HH: Joined now by the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich. Mr. Gingrich, welcome back to the program, great to have you.
NG: Oh, delighted to be with you and have a chance to discuss ideas with you.
HH: Tell us about the new Reagan movie before we get going here, because I’ve only seen a couple of stories about it.
NG: Well, Callista and I did a movie with Dave Bossie of Citizens United in which we carry you back. It’s called Rendezvous With Destiny, and we carry you back to Reagan starting really at his childhood. But in 90 minutes we walk you through the damage that Jimmy Carter did to the country with 13% inflation and 22% interest rates, and gasoline rationing, and 444 days of Iranian hostage crisis, and then how dramatically Reagan turned things around. And what the principled leadership was that he brought to government, and how rapidly he was able to recreate a job creating and prosperous America that was proud of itself, and that was capable of winning the Cold War. And it’s truly a remarkable story.
HH: It’s available at www.gingrichproductions.com, and over at www.newt.org, you can find out about it as well. Does the period of time we’ve entered into feel like the late 70s to you, Speaker Gingrich?
NG: Yeah, I think that this administration combines sort of the worst of the Clinton years with the worst of the Carter years. And I think that it’s very clear that they will pile up so much debt, and they will centralize so much power in Washington, that if they get away with what they’re trying to do, we will be a fundamentally different country.
HH: Over at www.newt.org, there is a headline that says heading toward a dictatorship? You don’t really believe that, do you, Mr. Speaker?
NG: Well, I believe that when you get up in the morning and discover that the President has fired the head of one company, and you ask yourself how many other companies can he fire the head of, and when you have Senator Dodd deciding what salary caps ought to be, and you have the Congress deciding to take back money after the fact in a direct violation of the Constitution, how much total bureaucratic management of your life do you need before you begin to worry about how the system is working? Now I do think that we are seeing an enormous transfer of power to politicians and bureaucrats, and that many of them will use it corruptly or dangerously, and capriciously. Read what they said about Chrysler yesterday.
HH: But the word dictatorship carries with it a specific image that does alarm…I’m thinking especially of senior citizens and people who are worried about that sort of thing, and I get those e-mails, and you get them as well, and while I think we want to resist statism and creeping managed capitalism which is an oxymoron, that it’s not really dictatorship, is it?
NG: Well, look, if somebody came in, if the Congress can come in, single you out and take 90% of your income, tell me what it is. If the Secretary of the Treasury can decide who to fire and who to hire, which companies to destroy and which companies to keep, I mean, if the government can say okay, fire the head of GM, and by the way, Chrysler will cut a deal with Fiat or they will be out of business, you tell me what it is. I mean, yesterday, the President decided unilaterally to announce a warranty for new cars as of today.
NG: Okay? Well, where did that power come from?
HH: Well, that comes from…
NG: And why, by the way, I bought a car in October, and I want to know why my car doesn’t have the same warranty.
HH: It comes from having bankrupt companies sucking at the public teat, and that’s what it is. It’s all about…
NG: Right, so you’d be a lot better off to have the bankrupt companies go through bankruptcy court. I mean, why is it that Ron Gettelfinger, the head of the UAW, doesn’t get sacked, but Ron Waggoner, the head of General Motors, does get sacked?
HH: Well, I agree that it is a, it’s a very bad idea to have these decisions coming down. But I think it’s a quantum leap to dictatorship, and I do worry about the use of a term which is not descriptive as much as it is alarmist. But let me ask you about GM. Should they go into Chapter 11? Should the public teat be taken away?
NG: Yes, yes.
HH: No hesitation?
NG: Look, Rick Waggoner should have resigned five months ago. They should have gone into bankruptcy five months ago. The whole system would have been healthier. They could have reorganized. They had more resources five months ago than they do today. But this is true across the whole system. We’re in danger of creating a crony capitalism in which again and again and again, personal decisions are being made by bureaucrats and politicians that affect the lives of thousands of people without the rule of law. That’s a very dangerous environment.
HH: Yes, it is. Let’s talk about the other thing that came out, and it’s almost, well, I think it’s more important, a new Afghanistan policy, another four thousand on top of seventeen thousand, for a total of 21,000, up to 60,000 troops in Afghanistan. Do you applaud the President’s move there?
NG: Look, I think it is a responsible position to take. I think he clearly understands that not finding a way to get after the Taliban and al Qaeda is in fact very dangerous for our long term interest, and creates a sanctuary to plan attacks in the United States. But I think there are two keys. One is what do you do about Pakistan and the northwest frontier? And the other is what do you do about the drug environment, the drug economy, and the amount of money that goes to illegal drug producers in Afghanistan, which is a fundamental challenge to the government?
HH: 33% of their GDP up to, probably opium.
NG: And by the way, notice what’s happening on our southern border with the scale of the drug cartel war against the Mexican government. I mean, these are serious times.
HH: And there’s also a missile launch which I want to ask you about. You wrote a column today saying a single missile, an electro-magnetic pulse exploded the United States can cripple us, and that’s true. Should the United States shoot down that North Korean missile if we have the capability of doing so?
NG: Either that, or we should sabotage it before it’s launched.
HH: And what do you think the North Koreans would do in response?
NG: I have no idea.
NG: But I can tell you that to take the risk that the North Koreans are just going to cheerfully drift along, I mean, this is one of the great challenges, and is maybe one of the debates we need to have as a country. You have a North Korean regime clearly trying to get nuclear weapons in order to blackmail its neighbors. You have an Iranian regime clearly trying to get nuclear weapons with an avowed goal of eliminating Israel as a country. You have Hamas dominating Gaza and firing missiles into Israel every day with the explicit intention of eliminating Israel. And we keep trying to figure out how to have diplomatic ties to people who tell us every day they want to kill us.
HH: And in terms of Iran, Speaker Gingrich, let’s finish there. We’ve got a new Israeli government coming in probably tomorrow or the next day led by Netanyahu, but with Barak in it. Do you expect Israel to preemptively strike Iran? And do you support them? And should the United States support them if they do?
NG: I think that if the Israelis can find the Iranian facilities, and can find a way to take them out, it would be as big a blessing to the world as taking out the Iraqi facility in 1981 turned out to be in retrospect. I think it’s very hard to find it. I think it would be much more responsible of the civilized world to cut off the supply of gasoline to Iran, and to force the regime to change, because I think that as long as that regime is there, it’s going to be a continuing danger to the world.
HH: And in terms of that, should we grant them, if they attempt to do it, overflight rights in Iraq? And do you expect the Obama administration would?
NG: Well, I don’t think we have the power to grant them those rights. I think that’s up to the Iraqi government to grant them, and I doubt if they will. I mean, I think the Israelis have a very hard problem trying to reach Iran unless they decide to do it from submarines.
HH: Newt Gingrich, always a pleasure, thank you, Mr. Speaker. www.newt.org.
End of interview.