OTR Interviews

Gingrich: Obama's 'hiding behind George W. Bush on the economy, now he's hiding behind Hillary Clinton on Benghazi'

Former candidate sizes up what's on the line for the president and the GOP candidate in their second debate, how it could impact momentum and more


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 15, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: In just 23 hours, a debate that could change everything! Will Governor Mitt Romney add to his momentum, or will President Obama stop him in his tracks?


KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR/FORMER BUSH SENIOR ADVISER, FOX CONTRIBUTOR: Well, who says debates don't matter? There were 60 polls in the last week in 27 states. If you look at the 30-day map, there were three status changes, all of them benefiting Romney.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Who did he blame for his bad debate? Oh, that's it, John Kerry. Blames John Kerry. Blames Bush for the bad economy, blames John Kerry for the bad debate. Blaming Biden -- no, they're saying Biden won that debate, if you read it. Obama's begging people, Read the transcript, you'll see that Biden won it..

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he was told to get in there, make some commotion because he had ground to make up for. That's just a fact. And I don't -- I think if you're looking to the vice president to try to save the day, there's a problem.

DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: If Obama has a performance like he had a couple of weeks ago, I don't believe it's possible for him to win the election. I don't know how he can possibly have another performance like that and expect to win. How could anybody be so stupid as to vote for him if he does perform like that again?

TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: We're moving rapidly to the second and third act to find out how this is all going to play out. The president has got to be on his game in this next debate, or it could slide even more for him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a big choice election, and the fact is, what we saw was -- even if he changes his style and whatever political tactic the president settles on as being in his best interests for this debate, he can't change his record and he can't change his policies. I think the race is very close. I think the wind is at Governor Romney's back. And there's clearly momentum. You can see it on the trail. You can see it in the -- in the data.

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: The reality of the race on the ground is that we're ahead. It's a little bit narrower than it was before the last debate, but we feel good about where we are. And we've got a great ground game going, and we're going to have a great debate on Tuesday and the following week. We expect Governor Romney will a great debate, too. He's a great salesman. That's what he did as a professional, and he's very, very good at it.

REP. PAUL RYAN, VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Look, I know what your TV screens look like these days. These debates are giving us the ability to cut through the clutter and give people a very clear choice. That's what we're offering.


VAN SUSTEREN: The race is razor-sharp close. Much is at stake for both candidates as they take to the stage tomorrow for debate number two.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich joins us. Nice to see you, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: Is this debate or could it be as critical as I have just suggested?

GINGRICH: It could be. My guess is the president will do somewhat better than last time because it would be almost unimaginable for him to be as bad as he was last time. My guess is Romney will be about as good as he was last time because he's a very trained, very thoughtful person who gets where he's at.

So I think you'll come out tomorrow night either with a tie or with a slight Romney advantage on top what happened. That'll carry the race on for one more week.

If Obama does come in, against my expectations, and is as bad as he was last -- in the first debate, then this is over. I mean, he will not recover from two consecutive disasters.

VAN SUSTEREN: How could he have it as bad as last time?

GINGRICH: Well, you know, first of all, the facts are moving against him. I describe this race right now, the problem for Obama is five words -- unemployment, gasoline, Benghazi and Big Bird. And I think that those five words add up to a very hard sell for him. Benghazi gets worse and worse and worse. The lies get deeper and deeper. And in fact, in the last vice presidential debate, Vice President Biden added lying about Syria to lying about Benghazi. So it just gets deeper and deeper.

Unemployment stays bad. And we now learned that one of the reasons unemployment looked better for one week was that California hadn't filed 33,000 jobs, which is truly weird. Then you look at gasoline prices. California was, I think, peaked at $5.87 a gallon last week.

And then you look at the fact that liberalism has been reduced to hiding behind a TV series which makes $800 million in gross revenue and gets 94 percent of its money from the private sector. And yet that becomes the last stand of Obamaism.

VAN SUSTEREN: The strategy since the last campaign largely has been to criticize Governor Romney, saying he's a liar. And I suspect that what will happen tomorrow night is that the president may come out -- he's not going to say he's a liar, but he's going to do everything to make that the message to the American people.

Can he do that without looking like a bully or petty himself?

GINGRICH: Well, I don't think Obama will look like a bully because I think Romney can stand up to him, so I don't think he has that potential. I think that the challenge he has is that he -- essentially, the Obama case has degenerated to, Yes, the president is inadequate, but Romney would be worse. That's the heart of his basic message.

Romney has a much easier job. I mean, Romney can say, you know, The American people deserve to know the truth about Benghazi. What happened? Why did you send the U.N. ambassador out to five different shows to say something that was false?

And then he's been on campaign trail being that direct. Romney can say the price of gasoline is too high. I mean, Obama (INAUDIBLE) oh, it's the oil companies' fault. But Obama's got to face the fact that if you're an average, everyday American, or if you're a truck driver, or if you buy things at the grocery store, the price of gasoline is too high.

And I think that's why you've seen this race gradually decay from the Obama standpoint. He can't get above 50 percent. The country's had four years to get to know who he is. And if you're the incumbent president and you can't get above 50 percent, you have a big problem three weeks out.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you said -- the unemployment rate has gone down from 8.1 to 7.8. And I recognize the fact that California was late to report and it would have some impact on the numbers. So he has that to point out.

He's got the fact that the -- the auto industry -- he says that he saved the auto industry. You've got the unemployment level in the state of Ohio below the national average, so Ohio, which is such an important state for this, is doing profoundly better than, for instance, the state of Nevada, some other states unemployment. I mean, he does have some things that he can point to.


VAN SUSTEREN: And he goes back to the fact that he says, Look, you know -- and I know we've heard over -- is that -- you know, that he inherited a mess. Nobody denies that. And he says that it takes a while to get out of the mess, but we're trending the right direction. That's his argument tomorrow night.

GINGRICH: Well, but sure, that'll be his argument. What people are going to have to do is look at it and say, All right, do I think four more years of Obama will be better than four years of Obama? And four years of Obama -- this is the worst recovery since the Great Depression. The price of gasoline has gone up $2 a gallon since he became president.

The fact is that Benghazi is utterly inexplicable and that the answers they've given are false and misleading. And now we have him hiding behind Hillary Clinton. I mean, you know, he's hiding behind John Kerry on the first debate. He's hiding behind George W. Bush on the economy. Now he's hiding behind Hillary Clinton on Benghazi.

I mean, at what point, other than being campaigner-in-chief, going to Las Vegas to raise money immediately after an American ambassador is killed -- at what point does Obama take some responsibility for having been in the White House for four years?

VAN SUSTEREN: Then why is he so close in the polls? The picture you paint is of the worst possible president, and no one in his right mind could vote for him, yet the polls are incredibly close.

GINGRICH: I think part of it is, frankly, the weakness of the Republican Party in reaching out to a wide range of minority groups. If -- if you look at values, Latinos are dramatically more conservative than their vote for Obama. African-Americans are dramatically more conservative than their vote for Obama. And part of that's the Republican Party's fault.

Part of it is the residual fact that the elite media has worked overtime to prop up Obama over and over and over again. I think that's why you see a little bit of an argument about Candy Crowley's role tomorrow night and whether or not you ought to be actually following the rules and only having a town hall meeting, not having the moderator try to define things.

And then part of it is that Obama's an attractive person. This is -- this is a pleasant person with a nice family, with a good smile, that people really wanted to have succeed. I mean, I think a lot of Americans were very proud to have elected an African-American president, thought that it said something about the nature of America, that we are, in fact, a truly inclusive country, and they really wanted him to succeed. And I think it hurts them to say, You know, I just can't vote for you again.

VAN SUSTEREN: Tonight, news out of Peru, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveling, and she did a number of interviews with different news organizations, and she said, essentially -- well, she didn't say essentially, she did say the buck stops with here, meaning with her about what happened in Benghazi. You laugh.

GINGRICH: Well, on two levels. First of all, the buck stops with the president. That was Harry Truman's line. And she lost the nomination. She's not president.

VAN SUSTEREN: Meaning she's giving -- President Obama should be giving that line? Is that what you're saying?

GINGRICH: Well, yes, it is the president's line. But secondly, you know, you have to admire the Clintons. Bill and Hillary Clinton have done more to help reelect Barack Obama than Barack Obama has. The turning point in this campaign at the convention was Bill Clinton's speech.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why? Why is he doing that? Why is he doing that? Because if you go back to '08, it was a rather nasty contest between them. And in fact, I think President Bill Clinton -- I don't know if he was called a racist at one point, but he certainly felt like he was being called that.

GINGRICH: Look, I think, first of all, Bill Clinton is the best political performer of our generation. And something clicks in and takes over when he gets on the field. He's like a great quarterback, like watching Robert Griffin III run for 76 yards for a touchdown.

VAN SUSTEREN: That was good.

GINGRICH: And you know, that was a great moment in Redskins history, and in fact, in NFL history. And when Bill Clinton gets on a stage, he is just remarkable.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, what about his wife, though? I mean, does she -- I mean, like...

GINGRICH: She is a...

VAN SUSTEREN: Why is she -- why -- I mean, maybe the buck does stop with her on this.

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, she's a team player. She has been Obama's Secretary of State for almost four years. As a team player -- and this is -- I think this is who she's always been. She's going to take a bullet for the team.

What is disgraceful is the degree to which the president and the vice president are prepared to be dishonest with the American people and hide. And I think tomorrow night'll be interesting to watch. The president has a month of dishonesty to answer for in Benghazi. For a solid month, he has said things that are not true. The vice president has said things that are not true. And I...

VAN SUSTEREN: And meanwhile calling Romney a liar!


VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, that's the irony of it.

GINGRICH: It's the nature of the business to say, you know, I don't know why you're lying about it being daytime when we all know that it's nighttime, even if you're saying it in the middle of the day. And if you do it well enough, (INAUDIBLE) will decide, Gee, why is he lying about it being nighttime?

I mean, you know, I think that's just -- they're very good at this. But I think in the end, facts matter. And I think in the end, the problem that Obama has is the facts of unemployment matter, the facts of gasoline prices matter, the facts of Benghazi matter, and the facts of Big Bird matter. And the facts are you don't want to borrow money from the Chinese to prop up government programs you can't afford.

VAN SUSTEREN: Should President Obama have addressed the nation on what happened in Benghazi in all the sort of -- I mean, sort of the crazy story about the protests and the videos that went on? The event happened on the 11th of September. Even on the 18th, he's on David Letterman, still pushing the video and the protest.

GINGRICH: It's worse than that! He went to the United Nations and I think he mentions the video six times in his speech to the United Nations. This is a calculated, methodical act of dishonesty. President Obama cannot bring himself to tell the truth about radical Islam, even when it is killing Americans. I find it very...

VAN SUSTEREN: Why? Why? Why do you -- I mean...

GINGRICH: Well, you'd have to ask him why. That's a...


VAN SUSTEREN: He doesn't come here.

GINGRICH: That's a psychological question. I think you go back and read his Cairo speech. You read what he said when the Koran was being burned. You read what he says about this video. You read what he said about the major who killed people -- Callista and I did a movie, "America at Risk," in which we walked right through the whole Fort Hood killing.

The Obama administration has never once admitted that that was an act of Islamic radicalism.


GINGRICH: Because it violates their -- because their model is that killing bin Laden ended the game. And therefore, it's over. And if you say to them, Well, gee, wasn't that a pretty big al Qaeda team in Benghazi, that disrupts all of the -- all of their arguments. And it's a little bit of a mistake that George W. Bush made when he was on the aircraft carrier with "mission accomplished."

This is a deeper, harder war that is going to go on for maybe 50 or 70 years. There are people out there who hate us. They want to destroy us. We can say we're going to give up the war. That's fine. The war may not give us up.

And I think that Obama doesn't want to deal with that. His friends on the left can't bring themselves to even talk about it. And the result is they try to cut deals with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which is basically dedicated to Islamist supremacy.

VAN SUSTEREN: You debated Governor Romney. People say, quote, "He's a good debater." I don't know what that means. But what do you expect out of him tomorrow night? I mean, the...

GINGRICH: Well -- well...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, usually, whoever wins is considered a good debater (INAUDIBLE).

GINGRICH: Callista was very prescient about this. She said -- because I debated Mitt a lot, and I think most of the debates, I won. The two debates that mattered in Florida, he had done his homework. He had changed his style. He came in on offense. He stayed on offense. I could not knock him off his track.

And she said before the first debate, if he comes in and is as aggressive and as clear with Obama as he was with Newt, he's going to win. Now, what neither she nor I expected was that Obama wouldn't show up. I mean, if you go back and look at that debate, the lack of energy, the lack of focus, the lack of preparation on Obama's part was beyond anybody's...

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think he did that?

GINGRICH: ... wildest...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, he's perfectly capable of being good on his feet and being a -- you know, a strong advocate. What happened to him?

GINGRICH: I think he spent four years in the cocoon of the White House. He spent four years with people slavishly telling him, You're doing great, you're brilliant, you're wonderful, you're magnificent, that last speech was so fabulous.

And nobody went in -- and John Kerry I think probably, who's a pretty good debater -- nobody broke through the shell and said to him, you know, This is going to be one on one, and frankly, you're in real danger of having somebody kick your tail and you better go in there at full speed because Mitt Romney -- people forget Romney went to the Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School in parallel at the same time.

This is a smart, hard-working, disciplined person. And he wants to be president. And he looked the other night like a guy who wants to be president. And Obama looked a little bit like George H.W. Bush in 1992 looking at his watch. And you had the sense from Obama that, oh, if you want to make him president again, he'll be glad to serve, but it's not a big deal.

His closing was -- was verged on pathos. I mean, if you watch his closing -- you know, they say, you know, It's your turn, and he kind of goes, Well, you know, I said four years ago I wouldn't be perfect, and I guess Governor Romney would agree I haven't been perfect and -- but you know, I -- there are a lot of things I'd like to do, if you'd like me to do them.

I mean, look at the body language and the tone and the lack of energy in that closing statement. This is a guy who's been beaten. He knows he's been beaten and he just wants to get off stage.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, thank you, sir.

GINGRICH: Good to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you.