HH: The Republicans gather to debate in Michigan in about an hour and 15 minutes. Joining them on that stage will be former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich. He joins me now. Mr. Speaker, welcome back. I guess you’re doing a town hall meeting tomorrow morning as well at the Westin Hotel at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport for my listeners in Detroit.
NG: That’s right. At 8:30 tomorrow morning, we’re going to be at the Westin at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, and we’re going to be talking about jobs and the economy. And then after the town hall meeting, Callista is going to be signing her new book, the New York Times bestseller, Sweet Land Of Liberty, which is a children’s book, 4-8 year olds, about patriotic events in American history as Ellis the Elephant. And I’ll be signing my new novel, The Crater, about the Civil War, and a book on American exceptionalism called A Nation Like No Other. So we’re looking forward to seeing folks tomorrow, and looking forward very much to the debate tonight, which ought to be very interesting.
HH: 8:30 in the morning at the Westin, at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, if you want to see Newt Gingrich and Callista Gingrich. Now Mr. Speaker, I want to go one question backwards, and then look forward to foreign policy, because I’m tired of the debates, as you are, on small things. But I want to talk about big things. Number one, question I was asked to ask you, do you regret leaving the fray in 1999? Do you wish now, looking back, you’d stayed there as Speaker and fought on against Clinton?
NG: No, at the time, I had frankly burned out my welcome. I had pushed very aggressively for reform. And many of the Republicans were just tired. They weren’t prepared to continue a reform program. And I think that the time I’ve spent out in the private sector, founding and running small businesses, and working on health and other issues, has actually been a major advantage, because it gives me a new sense of perspective. Plus, the Bush administration was very generous to me, and allowed me to work as a volunteer advisor, both in national security and health care. So I had six years of really thoroughly studying inside the administration what doesn’t work in the executive branch. And I think that’s been invaluable.
HH: Now a lot of people say he’s our Churchill. He’s been up, he’s been down, he’s been up, he’s been down. Heck, you’ve been down in this campaign, and now you’re back up, and you’re probably in second place in some of these polls. What do you make of the idea that it’s essential to leaders that they have periods in the wilderness?
NG: Well, I don’t think you do it voluntarily, but I think it’s true for almost all of them. I mean, Reagan had the period when he lost in ’76. He had four years at the ranch to think and develop ideas. Washington went back home after the Revolutionary War and spent time at Mount Vernon before becoming president. Lincoln, of course, served one two-year term, and went back home, and was a lawyer for a decade before he ran for the Senate and then for the presidency. So there’s something to that. And of course, and maybe the most famous case is Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was a rising, young star in the Democratic Party, the vice presidential nominee, and then got polio. And everybody thought for a little while that he was permanently out of it, because nobody in that era campaigned in a wheelchair, and nobody could imagine somebody with polio being president of the United States. And yet his capacity was so enormous that he overcame it. So there’s probably some truth that most leaders ultimately, I mean, Obama in a sense doesn’t fit this very much, although he did lose a race early in his career for Congress, but I don’t think Obama was ever in power to then go back into the wilderness and then come back. I think the lack of seasoning shows, to some extent.
HH: Do you think he has the capacity to be a successful president, Mr. Speaker?
NG: I think that he’s smart enough to be a successful president. I think he doesn’t have the right experiences to be a successful president, unlike Bill Clinton, who had been governor for 12 years, and had negotiated with legislatures. I don’t think Barack Obama knows the first thing about negotiating. And I think, frankly, he’s a Saul Alinsky radical, and that gives him exactly the wrong answers. So what you have is a very smart guy who has exactly the wrong answers in his head.
HH: Now let’s turn to the story of most importance. Almost certainly, Iran has nuclear ambitions, and very close to having, if not already in possession, of nuclear weapons. If Israel acts to defend itself by striking at that capacity, what ought the president of the United States, either our current or our next one, to do on the day that strike happens?
NG: We should be supportive of the state of Israel. If the Israelis, having endured the Holocaust and the loss of seven million Jews in World War II, conclude that an Iranian nuclear weapon poses the threat of a second holocaust, because two nuclear weapons on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem would be the equivalent of a second holocaust. If they conclude that is a risk they cannot live with, we should respect their concern for survival. And I think that we should clearly indicate to the world that we would support whatever they think they have to do to survive.
HH: What did you make of the Sarkozy-Obama exchange about Prime Minister Netanyahu, with Sarkozy calling him a liar, and the President not disputing that?
NG: I think the arrogance, and frankly, the sometimes latent anti-Semitism that the Europeans have, that has been tragic over and over again…I mean, you know, here’s a man…Bibi Netanyahu is worried about the very survival of his country. He has in the Palestinian Authority somebody who is a clear public liar, who has said that ultimately, they don’t want a peace agreement, they want to get rid of Israel. He has in Hamas a mortal enemy. He has in Hezbollah a mortal enemy. He has in Iran Ahmadinejad, a dictator who says he wants to eliminate Israel from the face of the Earth. And yet their nasty comments are aimed at Netanyahu? I mean, it tells you just what’s wrong with the elites in Europe, and frankly, the elites in the United States.
HH: Do you think President Sarkozy is anti-Semitic, Mr. Speaker?
NG: No, I’m saying that there is a strain in European culture that blames the Jew, and that that strain in European culture is real, it is deep. It goes back through the aristocracies. And I think if you look at who do they side with, who do they tolerate, who do they forgive, Arafat could lie eternally, and they always found it okay. You wouldn’t have had that conversation with Ahmadinejad. That is very, very unfortunate.
HH: The Libyan news is very bad, chemical weapons have gone loose, shoulder-fired missiles have gone loose. Are we going to finally realize that looting a museum in Iraq is nothing compared to what’s going on in Libya, Mr. Speaker? And what would you do if you were president right now?
NG: Well, we’re faced with an enormous problem, and probably, there should have been a plan to somehow capture all that. I will say on behalf of the Bush administration, they worked very, very hard to develop a program to lock down what they thought were weapons of mass destruction. And they focused on it very intensely. And we’re sadly about to find out that may have been the right priority.
HH: Speaker Newt Gingrich, thank you. Tomorrow morning, he and Callista will be at the Westin hotel at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Newt and Callista Gingrich, signing their books, between 8:30 and 10:00AM, after tonight’s debate. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
End of interview.