Newt Gingrich Responds to McClellan Book

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," May 28, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: It is the continuing fallout from former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's book, which is very critical of the Bush administration. Details of the book leaked last night and they have everybody talking.

Former Bush administration officials like Karl Rove, Ari Fleischer and Dan Bartlett are disputing McClellan's criticisms and claiming the excerpts don't even sound like the McClellan they knew.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is jumping into the mix, saying today that John McCain is offering four more years of the same sort of failed policy in Iraq that McClellan details in his book.

Joining us now with more, former speaker of the House, FOX News contributor, and author of "Days of Infamy," your latest book, Newt Gingrich.

Video: Part 1 | Part 2

Thank you very much for being here tonight, Mr. Speaker.


COLMES: You know when Scott McClellan talks about the press being too easy on the president and mismanagement having to do with Katrina, misleading us up to the war, even you hear this quite some time. This is not exactly breaking news. The — unusual thing is to have a former press secretary say it, but a lot of Americans feel that way.

GINGRICH: Well, a lot of Americans feel that way — and I have two comments about what Scott did. The first is I assume this is all designed to sell books, and of course, he got a lot of publicity, a lot of attention. The second is, if these allegations are true, why didn't he resign?

COLMES: Well, eventually he did leave the administration.

GINGRICH: Yes, I'm just saying, he's telling us he was in this meeting when this bad thing happened, and then he walked out and talked to the press about it. Then he was in the next meeting where a bad thing happened, he walks out and talks to the press about it.

I don't have a great deal of faith that he is telling you and me the truth tonight any more than he apparently was telling us the truth back when he was saying things that he now says weren't true.

COLMES: But my point — and you ask a very good question. Why didn't he either leave early or say something then, and many of the aides he worked with say he didn't talk about those things. But again, this goes back to my earlier statement. This is not the first thing we're hearing some of these things. The only unusual thing is the source.


COLMES: That's saying.

GINGRICH: This president clearly is in trouble, the administration is in trouble, and there are a number of different problems. When an administration gets in trouble, it's amazing how many of the president's close personal friends turn out not to be and how many of his loyal staff turn out not to be.

COLMES: Alright. But do we know — first of all, the loyal staff will defend the president and attacks Scott Mr. McClellan. Do we know what he did or did not say? Do we have an objective source? Do we know why he actually left the administration? Maybe he was disgruntled and upset and felt the administration was putting him in a bad position.

GINGRICH: No. I don't want to shock you, Alan, but I actually don't care.

COLMES: Well, but the point is...

GINGRICH: I mean...

COLMES: I am shocked, Mr. Speaker.

GINGRICH: I mean I'm...

COLLINS: How could you possibly say something like that...

GINGRICH: I mean my lack of interest...


GINGRICH: Scott McClellan's personal odyssey of self-discovery is a negative. I'm more concerned about "American Idol" than I am about Scott McClellan.

COLMES: More people have voted that than actually vote for the president.

GINGRICH: And I'm not picking on McClellan.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: All right. We've got the quote of the day and the headline tomorrow. "I care more about 'American Idol'."

COLMES: (INAUDIBLE) where there are more voters and maybe more to vote for.

GINGRICH: That's exactly right.

COLMES: But so — you know, he clearly is saying some things that fits — the mood of the country. But — yes.

GINGRICH: Well, Think about it this way. Here's this guy who wants to sell books. You know he's cut his ties with the administration, and his publisher says, now, look, you can spice it up a little bit.

And by the way, here are all the headlines that your good friend Alan Colmes has created. And here are all the things...

COLMES: Oh, yes, I did all that. Just blame the liberal. Go ahead.

GINGRICH: No, no. I'm just — I'm not blaming you. I was just saying — they said why can't we just shade it a little more, and then next week they get a new rewrite. And they get, well, pretty good. But how about shading it a little bit more.

COLMES: Well, that is kind of — some of this actually came out last November, and some people in the Bush administration saw it. Bush was aware of it, and they said this is probably over the top, and they'll probably tone it town. And it turns out that was just the opposite, turned out to be the case.

GINGRICH: Right. Instead of toning it down, they sort of pumped it out. And I don't blame the publisher. I mean publishers have a hard time selling fiction, and this kind of a fictional book doesn't have a big market, and I think they got to go out and get all the books they can for the fictional — again, but nobody should assume this book has anything to do with reality.

It has to do with Scott McClellan's needs to sell books and the publisher's need to sell books.

HANNITY: Hey, of course, I agree with your analysis. And I said as much last night. If he — if, Scott, if you felt this way, why didn't you leave at the time? Why did you wait for a big financial gain from a book deal?

And I think that's a legitimate question, because he was there during the time all these things were happening, which moves us on to more important issues, not Scott McClellan saying what Alan thinks on many issues.

But I want to ask you, you had written a piece, and I still have it, real change or catastrophic defeat, time for a Republican wake-up call. And you talked in this piece about losing Dennis Hastert's seat.


HANNITY: And you talked about losing the Louisiana seat. We since lost the Mississippi seat. Karl Rove says the GOP must stand for something. Tom Coburn said that — in the Wall Street Journal yesterday that the Republicans are in a state of paralysis and denial. How bad is it?

GINGRICH: Well, I see some glimmers of hope. I got a great e-mail today from Congressman Paul Ryan who told me that in the 400 town hall meetings he had over his course of his career, the ones he's having this week where he's talking about our petition drive to drill here, drill now...

HANNITY: I got your — I got your bumper — these are bumper stickers...


HANNITY: ... that you're giving out. "Drill here, Drill now, Pay less."

GINGRICH: "Pay less." And that's also a petition drive at American Solutions.


GINGRICH: And I got a note from Paul today saying — and he's a very smart member, who has a very, very bright proposal for entitlement reform that he's just introduced.


GINGRICH: And he said he is getting a stronger reaction from his town hall meetings to the "Drill here, Drill now, Pay less" approach into the petition program.

HANNITY: We can put this right under here.


GINGRICH: But the point is, a Republican Party that decided to break away from the elite and to say, you know, why don't we have more American energy production? Why don't we use more common sense in the U.S.? Why don't we defeat the Warner-Lieberman bill that's coming up next week in the Senate?


GINGRICH: Why don't we say to the American people we agree with you, gas prices are too high, we don't think you should be driven out of your car, out of your truck, out of your airline job.

HANNITY: But — see, I agree. I even came up with my 10 items for victory because I don't see a vision coming out of Republicans in Washington. I think they should be the party of national security, border security, the party of energy independence, the party that eliminates earmarks.

GINGRICH: That's right.

HANNITY: The party that saves Social Security, all these things. Why don't — why are we hearing it from you at American solutions? Why does — you know, a dopey old talk show host have to put it on his Web site? Why don't they articulate this vision?

GINGRICH: Somebody else other than you put it on their Web site, too?

HANNITY: I put it on my...

GINGRICH: You're not a dopey old host. I thought you're referring to somebody else.

COLMES: Oh, yes, he is. Come on. We can all agree on something.

HANNITY: The Republican Party pledges — here's what I have, item four,, and also you can have your bumper stickers up there, too. And it says, item number, the party pledges to be the party of energy independence.


HANNITY: Drill in ANWR, drill in the 48 states, build refineries, build nuclear facilities, and develop new technology.

GINGRICH: Right. Look, I can't tell you why they're not getting there yet. I can't tell you why Senator McCain is not getting there yet. But I can tell you that, unless they prepare a clear, decisive break with the current policies, and unless they show a real gap between the kind of wrong policies that Barbara Boxer and the Warner-Lieberman bill represent — and let me tell you, this bill is so out of touch with reality, that if the Senate adopts this we ought to get Major League Baseball to investigate the Congress because the Congress will clearly be out of touch with reality.

HANNITY: Well, all right. And we'll get to that. But you think it's more important for the Republicans to focus in on a positive agenda than...

GINGRICH: Absolutely.

HANNITY: ... the criticisms of Barack Obama?

GINGRICH: Absolutely. Look, I mean, let me say upfront, because otherwise you're going to yell at me later.

HANNITY: I'm not going to yell.

GINGRICH: You were right, I was wrong for six months when you kept saying look at these various things, but...

HANNITY: About Wright and William Ayers.

GINGRICH: About Wright and Ayres...

COLMES: Oh please.

GINGRICH: But, but...

HANNITY: But I'm moving forward.

GINGRICH: In the long run, in the long run, I think I'm in the faction that says — as I did with the contract with America — standing for something positive, giving people a chance you could have less expensive gasoline...


GINGRICH: ... you could have more electricity, and you could do it in a way that's environmentally safe and good for national security...


GINGRICH: ... is more important than attacking Obama.


HANNITY: And we continue now with former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich is with us.

All right. This is the balancing act that — look, you're the architect in '94, so I want your best strategy. And that is, one example, we have — on a Sunday, we have Senator Barack Obama saying, ah, Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, they're tiny countries, they're not a serious threat. Two days later, Iran is a grave threat.

How do you balance between William Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, comments like that, and the positive agenda we were just talking about?

GINGRICH: I think you give about 80 percent of your time to positive things because they're harder to communicate, and you talk about how you would lower the price of gasoline, how you would create jobs competing with China, how you would lower taxes, how you'd reform government, how you'd get back to a balanced budget.

And then you spend about 20 percent of the time describing clearly and vividly where Senator Obama is. I mean it doesn't take many occasions to suggest that he's a little confused. I mean you — you can just put back-to-back pictures of him explaining the same thing in two totally different ways.


GINGRICH: Or you can put his explanation over a 20-year period he apparently was not awake for a single sermon. I mean there are a number of...

HANNITY: I wonder if he knows the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

GINGRICH: Never things like that.

HANNITY: When he said there's — at a Memorial Day speech, I see many of you here today. That was pretty — I know people can make campaign gaffes, and that's fair. But there's one after another...

GINGRICH: Well, I think — but I think picking on a Harvard law graduate over confusion about those two days is over the top.

HANNITY: Is unfair.

GINGRICH: I think it's unfair.

HANNITY: I'm over the top by doing that.

GINGRICH: You're over the top.

HANNITY: All right.

COLMES: Let him have it.

HANNITY: But as you — my only concern is this. We've heard people make predictions that Nancy Pelosi could have a 70-seat majority in the House, that Harry Reid can reach...

GINGRICH: They might.

HANNITY: ...reach the magic number of 60, filibuster proof, and that Barack Obama could be president. Is that possible in your analysis?

GINGRICH: Is it possible?


GINGRICH: Sure. Is it likely? No.

HANNITY: What's likely?

GINGRICH: What's likely? What's likely is somewhere between an Obama victory at 54 or 53 percent, and a McCain victory at 54 or 53 percent. I mean they're more likely to be in that zone.

HANNITY: That close.

GINGRICH: Because I think people — remember Obama has not been able to put away this election in the Democratic primary against Senator Clinton. Half the people in Kentucky and the Democratic primary said they wouldn't vote for him.

HANNITY: That he's not honest and trustworthy.

COLMES: Plus you got two great candidates, too. You've got two very...

GINGRICH: You've got two extraordinarily aggressive candidates. And again, to be fair to Senator Obama, somebody who can get 1,400,000 donors...


GINGRICH: is an extraordinary figure. He has mobilized the left better than anybody in modern times, but he still has not been able to close the sale, and my guess is that Senator Clinton is going to beat him in Puerto Rico and actually will come out of the primaries having had more votes than he had.

COLMES: Interesting case she can make to the superdelegates. But I want to bring — I want to tie Scott McClellan back into what Sean sort of talked to you about which is you've had — well wait, because that is the news of the day.

But three major — or three special congressional races...


COLMES: ... in Republican districts, go Democratic, which is you rightly suggest is a wake-up call for Republicans, and Hannity has his 10 points, and you have — if fact, if the Republican Party listened to you, which perhaps they shouldn't for my sake, maybe they'd be better than they were doing, but isn't the failure of the Bush administration the reason why Republicans aren't doing well and that Scott McClellan maybe is right when he says, look, look at what this administration has done.


COLMES: And that's why Republicans are not doing well?

GINGRICH: The problems of the Bush administration are part of it, and the problems of the House and Senate Republicans are part of it. I mean, yes, it's — President Bush didn't write a truly stupid bridge to nowhere. That was a House Republican member. President Bush didn't go around and do some of the dumb things that House and Senate Republicans have done.

The whole earmarks rights is something they made up on their own.

COLMES: Then why are even Republican strategists saying the Democrats are likely to gain seats both in the House and the Senate? It's going to be a route. You know, Obama has got a good chance. Democrats could conceivably run every branch of government, except the judiciary, as a result of the failures of the Bush administration.

GINGRICH: I think that the — well, and the failures of the House and Senate Republicans. I mean I think you've got to be fair about this.


GINGRICH: This — the Republicans entered this decade with an opportunity to govern successfully for another 25 years. To do that, they had to fundamentally reform the government, they had to fundamentally change the rules so that people had more gasoline at a lower price, they had more energy, they had more nuclear power, they had a cleaner environment, they didn't do it. They didn't succeed.


GINGRICH: Now the question you've got to worry about, Alan, is there is zero reason to believe that the Democrats will get us on the right track. There's every reason to believe that they will raise taxes, increase regulations, increase litigation. I mean...

COLMES: Not...

GINGRICH: This (INAUDIBLE) last week, to sue OPEC?

COLMES: And by the way, it's not to raise taxes.

GINGRICH: Give me a break.

COLMES: It's not renew the Bush tax cuts.



COLMES: ...and the top two percent.

GINGRICH: Which raises taxes.

COLMES: He's trying to pin the bumper sticker on.

HANNITY: Where can people get this?


HANNITY: It's on my Web site.

GINGRICH: Again — OK. And I hope soon before the end of the evening towards Alan's...

COLMES: would be right.

GINGRICH: That's right.


COLMES: OK. There you go.

Thanks very much for being with us.

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