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The Situation Room

Interview With Newt Gingrich, Republican Candidates On Israel; New Charges Against Sandusky; Mexican Officials Say Saadi Gadhafi Planned To Sneak in to Their Country;

Aired December 07, 2011 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And you're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, Newt Gingrich acknowledges his surging presidential campaign still potentially could implode this hour. My in-depth interview with the Republican presidential frontrunner on his policies, his past mistakes, whether he actually asked Mitt Romney to be his vice presidential running mate. The interview coming up.

Gingrich and most of his rivals are trying to disarray President Obama today over his policies towards Israel and the Middle East. Stand by to hear why Newt Gingrich believes Israel will be so much better off if he were president of the United States.

Plus, the Democratic Party is asking what is Mitt Romney hiding? We'll take a hard look at the Obama camp new line of attack.

We want to welcome viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

I spent some time with Newt Gingrich behind the scenes today before we sat down for our in-depth interview earlier in the afternoon. He's clearly upbeat about his surge in the polls, but this is the man who's experience some big highs and some big lows in his political career.

He's not ready, at least publicly, to presume he's got the nomination all wrapped up. Here's part one of our conversation here in Washington.


BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: We got some new polls, and I know you've seen those numbers and you're doing remarkably well, double-digit leads in South Carolina, in Florida, in Iowa. You're moving up even in New Hampshire. But your critics say you, Newt Gingrich, are fully capable of imploding, if you will, making a mistake, a blunder that could turn things around. Are you worried about that?

GINGRICH: Sure. That would be a bad thing to do. I mean, is it possible? I guess. On the other hand, I've had a very long career, and I have a very public record. And I think people are coming to decide that they like substance and they like somebody who actually has balanced the budget, reformed welfare, cut taxes, gotten it done for real.

So, I think there's probably a little more resilience in my support than in some of the earlier folks who made a run at this.

BLITZER: I have been surprised, and I don't know if you have been. Some of the Republican congressmen who worked with you in the 1990s, contract with America, the Republican revolution, and you know these guys like Joe Scarborough, for example --


BLITZER: -- or Peter King of New York, Tom Coburn. They've suggested, used words like erratic, undisciplined, a train wreck. And they know you well, these guys. Why are they saying that?

GINGRICH: Look, I think, if you are very aggressive and you drive to get things done, I mean, we drove to get welfare reform, we drove to balance the budget for four straight years. I think in a legislative body, there's sort of a go along to get along collegial attitude. I wasn't there in a collegial job. I was there as the leader, and my job was to drive through change on a scale that Washington wasn't comfortable with.

And, you know, if you are a genuine outsider forcing change, you're going to, at least, bruise (ph) feelings. And I don't apologize for that. I think I've probably learned some more. I think I'll probably be more effective this time. But you look back, you know, we switched the fiscal condition of the United States by $5 trillion in a four- year period.

BLITZER: But you worked with Bill Clinton closely on that.

GINGRICH: I was able to negotiate with the president, but --

BLITZER: You couldn't have done it without him.

GINGRICH: Oh, no. Look, if I didn't pass it, he couldn't sign it, and if he didn't sign it, it didn't matter that pass, so we had sort of balance -- this is exactly the constitution supposed to do. But I do think there were times when the pressure of getting things done or, you know, frankly, making a compromise to get Bill Clinton's signature.

There were some of the guys who were further to the right and said don't compromise, Wolf, then you wouldn't get welfare reform.

BLITZER: Why would Tom Coburn say something and I'm paraphrasing, you know, Newt Gingrich, when he was the leader, he had one standard for himself and another standard for others.

GINGRICH: I don't know. You would have to ask Tom Coburn. I mean, look, I wish everybody had loved me, but I'd rather be effective representing the American people than be popular inside Washington.

BLITZER: Can you taste this Republican nomination right now? GINGRICH: No. I think it's -- look, remember, I was way down here, and now I'm up here. So, I know you can go way back down here. We still have a lot of work to do. With the next four weeks in Iowa, then a real rush in New Hampshire, then on to South Carolina, then on to Florida and Nevada.

I mean, all of those within about a month. So, I think if we have a little interview right after Nevada we'll have a better sense of how real it is and what's actually --

BLITZER: Is it too early to say that it's yours to lose?

GINGRICH: Yes, I will. I mean, it's either Romney or mine. It was a --

BLITZER: What about the other candidates?

GINGRICH: We're the two frontrunners. I think, it's a fair thing to say without diminishing anybody. The both of us haven't -- you know, have different kinds of strengths, but Romney is a very formidable opponent.

BLITZER: Obama supported Democrats, White House officials, Obama campaign officials, they say -- they look forward to running against you. They're nervous about Mitt Romney. They think he might be more electable. Independents might go to him a little bit more than you, but you, they look forward to fighting. What goes through your mind when you hear that?

GINGRICH: You know, it's probably a sign of my age, but I remember in 1966, Governor Pat Brown, Jerry Brown's father, was really concerned about a moderate mayor of San Francisco names George Christopher, and he really wanted to find some right-wing actor that he could beat easily.

And they were thrilled that Ronald Reagan was running. Reagan beat him by a million votes. I am perfectly happy for the Obama people to decide they want to beat up on Romney. This is a little tough on Romney, but that's fine with me. When I get to the general election, if I'm the nominee, after the president has those seven, three-hour debates, we'll see how they feel about it.

BLITZER: I'm old enough to remember Jimmy Carter in 1980 when his aides heard that Ronald Reagan was going to be the Republican nominee. They were doing some high five at that time.

GINGRICH: That's exactly right.

BLITZER: So, you got to be careful what you wish for. I want to get to some foreign policy issues, but we've got some questions from Facebook. We asked our viewers to send us some questions for you. Let me go through a few of them and get your answers.

"You've said on occasion that it is OK for politicians to change their view if new information is available. Can you recall the most important position you've changed and why you decided to make the change?"

GINGRICH: That's a really good question without getting hung up on the most important. I'll give you an example that's a little awkward nowadays. Trent Lott and I used to kid that we were the last two decisive votes for the Department of Education. In retrospect, it was a mistake. I think it is way to --

BLITZER: To create the department of --

GINGRICH: Yes. We voted in 1979 to create it. I think, in retrospect, that was an error, and it hasn't worked. So, that would be an example.

BLITZER: What else?

GINGRICH: I think that the --

BLITZER: I'll give you an example. You've been criticized for the healthcare mandates. You supported them, and now, you say you oppose them.

GINGRICH: That would be a good example in the sense that when Heritage Foundation and mostly every conservative was trying to stop Hillarycare, we used the mandates as a way of blocking her, because we thought they were less damaging.

In retrospect, we were wrong, because what happens, once you go to a mandate, you have turned so much power over the government that the politicians rather than the doctors end up defining healthcare. And so, it was a mistake.

BLITZER: Let me ask you the question I asked Ron Paul at that Debate I moderated in Tampa with the Tea Party Express. You're a 30-year-old healthy young man. You know what, you're making a living. You got a good job. You could buy health insurance, but you decide not to. You'd rather go to ball games or whatever, but then you get critically ill for whatever reason. You're in intensive care. You have no health insurance. Who should take care of you?

GINGRICH: John Goodman (INAUDIBLE) for the best answer in a book called "Patient Power" where he says what we ought to do is have a refundable tax credit to help people buy insurance. You don't want to boy the insurance, fine. Your share of the tax credit goes into a charity pool. Something happens to you, you're taken care of by that charity pool so that there is -- so that you are taken care of.

BLITZER: The charity pool, taxpayer money or private individuals?

GINGRICH: Taxpayer money would be the tax credit you would have used to buy the health insurance. And the result is that you may not get a private room. You may not get everything you want, but you are taken care of.

And I think it's important to look at that and to try to figure out, are there practical ways we can help people who don't insure themselves without automatically making them eligible for everything everybody else gets who's paying the price, you know, writing the check every month and --

BLITZER: But you know, you're a 30-year-old. You know, you know what -- they're going to take care of me. I could be in intensive care for a year. It could cost a million dollars. They'll take care of me. What's the incentive to go ahead and buy the insurance?

GINGRICH: The fact is we do that.

BLITZER: What I'm asking, is that appropriate, because you supported --

GINGRICH: No, I don't think it's appropriate. And I think that it is, frankly, cheating all of your friends and neighbors. But I also think that the price of getting to a mandate is too great in the constitutional liberty to do it.

BLITZER: And a state mandate was wrong and a federal government is wrong?


GINGRICH: Because it politicizes the system.

BLITZER: Mitt Romney stands by his decision in Massachusetts.

GINGRICH: Yes. And I think he was wrong. The difference in Mitt and I is that I think I was wrong and I changed. I think down deep, he thinks he's wrong, but he's being stubborn.


BLITZER: All right. Standby for much more of my interview with Newt Gingrich. He seems willing to have his past mistakes and his personal life scrutinized. Listen to this.


GINGRICH: I suspect everybody who runs for office at this level has had some flaws at some point. I don't think other than Christ, I don't think anybody has been flawless.


BLITZER: Part two of the interview coming up.

Plus, the Democrats new line of attack against Mitt Romney suggests he's hiding something.

And please, be sure to join us tomorrow here in the SITUATION ROOM. I'll go one-on-one with Donald Trump. We'll talk about his plan to moderate a Republican presidential debate, the candidates for what nothing to do with him, and a whole lot more. Tomorrow, Donald Trump with me in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Part two of my interview with Newt Gingrich coming up, but let's go to Jack (INAUDIBLE)

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thinking of retiring? Well, maybe it's time to think again. A new survey shows 56 percent of workers in this country say they have less than $25,000 in savings. The survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute also finds that almost 30 percent of workers are not at all confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement. That's a record high.

Researchers point out many people don't even know how much money they need to save for retirement. It is estimated that a 65-year-old retiree needs $1.1 million in savings in order to draw a $55,000 a year to live on. That assumes three percent inflation and the five percent annual return on investments, which this year would have been a little tough to come by.

Financial advisors tell "USA Today" they're seeing more and more workers and new retirees with no savings and no plan to get out of debt. they point the several factors jeopardizing retirement today including the stock market which why it got (ph) a lot of people's savings over the last (INAUDIBLE) market and erosion of the value of most people's most valuable asset.

Baby boomers procrastinating when it comes to saving money or just simply counting on Social Security for retirement. People putting retirement last after paying down debt, paying for their kids' college, et cetera, and high unemployment. Sadly, there aren't a lot of options out there as you near retirement age and don't have any money put away.

You can either work longer, which millions of Americans are doing. You can save more, quickly, get a higher return on your investments or cut your expenses. And these are called the golden years.

Here's the question, where are Americans headed if more than half of our workers say they have less than $25,000 in savings? Go to and post comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pretty sad story. Pretty sad numbers. Homeless (ph) shelters, get ready, unfortunately. All right, Jack. Thanks very much.

Let's get back to my interview now with Republican presidential frontrunner, Newt Gingrich, and a very, very sensitive subject I raised with him, a candidate's personal life and morality.


BLITZER: Here's another question from Facebook. "Do you believe that ethical or moral behavior should be a characteristic of a presidential candidate? If so, do you believe a candidate's moral past should be held in question when seeking political office?

GINGRICH: Sure. I think everything about a candidate has to be held into account, and you have to look and render judgment. Is this a person who has grown? Is this a person who has led a better life? I suspect everybody who runs for office at this level has had some flaws at some point. I don't think other than Christ, I don't think anybody has been flawless.

But you've to aside (ph), in my case I'm 68 years old. I have a very strong marriage to Callista, as you know. I'm very close to my two daughters. Callista and I have two wonderful grandchildren in Maggie and Robert (INAUDIBLE). And people have to look at all of that and to say, is he now a person who's mature and who I am comfortable having lead the country?

BLITZER: Mitt Romney has a new ad that's coming out, and he takes some implied digs, at least my assessment, of you. He makes the point, I've been married for 42 years. I belong to the same church my whole life.

GINGRICH: Look, I think Mitt Romney is a very admirable person. And I'm not going to pick a fight over Mitt Romney. We like both Mitt and Ann. We think they're terrific people. They have a wonderful family. Callista recently signed to all the grandchildren. Her new children's history books, "Sweet Land of Liberty."

He's going to run to what he things his strengths are. I think my strength is being a leader, being able to actually solve problems and being able to change Washington.

BLITZER: Could you see, if you got the nomination, asking him to be your running mate?

GINGRICH: I think there are circumstances where he'd certainly be on the list, whether he would want to or not, but he's a very competent person. This is a serious man. I could see -- I would certainly support him if he became the Republican nominee.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little bit some other sensitive issues. Barney Frank. At one point, you said, he should go to jail for supporting Freddie Mac. Tell us what you said --

GINGRICH: He was engaged in activities to get somebody very close to him a job in an institution he was supervising.

BLITZER: Freddie Mac.

GINGRICH: Yes. Remember, the things I attack both Chris Dodd who was getting also some special deals on mortgages while he was in charge of supervising mortgages, and Barney Frank was their official business. Everything I did that has been reported is as a private citizen in business after I left government.

BLITZER: Did you make 1.6 to $1.8 million with Freddie Mac?

GINGRICH: No, I didn't. I think Gingrich Group as a company may have, but we were company with a good number of employees and offices in three different cities.

BLITZER: Because some -- like John (INAUDIBLE) when he was a senator, he says publicly, you encouraged him to support, to take a different position on a Freddie Mac related issue.

GINGRICH: I don't remember ever doing that. You're talking --


GINGRICH: I honestly don't remember ever doing that.

BLITZER: I'll get you the information. I'll show you the story that appeared.


BLITZER: The other $100 million. Did you -- have you in your companies made $100 million since leaving Congress?

GINGRICH: Over 12 years. We've had four companies and we produced seven movies. I have a total of 24 books, 13 of them "New York Times" best sellers. I gave 50 to 80 speeches a year. You know, we were very busy.

BLITZER: $50,000 a speech?

GINGRICH: Well, it depends on whether it was on the road or here in Washington, but if they were all --

BLITZER: So, $100 million. Actually, the argument that Newt Gingrich cashed in after leaving Congress?

GINGRICH: Or in other way you can say this that I'm as good a businessman as Mitt Romney.

BLITZER: What do you say?

GINGRICH: I say that I work very hard. We have very good companies. Our movies are very good. The one we made about Pope John Paul II, "Nine Days That Changed The World," was picked at the Vatican Film Festival as one of the three best films in John Paul II.

Our books, you know -- I mean, even Callista. Callista had her very first book that she did her own was a "New York Times" best-seller. That wasn't because we went out and had influence. That's because lots of people decided they like (INAUDIBLE).


BLITZER: As he surges in the polls, Newt Gingrich is now facing some pointed questions.


GINGRICH: The Israelis are not going to tolerate an Iranian nuclear weapon.

BLITZER: If the Israelis told you in advance, would you say go ahead and do it?


BLITZER: So, how would the former house Speaker address the crisis? That's coming up.

And Bill Clinton has butted heads certainly with Newt Gingrich over the years. We're taking a closer look at the former president's latest comments to our own Alina Cho about the man who tried to push him out of the White House. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We'll get to the third and final part of my interview with Newt Gingrich, the Republican presidential frontrunner in just a moment, but first, this. All the Republican presidential candidates except Ron Paul are seizing on a vulnerable area for President Obama right now.

That vulnerable area, being his relationship with Israel. Most of the Republican contenders spoke to the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting today over at the Ronald Reagan building in Washington. They had their sights on the commander in chief. Jim Acosta was there covering the story for us. How did it go?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was some very tough talk happening today, and much of it, from Mitt Romney. Buckle your seatbelts, judging by the rhetoric flying at today's Republican Jewish forum just a few blocks from the White House, this could be one of the nastiest elections Americans have seen in ages.


ACOSTA (voice-over): One GOP contender after another turned the Obama administration's foreign policy into a punching bag. Mitt Romney all but called the president an appeaser in the Middle East.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He rushed to apologize for America, but he's hesitated to speak out for democracy and freedom.

ACOSTA: But the candidates at the Republican Jewish Coalition forum also worked on their own weaknesses. Romney who's out to loosen up his button down image dropped a Seinfeld reference in a question and answer session.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope you will the president, you will go around the world apologizing for Obama.


ROMNEY: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now to my question.


ROMNEY: That was good. Remember the George Costanza line? When they're laughing and applauding, you sit down. That's --


ACOSTA: But Romney isn't quite master of the GOP domain these days after surrendering his lead to Newt Gingrich who bound to force the president into a series of three-hour debates.

GINGRICH: If they would rather have me chase him all the way to Election Day and have a country watcher man afraid to defend his own record, I think that will work equally well.

ACOSTA: But the issue of the day was Israel, an ally, Rick Perry accused the president of throwing under the bus.

GOV. RICK PERRY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They've been in our adversaries by isolating our allies.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian.

ACOSTA: Perry's attack came on the same day he released this ad charging the president with waging war on religion. It's an appeal to Christian conservatives, something Perry made in 2006, when he attended televangelist, John Hagee's, church for a fiery sermon on non-Christian faiths.

REV. JOHN HAGEE, CORNERSTONE CHURCH: If you live your life and don't confess your sins to God almighty through the authority of Christ and his blood, listen to me, I'm going to say this very bluntly (ph), you are going straight to hell with a non-stop ticket.

ACOSTA: Perry, Romney, and Gingrich are all calling for the firing of U.S. ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, for his recent comments on Israel. Critics charge Gutman whose father survived a holocaust with saying Israel is partly to blame for Muslim anti-Semitism.

"It's a tension, and perhaps, even a hatred," Gutman said, "largely borne of and reflecting the tension between Israel and the Palestinian territories and neighboring Arab states in the Middle East." The White House says Gutman isn't going anywhere.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This administration and the United States condemn anti-Semitism and all its form.


ACOSTA: As for that Seinfeld quoted seems Romney got it wrong. We found the quote in question. Romney was close, but it was apparently Jerry that delivered that line, not George Costanza. Here it is, quote, "Jerry, -- this from Jerry, "Showmanship, George. When you hit that high note, you say good night and walk off," Wolf. So, we just didn't want to let that go uncorrected for the record.

BLITZER: Not check. That's what we do here.

ACOSTA: Not that there's anything wrong with it.


BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

All right. As you know, I sat down earlier today over at the Ronal Reagan building with Newt Gingrich. We spoke just before he addressed the Republican Jewish forum. Of course, I had a chance to ask him a few questions about Israel and the Middle East and Iran, what's going on. Here's the final part of my interview.


BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about some foreign policy issues. It's 3:00 a.m. You're president of the United States. Your national security advisor --

GINGRICH: We're replaying the --

BLITZER: Your national security advisor calls you and says, Mr. President, the Israelis have just bombed Iran's nuclear facilities. What do you do?

GINGRICH: Well, hopefully, they would have told me earlier in the day.

BLITZER: Who's they?

GINGRICH: The national security advisor.

BLITZER: They didn't know. The Israelis did it without telling the United States.

GINGRICH: I think if I were president, the Israelis would have told us.

BLITZER: Why do you say that?

GINGRICH: Because I'm a clear ally of Israel. I am very close to Netanyahu. I would -- and I've said publicly, I would rather plan a joint operation conventionally than push the Israelis to a point where they go nuclear. The Israelis are not going to tolerate an Iranian nuclear weapon.

BLITZER: If the Israelis told you in advance, would you say go ahead and do it?

GINGRICH: If they told me in advance, I would say how can we help you?

BLITZER: You would actually participate --

GINGRICH: I would provide them intelligence. I'd provide them logistic support. Look, this is a line we have to draw. An Iranian nuclear weapon is potentially a second holocaust. Israel is a very urban country. Two or three nuclear weapons wipes out most of the Jews who live in Israel. I believe Ahmadinejad would do it in a (INAUDIBLE). When you have people put on body suits to walk into a crowded mall to blow themselves up, you better believe they put on a nuclear weapon. So, I think the world needs to understand, Iran is not going to get a nuclear weapon. All the world can decide is whether they help us peacefully stop it or they force us to use violence, but Iran is not going to get a nuclear weapon.

BLITZER: I don't know if you've seen these most recent statements from Prince Turki of Saudi Arabia, the former ambassador in Washington, the former intelligence chief. He says that if the Saudis see the Iranians getting a bomb, the Israelis already have a bomb, Saudi Arabia may decide to get a nuclear --

GINGRICH: They will decide to get a bomb. I mean, we're at the edge of a nightmare. We frankly may have crossed over with Pakistan. My guess is Pakistan has well over 100 nuclear weapons. And that the Pakistani military is so penetrated by extremist elements. You have no idea if one morning they're going to lost three or four of them. I mean --

BLITZER: You don't think the Pakistani military is capable of protecting that nuclear arsenal?

GINGRICH: Well, the Pakistani military was capable of protecting bin Laden for six years.

BLITZER: You believe that they knew about it?

GINGRICH: It's inconceivable that he could have been in -- that was a national military city. Their major military university is one mile from his compound. Now, do I think Bin Laden was sitting a mile away from national military university and nobody noticed it in their intelligence service? It's inconceivable.

BLITZER: Republicans often -- and this is what I've heard this over the years, and I've studied this -- they talk very strongly about U.S./Israeli relations. And you're an historian. You know this and you have lived through a lot of it. But some of the most tense moments in U.S./Israeli relations have been when there has been a Republican president. Like, for example, Ronald Reagan -- we're in this building, a strong friend of Israel, right?


BLITZER: What did he do when the Israelis, under Menachem Begin, the prime minister, bombed Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981?

GINGRICH: At the time they condemned it, and later he said it was a mistake.

BLITZER: He ordered his U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Jeane Kirkpatrick, to raise her hand and condemn Israel. If you would have been president, what would you have done?

GINGRICH: Well, it was a different world. I mean, I would frankly have applauded the Israelis, which I did at the time. But it was a different world.

BLITZER: Why was it a different world?

GINGRICH: I think at the time you had a lot more worries about the Soviet Union. I mean, Reagan was totally focused on defeating the Soviet empire, and he didn't want anything which made that more complicated.

And he had just cut a deal with the Saudis to flood the world with oil, to drive down the price of oil, to break the Soviet economy by cutting off all their hard currency. And so he -- and he also had the Saudis engaged in funding the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.

So they were very cautious about getting the Arab world upset in that period. And that's why he also -- remember there was a very tense period when the Israelis occupied part of Lebanon. And it's the same reason.

Reagan had a hierarchical principle in his mind. His job was to finish off the Soviet empire. He wasn't prepared to deal with a post- Soviet world, and he would have said so. And frankly, if you look at that eight-year campaign against the Soviets, it is one of the great strategic achievements of all time.

BLITZER: Would you move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?

GINGRICH: The first day. It will be an executive order the day I'm inaugurated.

BLITZER: And what would happen if the Arab countries sever relations with the United States, Muslim countries, as a result of that?

GINGRICH: The Saudis aren't going to sever relations with the United States. The Emirates are not going to sever relations. They're too afraid --

BLITZER: They have threatened over the years if the U.S. were to do that, that's what they would do.

GINGRICH: They are too afraid of Iran right now. And I would also say to them, fine, you want to prove to us how much you hate Israel? Prove it. This is nonsense.

Countries are allowed to define their own capital. Remember, these are countries that don't even admit that they're allowed to exist.

I mean, I'm frankly -- and I'll be talking about it today -- I am really fed up with this fiction that we should be grateful that the Obama administration has funded the iron dome to stop missiles from Gaza. We're not asking the question, how come Hamas is ferrying missiles from Gaza?

I mean, if people were ferrying missiles into the U.S., do you think we would be talking about a peace process? You know better. We would be annihilating them.

BLITZER: Would you condemn Israel for building settlements on the West Bank?


BLITZER: Every U.S. president since '67 has said those settlements are illegal.

GINGRICH: Look, I have a totally different view. Israel is in a state of war with people who refuse to recognize her right to exist. If you are in a state of war, I'm not prepared to say to the only democratic stable ally in the region you have to hit a separate standard.

You know, Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Liberation Authority, as recently as a couple of months ago, said, we do not recognize Israelis right to exist. In November, the POA ambassador to India said, anybody who thinks there is any gap between us and Hamas is kidding themselves. We do not recognize Israelis right to exist.

These are the so-called moderates. Now, why should you say to the Israelis, please don't offend people who openly say they want to wipe you out?

BLITZER: If the prime minister of Israel were to say to you as president, please free Jonathan Pollard, the convicted Israeli spy, what would you say?

GINGRICH: I will say as a candidate that I want a thorough review of -- because every secretary of defense in both parties, I believe, has said no. And I want to thoroughly understand why they have said that.

BLITZER: You haven't looked into it at this point?

GINGRICH: There are secrecy things involved here that I frankly don't -- and I want to have access to as a candidate, and I don't think it's necessarily appropriate to have access to it. But I am very cautious about what position I would take on that.

I am prepared to say my bias is towards clemency, and I would like to review it. He's been in a very long time. But we are pretty tough about people spying on the United States. And I also have a study under way to compare his sentence with comparable people who have been sentenced for very long sentences for comparable deeds.

BLITZER: Mr. Speaker, thanks very much.

GINGRICH: Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Good luck.

GINGRICH: Always fun.


BLITZER: The comeback kid -- we're talking about Bill Clinton -- he has some interesting things to say about Newt Gingrich, his ability to bounce back. Also, Mitt Romney prides himself on being a good businessman. Now Democrats are going after his personal finances and suggesting he's hiding something.

Much more news coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: As you just heard, Newt Gingrich refused to attack Mitt Romney during our interview today. Certainly trying to stay above the fray. And as our new polls show, he has a double-digit lead in three of the four early voting states.

Let's discuss what we just heard with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our senior political analyst, David Gergen.

David, what stood out? What did you come away with listening to this interview with Newt Gingrich?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, let me just say, tonally, I think this is a much smoother, toned-down, less angry, more willing to answer questions with a smile Newt Gingrich than we saw in the first few presidential debates and that I covered when he was Speaker of the House. This is a candidate who has clearly been told that he needs to be more optimistic, needs to be more positive.

He stopped attacking the media, was willing to answer your questions, was willing to admit to mistakes. And I think that's part of a very smart strategy on the part of his advisers to let Newt Gingrich be more likeable as a candidate.

BLITZER: David, what did you think?


First, he is trying to convince people that there is a new Newt, that he's more mature, as Gloria says, that he's more rounded, that he's settled down, that he's in a strong marriage, that he's no longer in the emotional tensions that he had in the 1990s. There are all sorts of people in Washington, especially people who worked with him in the Republican establishment, who believe he's (INAUDIBLE) and there is no new Newt.

But on television, he's trying to make a case -- and I think television is helpful to him as a forum -- he's trying a make that he is a new Newt. And if he is successful with that, I think it will greatly help his candidacy.

The other thing, briefly, he is amazingly hard-lined on Iran. And on the Israeli thing, he is almost channeling Netanyahu.

BLITZER: What does that mean, channeling Netanyahu?

GERGEN: Well, I think he is echoing a lot of what Netanyahu believes. And he's an incredibly strong supporter of Israel. He is -- I think he's going to -- it's something he believes. But as you know, American presidents have traditionally tried to balance their support for Israel with their attempt to woo and have strong relations with the more moderate Arab states. This is a fellow who is willing to put a lot of that at risk to support Israel.

BLITZER: Gloria, listen to what a man who knows Newt Gingrich very well, the former president, Bill Clinton, told our Alina Cho earlier in the day. Listen to this exchange.


WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He is, first, resilient. And secondly, he is always thinking and he's got a million ideas. I mean, some of them are good and some of them I think are horrible.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you think he is the strongest in the field?

CLINTON: I don't know. I don't know. But in both our party and in theirs, very often the strongest person for the nomination is not necessarily the strongest person in the general election. And it's a mistake to underestimate Governor Romney.


BLITZER: What do you think of his analysis of Newt Gingrich, Gloria?

BORGER: Well, I think what he was saying is that Mitt Romney is probably a much stronger candidate during the general election.

Bill Clinton had a lot of dealings with Newt Gingrich, and lots of them were very unpleasant, particularly during the government shutdown, during the Lewinsky mess. And what was interesting was to hear Bill Clinton sort of say, look, the guy is resilient.

I mean, Bill Clinton admires that, because he's resilient himself. So -- and I think there is part of him that kind of can't believe that Newt Gingrich has actually a serious contender for this nomination, because remember the time when Newt Gingrich didn't get to sit up front on Air Force One, and he complained about it, and he was called a cry baby? That was -- you know, that was something Bill Clinton probably doesn't forget.

BLITZER: I was on that flight. It was Air Force One. We were coming back. I was the White House correspondent. We were coming back from Israel, where President Clinton went to join in the funeral ceremonies for Yitzhak Rabin, who had just been shot.

David, all of a sudden, everyone is paying a whole lot more attention to Newt Gingrich right now because, you know what? He might get the Republican nomination.

GERGEN: Absolutely. I think that we now know that there are three people who could be the president sworn in January of 2013. One is Barack Obama, and one is Mitt Romney. A third is definitely Newt Gingrich.

I think Bill Clinton has seen both the bad side -- he went mano-a-mano with Newt and saw the bad side. But then they managed to work it out. They got four straight balanced budgets and they got welfare reform as partners. And I think there is a residue of respect in Bill Clinton, even as he's also seen, as Gloria says, the bad side of Newt.

BLITZER: Mutual respect, I think it's fair to say, even though they butted heads from time to time.

Guys, thanks very, very much.

More news coming up, including arrested again. More charges are filed against the former Penn State University coach accused of sexually abusing young boys.

And we're learning about a new attempt by Moammar Gadhafi's son Saadi to escape even farther away from Libya.


BLITZER: Mary Snow is monitoring some other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM, including a terrifying delivery for the CEO of the Deutsche Bank.

Mary, what have you got?

SNOW: Wolf, New York police say banks should improve their mailroom security after a letter bomb was sent to Deutsche Bank's CEO in Frankfurt, Germany. Deputy Commission Paul Browne says the letter's return address was the European Central Bank, which would have increased the chances of the CEO opening it.

Jerry Sandusky faces new charges of child sex abuse. The former Penn State football coach was arrested today for charges involving two new alleged victims. Sandusky will have to post $250,000 bail before he can request house arrest.

And authorities say Saadi Gadhafi, son of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, tried to sneak into Mexico. Four people have been implicated in the plot -- a Canadian, a Dane and two Mexicans. Saadi Gadhafi remains in Niger, where he fled in September -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thanks very much.

The Democrats' new line of attack against Mitt Romney, that's coming up next.


BLITZER: Democrats aren't backing away from their attacks on Mitt Romney even after Newt Gingrich has surged to the top of the Republican presidential pack. In fact, the president's party is out with a tough new video suggesting voters simply can't trust Mitt Romney.

Brian Todd has been taking a closer look at this.

What are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's a real theme building with these attacks against Mitt Romney, more and more rhetoric from the Democrats saying Romney is hiding things.


TODD (voice-over): The Democrats have a new attack strategy against Mitt Romney.

NARRATOR: What is Mitt Romney hiding?

TODD: A new Web video from the Democratic National Committee slamming the GOP candidate for not being open about who his biggest fundraisers are or about his personal finances.

NARRATOR: Traditionally, presidential candidates release their tax returns. Even though Mitt Romney said his father released his tax returns when he ran for president, Mitt Romney still won't.

TODD: Romney has never released his tax returns. He's not required to. He did release financial disclosure forms this year which his aides indicated showed his family's assets worth at least $190 million. He was required to release those, but he also doesn't have to disclose who his biggest money raisers are.

Ken Gross was the top campaign finance enforcement officer for the Federal Election Commission.

(on camera): How does it help you to release your tax forms, and how could it hurt you?

KEN GROSS, CAMPAIGN FINANCE EXPERT: It helps you to release the tax returns because it takes the issue off the table. You don't create speculation that there will be problems or issues in there for your opponents. It could hurt you if there is something in the return that possibly may not work politically, perhaps paying low taxes or something like that.

TODD (voice-over): Some left-leaning pundits speculate that if Romney releases his returns, it might reveal that, as a wealthy investor, he pays a lower tax rate than middle class taxpayers. Perfectly legitimate, but it could help Democrats portray Romney as out of touch with Americans having tough economic times.

We tried to get Romney's team to respond to that, repeatedly called and e-mailed his campaign to find out why he hasn't released his tax returns and if he will. We never heard back.

(on camera): Then there's the political pull. Why are the Democrats going after Mitt Romney on transparency issues right now when he's not even the GOP front-runner? One Republican strategist has an idea.

(voice-over): Ron Bonjean, who once worked for GOP congressional leaders Trent Lott and Dennis Hastert, says it's not Newt Gingrich the Democrats are scared of.

RON BONJEAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: They are scared to death of Mitt Romney, and he's not even a general election nominee. I mean, at this point, to focus all your firepower on that person is premature, but it shows you that they're going to try to frame up their core messages going into the general election.


TODD: A Democratic National Committee official we spoke with brushed that off, saying, "It's not about who we want to run against, but about making Mitt Romney accountable when he attacks President Obama and doesn't come clean himself about his finances" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian, for that.

Jack Cafferty is asking where America is headed if more than half of workers in the United States say they have less than $25,000 in their savings.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Where are Americans headed if more than half of all workers in this country say they have less than $25,000 in savings?

Dan writes, "I doubt most workers ever had a lot more than that if they're under the age of 40, raising kids, buying a home, et cetera. It makes it hard to save money. Another problem is businesses cutting back on retirement plans. And that's why funding Social Security's so important to survival. Instead of cutting it, we need to revise it to assure funding for the duration."

Alex, an unemployed veteran in Washington, writes, "It means that 14 million unemployed have been living on their savings and credit for the last three years. It means families with one working spouse aren't able to save anything since the other spouse lost his job. It means the Occupy movement will gain momentum as people's savings and credit run out."

Jamie in St. Louis writes, "Why save, Jack? The government will take care of you."

Bert in Los Angeles writes, "Jack, history always repeats itself. The last time that more than half of all Americans were living hand-to- mouth while America's wealth went into the pockets of an untaxed and deregulated global corporation, the tea cargo of that corporation was summarily dumped into Boston Harbor. Where are Americans headed? Here's a hint: it ain't going to be a tea party."

Ivan writes, "A four-letter word beginning with the letter H. Jack, do you need to buy a vowel?"

And W. writes, "What exactly is the purpose of using valuable TV news time to read about what some random person thinks about? For heaven's sake, CNN is a news organization, not Facebook!"

"Last question: Do you have any more job openings similar to Jack Cafferty's position? It seems like a do-nothing but get-paid job. There are lots of unemployed who could do what he does."

If you would like to read more on this, you can go to my blog,, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack. A good fan of yours. Thanks very much.

Let's take a closer look at this hour's "Hot Shots."

In Ivory Coast, look at this. Supporters hold up posters of one of their favorite candidates for the upcoming legislative elections.

In India, farmers block traffic on a highway to protest the government's land acquisition policy.

In London, Prince Harry and Pippa Middleton look-alikes. They posed for the launch of a new book.

And look at this. In Scotland, Walker the polar bear plays for the hard hat on his 3rd birthday.

"Hot Shots," pictures coming in from around the world.

Don't forget tomorrow, Donald Trump will be here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Lots to talk about with Donald Trump.

Until then, thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The news continues next on CNN.