Exclusive: Gingrich Comes Out Swinging Against Obama in First Interview as Presidential Candidate
This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," May 11, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: One of the biggest names in the Republican Party is joining me with details on his 2012 announcement. We're please to be joined by former speaker of the House, the one and only Newt Gingrich.
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It's great to be with you.
HANNITY: Great to be with you.
Well, you know, there's an interesting AP story. I took this sort of nostalgically. When Newt Gingrich last held political office, "Seinfeld" was the top rated TV show. The Spice Girls ruled the pop charts. And pagers, not iPhones, Facebook, Twitter, online, you know, was the big tech rage. And today, you actually announced online, Twitter, Facebook, all these things. A lot has changed.
GINGRICH: A lot has changed. And I think for the country, the fascinating thing is, that there are a lot of principles that haven't changed. And the reason that I came here tonight to announce that I am a candidate for president of the United States is because I think if you apply the right principles to achieve the right results, that we can win the future together. And I don't think that having a president who applies the wrong principles and gets the wrong results is going to lead to winning the future. I think that in fact will lead us to lose the future.
HANNITY: You made this announcement, and it came in sort of a series of steps, stages, if you will. How did you arrive here? And I guess the first obvious question really is, why do you want to be the next president?
GINGRICH: Well, my dad served 27 years in the infantry and really believed in duty, honor, country. I think that this country has an enormous potential to break out and to once again, be at four percent unemployment, to have a surplus of American energy, to be the leading industrial power in the world, to balance the budget as we did for four years when I was speaker to reform entitlements, as we did with welfare, when I was speaker. And that's a great future. But it's not a future we're going to get to until we clear away the liberal policies, the liberal bureaucracies, the Washington-centered system.
And so, you face a choice in your life. And Callista and I really had to sit down and look at citizenship. You know, are you prepared to do what it takes to offer to your fellow citizens a vision of a better healthier, safer, more prosperous America? And are you prepared to spend a year and a half of your life seeking that office?
And we reached a crossroads of saying either I really believe the things I've said my whole life or I would be a fraud. All my life, I've preached citizenship. I've preached the duty to go do things. Back when you and I first met in Huntsville, I was running around the country as a junior congressman recruiting people. Later, when you were a big figure in Atlanta radio, I became speaker with a Contract With America based on recruiting people to do something.
And so, I think my job now is to recruit 310 million Americans to make very clear, this is not about one person in the oval office, this is about millions of Americans deciding that together, we can win the future with the right policies leading to the right outcomes.
And that we have to win the argument that President Obama has the wrong policies and they lead to the wrong outcomes. And that's pretty straight forward. Nine percent unemployment's wrong outcome. Two trillion dollars in deficit is the wrong outcome. Having the largest federal debt in history is the wrong outcome. Telling the Brazilians they should drill while we don't drill is the wrong outcome. You go down item after item, you know, four dollars a gallon gasoline is the wrong outcome.
And so, I think that we are going to have a very clear, very vivid choice. And my job is to try to offer the American people a genuine sense that with the right solutions and the right approaches, this country can take off again and we could have a 20 or 30 year period of extraordinary opportunity.
HANNITY: You are describing a choice election in an environment where you said to me on this program once that, you think don't underestimate President Obama, he will be difficult to beat.
GINGRICH: He will be. Because first of all, he is going to say whatever he needs to, to win. Second, he's going to have all of the advantages of the mainstream media, he's going to have all the advantages of left-wing billionaires like George Soros. He's going to have all the advantages of the Hollywood crowd. And they are going to go out and they're going to have all the advantages of the unions. And so, they are going to try to raise a billion dollars for a very practical reason. He can't afford to run in a fair election.
HANNITY: Fair or?
GINGRICH: If he was on an equal playing field, he would lose.
HANNITY: Just -- you are saying on his record?
GINGRICH: Yes. On his record, on his values, on his beliefs. The American people by 79 to 16 believe we want American energy. He thinks we want Brazilian energy.
HANNITY: Now, we would be their biggest customer, he did say that.
GINGRICH: That's right.
HANNITY: Look, there -- already the media, you actually said in one interview said, if my running is about my past, I can't win.
HANNITY: But already the media, you know, they are going after you. They are going after your personal life. You have been divorced. All of these things that they keep bringing it up. Why do I suspect that the same media that ignored so much of President Obama's background and associations when he was running, that this is going to be never ending. How do you deal with that?
GINGRICH: Well, if you are a conservative, you have to start with the assumption that you are not going to get an even break from the elite media. And that's just reality, I mean, Ronald Reagan didn't get up every morning and say, gee, I wish they liked me. Ronald Reagan had been a movie actor, only had one movie, "King's Road" get a good review from the New York Times, only one. But he had a pretty good career because it turned out that middle class, middle America liked his movies. And so Reagan understood if he did what he believed in and he articulated what he believed in, we could have a remarkably good time and most Americans would look past the elite media, and that's what they did.
HANNITY: How many years have you been out of office now?
GINGRICH: Twelve years.
HANNITY: How are you different today than you were when you are in office, what do you most proud of and maybe, what would you do differently going back to as you were there?
GINGRICH: Well, I think, it is fair to say that I am more mature, that I've had time to reflect on what worked and what didn't work. I've had time to look and see what has happened in the executive branch, which I spent over six years with President Bush and his team.
Excuse me. I have allergies. This time of year it is a real challenge sometimes.
I would also say that I've had a chance to run four small businesses, so I have a pretty good sense of job creation, meeting payrolls, meeting a market. Callista and I have done seven movies together, and several books together. I've had time to slow down and watch our two grandchildren growing. And being with our daughters and our son-in-laws. And so, for me, life actually has been pretty good out of office.
HANNITY: I mean, let me ask you, what do you think -- if you think the president going to be tough to beat, you know, what do you think about him personally? And if you had to grade him on two things, the economy and foreign policy, peace and prosperity drive elections. What do you think about him personally, how grade him?
GINGRICH: Well, this may surprise you, I don't think about him personally. I don't know him. I have no idea.
HANNITY: You don't? Never met him?
GINGRICH: I've met him. But I'm just saying, I'm not, you know, one of the things that happens when you decide to offer to be the president of the United States is, I'm not in the historian analytical business. I don't spend a lot of time sitting around thinking about what makes him tick.
What I think is that his basic background is very far to the left. His world view is far to the left. The people he has appointed the government are very far to the left. And the number one thing we know from the collapse of the Soviet empire to the failure of socialism in Europe is left-wing policies don't work.
I mean, if you look at the collapse of Detroit and the rise of Texas and you say to yourself, which would you like better, the state that had the most job creation in America for the last 10 years or a city which has collapsed? I know, talking with the Governor Rick Perry and others, I know how to get the whole country to resemble Texas. President Obama knows how to get the whole country to resemble Detroit.
HANNITY: We're going to take a break. We're going to come back. More with former speaker of the House, and the 2012 GOP presidential candidate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM NEWT.ORG)
GINGRICH: I'm Newt Gingrich and I'm announcing my candidacy for president of the United States because I believe we can return America to hope and opportunity, to full employment, to real security, to an American energy program, to a balanced budget.
I worked with President Ronald Reagan in a very difficult period. We got jobs created again, Americans proud of America, and the Soviet Union disappeared. As speaker of the House, I worked to reform welfare, to balance the budget, to control spending, to cut taxes, to create economic growth. Unemployment came down from 5.6 percent to under four. And for four years, we balanced the budget and paid off $405 billion in debt. We've done it before. We can do it again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: All right. That was part of the official announcement released just a short time ago by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. He is in for 2012 and he joins me live right here in studio.
All right. I'm looking at the Standard & Poor's, lowering their long term outlook for the federal government's health from stable to negative. I'm looking at the IMF, most recent forecast, China's economy will surpass that of America in real terms in 2016. We see inflation. We see real unemployment at 16 percent when you count the underemployed, those that we don't count any longer. We got $14 trillion debt, $1.675 trillion deficits every year. I mean, real problems with entitlements. You talk about balancing the budget. How would you get America to a balanced budget? And how fast do you think a Gingrich presidency could do it?
GINGRICH: Well, I think, first of all, it can't be just Gingrich presidency. We need 12 more Republican seats in the Senate. And we need about 40 more Republican seats in the House. But if we had a contract in the fall of 2012, and if we had an election encore principles and we won that election, then we would have a mandate starting on the very first day with the executive orders.
And one of the things we are going to do is have an executive order program online, during the campaign. So you will know -- the first executive order by the way would abolish all the White House "czars." And the goal would be to stop, after the inaugural address, and before the legislative luncheon and spend one hour signing preexisting executive orders, so the speed with which you would start to turn the ship would be that day, not a month later, not two months later.
Second, I would want to work with Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, to have a team contract that they are pledged to pass in the first 120 days.
HANNITY: So, you want to create another Contract With America?
HANNITY: So, that will be coming, when?
GINGRICH: Well, I think that would probably come around Labor Day or slightly later next year. But I want to create the concept -- we know for example, that if you really are serious about balancing the budget, you can do it. We did it. It took us three years. We then balanced it for four consecutive years. We paid off $405 billion in debt. Nobody thought we could do it when it started. We did it.
HANNITY: How do you balance this budget? We've never had these numbers before. And -- are you saying that you do it in three years, five years?
GINGRICH: I think probably five years. But it depends in part on how fast you can re-grow the economy. You know, here's the bizarre good news out of the bad news. We only went down from 5.6 percent to slightly below four. That's only a differential about 1.6 percent. But our natural unemployment rate is around four. So, if we went from nine percent. And remember, with the unemployed, it is 15.
HANNITY: We've got to get back in those systems.
GINGRICH: Yes. So, if we went back down to four percent and say three or four years, you would really suddenly have a dramatically different economy with a dramatically different revenue flow. You'd have fewer people on Medicaid, fewer people on unemployment, fewer people on welfare. You know, and you would suddenly have a drop in government spending, a rise in government revenues.
HANNITY: How deal with entitlement reform, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. We keep hearing this, the third rail of American politics. And we already saw -- the president actually said about Paul Ryan's plan that kids with Down syndrome and autism and old people have to, quote, "fend for themselves." How do you, you know, get people to buy into it.
GINGRICH: Let me say first of all, President Obama should be ashamed of himself. For the president of the United States, a year and a half before an election to deliberately use dishonest scare tactics, demeans the United States of America. He said things about Paul Ryan's budget that were falsehoods. And he said things that were deliberately divisive. He did the same in El Paso on immigration.
HANNITY: Making fun of Republicans.
GINGRICH: Attacking them -- saying, well, I would really like to work with you but by the way, let me now go out and lie about you for a while.
HANNITY: Did you want to build moats with alligators.
GINGRICH: Yes. I mean, the whole -- you just read the speeches, you know, that might have been a nice campaign speech for U.S. senator from Illinois. It's a terrible speech for the president of the United States.
So, let me start right there. I would say to you, that I have enormous faith in the American people. We undertook welfare reform. We brought in all the governors and we had a tremendous team effort, never before done. We had the governor staffs, people like John Engler and Tommy Thompson and Mike Levitt, George Allen. Result was, we passed the welfare reform with two out of three people went to work or went to school. Virtually, every analyst today agrees, people are better off today because of our welfare reform. Well, we have to talk to the American people.
We then did something that has never been studied but was actually amazing. In 1996, we were told that Medicare would go broke in very a short time. I personally chaired the Medicare task force, brought together the Ways and Means Committee, the Energy and Commerce Committee and did it with AARP and not fighting us, with a liberal democrat in the White House running for reelection. And we passed a major reform of Medicare with the president signing it.
HANNITY: And you think you can do though with Social Security? You think you can do it?
GINGRICH: The different problems, you deal with Social Security by first of all going out and holding a whole series of hearings around the country in which the only people who come are under 30 years of age. And you say to people under 30, you look at your lifetime, you look at the real numbers, you come advise us, what plan do you want? Because this is about your future. And get it away from politics, get away from interest groups, get away from Washington and lobbyists.
HANNITY: Last question on the economy, we got to take a break. Can you -- what would you do to get gas prices down? Every American out there --
GINGRICH: I would reverse Obama's entire pattern of being anti- American energy. I would start by saying drill here. Drill now. Pay less. I would go out on shale gas. I would go out on offshore oil. I would go out and encourage other developments. I would also encourage flex fuel cars. And I would encourage blender pumps, so that you would have a choice of what you are buying at the pump. The fact is, if we decided that we were serious about American energy, and we had a government that was actually pro energy, you would find that within three to five years, we were dramatically more productive and prices were coming down.
HANNITY: All right. When we come back, we'll going to have more with the former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. He is in for 2012.
HANNITY: And thanks for joining us tonight on "Hannity" as we welcome the newest Republican contender for the White House in 2012, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
Foreign policy. Difference between your foreign policy if you were president versus President Obama?
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I think we should have a foreign policy.
HANNITY: We don't have one?
GINGRICH: Well, I mean, the president on March 3rd said, Qaddafi has to go. Qaddafi is still there.
HANNITY: He gave up.
GINGRICH: You have a president who has zigzagged about dealing with Iran. You just go down the list. It's a very, very discouraging mess. But there's a core difference. I think we need an American foreign policy, based on American interests. When the president spoke from the National Defense University about Libya, he cited the U.N. and the Arab league eight times, and the U.S. Congress once. I think that is sort of the wrong cycle.
HANNITY: For example, a lot of people have been speculating. What is the bin Laden factor? In other words, here he orders our brave Navy SEALs, successful operation. They get bin Laden. Yet, we also discover that without enhanced interrogations, Gitmo, rendition, black sites, in other words, the very policies he's opposed, we wouldn't have gotten them, no acknowledgement or tip of the hat to President Bush.
GINGRICH: The real problem if you are a true left-winger, reality is not nice to you. They are now going to discover all sorts of material. Which is for example, that will lead the American people to say, we've given $20 billion to Pakistan since 9/11. And they were housing bin Laden? I mean, does any serious person believe that bin Laden could have been in that town and the Pakistanis didn't know it?
And you are going to find more and more information like that. And you have more and more questions come out. Because the world view of the American left is fundamentally out of touch with the reality of the real world. And so, this information is going to make the president's ability to continue to hide from reality, diminish dramatically.
HANNITY: What about, you know, some of the positions that I never understood, Miranda rights for enemy combatants on the battlefield, he wanted to close Gitmo. And we're now prosecuting, Eric Holder is investigating the very CIA interrogators that got the information that they were approved to get.
GINGRICH: Eric Holder should never have been approved by the U.S. Senate. He volunteered to write papers for terrorists. He volunteered to try to help terrorists get out of jail. His record out of office, between the Clinton years and today, was such that it should have disqualified him from serving as attorney general. And in fact, the U.S. house should be investigating what his beliefs are. Because he is consistently doing the wrong things as it relates to Americans. And every American should be outraged that CIA officers who are risking their lives to try to save this country from attacked are being attacked by their own attorney general.
HANNITY: What do you think of the issues of the pictures? What do you think of the issue of the funeral? Quote, "In accordance with Islamic custom." We're told on the one hand bin Laden has not -- doesn't represent a Muslim. But yet, he's a radical Islamist, but he got, let's see, a funeral within 24 hours, he has his body cleaned, wrapped in a shroud, 40 minute service on a U.S. aircraft carrier, translated into Arabic. Is there a hypersensitivity with the president?
GINGRICH: I don't know. I mean, as a historian I look back at what we would have done with Hitler and somehow it doesn't strike me that we would have been nearly as concerned. This man was a mortal enemy of the United States. Said so publicly, said so proudly. And I think sometimes we have to have an ability to look evil in the face and decide to do the right thing.
HANNITY: We would have gotten bin Laden if the Obama policies were in place? Or does he really -- does the credit for the intelligence really go to black sites, rendition EITs (ph)?
GINGRICH: Look, a lot of the credit for the intelligence goes to things that President Bush set up. But I also agree with Vice President Cheney who said the other day, you have to give President Obama credit. That when he got down to the tough decision, he had the guts to make the right decision.
HANNITY: How much would you worry about another 9/11? How vulnerable -- do you think we've become more vulnerable? Would you view the president as timid, indecisive, weak, what are your adjectives for him on foreign policy?
GINGRICH: I helped create with President Clinton that American commission, we spent three years looking at American national security. We reported in March of 2001, before 9/11, we said the greatest threat to the United States, is a weapon of mass destruction going off in an American city, probably from a terrorist group. That was in March. I would sit here today and tell you with great concern, not a day goes by, that I don't worry about us being attacked. And not a day goes by that I don't worry that the attack will be a nuclear weapon or something comparable, not something like 9/11.
HANNITY: Last question, who do you think is your toughest competitor in the primary?
GINGRICH: Oh, I think that key is to reach out to the American people, offer a new generation of solutions, a new generation of approaches. And I mean, I have many good friends running, and they're people I've known for a long time, I hope we're going to have a very positive campaign. But the only competitor I think about is President Obama.
HANNITY: What would a Newt Gingrich-Barack Obama debate look like?
GINGRICH: I think it would be very interesting. I think the difference in our fundamental values, our fundamental belief systems is so great that it would be one of the most educational debates I think in modern America.
HANNITY: All right, well, you are in. Appreciate you being with us. We will be talking in the days and months ahead.
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