Interview with Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich

Interview with Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich

By The Situation Room - December 27, 2011

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: He came charging back in the pack to become one of the leaders in the Republican race for the White House. Newt Gingrich certainly slipped a little bit in the polls recently, but he's still among the front-runners.

He's kicking off a bus tour in Iowa on this day; we're here in Dubuque. The former House Speaker, the Republican presidential hopeful, he's joining us live here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- wherever we are, THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, thanks very much for coming in.

GINGRICH: Well, it's good to be here.

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about these poll numbers. I want to get to some stuff since Duke (ph), but politics very important a week before the Iowa caucuses.

Nationally -- and I know you're not running nationally right now but in these Gallup polls, these tracking polls, back in early December, Gingrich 37, Romney 22, Ron Paul 8 percent.

Now there are new numbers that came out today nationally, Gingrich 25, Romney 24, Ron Paul 11. You've gone down from 37 to 25. How do you explain that?

GINGRICH: I think there was an initial artificial burst when Herman Cain got out, and then people are resorting themselves. But we're still -- none of us expected me to be in the top two at this point, let alone be the front-runner.

BLITZER: You did.

GINGRICH: I'm pretty happy.

BLITZER: Didn't you expect -- ?

GINGRICH: No, this early. I thought we wouldn't get there for another two months.

BLITZER: The attack ads, though, they are having a good impact.

GINGRICH: Sure. BLITZER: I've been hearing them --

GINGRICH: Of course they are.

BLITZER: -- on this day, I was watching TV, you can't -- I don't know how much TV you've watched in Iowa, but if you watch commercials, they are hitting you hard.

GINGRICH: Oh, yes, look, I think they will have spent $5 million, $6 million, $7 million, most of it false, and the amazing thing to me is we've held up as well as we have. And I think now we're going to come back, this entire jobs and economic growth tour is designed to counter the negativity.

And we always start out to be the top three or four. We're -- I think we're going to be in the top three or four. We could end up as number one. It's a very confusing field right now.

BLITZER: Because you're -- it looks like you're lowering expectations a little bit, which is understandable.

GINGRICH: A little bit, yes.

BLITZER: Let's talk about this -- Romney -- well, it's not a Romney directly, it's a super PAC, backed by his supporters. He -- as you know, points out he can't have any involvement. I'll play a little clip. Watch it and then we'll discuss -- for viewers who may not have seen it.

GINGRICH: All right.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Barack Obama's plan is working. Destroy Mitt Romney, run against Newt Gingrich. Newt has a ton of baggage. He was fined $300,000 for ethics violations, and took $1.6 million from Freddie Mac before it helped cause the economic meltdown. Newt supported amnesty for illegal immigrants, and teamed with Nancy Pelosi and Al Gore on global warming.


BLITZER: All right, you get the point. That's a pretty tough ad. It's not directly from Mitt Romney; it's from a super PAC.

GINGRICH: But this is what is just false about American politics. That PAC is run by his staff, paid for by his friends.

BLITZER: But there can't be any coordination. That would be illegal.

GINGRICH: All he's got to do is say publicly only run positive ads. That would be called leadership.

BLITZER: That's not necessarily smart politics, though, is it?

GINGRICH: Well, it depends on how you think being negative and dishonest is good for the President of the United States.

BLITZER: What's dishonest about this ad and we'll -- I'll give you a chance to respond. He was fined $300,000 for ethics violations.

GINGRICH: I wasn't fined. I paid the cost of the investigation. The fact is, the U.S. court later said I was totally right. The SEC said I was totally right and the IRS said I was totally right.

The $300,000 I paid was for having had a lawyer draft a letter that was technically wrong. Out of 84 charges, 83 were totally thrown out; one ended up being a letter written by a lawyer, so it's not a fine. It was -- I paid for the cost of the investigation.

BLITZER: All right.

GINGRICH: Let's go to the next one.

BLITZER: The next, when he took $1.6 million from Freddie Mac before it helped cause the economic meltdown.

GINGRICH: First of all, this would be like ascribing to Romney all of the income of Bain Capital. He knows better. His staff knows better. The company was paid over a six-year period. The company had three offices in three different cities. My share of that was probably $35,000 a year.

BLITZER: That's all?


BLITZER: Out of $1.6 million?

GINGRICH: Yes, so start down the --

BLITZER: Really?

GINGRICH: -- yes, really, and he knows better because he's a businessman. I mean, if we were to ascribe to him the gross revenue of Bain as his income, he would immediately scream foul. Second, the only time I every publicly talked about the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the House is in "The New York Times" in July of 2008.

And I told them to vote no on bailing them out. So the only time you can find me publicly talking about it, I am against giving them taxpayers' money. So that that piece of it's just fundamentally misleading.

BLITZER: All right. Let's go to the next one, Newt Gingrich supports amnesty for illegal immigrants.

GINGRICH: I support residency as an option, without citizenship, for people who have been here 25 years, who have a family, and have an American family willing to sponsor them.

Now to jump from there to amnesty is a gross distortion, and it would be like my running an ad saying Mitt Romney wants to go out and track down every single illegal alien and forcibly kick them out of the country, even if he breaks up families. He would immediately scream foul.

BLITZER: And the other point, we know about this, he helped Nancy Pelosi and Al Gore on global warming. We remember the bench (ph).

GINGRICH: Two things: one, I've said publicly, the dumbest single thing I've done in the last four years was doing an ad with Nancy Pelosi. But they then -- a number of these ads then jump on to say I was for cap-and-trade. That's not true.

You go to, we have the video of me testifying in the House against cap-and-trade. I was the first witness after Al Gore. He was for it. I was against it. It would be nice if they got the facts straight.

BLITZER: All right. We're only getting started. Wait until you hear some of these ads that Ron Paul are putting out here in Iowa. We're going to continue our conversation with the Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, here in Dubuque, Iowa, right after this.


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're here with Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. We're here in Iowa. Just wrapping up this one, are you going to attack them? Are you going to fight back? Because under the theory if you're slapped, you should slap back. You don't want to do that?

GINGRICH: I'm going to stay totally positive. The ads we're going to put up are on jobs and economic growth. We're going to talk about leadership to create jobs and economic growth.

And I think the people of Iowa have a great opportunity in the caucus to send a signal to the country that negative ads written by dishonest consultants on behalf of irresponsible candidates don't deserve getting votes.

BLITZER: Will you hold on to that if get the Republican nomination in a fight against President Obama?

GINGRICH: Sure, all you have to do is tell the truth about Obama and it feels like a negative ad.

BLITZER: But your super PACs or whatever, they'll go after him.

GINGRICH: But we'll -- no, but we'll tell the -- we'll tell the truth. I mean, I'm happy to say he's the -- he's the best food stamp president in American history. That's not an attack. That's a statement of fact. It's a little -- I mean, you have to distinguish between being allowed to have a factual debate and the kind of negative ads you were describing that are drowning the people of Iowa.

BLITZER: The story in "The Wall Street Journal" this morning -- and we'll get to the president later -- Gingrich applauded Romney's health plan. The 2006 newsletter -- GINGRICH: Sure.

BLITZER: -- that -- from your consulting firm, your consulting company, under a section called "Newt Notes," wrote this: "We agree entirely with Governor Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal should be 100 percent insurance coverage for all Americans."

You went on to say, "Massachusetts leaders are to be commended for this bipartisan proposal to tackle the enormous challenge of finding real solutions for creating a sustainable health system."

GINGRICH: Very same time, The Heritage Foundation said this is a very important experiment in the right direction.

BLITZER: The Heritage Foundation said that in the early '90s.

GINGRICH: But they also said it again at the time of Romney's passing his bill.

BLITZER: They did praise the --

GINGRICH: They said there's a lot of useful things --

BLITZER: So you liked the mandates --

GINGRICH: And then you watched it go to work. And the -- where Romney and I are different is, I concluded it doesn't work. He still defends it.

I think, when you look at the cost, when you look at the degree to which they politicized health care, when you look at things like putting Planned Parenthood in a position of decision, having the state pay for abortions, there are a lot of details of RomneyCare that are unacceptable.

And the difference between Romney and me is I've now concluded -- I'm prepared to say publicly -- I concluded, just as The Heritage Foundation did, that idea didn't work. And I have shifted towards John Goodman's "Patient Power." Romney's still defending the mandate that he passed.

BLITZER: But in an interview you did on "MEET THE PRESS" earlier this year -- I think it was in may -- you seemed to still, at that time, be supporting some form of mandates.

GINGRICH: Well, notice the phrase here. I think it would be great to find a way to get every American covered. I think that would be better for the country. Can you do that without a mandate?

And part of what John Goodman does is he creates a pool, so if you don't want to buy insurance, you're not compelled to. Your share of the tax break would go into a charity pool. If something happens to you, the charity pool takes care of you. And there are ways to do it that you don't infringe on constitutional freedom.

BLITZER: All right. Here's an ad that Ron Paul is playing. This is not a super PAC. This is Ron Paul's campaign, and it's very tough on you. I'll play it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Support for an individual mandate, a key tenet of President Obama's health care law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Support for an individual mandate? Folks, don't ask me to explain this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything that Gingrich railed against when he was in the House, he went the other way when he got paid to go the other way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's demonstrating himself to be the very essence of the Washington insiders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's about serial hypocrisy.


BLITZER: Serial hypocrisy? That's what Ron Paul is accusing you of. And you're telling me -- and I've covered you and have known you for a long time. Somebody says you're involved in serial hypocrisy and you're not going to fight back?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, as people get to know more about Ron Paul, who disowns 1- years of his own newsletter, says he didn't really realize what was in it, had no idea what he was making money on, had no idea that it was racist, anti-Semitic, called for the destruction of Israel, talked about a race war, all this is a sudden shock to Ron Paul?

There will come a morning people won't take him as a serious person. This is -- this is a man who happened to have had a good cause, auditing the Federal Reserve, cleaning up the Federal Reserve. And I think as a -- as a protest, he's a very reasonable candidate.

As a potential president, a person who thinks the United States was responsible for 9/11, a person who believes -- who wrote in his newsletter that the World Trade Center bombing in '93 might have been a CIA plot, a person who believes it doesn't matter if the Iranians own a nuclear weapon, I'd rather just say you look at Ron Paul's total record of systemic avoidance of reality, and you look at his newsletters, and then you look at his ads. His ads are about as accurate as his newsletter.

BLITZER: Now, if he were to get the Republican nomination --

GINGRICH: He won't.

BLITZER: -- let's say he were. Could you vote for him?


BLITZER: What would you do?

GINGRICH: I don't see how --

BLITZER: Would you vote for President Obama?

GINGRICH: Somebody just up and says I don't care if Israel's destroyed? I don't care if there's -- I don't care if the Iranians get a nuclear weapon?

BLITZER: I'm not so sure he says Israel destroyed. But what he does say, he doesn't think Iran represents a threat to Israel even if it had a nuclear bomb.

GINGRICH: What he says is that's a risk he's willing to take. And he just had one of his former staff say flatly that he doesn't -- that he said over and over again Israel was a mistake. I mean, I think it's very difficult to see how you would engage in dealing with Ron Paul as a nominee.

BLITZER: All right. So let's just (inaudible).

GINGRICH: Given the newsletters, which he has not yet disowned --

BLITZER: You could not vote for Ron Paul --

GINGRICH: He would have to go a long way to explain himself, and I think it would be very difficult to see today Ron Paul as the Republican nominee.

BLITZER: What would you do if the choice were Ron Paul or Barack Obama?

GINGRICH: I think you'd have a very hard choice at that point.

BLITZER: But would you --

GINGRICH: Barack --

BLITZER: What would you do?

GINGRICH: I don't know, but I think Barack Obama is very destructive to the future of the United States. I think Ron Paul's views are totally outside the mainstream of virtually every decent American.

Now, that's going to be very controversial, but I just suggest to people, before you decide that I'm wrong, read the newsletters. Look at what he said and ask yourself -- this is a very serious question for the United States. It's a very serious question --

BLITZER: So, you don't accept this explanation that he never read that, he never wrote --

GINGRICH: He spent 10 years --

BLITZER: -- only years later did he look at it.

GINGRICH: So he spent 10 years earning a -- he's attacking me for serial hypocrisy and he spent 10 years earning money out of a newsletter that had his name, that he didn't notice. Now all I'm saying is I think he's got to come up with some very straight, very straight answers to get somebody to take him seriously.

Would I be willing to listen to him? Sure. Are there circumstances you'd have to weigh heavily? Yes. I think the choice of Ron Paul or Barack Obama would be a very bad choice for America.

BLITZER: Would you run as a third --

GINGRICH: I think -- I think --

BLITZER: Would you run as a third-party candidate?

GINGRICH: No, I'm not -- I'm not -- it's not going to happen. He's not going to get the Republican nomination.

BLITZER: What if he did? What if he did?

GINGRICH: He's not going to.

BLITZER: He might win here in Iowa.

GINGRICH: He's not going to get the nomination. It won't happen. The people in the United States are not going to accept somebody who thinks it's irrelevant if Iran gets a nuclear weapon.

And I think that is a national security threat to the United States of the first order, and I'm very willing to draw the line and say to everybody in this country, if you think it doesn't matter for the Iranians to have a nuclear weapon, then Ron Paul's a reasonable candidate. But if you think the Iranians might use it on an American city, then you had better find a different candidate than Ron Paul.

BLITZER: Now let me move on to Virginia. We have a question from somebody from Facebook. But, you know what, let me take a quick break. We'll talk about it after this commercial break. We have questions from Facebook, from Twitter, a lot more for Republican presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.


BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer, we're here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're reporting live from Dubuque, Iowa right now. It's ground zero in the presidential campaign. In only seven days, the Iowa caucuses will take place, the first voting for the Republican presidential nomination.

We're joined by the Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. Mr. Speaker, thanks very much once again for coming, and let's talk a little bit about Virginia, because a lot of folks are saying you couldn't even get on the ballot in Virginia.

Here's a question from Facebook from Matthew Burrier. "Does missing the Virginia deadline to get on the ballot and having similar issues related to lack of organization and fundraising ability mean that Newt is unelectable?

GINGRICH: Well, first of all, in Virginia, the rules are very complicated. And Rick Perry didn't make it, Rick Santorum didn't make it, Michele Bachmann didn't make it. The fact is, you end up in -- and Jon Huntsman didn't make it.

So, you ended up with two people, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney, both of whom had run before, both of whom had spent years on this project. They're the only two people who made it.

And I wish we had made it. We came very, very close to getting on the ballot. I wish they would allow write-in votes. Every poll in Virginia says I'd win if we had -- if we were on the ballot.

BLITZER: Well, you've lived there, outside of Washington, DC in northern Virginia --


GINGRICH: We lived there. Right.

BLITZER: -- for a long time.

GINGRICH: And so --

BLITZER: But what does it say? You've been running since, what, May? When did you announce?

GINGRICH: Well, look. This was a mistake, and we feel badly about it. I think it'll be the only state that we're not on the ballot. We're going to be on Ohio tomorrow, and I think we'll be on Illinois early next week.

BLITZER: Do you have the national organization? Do you have --

GINGRICH: We're getting it. If you remember, Wolf, when I first started, everybody in the news media said I was dead. So, we spent two months proving I wasn't dead. So, we're about ten weeks behind where I'd like to be right now.

But I think it's fair to say that we increasingly have organization in every state, and that we're rapidly catching up. We're raising money, we will raise almost as much money in the fourth quarter as John McCain did in 2007, which is an enormous increase from where we were in mid summer.

BLITZER: Mitt Romney made fun of you today. I don't know if you heard, did you hear about this?


BLITZER: About the Virginia snafu and all of that. I'll play the clip. Watch this.



MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I think he compared that to -- was it Pearl Harbor? I think it's more like Lucille Ball at the chocolate factory.


ROMNEY: So, I mean, you've got to get it organized.


BLITZER: Now, he was referring to a statement that your campaign manager said, this was like Pearl Harbor, you've learned from it, and it's not going to happen again.


BLITZER: But he's comparing you to Lucille Ball, "I Love Lucy" --


BLITZER: -- when she was at that chocolate -- you remember that scene.

GINGRICH: I have a very simple message for Mitt Romney. I'll meet him anywhere in Iowa for 90 minutes, just the two of us, in a debate, with a timekeeper and no moderator. I'd love to have him say that to my face.

I'd like him to have the courage to back up his negative ads. I'd like him to have -- back up the things his staff have been putting out. He wants to prove he can debate Barack Obama? He ought to have the courage to stand on the same stage with me.

He's buying millions of dollars in attack ads through a phony super PAC run by his former staff, paid for by his millionaire friends.

Now, I'd like to have him have the courage to be on the same stage and defend his ads and explain his record as a moderate in Massachusetts, explain his record of raising taxes, explain his record of paying for abortions through state money, explain his record of putting Planned Parenthood on.

And frankly, explain why he was a -- he wasn't a job-creating governor. His current plan is much weaker than mine. So, I'd like to debate the Gingrich supply-side conservative economic plan versus the Romney moderate plan, which is much weaker in job creation.

And I'm happy for him to have fun at a distance, but I'd like to invite him to spend 90 minutes debating face-to-face.

BLITZER: There have been about a dozen debates --


BLITZER: -- he's been on the stage with you -- GINGRICH: Right.

BLITZER: -- so far. He was standing on some of those debates very close to you.

GINGRICH: Herman Cain was willing to debate one-on-one, Jon Huntsman has debated one-on-one, Rick Santorum has debated one-on-one. Mitt Romney's the guy running the most ads attacking me, and he's doing it through this disingenuous, "Oh, gee, I don't control all of my former staff and all of my millionaire friends." It's baloney.

If he wants to defend his negativity, show up in Iowa, 90 minutes, face-to-face. Let the -- let the people decide whether or not, in fact, he'll back up what he's been saying, and let him back up his moderate record -- not conservative record -- as governor. And I don't think he'll do it.

BLITZER: You know, 24 hours from now, I'm going to be interviewing Mitt Romney --


GINGRICH: Well, ask him why --


GINGRICH: -- ask him why he won't debate me.

BLITZER: I will ask him that question. But is there anything you want to say to him --


BLITZER: Look into the camera right now and talk to -- because he might be watching, for all I know.


BLITZER: He's in Iowa, we're in Iowa.

GINGRICH: He'll certainly see the video. All I'd say, Mitt, is if you want to run a negative campaign and you want to attack people, at least be man enough to own it. That's your staff and that's your organization, those are your millionaire friends paying for it.

And let's be clear. I'm willing to fight for real job creation with a real Reagan-Kemp-style job creation program. You are a moderate Massachusetts Republican who, in fact, is very timid about job creation. Let's get it on together and let's compare our two plans.

BLITZER: I'll play that clip for him tomorrow --


BLITZER: -- here and we'll get his reaction --

GINGRICH: All right.

BLITZER: -- that's only fair. Let's go through some substantive --


BLITZER: -- issues right now, because you're causing a stir on a whole bunch of issues, but that's what you've done for a long time, and it comes with the territory.

On justices of the Supreme Court, lower courts, you've made some very controversial comments that if you disagree adamantly with some of their decisions, you wouldn't hesitate to subpoena these guys, these judges, bring them forward, and not -- and basically ignore their decisions.

I asked Jeffrey Toobin, our Senior Legal Analyst, he's an authority on the US Supreme Court, as you probably know. I asked him whether or not you have a basis from which to speak on this issue, and I'll play the clip --


BLITZER: -- of what he said.


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The courts have the last word. You don't like it, you can change the constitution, you can have new justices on the Supreme Court, you can even impeach a federal judge.

But you cannot haul them in and beat them up in front of a Congressional committee. You cannot use the police to intimidate judges. That is something that is fundamentally against American constitutional history.


GINGRICH: Well, he's wrong --

BLITZER: All right. Jeffrey Toobin.

GINGRICH: Look, Jeffrey's wrong on two counts. First of all, the courts are not the last word. The courts are one of three last words. The constitution's designed around a balance of power between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. There is on superior branch. Hamilton --

BLITZER: But until new legislation is passed --


BLITZER: -- the rule of the -- the decision of the Supreme Court stands.

GINGRICH: Only in the case of the law. Not in -- only in the case. Lincoln says in his 1861 inaugural address the Dred Scott case extending slavery over the whole country is not the law of the land. And he says, furthermore, you would eliminate our freedom if nine people could decide it.

Jefferson, when asked if the Supreme Court was supreme over the president and the Congress said that is absurd. That would be an oligarchy.

Jeffrey ought to look at the 54-page paper at where, as a historian, we lay out the historic case. Alexander Hamilton says the courts would never pick a fight with the legislature and the executive because, in fact, they would lose the fight. Now, that implies something about relative strength.

Lastly, he has made my case. He said judges can be impeached. The first step towards impeachment is hearing testimony. The question I was asked was, could Congress compel testimony? By definition in an impeachment case, they can compel testimony.

BLITZER: I'm going to move on, but I'll just read to you what Mitt Romney told the "Wall Street Journal" on this. He said, "I think Speaker Gingrich said that if he disagreed with the Supreme Court on an issue like gay marriage, he might decide not to carry it out. Well, if that's the case for President Gingrich, might not that be the case for President Obama?"

GINGRICH: And the test is a three-part test. There are three branches. If the president and the Congress take on the court, the court loses. If the Congress and the court take on the president, the president loses.

And so, you have this constant balance of power written into our constitution. The specific case I cited is Boumediene. This is George Washington's commander-in-chief flagged. The commander-in- chief was written into the constitution at a convention Washington presided over. Washington had been commander for eight years.

The idea that a court in Boumediene would put American civil liberties into a battlefield to start setting a standard for dealing with enemy combatants would be abhorrent to all of the founding fathers, and there is a classic case where the president, as the commander-in- chief, could say "We are not going to enforce this decision."

BLITZER: All right, so you're not backing away from anything you've said on judicial decisions --

GINGRICH: No. No. And I urge people --


BLITZER: Judges, justices --

GINGRICH: But I urge people to read the paper at It's 54 pages long, and it's historically very sound.

BLITZER: When I covered you when you were speaker, you worked closely with President Clinton at the time --


BLITZER: -- and the two of you got a lot done together.


BLITZER: What happened, then, that isn't happening right now? Who's to blame for all of this?

GINGRICH: Well, look, I think there's enough blame to go around for everybody. I've never seen a bigger mess than the Congress and the president passing a pathetic two-month tax extension at a time when we desperately need a job -- we need an economic growth and jobs plan.

Because if Europe really gets in trouble this spring, we don't -- and we're not growing, you're going to see the whole world economy drug deeper into this deep recession. It's totally irresponsible for the president and the Congress to leave town and not do more than a two- month extension.

Part of the difference was that both Clinton and I understood that we had a higher loyalty than partisanship, that we had a job -- I was Speaker of the House --

BLITZER: You liked him, Bill Clinton, didn't you?

GINGRICH: I like him as a person. I think he's --

BLITZER: You used to come out of the West Wing, I used to see you in the driveway over there, and you would be glowing in some -- something your Republican colleagues weren't very happy with what you've just said.

GINGRICH: Look. We were like two graduate students in that we liked ideas, we liked talking, we liked books. But the fact is, we also understood as president and as Speaker of the House, we were constitutional officers of the United States.

We weren't just Democrat and Republican. We weren't just liberal and conservative. We had -- my dad was a career soldier, so I grew up with honor, duty, country. We had a belief that we had -- we had a job to do, and that job involved helping America.

And the result was together, we balanced the budget four times, we cut taxes, we brought unemployment down to 4.2 percent, we reformed welfare. Two out of three people went back to work or to school, child poverty was the lowest it ever achieved after welfare reform because we were doing things that made sense for America.

The current spectacle of Obama's total inability to lead and, frankly, Harry Reid's partisanship as Senate leader and the lack of coordination between Speaker Boehner, who has a, I think, a very hard job, much harder than my job, and Mitch McConnell. That lack of coordination, I think, is a big deal.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to take one more break and we're going to --


BLITZER: -- wrap this up. We have some more questions to ask the Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. More from Dubuque, Iowa, right after this.


BLITZER: We're back with Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. You saw the story that CNN reported yesterday on your first divorce, the discrepancy, what's in the documents that were released or given out yesterday as opposed to what was originally said, that you initiated -- you had actually filed for the divorce, but you said your first wife asked for the divorce. I want you to clarify.


BLITZER: If you can.

GINGRICH: Well, all I can tell you is, if anybody's interested, Jackie Cushman is my daughter. She's written on this, and people can read her --

BLITZER: Your daughter from your first marriage.

GINGRICH: From my first marriage. She's the one who did all the work. She talked to her mother, she talked to me, she sorted out -- I think her article captures it, and that's the most I'll say. Go look at Jackie Cushman's article.

BLITZER: And she -- her basic point is --

GINGRICH: Her basic point is when she talked to everybody and sorted it all out, she was comfortable that it had been fundamentally misreported and that we had worked things out in a way that she felt comfortable with, that her mother felt comfortable with.

And again, I mean, I have great respect for her mother, who did a very good job raising the two girls. I'm -- as you know, I'm very close to both of them. Callista and I have a very close relationship, both with Kathy and Jackie and with our grandchildren, Maggie and Robert. People just need to look at that and make their own decisions.

BLITZER: And these -- in these court documents, if you weren't providing --


GINGRICH: They should just --

BLITZER: -- child support --

GINGRICH: -- they just need to look at --

BLITZER: -- and you weren't providing money for the family -- GINGRICH: -- they just need to look at what Jackie's written. There are a lot of things that are said in divorces that turn out not to be true, and lawyers write lots of things in the middle of fights.

BLITZER: So, that's basically where you want to leave it?

GINGRICH: That's where I want to leave it.

BLITZER: All right, one final question, just because it's so important to the country and to me, because I've been covering this war in Iraq going back to the first Gulf War.

Knowing what you know right now, knowing what all of us know, including this tension that's developing in the aftermath of the US withdrawal, was it -- was it smart for the US to go in there in March of 2003 and launch this invasion and get rid of Saddam Hussein based on faulty intelligence?

Was it a blunder? If you knew then, in other words, what you know now, would you have done it?

GINGRICH: First of all, you can look back and say based on faulty intelligence. Based on the intelligence that was agreed to by the Russians, the British, the Italians --


BLITZER: Which was faulty.

GINGRICH: -- the French --

BLITZER: Which was faulty.

GINGRICH: But nonetheless, every major power agreed --

BLITZER: But it was faulty. We all know -- we're all smarter now than we were then.

GINGRICH: Yes, but you have the great advantage of looking back in hindsight and say, gee --

BLITZER: Well, that's the question.

GINGRICH: -- you wish the world were different.

BLITZER: With hindsight, with 20/20 hindsight, was this war smart or stupid?

GINGRICH: I think replacing Saddam Hussein was good for the world. This was a murderous, evil person who had done a lot of terrible things and had -- had been involved in killing well over a million people.

BLITZER: A million people?

GINGRICH: And -- well, look at the cost of the Iran-Iraq War. And so, I would say to you, if you look at his use of chemical weapons he used on his own people, you look at the degree to which he was trying to get nuclear weapons --

And remember, when you talk to people form the debriefing teams, most of his generals thought Saddam had a nuclear weapons program. They just didn't think they knew what it was. So, I think it's very hard to go back.

BLITZER: He didn't have one, by the way.

GINGRICH: The big mistake was, I think, not hiring the Iraqi regular army. I'd written a paper in the summer of '02 for the Pentagon that said go in with what I called "Operation Switch." Get the Iraqi regular army, get rid of the Republican Guard, have them police the cities, pull back as fast as you can, and recognize the limits of power.

Bremer made a different decision. This is not hindsight. In December of 2003, I said both on "Meet the Press" and in "Newsweek," we have gone off the cliff. Bremer saw it to fundamentally change Iraqi society without the forces, the toughness, or the understanding that would require.

And I think we are now in a very dangerous environment where the Iranians are gaining control in a way that could become very dangerous for all of us.

BLITZER: Yes, I'm very worried about the situation --

GINGRICH: I am, too.

BLITZER: I'm sure you are. Mr. Speaker --

GINGRICH: Thank you.

BLITZER: -- you spent a lot of time with me, thanks very much.

GINGRICH: Good to see you.

BLITZER: Good luck out there on the campaign trail.

GINGRICH: Thank you.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much. 

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