Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich charged President Barack Obama with pulling an “election-year gimmick” in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV shortly after the administration announced a major shift in its immigration policy.
“I think it’s very strange,” Gingrich countered after the Department of Homeland Security issued a policy change on Friday that essentially amounts to amnesty for the children of illegal immigrants. “If the president has the power to do that, why didn’t he do it three years ago? And if he can do it for people under 16, can he do it for everybody?”
Under the policy, which took effective immediately, people under 30 who came to the U.S. before they turned 16, will now have a path to remain in the country legally, though still not as citizens.
Watch our exclusive interview. Story continues below.
The change will affect an estimated 800,000 undocumented immigrants, who have lived in the United States for five years, have no criminal record, and have earned a high school diploma, remained in school or served in the military.
“I don’t understand the legal basis of doing it and it makes you wonder, ‘is he just doing this as an election-year gimmick, and if it’s the right policy why did he fail to do it for three-and-a-half years,” Gingrich questioned.
On other issues in the wide-ranging interview at the Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington, D.C., the former House speaker appeared to break ranks with many fellow Republicans with respect to Obama’s so called “kill list,” saying that he supports the president’s ability to maintain such a list and make extra-judicial decisions about targeted killings.
“The president of the United States is the commander in chief. We live in an era when we have terrorists who are plotting to kill Americans,” Gingrich insisted.
“Defining who is on that list — as long as they are not American citizens, or if, as in the case of the American sheikh who was in Yemen, are American citizens who are at war with the United States, in which case they give up all of their civil liberties — somebody has to make a decision. The president can delegate it to some extent, but in the end it’s the president’s responsibility.”
Gingrich was commenting specifically on situations outside of a typical combat scenario. “You’re not talking about a battlefield. You’re not talking about a big fight. You’re talking about a deliberate decision to go after a particular human being. I think that probably does, in the end, end up on the president’s desk.”
Now that he is no longer running for president, Gingrich said that his short list of potential running mates for former rival Mitt Romney would include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who overcame a special recall vote last week.
“You have a courageous person who has reformed state government, who took on the unions and won decisively, who is very pro job creation, who was the head of the largest local government in Wisconsin — the Milwaukee County Government — did a great job there, cut taxes, created jobs, streamlined the bureaucracy, so he’s got a great story to tell.
"And of course he just became for conservatives, kind of a national hero in the fight over his survival,” observed Gingrich.
Gingrich’s other potential choices are Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.
“I think that Gov. Romney is going to have a lot of really good choices to think about in July, in time to decide who to pick,” said Gingrich, who praised the former Massachusets governor’s campaign against the incumbent thus far.
“I think there are two simple phrases. One is ‘can you really afford four more years of Obama?’ and the other is ‘we can do better.’ And I think if Romney can convince people that with Romney we can do better than we are doing under Obama — and if he gets them to decide that they can’t afford four more years of Obama — then I think this election will be over.”
He compared the still-unfolding leak scandal in Washington to a smaller scandal during the last Bush administration in which then Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff Scooter Libby was sentenced to prison for lying to authorities and obstructing the investigation into the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.
“That was considered by the left to be a huge big issue,” recalled Gingrich. “Remember these leaks are almost all designed to re-elect Obama, so you have to assume they’re politically inspired.”
Gingrich said that the president can always take responsibility for the leaks to avoid any prosecutions for his staff. “All he’s got to say is, ‘I authorized them. I am the president. I can declassify things.’ And then he’s got to defend whether that was the right thing to do,” according to Gingrich.
While acknowledging that “this is the worst economy since the Great Depression,” Gingrich nevertheless maintained that the United States is not likely headed for a depression as a result of the mounting fiscal crisis in Europe.
“I think Greece is going to collapse. I think Spain and Italy may collapse,” he predicted. “I think the euro may be in chaos, and I think that affects our banking system. It affects exports, and if the European economy keeps slowing down, that’s going to affect everybody in the world.”
Meanwhile, as the political system in Egypt appears to be in turmoil, Gingrich sees a potential silver lining for the U.S.
“Egypt is in a delicate balance of power, just as Turkey is, between the military, which is the most modernizing force in the country, and civilian elements — many of which, frankly, represent a very radical Islamist view,” he explained.
“I’m not so sure that we as a country wouldn’t be better off to have a more cautious, more stable system rather than to rush to embrace people like the Muslim Brotherhood, who are ultimately committed to our defeat.”
Back home, Gingrich believes that Attorney General Eric Holder will have no choice but to hand over the material that he has failed to turn over to Congressional investigators regarding the bungled Fast and Furious gunrunning operation.
“I think he’ll end up releasing everything they want,” predicted Gingrich. “If the House votes contempt, it becomes impossible politically, and how does the president run for re-election with an attorney general under contempt for refusing to provide information to the Congress?”
Gingrich believes that California Rep. Darrell Issa, who is heading up investigations into the scandal, should strong-arm Holder into turning over the documents.
“He’s terrified because if they vote contempt he’s going to have to resign, and Darrell Issa should agree to meet with him, and should say, ‘terrific, release everything we want, or we’re going to vote contempt,’” advised Gingrich.
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