This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," March 4, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was the talk of the political world this week as rumors swirled that a major announcement was imminent. And on Thursday, in Atlanta, Georgia, Speaker Gingrich revealed that he's one step closer to challenging "The Anointed One" in the year 2012 and it is forming a presidential exploratory website. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We will look at this very seriously. And we will very methodically layout the framework of what we'll do next. And we think that the key is, to have citizens who understand this is going to take a lot of us for a long time, working together. There will be many more chances to have conversations. I simply want to give you that. And I think you will have more than enough to write about in the near future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: Now the former speaker was a bit cryptic about his future in politics yesterday. But tonight, we've got the man himself right here in our studio to help set the record straight. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Mr. Speaker.
GINGRICH: Good to be here.
HANNITY: Mr. President?
GINGRICH: Well, that's up to God and the American people. But Callista and I were grateful yesterday because we had Governor Deal, and we had the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House, all three with us. And all three supportive of what we are doing. And I think, at this point we have an exploratory website NewtExplore2012.com. And we're getting a lot of responses on it. And my expectation is by the end of this exploratory process, they will have an announcement and we'll be in the race. And I think it is very daunting, but it's also very exciting.
HANNITY: All right. So, there are reasons why you took this step rather than an exploratory committee. Can you talk a little bit about that?
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, technically under the Federal Election Commission, it doesn't matter. It's exploratory process whether you have a committee or not. We are still in the process of wrapping up several things in our businesses. And for example, I'm -- this is the first time in I think 10 years I've been here as a guest and not as an analyst.
HANNITY: I think that is true.
GINGRICH: Because Fox News said, got it, you're not here anymore.
GINGRICH: The American Enterprise Institute very similarly, I've been a senior scholar there, and as of yesterday I'm not senior scholar there. So, there are things like that we are working through. We also wanted to have an ability to listen to the whole country. That's why we are using a website approach. Because we want people anywhere who want to be part of this to let us know and to be engaged with it. And I think that there's a real hunger for an articulate expression of American exceptionalism of how free enterprise creates jobs, of what we need to do to balance the budget once again as we did when I was speaker, to get power out of Washington and back home to the states and the people thereof and implement the 10th Amendment. And so, and frankly to protect us in foreign policy and the national security. So, I think the potential for a positive, solutions-oriented alternative to Obama, is very, very real. And that's where we're going to start outlining on Monday when I'm in Iowa.
HANNITY: Right. In Iowa, then New Hampshire and South Carolina?
HANNITY: But this is an important question, you started your political career back in 1958, that's when you began.
GINGRICH: That's right.
HANNITY: OK. You worked your way all the way up to the Speaker of the House of Representatives. And as I was reading the articles as the news was coming out this week, you know, you've been out of power in Washington, what, 17 years now.
GINGRICH: Well, 12 years since I left the speakership.
HANNITY: But 17 years when you became a speaker. That's my math.
GINGRICH: That's right.
HANNITY: What's the difference, because a lot of people saying, all right, well, does Newt still bring some -- you know, we are going to go back 12, 14, 15, 16 years and every article raises well, can Newt overcome the past in terms of the fact that you were, quote, "deemed" by the media a controversial speaker. What do you...
GINGRICH: Well, I think, first of all, if you think it is controversial to balance the federal budget for four straight years and pay off $400 billion, to have the first tax cut in 16 years and what Arthur Laffer called the largest capital gains tax cut in American history, to see unemployment go down from 5.4 percent to four percent while I was speaker. To strengthen defense, to have the largest entitlement reform in history, welfare reform -- two out of three people went to work or went to school. If those things are controversial, then it was controversial.
But I think the biggest advantage of the 12 years that I had at the American Enterprise Institute, at the Center for Health Transformation, developing ideas, making movies with Callista, writing books, I had time to think about, and frankly thanks to the Bush administration allowing me to be a volunteer adviser in defense, in intelligence, at the State Department, in health care, I had a chance to see the executive branch from the inside.
And I think I have a much deeper and more fundamental understanding today of the changes we need to be successful. You know, I'm in the Reagan tradition, I think our best years are ahead of us, not behind us. I think we have a chance to break out and have an extraordinary 20 or 30-year run, leave China and the others way behind, and be the most dynamic, you know, most prosperous and safest country in the world. That requires the kind of changes -- I don't know coming out of the speakership that I would have had anything like the depth of understanding I have now about how big the changes have to be, and how you could actually get it done.
HANNITY: Yes. What I'm hearing is, if you win the primary, what you're setting up is really compare and contrast. Two very distinct, different visions. Barack Obama wants to transform America. And you are in many ways saying you want to transform America.
GINGRICH: Well, I think President Obama wants to change America into a different country. I want to renew the American dream that all of us are endowed by our creator with certain alienable rights, that we have the right to pursue happiness. He wants to redistribute wealth. I want to make sure everybody has a chance to create wealth. You know, if somebody hasn't created it, you can't redistribute it.
I saw him today talking about how no school is going to fail. The sad fact is, his administration backs things like the New York City union, which wants to fire the 5,000 most newest, most aggressive, most energetic, most dedicated teachers on behalf of mediocrity. And I think that we ought to be clear about this. If you want people not to fail, then you better have a standard of measuring success. You better have a standard of encouraging people to do their best. And the president unfortunately actually backs bureaucracies that guarantee we are not going to succeed.
HANNITY: What do you think, for example, when you have a $14 trillion debt -- by the time the next president gets in the office, it will probably be somewhere around $18 trillion -- how do you -- with the numbers so big and so massive, how do you get to a balanced budget and then start paying down that debt?
GINGRICH: Well, first of all, when I became speaker, people thought you couldn't balance the budget at all. It was common wisdom among all of our elites.
HANNITY: What was the deficit then? What was the debt then?
GINGRICH: Debt, a couple of hundred billion dollars. The deficit was probably a third of what it is now. But here's my point. It is just a question of scale. We actually got to a balanced budget in three years. Now, there were a couple of things you would do immediately. First is, you'd pass very dramatic tax cuts to create economic growth, because if you go from nine percent unemployment down to four and five percent of the American people go back to work, they come off Medicaid, they come off food stamps, they come off unemployment, they start paying taxes because they have a job. That's step number one to a balanced budget.
Second, quit spending. I mean, this new budget the president sent in is a joke. He ought to call Governor Cuomo and Governor Brown, who are Democrats, and ask their advice because both of them are trying to get to a balanced budget because they have to. And his budget is a disaster. See, just stop spending.
Senator Manchin, who as the Democratic conservative governor of West Virginia, with a $4 billion dollar state budget, had $1 billion rainy day fund. He said, the first thing he did when he became governor is he stopped hiring. He said, there's about a 10 percent turnover in a year, and if you just stop hiring, within two years, you have a dramatically smaller government. So, you can -- my message is simple. I have done it with the help of a lot of people, John Kasich among others. We can do it again. A balanced budget is possible. And that should be one of our goals.
HANNITY: All right. We're going to take a break. More with the former Speaker of the House coming up right after the break.
HANNITY: And welcome back to "Hannity." We continue now, joining me in studio, former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. I just -- one little point on this. So, you have this website, NewtExplore2012