Newt Gingrich on President Bush's News Conference

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 14, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY HOST: Now for the top story tonight.  A couple of other views on the press conference.  With us, Fox News analyst Newt GINGRICH.

All right, where am I going wrong here?

NEWT GINGRICH, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST:  I don't think you're very much wrong at all.  I saw the press conference about the same way you did.

I think the president's challenge is to drive a system in Iraq where you get the Iraqis a lot more involved in their own government and where the Iraqis have a lot more at stake.  I think General Abizaid probably understands this as well as anybody in the world.  And the fact that he's now their full time and has really taken charge in Baghdad of the military side is a very good step in the right direction.

He speaks Arabic.  He is of a Lebanese Christian background.  He is a tremendous specialist in the region.  And I think what you'll see in the next few weeks is a lot better American ties with the Sunnis and the Shias, and the Kurds and a lot more political involvement of the Iraqis in their own self government.  And I think at that point, you're going to see the killers being isolated pretty dramatically.

O'REILLY:  All right, now that's an optimistic view, you have to say.

GINGRICH:  I'm an optimist.

O'REILLY:  All right, but you know, you were critical of the -- they called it an uprising, which was very unfair I thought.  Did you think the word uprising on the front page was unfair?  Because I didn't see it as an uprising.  An uprising is when the popular folks rise.

GINGRICH:  Yes, they don't -- they got two factions.

O'REILLY:  Right.

GINGRICH:  The Sunni faction in Fallujah and this one extremist  leader of the...

O'REILLY:  Shi'ites.

GINGRICH:  ...of about 3,000 or 4,000 Shia out of about 15 million.

O'REILLY:  But the American press portrayed it as an uprising across the country.


O'REILLY:  The people trying to throw us out, which was very misleading.

GINGRICH:  That's totally false.

O'REILLY:  Yes.  But you said in a paper I read, and maybe you were misquoted, that you know, look, Bush is at risk here if he doesn't get the military situation under control.  You still feel that way?

GINGRICH:  Well, he is -- of course he is a risk.  This country is  not going to watch five more months of Fallujah and of the kind of ambushes and the kind of killings of hostages, and say gee, let's just keep it up.  The president has to have a strategy, which I think they're moving towards now, of very aggressively putting the Iraqis in charge of their own future, having us as the reinforcers, not the enforcers.  You and I talked about this a year ago.

O'REILLY:  Yes, but the Iraqi army ran a way, a quarter of them in the fight for Fallujah.


O'REILLY:  And the police -- yes?

GINGRICH:  Look, I'm not defending the Iraqi performance here.  But let me draw a distinction.

O'REILLY:  Go ahead.

GINGRICH:  In Korea in 1950, when we were short of manpower, we invented what was called the "KATUSA" program, Koreans Attached to the U.S. ARMY.  As many as 20 percent of the troops were Korean in some of our units.

Iraqis who are working closely with Americans, if you go to northern Iraq right now, you'll see Iraqis working closely with Americans.  When you put an Iraqi in the same humvee, you suddenly have an Iraqi family saying boy, we better not have a bomb along that road there.

O'REILLY:  All right, so you say -- they almost have to integrate.

GINGRICH:  You've got to integrate them...

O'REILLY:  Right.

GINGRICH:  ...for the transition until they learn.  Remember, these are people brutalized by 25 years of a truly vicious, murdering torturing dictatorship.

O'REILLY:  No, I understand.  It's understandable.


O'REILLY:  But Bush doesn't have the luxury of time here.  He doesn't have the luxury of time.

GINGRICH:  They need to do it immediately.

O'REILLY:  Right, he's got to get...

GINGRICH:  And I think Abizaid will.

O'REILLY:  All right.  The president is not big on details.  Last night, he was criticized for when a question was well when are you going to hand the government over to?  And he goes, "you know, well we'll know soon."  And everybody goes, "oh, you should know now."


O'REILLY:  You know?  Legitimate?

GINGRICH:  No, I don't think so.  But they're in the process of working that out.  They're going to work that out.  June 30 -- look, if June 30 is the deadline, how come all of a sudden for the White  House press corps April becomes the deadline?

O'REILLY:  Well, I didn't -- you didn't defend me...

GINGRICH:  No, I think the right answer the president say -- the press says you're the press, I'm the president.  You'll know soon.

O'REILLY:  But I would have said hey, I'm evaluating a lot of different people.  Now we'll make a decision or -- in conjunction with the Iraqis.  You always have to say that to be politically correct.  But we don't have the strategy nailed down.

The other question was Clarke apologized to the families.  Do you want to apologize?  Now loaded question.  You're shaking your head here.

GINGRICH:  But he should have been ready to just knock it out of the park.

O'REILLY:  Right.  And well, are you telling me how you would have knocked it out?  And I tell you how I would have.  Go ahead.

GINGRICH:  Well, I would have said that the people who owe an apology are the murderers who came to America, who plotted to kill Americans.  And the duty of the rest of us is to get revenge for our loved ones, and to make sure that these people aren't around to ever do it again.

O'REILLY:  You'd use the word revenge?

GINGRICH:  You bet you.

O'REILLY:  OK.  I would have said that -- but not before I said this.  I would have said I wish I had done more.  I wish I had done more in hindsight.  Just a little bit of humility, you see?

But -- and then I would have given them your answer.  You see what I'm talking about?  Because the perception the Bush administration, among many Americans, is they're arrogant.  They  never apologize for anything.  They never admit any mistakes.

And you're right, he knew that was coming.  If he had just softened it a little bit.  See, a teeny, little...

GINGRICH:  You may be right, but let me tell you why I'm probably not very much in the softening phase today.  When you look at the pictures I just saw of the hostages, and you hear reports of  them being killed and really brutal, vicious ways...

O'REILLY:  Right.

GINGRICH:  ...I don't think this is a time for us to be complicated.  I think this is a time for us to say to the planet there's civilization and there's barbarism.  There's nothing in between.

O'REILLY:  And we're going to wipe out barbarism?

GINGRICH:  And we have to wipe out barbarism, because if we don't, it will destroy civilization.

O'REILLY:  I think that's true.  I think that that's got to be the theme.  They're not going to give up.  They're not going to stop.

GINGRICH:  That's right.

O'REILLY:  And if we stop, we're going to get it.

GINGRICH:  Then our whole way of -- and let me say, by the way, in talk -- I used to work with a big picture guy named Ronald Reagan (search).  And Ronald Reagan may not have known a lot of details,  but he knew how to take out the Soviet Union so it didn't exist anymore.  And if George W. Bush manages to hold together a team, and they manage to eliminate this threat to us over the next few years, that's a pretty enough big picture victory for me.  And...

O'REILLY:  All right.  Newt Gingrich, thanks very much.  We appreciate it as always.  Good to see you in New York.

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