HH: Special way to start this Thursday edition, since Mark Steyn is unavailable. I have got Mr. Newt with us, former Speaker of the House of Representatives. His brand new book, To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular Socialist Machine on bestseller lists everywhere. Newt Gingrich, before I go to my thing for the day, I want to ask you to explain to people why 2 + 2 = 4 is the most important phrase as you argue in To Save America, for the next many years in politics.
NG: Well, I think 2 + 2 = 4 tells us all that we need to slow down, look at the facts, and insist that the math add up. And when you learn that we just added a trillion dollars in federal debt in the last six months, you know it doesn’t add up. When you learn that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac owe more money than all the big banks combined, it doesn’t add up. When you learn that the president in 35 days hasn’t been able to focus his attention on the biggest environmental problem we have in the Gulf of Mexico, it doesn’t add up. So I think we all need to go back to the basics, and apply the most basic of all principles. And 2 + 2 = 4 is a pretty good starting point.
HH: It is the best chapter in a very good book. To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular Socialist Machine. Now, Newt Gingrich, what I’d like to do, a new experiment in the history of the Hugh Hewitt Show, the president gave his first press conference in almost a year today. And of course, he dithered and filibustered, and talked endlessly. I would like to play for you the questions, and have you answer them the way you would answer these questions if you were standing in front of the assembled Washington, D.C. press corps. Sound like a plan?
NG: I’d have to say, this has never been done before, and I find it sort of intriguing.
HH: It’s going to be great. Cut number one, question number one from Jake Tapper.
JT: Governor Jindal obviously had this proposal for a barrier. They say that if that had been approved when they first asked for it, they would have ten miles up already. There are fishermen down there who want to work, who want to help, haven’t been trained, haven’t been told to go do so. There are industry experts who say that they’re surprised that tankers haven’t been sent out there to vacuum, as was done in ’93 outside Saudi Arabia. And then, of course, there’s the fact that there are 17 countries that have offered to help, and it’s only been accepted from two countries, Norway and Mexico. How can you say that everything that can be done is being done with all these experts, and all these officials saying that’s not true?
HH: Newt Gingrich?
NG: Well of course, that’s exactly correct, and that’s why if I had been in charge, I would probably be announcing today that we fired the head of the Corps of Engineers, we have fired the secretary of the interior, we have established a command post in New Orleans. We are bringing together every possible asset simultaneously. We’ve ordered the supertankers, brought in exactly as suggested. And we’ve established a very small panel of experts to review every possible new idea on a 24 hour a day basis, following the principle of NASA, when they were told by Apollo 13, Houston, we have a problem, people worked around the clock to solve the problem. No more holidays, no more time off. Get it done now. And when in doubt, have a bias in favor of action.
HH: Next question.
Media: You just said on Day One you recognized the enormity of the situation. Yet here we are, 39, 40 days later, you’re still having to rush more equipment, more boom. There are still areas of the coast unprotected. Why is it taking so long? And did you really act from Day One for a worst case scenario?
HH: New Gingrich?
NG: Well, look, I can’t even answer that question, because his answer is so fundamentally dishonest, and so fundamentally out of touch with reality, there’s no way to deal with it. I mean, it’s an obvious, patent fact that this administration did not recognize how serious this problem was. They allowed the chief of staff of the secretary of the interior to go to the Grand Canyon on a pre-planned trip, a legitimate trip given his job. But nonetheless, they said this is not a big deal, go to the Grand Canyon. Three days later, they had to helicopter him out, because it was beginning to be a bigger problem. Five days after this thing started, the number one Coast Guard person up there in the Gulf said this is really a pretty minor thing, we don’t have to worry about it. You know, this president will be much better served if he would just be honest. The fact is they totally underestimated this. They have totally failed to appreciate what it’s going to take to fix it. They got fixated on trying to stop the well, and forgot that you had all this oil already in the ocean. They have not listened to Governor Jindal, who has been correct every step of the way. And as a result, they’re endangering 40% of America’s wetlands, and they’re endangering one-third of America’s fisheries. And it is a totally unnecessary crisis.
HH: Question number three.
Media: Weeks before BP, you had called for expanded drilling. Do you now regret that decision? And why did you do so knowing what you have described today about the sort of dysfunction in the MMS?
HH: New Gingrich?
NG: Well first of all, the dysfunction in the MMS only exists because we’ve had a complete failure to overhaul the federal bureaucracy, and to overhaul the current system by which red tape and process outweighs achievement. Second, we absolutely have to go to using American energy, because we can’t keep shipping $500 billion dollars out of the country every single year. It’s bad for national security, it’s bad for the American economy. And unlike the current president, my goal would be to have the number one goal being to create new jobs. And the sooner we can get energy prices down, and the sooner we can get a bigger American energy industry, the more jobs we’re going to have. And yes, we have a problem in the Gulf right now, because BP cut corners, did something they shouldn’t have done, and did so without the government regulatory agency doing its job. But the fact is, we have to fix that, and we have to keep moving forward. When we have an airplane crash, we don’t close civil aviation. We learn lessons, we move forward, we build a better system. We need to build a better system in the Gulf. And we need to build a better system in the Atlantic and Pacific. But we need the energy, and we need to quit sending the money overseas.
HH: Cut number four, question number four.
Media. Are you sorry now, do you regret that your team had not done the reforms at the Minerals Management Service that you’ve subsequently called for? And I’m also curious as how it is that you didn’t know about Miss Birnbaum’s resignation/firing?
HH: Newt Gingrich?
NG: (laughing) Well, I think that tells you just how absent he is. It’s one thing to say he doesn’t know what’s going on in the Gulf. It’s another thing to say he doesn’t know what Governor Jindal’s doing in Louisiana. It’s a really weird thing to say he doesn’t even know what’s happening in Washington. I mean, you know, maybe there comes a moment when he ought to play less basketball, and spend more time being president.
HH: Major Garrett is next, question number eight.
MG: Some in your government have said the federal government’s boot is on the neck of BP. Are you comfortable with that imagery, sir? Is your boot on the neck of BP? And can you understand, sir, why some in the Gulf who feel besieged by this oil spill consider that a meaningless, possibly ludicrous metaphor? Secondarily, can you tell the American public, sir, what your White House did or did not offer Congressman Sestak to not enter the Democratic Senatorial primary? And how will you meet your levels of expressed transparency and ethics to convey that answer to satisfy what appear to be bipartisan calls for greater disclosure about that matter?
HH: Newt Gingrich?
NG: Well, first of all, no American politician should ever describe having their boot on anybody’s neck. That’s the language of Benito Mussolini. That’s the language of fascism. This is a country where you’re endowed by your Creator with certain unalienable rights. The people are sovereign, not the politicians. And the idea of any politician using that language, anybody who used that language in my administration would have been fired, since I’m role playing for you. But I think it’s fundamentally, absolutely wrong for Americans to use that kind of language. What they actually should have done is put their heads together and solved the problem. Secondly, on Sestak, he has absolutely no alternative except to have whoever met with Sestak admit in public who they were. I mean, it’s clearly a matter of public record. They have records of who Sestak met with. That person or persons have to under oath testify what they actually said. And the fact is, Sestak has to be challenged to tell us who talked to him. This idea that he’s given us half the story, and now he’s suddenly shy, is just foolish.
HH: Newt Gingrich, after the break, I’ll come back and play you another question and some Obama things. But I’ve got to ask you generally. He’s supposed to be a great communicator, but his press conferences are few and far between because he’s so terrible at this.
NG: Well, I think the ability to read a prepared speech is fundamentally different than the ability to deal with tough questions and tough issues when thrown at you by people who have a chance to actually study the issues.
HH: Do you believe that the American people will give him another chance on this oil spill? Or is the barn door irretrievably left open, all the cows are gone, and all the wetlands gone?
NG: No, look, I think people want the president of the United States to succeed. The president of the United States is the leader of the country. People don’t want a president to fail. So I think people very much hope this will work out. But I also believe that this is an enormous, enormous problem for them. And I believe that it is very unlikely that they can move fast enough. The fact is, the bureaucracies are just not very competent. And the fact is that they can’t get the job done, they can’t deliver, and that’s a grave difficulty.
HH: And we’ve got a minute to the break. In To Save America, your new book, you have Chapter 18, An American Energy Plan. Do you believe this disaster in the Gulf will cripple our ability to go get the oil we need offshore?
NG: Well, it will cripple it if liberals get their way, because they don’t want to do it in the first place. But as I said before, we are faced with the objective reality that when we have problems in civil aviation, we fix it. We have a problem here, it’s the first problem we’ve had since 1969 in a drilling incident of any proportion. That’s 41 years. We need to learn from it, and we need to do better, but I think we need to move forward and develop American energy for the sake of our economy.
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HH: The last one to play for you has to do with the Arizona boycott, Newt Gingrich. Here it is.
Media: The White House announced on two days ago that you were going to send out 1,200 people, 1,200 members of the National Guard to the border. I wanted to, if you could precise, what are their target is going to be? What your planning to achieve with that? If you could clarify a bit more the mission that they’re going to have. And also, on Arizona, after you having criticized so much the immigration law that has been approved there, would you support the boycott that some organizations are calling towards that state?
HH: Newt Gingrich, will you support the boycott?
NG: No, the president of the United States is president of all 50 states. You have to have respect for states having the right with their freely elected legislature, their freely elected governor, with freedom of speech, to take steps that they believe are necessary. It’s very embarrassing that the federal government has failed so badly to do its job along the border, that the people of Arizona feel threatened, and passed a bill like this. The correct answer to the Arizona bill is to have federal control of the border, to protect all of the United States, and that’s what should be done. And frankly, I would have too much respect for the intelligence of the American people to engage in a cheap public relations stunt like sending 1,200 Guardsmen, which has no impact on the border, and is clearly designed purely for public relations purposes. PR cannot be a substitute for effectiveness. You have to actually have a serious plan that’ll work across the whole border, or it’s a waste of time and money. And I would also say that we should have fired the two State Department employees who apologized to a Chinese dictatorship about the actions of an American legislature. The idea that any American State Department official would apologize to a dictatorship for the action of a freely elected legislature should simply be unacceptable to all Americans, and those two people should lose their jobs.
HH: Now I’d like to play for you, Newt Gingrich, three statements the president made. They’re relatively short at today’s press conference, because each are rather astounding. Cut number five, please.
BHO: The fact that oil companies now have to go a mile underwater, and then drill another three miles below that in order to hit oil, tells us something about the direction of the oil industry. Extraction is more expensive, and it is going to be inherently more risky.
HH: Newt Gingrich?
NG: Well, that’s absolute, total baloney. The reason they go that deep right now off the United States is because the U.S. government doesn’t allow them to look for oil in shallow areas. Having closed off the Pacific, having closed off much of Alaska, having closed off the Atlantic, having closed off the Eastern Gulf, now the president suddenly announces gosh, oil is sufficiently valuable that they’ve gone deep. And by the way, oil companies go deep all around the world very successfully. The Brazilians have just developed very deep wells in the Atlantic Ocean, and have so dramatically increased their reserves, that it’s possible that Brazil will not have to import any oil once those fields are developed, because they’ll produce all of it inside Brazilian waters. So the fact is, we have a tremendous amount of energy available. We also have in the Rockies shale oil. We have three times as much reserve as there is in all of Saudi Arabia. And we have lots of energy in the United States if we want to develop it. It’s the government which has made it impossible to explore in shallow water, not geology or nature.
HH: Here’s some more on that subject, the president in the press conference today, cut number six.
BHO: We should be pretty modest in understanding that the easily accessible oil has already been sucked up out of the ground. And as we are moving forward, the technology gets more complicated, the oil sources are more remote, and that means that there’s probably going to end up being more risk.
HH: You know, Newt Gingrich, he’s like a Luddite.
NG: Well, of course he’s a Luddite. He’s a left winger. All left wingers tend to be Luddites. The fact is that the technology overall is fairly safe. The fact is that if we had any kind of reasonable commitment to technology, we would have much better cleanup materials. You know, we’re still using many of the techniques we used forty years ago. And as I said at the very beginning of the show, the people, the former Shell employees have been yelling on every television channel they can get on, because 17 years ago, they had a dramatically better solution in the Middle East when this happened, and nobody from BP, and nobody from the federal government is willing to look at it. And so I mean, you have a historic fact that they did in fact use supertankers, they did suck up water and oil, they did separate the two, and they had a dramatic impact in cleaning up the ocean in a way that was very effective. And yet you cannot get either the federal government or BP to look at these kinds of historic examples.
HH: One more cut from the president today talking about how he wakes up every morning. Cut number nine.
BHO: Everybody in the Gulf understands, this is what I wake up to in the morning, and this is what I go to bed at night thinking about, the spill. And it’s not just me, by the way. You know, when I woke up this morning, and I’m shaving, and Malia knocks on my bathroom door, and she peeks in her head, and she says did you plug the hole yet, daddy?
HH: What do you think, Newt Gingrich?
NG: Well, look, I’m not going to comment on what his conversations are with his children. I assume that’s real. But it’s even more depressing to think that the president of the United States claims to actually think about this first thing in the morning, and thinks about this last thing at night, and in 35 days, has gotten nothing done. I mean, I would almost feel more secure if he had just confessed he hadn’t thought about it. Look, if he really believes this is his number one problem, he’s been campaigning around the money raising money, doing virtually everything except insisting that the government do its job. and I must say I think that answer may have made me even more depressed.
HH: All right, I want to finish by reading from Page 79 of your new book, To Save America. “The most disturbing aspect of President Obama’s first year in office is the machine’s brazen willingness to use the power of the state to coerce and intimidate his opponents while rewarding his political allies.” Do you see that playing out in this current crisis, Newt Gingrich, in this boot on the neck of BP statement?
NG: Look, I think every American business was shaking at the idea that an American politician would say they were going to have their boot on their neck. That intimidates virtually everybody. And the number of people we have discovered have said they’d really like to donate money to American Solutions, but they’re genuinely afraid of retaliation, tells you that there’s a tone out there that frankly resembles the Nixon administration in its worst days. And the level of intimidation is one that I think is very real, and frankly, very dangerous for our country.
HH: Newt Gingrich, always a pleasure, very bracing, thanks for doing a little role-playing with me today. That was fun, that was interesting. Next time we have a presidential press conference, but it could be a year or so from now, I’d like to do it again.
NG: That’s right. I don’t feel that making that commitment will tie me down very often.
HH: (laughing) Newt Gingrich, always a pleasure. The new book is To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular Socialist Machine. Always a pleasure to check in with Newt Gingrich.
End of interview.