WHEN: TONIGHT, THURSDAY, JANUARY 26TH AT 7PM ET
WHERE: CNBC’S “THE KUDLOW REPORT”
Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with Republican Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich tonight on CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report” at 7PM ET. All references must be sourced to CNBC.
Mr. Gingrich, thank you sir. We appreciate it.
Former Representative NEWT GINGRICH: Glad to be back with you, Larry, it's always fun.
KUDLOW: All right. Let me just begin with this. Some new polls out today, the Rasmussen poll has you 8 points down, the InsiderAdvantage poll, similarly, 8 points down. It looks like you've lost the South Carolina momentum. Why is this? What's going against you right now?
Rep. GINGRICH: Well, you have the usual effect. We had a big surge, we gained a lot of points over--literally overnight. You have a little bit of subsiding and then, frankly, Romney has vastly more money. He's running negative ads, many of them false. But he's--a friend of mine in Tampa saw 12 ads last night attacking me just in one evening. Our ads just went up today. I think we'll be doing fine by the weekend, but it's a very tough campaign. There are other polls that show it much closer now. We've had to polls today that show it basically tied. So I think you've had--you’re somewhere in that zone of being slightly behind, but clearly within distance of winning the race, and we're going to go all out in the next six days. We're very fortunate, we have Jose Mallea, who ran Marco Rubio's campaign, is running our campaign here. He's pretty confident that it's all going to come together.
KUDLOW: All right. Let me just play a quick tape. This is something you said on the campaign trail knocking Mitt Romney's business and investment. Let me just play this quickly.
Rep. GINGRICH: (From audiotape) I think you have to live in a world of Swiss bank accounts and Cayman Island accounts and automatic, you know, $20 million a year income with no work to have some fantasy this far from reality.
KUDLOW: Mr. Speaker, that's kind of disturbing. I want to you ask you what you meant, particularly the end of this thing, the "no work" part. I think you know well that Mitt Romney started from the bottom and worked up the ladder of success and had a fantastic career. Why do you say no work?
Rep. GINGRICH: Well, because for the last five years he's been sitting around running for president. He has a very large income that he doesn't go out and work for. It's based on investments. And the point I was making was he's describing life for grandfathers and grandmothers in local communities around America suggesting that they're going to self-deport. And I'm suggesting to you that you look at the kind of families we're describing, father, grandfather, grandmother, children, grandchildren, in a local community, they're not going to self-deport. Their entire family's going to take care of them. That was a conversation in a setting in Miami where people were nodding yes because they understood exactly what I was saying, and then that particular quote, I think, came later at an event in Orlando. But my point is really simple, he has a whole series of ideas that I think don't work very well. They didn't work very well in Massachusetts. Romneycare, for example, has turned out to be vastly more expensive than they thought. And without the US taxpayer kicking in, the state of Massachusetts could never have done it. There's a big difference between somebody being effective in business and being effective in government. You know, he ranked third from the bottom in job creation...
KUDLOW: Yeah, but you were...
Rep. GINGRICH: ...as governor.
KUDLOW: Yeah, but Mr. Speaker, just to challenge it, you--this is such a tough statement. Swiss bank accounts, Cayman Island bank accounts, an automatic $20 million income from no work--you know Romney worked his whole life, you know he succeeded, and you also know, at least free market people believe that investors should take advantage of whatever market opportunities are out there.
Rep. GINGRICH: Sure.
KUDLOW: I mean, this sounds like you're going to back to the attacks on free market capitalism...
Rep. GINGRICH: Larry...
KUDLOW: ...from the whole Bain Capital experience.
Rep. GINGRICH: Larry, there's a big difference between what investors ought to do in life and whether or not a person running for president can meet certain standards. Now, for example, I have no idea why he had a Swiss bank account or why he had Cayman Island accounts, but I think if you're running for president, you had better be prepared to explain it. The presidency is a very unique job of enormous power. And the American people deserve to know in advance, and particularly before they nominate somebody who has the job of beating Barack Obama, what are you doing and why are you doing it and how are you doing it?
KUDLOW: But he's published all this stuff.
Rep. GINGRICH: And all I'm suggesting is...
KUDLOW: He's been transparent.
Rep. GINGRICH: No he hasn't.
KUDLOW: He just published his tax returns, he published his financial position. In other words, is there something illegal...
Rep. GINGRICH: He hasn't...
KUDLOW: ...or is there anything improper then just come out and say it. But I don't hear that from you.
Rep. GINGRICH: Well, there are things--I think there are things in it that he's going to have to explain down here. I mean, he invested in one fund which makes its money by foreclosing on Florida homes. Now, that only became known yesterday. I mean, there's a lot of the stuff that was not very transparent and a lot of stuff that's only come up in the last 72 hours. So
it's--and we, frankly, don't know anything about the Cayman Islands or about the Swiss bank account except that they exist. So to say, `Oh gee, he's revealed everything.' No, the truth is we don't know much of anything. But I'm making a deeper point. The presidency is about judgment, it's about character, it's about whether or not you're doing things that the American
people are comfortable with. It's not--this is not to question capitalism. I mean, this is a--that's a phony Romney defense. The fact is, as you know, because you've worked with me for 30 years, I am very pro-free market, I am very pro-capitalism, but I'm also for people who run for president being held accountable to a tough standard.
KUDLOW: But I agree with you.
Rep. GINGRICH: That's...
KUDLOW: Of course, you and I have known--worked together for 30 years on and off, we agree. We go back all the way to the Reagan revival of free market capitalism and supply-side economics.
Rep. GINGRICH: Right. Right.
KUDLOW: But when you're attacking, it sounds, Mr. Speaker, like, just as in the Bain Capital attack, you're going back to that. Some people have said to me today that's because Newt is behind in the polls. So you're slamming Romney's success. You're slamming Romney's investments. You're going to go back to the Bain Capital slam. It just sounds like the language of the left. And if you run up against President Obama in the fall...
Rep. GINGRICH: No.
KUDLOW: ...he is going to just quote you saying this stuff and you won't stand a chance.
Rep. GINGRICH: Look. We would've said very similar things about John Kerry. Because we would've said John Kerry in some ways was out of touch. We did say that. The Bush campaign said that all the time. I'm suggesting that, in some
ways, what Governor Romney suggested about his self-deportation quote, I think's very unrealistic. And he either doesn't mean it or he doesn't understand the real world. That's a fairly legitimate question to raise because I don't know anybody who believes that grandmothers and grandfathers are going to self-deport.
That's when this whole thing started was an argument about what do you with people who've been here 25 years who have family, who've been paying their bills, who are part of the community? I took the position they ought to be allowed to be reviewed by a citizen review board. If they have an American family that supports them and is willing to stand for them, they ought to be considered for residency, not for citizenship, but for residency. Governor Romney said, `Oh, they should have to go home.' And I--so I asked the question, `Are you really going to have the police deport them?' He said, `Oh,
we don't have to do that. They'll self-deport.' I don't think there's anybody who believes, certainly in the immigrant community, who believes that a grandmother or a grandfather is going to self-deport. And I was simply suggesting there are some areas where Governor Romney doesn't necessarily understand the practical realities of life and the practical realities of what's going to happen on the street.
KUDLOW: But I think--you know, Speaker, I think that George W. Bush never used this hostile language to investment and business. Certainly Ronald Reagan never singled out investment funds and attacked them. I mean, that's my disappointment with your position on a lot of these issues, calling Bain Capital and other private equity funds, for example, that they were looters, that they were raiders, that they were greedy corporations. You, yourself, you worked for Ted Forstmann at the great private equity fund Forstmann Little, you also worked for another firm, let's see, I have it down here, J.L.L. Partners, a private equity firm. They gave you $40,000, you gave a speech. The guy said you were euphoric about private equity. What has made you run up against private equity firms and...
Rep. GINGRICH: I'm not--wait.
KUDLOW: ...workout firms and turnaround firms.
Rep. GINGRICH: I have not...
KUDLOW: Or is it just political expediency and opportunism where you're giving up your principles that I thought you and I shared?
Rep. GINGRICH: You know, Larry, the idea that to criticize and ask a question about several business deals means you're anti-capitalist is nonsense. The fact is, there are several deals that Bain did that they took an enormous amount of money out of companies which shortly thereafter went broke. An enormous amount of money. That's a matter of public record. It's
never been explained, it's never been defended, and the law's written in such a way that there's no bankruptcy recourse against the people who took all the money. Now, that's a fact. And it can pretty easily be changed. So I think to come in and say you're not allowed to question his career because of the fact that you question anything in his career means you're anti-capitalist? Well, then so anybody can run for president and can immediately say ask nothing about it, you know, because that would mean--that would mean you're somehow anti-capitalist. That's nonsense.
KUDLOW: Well, I think the language...
Rep. GINGRICH: My whole--my whole career...
KUDLOW: I think it sounds like the language of the left. I think talking about corporate raiders and talking about looters. Look, we all know that some of these deals go sour.
Rep. GINGRICH: What?
KUDLOW: We also know that most of those deals go very well.
Rep. GINGRICH: It's not a question of they go sour.
KUDLOW: But when you use that language, you sound like, pardon the phrase, President Obama or the left wing of the Democratic Party. That's what's disappointed, Newt, that's what disappointed many of your conservative supporters during this campaign.
Rep. GINGRICH: OK. Let's say that I--that I said to you, I really would like--I really believe deeply in honest corporations. That's just back to Obama would say he believes deeply in honest corporations. Which of us is mimicking which one? I think, this idea that somehow the--looking at something becomes radioactive. I think it is--I'm really, truly puzzled by
it, Larry. You know, I raise serious questions. There are at least three or four cases where, as a matter of judgment, and you mentioned Teddy Forstmann, you'll remember when Teddy went in to Gulfstream, he found a company that was much deeper troubled than they thought. It would've been easy to have just cashed out. Instead he found an extra billion dollars, he personally moved to Savannah, he became CEO of the company, he worked full-time to turn it around. He enlisted people like Henry Kissinger and George Shultz and Colin Powell and a whole group of people who got together, and they really worked hard to make Gulfstream the great company it is today. Now, that's a very positive behavior, and he took very great responsibility for that. Governor Romney has run around for years citing his business record. The minute you start looking at his business record, they throw up this automatic smoke screen and say to question anything in his business as anti-capitalism. And that's what—and that's the game they've been playing.
KUDLOW: Well, all right. All right. I hear you on that. You and I are going to have to agree to disagree.
Rep. GINGRICH: All right.
KUDLOW: At least on the language and your approach on that. Let me ask you something else. This is the most bizarre thing I've ever seen. On the top of the Drudge page you've got all these attacks on you coming from conservatives. All right? Let me read the toughest one, let you respond. My friend Elliot Abrams, who worked in the Reagan State Department and the National Security Council, he says that you really weren't close to Ronald Reagan, that, in fact, you were attacking and criticizing Reagan during the middle '80s and he used a quote from a speech you made I think on the floor of the House, "Measured against the scale and momentum of the Soviet Empire's challenge, the Reagan administration has failed, is failing and, without a dramatic change in strategy, is going to continue to fail." Do you want to respond to that?
Rep. GINGRICH: Sure.
KUDLOW: You are arguing in the campaign that you were a Reagan follower and a Reagan intimate. Elliot Abrams and others are saying it's not true.
Rep. GINGRICH: Well, you'll notice an orchestrated Romney supporter attack once again painting a falsehood. Tony Dolan, speech writer for eight years, will tell you I worked very closely with him. Bud McFarlane, National Security adviser for five years, will tell you I worked very closely with him. Michael Reagan has endorsed me. In 1995, Nancy Reagan said, `The torch of conservatism has been passed from Ronnie to Newt.' That was at the Goldwater Institute in 1995. All of a sudden you have a handful of Romney supporters creating a totally fictitious version of the 1980s for one purpose, to try to prop up Romney. Now, let me--let's make a point here. Romney in the 1980s was an independent. Romney in 1992 gives money to Democratic candidates for Congress, votes in the Democratic primary for Paul Tsongas, the most liberal candidate. Romney in 1994 runs for the Senate to the left of Teddy Kennedy and says, `I was never for the Reagan and Bush policies. I am an independent. I would not want to bring them back.' This is the campaign. He was the anti--Romney's the anti-Reagan Republican. This is the campaign trying to somehow smear me and distort my entire history. And you know personally, Larry, because you and I were engaged in it that we worked on supply-side economics before Reagan adopted it. We worked to pass it in '81 with Reagan. And to come back in and have the anti-Reagan, which is what Romney is, decide
that he's going to somehow disrupt my historic record I think is typical of the dishonesty of the Romney campaign.
KUDLOW: Well, if you'll take a look at the Atlanta Constitution Journal, if that's the right name, I actually defended you on the supply-side thing. It's in today's paper, it was googled up. I didn't get this anti-conservative memo, I'm just here to ask questions.
Rep. GINGRICH: Sure.
KUDLOW: You know your Bain Capital thing is driving me crazy, Newt, you know that, and I've got to put it out from the heart.
Rep. GINGRICH: Yeah.
KUDLOW: But let's move on.
Rep. GINGRICH: That's fine.
KUDLOW: You've got a big very important debate tonight, sir. Romney, in the Monday debate, kind of put you in a box. He said you, Newt Gingrich, you're a long-time consultant to Freddie Mac, and Freddie Mac along with Fannie Mae was
one of the causes of the housing crisis, they lowered their credit standards, pushed out unaffordable mortgages, and the people of Florida are now still suffering the consequences. How can you get out of that box in the debate tonight, Mr. Speaker?
Rep. GINGRICH: Well, you know, this is an example--I hope you're not going to think this is anti-capitalist. This is an example of the whole way the Romney operation works. You know what we've learned since Monday night? He personally owns stock in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He is surrounded by lobbyists who have been defending Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He owns stock in a Goldman Sachs subsidiary which specifically is foreclosing on people in Florida. Now, I'm very happy to take this up again tonight because I'd like to know from Governor Romney how many people been foreclosed on by the places he's made investments and how much money has he made personally out of the foreclosures in Florida? He wanted to go down this road. You'll notice, by the way, that the--when we released the contracts, they said I will do no lobbying of any kind, despite the fact that for weeks Governor Romney had been falsely saying something that is not true. But let's find out tonight, how many people have been foreclosed on by the Goldman Sachs investment that he made, how much money did he make out of Florida foreclosures? He started this particular fight. This is not anti-capitalism. This is finding out whether or now he's personally responsible for the things that he's been involved in.
KUDLOW: All right. We're all going to watch the debate tonight, Mr. Speaker.
Rep. GINGRICH: All right.
KUDLOW: I know you've got a busy campaign schedule. I appreciate your time very much, sir. Please do not bash free market capitalism. This is your old pal, Kudlow. Thank you for coming on THE KUDLOW REPORT, Newt.
Rep. GINGRICH: Glad to be with you.
KUDLOW: All right.
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