Interview with Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich

Interview with Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich

By John King, USA - January 10, 2012

KING: Good evening and welcome back to CNN Election Center.

We're about 30 minutes away now from the closing of most polls in the state of New Hampshire. In the half-hour ahead, we will go live there. Wolf Blitzer will join me. We will go live to some key polling precincts, not just who are the voters of New Hampshire picking tonight, but why.

Also, much more of the fascinating exit poll data now coming into to CNN in the half-hour ahead.

And among the candidates fighting for survival, Newt Gingrich is catching lots of flak for criticizing Mitt Romney's business record. Today, just today, Ron Paul called it a big mistake.

But in our interview just a short time ago, the former speaker explained why he's refusing to back off.


KING: This is contrast politics, what you're doing right now. I don't call it negative politics. I call it contrast politics. Do you regret not doing it sooner?

GINGRICH: Well, I might have done it, in retrospect in Iowa, and I suspect had I done that in Iowa, that Romney would have come in even weaker than he was. I was, as I said to all of you at the time, I was running a real experiment. I had gotten to be the front-runner nationally by being totally positive.

I really liked the campaign when it was totally positive. I loved talking about ideas and vision and solutions. I was startled by the size and the ferocity and, in some cases, the dishonesty of the attack ads. You know, when you have 45 percent of all the ads run in Iowa were attacks on me, at one level it kind of makes you feel like you must have done something to get their attention.

But at another level you'd just as soon not have quite that much attention. It took us a couple weeks to adjust.

It's clear that the only way to compete with Romney, since he is clearly going to run such an intensely negative and very expensive campaign, the only way to compete with him is to be very direct about contrast, to draw up both of our records and to consistently come back to how different we are and how much more moderate he is than virtually any part of the Republican Party in this country.

KING: You have taken very aggressive aim, very aggressive sharp contrast at his records as the CEO of Bain Capital in recent days. My words, not yours; I want you to listen to your words in a minute. But it sounds like you're trying to say here was a guy, who, he says, he had virtue from the business community. Listen to this, you seem to be saying he's greedy and heartless.

GINGRICH: Those of us who believe in free markets and those of us who believe that, in fact, the whole goal of investment is entrepreneurship and job creation, would find it pretty hard to justify rich people figuring out clever legal ways to loot a company, leaving behind 1,700 families without a job.

KING: This is a character question you're raising, is it not?

GINGRICH: Right. John, you put your finger on it exactly. This is not about capitalism. There's been this totally phony defense that says to raise any question about Romney's business career is an attack on capitalism. That is just plain baloney. It's more of the Romney baloney approach.

The fact is, he's been going around saying his 25 years in business are a major part of why he should be president. Fine. Let's look at his 25 years in business.

What was his approach? It is a question of judgment, of values and of character. And we know of one case for sure where they put in $30 million, they took out $180 million, six times as much, and the company went broke.

Now what was the judgment and the character? What were the values applied that took that much money out of a company, as it went broke and all of its employees lost their jobs? I think that is a legitimate question to ask somebody who wants to be President of the United States. It's not about capitalism in general. It's not even about venture capitalism or entrepreneurial capitalism.

It's about Mitt Romney and his record. He's the one who said this was the key part of understanding him. And fine. So we began looking at it. And it turns out immediately -- they didn't defend it. They immediately threw up this smokescreen and saying you're not allowed to ask any questions or you're against capitalism. That's nonsense.


GINGRICH: Let me say, by the way, in terms of -- in terms of job creation, I helped Ronald Reagan with job creation in the '80s. And we -- and when I was Speaker there were 11 million new jobs created. Mitt Romney raised taxes. Massachusetts ranked 47th in job creation because his tax increases killed jobs, it didn't create them.

KING: Does it say anything, though, about the consistency of your campaign, in the sense that I know you've decided to shift a little bit -- or you told Sean Hannity this in mid-December. You had raised questions about Bain.

You told Sean -- quote -- "There was a brief moment where, frankly, he got under my skin. And I responded in a way that made no sense, doesn't fit my values, and made some references to Bain, where I have said publicly he's a good manager. He's a good businessman."

Which Newt Gingrich should we believe?

GINGRICH: Well, you should believe the Newt Gingrich who, since then, has read the much more detailed reports in places like "The Wall Street Journal," which laid out chapter and verse of what I'm describing to you. It's when you look -- and again, it's not every case. There were companies that Bain did fine with. There were companies that they apparently behaved fine with. But there are very specific cases, and I believe within a week, Governor Romney is going to have to have a press conference, and he's going to have to walk through and explain these cases.

How do you take out $180 million and then have the company go bankrupt? I mean, there's something that's just not right for that.

I'm all for people becoming successful. Steve Jobs invented real products, and he got to be a billionaire. Bill Gates invented real products; he got to be a billionaire. Sam Walton developed a better way to do retail; he got to be a billionaire. I think that's terrific, because they're providing a real service. They're not just manipulating finances. They're out there creating jobs engaged in exactly the kind of competitive behavior we want.

This is a question of Governor Romney's character. It's not -- it's not capitalism that's on trial. It's the question about Governor Romney and trying to hide behind yelling, "You're not allowed to ask any questions" or "You're anti-capitalist." I think it's a pretty thin screen.

KING: When -- when the pro-Romney PAC was dumping on you in Iowa, spending more than $3 million in ads attacking you, you said Governor Romney should have the courage to stand up and own those ads.

Now a political action committee run by a former top aide to you, sir, Speaker Gingrich, and getting money from top friends of yours, including a $5 million check from one of your long-time associates, is running those same kind of ads against Governor Romney. Is it fair to say that, Mr. Speaker, using your own language, that you own them?

GINGRICH: Well, I think I've got to have some responsibility. I haven't seen them yet. I hope that they're going to be very accurate. I hope they're going to deal with the facts. And I hope that they're clear about what the facts are. I think that's -- that's a key part of this.

But you know, we went through three weeks, and you were there, John. And you saw it. We went through three weeks where every single week I said this would be a better campaign without these kind of ads. And ironically, in the Sunday morning debate, Governor Romney first said that he had never seen any of the ads, and he then quoted one of them listing all five parts of the ad.

And I just thought it was kind of strange. Either one -- either the first half of his paragraph was right or the second half. But he probably shouldn't have had both of them in the same paragraph.

KING: If you're calling on Governor Romney, you say he might have to have a press conference, in your view, eventually, you say in the next week, to just lay out the record at Bain Capital. We're all for transparency in my business. Your Freddie Mac contract has been an issue from time to time in the campaign. GINGRICH: Right.

KING: And at one point, there was a question of whether you could release it publicly. Freddie Mac says it's up to you, release it, but your attorney says no. Why? Why not just lay it all out?

GINGRICH: No, my attorneys might -- my attorneys actually said we're talking with the Center for Health Transformation, which I no longer own, to get their permission to do it. I mean, they -- I don't own it any more. They have it. And I'm perfectly happy to find a way to do it.

I think they want to make sure that it doesn't risk confidentiality for any of their other clients or get them engaged in any other kind of problems. But my advice would be that it's OK.

KING: Let me circle back and close where we began. The expectations tonight. Newt Gingrich will finish where?

GINGRICH: I think I'll finish somewhere in the middle of the pack. And late this evening we will go to Rock Hill, South Carolina, and tomorrow morning, we are going to kick off the campaign on jobs and economic growth in South Carolina.

KING: We'll watch the votes come in tonight. And Mr. Speaker, we'll see you soon in South Carolina. Thanks for your time.

GINGRICH: Good. Thank you. Take care. 

Mitt Romney for Mayor
Carl M. Cannon · November 16, 2014

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