August 12: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich Assesses Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Status On the Republican Continuum

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This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, August 12, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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RICHARD RIORDAN, SCHWARZENEGGER CAMPAIGN REP.: There's relief to think that there's somebody who I think believes 99 percent the way I believe, who's a strong leader like Arnold, and I can be there to help him in any way he needs my help or wants my help.


BRIT HUME, HOST: That, of course, the former mayor of Los Angeles, no conservative he.

So, is Arnold Schwarzenegger (search) a conservative, a liberal, a moderate or what? And how will the Republican Party's conservative base end up backing him or perhaps backing away?

For answers, we turn to a man whose conservative credentials are in and out in doubt, former speaker of the House and FOX News contributor Newt Gingrich.



HUME: Well, if Dick Riordan (search) says he thinks…not Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks 99 percent like him, how long will the honeymoon last Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Republican Party's conservative base?

GINGRICH: Well, I think, probably until sometime after the election. I think...

HUME: Really?

GINGRICH: This is not a Republican primary. This is not a question of which Republican do you most wish could be in the general election? This is a campaign...

HUME: Well, it is in a sense because there are other Republicans in the race of some real standing. I mean the man last nominated against Gray Davis is in the race.

GINGRICH: Sure, there are other Republicans in the race. But the fact is, it is almost certain mathematically that the next governor of California is either the lieutenant governor, who was the No. 2 person on the Davis-Bustamante team, Lieutenant Governor Bustamante (search), or Arnold Schwarzenegger. The idea of somebody being able to climb past the lieutenant governor and past Schwarzenegger, I think as somebody who's done this, spent a lot of my life in public politics, I think it is almost mathematically impossible. Nobody else is going to spend the level of money that it will take.

HUME: All right. So, what about this question, then, so is it that it doesn't matter that Arnold Schwarzenegger is not really a conservative to the Republicans in California? Or should people not really care because anybody would be better than a Democrat? What are you saying here?

GINGRICH: First of all, Dick Riordan was a very pro-business, very pro-tax cut, very effective governor of Los Angeles. He is a social liberal by Republican standards, he would be like a moderate Democrat on social policy, clearly Republican on tax policy, administration, things like that. Arnold Schwarzenegger is very conservative with national security. He is going to be very solid from a business background on cutting taxes, cutting spending, getting California to be more for job creation.

HUME: Cutting spending?

GINGRICH: Absolutely.

HUME: Because he certainly…I think you would have to agree that in some of the things he said about, you know, we need to lure businesses back into California, so we'll have the tax base to pay for social programs, in effect. But that doesn't sounds like a very conservative measure...

GINGRICH: Right. Well, except you can't sustain a $35 billion deficit and you can't do what Gray Davis has done. So, what Schwarzenegger is saying is even if you're a liberal in my government; you had better love business because if you don't have people paying the tax, you won't have government. I don't think that's an irrational position.

What I would say is the key is simple. Is Schwarzenegger more conservative than Davis? By a big margin, yes. Is he more conservative than Bustamante, who has been Davis' lieutenant governor? By a big margin, yes. Will he be the most conservative of the two people running at the top of the ticket on the day of the recall? Without any question.

So, the question is, do you want to put power back in the Davis- Bustamante team, do you want to put power back with a Democrat who's part of the special interests? Or do you want to bring in an outsider who is going to break things up, be different and potentially create a real change in Sacramento?

I think that's why Schwarzenegger can appeal populous conservatives and say if you want to shake up Sacramento, I'm the guy who can do it.

HUME: Now, the California Republican Party has been in the wilderness in terms of the governor and the legislature for quite a long time. They may be as hungry as you suggest they are for a victory.

What about the prize? Taking office now in the middle of a terrible fiscal crisis, with what will undoubtedly be in political terms a hostile legislature. Is that a formula for success for the man who would like to kick-start the Republican campaign, the Republican cause in California?

GINGRICH: Look, the reason I'm smiling is you are a very rational, reasonable human being. You're dealing with California. California is the middle of chaos. They have a governor so bad that for the first time since North Dakota in 1921, he is almost certainly going to be recalled. Now, for the governor of the largest state in the United States, a state that is like the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world, to get recalled means that Gray Davis has just blown the system apart.

And in that setting, the question is would you rather have Bustamante trying to put it back together with all of his cronies and special interests? Or would you rather have Schwarzenegger? I would say not in a calculating let's think this through planned way. But for Republicans, a first generation immigrant who is a celebrity, who wants to cut taxes, who's solid on defense as a conservative, is a pretty good gamble to have as a Republican governor in Sacramento. And then the truth is, we won't know until he's had six months in office. I mean, you know he could be a disaster. He could be fabulous. But he is the best gamble we've got.

HUME: Let's look at this from the other side. Bustamante is now the only Democrat of any real standing, who is on the bottom of that ballot, the replacement part of that ballot. The party has clearly joined forces to back him. They say they're against the recall, but they all know that it is likely to happen.

On the other hand, Schwarzenegger has some competition. Bill Simon, for example, is somebody who qualified to be the nominee of the party and has money to spend to promote his cause. Tom McClintock, the…what I'm saying is that there are people on the ticket who can drain votes away from Schwarzenegger. There may not be on the other side in this Democratic state, people who can drain votes away from Bustamante. Isn't Bustamante in a stronger position than he appears?

GINGRICH: Well, I don't think so for three reasons. First of all, the poll that I think came out this afternoon shows Schwarzenegger at 51 and Bustamante at a long way behind him.

HUME: At 17 percent. Right.

GINGRICH: Seventeen. OK.

HUME: That's way down.

GINGRICH: Second...

HUME: Quickly.

GINGRICH: Second, Bustamante has got to say I was never Gray Davis' lieutenant governor, I don't know Gray Davis, I don't know why you think I was in Sacramento, I'll really new face. I think that's hard. Third, Bustamante has to answer a lot of questions about support from Indian casinos. I think he has a long 60 days to lose.

HUME: Newt Gingrich, great to have you. Thank you.

GINGRICH: Good to see you.

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