Newt Gingrich: Transcript of ABC/Yahoo News Exclusive Interview

PHOTO: GOP Candidate Newt Gingrich gives an exclusive interview to ABC News Jake Tapper, Nov. 8, 2011.PlayABC NEWS
WATCH Newsmakers: Newt Gingrich ABC News/Yahoo Interview

JAKE TAPPER: I'm Jake Tapper, and live-- we're live at and Yahoo News for an original series called Newsmakers. We're interest-- interviewing, obviously, all the presidential candidates today. And I'm joined by Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, thank you so much for joining me.

NEWT GINGRICH: Good to be here.

JAKE TAPPER: So the-- we're asking this question of all of the Republican candidates, when did you first know you wanted to be president?

NEWT GINGRICH: Well, I first thought I might have to run for president in the summer of 2004, when it became obvious that the Republican party wasn't generating solutions large enough to meet the challenges that were building. And-- it was clear to me as an advisor and as somebody on the outside trying to bring in new ideas, that there was no market for the scale of change we needed, and no market for the kind of solutions we needed.

JAKE TAPPER: So when--

NEWT GINGRICH: So from-- from that point--

JAKE TAPPER: --when George Bush was running for reelection?

NEWT GINGRICH: When he was running for reelection, my-- my conclusion was that we were not gonna get the momentum of change we needed, because it was a personality campaign. It was an anti-Kerry campaign, rather than an anti-Kerry's-ideas campaign.

And that you didn't have the building of the big ideas on the Republican side. And I concluded then that we'd be in trouble, and that-- we needed a much more fundamental revisiting of what's going on than we were gonna get out of normal politicians.

JAKE TAPPER: Now, your campaign had a shaky start.


JAKE TAPPER: But you are rising in the polls. Why do you think that is, and how do you avoid the pitfalls of other surging Republicans like Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry, who have risen and then fallen?

NEWT GINGRICH: Well, I'm-- I-- I didn't take the logic of my own thinking. And so I brought in traditional consultants, and it didn't work because they wanna run a traditional campaign. And I'm running a very solutions-oriented campaign. If you go to and look at the 21st century Contract with America, it's very different than normal politics.

The challenge is gonna be simple. Sooner or later-- something'll happen and either I'll be able to deal with it or I won't. If-- if I do-- then there's a pretty good chance I'll be the nominee. And I think that's just the nature of this business. I mean, you got lots and lots of smart people, all of 'em legitimately trying to test anybody who wants to be president, and frankly, if you can't make it through the campaign, you probably can't do a very good job as president. So there's nothing wrong with a pretty intense testing process.

JAKE TAPPER: Do you buy the-- the general thought about the Republican nomination? Which is that Mitt Romney may either be the frontrunner or tied for frontrunner right now with Herman Cain, but he's topped out, he really can't attract more than 25 percent of the electorate. And there is a big opportunity for a non-Romney candidate.

NEWT GINGRICH: I-- I think there's a big opportunity for an alternative candidate. That doesn't mean that Romney can't get the nomination. I mean, he-- he's smart, he's working hard, he has a lot of money and access to-- large amounts of money. And he may be able to beat whoever ends up as the alternative. I mean, in the end, it comes down to sort of a, which of these guys do you want.

He's clearly gonna be one of the last two, because of the sheer scale of his resources. So we'll have to wait and see. My job, I think, is to reach out to the 75 or 80 percent who aren't currently committed to Romney, and to say, "Here's a set of solutions that would actually get us back on the right track. Would you like that kind of a candidate?" And if it succeeds, then Romney will have the problem of stopping me. I'm not-- I'm not worried about stopping Romney. I'm worried about reaching that 75 or 80 percent who aren't currently committed to him.

JAKE TAPPER: We've asked folks-- at and Yahoo to ask you questions. Here's one from Meghan (PH) H.-- who asked via Yahoo. "How do you plan to make the American job market more attractive and competitive again to major corporations that can just as easily operate overseas?"

NEWT GINGRICH: That's a great question and goes to the heart of one of our major competitiveness problems. So in a Gingrich administration, we'd repeal Dodd-Frank immediately, we'd repeal Sarbanes-Oxley, we'd repeal ObamaCare. We'd replace the Environmental Protection Agency with a brand new environment solutions agency, we'd move to a 21st century Food and Drug Administration.

We'd have a very strong pro-American energy program. We would also have a zero capital gains tax, 100 percent expensing for new equipment, a 12 and a half percent corporate tax rate, we'd abolish the death tax permanently, and we'd move to an optional 15 percent flat tax. You take that total package, plus I like job creators. I'm the opposite of Obama.

I like people who create jobs. I don't believe in class warfare. And I think in that context-- you'd see a huge increase. In fact, I tell people the recovery begins late on election night, as people realize you're gonna have a new president with a new program and a new attitude.

JAKE TAPPER: There's a lot you just said in there, and-- (LAUGH) and-- we don't have enough time to do all of it. But-- but one question I wanna ask-- has to do with your-- call to repeal-- the Wall Street Reforms--


JAKE TAPPER: --Dodd-Frank. I don't think a lot of Americans would understand why-- anyone would want to repeal regulations that happened after this--


JAKE TAPPER: --calamity on Wall Street. If you disagree with those regulations that were imposed, do you agree at least that there should be some new reforms or--


JAKE TAPPER: --regulations?

NEWT GINGRICH: There should-- there should be very decisive reforms. I think in retrospect-- repealing the Glass-Steagall Act was probably a mistake. So we should probably reestablish dividing up the big banks into a banking function and an investment function and separating 'em out again. There are real reforms we should pass. Some pieces of Dodd-Frank are probably worth ke-- keeping.

The problem is, Dodd-Frank was written by two very left-wing Democrats, it does to financial services what ObamaCare does to healthcare. It is killing small banks, crippling small business, driving down the value of housing, and it is a major reason that the economy can't start growing.

JAKE TAPPER: Grier (PH), via Yahoo, writes, "I'm an independent voter, and it seems to me that the word 'compromise' is missing from the vocabulary of the Republican candidates. If you're elected president and the mix of Republicans and Democrats in Congress remains basically the same as it is today, how can you be more effective as president than President Obama?"

NEWT GINGRICH: Well, I think for the same reason that I was more effective working with President Bill Clinton than President Obama's been working with Speaker John Boehner. Working with a liberal Democrat in the White House, we reformed welfare, two out of three people went back to work or went to school, passed the first tax cuts in 16 years, and the largest capital gains tax cut in history, balanced the budget for four straight years, paid off $405 billion in debt.

We went through a whole series of reforms, doubled the size of national institutes of health. All this was bipartisan. You can-- you can find ways to do that if you're willing to sit in a room and talk with each other seriously, and if you're willin' to listen to each other. But-- but Clinton had been governor for 12 years. We understood dealing with the legislature. Obama doesn't have a clue about how to deal with the legislature.

JAKE TAPPER: There's now a fourth woman-- alleging inappropriate behavior by Herman Cain. And I know that you've been reluctant to wade into this at all. But in an interview with George Stephanopoulos today, Mitt Romney called the latest charges, quote, "particularly disturbing and serious allegations," quote, "that are going to have to be addressed seriously. I think it's important to recognize that a number of women have come forward with concerns." What are your thoughts about this-- this scandal? There are a lot of people, I think, who like Herman Cain, but see that there are now-- there's now a fourth woman.

NEWT GINGRICH: Well, I think-- I think when you move from anonymity to a person standing up in that setting, and saying something, so now there's a ro-- there's a person, it's not just some anonymous charge. Clearly, Herman Cain has to answer the charges. He has to explain what happened. He has to do so in a way that is convincing.

And I think that that's unavoidable. And I think that-- he both owes her that, but he also owes the American people that. And I think-- I hope he can do it well. He's a good friend, and I hope that he has an answer that satisfies people. But he has to have an answer-- and it had better be accurate. Because-- if it's not accurate, it won't survive 24 hours.

JAKE TAPPER: One of the most stunning things about the John Edwards scandal is that he was willing to still pursue the nomination. If he had had his way, he would've gotten the Democratic nomination. And then who knows if the story would have broken by then (THROAT CLEAR) about his-- his affair and-- and-- his child out of wedlock. That is a very selfish thing for a political candidate to do, because it could have had the effect of essentially electing John McCain from a Democrat's perspective. So, from a Republican's perspective, are you at all concerned that Herman Cain might ultimately get the nomination, but the-- where there's smoke there's fire, and this could end up--

NEWT GINGRICH: No, but it-- but it--

JAKE TAPPER: --helping President Obama get reelected.

NEWT GINGRICH: Ja-- look at the jump you just made, okay? I mean, first of all, nobody knew anything about John Edwards' problems until they knew about John Edwards' problems. So you don't know about any potential nominee until you know about it.


NEWT GINGRICH: And so the answer is, you would like to not nominate somebody who has those problems. Ask the Democrats about the '92 campaign.


NEWT GINGRICH: I'm just saying, Bill Clinton came in with plenty of stuff. And Bill Clinton had plenty of problems for his entire presidency. So I think you-- you've gotta think through-- I hope that Herman Cain can explain it, I think the American public expects him to explain it. And we'll see what happens as he explains it. But-- this is, as you know, this is a business now of 24-hour news and 16 million bloggers, and who knows what's gonna happen next Tuesday.

JAKE TAPPER: One question I got via Twitter had to do with a Public Service Announcement you did with Nancy Pelosi on climate change. You recently responded that you were 'trying to make a point that we shouldn't be afraid to debate the left, even on the environment and obviously it was misconstrued'. But you say in the ad 'we do agree that our country needs to take action to address climate change'. so what exactly was misconstrued?

NEWT GINGRICH: Well first of all people see that and they jump to the conclusion that he's for capping trade which I opposed - 'the ad does not say anything about capping trade - 'no no, but I'm just saying that's what people jump to, okay? I've said to people, I think it is very reasonable and prudent to develop renewables - I am very much in favor of ethanol as well as wind and solar. I also think it is very prudent to develop a next generation of safe nuclear power. but I would not go to the extent of having any kind of massive, multi-trillion dollar effort and I wouldn't centralize power in the Environmental Protection Agency. And I think it's very important to recognize that you really have two groups. You have the majority of scientists with the National Academy of Science saying it exists, and a small but determined minority saying it doesn't exist. And science isn't about votes. Science is about what-- what are the facts. And I think frankly, a lot of the facts are still out. But as a conservative, you oughta be interested in caution. And so I would be cautious about automatically assuming that nothing is going on.

JAKE TAPPER: Alex via Yahoo asks-- (THROAT CLEAR) excuse me, "I was recently let go and will have to pay for my own health insurance, which is incredibly expensive. How would your plan help people like me who are facing $500 a month for insurance while searching for a job?"

NEWT GINGRICH: Well I-- I would say first of all that we wanna have much less expensive health insurance available. We'd like to have-- I'd like to have association plans-- that he could join an association of people to buy in group. I also think you oughta be able to buy a catastrophic plan, so that you have a very low cost coverage, much less than $500, but it's not first-dollar coverage.

And-- and I think people have to look at what age they are and what risk they run. But you can develop much less expensive, you look at what Governor Mitch Daniel did, for example, in Indiana. He developed much less expensive-- catastrophic insurance in exactly that kind of circumstance.

JAKE TAPPER: Okay, one last question, and then the lightning round. Mark C. via Yahoo asks, "Should the children of illegal aliens be allowed to attend public schools?"

NEWT GINGRICH: Yes. Just p-- d-- if you have people in your community who are-- not getting any education, you're asking for a level of social destruction that's unbelievable. Now, I think frankly we should have as a goal eliminating the notion of people being in America w-- outside the law. And there are steps you can take so that everybody's within the law. And we need to find ways to do that.

JAKE TAPPER: Okay, here comes the lightning round. The worst job you ever had?


NEWT GINGRICH: --the worst job I ever had-- probably was-- being a pinsetter, quite exciting, 'cause they would decide to see if they could bowl while you were setting the pins.

JAKE TAPPER: This is in Germany?

NEWT GINGRICH: In Germany. I was-- I was a kid, my dad was in the army. We were stationed in Stuttgart.

JAKE TAPPER: That sounds pretty miserable.

NEWT GINGRICH: Well, it was exciting. (LAUGH)

JAKE TAPPER: No, the Germany part sounds fine, it's pinsetting sounds miserable.


JAKE TAPPER: TV guilty pleasure?

NEWT GINGRICH: I li-- I watch any old movie. If it moves, I'll watch it.

JAKE TAPPER: Favorite junk food?

NEWT GINGRICH: Favorite junk food, almost any ice cream.

JAKE TAPPER: Favorite travlor-- flavor?

NEWT GINGRICH: Probably cherry. Black--


NEWT GINGRICH: Black cherry.

JAKE TAPPER: Black cherry. The happiest you've ever been, other than-- not including any wedding days or-- or birth of your children days. The happiest day.

NEWT GINGRICH: Either-- looking for dinosaurs with Jack Horner in Montana, or being with my wife Callista on the Serengeti Plain, taking pictures of animals.

JAKE TAPPER: Who would play you in the movie?

NEWT GINGRICH: Who would play me in the movie? I have no--

JAKE TAPPER: In the movie of you.

NEWT GINGRICH: I have no idea.

JAKE TAPPER: You have-- you have-- n-- there's no favorite actor you have--

NEWT GINGRICH: I have nobody-- I mean, I-- look, obviously you'd like Harrison Ford, but get serious, right? (LAUGH)

JAKE TAPPER: Well wa-- Santorum picked-- picked Jim Cazaviel (PH), or what--

NEWT GINGRICH: Yeah, he's a great guy. The guy who played Christ in--



JAKE TAPPER: Sh-- sh-- shooting high. Okay--

NEWT GINGRICH: But I've seen-- I've seen Harrison Ford as the president, he plays the president the way I wish the president were por--

JAKE TAPPER: I'm gonna take Harrison Ford as your answer. What is your personal theme song?

NEWT GINGRICH: I-- well, I don't have a personal theme song. I-- I mean, I use-- Dancing Queen from ABBA for-- for my telephone if that counts.

JAKE TAPPER: That counts. Where does that come from? You're just a big ABBA fan?

NEWT GINGRICH: It come-- but-- it actually comes from-- from-- Mamma Mia.

JAKE TAPPER: No, I know. But what-- what-- why?

NEWT GINGRICH: 'Cause I love-- I think the scene in the movie has as much energy and as much enthusiasm and happiness as I've ever seen in a scene. I love it--

JAKE TAPPER: All right.


JAKE TAPPER: First thing you'd do in the Oval Office?

NEWT GINGRICH: The first thing I'd do in the office, probably say a prayer.

JAKE TAPPER: Name a fifth president who belongs on Mt. Rushmore. (LAUGH)

NEWT GINGRICH: That's hard to do.

JAKE TAPPER: You're a s--

NEWT GINGRICH: A fifth president--

JAKE TAPPER: You're a scholar of-- of history. Who-- who--

NEWT GINGRICH: Oh, I'll-- I'll--

JAKE TAPPER: --would you put up there?

NEWT GINGRICH: --go for five and six: F.D.R. and Reagan.

JAKE TAPPER: F.D.R. and Reagan? That's very bipartisan of you. And I think this is the last one, yes. Tell us in Tweet length, and I know you're on Twitter, why do you wanna be president, in 140 characters or less.

NEWT GINGRICH: To help the American people get our country back on the right track for our children and grandchildren.

JAKE TAPPER: I think that fits. All right, thank you Speaker Gingrich--

NEWT GINGRICH: Good to be with you.

JAKE TAPPER: --I appreciate it. And if you missed any part of this live-streaming interview, you can come back to watch it any time on Yahoo News or Thanks for watching.