Newt Gingrich in the No Spin Zone

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," February 28, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Now for the top story tonight, another view on the politics of hate and the ports controversy. Joining us from Washington, FOX News analyst Newt Gingrich.

You know, I haven't heard you on this at all, Mr. Speaker. So I'm anxious to have you analyze this deal.

NEWT GINGRICH, FMR. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Well, I think, first of all, that just rejecting the United Arab Emirates out of hand would in fact hurt us in the war on terror, that the United Arab Emirates have in many ways been our allies.

But I also think that the deal is a helpful warning to look at all government owned port activities. You pointed out in California, for example, the Communist Chinese government owns companies which are running port facilities in Long Beach.

And I think that there's a huge difference between private sector companies, which the British company was up until it was bought by the United Arab Emirates, and government run companies.

I do think the Congress ought to be looking carefully at what kind of supervision, what kind of restrictions, and what kind of transparency is necessary when you have a government involved in running a port facility.

O'REILLY: Now this could be a good thing, though, because with Bush's reputation on the line as a terror warrior, and that's his big plus, let's face it, he's got to be vetting this company, and the CIA, and FBI, and the military services have got to be looking at this every which way. Because any disaster involving not only the Emirates company, but, as you pointed out, the Chinese or anybody else, would pretty much put President Bush right on the shelf. So maybe this is a good thing, all this controversy.

GINGRICH: Well, look, I think this is a good thing for the country. I think that the committee of bureaucrats who looked at this, checked off all the right questions, but they didn't have enough questions.

I think the fact that nobody in the administration thought that this particular deal would — you ought to be briefing the Congress in advance, which would have, I think, raised troubling questions and forced them to think about it a little bit more carefully.

But also, Bill, and you and I may disagree on this, when I look at the record, for example, the General Accounting Office just reported that of the 2.5 million people who got money from FEMA after Katrina, 900,000 had some problem with their identity. Either the wrong addresses, the wrong name, duplicate Social Security numbers, false papers. Every third person.

When I look at the border where it's clear that we don't have control, or I look at 11 million illegals or 20 million, depending on who you believe, that we don't know who they are, I'm not sure I'm very confident that the Department of Homeland Security can tell me what's happening at the ports. And that's part of why I think the country is a little cautious and would like to see Congress look into this deal pretty intensely.

O'REILLY: OK. And I'm for that as well. I disagree with Hillary Clinton. I don't want 45 days. I want 90 days. Take as long as you want.

Were you surprised at the breakdown? We've got The L.A. Times opposing The New York Times. You've got conservative commentators opposing each other. You've got all of this kind of wrapped up, no — you know, everybody's on and then take one side or the other.

Now we were very clear here. We don't really care what the Bush administration puts forth. We want to win the War on Terror. "We" being “The Factor."

We want to win the War on Terror. That's number one. And I realize that if you were to throw this Emirates company out or humiliate them in any way without cause, the whole Arab world is watching this. And that would hurt us immeasurably in my estimation. Am I wrong?

GINGRICH: Well, I think it would hurt us some. I'm not sure hurt us immeasurably. But that's why I think you've got to broaden this issue, to look at the Chinese Communist government run operations on the West coast fully as much as looking at the United Arab Emirates.

Any government owned company poses, I think, a security risk because you don't know what'll happen to that government two or three years from now.

And remember, for these port operators to operate, they've got to be working very closely with Customs, with the Coast Guard, with Homeland Security. So they're going to know a lot of our security practices.

I want to make sure that knowledge stays in the U.S. and doesn't end up getting transferred back to people who might not necessarily have our interests at heart.

O'REILLY: But that would be impossible. I mean, if you're going to allow foreign companies to be involved with ports of entry — and see, I would support a bill from going forward that all ports of entry are run by U.S. companies. I think that makes sense.


O'REILLY: So if you want to do that now and get a new law, I'm for that.

But boy, I think you're underestimating. You know, the Emirates put its neck out for the USA, allowing our air base to be there, CIA station to be there. Al Qaeda missives, released from West Point today, say that the emir and all the government of the Emirates are on the Al Qaeda death list.

So I don't know if these people, if you treat them shabbily, that's a mistake.


O'REILLY: And that's my primary...

GINGRICH: ...first of all, I would apply the same principle to China that I would apply to the Emirates. So we wouldn't be anti-anybody.

Second, you can allow ownership of an operation without allowing day-to-day control. This happens all the time.

O'REILLY: Right.

GINGRICH: When people own stock, but they don't run it.

So you could, in fact, build a wall between an American director of the company. And interestingly, the United Arab Emirates chief operating officer has been an American, somebody whose background is entirely American and who came from New Jersey.

So I think you could easily work out a deal where you absolutely protect America's interests, but at the same time, you don't insult or humiliate somebody who's been an ally.

O'REILLY: Right. I think that's paramount right now.

Another big controversy — I don't know the Bush administration, they got to get out in front of some of these things, Mr. Speaker, you know what I mean?


O'REILLY: They just never getting out in front of them. They're always getting whacked right in the head when they got to just get out there in front of this.

GINGRICH: Sometimes White Houses go in these cycles, I think.


GINGRICH: And — now Reagan did it. Even strong presidents sometimes go through cycles where they're a little off-balance.

O'REILLY: All right, Mr. Speaker, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

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