Return to Transcripts main page
PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
Interview with Newt Gingrich
Aired January 11, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Tonight, Newt Gingrich, one-on-one, unfiltered.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is going to be Armageddon. I mean they will come in here with everything they've got. Every surrogate, every ad, every negative attack.
MORGAN: Is South Carolina his make or break moment? Will going negative help his campaign or hinder it? Would he accept a number-two slot on a Romney ticket?
Did you imagine ever working for him?
MORGAN: From speaker of the House to presidential candidate, he's always been a lightning rod of controversy. But who's the real Newt Gingrich?
GINGRICH: This inner intensity that I have tended to, in some ways, be destructive.
MORGAN: Newt Gingrich for the hour. The PIERS MORGAN interview starts now.
Good evening. The eyes of the political world are on South Carolina. Republican primary is just days away and the candidates are swarming all over the state. But here's something you may not know about one of them, Newt Gingrich. The man has an absolute passion for animals and zoos. They've invited us here to South Carolina's Roper Mountain Science Center.
It's dog eat dog out on that campaign trail. And all the while things in here seem pretty peaceful to me so far with the exception, possibly, of Newt Gingrich.
GINGRICH: It's fun. It's interesting. It gets you back to nature. It reminds you of the world that we live in and the fact that life is bigger than us.
MORGAN: Last time interviewed you I said, what's been the most memorable moment of your life, and you actually instinctively cited being in the African bush and seeing the wild animals at play. So it wasn't entirely surprising to me that you chose this kind of location. But I walked around earlier and it did seem to be a very appropriate venue, Mr. Speaker, in the sense that right behind you is a large praying mantis which you've just informed me is the most predatory animal on earth.
GINGRICH: So you can think of that as a super PAC.
MORGAN: Well, you could. You could. Whose super PAC? Yours?
GINGRICH: Any super PAC.
MORGAN: Yours or Mitt Romney's secret super PAC?
GINGRICH: Any. Any super PAC. Any super PAC. I think the nature of those kind of organizations is that they're -- they have no responsibilities. They have no connection to any kind of pattern of reasonable politics and it's a model I hope we can get beyond, but we won't this year. So --
MORGAN: Now the last time I spoke to you we talked about super PACs and you were pretty scathing about the super PACs that Mitt Romney was using, the amount of money he was spending, clearly implying these were all his ex-staffers, ex-friends and so on. And you were trying very hard, and laudably, to rise above this and be nice guy Newt.
Clearly that didn't work very well. The halo, may I suggest, has slightly slipped and your own super PAC, $3.5 million worth, is about to be unleashed in South Carolina. Presumably you would concede now that you have changed position on this.
GINGRICH: Well, I concede that every effort I made to stay positive and every effort I made to talk Romney out of doing this failed. That you can't -- you know you can't unilaterally disarm unless you want to get out of the race. And since this is the objective reality. We have no choice.
And so we have to match -- in some way, we have to have effective advertising that matches their advertising or literally no matter how good your ideas are, no matter how big your crowds are the weight of television and radio and direct mailing. In Iowa it was, you know, 45 percent of all the ads were attacks.
MORGAN: You got blown to pieces.
MORGAN: What your friends and supporters found surprising was that you allowed yourself to get in that position in the first place. Because I want to read you some of the things that you have said before that are quite interesting about how your position on this has changed.
You once said, "I think that one of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is we don't encourage you to be nasty. We encourage you to be neat, obedient, and loyal and faithful, and all those Boy Scout words which would be great around the campfire, but are lousy in politics."
So where did Saint Newt come from?
GINGRICH: It's not a question about being Saint Newt, it's a question about where you're prepared to fight. I think when we are up against Obama this fall, we're going to have no choice. They're going to -- they're raising $1 billion. They clearly intend to run a continuous, unending negative campaign. And you're going to have to be able to somehow match that and you're not going to be able -- you won't be in the same business.
MORGAN: With hindsight, would you have played it differently in Iowa? If you'd known what was coming?
GINGRICH: Well, probably I would have reacted earlier to the attack ads, especially the ones that were untrue. And I might well have gone to contrast with Governor Romney's record in Massachusetts much earlier.
But I -- you know, this is the beginning of a long process. And frankly, I wanted to run the experiment. I wanted to see if you stayed totally positive, if you were relentlessly positive, what would happen? Well, it turned out you could come in with 14 or 15 percent, you could be fourth. But remember, I started pretty strong first in early December. So it's pretty clear that the relentless negatives ads do have an effect.
MORGAN: Two very famous businessmen have tweeted about you today. Rupert Murdoch, "They can't blame Newt G. too much. He was carpet bombed with negatives by Romney. Brilliant visionary, but just too much baggage and erratic."
What's your response to that?
GINGRICH: I like the brilliant visionary part.
GINGRICH: And I like the fact that he recognizes that the context in which we are responding is in fact in the context, as he put it, with carpet bombing by Romney. And I think that sets for a different tone. And people give you permission to behave differently, because they -- it's now sunk in.
You know, even the news media there's a pretty broad acceptance that I took all the hits for three solid weeks and patiently tried to figure out if there was a way to stay totally positive. So I think there's a much higher tolerance now for me to bring up Romney's pro- abortion record or Romney's tax increase record, or the degree to which Romney governed in Massachusetts with liberal judges.
And so I think you can now draw a contrast with a sense that that's fair given the context of all the negative ads. MORGAN: In answer to the too much baggage and the erratic allegations, I mean a bit of truth of both, I would say, wouldn't you?
GINGRICH: Well, I think that's part of what I have to overcome. And I think we've been pretty successfully overcoming it. Again, prior to the negative ads, when it was a question of good ideas, good solutions, positive thinking, we were literally pulling away. And Gallup and others were reporting an increasingly wide gap, which is I think why, you know, Romney panicked and went to an all-out negative attack.
But the truth is today, as the "Wall Street Journal" pointed out, I have the best jobs plan and his, according to the "Wall Street Journal" is so timid it resembles Obama. Now that's a pretty big gap in terms of positive ideas.
MORGAN: Jack Welch said today, "The critics were right. Newt really will say and do anything to try to win. Such a sad flaw in an otherwise smart guy." Now he's very pro-Romney. He came on my show a couple of nights ago.
GINGRICH: Yes, I mean -- give me a break. OK, so Romney lines up famous people who are for Romney who will say anything. Let me just use Jack Welch's language. They will say anything in order to help get Romney elected. I mean, what's new.
The fact is, what I have said is consistently been conservative. And the only critique that people are upset about is raising questions about a business record which Romney has touted as the base of his presidential campaign.
MORGAN: Here's the potential flaw in the new strategy of going after him about Bain, nobody really knows the answer to whether he created more jobs by doing what he did at Bain, by taking over troubled companies, and in most cases making them more successful and selling them on, but at a cost, had a human toll cost.
I think if you went bankrupt, and the argument goes from their side, they probably would have done it anyway.
Did he create more jobs? Or did he wreck more jobs? Do you know the answer?
GINGRICH: Well, the point is, if a guy is running for president -- he has two major credentials, his record as governor which he doesn't want to talk about because he was much more liberal as governor than a Republican primary will ever endorse. And his record in business which he doesn't want to talk about. Now at what point are you allowed to say running on commercials alone isn't enough?
MORGAN: But if he manages to establish that his record at Bain was such that he created more jobs than he effectively lost you could argue that's exactly what is needed in America right now in the sense that you're going to have to cut, aren't you?
GINGRICH: But he makes that assertion anyway. But he doesn't prove it. He just asserts it.
MORGAN: But how do you prove him the opposite? Have you proven --
GINGRICH: I've just raised the question.
MORGAN: -- he was a force for negative?
GINGRICH: Well, I think we've certainly raised the question -- it's not about capitalism, it's not about free enterprise, it's about values, character and judgment. And though -- and even he said, I think it was in 2007, that he looks back at some things he'd do differently now. So the question is, in terms of values, character and judgment, were those the right decisions in those circumstances?
And I've said up front, I think he's going to sooner or later have to do a press conference and walk people through three or four of the most troubling cases. And anybody who thinks he's going to -- he's not -- he's going to get by Obama and Axelrod this fall without explaining this is kidding themselves. I mean --
MORGAN: Well, Rick Perry told me last night that in a way you guys are doing him a favor, because you're having the debate in the open now before the Democrats have to get into it.
GINGRICH: Yes. Look, the last thing you want is to nominate somebody who collapses in September because they can't answer the questions. I mean, so you had better answer -- you know, people want to attack me for my past, that's fine. I either will answer it and be ready to be the nominee or I won't.
Romney ought to have to meet the same test.
MORGAN: He has been very scathing through these super PACs and also himself, pretty personal too against you. It got pretty nasty pretty quickly. And only now are you responding.
What do you actually think of him personally as a man?
GINGRICH: I don't.
MORGAN: You have no view?
GINGRICH: No, I have no view. I mean --
MORGAN: Do you like him?
GINGRICH: He is a competitor. He's somebody who I think was unnecessarily negative and who ran -- who knows that some of the things he ran were not true. But that's his decision. That's how he wants to play the game. And --
MORGAN: You called him a liar last week.
GINGRICH: No. I responded to somebody who asked me that.
MORGAN: Same thing.
GINGRICH: I think -- well, if you watch Sunday's debate there's this marvelous paragraph where Romney begins by saying, I have never seen any of the ads.
MORGAN: And then starts to talk about them.
GINGRICH: And then he outlines one of the ads exactly correctly. I mean --
MORGAN: You don't have to go to the sun to know it's hot, do you?
GINGRICH: I'm only saying --
MORGAN: I know you're saying --
GINGRICH: Watch the paragraph and then you decide.
MORGAN: Do you still stand by the fact he's a liar about you?
GINGRICH: I still stand by the fact that he is -- that he is not truthful. And I stand by the fact that he doesn't want to be candid about his record as governor. And I stand by the fact that he doesn't want to be candid about some of these ads. And all I ask you to do is -- you know, watch -- don't ask me, watch him.
MORGAN: You said that character is very important, whoever wins this nomination, yet you won't tell me what you think of Mitt Romney. What do you think of his character?
GINGRICH: I don't have an obligation to answer any of that.
MORGAN: No, but if character --
GINGRICH: I'm not going to sit here and play psychotherapy.
MORGAN: No, I don't expect you to, but if character is an important category for this nominee, isn't it perfectly acceptable to ask his competitors what they think of his character? If that is a criteria for choice.
GINGRICH: It should be quite clear that I believe that he ought to be candid about being a moderate. He ought to be candid about the fact that he was consistently pro-choice, not pro-life, as governor. He has tax paid abortions. He has Planned Parenthood written into Romneycare by name.
He appointed pro-abortion judges. His government actually helped build an abortion clinic after he supposedly converted. So I think you could go through a whole series of things and say there's a big gap between the Romney commercial and the Romney record.
MORGAN: Is it better for a leader, for a potential president of the United States, to admit that they have been wrong and to change their mind about issues, or to stick stubbornly by their same platform on these things decade after decade?
GINGRICH: If somebody -- first of all, you had a fairly long career. You should have changed your mind on something. I mean, there should have been something --
MORGAN: I mean, it would be strange if you hadn't, wouldn't it?
GINGRICH: Right. So there should be someplace where you said, yes, I learned something new and now I have a different opinion.
MORGAN: But are you dubious about Mitt Romney's motivation for changing his position?
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, if you go to Romneytaxes.com you'll see every single tax he raised while he's governor. He would pretend he didn't raise them. As I just said to you after he claims he became pro-life, he went through a whole series of pro-abortion steps as governor. And these are facts. These aren't -- you know, so you can look and decide for yourself how -- you know he will tell you I'm a -- that he's a conservative. He appointed liberal judges consistently.
MORGAN: Could you imagine ever working for him?
GINGRICH: No. But why -- what does that -- he couldn't imagine ever working for me, either.
MORGAN: Well, but people --
GINGRICH: That's does not -- I mean I said --
MORGAN: People often become president and appoint people to key positions they don't necessarily like, but who they really respect as political operators. I mean, you would be a big catch for --
GINGRICH: Look, I will -- well, you ask --
MORGAN: -- a big job.
GINGRICH: I didn't even think of him as president than I thought about working for him.
MORGAN: But now you've had to consider the unthinkable presented to you.
GINGRICH: No, no, no. I'm just saying if you said to me if the president of the United States asked you to do something, would you consider it.
GINGRICH: I'm -- I am with Jon Huntsman. I think if the president of the United States of either party asks you to try to help on something that matters to the nation you have an obligation as a citizen to see whether or not you can do it, because you owe it to the country, not to the personality. MORGAN: Let's take a short break, come back and talk about South Carolina because many are saying that for you, Newt Gingrich, this is the biggest moment of your political life. Maybe you don't agree. Or you do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Getting attacked by Newt Gingrich is somewhat akin to getting attacked by a porcupine. I mean, he just points himself everywhere, attacks everywhere. No strategy. No consistent theme. And he looks so mean when he does it, it's not the most effective attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: That's Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary to George W. Bush, taking aim at Newt Gingrich in keeping with our animal theme. Newt Gingrich is back with me now.
A porcupine, he says. Basically when you go it's -- everywhere you look someone is getting pricked.
GINGRICH: Well, I don't think that's my reputation, but that's fine if that's what Ari Fleischer wants to say.
MORGAN: The same Ari Fleischer who just said what he said also has come out today in a column and said that actually, given the amount of firepower you now have going into South Carolina with the super PAC and the ads it can buy you -- because it buys a lot of airtime in South Carolina -- actually you could be the one that could now threaten Mitt Romney quite seriously. I mean a dent to him there could precipitate a whole new battleground.
GINGRICH: Look, I think South Carolina on the 21st is unbelievably important. OK? Romney, although he has yet to get anywhere close to a majority, I mean by 3 to 1 Republicans in Iowa voted against him, by 2 to 1 Republicans in New Hampshire voted against him. Nonetheless, he can claim he won both, even if one was by eight votes. If he wins here, he has enormous momentum towards the nomination.
MORGAN: Unstoppable, do you think, if he wins in --
GINGRICH: Not -- well, no, in this day and age I don't know that anything is unstoppable.
MORGAN: But if he has a thumping win --
GINGRICH: But he would have enormous momentum.
MORGAN: If he won by more than 10 percent.
GINGRICH: I think if he wins by one point he -- he will have -- he'll go into South Carolina 10 days later with enormous momentum, OK. MORGAN: What would be a good result for you outside of winning? Can there be a good result?
GINGRICH: No. I think -- I think this comes down to -- in order for the nomination process to go to a conservative, I have to beat Romney on the 21st. And I think that's -- and that's a decision South Carolinians, I think, are going to face very seriously because the more they learn his record the more they realize, for example, he's pro-gun control.
MORGAN: If you don't win, given you've set that parameter, do you drop out?
GINGRICH: I don't know. I mean, I don't want to prejudge anything. First of all --
MORGAN: But if you say it's that crucial --
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, I think I'm going to win. I mean I think the events we've had so far in our very first day here have been remarkable.
MORGAN: But I don't know -- no politician likes to play hypothetical, but given the fact that you --
GINGRICH: So I'm not going to play hypothetical.
MORGAN: No, but given the fact you said, I have to win.
GINGRICH: Piers, you can ask 23 different ways. I'm not answering.
GINGRICH: My goal is to win on the 21st, and I think if we win on the 21st, we go to Florida, it is a brand new game. And at that point, Romney has got to confront that when you get outside of -- remember, New Hampshire's his third-best state after Utah and Massachusetts. So if he only gets 37 percent in his third-best state and he can't win here, then I think you're in a very different nomination process.
So this is going to be Armageddon. I mean they will come in here with everything they've got, every surrogate, every ad, every negative attack. At the same time, we're going to be basically drawing a sharp contrast between a Georgia-Reagan conservative and a Massachusetts moderate who's pro-gun control, pro-choice, pro-tax increase, pro- liberal judge. And the voters of South Carolina have to look and decide.
MORGAN: When it comes to Armageddon -- that's a good way of putting it, it certainly got my juices flowing. He has a better machinery. Do you regret the fact that your machinery had such a cataclysmic start? It all disappeared in the summer. And you looked like you -- you were saying yourself, you did interviews where they said basically, "You're dead, what about the others?"
But you made this incredible comeback. But what you still don't have, because of the time that it takes to amass this --
GINGRICH: And because of money.
MORGAN: -- is a proper machinery.
GINGRICH: And because of money. I mean, Romney ran for five years. He is a money machine. He's raised millions on Wall Street.
MORGAN: But is that his fault? Or is that just good politics?
GINGRICH: I'm not saying it's his fault or not his fault. I'm just saying to try to match him at what he does best, which is raise money, would have been a dead loser. What I've tried to match him at is what I do best, which is new ideas, new solutions, better performance in debates, better ability to communicate with people. And we've actually had a pretty interesting campaign so far, and I think --
MORGAN: Is this the biggest week of your life politically?
GINGRICH: Yes, I think politically, this -- well, it's the most decisive week. I mean, this is the week when everything culminates and we either convince South Carolinians to vote for a conservative and unify them around me, or, you know, you see Romney probably becoming the nominee.
MORGAN: Very quickly, what do you think of the other competitors? Is Rick Santorum -- he had the Santorum surge, took a bit of a hit in New Hampshire, not necessarily surprisingly, but is it over for him, or do you think you continue to see him get traction?
GINGRICH: No. Everybody gets a chance to come and play, and we'll find out over the next 10 days. You know, Governor Perry is here. I don't know if Governor Huntsman is going to compete here or not.
MORGAN: Are you surprised Governor Perry is still going?
GINGRICH: Well, that's his decision. I mean he's a smart guy, he's a good governor of Texas, he has the resources, and if he wants to stay, he can. I think the concern will be how do we communicate to South Carolinians that they had better pick one conservative, in which case, it will almost certainly be me, if they want to beat Romney? Any vote that goes to anybody else is going to be a vote that helps Romney win, and I --
MORGAN: At what point does the party have to rally, as you say, behind this one consensus?
GINGRICH: No, never --
MORGAN: Has it reached that point now?
GINGRICH: The party never has to rally. I mean, remember --
MORGAN: But doesn't it have to -- doesn't it have to collectively say, "We're now going to have these two duke it out"?
MORGAN: Does it help that you have endless candidates carrying on?
GINGRICH: But that is not the party's function. The party doesn't have any authority to do that. I mean, you know, Obama and Hillary went all the way to early June and nobody thought that they could step in and say, oh, gee, let's not do this.
You know the American political process is the most wide open process on the planet, and it attracts very, very strong personalities, and they get to see what they can do, and it's -- I mean, it's really a marvelous process for sorting out who's capable of enduring the presidency.
MORGAN: Let's take another break. When we come back, I want to get personal with you. I want to take you back to when you were 14 years old and your stepfather, Bob, took you to the old battlefields in France.
GINGRICH: Well, it's called the Ossuary, and it's a glassed-in, basement-like area that had the bones of 100,000 people who'd been blown apart in the fields and left to rot. The battle lasted for nine months. And so literally back in that era, you know, they went out after the war and they gathered up all these bones, German and French bones, put them all in this one extraordinary memorial.
We were staying with a friend of my father's who had been drafted in 1941 and sent to the Philippines, served on the Bataan Death March, and spent three and a half years in a Japanese prison camp. And so the combination of seeing the battlefield of this -- 600,000 men died in a nine-month period of this battle.
And listening to him talk about the stories of defeat. And then, a few weeks later, the French paratroopers killed the French Fourth Republic and brought back General de Gaulle to create the Fifth Republic.
I think that combination of things for a young kid from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, just sort of drove home that this stuff is all real. That, you know, this is not just a game. This is --
MORGAN: How would it shape you as a president in the sense that you're going to face, if you become president, moments where you have to decide, do you take your country to war? It's going to happen to you. What does that tell you about warfare? I know you're a military historian in many ways.
GINGRICH: Well, it's deeper than just going to war. It's the question of, how can you make the historically right decisions to give your children and grandchildren a prosperous, safe, free country? I mean maybe avoiding going to war because you use the right build-up or the right diplomacy, because you have foresight.
It's also, how do you operate in a principled manner? Because you can't just ad hoc all these different decisions. You have to have some underlying set of principles that enable you to say, you know, for America to remain a great nation, for America to remain an exceptional nation, these are things we have to focus on.
And you have to set priorities. And where possible, you have to get ahead of the problems. I mean, one of the amazing things about both Eisenhower and Reagan was that they were able to sort of see around the corner. And so they could take steps that achieved a great deal at minimum risk. And both of them tended to avoid risk.
MORGAN: Many say the Iraq War was fought on a completely false premise, that Saddam Hussein was armed to the teeth with weapons of mass destruction. It turned out he wasn't at all. And therefore this was a -- let's not use the word "illegal." This is was just a pointless war that ended up costing a lot of lives, a lot of money, and we'd have been much better off not involving American troops in the way that it did.
Given what you experienced on those battlefields, given what you saw, if you had been the commander-in-chief, that decision about Iraq, would have taken that decision?
GINGRICH: Well, there were two decisions. There was the decision to go in, and then there was the decision to stay. You can look back in hindsight and say a lot of things. Every intelligence service in the world believed Saddam was dangerous.
And given what they thought was a very real danger of Saddam getting weapons --
MORGAN: But if you're president in a year's time, which you may be, and you're faced with the same compelling evidence about the new leader in North Korea, for example, what would you do? Are you just going to accept that level of intelligence again?
GINGRICH: You mean with hindsight or without hindsight?
MORGAN: Well, I'm looking with foresight. I'm saying if the same --
GINGRICH: If somebody walks in and says to you, we have reason to believe the Iranians are two weeks away from having a nuclear weapon, and we have reason to believe that Ahmadinejad will use it --
GINGRICH: OK. I think no American president -- I can't say this about Obama, but I think even Obama would in the end not tolerate an Iranian nuclear weapon.
MORGAN: And what would do in that circumstance?
GINGRICH: Well, by then you've already been pushed into a corner where only military action is capable. The reason I cite Reagan and Eisenhower is what you want to do is you want to shape the eventuality by taking steps now that fundamentally alter the Iranian regime non- militarily.
I'd say the same thing for North Korea. I mean, our ultimate goal in North Korea has to be to get beyond the dictatorship.
MORGAN: But America cannot afford to have another Iraq-style conflict with either Iran or North Korea, can it? You're not going to be committing hundreds of thousands of boots on the ground in that manner, probably again.
GINGRICH: First of all, I don't think there is any circumstance where you'd want to put hundreds of thousands of troops into Iran. But you -- but there are circumstances where you might want to go after their nuclear program.
And the question becomes -- this is what the real world is all about, you're suddenly faced with a choice, are you going to let Ahmadinejad have nuclear weapons? Are you going to take the gamble he's not going to use them?
But the whole Middle East is dangerous. I mean, the Pakistanis have between 100 and 200 nuclear weapons. They have a government that is very badly divided and has very substantial Islamist radical elements in it.
You know, we have no idea whether or not one or two or three of those weapons is going to disappear someday. I mean, we're living in a world that is vastly more dangerous than most of our elites want to deal with.
And I think it's a very serious question.
MORGAN: If I said to you, give me a phrase which would sum up your kind of overview of a modern American foreign policy, what would you say it would be?
GINGRICH: I would say it would be to protect the interests of America and her allies, and to do it in as effective a way as possible with the minimum of force and the minimum of risk.
MORGAN: Take another break. And let's come back and talk about the economy and Bill Clinton, because you and he -- I had no idea about this -- have the most extraordinary number of similarities in your lives.
MORGAN: Even he may not be aware of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is, first, resilient, and secondly, he is always thinking. And he has got a million ideas. I mean -- and some of them are good and some of them I think are horrible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: A typically honest assessment there from former President Bill Clinton about now my guest, presidential candidate and former speaker of the house, Newt Gingrich.
High words of praise there, and a little bit of a dig as well, as you would expect. Fascinating similarities between you and the former president. This is from "TIME magazine's" 1995 "Person of the Year" write-up about you.
"That dynamic," between you and President Clinton, "is all the more surprising given the similarities between the two men. Born three years apart, each was the eldest child of a lively and worshipful mother. Each tangled with a gruff stepfather. They can both produce elementary schoolteachers willing to testify that they each landed exactly where he always intended.
"Both are natural teachers, verbally promiscuous, and deeply pragmatic. Both sacrificed everything for their public lives, but indulged themselves in their private lives. Both are overeaters who tried pot and chased women. Neither served in Vietnam, and both own 1967 Mustangs."
GINGRICH: That's a fairly strange collection.
MORGAN: Would you quibble with any of those comparisons?
GINGRICH: No, not much. I think he probably has more pure energy than I do. I mean, he is a very bright guy. But we had a little bit of a graduate student relationship where you would sit in -- you know, in a seminar and talk.
I think we drove our staffs crazy because we would get off on ideas. And we were both leaders of ideas. I mean, we didn't just campaign to achieve power or to achieve office. We actually liked getting things done.
And that's why you could have a conservative congressman, speaker of the house, and a liberal Democrat in the White House, and actually get a lot done, because we would hold press conferences and attack each other, but then we would meet and we would talk and we would sort it out and --
MORGAN: Why is this not possible now?
GINGRICH: It is.
MORGAN: But it's not happening.
GINGRICH: Well, but that's because you have in Obama somebody who's a radical and who doesn't know how to negotiate.
Remember, Clinton had been governor for 12 years. So, Clinton understood how to deal with legislators. And he understood that under our Constitution, if I didn't schedule it, it wouldn't pass, and if he didn't sign it, it wouldn't become law. So, we had a deep interest in learning how to work with each other.
I don't have any sense that Obama has either the temperament or the skills or the interest in learning how to work with John Boehner.
MORGAN: He, to be fair to him, he has had to deal with the Republicans, mainly on the Tea Party side being so intransigent they've actually been quoted as saying "Whatever it takes to make this guy a one-term president, we've got to get him out."
GINGRICH: Look, we had a huge freshman class in 1994. It was the first majority in 40 years. So, we had an enormous freshman class. And they had to come in, and as Senator Lindsey Graham will tell you, a lot of the stuff they did, they were too impatient. And looking back, I think he knows that I was actually trying to develop a governing Republicanism that had not been there for 40 years.
And it was frustrating, it was hard. It was difficult.
But people of good will should be able to figure this out. But it has to start with a willingness on the part of the president to have a conversation. And Clinton reached a decisive moment about June of 1995, where all of his liberal staff said to him, "You've got to fight Gingrich everyday. You cannot cut a deal."
And he said to them, "If I do that, I'll be a one-term president. We have got to find a way to work together." And that made a huge difference.
MORGAN: Is the pressure in this current pretty self-serving and ridiculous impasse that I've witnessed -- I've been on air now for a year, and it seems like all the time, Washington is paralyzed.
GINGRICH: It's a mess.
MORGAN: And it seems absurd to me that the world's great democracy behaves like this. But what you're saying is that it's mainly President Obama's fault? Not John Boehner's? Not Republicans?
GINGRICH: I think it's the whole system. I think the Republicans don't quite get how to be clever, and the things they could do that would begin to break up the impasse. And the president has no skills and no understanding of --
MORGAN: What should they both be doing? Cut to it quickly.
GINGRICH: Well, if I was the Republicans, I would find Democratic bills that fit my values. There's a -- there's a Webb- Warner bill by two Democratic senators that provides for developing oil and gas offshore Virginia. House Republicans ought to pass it. Send it to the Senate. Make Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, look at two of his own members who now have a bill that's been passed in a bipartisan majority.
What's he going to do? You know, and I would look for ways to begin to break up the logjam.
MORGAN: Do people underestimate you, do you think? I mean, there are people now saying it's all over again. Do they underestimate you?
GINGRICH: I love the capacity of Washington pundits to be -- to be sort of serially wrong, you know. They're wrong and then they come back and they're wrong and then they come back -- but they're still pundits. They're wrong, and they come back and they're wrong.
And you'd think at some point -- many, many years ago, Meg Greenfield was then the editor of "The Washington Post," said, "it's amazing how many people who are wrong this Saturday or Sunday will be back on the air next Saturday or Sunday with a new prediction based on the change."
MORGAN: Of course!
GINGRICH: So, I think we'll know in 10 days.
MORGAN: If you were in South Carolina and you're thinking "should I vote for this guy," what is the biggest misconception about you personally?
GINGRICH: Oh, I don't know. I think what I would say to people is that I have had a very long record as a Reagan conservative. I am the only person in the race who actually has balanced the budget four times. I am the only person in the race who has negotiated with the president to get welfare reform passed.
I have twice participated in creating huge numbers of jobs, with Reagan in the 80s and then as Speaker. We had 11 million new jobs while I was Speaker.
So, I have -- I think I have three abilities that none of my competitors have. First, I think I'm the person who could most likely beat Obama in debate. Second, I actually have ideas and solutions big enough for a country this size. And third, I've actually done it. It's not a theory. You are not sending an amateur to Washington to learn how to do it. I've actually done it.
MORGAN: And to those who say you are temperamental and you will blow up and that's the problem, your family, who I interviewed only this week, assured me you've calmed down. You are a calmer Newt Gingrich.
GINGRICH: Well, I think that's true. I think --
MORGAN: Being a grandfather, they say, has mellowed you.
GINGRICH: Well, I think being married to Callista has been an extraordinary mellowing and relaxing experience.
Plus, I think that at 68 as a grandfather, you just have a different natural sense of time and sense of pacing.
MORGAN: Let's take another break, come back and talk about three of your favorite subjects: God, America, and Callista. I think I got them right.
GINGRICH: You got them right.
MORGAN: It's good stab.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CALLISTA GINGRICH, WIFE OF NEWT GINGRICH: Again and again, the American people have demonstrated a remarkable ability to choose wisely when faced with great challenges.
GINGRICH: Our best leaders have reminded us that we have a moral obligation to the cause of freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: That's form the documentary film "A City Upon a Hill" from executive producers Newt and Callista Gingrich. And Newt Gingrich is back with me now.
How important is your wife to you?
GINGRICH: Extraordinarily. I think I was very, very fortunate in finding somebody who is remarkably intelligent, very, very professional, very beautiful, a lot of fun. I mean, she got me to golf. Anybody who can get me to golf is -- that's so far beyond my expectation.
And we just enjoy being with each other. We enjoy -- like I think I relax vastly more around her than any other time.
MORGAN: Are you as happy with Callista as you've ever been with any woman in your life?
GINGRICH: Oh, sure. Totally. Yes. It's a different world. I mean -- you know a long time ago, when I was trying to rise, when I was trying to do all sorts of things, I was a very driven person. And I had very -- I had a very intense life. And the intensity was as much inside me as it was around me.
And I think that getting to know Callista really unwound a piece of me and got me to sort of go into a different rhythm and be surrounded by just a different atmosphere.
I remember one time very early on, she turned to me and she said I'm not going to let your bad mood affect my good mood. And I was just --
MORGAN: That's a good line. GINGRICH: Yes. I mean, I stopped in my tracks and I thought -- she had captured this inner intensity that I had, tended to in some ways be destructive.
MORGAN: For a conservative running in the Republican nomination race, you'll be aware that the baggage of your previous marriages or circumstances behind --
MORGAN: -- the divorces and so on is a stick to beat you with for those who want to do that. Do you object to that in principle? Do you think the time has come to move on? Do you accept it's a valid criticism?
GINGRICH: Look, I think people have every right to ask of any presidential candidate virtually everything. And I think I have an obligation to look them in the eye and tell them how I honestly feel, that I have done things in the past that were wrong; that I have had to go to God for forgiveness and to seek reconciliation.
And that -- I have to ask them to measure who I am today and to decide whether or not a happily married 68-year-old grandfather is a person who's learned from his mistakes and is actually a very stable person capable of leading the country in a very, very difficult time.
MORGAN: You're now a Catholic. Callista's a Catholic as well, obviously. How has that changed you as a person?
GINGRICH: There is a power to the Eucharist in the Catholic tradition that is a power to -- the community -- one of the things that the people would say to me is welcome home. And there's this sense of family that is vastly more fulfilling and vastly stronger than I would ever have imagined.
And I tell people I didn't so much decide to be Catholic as I gradually, by going to Basilica where she's been singing in the choir since 1996 -- I gradually just sort of became Catholic. And then one morning the decision caught up with what had happened to me.
MORGAN: I suppose the obvious battleground of many battlegrounds of South Carolina will be religion, in the sense that it's very evangelical there. And Mitt Romney, the frontrunner, is a Mormon. And to many evangelicals they think it's a bit of a weird religion. What do you think?
GINGRICH: Well, I think that that's something that Romney has to be able to explain.
MORGAN: Do you as a Catholic find it strange?
GINGRICH: No, I'm not judgmental about how people go to God. I think we have traditions and different people go to God in different ways. And I'm very respectful.
MORGAN: Let's take a final break. I want to talk to you after the break about America because the key challenge now isn't necessarily preparing America. The better phrase that I've heard is, how do you keep America great, because now there are other great powers emerging. How do you keep America great?
MORGAN: Back now presidential candidate and animal lover, Newt Gingrich.
If you could be any animal, which one would you be?
GINGRICH: If I could be any animal?
MORGAN: Yes. You love animals. That's why we're here.
GINGRICH: I'd probably be an elephant.
MORGAN: An elephant?
GINGRICH: They have 105,000 muscles in their trunk.
GINGRICH: It is unbelievable. It's cool.
MORGAN: You want 105,000 muscles in your trunk?
GINGRICH: And they're big and they last a long time. They live a long time. And they're smart. And they're social animals, you know. So look -- and very few things can attack them.
MORGAN: What kind of animal do you think Mitt Romney would be?
GINGRICH: I have no idea and I'm not going to go down that road.
MORGAN: They've got cobras here, vultures. Rick Perry called him a vulture capitalist yesterday.
GINGRICH: I think Texans tend to speak in very colorful language.
MORGAN: How are we going to keep America great? Because you've got China. You've got India. You've got these superpowers emerging who are genuine rivals to America's former preeminent status. But America remains at its heart a great country.
What are the key things that a new president come November, if it is a new president, needs to do? GINGRICH: Well, I think first of all you have to offer an optimistic vision of a hopeful, successful American future. You have to deregulate a great deal, so that you liberate the American people to once again go and be creative. You have to change the tax code to maximize savings and investment in work, so people are rewarded when they do the right things.
And you have to challenge every parent and every neighborhood to help their children with their education and to fundamentally overhaul our education system.
MORGAN: You mention parents there. Your mother -- you were emotional recently talking about your mother. She had a lot of problems in her life, but loved you dearly. Your stepfather I found a fascinating character too. We discussed him earlier; a military man, a tough man.
It was a poignant moment when you became speaker and you rang him. And you'd had a tough time. They didn't approve of your first marriage and so on. And you called him to thank him for what he'd contributed to you. What do you think he would make of the Newt Gingrich that you've become?
GINGRICH: Well, considering that he wrote from Korea after I did my very first newspaper article at 10. And he said to my mother keep him out of the newspapers. He would say -- I think he would just say that this amazing journey is continuing. And I think he'd look on with both a sense of humor, not to take it too seriously; and with a sense of pride.
MORGAN: Would he prefer the Newt Gingrich today to the one that he found slightly less favorite?
GINGRICH: Yes. I think he would say it's nice I finally grew up. And I think he would regard that as a good sign. He was a pretty tough, direct guy.
MORGAN: What would your mother make of you?
GINGRICH: Oh, my mother would just love me. My mother loved me under any circumstance. It was absolutely unconditional and she just thought that you know I was Newty.
MORGAN: Do you feel like you've almost spent the last 50 years bracing yourself for this week and this battle?
GINGRICH: Yes, in a sense. This is a -- not just this, but then beyond that to a nomination and beyond that to the election, and then to serve. You know, I spent 53 years trying to understand what do we need to do, how do you explain it to the American people, and if they give you permission, how do you implement it?
And so in that sense, everything I've done has been a preparation for this.
MORGAN: Speaker, thank you very much. GINGRICH: Thank you.
MORGAN: Best of luck.
That's all for tonight. Tomorrow night I'll talk to the author of the hottest political tell-all out there, Jodi Kantor, and her controversial new book "The Obamas."
But for now, "AC 360" starts right now.