Newt Gingrich's Take on Ahmadinejad
This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," September 24, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, "ON THE RECORD" HOST: Here it is, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia University today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Freedom of speech is for American citizens, not for foreign dictators, not for terrorists, not for criminals!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I welcome the president of Iran.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lock him up!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lock him up!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lock him up!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has the right to speak. I like to have different — I like to hear different opinions on — about world events.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not happy that Columbia is giving a terrorist — a world known terrorist — a forum to speak.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that he should be allowed to speak. I feel like freedom of speech is an American value.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the president of Columbia has every right to invite anybody who he wants to. But the regents have the right to fire him.
LEE BOLLINGER, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT: Today, I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for.
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I think the text read by the gentleman here, more than addressing me, was an insult to information and the knowledge of the audience here.
BOLLINGER: We at this university have not been shy to protest the challenge — and challenge the failures of our own government to live by our values, and we won't be shy about criticizing yours.
AHMADINEJAD (through translator): We don't need to resort to terrorism. We've been victims of terrorism ourselves.
In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country.
We love all nations. We are friends with the Jewish people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in Iraq. I was over there. I don't see why they glorify these guys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the United States isn't going to open up dialogue with Iran and with him then, you know, I'm so glad a respectful university like Columbia is letting him come and speak here today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't believe we let him in the country in the first place! I'm appalled. I'm really appalled that he wasn't arrested and thrown in Guantanamo Bay the minute he came onto our shores.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please. I'm trying to tell him that this is not a spin zone here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Minutemen tried to speak, and he threw them off campus. The ROTC tried to come and speak, he threw them off campus. What's fair and balanced, FOX? What's fair and balanced?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: The controversy surrounding Ahmadinejad's controversial speech has spread far beyond Columbia University's campus. Earlier today, former speaker of the House and author of "Pearl Harbor," Newt Gingrich, went "On the Record."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you, Mr. Speaker.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Good to be with you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Big news today, president of Iran here in the United States, speaking at Columbia. Your thoughts on it, sir.
GINGRICH: I think it's a very sad day for the United States. The — yesterday, the U.S. military reported, once again, that Iranian weapons are killing young Americans. Last week, two weeks ago, General Petraeus said to the Congress Iran is waging a proxy war against America. I think that somebody who actively has his government killing your young men and women speak at Columbia was a — is a disaster and speak at the Press Club is totally inappropriate.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I was actually there at the Press Club. I have sort of a different thought about this, is I always want to know what my enemies are saying and thinking. So I like the fact that he had sort of an open mike, just let him talk so I can see what's going on.
GINGRICH: Well, he's like Adolf Hitler. He's a pathological liar.
VAN SUSTEREN: And so now anyone who had any doubt in America — women have lots of rights over there — I mean, every woman who heard him say that practically fell over. So if you didn't know who he was beforehand, hadn't heard from him beforehand, now, you know, you have a different thought.
GINGRICH: Well, I mean — you and I — I think that treating an evil leader — let me give you an example. He made a comment in passing there were fewer homosexuals in Iran.
VAN SUSTEREN: Does he kill them?
GINGRICH: They execute them. I'm just saying nobody got up and said, How you can have somebody here who denies the Holocaust, executes homosexuals, arrests students, tortures and kills journalists — I mean, how could the National Press Talk have a guy there who tortures and kills journalists?
VAN SUSTEREN: But he — he made that statement at Columbia, not at the forum that I heard, and he got booed.
VAN SUSTEREN: And so anyone who was at home watching this, you know hears sort of the public acclamation against him — I — you know, you and I agree on him.
VAN SUSTEREN: We have total agreement on him, that he's a monster. But I actually — I want — I was actually — I wanted to hear him.
GINGRICH: In the entire Arab world and in the entire third world, the version Iranians are going to put out of today is going to be totally to his advantage.
VAN SUSTEREN: Or if we hadn't let him speak, what the version would be is that America speaks about — you know, about wanting to have, you know, free speech, wanting to hear different sides, and they wouldn't even let our president...
GINGRICH: I'll give you a simple test. Condi Rice should offer to come to speak at Tehran University.
VAN SUSTEREN: She should. And I'd like...
GINGRICH: She should, and see what they say, since by definition, if she showed up, she would be offensive in her normal outfit.
VAN SUSTEREN: That's right. Well all those rights those women have, right?
GINGRICH: That's right.
VAN SUSTEREN: That's all the — But you know, it's interesting how - - I don't think people in America disagree on him...at all.
GINGRICH: Well, except I don't think anybody here takes it seriously. I mean, think about the notion — General Petraeus literally testified, and nobody in the Congress followed up on this — that Iran is waging a proxy war against us. Yesterday, the military spokesman in Baghdad said the Iranian weapons are coming in to kill Americans, and named the specific weapons. Yet nobody in our government has said, Well, if they're killing young Americans, what are — what is it we should be doing in response to the fact that the Iranian government's killing young Americans?
VAN SUSTEREN: But see, here's the strategic thing, the way I look at it, is that if we had let him sort of quietly slip into New York, quietly speak to the U.N., the American people would not be talking about this right now. The whole dispute about Columbia, or the whole dispute about the National Press Club — I mean, what it's now done is put the issue in play for the American people.
GINGRICH: Well, I hope you're right. And I hope every American says to themselves, Anybody who kills young Americans, we should defeat. And I think we need to find a way to replace this government, preferably peacefully, preferably with a variety of things that Reagan would have used in Poland that didn't involve war. But I find it deeply offensive that his government has been systematically and methodically killing young Americans and we do nothing about it.
VAN SUSTEREN: I — you know, I don't think — if you don't find it deeply offensive, there's something really wrong with you.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, because — I mean, you know, killing Americans. They've been sponsoring terrorism for a long time.
GINGRICH: That's right.
VAN SUSTEREN: Denying the Holocaust.
GINGRICH: Well, and then Louis Freeh, when he was the director of the FBI, said the Clinton administration actively, consciously didn't want to learn that the Iranians had killed Americans at Khobar Towers because they didn't want to have to confront the fact that what do you do about it.
VAN SUSTEREN: What is the Bush administration doing?
GINGRICH: I am absolutely mystified. I can't imagine why they put up with this. I mean, either General Petraeus is wrong and the military spokesman's wrong, or the current policies we have are stunningly ineffective.
VAN SUSTEREN: So what should we do? I mean, that's always the big question. We realize we have a problem. What should we do? And when?
GINGRICH: We should finance the students. We should finance a Radio Free Iran. We should covertly sabotage the only gasoline refinery in the country. We should be prepared, once the gasoline refinery is down, to stop all of the gasoline tankers and communicate to the Iranian government that if they want to move equipment into Iran — into Iraq, they're going to have to walk.
VAN SUSTEREN: That actually seems rather simple and easy to do. We're not doing that?
GINGRICH: No, we're not.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why aren't we?
GINGRICH: Well, in 1981, Reagan said the Soviet Union was an "evil empire." One of the things we did, we now know because it's been in memoirs and it's public source, is we built faulty natural gas pipeline pumps and got them sold on the black market to the Soviets, who thought they were buying this terrific new American technology. And in early 1982, there was an explosion in Siberia that was so big that it registered on the satellites as thought it was a nuclear event. And one half of the White House was really worried, until the other half of the White House said, No, no, that's our equipment.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why...
GINGRICH: I'm just saying, once upon a time, we have had occasion when we were very clever and we got a lot done.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why aren't we doing things like that? Is it because they think strategically, it's not wise, or is it because we're so busy in other parts of the world? I mean, there be some sort of — I mean, you must have some sort of thought as to why we aren't.
GINGRICH: I think we are currently so timid and our bureaucracies are so risk-avoiding — it took enormous leadership by President Reagan and by Bill Casey to reenergize the CIA in the early '80s. And we've now been through a long period of beating up the intelligence community and having lawyers say, You can't do this, you can't do that. Mike Scheuer, who was in charge of hunting for bin Laden, says that we found bin Laden 10 times in the late '90s, and every single time, either the lawyers said, You can't do anything, or the senior leadership said, It's too big a risk.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do we know where he is now?
VAN SUSTEREN: No idea.
GINGRICH: I mean, I think he's somewhere in Waziristan, but we don't know.
VAN SUSTEREN: And are we actively looking for him?
GINGRICH: I think we're actively looking for him, but it'll raise a very interesting question. Will the lawyers let us still get him?
VAN SUSTEREN: What lawyers? Who are these (INAUDIBLE)
GINGRICH: No, no.
VAN SUSTEREN: What are these lawyers...
GINGRICH: You'd be amazed at the stories people tell you about these meetings where people say, Well, there might be too much collateral damage.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is that the lawyers or the military people? Obviously, I'm a little sensitive...
GINGRICH: No, no, no.
VAN SUSTEREN: ... at the issue of the lawyers.
GINGRICH: No, no, no.
VAN SUSTEREN: Who are these (INAUDIBLE) lawyers?
GINGRICH: This is literally the internal arguments about, you know, how do you execute campaigns nowadays.
VAN SUSTEREN: Going on right now, that's the dialogue?
GINGRICH: In the intelligence community. The military does much less of that, but the intelligence community does a lot of it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, how — how does the president — what do you think the president's thinking tonight, our president, not the Iranian —
GINGRICH: I don't know what he's thinking. I mean, I don't understand why he has not instructed the national security system to exact sufficient pain indirectly on Iran that they decide to give up killing young Americans. I can't explain the administration policy.
VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, sir. Thank you.
GINGRICH: Thank you. Good to be with you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to have you with us.
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