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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

Interview With President's Sister; Tim Pawlenty for President

Aired April 12, 2011 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, President Obama's sister, her new book, and her answer to questions about exactly where her brother was born.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: What do you think of Donald Trump banging on about this every day at the moment?

MAYA SOETORO-NG, AUTHOR, "LADDER TO THE MOON": Well, I think it's a shame. And I think that my brother should definitely be president for a second term.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Then Republican Tim Pawlenty, he wants to be your next president.

TIM PAWLENTY (R), FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: I'm running for president, I'm not putting my head in the ring rhetorically or ultimately for vice president.

MORGAN: Can the Tea Party help him get the nomination?

And is this worse than Chernobyl? Are Americans in danger?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY JACZKO, CHAIRMAN, NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION: We are looking at all the plants in this country to see if there are lessons learned from Japan.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: I'll ask the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission what's really going on in Japan?

Plus our countdown to the royal wedding. Surprises on the celebrity guest list.

This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

Maya Soetoro-Ng has had the conic (ph) connections that people in Washington could only dream of. But her brother is president of the United States. You can't do better than that. And she's written a book. It's not a political tell-all. No. This is a children's book called "Ladder to the Moon."

And Maya Soetoro-Ng joins me now.

Come on. What is it like being the sister to the president? The world's most powerful man.

SOETORO-NG: He's a pretty cool guy.

MORGAN: He is, isn't he?

SOETORO-NG: Yes, he is. But he's also very much himself. So I feel like I'm the sister of Barack Obama and not necessarily the president of the United States. He doesn't embody his title at all times. You know he's a pretty easy-going fellow. But as a history teacher, this is pretty extraordinary for me to sort of bear witness to all of this history.

MORGAN: What's the practical reality? When you have a brother that becomes leader of the free world. I mean can you pick up the phone and call him? Can you still do that?

SOETORO-NG: I can.

MORGAN: Really?

SOETORO-NG: Yes, well, he's made it so family is very important to him and to Michelle and --

MORGAN: Do you have like a bat phone that, you know? The one that no one's allowed to touch?

SOETORO-NG: No.

(LAUGHTER)

SOETORO-NG: It's not that dramatic, frankly.

MORGAN: I bet it's quite boring in real life, isn't it? You just call up and right there, yes.

SOETORO-NG: Pretty normal. They've worked normal lives as much as possible. I would love to give him the gift of being able to walk with his children down, you know, Central Park and buy an ice cream from one of these little ice cream wagons with the umbrella on top but --

MORGAN: Is that the kind of thing that he misses the most, do you think?

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: Is that what you can't do anymore?

SOETORO-NG: Yes, I think --

MORGAN: The little things. SOETORO-NG: Yes. Little things like that. Sharing a stroll. And that was always his way of working things out. It was to walk, walk it out. Walk and talk. And so I imagine he very much misses the ability to stroll about.

MORGAN: I'm going to ask you this, because you're the best person to ask. There's this whole, I think, ridiculous debate about whether he was born in America. What do you think of that?

SOETORO-NG: I think it's unfortunate. He was born in Hawaii. There is a tremendous amount of proof that has already been presented. The then Republican governor and head of the department of -- you know, Hawaii even attested to the fact that the birth certificate that they inspected was in fact valid.

It's in the newspapers on the day of his birth. So I think that it is time for people to put that to bed, put it to rest completely and focus on what they can do to help, to build. I love that part of his inaugural speech. That we are measured by the things that we build rather than what we tear down or endeavor to destroy.

MORGAN: What do you think of Donald Trump banging on about this every day at the moment?

SOETORO-NG: Well, I think it's a shame. And I think that my brother should definitely be president for a second term. And that's really all I have to say about it.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: I think we got the message.

SOETORO-NG: Yes.

MORGAN: What's he like as a brother? What's he always been like to you as a brother?

SOETORO-NG: Very big brotherly. You know, like our mother, he was always interested in books and sharing with me literature and music and culture and he would take me to festivals and took me to schools around the country when I wanted to go to college and instructed me to, you know, work hard and challenge myself and apply myself and told me when he thought my boyfriends were not quite up to his standards and, of course --

MORGAN: Did he?

SOETORO-NG: Of course. Yes.

MORGAN: What happened? Did you listen to him or not?

SOETORO-NG: You know, I did, eventually. It may have taken some time.

MORGAN: Are there sort of bodies of these poor boyfriends buried all over the place now? Dispatched on Barack's orders. SOETORO-NG: No. Only because he was usually right.

MORGAN: His judgment was good.

SOETORO-NG: His judgment was very good. And I think it continues to be.

MORGAN: If you would -- I mean like all little sisters, you adore your big brother. Everyone knows -- I've got a little sister and it's the same thing. But if you were being critical, if you were giving him a halftime report, what would you say? What would you say? Go on, you could do better here?

SOETORO-NG: Well, I would say that he needs to be more cheerful when he loses to me in Scrabble.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: That was beautifully deflected.

SOETORO-NG: Thank you.

MORGAN: But you've also -- you beat the president in Scrabble. That's not a bad thing to say.

SOETORO-NG: Not a bad thing at all.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: This book, it's a beautiful book.

SOETORO-NG: Thank you.

MORGAN: I'm going to show this. Because it's actually -- it's beautifully illustrated. It's a children's book.

SOETORO-NG: It is.

MORGAN: And the central tenet of the book -- this is tribute to your mother who died in her 50s. Very tragically. Yes.

SOETORO-NG: Early 50s. Yes.

MORGAN: Yes. And it was you -- and Barack's mother and it's a tribute to her and also to your daughter. Tell me about the inspiration for this.

SOETORO-NG: You know, the genesis of the book probably happened at a point when I was pregnant and was cleaning out our grandmother's storage locker in Hawaii. And I came across all of these boxes -- when I say all of these boxes, it may have been two or three.

And on the top of one of the boxes, our mother had written, "for Maya's children." And I opened them up and it was all of my childhood books and toys. And mom being who she was, it looked like, you know, the United Nations. There was sort of a toy from every country, you know, doll from every country. Everything was fully represented.

And it was at that moment, of course, that I sort of felt her loss all over again and longed for her and thought about how much I needed her because I was, you know, terrified. I feel very, you know, motherly and teacherly today.

But I think everyone is terrified when they're first becoming a parent. And I was younger then and less confident about my parenting. And I thought also about all that she would give to my unborn child and to her other grandchildren. And she really, really wanted to be a grandmother. She wanted to spoil the grand kids and give them toys and books and stories and time --

MORGAN: She would have been absolutely amazed about what's happened.

SOETORO-NG: She would have been --

MORGAN: To the family.

SOETORO-NG: Completely amazed. And I think of all that she has missed. But I also think about all that her granddaughters have missed, you know. She would've had four granddaughters, you know. And all that they would've learned from her. So I -- you know, the book is really sort of a reflection of my desire to have -- to have them united in a way and to think about her legacy.

MORGAN: What do you think the effect of your mother's death had on the president? Just knowing him as you do.

SOETORO-NG: Well, I think that she was someone who gave him very steady, unwavering constant love. And I think that buoyed him certainly and made him some of the man who he is today.

Much of what he has become was, you know, gathered independently and comes from, you know, a deep, strong core. But he has also commented on the fact that she gave us our compassion, our empathy, our desire to negotiate, to compromise with other people, to find a way to come together.

And I think that, you know, her loss has been very sad, of course. But also her life embedded in him and in all of us a reminder of the importance of, you know, working together in a life of service.

MORGAN: Going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll talk more about the book and about the overall theme of this book, which is very interesting. And also about whether you'll be out in the stump for the president again like you were last time.

SOETORO-NG: Of course I will.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOETORO-NG: I know that when we elect Barack as president, he'll be there for you just as he's always been there for me. I know he'll help you realize your dreams just as he's helped me realize mine. I know we'll make our mothers proud. And together we'll leave for our children a better, stronger nation.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That was Maya Soetoro-Ng speaking at the Democratic convention in 2008 about her brother, president of the United States.

Quite a moment for a sister to stand and be on the stump for her brother like that. And then to see him win. What was it like when he actually got in?

SOETORO-NG: Well, I wept profusely as you might imagine, but I also -- our grandmother had just passed away. So, you know, there were so many emotions sort of --

MORGAN: Bittersweet time.

SOETORO-NG: Yes, coursing through both of us, I think. It was a bittersweet time. And our grandmother recognized that the job that her beloved grandson was about to take up was going to be very hard and an enormous weight on his shoulders. But -- and so she worried a bit, but she also knew that he was going to win. She passed away just the night before.

MORGAN: What would she have made, do you think, of him as president?

SOETORO-NG: Both of our, you know, our motherly elders, both our mom and our grandma would have been tremendously proud. I think that anyone who's looking lovingly at him can see how hard he's working. And I think they would have marveled at how well he's done under very challenging circumstances.

MORGAN: And he's been hit by almost everything a president can get hit --

SOETORO-NG: In a challenging time.

MORGAN: Extraordinary.

SOETORO-NG: There's a lot in his inbox.

MORGAN: Yes. I mean do you think he was prepared for the sheer scale of the job? Is anybody prepared?

SOETORO-NG: I don't think anybody can be fully prepared. I think he has a healthy dose of pragmatism and he knew that there would be enormous challenges and that it would be hard work. But there are things, of course, that happen that are simply unforeseen. And that have weighed heavily on him. But he's not going to rest, one, and he still retains a sense of optimism about -- you know the possibility of solving enormous problems.

MORGAN: Would you be happy as a sister to see him run again? SOETORO-NG: That's -- you know, that's an interesting question. I'll be happy for the nation as a citizen and as a parent myself. It's very important to me that he run and when --

MORGAN: As a sister.

SOETORO-NG: As a sister, of course, there are feelings of ambivalence because it is such a hard job and --

MORGAN: Do you ever get upset when he comes under all this attack? Which all presidents do. But when it gets very personal, do you feel that anger boiling up as his sister?

SOETORO-NG: He knew that there would be things that might upset me and he reminded me before he elected to run for president not to get too riled up and not to take it too personally. And, you know, to breathe. And he has tremendous equanimity so I endeavor to emulate him on that front.

MORGAN: When you get together for Christmas, I mean who does the cooking and stuff?

SOETORO-NG: You know --

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: He doesn't, does he? You have to do it.

SOETORO-NG: No, I -- I'm not much of a cook either, frankly. But I think it's sort of -- it's a shared endeavor.

MORGAN: But he pulls his weight on the domestic front, does he? And he doesn't use the presidency as an excuse not to do the chores?

(LAUGHTER)

SOETORO-NG: Well, I think the presidency has finally given him an excuse not to do the chores. So I think it's a legitimate excuse.

MORGAN: It's not a bad excuse, is it?

SOETORO-NG: It's not a bad excuse.

MORGAN: I've got to run the world.

SOETORO-NG: Right. Right.

MORGAN: And let's get back on the book for a moment. Very interesting that you talked there about your daughter and your maternal mother, your grandmother. What is the message you'd like your daughters to take from this book, do you think?

SOETORO-NG: There are sort of three messages. One of the central messages in the book is that we are all intertwined. That what happens to a person will have an impact on, you know, what is happening to other people potentially very far away. And that is true of our -- our environment of our economy.

But you know on a very personal level, I would like to see children recognize that and to feel responsible for others. There's also a message of service. You know at first it's Grandma Annie who does the pulling and the helping of people who are suffering and then eventually it's Suhaila, my daughter.

The idea is to remind children that they're strong and also I hope that the book can open up conversations about the ones whom we've lost, the people who have shaped us in our inheritance.

MORGAN: Your brother is obviously not a bad author himself.

SOETORO-NG: Yes.

MORGAN: And has sold quite a few books. I mean you're very competitive. You've already boasted about beating him in Scrabble. Are you hoping to outdo him with this one?

SOETORO-NG: I can't possibly.

(LAUGHTER)

SOETORO-NG: But, you know, my hope is actually just to make my own modest contributions. But I am proud of how well he's done as a writer. I think our mother always shared stories with us and emphasized reading. And he's a reader. And before he became president, he could sit back on the couch and spend hours and hours reading. He doesn't get to do that much anymore.

MORGAN: I bet he doesn't. And when it comes to the actually campaign, will you be out on the stump again as you were last time? Fighting the good fight?

SOETORO-NG: I hope -- you know, I hope so. We haven't talked about that yet.

MORGAN: You're ready to go?

SOETORO-NG: But I'm ready to go. Do whatever I can.

MORGAN: Is he going to win?

SOETORO-NG: Yes.

MORGAN: I got a feeling you're a lot quite competitive, aren't you? I wouldn't have come up against you.

SOETORO-NG: No, no.

MORGAN: You like to win, don't you?

SOETORO-NG: I -- he needs to win. You know, I'm pretty soft. Not just around the middle, but you know, I'm sort of -- I could not be a politician because it is -- it is hard work to, you know, to have to be in the limelight like that. And to -- I don't think I could withstand that. But I think that -- you know, it's ultimately a labor of love and he does it because he really does, you know, love the country and world. So I'm grateful.

MORGAN: Do he enjoy any of it? Or is it just a relentless challenge?

SOETORO-NG: I think he -- I think he really does enjoy seeing a problem and being able to fix it. Sometimes that's a lot harder than it looks. But when it works, when, you know, he can make improvements and make an impact, I think that's a pretty good feeling.

MORGAN: It's been a pleasure to meet you.

SOETORO-NG: It's been fun.

MORGAN: Good luck with the book.

SOETORO-NG: Thank you so much.

MORGAN: And if you are speaking to him, you could get him on the show quite soon, that would be lovely, Maya.

(LAUGHTER)

SOETORO-NG: I'll send the invitation on your behalf.

MORGAN: Thank you.

SOETORO-NG: Thank you for having me.

MORGAN: My pleasure.

Coming up, Tim Pawlenty wants to be president. Does he really have a shot at the Republican nomination? I'll ask him when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Tim Pawlenty is the former Minnesota governor, a fiscal conservative, and all but declared presidential candidate. And he joins me now.

Governor Pawlenty, welcome to the show.

PAWLENTY: Thank you, Piers.

MORGAN: I suppose there'll be a starting point is we nearly had a government shutdown on Friday. This would seem to suggest that the economy, which was the central plank of that argument, is in a right old mess, isn't it?

PAWLENTY: Well, yes. The government's budget is in a mess, and the economy is sputtering at best to be charitable about it. And so it's clear that we've had a government that has spent too much for too long and management and labor have run up costs beyond what revenues can support. And now there's going to be a restructuring. It's going to fold over time, but it's coming. There's no question about. You saw the first volley in it last week.

MORGAN: What percentage of the problem that America now finds itself in economically is down to the Republican administration of the previous eight years, would you say?

PAWLENTY: Well, last year, Piers, they took in at the federal government level a little over $2 trillion in revenue and they spent $3.7 trillion. So it wasn't even close. The previous administration certainly had their versions of deficits, but nothing even in the same order of magnitude that you're seeing in this administration.

And by the way, they're now projecting under President Obama's administration trillion-dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see. So is there blame to go around in both parties over the last administration? Yes, but nowhere near what you're seeing now and President Obama has really put the spending pedal to the metal, and he's heading us towards a cliff.

MORGAN: President Obama has said that if the debt ceiling isn't raised, it could lead to catastrophic economic consequences. You don't agree with that. Why?

PAWLENTY: Well, first of all, when he was a United States senator and he faced this issue as a sitting senator, he said that raising the debt ceiling was a sign of flawed leadership. And he voted against it. So now, of course, he's president, and has a different view, which is one of the many broken promises that he's made to the American people, or made and then broken the promises.

And as to the debt ceiling, I'm not suggesting that we can simply ignore it, but he set up a false choice between either raising the debt ceiling or defaulting on our obligations to outside creditors.

The president or the Congress could direct the treasury to pay those outside obligations, pay our bills in sequence and then the military and then down the road or down the line. And that would buy time. It wouldn't solve the problem forever. But it would buy time so that the real debate, restructuring entitlements and related matters could be had in full.

MORGAN: One of the aspects of all this, and I sense the public feel most incensed by, is that the banking community, who in many ways were to blame for the financial collapse, not just in America, but around the world, have been the first to fill their snouts with cash from big bonuses the moment they got the chance again.

What's your view of that?

PAWLENTY: Well, I think there's -- and that sentiment, of course, is very raw and it's very real as I travel across the country. And one reason I don't want to raise the debt ceiling is because it's out of control. I think the only way that you're going to have politicians for the most part to have courage is if you push their back up against the wall. That's one way to do it and to get real reform.

But as to the banks and the Wall Street and related activities, first of all, let's not let the politicians off the hook, Piers. We have the politicians in Congress micro-managing Fannie and Freddie Mac, the financing arms for housing in this country. They manipulated the markets. It was crony capitalism and it had contributed mightily to the downfall.

And now you have beyond that really big government, big unions, and certainly big businesses. And I would certainly put the bailout banks in this category and other bailout businesses. Scratching each other's back to the detriment of the country and to the average taxpayer.

And what they tell me is, look, Wall Street gets a bailout, the poor understandably get a handout and everybody else gets their wallet out. And we're sick of it.

MORGAN: If you were in charge, would you be keen to implement some kind of bonus tax on companies like Goldman Sachs, for example, who were bailed out and have now boomed back into the good times and rewarded themselves with huge bonuses? Would you like to see an element of those bonuses being plowed back into the general economy?

PAWLENTY: Well, I don't think it's government's job to micromanage salaries in the private sector nor do I support tax increases, and my record is pretty clear on that. But I do think, I absolutely do think that when these companies present themselves and have reckless behavior, there needs to be a consequence in the market for it.

Milton Friedman, the great economist, said we have markets -- and I'm paraphrasing -- because we want to reward good behavior and punish reckless behavior. We had absolutely reckless casino behavior, really unbelievably bad judgment.

And what really was the consequence for many of these firms? Their shareholders didn't suffer, the partners continue to hold all of their equity, they got government money, all of their paper behind, their own firm got guaranteed.

And at a minimum, I believe the shareholders and owners and partners of those firms -- particularly the ones who behaved recklessly -- should have taken a big haircut. And none of them had to. For the most part they all skated and came out the other side actually better in some cases. And that's why people are mad, we've had it with that kind of crony capitalism.

And government has got its -- right in the middle of it, of course. President Obama announces his new business or job czar, turns out to be the CEO of GE. And, of course, it's announced that GE's got their snout right in the trough with everybody else in the tax code. They didn't even pay taxes last year. MORGAN: Governor, I've got to ask you, you talk about courage there in dealing with these economic situations. It didn't seem very courageous to me to use things like abortion and other social interest platforms as some kind of leverage politically against the Democrats. I mean, did you not feel slightly unsavory when that was done?

PAWLENTY: No, I didn't. I think for those who say, you know, we only can look at one type of issue at a time, I think the country and the people and the public arena's big enough and strong enough to be able to address more than one issue at a time. We have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

And President Obama, of course, has brought up issues over time, as well. And I think it's all part of the public debate. Some are more important than others. There's no question about it.

But I don't think it's inappropriate to say we're going to address more than one issue at a time.

MORGAN: When we come back, governor, I'm going to talk to you about what may be your plan to run for the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Back now with former governor and probable presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty. Governor, there was a poll out only today, CNN poll, which probably made quite disturbing reading for you. Did you ever imagine in your wildest nightmares that you'd see a poll of potential Republican candidates which had you at two percent and Donald Trump at 19 percent?

PAWLENTY: Well, I'm just -- for me just getting known, Piers. So our trajectory is kind of a tortoise and hare strategy. And as we get better known, particularly in the early states, I think you'll see those numbers change for me.

But as to Donald Trump, the Donald, I think he's funny. I think he's exciting. He's obviously very successful. I think he'd bring a lot to the debate. So I welcome him to it.

If a hair is going to be a factor in this race, Piers, then I'm going to grow my mullet back out. I had a mullet when I played hockey in high school. I'm going to grow that, get that going.

MORGAN: Do you think it may come down to the hair, do you, governor?

PAWLENTY: Yeah, I could have the big flop or the mullet. And we'll have a hair-down or whatever they call that.

MORGAN: Let's be serious. It's been very interesting to watch what's happening with the Republican party, in the sense you had the explosion of the Tea Party. You had Sarah Palin emerging as their key candidate.

Now you're looking at a totally different picture, where people like Donald Trump perhaps are sensing there is a vacuum through the middle here. You have the moderates like Mitt Romney on one side, other candidates like him. On the other, you have the Tea Party, Michele Bachmann. You have Sarah Palin still.

People like Trump are thinking, hang on, there's a way down the middle here. Do you sense that happening, that there is this vacuum?

PAWLENTY: You're talking to somebody who is the governor of the state that elected Jesse Ventura as governor and Al Franken as senator. So anything can happen.

But my view of the race, in short, is you're going to have Mitt Romney who will start out as the front runner with the most name I.D. and money and the like. And then on the other end of the continuum, you'll have perhaps Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann or Donald Trump. I don't know, maybe Hulk Hogan will get in the race. Who knows.

But I think in between those two things on the continuum, there's a role for a serious person who has tackled these kinds of issues. We live in very serious times. And the country's facing a grave challenge. And if we're going to restore America's promise, we're going to have to get back to leadership that is steady, clear, and strong.

And I don't think this is any time for the country to take a flier on another -- no disrespect to those others. But we just had a president elected who had never run anything before. He's clearly in over his head, in my view, on lots of issues. He's taken the country in a wrong direction.

We got five dollar gas, unbearable unemployment, a federal government that's out of control. He's kicked it in the dugout in the international arena. We just can't afford another whimsical election.

MORGAN: Do you believe that President Obama was born in Hawaii?

PAWLENTY: I do, Piers. I'm not one that questions his -- the authenticity of his birth certificate. The weight of the evidence is -- the certificate of live birth that's been made available to news media, including CNN, has been documented.

There was a newspaper account of him being born a couple days after the birth. And so I don't question his birth in Hawaii. And we've got to move on to other issues.

And if Mr. Trump and others want to pursue that, I understand that. But I don't personally pursue that line of questioning.

MORGAN: Do you find that there's a slightly unsettling tone to that debate? It's been put to me, for example, that you've never seen any other president have to go through this kind of inquisition over where they were born. And he happens to be the first African-American president.

PAWLENTY: And I -- again, I just tell people -- and I'm not just telling this to you. I say it all the time. I don't question his birth certificate authenticity. I want to talk about our nation's security. I want to talk about growing jobs. I want to talk about market based instead of government-based health care.

I want to talk about getting this country back on track. And it's off track. My goodness, there was a poll the other day that showed that a majority of people thought that China was going to be the dominant country in the world in the not too distant future. And they weren't asking the Chinese, Piers, or the Europeans. They were asking us.

So we've got to get this country back on track. And let's focus on these bread and butter issues I just mentioned.

MORGAN: In a hypothetical scenario, governor, if someone like Donald Trump was to emerge as the Republican nominee, and asked you to be vice president, would you accept that honor?

PAWLENTY: I'm running for president. I'm not putting my head in the ring rhetorically or ultimately for vice president. So I'm focused on running for president.

And as for Donald Trump, I don't even know if he's going to run. I hope he does in one sense. He's funny. I think he brings a lot to the debate. I just hope that the country will take the full measure of all the candidates and make an informed decision. I believe they will.

MORGAN: Governor, unless I'm mistaken, you just said you were running for president. Can we take that as an official announcement?

PAWLENTY: Well, I have an exploratory committee up and running. We'll have a final and full announcement on that in the coming weeks here. It won't be too much longer. But everything is headed in that direction, Piers.

MORGAN: Sounded pretty clear to me, governor. And I hope to speak to you again very soon about your plans to run for the White House.

PAWLENTY: Very good. And congratulations on the success of the show. I think you're doing a wonderful job. And I hope we have a chance to interact some more.

MORGAN: Thank you very much. It's been a pleasure talking to you.

When we come back, Japan's nuclear nightmare's as bad as Chernobyl. Are Americans in danger? I'll ask the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Japan was hit with a fresh round of earthquakes today, the same day the country admitted the nuclear disaster is as bad as Chernobyl. Could nuclear plants in this country face similar risks? Joining now is Gregory Jaczko, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Mr. Jaczko, it seems to any impartial observer that the Japanese authorities may have been at best misleading here with the truth about what's going on at these nuclear plants. Is that fair?

GREGORY JACZKO, U.S. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION: Well, I think, Piers, they've been working hard to deal with a very difficult situation. And as the situation developed, I think it's been clear that it is a very serious situation.

And so I certainly wasn't surprised last night when they made the indication to change the rating of the event to a seven on the international scale.

MORGAN: But we're now at a level that Chernobyl was at, which clearly is much more dangerous than we were led to believe originally. How much of a risk is this now, do you think? Not just in Japan, but perhaps to America and to the wider world?

JACZKO: Well, I want to be clear, Piers. There really is no risk from any of the radiation having an impact on health and safety in the United States. And in Japan, we continue our efforts to support the Japanese government to really take what we think right now is basically a static situation. So there's not a lot of change in the reactor condition right now.

And trying to move that into what we're talking about as a stable situation, so something that can withstand some of the changes and challenges at the site in a more permanent way.

MORGAN: What do you think this means for the future of nuclear power, particularly in America, which has so many nuclear plants? Do you see fundamental changes as a result of what we've seen in Japan?

JACZKO: Well, we have really a two-pronged approach that we're going to use to take a look at that very question. We want to get good information from Japan. And that will factor into a long-term review that we intend to do.

But we didn't want to really rest right now. We wanted to take some immediate action. And so we asked the staff at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to do a 90-day quick look to see if there were any immediate lessons that we needed to apply from Japan.

MORGAN: I mean, the most crucial thing it seems to me in all situations like this is transparency and honesty from the government. Clearly Japan's been through a quite horrendous series of ordeals here and has the world's sympathy. But should we be getting quite critical now of the level of information coming out of the Japanese authorities?

JACZKO: Well, Piers, we have a team of experts that is in Tokyo, that is interfacing very closely with experts from the Japanese government and experts from the industry and utility in Japan. And they're getting good information right now, which is helping us give them the best possible recommendations. And I would stress that it's still a very serious situation in Japan. They're still dealing with a very significant crisis, really, from the nuclear plants. And so I think there'll be an opportunity later to really do a good lessons learned about how we communicated or how they communicated information and how we can improve that in the future.

MORGAN: I mean, there are regular reports in newspapers all over the world of radioactive material apparently having leaked as a result of what's happened at Fukushima all over the place around the world. You insist there is no risk. Is it 100 percent certain that there is going to be no risk here to Americans, for example, on the coastline here?

JACZKO: Yeah, we have strong confidence that there really is no likelihood of any kind of significant impact to the United States or any Hawaii or Alaska or any of the territories of the United States. So that's really -- comes to us from our basic understanding of the reactors and just basic physics, and the fact that this material, if it were released in more significant amounts, would dilute by the time it ever reached those places, which are very far distance away.

MORGAN: And given the scale of what's happened certainly at Fukushima, is the only solution in the end the complete sealing of that area? What happens? Does it get cocooned forever? How do you deal with this kind of leak?

JACZKO: Well, right now, the focus is on making sure that the reactors stay cool and that the spent fuel pools can be put in a safe, stable configuration. And when that activity is completed, there'll be an opportunity to go back and then look at what some of the detail contamination levels are and how best to address those in the future.

So it's possible that there'll be significant contamination that may take some time to address. But right now, our focus is on helping the Japanese continue to resolve the immediate concerns with the safety of the reactor and the spent fuel pools.

MORGAN: Finally, , I suppose the key question here for American nuclear power is Japan seemed to be hit by the unthinkable, that nobody had really factored in an earthquake of that magnitude, a tsunami of that magnitude following immediately, and the damage that could be caused by that.

Are you 100 percent satisfied that America is prepared for that kind of eventuality, or even a bigger earthquake and tsunami?

JACZKO: We think the plants in this country are safe and they continue to operate safely. We think we have a very strong and robust regulatory program to make sure they do. We're going to do a good, thorough review of the events in Japan to see if there's something that we haven't properly accounted for, if there's something from the earthquake that we need to adjust our regulations, our requirements.

And what -- we'll do al that in the next couple of months. And we'll start, as I said, with a 90-day review to make sure that there's nothing immediately that we need to address to deal with this.

But I expect that there are going to be some changes and some things we're going to modify in our regulations and the way we deal with safety in this country. And if there are those things, we'll make sure we deal with them with a sense of urgency and the appropriate speed to address them.

MORGAN: Mr. Jaczko, thank you very much indeed.

JACZKO: Thanks. It's good to be here, Piers.

MORGAN: When we come back, our royal wedding countdown, the celebrities who made the cut, the other surprises from the guest list.

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MORGAN: The wedding of Prince William and Katherine Middleton is just about two and a half weeks away. We're learning more inside details of the event every day. That's expected to capture the attention of two billion people worldwide.

Our royal wedding correspondent Katie Nicholl is in London for us tonight. Good morning, Katie, I think it is for you, isn't it?

KATIE NICHOLL, PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Almost. Lovely to be with you again.

MORGAN: We're two weeks away. You must be almost overheating with excitement.

NICHOLL: Well, it has gone into overdrive. I was there in Lancaster yesterday, the wettest, most miserable day of the year, it must have been. Everyone else is enjoying spring. And William and Kate were up there on their last official engagement before the big day.

All eyes were on her. She looks fantastic. She stepped out in a really beautiful Amanda Wately (ph) tailored skirt and jacket. So I think that rules Amanda Wately out on the dress -- on the wedding dress front, at least.

But they did very, very well. And the one thing that has struck me out of all of these engagements -- of course, they've done Anglesee (ph). They've done St. Andrews. They've done Belfast, and then yesterday Lancaster -- is this innate confidence. Kate is so self- assured.

It was almost like she was born to do this. And if she has nerves about the wedding, she's really not showing them.

MORGAN: And what I was struck by, by the scenes yesterday, were the first real signs of Kate mania. The crowd were going completely crazy in a way that I haven't really seen for a female member of the royal family since the giddy days of Diana.

NICHOLL: Yes, I think you're absolutely right. I was actually standing with a bank of people on the right hand side. And what they have done for the first time was split. So William took one crowd, Kate took another.

But it really was Kate that they were cheering for. It was Kate that they wanted to take pictures of. And I think William took it very -- in very good nature actually.

There was no jealousy. I think he's very proud of her, and so proud that she's doing such a great job. She was just full of smiles. It didn't matter that it was chucking it down. Nothing would damper her spirits at all. She really is doing very well. It's a huge pressure.

MORGAN: Some very quick fire responses to some questions here. Do we have any indication of who's made the wedding dress yet?

NICHOLL: Well, the name on everyone's list is still Sara Boson (ph) from the queen. That is who everyone is saying is doing the dress. But no confirmation from the palace. And Kate's determined that we won't know until 11:00 on the 29th of April, when she turns up at Westminster Abbey.

MORGAN: What about the guest list for what the going to be the wedding of the millennium?

NICHOLL: The guest list is fascinating. We discovered over the weekend that Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowls has been allowed to invite 250 people. Ditto with the bride and the groom. The queen, astonishingly, is having just 40 people at the reception at Buckingham Palace.

Of course, that's a very exclusive ticket. The Beckhams are going. Elton John's going. We discovered that Guy Ritchie's going. And I think most curiously of all is the exes of both William and Kate are going to be going. William has got four ex girlfriends. Kate has two ex-boyfriends.

MORGAN: That sounds like a recipe for a complete disaster to me.

NICHOLL: Well, the royals do have a tendency of keeping in with their exes, as Diana so famously found out. It's very much the done thing in royal circles. I suppose with William have four of his ex- girlfriends, including one that he never properly managed to have -- that's Isabella Anstrutha Goth Halthorp (ph) -- rather difficult to say.

I think Kate wanted to make sure that she was also well represented on the ex front. So she has Rupert Finch (ph) going, her ex-boyfriend from St. Andrews, and William Marks (ph), who she dated when she was at Marlboro. So she's got two there.

MORGAN: It's terribly exciting. We're going to take the PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT show to London for the entire week. You will be one of our stars of the week. And the world media and the world itself will be watching what I think is going to be a quite extraordinary and hopefully uplifting event, isn't it?

NICHOLL: I think it's going to be fantastic. We are going to witness something that I certainly haven't seen in my lifetime. And I think the fact that billions of people around the world are going to see this -- it is a young, romantic fairy tale of a marriage. And I wish them the very best of luck. I think it's going to be great. I'm looking forward to having you over here.

MORGAN: So do I. After all the terrible news in the last few years, I think a good old British royal wedding is just what we all need. Katie Nicholl, thank you very much indeed.

NICHOLL: Thanks, Piers.

MORGAN: And that's all for us tonight. Here's my colleague Anderson Cooper with "AC 360."