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Video: Gingrich on Cain scandal, 2012 race

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    CURRY: All right. Chuck Todd , thank you for your reporting on this. Well, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is running, as we all know, for the Republican nomination for president. He's also the author of the new book called, " The Battle of the Crater ." Speaker Gingrich , good morning.

    Mr. GINGRICH: It's good to be with you .

    CURRY: It's good to be with you as well, sir. Can Herman Cain not answer these lingering questions about sexual harassment allegations and still win the Republican nomination, in your view?

    Mr. GINGRICH: Well, that'll be up to the American people . If they conclude that anonymous allegations from people who don't want to be identified involving purely civil activities, that the American people could well decide that they want a solution-oriented leader more than they want a scandal.

    CURRY: So if...

    Mr. GINGRICH: I think it has probably surprised most professionals that Herman has done as well as he has over the last week. But we'll see if this has legs or not. I think he's got to handle it his own way. I do want to say, by the way, that Matt Lauer 's report brought back memories. Calista and I were in Namibia a year ago and it is a truly remarkable country , as you'll see during the show today as Matt takes people around to it.

    CURRY: Well, that's really true, and I'm glad that it -- you're enjoying the reporting on that. Back to the topic at hand, if you are right that it is possible that the American public could actually decide to overlook these allegations, what would it mean for the party to have a Republican nominee for president with unanswered questions about sexual harassment? What would it do to your party's chances of defeating Barack Obama ?

    Mr. GINGRICH: What does it mean to the elite news media that nobody in the country ever walks up to us and raises questions you all raise? I went through two months in June and July where folks in New York and Washington said my campaign was dead, I was gone, it was all hopeless. Nobody in the country said that. Herman Cain , I suspect, is getting far fewer questions from citizens about these kind of things than he is about jobs, about other things. And I just think there's a huge gap between the gossip that fascinates political reporters and the average person's concern about the price of housing, the availability of jobs, solving the budget deficit without crushing the middle class. A lot of things that, frankly, the substance level are dramatically more important to most Americans.

    CURRY: Your point is well taken. However, it's not just the media that's asking these questions. Haley Barbour , the Mississippi governor , as well as Jon Huntsman , a candidate, are also saying -- they said this past Sunday that Herman Cain must step up and be more up front in answering these questions.

    Mr. GINGRICH: I'll let them argue with Herman Cain . I'll let you argue with Herman Cain . I'm trying to focus at newt.org on a 21st century contract with America . I'm trying to develop a brand-new set of proposals that really matter. I think the country needs a conversation...

    CURRY: But are you saying that questions about the character of a presidential candidate...

    Mr. GINGRICH: No.

    CURRY: ...don't matter?

    Mr. GINGRICH: No, questions matter a lot. I'm saying that when the news media goes and finds an anonymous report about an anonymous incident, about which you have remarkably limited information, and you decide that matters more than every other issue in the campaign, that may put your judgment in doubt as you being the institutional news media .

    CURRY: Hm. You -- I want to get to your book about -- which clearly shows a real interest in the presidency of Abraham Lincoln . In this book, Abraham Lincoln is facing a difficult time, it's during the Civil War and Ulysses -- General Ulysses S. Grant brings the battle plan to Lincoln in this one particular battle . And in your book, the president tells him, quote, "Please, General , no mistakes this time, no politics, jealousies, rivalries, or decisions based on blind prejudice." Is that sentiment possible in this current presidential campaign ?

    Mr. GINGRICH: It's probably as possible as it was for Lincoln . Look, it's always hard to lead a free people . As we indicate in " The Crater ," you ended up with General Meade overruling General Burnside probably out of pure personal dislike, and the result was thousands of causalities that were unnecessary. " The Crater "'s actually a fascinating novel because it's about the largest use of African-American troops in the Virginia campaign . It's an extraordinarily daring campaign that was developed by Pennsylvania coal miners and it is totally messed up by the personality fight of two generals.

    CURRY: Hm.

    Mr. GINGRICH: I have to say, by the way, we're a pretty literary family. My wife, Calista , has a New York Times best-selling children's book about American history called " Sweet Land of Liberty ." So we now have a sort of dueling family books out there.

    CURRY: Well, we'll see which one wins. Well, congratulations to your family, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich , thank you so much for joining us at this early hour this morning.

    Mr. GINGRICH: Thank you. Thank you.

    CURRY: And hope you continue to enjoy the reporting from Matt in Namibia . And now it is 7:18. Here's Matt.

TODAY books
updated 11/7/2011 10:40:05 AM ET 2011-11-07T15:40:05

Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen provide a gritty and fascinating novelization of an infamous conflict in the Civil War in "The Battle of the Crater." Here's an excerpt.


Arlington Virginia: The Estate of General Robert E. Lee

June 6, 1864


“Here they come, parson.”

Sergeant Major Garland White, 28th United States Colored Troops, turned from his labors and looked to where Jeremiah Smith, a private from company A, was pointing north to the road leading down from the “Iron Bridge” across the Potomac.

It had been raining most of the night, a slow steady drenching downpour out of the east. It had done little to drop the temperature and now added to the misery of the men of the 28th who had been out toiling by lantern light since midnight. The Potomac was concealed beneath coiling fog and mists rising up from the river, shrouding the capital city on the opposite shore.

The first of a long line of ambulances, emerging out of the mists, was drawn by two mules, ghost like in the morning light, followed by another and another, mud splashing up from the hooves of the mules and the wheels of the wagons.

“Back to it, Jeremiah. I want it dug straight.”

“Ain’t no difference, parson, we be filling it back up shortly.”

He put a fatherly hand on Jeremiah’s shoulder, guiding him back to the hole, seven feet by three and supposedly six feet deep.

“It’s not parson, its sergeant now,” Garland said. “Do as you are ordered; back down there you go.”

Jeremiah looked at him sullenly, as Garland released his hold on Jeremiah and reached down to lend a hand to Private Thompson, who had finished his half hour stint in the hole.

“Come on Willie, take a quick break, there’s hot coffee under the tarp,” and he helped the private, covered head to foot in warm clinging mud, out of the ground and pointed to where the regimental cooks had ten gallon vats of the brew waiting.

St. Martin's Press

“Thank ya, reverend . . . I mean sergeant sir.”

“I’m a sergeant, not a sir, save that for . . .” He almost said, ‘your boss man,’ but caught it. “The officers.”

Taking Willie’s shovel, he handed it to Jeremiah and helped him slip down into the hole.

“Hurry it up, men,” Garland announced, stepping back, his voice carrying to the rest of the regiment. “They’re almost here, and I want this done right and proper now.”

“Sergeant, damn it, it’s like trying to shovel out the Wabash River.”

Garland turned, struggling to control his anger as he gazed down at Corporal Turner in the next hole over. He bent over at the waist, fixing the corporal with an icy gaze.

“Corporal Turner,” he hissed, voice pitched low, remembering it was not proper to reprimand another noncommissioned officer in front of the men, or the officers for that matter. “I will not tolerate profanity in my presence. Next, I will not tolerate profanity on this ground which is consecrated and . . .”

He hesitated.

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“Damn it, I will not tolerate beefing from someone who is supposed to lead. If you don’t like that, corporal, you can climb out of there right now, take off those two stripes, and I’ll find someone else to wear them.”

He gazed down at the mud drenched corporal.

“Do I make myself clear, corporal, or is it private?”

“Yes, sergeant.”

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Listen to an excerpt from the audiobook 'The Battle of the Crater'

“You can stay down there and keep digging until I tell you different.”

Turner said nothing, though the next shovel full up, more water than muddy earth, landed within inches of Garland’s feet.

Garland turned away and noticed that Lieutenant Grant was looking his way. The lieutenant gave a nod of approval and turned away, going back under the tarpaulin where the officers of the regiment had gathered, while the men labored.

Grant had wanted to actually ‘dig in’ with the rest of the men of his company, but as the detail started their labors in the pouring rain, he had heard Colonel Russell, commander of their regiment, restraining him, saying that this was an enlisted man’s job and besides, he had to keep his uniform relatively unspoiled for the brief ceremony which would commence in a few minutes. Grant was a good man, a three-year veteran of the war, who at heart still acted as if he was a sergeant. He led by example and Garland deeply respected him for that, even though he was not much more than a lad of twenty.

He left Turner’s hole, and continued down the long line – a long line of seventy-one graves.

Seventy-one graves for seventy-one men – men who had died the previous day in the dozen military hospitals that ringed the city of Washington. Seventy-one graves for men wounded in the grueling campaign which had started exactly one month ago today, on May 6th. Seventy-one graves for men transported back across rutted roads and aboard hospital ships from the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, the North Anna, and according to the newspaper reports, a new battlefield just six miles short of Richmond at a place called Cold Harbor. Graves for men who had survived all that, only to die in Washington and now be buried here.

Excerpted from THE BATTLE OF THE CRATER by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen (published by Thomas Dunne Books).  Copyright Ó 2011 by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen. All rights reserved.  Reprinted with permission.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive


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