Lessons Learned By the Obama Administration?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," April 7, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is here. He's going "On the Record." And President Obama, who lands at Andrews Air Force Base here in Washington in about four hours, took (ph) an unexpected Air Force One detour today to Baghdad, top secret detour stop on his way home from a whirlwind international tour.

So what did President Obama accomplish on his first major trip abroad? Should this trip be considered a success or a failure or something in between? Speaker Gingrich joins us live. And of course, don't forget to check out the Speaker's new documentary, "Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous With Destiny." You can get it at www.Reagandocumentary.com.

Nice to see you, Mr. Speaker.


VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, I assume or I think generally that President Obama's whirlwind tour overseas can be put in one of three categories, either that he appears a great world leader seeking to unite the world and to give -- give positioning to the United States, or that it was mediocre, or that he was bashing America. What's your take on this?

GINGRICH: Oh, I think that it was an effort on his part to appease just about everybody he ran into. I'm glad he went to Iraq today. I think that was a good thing to do. The big question I have is whether he's going to learn anything from this trip.

You know, Jimmy Carter went through a period when nothing worked and he learned nothing from the experience. John Kennedy went through a very similar experience in 1961, but he learned from it. He had a very bad visit with Khrushchev in Vienna. He came back home. He said, You know, this is different than I thought it was going to be. He toughened up his foreign policy. He strengthened the military, and much of the Kennedy administration, I think, was changed by his experiences in the spring of 1961.

President Obama gave the Europeans every emotional goody they could ask for, and they gave him nothing back. He asked them for help and Afghanistan, they basically said no. He asked them for help with Iran, they basically said no. He met with Medvedev, the Russian president, and they talked about cooperation. And in the U.N. Security Council, in response to the North Korean missile launch, the Russians said no. The Chinese said no.

So it's pretty hard for me -- other than the fact that he bowed to the king of Saudi Arabia -- and I don't know if that means the Saudis'll be nice or not -- I'm not quite sure, in practical, real terms, what President Obama got out of this. And I'll be curious to see if he learned anything from the inability of nice words and gestures to move people to do anything for America.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you say that he got nothing, that every place he went, they said no to him. Was there anything he expected them to say yes to? And does he not get some sort of credit, for lack of a better word, for establishing relationships so that he can go back and start talking with them as need be? Is there not a value to that?

GINGRICH: Well, I think a lot of these countries will talk to you forever while they do their own thing. The Russians are talking to him cheerfully because they're going ahead and doing what they want to. The Europeans are talking to him cheerfully because they're ignoring him. The Saudis are glad he bowed, but they're not going to change their behavior. The North Koreans deliberately fired a missile as a direct insult just hours before he was going to make a speech on the need for a worldwide disarmament effort, making him, frankly, look a little silly. He promised we'd have tough results in the United Nations. We got no results in the United Nations.

So at some point, you have to ask yourself, Is the White House open enough to reality to understand that this trip didn't accomplish anything? Now, if they want to write it off as a good PR stunt, fine. But I do think this is not a campaign. He's not running for president. He is the president, and I don't think the president of the United States goes around the world for the purpose of getting applause. He goes around the world to get people to agree to do something substantive.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it -- is it fair -- or I don't mean to put words in your mouth. Are you saying, then, that this trip was a waste?

GINGRICH: Well, if he learns from it that the Iranians...

VAN SUSTEREN: But how? Learn what?

GINGRICH: ... and North Koreans are going to be -- well, I think this is up to him. I mean, John F. Kennedy learned, I think in a very deep and real way, that whatever his illusions had been as a candidate, that the world was going to be much harder and the Soviets were much more dangerous.

If President Obama, first of all, learns that the North Koreans are truly, utterly unmanageable, second that the Europeans are never going to be very much help, third that the Saudis aren't going to do very much, and fourth that the Russians will be pleasant to you to your face and then do nothing for you -- if he comes home and learns that, he'll fundamentally change his foreign policy and he'll rethink some of his assumptions about the world.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, going through that list -- I tried to take notes. North Korea is unmanageable. You don't need to go to Europe or even travel any place to know it's unmanageable. We've had President Bush 43 discovered that. President Clinton before him discovered that, and all the way back. France and Germany have been quite obvious in how they have felt towards our policy. I'm not sure what we'd learn from even talking to them, at this point. And of course, you know, Britain's been pretty consistent with our relations. So I'm not sure what he would actually learn that he wouldn't otherwise know or somebody would know. Now, you might want to go there, try to change something, but I'm not so sure that this -- this isn't, like, you know, a semester abroad.

GINGRICH: Look, I think...


GINGRICH: You said that, I didn't say it. I believe that President Obama has enormous self-confidence in his own ability as an orator. I think he went over there believing that if he smiled a lot and bowed a lot, if he used the right words, that the Europeans would want to be nice to him. And I think what he just discovered is nice doesn't get you anything. And now he's got to decide, is he going to go through the next four years having trip after trip where nothing happens, or is he going to rethink his negotiating strategy and recognize that the world is a much harder place than he thought it was?

I think this is a genuine moment of choice in this administration, and I think all the indications from the opening weeks are bad in terms of their ability to deal with the real world, as opposed to proposed (ph) fantasies. I mean, this nuclear disarmament thing was a fantasy and made doubly a fantasy by the North Korean reaction in firing a missile at the very time of the speech.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, we talked nuclear weapons. Let's talk about Pakistan. It's a good segue. I mean, Pakistan is now so instrumental in so many ways in terms of what goes on in the world. What would you do about Pakistan, if you were president?

GINGRICH: Well, let me say, first of all, that I do think in Dick Holbrooke, the president has appointed a roving ambassador who's very tough, who did a pretty darn good job in the Balkans, but who has a very weak hand to play. The core fact about Pakistan is that gradually -- partly because the U.S. Congress cut off all education and training for a long period -- the Pakistani military has gotten harder and harder and more and more inclined towards an Islamic fundamentalist view, which is very dangerous from our standpoint. You could have Pakistan become an enormous problem almost overnight because they already have nuclear weapons, whereas Iran is trying to get them.

What we would like for them to do, what we need for them to do, is control the Northwest Territories. I think there's almost no possibility that they're going to do that, and that poses a real crisis for American policy. And this is not President Obama's fault. The same crisis was building under President Bush. The fact is Northwest Pakistan and the management of the Pashtun region is a much, much bigger problem than any politician has been willing to confront. In trying to figure out how you fix Afghanistan will turn out to be a much bigger problem than just sending a few thousand more troops.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, complicating it is the fact that Pakistan and India hate each other. They both have nuclear weapons. And now India is helping building roads in Afghanistan, so Pakistan thinks that India is now trying to sort of get its -- you know, get in good with Afghanistan, so you've got this problem. So let me go back to the question I posed. What would you do? Because I mean, it does -- if I had an easy solution, I'd brag about it right now and say it. I mean, like, what can we do at this point?

GINGRICH: The number one thing we have to do is have a highway solution for northwest Pakistan and Afghanistan. The more paved roads you build, the more open the countries become, the greater the possibility you're going to gradually wear out the guerrillas and you're going to help grow things that are useful.

The second thing I'd do is find a way, even if you had to invest a fairly good bit of money, to wean the Pakistani -- the Afghan farmers off of growing poppies and converting it into heroin and instead wean them into productive work. That's another reason you need the road network. And it's vital to find a way to build lots and lots of roads in northwest Pakistan because it'll open the region up. Until you've opened that region up -- if it remains isolated and it remains able to hide, in effect, from modern civilization, it is going to remain very, very dangerous for us.

VAN SUSTEREN: And so, in other words, there really is virtually no solution. I mean, building roads -- I mean, it's...

GINGRICH: No, look, I...


VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, that seems dismal to me.

GINGRICH: I think...

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, if that -- if that's the best we can do, I feel sorry for President Obama because it's -- it's not a lot of good choices there.

GINGRICH: It's not -- no, it's not -- there are not a lot of good choices, but there are choices. I gave a speech in 2002, taking on the State Department for the failure to build roads in Afghanistan. This is a longstanding problem. And I think, frankly, rather than sending more combat troops, if we send eight or ten battalions of combat engineers and simply got them to build the maximum number of roads as rapidly as possible, we'd be a lot better off because we want to open the country up so people can earn a living in the modern world and they can be weaned away from being part of a drug culture which is estimated is 34 percent of the country's economy.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, in looking at sort of the president's trip, his trip through Europe, of all the things that sort of confront him on his plate, besides, you know, obviously, the world economy, this Pakistan problem to me is one with almost -- I hate to be such a wet blanket, but you know, almost no solution because it is so dangerous.

GINGRICH: Look, Iran is the same way. If Pakistan's dangerous because they've already got nuclear weapons, the Iranians are steadily and thoroughly building nuclear weapons. Hamas is still firing missiles at Israel from Gaza. The North Koreans are marching forward to build missiles and nuclear weapons. The world is dangerous, and a fantasy foreign policy is not a substitute for being honest about how serious and hard the problems are.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Speaker, if you'll stand by, we're going to have much more with you in just two minutes.

And up next: Students taking to the streets at Notre Dame, protesting President Obama's upcoming commencement speech. Does Speaker Gingrich think the college should pull the invitation to he president or not? We'll ask.

Plus: Wait until you see this, Congressman Barney Frank in a heated showdown with a Harvard law student. Who do you think wins? We got it on tape, so you will see with your own eyes. Plus, the Harvard law student is here to go "On the Record."

And the bizarre Anna Nicole Smith saga just never stops. Anna's former psychiatrist and her former boyfriend, Howard K. Stern, go to court. And while there, Howard's lawyer ignites a war of words with California's attorney general. Wait until you hear this one.


VAN SUSTEREN: We continue now with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Mr. Speaker, at Notre Dame, there's a little bit of a controversy brewing. Some students have begun protesting, not wanting President Obama to speak at the university because of some of his beliefs that are contrary to some of the beliefs of the Catholic church. Should he speak at this university commencement? And is this a big controversy or not a big one at all?

GINGRICH: Oh, I think it's a very big controversy. If you contrast - - well, it'll be interesting to watch whatever he says and compare it to President Reagan's speech at Notre Dame, which was the "source of all strength'" speech. Vince Haley has an article (INAUDIBLE) on line tomorrow morning pointing out that President Reagan very daringly and very boldly defined communism and the future of freedom and said that our freedoms come from that higher being which is the source of all of our strengths. Be an interesting contrast to see what President Obama says.

But I would say to the students that rather than protest, why don't they work up an e-mail and Twitter and Facebook and telephone campaign and see how many right to life meetings they could organize across the country to coincide with the exact same time of President Obama's commencement speech.

It would be a great sign of the country's interest if across America that day, millions of Americans took a few moments to consider the importance of protecting the unborn and to consider how wrong it was for President Obama to have favored infanticide when he was a state senator and to thank President Obama for raising the issue so that that day could become a day when the entire nation might, in a prayerful and solemn way, think about whether or not there is a right to life.

And our Declaration of Independence does say we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It may well be that President Obama may accidentally trigger the spark that creates a nationwide awareness on that day in a way he and his schedulers could never have imagined.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is this -- the controversy is over right to life, and the fact that it's a Catholic university. I mean, lots of times, you know, you don't agree with everyone who speaks at the universities. I mean, we don't agree with every speaker all the time. Is this such a core issue that the choice by Notre Dame was really a huge mistake to the Catholic church?

GINGRICH: Well, look, first of all, it's been pointed out to me correctly that as a relatively new convert, I probably shouldn't try to in any way correct the head of Notre Dame, who, after all, has a long and distinguished career. So let me instead simply suggest that the question of when life begins is at the heart of Catholic doctrine -- it is something the pope has been very clear about, it's something the entire hierarchy's very clear about -- and that the question of whether or not babies should be killed is quite clear in Catholic teaching. And in that sense, it is certainly a controversial choice.

As I said, responded to properly, prayerfully and in a civil way, it might well become a moment when the entire nation has a new conversation. And my prediction is very few people will favor the kind of infanticide that Senator Obama favored when he was in the state Senate. And very few people will understand the radicalism of the Freedom of Choice Act which would override every state restriction, which the Obama administration would like to do, or the lifting of the conscience clause which protects religious people from being coerced into performing abortions.

And so maybe this day will turn out in a way to be a blessing by God, and maybe it'll turn out in a providential way to be exactly the right conversation to have at Notre Dame and across America.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's your reaction or view of Harry Knox, who has been chosen by the president to be on the faith-based initiative advisory group, and he is a gay activist who has had some very harsh words for the pope? Is that a bad choice, or does that bring...

GINGRICH: I think it's...


GINGRICH: Look, I believe this administration is intensely secular, is very anti-religious. I believe their tax policy's waging war against both charities and churches and synagogues. I think their goal is to have a very secular America in which government dominates everything. Why wouldn't you put an anti-religious, left-wing zealot on a faith-based group? It's a perfect pattern for this administration.

Why wouldn't you nominate a judge, for example, who said in one ruling in Indiana, Judge Hamilton, who said that you couldn't use Jesus Christ in a prayer, but you could use Allah? I mean, you read his -- read that particular ruling, and you wonder how President Obama could possibly have picked him to be his first appellate court nominee. This administration is going to try to go down in history as a consistently anti-religious, secular group of people who are consciously trying to drive things out.

And notice, by the way, in Connecticut, two legislators actually introduced a bill which would have had the effect of destroying the Catholic church in Connecticut and didn't even seem to understand what they were doing because they're just so cheerfully secular in their views.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Hope to have you on early next week. I thought I'd commit by booking you on the air when you can't say no. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


VAN SUSTEREN: Up next...

GINGRICH: Look forward to it.

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