This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 3, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: An attack on Iran -- it could be imminent, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warning that Israel may strike Iran within eight weeks. Now, this is the first time we have heard a timeframe put on Israel's threat to stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb.
So with this news, what would former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich do if he were president? That's just one of the questions we asked Speaker Gingrich earlier tonight.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, nice to see you, sir.
NEWT GINGRICH, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's good to see you. It's a beautiful day out here in Las Vegas.
VAN SUSTEREN: It certainly looks that way. And I hear, as well, the exercise of the 1st Amendment behind you. People I understand were yelling. But that's always interesting. Love the 1st Amendment.
All right, let's assume you're president of the United States, and tonight you have these three issues to deal with. One is the fact that Defense Secretary Panetta said that Israel may strike Iran in the spring. Number two, you've got Americans who had been kidnapped in Egypt, now released, but they've got Americans who are not free to leave Egypt. And then thirdly that the Pakistani intelligence service has apparently taken into custody the Pakistani doctor who apparently helped us get Osama bin Laden.
What are you going to be doing about all those things tonight, if anything?
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I would be -- that's a good question. I give you a lot of credit for that one. First, I would be saying to the Iranians, I hope you realize that there are some deadlines here, and if you're not careful, Israel is going to attack you. And frankly, if we have to, we're going to provide intelligence and other assets to the Israelis to help them.
So you need to be aware that Israel is not going to allow you to develop nuclear weapons that could lead to a second Holocaust. And if they do attack you, it will be your own fault.
Second, I think we should be saying to the Egyptians, We are prepared to suspend all aid to Egypt if you're going to engage in this kind of hostile -- hostile activity towards Americans. And we don't have any reason to sustain a dictatorship that is increasingly anti-American.
And third, I think that we should all learn from the Pakistani intelligence service that they are not finding the people who helped hide bin Laden, they're finding the people who helped find bin Laden. And that tells you how shaky any reliance on Pakistan is.
These are further examples of why we need to fundamentally rethink our strategy for the region because it is a much more dangerous and much more hostile region than Barack Obama thinks it is.
VAN SUSTEREN: Can we afford, as a nation, to have Israel take the lead role against Iran, in light of the fact that that may have a very -- far different effect than if some other country takes a lead role? Can we afford to have Israel be out front?
GINGRICH: It's not our choice. The Israeli prime minister has to dedicate himself or herself to the protection of Israel. These are people who just a generation ago saw seven million Jews exterminated in Europe while the world did nothing. They are not inclined to wait around and let somebody offer them pious promises and then suffer a second Holocaust, which is what three Iranian nuclear weapons would be if they were placed properly in Israel.
So I think the Israelis have a very hard decision, and they will eventually do what it takes to defend themselves. And it's not our choice.
What we should be doing is we should be developing as rapidly as possible a decisive American energy plan to make our economy totally independent of the Middle East so that we don't, frankly, care how big the mess gets. I think the Obama administration's anti-American energy policies actually make us more vulnerable to the Middle East.
VAN SUSTEREN: I guess what I'm sort of curious about is if Israel goes alone versus -- for instance, suppose the United States gathered up some allies and it was the United States that were perhaps more in the lead than Israel because I think the ramifications are going to be very different in Israel goes alone than if it has some very prominent backing, should it come to that.
GINGRICH: Look, I think it would be far better to have an American administration that was prepared to deal with Iran so the Israelis could relax and take a deep breath and step back. I think any danger of an Israeli strike is a function of their total lack of faith in Obama, just as the decision two weeks ago with Saudi Arabia to sign an agreement with China to build nuclear capabilities and nuclear energy plans was a sign of their lack of faith in Barack Obama.
We're watching this administration gradually fade from relevance as country after country doesn't take them seriously.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, with respect to Pakistan, the fact that the intelligence service is said to have seized this doctor who helped us -- you said it's a reflection on our relationship with Pakistan. It's really sort of -- it is an example of a far bigger problem for the United States in terms of our relationship with Pakistan, having to do with Afghanistan and so much more. Is there something profoundly different you would be doing as president vis-a-vis Pakistan than President Obama is doing?
GINGRICH: The first thing I would do is ask the U.S. Congress to repeal all the restrictions on American spying. Since 1975, we've made it harder and harder and harder to have genuine intelligence assets in the field trying to find out what's going on. We actually rely on the Pakistani intelligence service, which, as you just reported, is actively closing down American assets. So the first key thing is to rebuild the American capacity to do genuine intelligence and genuine covert operations.
The second thing is to recognize that there's a huge power struggle under way inside Pakistan. We want to be on the side of the Western, modernizing forces against the Islamist forces. And I think that we have to recognize there's no unified Pakistan right now. There are several different factions, and there is a danger of real turmoil in a country that already has between 100 and 200 nuclear weapons.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, job numbers today. This is the third consecutive month that the job -- unemployment number's going down. I know Republicans have been -- you know, they've been not embracing it as enthusiastically as the Democrats. But you have to admit that trend is a very good trend, is it not?
GINGRICH: Look, it's a great trend for America. I'm talking to you from a state that has a very high unemployment level, has 31 percent unemployment among teenagers, for example. Clearly, the American people should be grateful for any improvement.
This is a very weak recovery compared to, say, the Reagan recovery at the same point in his first term. And there has been a Congressional Budget Office warning that we may see unemployment go back up this summer and fall.
But clearly, the president ought to feel a little bit better. I think he probably should take a bow and claim credit. But it's a very, very weak recovery. And if gasoline prices stay as high as they are, I think they're going to further undermine the chance of the recovery gathering momentum.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, the campaign. You and Governor Romney have been duking it out. And even Senator Santorum now has an ad out. He's making fun of your moon idea. Now, it's a tough fight for every vote in tomorrow's Nevada caucuses. I got that. But these ads that you're putting out, these dueling ads -- I want to just give one example of one. Here's the release by your campaign featuring billionaire George Soros.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE SOROS, BILLIONAIRE: If it's between Obama and Romney, there isn't all that much difference.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't afford two George Soros-approved candidates this fall. We need a candidate who will fight for hard-working taxpayers. We need a candidate who left-wing billionaires like George Soros fear because they will fundamentally change Washington. We need Newt Gingrich.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, the comeback from the Romney campaign was quick, and it was a punching back and saying, in part -- this is it. "Unlike Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney never sat next to Nancy Pelosi in an ad funded by George Soros on behalf of Al Gore's Global Warming Initiative. As recently as 2008, the Soros agenda had no better friend than Newt Gingrich. Nice try, Mr. Speaker."
How do you respond now going back to what he's saying?
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, that response is pure baloney because the fact is, I opposed cap-and-trade. I testified against it the very same day Al Gore testified for it. I opposed liberal policies, although I do care about the environment. I'm happy to say I think the environment matters. I think clean air matters, clean water matters. And I think even Governor Romney might agree to that.
What he can't escape is the fact that George Soros in Davos, hanging out with a lot of these so-called world leaders, said to a European reporter on tape that as far as he was concerned, there was no difference between Obama and Romney. And in the full YouTube video which people can see at Newt.org, you'll see case after case, from health to guns to taxes, down a whole list of things where there really is no difference, for all practical purposes, between Romney and Obama. And I think you can look at it yourself, make up your own judgment.
But Soros is the one who said it. You know, reporters ought to ask Soros why does he think there's no real difference? But I think for most Republican voters, the idea of trying to nominate a Soros-approved candidate is not a very appealing idea.
VAN SUSTEREN: What do you make of the Trump endorsement of Governor Romney?
GINGRICH: Oh, nothing. Look, the Donald is an amazingly good manipulator of media. He's had another moment in the sun. He'll be back again later. You have to admire him for his ability to do that.
Let me say one thing, by the way, about the Santorum ad. I am surprised at both Santorum and Romney not being willing to recognize that the Chinese now have a very aggressive program for going into space. The Russians have the only man-rated vehicle currently available to go into space. And their willingness at a national security level to back off from trying to be the leading country in space I think is very surprising.
It's a long way from John F. Kennedy's courage in 1961 to the Santorum-Romney cheapness of 2012. I think the average American is not comfortable with the idea that the Chinese and the Russians are going to dominate space and the U.S. is simply going to withdraw because we can't set priorities.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, give me some behind the scenes, the strategy for tomorrow. It's a caucus tomorrow, it's not an election. Do you have any idea where you'll be, what you'll be doing, and how you are going to get the people to the caucus?
GINGRICH: Well, we've been campaigning here. We were in Reno. We now have been having rallies around Las Vegas. We're reaching out, talking to people across the whole state. We expect Governor Romney to come in first. There's a very large Mormon population here. He actually got an absolute majority last time.
We're -- I think our hope is that we may be able to come in second, although Ron Paul is very organized. Anytime it's a caucus, Ron Paul has a real opportunity because of the intensity of his supporters. He doesn't do nearly as well in a primary, but he does in a caucus.
But we're going all out to see if we can't be a good, solid second here, and then we're on to Colorado and Minnesota. Voting has already started in Arizona, and in Ohio, we're going to be competing there. And we're working our way toward super-Tuesday. We think we'll do very, very well on super-Tuesday, then in Alabama and Mississippi the following week. And then we think we will clean up in Texas on the 3rd of April.
And our hope is by the 3rd of April to be even with or slightly ahead of Governor Romney in total delegates.
VAN SUSTEREN: Are you seeking Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's endorsement in the state of Minnesota, since that's obviously one of the places there's going to be a contest?
GINGRICH: Well, she and I have chatted. I'd obviously love to have her endorsement. She has a very strong following there. But at least for the moment, she's told me she wants to keep her powder dry. She is going to run for reelection, and I think she's focused on her reelection campaign.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. And we'll be watching tomorrow night to see how it goes. Thank you, sir.
GINGRICH: Good talking to you, Greta.
(END VIDEO CLIP)