Newt Gingrich was my guest in the first hour of today’s show. The audio and transcript of our wide-ranging conversation will be posted here later.
HH: Pleased to welcome back now former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich. Mr. Speaker, welcome back, and congratulations on your surge.
NG: Well, it’s been really remarkable, and of course, the New Hampshire Union-Leader endorsement was a big step in that direction. And the recent polling data’s been encouraging. But we’re in South Carolina, where we had on a rainy night, we turned 100 people away, and seated 760 in Charleston. We had a thousand people this afternoon in Bluffton. We’re on the way to Newberry, where apparently they have a packed house of 500 tonight for a town hall meeting. We have a Greenville town hall tomorrow, so it’s all amazing.
HH: Well, I want to talk to you about immigration, and I want to talk to you about Egypt. But before I do that, I want to talk politics. This is a day in which news about Herman Cain may have in fact ended his campaign. And back in the days when I was in the White House Counsel’s Office, we always threw a question at the end of the applicant’s questionnaire that said “Isthere anything else we don’t know about you, that if we did, it would embarrass the president? And so Newt Gingrich, is there anything out there about Newt Gingrich that we don’t already know that would impact your candidacy?” [# More #]
NG: Not to the best of my knowledge.
HH: All right.
NG: And I say it that way because you know, you’ve got bloggers and investigators and the Obama campaign, and you name it, all trying to dig up something and prove something. And I had 83 ethics charges filed against me in the 1990s, none of which were accurate, but just in an effort to throw enough mud. So I fully expect to see a fair amount of noise, but I don’t think there’s anything of substance. My life has been pretty public, and for a very long time.
HH: Now I read your comments about the fact you’ve given 7,000 speeches, and written 20 books, and dozens and hundreds of articles. And so you’re like an opposition research dream.
HH: So I went to the Newt archive at Hughhewitt.com, and I came up with about 30 seconds of looking at two quotes which I want to play back to back, and then have you explain as a paradigm of how you will be dealing with this. The first quote, you take a position in which you denounce the language of dictatorship, and in the second one, you kind of employ it. And so let’s have Newt listen to Newt commenting on Newt. Cut number one [from a March 30, 2009 interview]:
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.
HH: And then here is the second quote, Mr. Speaker, from a different program [a May 27, 2010 interview]:
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.
HH: So Mr. Speaker, on the first quote, you used the language of dictatorship, and in the second quote, you denounce its use. And that’s just me in the Hugh Hewitt Show archive. How much of this are you going to have to put up with?
NG: Yeah, but look, wait a second, Hugh, that is an explicit misreading of the second interview. The first interview, I’m describing the threat of dictatorship by a government that thinks that it can control everything. In the second one, I’m responding to an example of an Obama administration official. It’s an Obama administration official who used the term, that they were going to have the boot on the neck of BP. And my point is that that is dictatorial language. That is the language of Benito Mussolini. You had an American government official talking about having a boot on the neck of a company. And that actually reinforced what I said in the first one. It didn’t contradict it. I’m making the same point, which is we don’t want a government that’s dictatorial. We don’t want public officials who are so arrogant that they think they have the right to put on a boot and wear it on somebody’s neck.
HH: I understand that. I guess I’m not explaining it. I understand that, but I think it is very easy to use the opus of Newt to do that kind of back to backs…
NG: Of course it is.
HH: So how are you going to defend against that?
NG: Of course it is. I’m going to tell people to be clear about what’s happening. If you take all of the interviews I’ve done in my lifetime, I mean, if you just took the hours I’ve done with you in my lifetime…
NG: …and you go through, and you want to take nuggets here and nuggets there, you can clearly work out all sorts…that’s why I talk about gotcha questions. I mean, anybody who wants to can mine my entire public life, and try on lots of gotcha questions. The question I think you have to ask yourself as a serious voter is does it have any relevance to what a Gingrich presidency would be?
HH: Well, to me…
NG: And I think I can make the case that I’m actually pretty stable, had a pretty consistent passion for freedom, had pretty consistently defended the Constitution, had a 90% American Conservative Union voting record over a 20 year period. And I’m happy to say, and my overall consistency is fairly remarkable for a politician, not filled with contradictions or inconsistencies.
HH: Well, earlier today, David Dreier from Egypt said the greatest strength you bring to this is that you understand virtually every public policy issue in the last 25 years. But what I’m getting at is the Chicago machine is going to come at you 24/7, using every minute of speech that you’ve ever given out there.
NG: Of course.
HH: Are you tough enough, and can anyone survive that, with your great, vast treasure of speeches, et cetera?
NG: Well, let me use my personal history. In 1980, I was the only elected federal Republican from Georgia. And so therefore, I’m the only Republican in the House that knew Jimmy Carter from his earlier campaigns. And so I wrote a memo for Jim Baker and the Reagan campaign and said you have to understand that Carter will lie about you when he gets a chance to debate you. And he will try to lie on such a grand scale that he will trap you in repudiating the lies so you become tainted by the act of repudiating the lie. And I cited a particular brilliant book called Gothic Politics In The Deep South, which was a study of demagoguery among politicians like Jimmy Carter. Well, Reagan thought for a long time about it. He came up with a very simple phrase – There you go again. And during the debates between Reagan and Carter, every time Carter started lying, Reagan would just smile and say there you go again. And everybody in the country said got it. He’s lying. So I’m happy to say that I’ve already memorized there you go again.
NG: This is one of the reasons I’m challenging President Obama to seven three-hour debates in the Lincoln-Douglas tradition of a timekeeper and no moderator, because I want him to have to stand on a platform and defend a billion dollars of lies and smears, because this is a president who cannot get reelected with a positive campaign. If it’s two positive choices ending up in food stamps with Obama versus paychecks with Gingrich, everybody knows we’ll beat him very badly. So we have to expect that they’re going to run a miserable, negative, vicious attack campaign, that they’ll be proud of, that they’ll sit around in the evening telling each other how clever they are. And what we have to rely on is the good judgment of the American people who are looking at the wreckage of this economy, the wreckage of the deficits, the wreckage of our foreign policy, the wreckage of the assault on our values. And the American people have to decide you know, I think I can see through this baloney. There’s an old rule that nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising. And I think that Obama has a good product, and I think that with the help of the American people, we’re going to defeat him by a surprising margin.
HH: Do you expect any of your former colleagues to sign up on the other team, meaning Tom Delay, Dick Armey? You worked with a lot of people. There were a lot of sharp elbows in the 90s. Do you expect they’re all going to be on your side?
MG: Well, by the other team, you mean Obama?
MG: No. I think Obama is so alien to virtually everybody I’ve ever served with that I would be shocked if any of them picked him. And there were sharp elbows. Look, I was a very strong Speaker of the House. And we got an immense amount done very fast. And that’s not like legislative bodies. So you’ve got to decide whether you want to get a lot done and have some people irritated, or do you want to get a lot less done and have people happy, patting you on the head? I went for getting a lot done. I think it was the right decision.
HH: Can you get a wall built on the southern border? And if so, how long will it be, and will that precede any regularization of any illegal population?
NG: It’ll be the first step, and will precede everything else. The bill will stipulate completion by January 1, 2014. It will waive all federal regulations. It will go back to a World War II style management system. We fought the entire Second World War in three years and 8 months. It is absurd to think we can’t build a wall or fence along the border. I’m also prepared to take the 23,000 Department of Homeland Security officials in the Washington, D.C. area and move half of them to the Texas, New Mexico and Arizona borders if we need additional manpower. But I fully expect that we will, that this will become a very big issue next year, that virtually every member of Congress will sign up to pass the bill. We’ll actually draft the bill’s language next spring. It’ll be on www.newt.org. We already have at www.newt.org a 21st Century contract with America which has as one of its key items completing the fence and controlling the border by January 1 of 2014. And that will be a very aggressive goal of mine.
HH: How far, how long will the wall be, Mr. Speaker, because some estimates say 370, others say 700 miles, the most expansive say there’s 850 miles that have to have the double fencing with the road. What do you say?
NG: All I’ll say is I want 100% control of the border. And therefore, I want the amount of fencing you need to have 100% control of the border. If there are areas that are totally impassible, there’s no point in fencing them. But then you have to monitor those areas and make sure they remain totally impassible. What I don’t want to have, you know, if you tell me you have 96% control of the border, you have no control of the border, because your opponents just have to be smart enough to find the 4%.
HH: So when you made your comment about families who’ve been here 25 years, which by the way, I agree with, and I think most Americans agree with, that was not going to happen in your world until that fence is built?
NG: Well, I’ve always said it’s a sequence. I’m against any comprehensive reform, because it’s not doable. The sequence starts with building a fence, part two is English as the official language of government. Part three is requiring history of the United States, knowledge of American history before you can become a citizen. Part four is modifying and improving the legal visa program for visitors, for guests, for tourists, business visitors. Part five is a guest worker program that is run by American Express, Visa or MasterCard so it’s hard to counterfeit and it’s effective. Part six is a easier deportation program, so that if we find out you belong to MS-13, we kick you out in a couple of weeks. We don’t go through some long, elaborate American validation process. Part seven is that we have, we raise the penalties on employers so that, because you don’t get illegal workers without illegal employers. And so we want very stiff economic sanctions if you hire people illegally once there’s a guest worker program. And then the last part is now that you’ve set all those building blocks in place, what do you do with folks who’ve been here a long time? People who’ve been here a short time go home. Period. I have never seen…
HH: What’s, where’s the transition?
NG: I have never suggested amnesty.
HH: I don’t think it’s amnesty, either.
NG: No, look, I look at 25 years. Reasonable people can negotiate. We can have hearings in Congress. We will have time to work this out while we’re building the fence. This is not an overnight project. But I think most Americans would agree that what I’d like to have is a World War II Selective Service board model where local citizens form the board, local citizens do the certification. We may even have a requirement that you have to have a family that sponsors you as a part of this process. And in doing that, what we’re looking for is who are the people who have been here so long, who have family, who have roots, who have ties, who belong to the local church, that it would be genuinely inhumane, and the American people will not tolerate police going in and ripping them out and shipping them out of the country. Now there’s some practical level at which that occurs. It is clearly a relatively small minority of the people who are here. Most of them end up going home. Even the ones who are allowed to be certified are certified for residency. They’re not eligible for citizenship. They’re not eligible to vote. That is a totally different process, and that has nothing to do with they are getting a residency permit.
HH: Last question, Newt Gingrich. On Hannity last night, I made the observation I’m not surprised that the two last Republicans standing, you and Mitt Romney, are both supported by spouses of extraordinary character and accomplishment. If Callista is the first lady, what do you expect would be her primary focus?
NG: Well, she and I have talked a little about this. It’s obviously very flattering, and she’s just had a wonderful experience, her first time as a New York Times bestselling author with a book called Sweet Land of Liberty, in which Ellis the Elephant introduces 4-8 year olds to American history, and it’s done very well. But I think what she would probably do is first of all, music. She is a pianist by training. She plays the French horn in the Fairfax community band. She sings in a professional choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. She loves music. She loves to bring much more music education and much more music activism to the White House. Second, I think she has a deep, personal commitment to American exceptionalism. She’s written a book on it. We’ve done movies about it. And third, she has a real concern about cancer. Her mother’s a breast cancer survivor. Her father died of lung cancer. We have a number of friends who’ve had cancer. And I think she would like to have some role in cancer awareness and cancer education. It’s something that it’s a passion inside her. I think those are the three things that she would really be focused on in a passionate way.
HH: Newt Gingrich, thanks for spending so much time with us tonight. We’ve talk to you again hopefully soon.
NG: Great, talk to you soon.
HH: www.newt.org, America, to check in on the Speaker’s campaign.
End of interview.