Gingrich Grades Obama's Iran Response

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," June 23, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: There is chaos in the streets of Tehran tonight as Iranians continue to protest the results of their election. Now opposition leaders are now calling on citizens to strike a move which could paralyze the country, and even as the graphic images of violence against civilians in Iran were broadcast around the world, well, back in Washington the anointed one, President Obama, for the most part, has remained silent.

But at a press conference earlier today Mr. Obama finally decided to weigh in on this crisis. Now he was asked about this change in rhetoric by FOX's own Major Garrett.


MAJOR GARRETT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: In your opening remarks, sir, you were — you said about Iran that you were appalled and outraged. What took you so long?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I don't think that's accurate. Track what I've been saying. Right after the election I said that we had profound concerns about the nature of the election. As soon as violence broke out — in fact, in anticipation of potential violence, we were very clear in saying that violence was unacceptable.


HANNITY: Now this was the president's first nonprime-time news conference since taking office. He answered a whopping total of 13 questions that ranged from the economy to, get this, his smoking habits, but one moment in particular has caught the attention of media watchers, and that was when President Obama appeared to have prior knowledge of a question that that he would be asked. Listen to this.


OBAMA: I know Nico Pitney is here from Huffington Post.


OBAMA: Nico, I know that you and all across the Internet we've been seeing a lot of reports coming directly out of Iran. I know that there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet. And what — do you have a question?


HANNITY: All right, now, after the news conference, reporters asked the blogger how the president knew that he was in the room, and he explained that a White House staffer called him earlier in the morning, asked him to prepare that question, and then even escorted him to the briefing room, and when he arrived, well, there he is.

Video: Watch Sean's interview

So, so much for an unbiased White House press corps.

Joining me now is the host of the documentary, along with his wife, Callista, "Ronald Reagan, Rendezvous With Destiny," and the author of "Real Change" which is now available in paperback, former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Speaker, good to see you. I'm sure that you had all the questions when you were speaker of the House. I mean that wasn't a problem, right? They just handed them to you ahead of time?

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, I think if I'd been a liberal Democrat it might have been easier, but I think the real troublesome thing about today's press conference was that the president despite everything that's going on in Iran could not bring himself to announce that the United States was uninviting the Iranian diplomats around the world from our Fourth of July party.

All over the world, American embassies hold a Fourth of July party. Now think about it. This is a party in celebration of independence. And it's a party in celebration of human rights. It's a party in celebration of a country which for 225 years has held elections, and he couldn't even as a gesture of disapproval say that the current government would not be welcome at our Fourth of July parties.

Now, that's pretty Jimmy Carter-esque in terms of absolute inability to do anything meaningful about a dictatorship which in the last few days has killed a number of its own citizens.

HANNITY: Well, and that offer still stands. The Politico just reported, and Eric Cantor, I know, a mutual friend of ours, you know, he thinks this would be an opportunity for the administration and the State Department to take a stand, but they're obviously not doing it.

What do you think? Is Obama being tough enough on Iran?

But why do you think — why do you think, after saying, quote, "we're meddling, this has nothing to do with us, it doesn't matter which side wins," that he's willing to do business with whoever wins. Why do you think now today he changed?

GINGRICH: Well, I think the pressure's building around the world, and the pressure's building in the United States because there's something tragic about this very articulate, eloquent president being absolutely inarticulate and lacking eloquence about freedom and the rights of individual Iranian citizens.

There's something almost grotesque about their inability to talk clearly and openly about the people of Iran.

By the way, by contrast, Congressman Mark Kirk This evening managed to convince the Appropriations Committee to adopt an amendment that would cut off external gasoline supplies to Iran, a very important step in the right direction.

I hope the House and Senate this week will adopt resolutions calling on the president to suspend any Iranian invitation over the Fourth of July. I think it's the right signal for the U.S. Congress to send, and these things do matter. You mentioned the movie Callista and I did about Ronald Reagan, "Rendezvous with Destiny."

The fact is, in that movie, we have Natan Sharansky, who was a prisoner in the Soviet gulag. We have Vaclav Havel who was a prisoner in the Czech prisons. We have Lech Walesa who was under house arrest in Poland for three years. All three in that movie say the words of the president of the United States were decisive in undermining and defeated the Soviet empire, and words really matter in this kind of moment.

HANNITY: He hasn't been a leader. He hasn't condemned the regime in any really serious way, and he only did it after public pressure. He's not spoken out forcefully. He's basically been on the sidelines. He's been out there calculating, you know, watching all points of view.

Isn't this the Barack Obama we know so well? He voted present.

GINGRICH: Well, I — you know, you have to look at that and you have say that the State Department convinced him to follow an engagement policy that basically says no matter how bad the dictatorship is just try to hide from it, ignore it, pretend it doesn't exist.

You could have the weird moment here on the Fourth of July of Iranian diplomats from a repressive regime in the middle of killing its own citizens visiting an American Fourth of July party while as you reported the North Koreans firing missile towards Hawaii.

Now what greater symbols of American weakness could you want on the Fourth of July than those two events happening?

HANNITY: Yes. And it can happen and of course they're also transporting nuclear material, we talked about maybe boarding their ships, but it doesn't seem like we're going to do it. I think this just shows weakness.

But I've got to ask you a very important question because we're going to get into the economy a little bit more in the next segment, but I'd be negligent if I didn't ask you. There is really significant, important legislation that most people are not aware of that is being taken up in the House of Representatives.

I call it cap and tax, they call it cap and trade, that will literally raise electricity rates and lose about 2.5 million jobs according to estimate if this is passed. Very few people have paid attention to it, and I know you're following it at American Solutions.

What do you say about it?

GINGRICH: Well, look, we have an ad campaign under way, we have a petition drive under way, but we're targeting specific Democrats who represent districts where there's no reason to vote for this.

The energy tax bill will probably come to the floor on Friday. It is a terrible burden on the American economy. It's going to deepen the recession, it's going to increase unemployment, it's going to hurt every American family if you use electricity, gasoline, diesel fuel, or other things, heating oil. It's going to hurt you.

HANNITY: Well, that's a pretty big hurt especially, you know, they told us if we passed the stimulus bill, Mr. Speaker, that unemployment wouldn't go above 8 percent. If we didn't pass it, it would go to 9 percent. Now it's 9.4 percent, and he said it'd be 10 percent by the end of the year. Now they're saying it could be 10 percent by the end of the summer.

GINGRICH: I think the idea with gasoline prices going back up, and I hope every person watching tonight will both call their congressman or will send an e-mail to all of their friends asking them to call their congressman.

I believe if the American people act in the next 72 hours, we can defeat this bill on Friday. It is a terrible energy tax increase.

HANNITY: All right. Mr. Speaker, good to see you. By the way, welcome back. I know you've been away for a while. Appreciate you being with us.

GINGRICH: Appreciate it. Thank you.

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