Transcript: Gingrich Reacts to U.N. Iraq Resolution

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, June 8, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Hi everybody. This is THE BIG STORY. I am John Gibson with a Fox News Alert. At long last legitimacy. A new and free Iraq getting some worldwide recognition and support. Minutes ago, the U.N. Security Council (search) resolving to accept the interim Iraqi government, the vote unanimous...

For reaction to the breaking news from the U.N., we turn now to former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (search). Mr. Gingrich, today's big question, what does the U.N. resolution mean for Iraq and maybe, more importantly, for President Bush?

NEWT GINGRICH (R) FMR. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, I think, first of all, it's an enormous achievement for President Bush to have gotten a unanimous vote out of the Security Council. It's a big shift in the position by France, Russia, and other countries, and it moves towards what President Bush has said all along was one of our goals, which is a free, independent Iraq capable of governing itself. I also think that the existence of this new Iraqi interim government has been an enormous boost in the last two and a half or three weeks to President Bush and in moving towards a much more positive development in Iraq itself.

You now have Iraqis who are making the rules. You have Iraqis who are on public television explaining the rules. You have Iraqis who are beginning to organize their security forces. These are all very big steps in the right direction, and the fact that even countries as critical as France and Germany in the end decided they had to go along with it tells you that President Bush is beginning to get, I think, a pretty good grip on how to organize where we go next in Iraq.

GIBSON: Well, we're looking at pictures of the Security Council as the vote was taken, all 15 hands up voting for the resolution. Who caved?

GINGRICH: Well, I think there was actually a genuine negotiation. I think the French get a little bit more control for the sovereign government of Iraq. The Americans and the British, nonetheless, retain the ability to operate without an Iraqi veto, but let's talk about reality. The reality is once there's an Iraqi government, once there's an Iraqi prime minister, if we do something that really infuriates them, they're going to ask us to leave. On the other hand, if they meddle in a way that we think will get young Americans killed, we're going to leave.

We'll have to have a constant negotiation where Iraqi sensibilities and American safety are both maintained in the balance. And that's just a reality of this transition period. I think it will last longer than two years. That was the other big sticking point was the U.S. and Britain would like to have had an open-ended mandate for staying there. But, again, it doesn't really matter. Once we have elections in Iraq, once there's a free government of Iraq, if it makes sense to the U.S. and Great Britain and Iraq to work out a deal, we will. If it doesn't make sense, we won't. That's just an objective fact.

GIBSON: Mr. Gingrich, look, there was also, you know, in the last couple of days France and Germany were trying to get a resolution through that said that the multi-national force, the coalition force, whatever you want to call it, essentially American troops, would be under orders of the new Iraqi government. That did not happen. In fact, the compromise that was worked out was if Iraqi troops don't want to go along on the U.S. operation, they can stay home, which doesn't sound a whole lot different from the way it is right now. Is it fair to say that Mr. Bush stood down the French and the Germans on that point?

GINGRICH: Well, I think it's fair to say that the French and Germans tried every way they could to minimize the American and British role in Iraq, and in the end the French and the Germans failed. And looking around the world, they reached the conclusion, correctly, I think, that they didn't want to be in a position to try to veto an American — the French could, the Germans couldn't — but to try to veto this resolution. I think the fact you had an Iraqi government representative at the Security Council, you had the Iraqi government saying bluntly they needed this. Notice, all the new members of the Iraqi government are very, very grateful to the alliance, say so public ally, and indicate clearly they do not want to us leave precipitously. I think that had to have a big impact on the French moving away from their earlier position.

GIBSON: Mr. Gingrich, the other thing is we are, of course, the next couple of days the state funeral for Ronald Reagan (search). People in California are waiting in line seven hours to view the casket. There's going to be enormous — this is a live picture from the Reagan Library in Simi Valley. The question arises about Iraq, and President Bush and the situation we're in now. What would Reagan do? Do you have an idea? What would Reagan have done faced with the same circumstances as George Bush?

GINGRICH: Well, President Reagan was prepared to take very great risks for freedom, and I think President Reagan would have applauded both the commitment to freedom that President Bush has set and the consistency with which President Bush has stuck to his goals. I think President Reagan was a very strong man who would have been prepared to stick it out if that's what it took. He took very big risks with the Soviet Union on occasion, put U.S. missiles into Europe, was prepared to confront the Soviets, supplied weapons to the Afghans to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan, confronted the Soviets over Nicaragua. I think he would have approved of the kind of aggressively pro-freedom policy that President Bush has been following.

GIBSON: And he was criticized, especially in European circles and U.N. circles, for all those things you listed, same as President Bush is. Does that give us a clue as to how President Bush's policies might be viewed later?

GINGRICH: Look at it this way. We've now had two cowboys who had ranches. Both cowboys have riled up the Europeans and the international community because they pursue American national interests very aggressively. My hunch is that President Bush ultimately is going to be as successful and in the same kind of significant historic role as President Reagan, because they're both prepared not just to talk about freedom but actually to take steps that make people freer.

GIBSON: Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House and author of the new book — what's the name of your new book?

GINGRICH: "Grant Comes East."

GIBSON: "Grant Comes East." There it is. Newt Gingrich and William Fortune, a book out now. Please go pick it up. And Mr. Gingrich, good to see you. Thanks for coming in.

GINGRICH: Good to be with you.

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