OTR Interviews

Fred Thompson: Experience the key for Gingrich, he knows how to take down the Obama policy tree 'limb-from-limb'

Gingrich supporter Fred Thompson sizes up presidential candidate's chances for success on Super Tuesday

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 29, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Here comes Super Tuesday. Last night, Governor Mitt Romney took Michigan in a squeaker and Arizona by a landslide, but that was last night. And already, the GOP candidates are turning to the next 10 states, setting their sights on the big, big prize of super-Tuesday. That's 419 delegates.

Former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich banking on the South to keep his campaign alive. Former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson hitting the campaign trail with Speaker Gingrich in Nashville.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED THOMPSON, R-TENN., FORMER SENATOR/PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that we're at the tipping point in a lot of different respects in this country, in a bad way. When you got a debt that's big as the entire economy of the country, which is only three or four European countries in worse shape than we are in that respect, you got a serious problem.

When you got a president who is intent not only on not doing anything about it but demagoguing anybody that tries to do anything about it while he's trying to divide the American people, is the only way he feels like he can -- can get reelected -- you got a serious situation on your hands.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: In 2008, Senator Thompson ran for president himself, and he joins us. Nice to see you, sir.

THOMPSON: Good to see you again.

VAN SUSTEREN: I take it you don't miss running.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON: No.

VAN SUSTEREN: Not at all?

THOMPSON: I don't. I don't. Been there, done that.

VAN SUSTEREN: I figured so. All right, now, your horse, so to speak, is Speaker Newt Gingrich. And I'm curious. So many of the candidates, Republican candidates, have a lot in common. They all want to get rid of health care, all want to get rid of regulation. They have, you know, much in common.

So I'm curious, just lining your candidate, Speaker Gingrich, up to Governor Romney, for instance. Why did you pick Gingrich over Romney?

THOMPSON: Yes. Well, I talked about that a little bit down there with the home folks. By the way, I'm going to -- I need to be calling Tennessee instead of talking to you right now, based on what you said.

VAN SUSTEREN: The storms.

THOMPSON: That's -- that's serious business. But yes, everybody is reading from the same song book, it looks like now. Everybody's saying the same thing. Everybody's got their talking points down, you know, and they're basically agreeing on fundamental things.

The question is who's got the depth and who understands what they're talking about. I think Newt has shown time and time again, especially in the debates, that he understands how the situation works. He understands the problems, and he knows how to take the Obama policy tree down limb-from-limb and has done so.

He's talking about things look like now like the energy problem. And he's got Obama answering him now about the gasoline situation, the prices at the pump and what needs to be done, how it works, how the price is established, where the drilling can be done, what's private land and what's public. He's steeped in these policy matters and has been for years.

And you know, we no longer -- we conservatives, you know, kind of go back and forth on this sometimes, but we no longer can afford to elect somebody, I think, whose battle cry is, I know nothing about Washington. I think you need to know where the bodies are buried and what to do. And I think Newt is the guy who does that.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. OK. That's about Governor Romney, who never served in Washington. But Senator Santorum was in here in Washington. So he's not running on, I don't know anything about Washington. So you know, lining your candidate, why would you choose, for instance, Speaker Gingrich over Senator Santorum?

THOMPSON: Experience more than anything else, for me. I served with Rick, went through the Senate when Rick did, in 1994, but we went in large part because of the plan that Newt Gingrich laid out in his "Contract With America." He conceived it. He implemented it. When we got elected, we were all on board and we were able to balance the budget last time in our lifetime.

And we passed Welfare reform. Clinton kept rejecting it and we kept putting it back up there. And Newt Gingrich was persistent in that and various other things. And he was the leader. He was the leader.

Rick worked hard on the same things. Rick's a little younger. Newt has conceived a political revolution in his lifetime and implemented it.

And I think that the country is in such shape, as I was talking to the home folks there about, that we need someone who understands what needs to be done, who can do it in an aggressive way. And the fact that he upsets some people in Washington doesn't bother me...

VAN SUSTEREN: I was just going to ask -- I was just going to say -- he doesn't...

THOMPSON: ... doesn't bother me a bit.

VAN SUSTEREN: He doesn't have a lot of the former colleagues he served in the House with rallying around him. He's got some, but not -- I mean, why don't -- why aren't they on the same page?

THOMPSON: They can answer for themself. But it doesn't bother me a bit. I don't need anymore visits to the White House or anything of the such.

I got involved because I'm concerned about the future. We've got a president now who's intent on ignoring the major problems facing this country, who's intent on dividing our country along every line imaginable.

He's uniquely qualified to do some outstanding things for the country. Conservatives would like to join with him to do things on the fiscal side, for example. He ignores the recommendations of his own commissions. He demagogues those who would dare do something about the entitlement issues.

We're facing some estimates $50 trillion, some say $70 trillion in liabilities that we can't possibly pay for. We're just waiting for the inflation to kick in, a multi-billion-dollar deficit that we -- we've got a debt bigger than the entire national economy.

If interest rates weren't so low, we would already be done for. I mean, if they get back to normal rates, as the biggest debtor in the world, we're going to be in even more immediate trouble.

So I really do think that we're at a tipping point, and we've got a president who wants to take us in one direction, which basically is the European direction. They've got a guy over in France now who -- the socialist leader who now is leading Sarkozy in the polls, as I understand it, who wants to raise the top income rate in France to 75 percent.

Well, I hope Obama doesn't see that because his answer is that if the small business person out here, you know, will pay just a little bit more, that we'll solve this budget problem. Total demagoguery! And we've got some other folks -- I commend all these candidates. I know what they're going through. I know how long and arduous it is. And they're all getting better on the trail. Everybody makes gaffes, but they're all getting better on the trail.

But I think there's one guy who can take the situation by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shaking, and I think that's what our country needs more than anything. If we elect a Republican and just do things around the margins, around the edges and can't communicate to the American people -- that's the big thing.

Newt can communicate to the American people. He understands what's going on in the country. And he can tell the people why we need to do what it is that we need to do.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, we're all going to be watching Tuesday because that's a big day for him...

(CROSSTALK)

THOMPSON: It's a big day. If he does well on Super Tuesday, he's right back in it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you, sir. Thank you.

THOMPSON: Thank you. Good to be with you.