN SUSTEREN: Any sort of thought about why the other candidates don't want to debate in front of -- with Donald Trump as the moderator?

GINGRICH: You know, I don't understand it. I mean, everybody's got to do their own thing. But you know, I've gotten to where I am right now in part because of debates, because people got to see unedited where we are. I don't know. I think if you're afraid to debate with Donald Trump, people are going to say, So you want me to believe you can debate Barack Obama, but you're afraid to show up with Donald Trump? And I think -- it strikes me it's kind of a very weak position. I don't know why people would do that.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you characterize your campaign? How (INAUDIBLE)

GINGRICH: Extraordinarily idea-oriented, very exciting, and remarkable how many people -- I just did the Soybean Association. I did a telephone town hall meeting, and I learned five or six new things that -- you know? Every time I turn around, I'm learning new stuff. And it's -- I find it very exhilarating.

It's very tiring. I mean, this is a huge country. But it's also very exciting. And audiences are really -- you know, we were in South Carolina. We had three town hall meetings, had 2,500 people show up altogether. And it was just terrifically -- very active, aggressive dialogues. It was fun.

VAN SUSTEREN: I suppose you've seen the remarks. People think of you as the idea guy. Is that right? I mean, you've seen those (INAUDIBLE)

GINGRICH: Well, people say that.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... that you have a lot of ideas. There are some people who say that, though, that with your ideas, that you don't take them the next step and carry them out. You laugh again!

GINGRICH: Well, look, no, people used to say...

VAN SUSTEREN: And I hate to use that phrase "people say" because I think that's a terrible thing to do...

GINGRICH: Well, no...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... to them.

GINGRICH: But people have often said I have 10 ideas a day and one of them is good.

(LAUGHTER)

VAN SUSTEREN: Is that true?

GINGRICH: I think it's partly true, sure. But my role as an advocate, legislator, surrounded by a big system is very different than my role as a potential president. I can have lots of attitudes. As the president, you have to have policies. It's a much higher standard. You've got to be more careful.

But the other part -- people say, He doesn't carry things out. I spent 16 years helping create the first majority for the House Republicans in 40 years. We balanced the budget for four consecutive years. We reformed Welfare, the only major entitlement reform in your lifetime. We got the first tax cut in 16 years. I spent 23 years teaching one and two- star generals in the military. I mean, those are reasonably consistent patterns.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why is it that Senator Coburn, who served in the House with you, was so harsh on you over the weekend...

GINGRICH: I have no idea.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... said he wouldn't endorse you?

GINGRICH: I have no idea. But I can tell you that when you drive as hard as I did, you push through entitlement reforms, we reformed Medicare, you push as well as -- Welfare, you push through a balanced budget for four straight years, we changed the fiscal outlook of the United States $5 trillion to the better in four years. That kind of leadership is aggressive, and some people don't like it. Some people do.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, in terms of running for office, it seems to me -- and I have not run for office, I'm on the outside -- but that you -- when you run, you're an advocate. You're an advocate for your position. You get the job, and the job is oftentimes different. Like, you've got to try to figure out how to herd -- herd the...

GINGRICH: Sure.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... herd the cats at that point.

GINGRICH: Look, the Founding Fathers wanted to avoid dictatorship. And they designed a machine so inefficient that no dictator could force it to work. You have the House, the Senate, the president, the Supreme Court. We can barely get it to work voluntarily. This is -- governing a free people is the hardest thing people do other than fight a civil war.

VAN SUSTEREN: Social Security, big issue. You've talked about it recently. You have a proposal where (INAUDIBLE) and correct me if I'm wrong. It's your proposal. I should probably have you...

(LAUGHTER)

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you explain it. It's your proposal.

GINGRICH: OK. It allows young people to have a personal Social Security account option. They can stay in the current system or they can take their half of the tax, put it into a savings account, have it build up compound interest over their working lifetime. The estimate is they'll get two or three times as much money when they retire. They will also build up an estate so if something happens to them, they'll be leaving their family the money they've built up.

It takes it away from the politicians. You'll never again have Barack Obama saying, as he did twice in July, I may not be able to send you a check. You also eliminate the question about retirement age. You get to retire when you want to retire based on your savings and your buildup.

Chile has this kind of system. The Galveston, Texas, public employees have this kind of system. In both cases, they make more money than the same amount of money paid into Social Security. In both cases, the government has never had to pay a penny in the guarantee because people make so much money that they're well above the Social Security standard.

VAN SUSTEREN: Under your program, as I understand it also, that if it comes -- when it comes time for you to collect your Social Secures, if you are collecting less than you would otherwise have, had you been in the program all along, that the Treasury will make up the difference.

GINGRICH: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: So you can't lose.

GINGRICH: Right. It's designed...

VAN SUSTEREN: And but...

GINGRICH: But they would pay the minimum Social Security benefit, which is dramatically smaller than the maximum. But -- and frankly, it is so fiscally sound that the amount you'd end up the Treasury were paying out is trivial. It's a very tiny amount of money.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you do now, though? To the extent that people are right now paying Social Security to fund people who are on Social Security, if they are diverting half -- they're diverting their money into a private account, suddenly, we're coming up short to pay those obligations we right now have for Social Security. That's a shortfall. How are you going to pay for that?

GINGRICH: Well, the way we designed it, we take 185 -- there are 185 federal programs to help poor people, 185. We collapse all those into basically two large block grants, send the money back home, save all the federal bureaucracy that's involved. And the net savings of that helps cover the cost of the transition.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you actually scored this to make sure that it works, or is it just an idea?

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: No, Social Security -- the actual -- Social Security, actuary, the fiscal X-ray (ph), has said this will work. Not only will it work, he said if you make it optional, 95 percent of young people will take it because it's such a good deal, they'd would be stupid not to. Martin Feldstein, who's a very famous economist at Harvard, has said this program would increase the size of the U.S. economy dramatically and is an enormous increase in capital available for investment.

So you end up with a bigger economy with a bigger income, which means you can save even more money so you have an even better savings account. It's really a remarkable program.

VAN SUSTEREN: If you're president tonight -- we have a drone that went down in Iran and that -- what would you be doing? What would be your thoughts, what would be your actions as president? What would you be doing?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, you'd have delegated it to somebody who's competent, hopefully, and that person would be worried about, Could we destroy the drone? My hunch is they should have some kind of self- destruct mechanism.

VAN SUSTEREN: I can clear my iPad when I lose it on the train from my office, so I'm sure we can clear it...

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: I suspect they're more worried about the composite material that -- same thing happened with the helicopter that went down when we -- when we killed bin Laden.

VAN SUSTEREN: The stealth? You mean the stealth aspect?

GINGRICH: It's the stealth aspect getting to China, in particular, to learn how to make stealth equipment. I suspect -- I don't think -- I think the electronics were probably wiped clean.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Pakistan, things are getting bleaker.

GINGRICH: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: What would you do as president with Pakistan?

GINGRICH: I think you need a whole new strategy for the whole region. I think that the -- the fact is, things are spinning out of control. And the extremist elements are more and more powerful. One of the things you've got to do is go back and liberate the intelligence community to actually have real spies. Today, we are so crippled by congressional limitation that our intelligence agency relies on people like the Pakistanis to tell us what's going on. I mean, it's truly bizarre. I mean, so...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, our...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN SUSTEREN: Our intelligence has -- I mean, it's failed us even in recent history with weapons of mass destruction. I mean, the...

GINGRICH: Right. And the large part of it's because they have been crippled now since 1975 by more and more congressional limitations, so that you have -- you basically have to have a lawyer next to you. You can't leave the embassy. You don't go out and do any real spying anymore.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what would you have -- what would you have happen, using Pakistan as an example?

GINGRICH: I would want to have people who penetrate Pakistani society and spend a long time, don't go anywhere near the embassy, are actually in the community, try to understand what's really going on. I'd also try, frankly, to hire a bunch of Pakistanis. I mean, a lot of this is just tradecraft.

VAN SUSTEREN: But a lot of -- I mean, a lot of Pakistanis, they just -- I mean, I've -- when I've been there, when you read in the newspaper, talking to people, they don't -- not only do they not trust us, but they don't particularly like us. And you've got the problem with the military, the ISI. You've got the civilian government being (INAUDIBLE) And the situation is deteriorating rather quickly. I think what you're suggesting would take quite some time. It seems to have a more urgent element to it.

GINGRICH: Well, it does have a more urgent element. And I think what you're going to discover is we have very few options that are any good. In fact, we are in a precarious situation in Afghanistan because Pakistan can cut off the supply lines from the south, and it could become a real mess almost overnight.

VAN SUSTEREN: So what would you do urgently, rather than -- I see long -- I understand your idea for long term with changing the ability...

GINGRICH: Well, what I -- what I would do...

VAN SUSTEREN: ... of collecting intelligence, but short term.

GINGRICH: What I would do urgently is communicate a sense of sincerity to the Pakistanis and remind them that it would not be all that hard for us to become India's ally and for them to be totally isolated.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. A Gingrich presidency -- give me an idea -- every president, for instance, at least in recent history, has had a member of the opposing party in the cabinet. Who would you think of in a Gingrich -- who from the Democrats?

GINGRICH: I haven't thought that far ahead.

VAN SUSTEREN: I know -- you're an idea guy. You think about everything. I know that you think about that. I mean, what Democrat do you think is someone you could work with in an important cabinet-level job?

GINGRICH: I mean, I'm not going to jump into that right now. But there are -- I would look for moderate Democrats who are comfortable with the program I'm outlining and who are interested in trying to develop a way to move forward as Americans.

I mean, my campaign is going to be an American campaign. It's not going to be a Republican campaign. It's going to say everybody in America who'd rather have a paycheck than food stamps, we'd like you to be with us. Everybody who'd like to go back to a balanced budget, we'd like you to be with us. Everybody who wants an American energy program that liberates us from the Middle East, we'd like you to be with us, without regard to party. And we'll try to build a very broad-based approach that attracts a lot of people who aren't just Republicans.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I'm sort of curious. I think, you know, what -- I guess I was trying to identify sort of what you think has been done well in the Obama administration, just for a point of reference. For instance, how has Secretary of State Clinton done?

GINGRICH: Well, I think she's got a hopeless problem. I mean, this is an administration that does not want to recognize that there are people in Islam that are radicals who want to kill us. They're having a conference where they -- I mean, she attacks Israel because of discrimination against women and is meeting next week with a group based in Saudi Arabia. Now, if you just think about that framework, I mean, it makes no sense at all.

Leon Panetta attacks Israel for not negotiating at a time when the Palestinian Liberation Authority refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist. The ambassador to Belgium, the American ambassador to Belgium says Muslim anti-Semitism is caused by Israel.

Now, this -- I mean, I don't know if the Obama administration is waging psychological warfare against Israel or what. They ought to fire the ambassador to Belgium. They ought to look very seriously look at cleaning out the people who are pro-Islamic extremists in the State Department and Justice Department. The Justice Department now takes out all references to Islam in its papers on terrorism. I mean, this'd be like taking out communism in a paper on the Soviet Union.

VAN SUSTEREN: Isn't it sort of the nature of (INAUDIBLE) government, is that we -- many times that we do get forced into, you know, things that are -- look totally hypocritical or totally inconsistent because there are so many variables and sort of...

(CROSSTALK)

GINGRICH: I think this is an ideological world.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't mean this particular example, but just anything. I mean, the squawking this week about the Republicans putting up some resistance to extending the payroll tax cut, and then of course, the Democrats say, Well, the Republicans, you know, want to raise your taxes. I mean, no matter -- I mean...

GINGRICH: A lot of this is politics.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, that's what I mean. A lot -- we've got a lot of politics. It's really sort of hard to navigate and find, you know, sort of...

GINGRICH: It's a complicated business.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's a very complicated business, isn't it.

GINGRICH: But part of the reason that Reagan was so good was he understood that you had to be consistent and you had to be repetitive and you had to cheerfully persist in a way that you eventually broke through. It works.

VAN SUSTEREN: Having fun?

GINGRICH: Yes, I am. It's a remarkably fascinating experience. And you know, Callista and I have had just an amazing run of meeting people and campaigning and wandering around the country. It's been very, very exciting.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's the hardest part?

GINGRICH: Oh, I think -- you know, I think getting attacked. I mean, the fact is, no matter how tough you are and no matter how thick your skin gets, you still flinch a little bit when people go after you, particularly if they go after you personally or they go after your family personally. It still hurts.

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

GINGRICH: Good to see you.

VAN SUSTEREN: We'll be following this race. It certainly is getting more exiting by the day.

GINGRICH: Yes, it is.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you.

GINGRICH: Thank you.