Newt discusses GOP politics “On The Record”
October 26, 2009
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: First, the public option is alive and well. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says a public option will be in the Senate health care bill. However, states will be allowed to opt out of the plan. Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says the best way to sell a public option to the American people is just change its name. We’re serious! Speaker Pelosi wants to rename it — call it a consumer option.
And earlier, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich went “On the Record” about that and so much more.
Greta: Mr. Speaker, nice to see you, sir.
Newt: It’s great to be with you.
Greta: All right, big news today. Senator Harry Reid says that there will be a public option but you can opt out. Do you have any idea how this is going to work?
Newt: No. And neither does anybody else because instead of going through a legislative process, where you have ideas and you have hearings and you bring in experts and you beat up the idea, they’re sitting around in some room desperately trying to figure out a — basically, a con game. I mean, nobody knows what this idea is. Nobody knows how it would work. And I think you have to raise a question, What if a big state like Texas opts out? Does that mean they don’t have to pay taxes on it?
Newt: Or are they going to opt out and pay for California and New York’s health care?
Greta: When I asked you that question, you said I was being picky.
Newt: Well, I just — I…
Greta: I’m just kidding. I’m teasing you.
Newt: I — I think it is — if you think it through for a minute, we’re going to have this — they are so desperate to get to a government- run program and they can’t get the votes, and every time they come up with a proposal, they can’t quite get enough votes, and then they go back and they think up another clever proposal. And the truth is they are going to ultimately end up with a bill, at the rate they’re currently going, which will underpay hospitals and doctors so dramatically that there’s a real danger it will break the system.
And I don’t think they can let people see how bad the bills are before they vote on them, and that’s why every time the bill starts to emerge, suddenly, that bill disappears. I mean, there was a Senate Finance bill that finally got printed after they passed it out of the committee, and once it got printed, it now disappeared, apparently.
Greta: Well, I guess I was going to — that’s what I wanted to know, is that this new opt-out provision, as Senator Reid is talking about, I don’t recall it ever being discussed during the Senate Finance hearings. Do you recall it being discussed?
Newt: No. It was not, to the best of my knowledge.
Greta: OK. And if this is a whole new bill, why do we pay for those hearings?
Greta: I mean, those hearings cost a lot of money.
Greta: I mean, if there wasn’t any sort of give and take on it, it wasn’t debated and discussed, and if it’s just sort of Senator Reid coming up with it now, it’s a rather costly exercise.
Newt: Well, and it also defeats the purpose of the legislative process. The real purpose of a slow, open legislative process is to allow people to figure out what’s wrong and fix it before you write the legislation. And when you have a handful of people in some secret room coming up with the newest clever idea and running out to say, Let’s pass this, none of the people who run the system know what’s going to be in this bill.
And until you see the bill and you see the language — you know, every hospital administrator in the country ought to look carefully at this language to see whether or not it will literally bankrupt their hospital. And I think that’s going to become the next big issue, is that the way they’re trying to save money is they’re going to basically underpay hospitals and doctors to such a degree that the system will break down.
Greta: All right, I got to ask you, since you were a legislator at one time, did you ever do that, sort of in secret, after the hearings and — to make a big change like that?
Newt: Not that I can remember.
Newt: Because you try and — on big things, like welfare reform, you’re trying to get all the information out in the open so that you can make sure you get it right and you can actually implement it.
Greta: All right, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi today in Florida said that public option — this is not exact quote, but public option might be more attractive to skeptics if it had a different name, like consumer option.
Newt: Well, I think we could call it giraffe.
Greta: Well, I…
Newt: We could — I mean, there are a number of things we could call it. We could call it Easter tidings.
Greta: Well, you know, it’s not — they’re not — this party is not the — Speaker Pelosi isn’t the first one to do that. The trial lawyers did it. They no longer want to be the trial lawyers. In some areas, they want to be the consumer lawyers. And the Patriot Act was named the Patriot Act so that — and so I guess if you opposed having your library books spied on, you’re not a patriot. So legislators have been playing this name game for some time.
Newt: I know. I think it’s pretty blatant for Speaker Pelosi to say since the term we’ve been using doesn’t work, we’re not going to change what we’re doing that’s not working, we’re just going to give it a new title.
Greta: I just — (INAUDIBLE) that sort of distressed me about it is that — to think we’re that — that we would be that foolish, not to say that it — you know, a name change — that we’re not — that we’re that simple, I guess.
Newt: I mean, what I like about it, though, is that it’s not like they cleverly had these brand-new ads that came up that said, Brought to you now, the consumer health plan. I mean, she’s standing there telling you, Since you don’t like this name, why don’t I give you this name? Now, that is pretty blatant. I mean, that’s — that’s sort of in your face.
Greta: Well, I look forward to her response to that because I’m sure she’s going to get a lot of heat for that one. All right, the 23rd congressional district in New York — you’re getting heat from Glenn Beck and others because you have endorsed the Republican candidate, and many Republicans, like Tim Pawlenty, former governor Sarah Palin — Governor Pawlenty, former governor Sarah Palin, Steve Forbes, Dick Armey — they’ve all endorsed the independent, and you’re getting heat.
Newt: Well, I just find it fascinating that my many friends who claim to be against Washington having too much power, they claim to be in favor of the 10th Amendment giving states back their rights, they claim to favor local control and local authority, now they suddenly get local control and local authority in upstate New York, they don’t like the outcome.
There were four Republican meetings. In all four meetings, State Representative Dede Scozzafava came in first. In all four meetings, Mr. Hoffman, the independent, came in either last or certainly not in the top three. He doesn’t live in the district. Dede Scozzafava…
Greta: He doesn’t live in the district?
Newt: No, he lives outside of the district. Dede Scozzafava is endorsed by the National Rifle Association for her 2nd Amendment position, has signed the no tax increase pledge, voted against the Democratic governor’s big-spending budget, is against the cap-and-trade tax increase on energy, is against the Obama health plan, and will vote for John Boehner, rather than Nancy Pelosi, to be Speaker.
Now, that’s adequately conservative in an upstate New York district. And on other issues, she’s about where the former Republican, McHugh, was. So I say to my many conservative friends who suddenly decided that whether they’re from Minnesota or Alaska or Texas, they know more than the upstate New York Republicans? I don’t think so. And I don’t think it’s a good precedent. And I think if this third party candidate takes away just enough votes to elect the Democrat, then we will have strengthened Nancy Pelosi by the divisiveness. We will not have strengthened the conservative movement.
Greta: What is it that they have identified as why they think the independent candidate…
Newt: Well, there’s no question, on social policy, she’s a liberal Republican.
Greta: On such as abortion?
Newt: On such as abortion, gay marriage, which means that she’s about where Rudy Giuliani was when he became mayor. And yet Rudy Giuliani was a great mayor. And so this idea that we’re suddenly going to establish litmus tests, and all across the country, we’re going to purge the party of anybody who doesn’t agree with us 100 percent — that guarantees Obama’s reelection. That guarantees Pelosi is Speaker for life. I mean, I think that is a very destructive model for the Republican Party.
Greta: It’s sort of interesting, the names, especially former governor Sarah Palin and current governor Tim Pawlenty are sort of names that are batted around for 2012. Is this sort of positioning or moving into position, or not?
Newt: Look, I have no idea. I think in the case of Governor Palin, she’s clearly part of the conservative movement in a very national kind of way. The conservative movement has gotten very excited about this race, I think largely on misinformation. I think if people looked at this issue of local leadership, local control, local involvement — the money raised in the district is overwhelmingly going to Dede Scozzafava and is not going to the independent candidate. He’s getting his money from outside the district and mostly outside the state.
The fact is that on local issues, she actually knows what she’s doing. He’s said publicly he doesn’t know what he’s doing. And so you have to ask a question. If we’re going to have representative government, aren’t the people of upstate New York allowed to pick their candidate? In the polling data, she’s clearly carrying Republicans.
Greta: So let me ask the trick question. Does this mean, since you differ with Pawlenty, Palin, Forbes and Armey, that you’re positioning yourself for the — to push up (ph) that February 2011 decision earlier about running for president?
Newt: It means that as somebody…
Greta: Isn’t that a good trick question?
Newt: … trick question. It means that as somebody who worked with Reagan to create a majority in 1980 and somebody who worked to create a majority in 1994, I believe in a Republican Party big enough to have representation in every part of the country, and I believe you don’t strengthen yourself by having a purge. You strengthen yourself by attracting more people, not by driving people away.
Greta: So I don’t get an answer on 2012.
Newt: (INAUDIBLE) get an answer (INAUDIBLE)
Greta: But you’ll give it to us over C-Span, right?
Newt: Absolutely. I guarantee you that if Callista and I reach a decision, you will be among the very first to know.
Greta: “Among” is the operative word. Among, like, you know, 2,000 others, right?
Newt: Among my closest friends.
Greta: Oh, there — there…
Greta: Your closest 7,000 friends.
Greta: And as an aside, Hoffman’s a Conservative, not an independent. I misspoke.
But up next, more with Speaker Newt. Plus, Republican senators Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn. Is Senator Graham going to jump the Republican ship and vote for a public option? And what about Senator Cornyn? What does he think about the public option. Find out next.
And who could forget Congressman Tom DeLay’s red pants on “Dancing With the Stars”? Well, apparently, the former House majority leader liked the spotlight. Guess which show he’s on now? We’re going to show you in a few minutes.
Greta: Continuing now with former Speaker of the House Newt Newt about his new book, “To Try Men’s Souls.”
Greta: All right, you and Callista have been busy making movies, and now you’ve got another novel out with a co-author, “To Try Men’s Souls.” Why that title?
Newt: Well, first of all, it’s the opening of one of the most famous pamphlets in American history, “The Crisis” by Thomas Paine. Paine had written “Common Sense” a year earlier, which explained the American Declaration of Independence and was very widely read. And then things got really bad. The army was beaten in Brooklyn and it was beaten in Manhattan and in was beaten in White Plains, then it was driven out of the Palisades. Between September and December, the army shrank from 30,000 to 2,500. Less than one out of every thousand Americans were available to General Washington.
And Washington begged Paine, who was a rifleman who joined the army, to quit being a riflemen, go back to writing. And he wrote a piece called “The Crisis,” which begins, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” And he was trying to explain to the troops why they were still in the field.
When Washington crossed the Delaware on Christmas night 1776, in the ice, in a snowstorm, one third of his army did not have boots. They were wearing burlap bags. They left a trail of blood marching to Trenton. The courage, the endurance, the commitment of these people is unbelievable. And it was a time to try men’s souls.
So part of the reason that Bill Forstchen and I wrote this book is we thought we would get to a point, with high unemployment, with problems in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea, when the American — with a radical regime in the White House, where the American people would say, you know, What do we do? How should we operate?
And Washington is the model of persistent, courageous dedication to liberty. He leaves Mount Vernon in 1775, and in eight years, he’s only back home for one week. He stays in the field as a general. We are free today, I think we are a republic today, because of George Washington. And we wanted to share with people in a very dynamic novel what it’s like and how close we came as a country to losing the revolutionary war.
Greta: Is there a way to sort of quantify or describe how much is fiction and how much is taken from history that’s non-fiction?
Newt: Well, we believe virtually everything in the book is accurate, although, obviously, there are private conversations in a family that the exact words are made up. But we describe a family in which one brother is with the British, the other brother is with the Americans. They’re deeply divided. That was real. That happened.
We describe the crossing of the river in a way that’s very real. We describe Dr. Rush’s (ph) role in Philadelphia. I mean, there are a lot of things where we put together — the facts that surround the individual conversation are all accurate and are how it occurred. And Bill Forstchen, my co-author, lived near Washington’s crossing in New Jersey. He actually was a reenacter. He actually marched without boots. At one point, he actually fell in the Delaware River in an icy storm, and the scene where he describes how frightening and how painful it is to be in the river, that was his life. I mean, he was doing it. So it’s a very, very exciting book.
Greta: After — in researching it and writing it, did you get a greater respect, did you learn more about Washington?
Newt: Yes, I think, you know, Washington is like Lincoln. He’s one of those rare people where the more you study him, the more impressive he is. His persistence, the fact that he’s his own intelligence chief, he’s his own logistics chief, he’s his chief political officer, he’s holding together this army by his personal example. When they captured the Germans, and they were very mad at the Germans because they had abandoned a number of Americans at the battle of Brooklyn, Washington insists that they be treated with dignity. Many of them ultimately desert and become Americans.
He establishes a tone for the American republic that makes it very different from European professional armies. The very fact that he understood that the pen and the sword have to go together in a democracy, that you have to understand why you’re fighting in order to be able to lead free people — and I think the more — I think the more I’ve studied Washington over the years — Mount Vernon now has, as you know because you were down there — they have this magnificent education center. And I can’t recommend too highly to every family that visits Washington to go down to Mount Vernon to see this education center and begin to realize all of us stand on George Washington’s shoulders, and he and Martha are the centerpiece from which America grew. And I think without them, we’d be a very different country.
Greta: Well, the new book is “To Try Men’s Souls.” And it’s always nice to see you, whether it’s a movie or a book or current events.
Newt: Just hang out.
Greta: Or just hanging out! Right. Exactly. I like to just hanging out. Nice to see you. Thank you, sir.