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Newt to CNN's Erin Burnett: On his "open marriage" issue and surge

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Credit all use to CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront.

Tonight on OutFront, CNN's Erin Burnett sat down for a candid interview with GOP presidential hopeful former speaker Newt Gingrich. Asked about whether he knew that questions about his ex-wife's allegations would come up during the CNN debate, Gingrich said "I sort of had a hunch-- that that would happen, 'cause I thought they couldn't contain themselves. And I thought that-- I thought that they-- that they would think it was clever. But-- I think there's something going on here that's very deep. Part of it is a really deep dislike of the media, at-- at a level that nobody in the media wants to even think about yet."

Erin also asked the Speaker whether his comments about President Clinton while he was speaker were hypocritical, the former speaker said "what was Clinton's problem? He lied under oath in front of a federal judge, which is a felony. It wasn't his personal behavior in the Oval Office. He lied under oath to a federal judge. He committed a felony."

Below is links to the interview and full edited transcript.
Erin Burnett OutFront airs weeknights at 7 pm and 11 pm Easter on CNN. Video clip of the interview will also be available on our blog: www.cnn.com/outfront

Video: PART 1: http://outfront.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/20/gingrich-people-really-dislike-the-media/

PART 2: http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2012/01/20/exp-erin-newt-on-clinton.cnn

TRANSCRIPTS:

ERIN BURNETT: So do you feel the momentum has-- has changed for you over the past few days?

NEWT GINGRICH: I think it really began to change dramatically after-- Monday night in Myrtle Beach, the debate. We were pretty good before then, because you could-- we're back home. As a Georgian, I feel pretty good campaigning in South Carolina. And we're getting a good, positive response. But Monday night seemed to galvanize people. And all of a sudden it got better. And then, of course, Sarah Palin said she'd vote for me, and then it got even better. And now today, we have Michael Reagan and Chuck Norris. And I think at every stage, you've had this continuing acceleration, if you will.

ERIN BURNETT: So I was at a Denny's today, talking to a lot of people, and asking them if they-- they'd seen the debate. They'd all seen the debate last night. And-- they were-- a lot of them had changed their mind. There are Romney's in there now, saying, "Well, now-- now we're going for Newt." And the reason was because of the beginning of the debate and how you responded-- to John King's question-- about your ex-wife. Did you expect that question right off the top?

NEWT GINGRICH: I-- I sort of had a hunch-- that that would happen, 'cause I thought they couldn't contain themselves. And I thought that-- I thought that they-- that they would think it was clever. But-- I think there's something going on here that's very deep. Part of it is a really deep dislike of the media, at-- at a level that nobody in the media wants to even think about yet.

Because-- this has happened like five times now or six times now in these debates. The other, though, is I think people want a leader who's forceful. And who-- who knows what they think and who's-- got the guts to stand there and say it. And part of it is, you know, if I'd said the color is blue, it-- it's the forcefulness, because they know we're in real trouble as a country. At least our side of the country, the Republicans, the conservatives, the Tea Partiers, the Independents, we all think the country's in real trouble. And so they're looking for a leader, who has a forcefulness and a clarity. And I think-- that delivery of that clearness is as important as the specific topic.

ERIN BURNETT: Yes. It was interesting-- you know, I was talking to men and women, Mayor of North Charleston, Erin, his daughter. His daughter had been very-- into-- to Mitt Romney before. She was-- she was on Facebook, talking to a friend. And-- and-- and she'd switched to you. And-- and it was because of this topic.

She said, "You know, we all-- we all have skeletons in our closet. I connected with him." I talked to another woman. She said, "I've been divorced, too. And I wouldn't want someone to drag that up." So-- do you think that in a sense it's enabled you to connect with people-- in a more human way?

NEWT GINGRICH: Yeah, I think it has. I think people are actually a lot smarter than our analysts believe they are. And they lead complete lives. And they look around, they go, "You know, that's just not true." And there's the kind of judgment there that's real. In addition, I had a pastor who said to me, "You know, in some ways, having somebody who's had pain in their life is really helpful. Because, you know, somebody whose life has been so perfect, they don't understand pain. It's hard for them to understand what the rest of us go through."

And-- and it was-- a very interesting way of thinking of it. And-- I-- I mean, I have-- I've had people come up to me all day today and say that they were glad I responded so harshly. That they were glad that-- that I was so clear about it. Some people have-- have written both Callista and me and said that they-- they're sort of embarrassed for the country that that kind of thing was done to us. A number of people have said that we're in their prayers. And it-- it's a very-- interesting human response.

ERIN BURNETT: And I-- I-- I heard that, too. People also, though, do seem to feel that the question of-- of morality affects someone's personal life, as well as their professional life. And I-- I talked to Tim, who was-- at Denny's today. And-- here's what he said. He said, "If you're gonna be the president, you have to be someone who is going to be of high moral character, because you are the person who is representing our country, the most important person in this country." And he said, "You know-- his marital past is not the first-- most important thing, but it will be a deciding factor." Don't you think it's fair--

NEWT GINGRICH: Sure.

ERIN BURNETT: --that the morality question comes up?

NEWT GINGRICH: Of course. And-- but it-- but it's-- (CLEARS THROAT) I don't believe anybody who's gonna vote tomorrow didn't already know I'd been divorced and remarried. I-- I don't think-- because it's all been out here, you know, for eight months. And there's a sense of, "Why would ABC News bring it up now? Why would they get into it now? And why would they do it the way they did it?"

And I think that's where people just said, "Wait a second, that's over the line." Of course you should measure-- I mean, you should measure, whether it's Romney or Santorum or Ron Paul or-- or Obama. I mean, all of us, if we're seeking to have you loan us the most powerful office in the world, we should be prepared to have a conversation that is amazingly detailed and amazingly open. And I don't object to that.

ERIN BURNETT: So-- so when-- so when people say, "Well, if someone will be unfaithful in their personal life or dishonest in their personal life, then they might be dishonest as a president or as a business leader," how do you answer that question? You say, "I was dishonest here." You've been honest about that. So--

NEWT GINGRICH: You have to say, "Look, there's--"

ERIN BURNETT: --how do you tell them to be com-- comfortable with you as president?

NEWT GINGRICH: You have to say, "Look-- look at who I am now. Look at how close Callista and I are as a couple. Look at how close-- I am to my daughters and-- and my son in laws. Look at how close Callista and I are to our grandchildren. And you have to decide, not 15-20 years ago, but is this now a person experienced enough and wise enough and with enough force of personality that I think he could actually get America back on the right track?"

ERIN BURNETT: And now you're moving-- you know, could-- could be the front runner, could win tomorrow, (LAUGH) win in Florida, right? Well, the waves go up--

(OVERTALK)

NEWT GINGRICH: --has been like this. Who knows?

ERIN BURNETT: You come into a general election and, you know, it's interesting, all these issues become-- they're gonna be looked at again. And-- so it's interesting. I looked-- presidential history. We've never had a president who's been married three times. One in 20 Americans have been married more than twice. When you get to a general election, if you're the nominee, you're against Barack Obama. He's a very stereotypically family guy. Do you think that that's gonna be an issue where people say, "Do I connect with him? Do I have a lot in common with Newt Gingrich?"

NEWT GINGRICH: No. I-- I think the country's in so much trouble. As-- as somebody said to me the other week, if you think you have a serious illness, what you really want to know is not what kind of car does the doctor drive, but whether or not he's a good doctor. And I think the burden that Barack Obama carries is that he's both radical and not very competent. And people see that.

He's likable. I mean-- I-- I would never beat Obama in a personality contest, and I-- and I wouldn't try. He's a very likable person. But the presidency's not about likability. The presidency is about, you know, are you capable of doing the job? Are you capable of helping us with jobs? Are you capable of dealing with Iran? And on-- on the issue of capability, I think Obama has an enormous burden to carry.

ERIN BURNETT: So what about-- you mentioned Sarah Palin, right before we started this interview, (CLEARS THROAT) and her endorsement. And I know-- you mentioned her the other day, said that you would consider her for some sort of a position. Have you thought more about that? It caught my-- I saw that. I said, "Wait a minute, what's he saying?"

NEWT GINGRICH: Well, I-- I suggest to you there's a movie that was made about her--I think its called Beyond Defeated or Beyond Vanquished. And it's a very interesting documentary. When you go back and look at her career as mayor, then on the ethics commission, where she forced the Republican state chairman to resign. Then her primary campaign against an incumbent governor. The amount she cleaned up the state and the amount-- and how effective she was in negotiating with big oil-- you'd have to say that she has great capability if she wants to do it.

I mean, and you-- and she'd be-- somebody you'd consider is a talent in a variety of possible positions. But that's-- you know, I mean-- now you gotta finish winning the nomination. Then you have to actually win the general election. So we're still a long way off from that kind of thinking.

ERIN BURNETT: You were talking about a gold commission. And obviously, that's something Ron Paul's been passionate about, back to the-- the Reagan years.

And it was interesting talking to some Ron Paul supporters today. A couple of them were telling me, well-- and you know how they are. They're passionate. "Ron Paul or nobody." But when I pushed really hard, it was, "Well, maybe then Newt."



NEWT GINGRICH: Well, I mean, one of the Fed's-- it's a fact of life, Ron Paul's gonna get a significant vote. And there's this fact of life that you want to find something that would give him a strong reason not to consider a third party. And then-- so you've gotta say-- under what circumstance-- he has a legitimate role. I mean, he's earned that role by running a very formidable campaign and you want to find something that we're-- we're adequately compatible on that you could actually find something to do.


ERIN BURNETT: One final question-- and this is just-- I had reached out on-- on Twitter today.

NEWT GINGRICH: Okay. (LAUGH)

ERIN BURNETT: I'm learning to use it too.


ERIN BURNETT: And I'd ask them for questions for you. They-- they-- they were questions about a lot of different things. But the main question that came actually was about last night. And it was about-- what you had said-- in 1998, in talking to your PAC. April 22nd, you said-- referring to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. "I will never again, as long as I am Speaker, make a speech without commenting on this topic." There is a perception that it is hypocritical, since you have been so aggressive on President Clinton about that, and now say-- that your past is not relevant.

NEWT GINGRICH: But you're very smart. What was-- what was the problem there? What was-- what was Clinton's problem? He lied under oath in front of a federal judge, which is a felony. It wasn't his personal behavior in the Oval Office. He lied under oath to a federal judge. He committed a felony.

ERIN BURNETT: So that's the oath that bothered you, not the-- not the marital oath that he would have broken?

NEWT GINGRICH: Well, the-- probably the-- look, Clinton had a long-- there have been many articles for a long time, starting with Gennifer Flowers. The problem was-- and-- and you can judge that as a private citizen and say, "I don't like it" or "I do like it." The problem was perjury and-- and he's a lawyer. So he has no excuse. Perjury in front of a federal judge, in a case like that, has jail time.

gonna enforce the law? And that's what the case was about. And it was enormous-- you know, I-- I actually think the country probably got to the right solution. He was impeached by the House. The Senate refused to convict. But we set a pretty tough standard for future presidents that says, "Don't break the law. You're not-- you're not above the law, just 'cause you happen to be popular this week."

ERIN BURNETT: All right, well, pe-- speaking of popular this week, last question. You're very popular this week. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

NEWT GINGRICH: And we'll be back.

ERIN BURNETT: You'll be back. (LAUGH) You're goin' on. And how much-- how-- how-- how great is-- of a week has it been for donations?

NEWT GINGRICH: It's been very, very good. I mean, I don't know the details, 'cause I don't pay attention. I-- I'm-- I'm the candidate. My--

(OVERTALK)

NEWT GINGRICH: Michael Krull runs the campaign. But I can tell you that we're-- we're-- have-- we have the resources to go onto Florida. And we're-- we're very excited about it. I mean-- this has been-- as you said earlier, this has been-- in my entire career, this is the wildest ride I've ever been on. It's-- it's amazing.

ERIN BURNETT: And it's amazing to cover it, as well. Speaker Gingrich--

NEWT GINGRICH: Thank you.

ERIN BURNETT: --thanks so much.

NEWT GINGRICH: Good to be with you.


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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on January 20, 2012 8:03 PM.

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