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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

Weiner Admits Lying; Interview With Mitt Romney

Aired June 6, 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, Anthony Weiner's extraordinary emotional confession.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: I haven't told the truth, and I've done things that I deeply regret.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: He admits he sent that photo and worse. He admits he lied.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER: It was something that I did that was just wrong. And I regret it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: But he insists he won't resign. So, what happens now?

And the man who wants to be your next president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm Mitt Romney, I believe in America, and I'm running for president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: You've heard what Mitt Romney says about President Obama.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: Barack Obama has failed America.

What he did did not help the economy get out of the slide it was in.

In Afghanistan, the surge was right. But announcing a withdrawal date, that was wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MORGAN: Well, tonight, I'll ask him what he'd do to fix America, what's he really think about Sarah Palin, and what makes him think he'll win the second time around.

Tonight, in the wake of Weiner-gate, is America ready for a man who doesn't drink, doesn't do drugs, been with the same woman since high school, and may just be the cleanest man in politics. That's Mitt Romney.

This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

(MUSIC)

MORGAN: Good evening.

Congressman Anthony Weiner finally confessed today, just one week after insisting a hacker had posted a lewd photo to his Twitter account. The New York Democrat finally admitted he had sent the photo himself and that he lied about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER: Last Friday night, I tweeted a photograph of myself that I intended to send as a direct message as part of a joke to a woman in Seattle. Once I realized I had posted it to Twitter, I panicked, I took it down, and said that I had been hacked. I then continued with that story and to stick to that story which was a hugely regrettable mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: And apparently it wasn't the first time the seven-term congressman says he's repeatedly had what he calls inappropriate conversations conducted over Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and occasionally on the phone with women he'd met online.

But he says he has no intention of resigning or separating from his wife.

I want to bring in Wolf Blitzer, who's pretty much seen it all in Washington, and who interviewed Anthony Weiner only last week when the congressman sat as I am here, staring him straight in the eye and telling him, as it turned out, Wolf, a complete pack of lies.

I mean, you've seen it all. Have you ever seen anything quite like this?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": You know, usually when they lie, they sort of hedge it and they dissemble and they find an element that maybe you can quibble over, you know, what that word really meant or what it didn't mean, but he flat-out lied. He looked at us right in the face, me, but all of our viewers out there, not just me, but he did a whole series of interviews.

MORGAN: Let's watch a clip, because it was fascinating now to look back on just how brazen this was. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You would know if this is your underpants, for example.

WEINER: The question is -- I appreciate you continuing to flash that at me. Look, I've said the best I can that we're going to try to get to the bottom of what happened here. But, you know, I just want to caution you, and you understand this, you're a pro, that photographs can be manipulated, photographs can be taken out from one place and put in another place, photos can be doctored. And I want to make sure that we know for sure what happened here. It certainly doesn't look familiar to me, but I don't want to say with certitude to you something that I don't know to be the certain truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: I mean, there are a few clues, "I don't want to say with certitude," a very strangest thing to say about a picture you obviously either know is your or not.

BLITZER: He was lying there, because he knew, as he said today, that that was, in fact, him, that he tweeted himself, that he thought it would be a direct message to this young college student in Washington state, but it went out to all of his 45,000 or 50,000 followers on Twitter, briefly, and then he deleted it, but that was a brazen lie right there because he came up with all of this -- yes, sure you can move pictures around and somebody else can hack your account or whatever. But he knew that he did it himself.

MORGAN: Wolf, what is fascinating to me, having covered many of these scandals over the years, as you have, is that watching him today, I thought any moment now, he's going to say, "and I'm stepping down." It seemed to me completely impossible for a man to continue who had spent a whole day on television lying through his back teeth. Not just to the media, but to the electorate.

But he hasn't. Why hasn't he resigned?

BLITZER: He thinks probably he can survive this, if he comes, you know, opens up about it and goes into some sort of therapy, says he's going to have some therapy. He wants to struggle with his wife, he's been married less than a year to a lovely young woman, Huma Abedin. She works for the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. So, it's going to be a very, very painful ordeal.

On top of all of that, now Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, says she's going to have a full-scale ethics committee investigation.

MORGAN: But hasn't she had to, Wolf? Because according to a report I saw you do just a few moments ago, he rang her, had a conversation with her on the phone, in which he twice said, "I'm definitely not resigning," putting her in a position where if she wants to do anything to get him out of his job, she has to do it.

BLITZER: Right. She has to do it and there will be a full-scale investigation now, and some of the unanswered questions that he apparently did not answer include, did he use any U.S. government equipment, computers, cell phones, even in his hard line in his office, because he did have a few phone conversations, which involved sex? Did he use any of U.S. taxpayer-funded equipment --

MORGAN: If he did, would that be resignation --

BLITZER: I don't know if it would be resignation, but it would be an ethics violation.

And the other question that seems to be open, he says there was six women with whom he had these inappropriate relations on social network sites or on the phone. Were any of them underage? That apparently has not been answered.

MORGAN: He doesn't know, does he?

BLITZER: I don't know if he knows or if he doesn't.

MORGAN: When he was asked in the press conference, I think he said he was pretty sure, but he didn't know.

BLITZER: He didn't know for sure if somebody was 16 or 15 or 17 or whatever.

MORGAN: If there's an underage girl, that would be inappropriate (ph).

BLITZER: Right, if he's sending a lewd photo to an underage women, a girl, that would be more than inappropriate.

MORGAN: That would become a criminal matter?

BLITZER: It might be. I mean, I'm sure that Capitol Hill police and others will take a closer look at all of this. And he's got a lot of political enemies out there, because he is a very well-known, articulate, smart, liberal Democrat.

MORGAN: And flying ever high, wasn't he?

BLITZER: And, you know, he was on a path to becoming the next mayor of New York City if he would have played his cards right. He was very well-liked, highly respected among liberal Democratic circles, and had a potentially good shot at becoming the mayor of New York. I don't think he does anymore.

MORGAN: I mean, is that dream over for him now?

BLITZER: Probably. I'm guessing it is. Right now, his dream is to, (a), save his marriage, and (b), to a certain degree, save his job in the United States House of Representatives. If he doesn't resign, if he stays put, will the people in his district, which is Queens and Brooklyn, will they re-elect him next time around?

MORGAN: I mean, it's a very interesting call, isn't it? As I watching the debate earlier, again, on your show earlier, the morality of this is one thing. The politics of it is another. You know, if it is proven that he actually didn't use any government facility for this at all, then it becomes, I guess, to some people, an entirely private matter between him and his wife, and shouldn't necessarily, in the new climate that we're in, mean the end of his political career.

BLITZER: Well, it raises questions about his judgment, and that's where he could have some problems, with his constituents, in New York City.

MORGAN: Will the lying be more problematic than the original crime?

BLITZER: It's one of these situations where you're caught so blatantly lying. Can anybody believe you again?

MORGAN: Well, watching that clip of you and him, he was so credible, really. You know, he was looking you straight in the eye.

BLITZER: I've got to tell you, when I left that -- I was in his Capitol Hill office, in the House of Representatives, and I remember rushing back to our CNN studios in Washington, and I'm saying to myself, you know what, it sounds to me like it may have been his picture, but it was out there, but somebody else hacked it and somebody else sent it out to embarrass him. I sort of believed, you know, that line, especially when some technology experts were telling me, there are certain Twitter, you know, TwitPic opportunities where it's not that difficult to get somebody else -- to look like somebody else is sending a picture, that really you're sending.

MORGAN: In all your time, Wolf, at CNN, have you ever had anyone in political life, with reasonably high office, look you in the eye and lie like Anthony Weiner did?

BLITZER: Well, I was in the Roosevelt Room when Bill Clinton was accused of the Monica Lewinsky. I was the network television pool correspondent when he looked me -- and I was standing right there, and he had that famous line, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky," he was looking right at me when he said that.

Now, technically, as he later testified, before, you know, the investigation, the phrase "sexual relations" had a specific meaning in his mind as opposed to the kind of sex he and Monica Lewinsky were engaged in. So, technically, it may not have been a lie, because "sexual relations" meant certain things to him that it didn't mean. But it sort of, you know, it reminded me of all of those sordid days.

Now, remember, Bill Clinton, he came through, and his reputation is very high right now.

MORGAN: And it gets higher all the time.

BLITZER: You know --

MORGAN: Maybe I asked you the wrong question, Wolf -- is it the other way around? Is it, when these politicians look you in the eye, Wolf Blitzer, in these times of personal crisis, should we believe the complete opposite? Are you the barometer for them lying?

BLITZER: In all my years, and most always, you know, there are plenty of liars out there, but they tell the truth, and if they're going to -- they don't blatantly lie as Anthony Weiner did, so specifically. He knew it was a lie, and he just spoke out the way he did, because he says he was embarrassed and he was --

MORGAN: He apologized to a few people from the podium. Has he apologized to you yet?

BLITZER: He apologized to everybody, he didn't apologize to me directly, specifically, didn't call me up or anything like that, and he doesn't have to, you know? I think to our viewers, though, a lot of people were watching, here in the United States and around the world, you know, he went on television, he should have just, you know, kept his mouth shut and not said anything rather than blatantly going out there and lying.

But he was arrogant, and he thought he could get away with it, as he himself now acknowledges, and he made a huge, huge mistake.

MORGAN: You've seen people resign or be fired over very serious financial impropriety and so on or criminal activity. Does this raise again the whole issue of political misbehavior against political life or life in high office? What's your view?

I mean, you've seen them come and go over the years. Do you actually believe that it is material to a man's fitness to preside in high office in American politics as to how he conducts himself in his private life?

BLITZER: I think to most Americans, it is. If you want to serve in the House or the Senate, or as president of the United States, for that matter, the American public wants to hold you up to a much higher standard, as if you're just a private citizen and you make a mistake and move on.

But when you're elected to public office, they expect that you're going to have some standards right there. And, you know, he made a huge, huge mistake, and we'll see if he can survive this, (a), as I said, with his own marriage, but (b), with his political career.

MORGAN: Are you a betting man?

BLITZER: No.

MORGAN: If you were, how long would you give him?

BLITZER: I don't know. I know there are other members of Congress, Chris Lee -- that congressman from Upstate New York who showed that photo of him on Craigslist or whatever, he didn't survive. Some other members of Congress might survive. I think it's -- I would say it's 50/50 right now, depends on how this falls out. And I think a lot will depend on how his wife reacts publicly as well, because she's a wonderful, wonderful woman. She doesn't deserve this.

MORGAN: Thanks very much, Wolf.

We also have tonight, by coincidence, an interview with Mitt Romney, who, I'm sure you and I agree, is probably, at the moment, from what we know, the squeakiest, cleanest man in politics in America. So, that is going to be fascinating.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Have you ever drunk alcohol?

M. ROMNEY: No.

MORGAN: You don't -- you've never taken drugs?

M. ROMNEY: No. No.

MORGAN: And presumably, we never -- you never had an affair, because you couldn't have done it?

M. ROMNEY: Of course not.

MORGAN: And you can say that with total non-Schwarzenegger certainty?

M. ROMNEY: Absolutely. I have --

(LAUGHTER)

M. ROMNEY: -- I have tested alcohol. I tried it on one occasion. It was not a good experience. I've -- but -- but drugs, never.

MORGAN: So this is a -- I would say this is one of your trump cards, because when you look at all these politicians at the moment, whether it's Anthony Weiner or it's John Edwards or it's Arnold Schwarzenegger, the one thing we don't have to worry about in America if you're elected president is anything tumbling out of the -- the cupboard, right, Ann?

ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: It better not.

(LAUGHTER)

A. ROMNEY: No. He's -- we have -- we have a very, very close relationship and we're devoted to each other. And we've been through some hard times together, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Revealing stuff there from Mitt Romney and more of that coming up.

But when we come back, I'll ask a woman who knows Capitol Hill about the x-rated antics behind closed doors and her strange experience with Anthony Weiner.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WEINER: To be clear, the picture was of me, and I sent it. I am deeply sorry for the pain this has caused my wife, Huma, and our family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Anthony Weiner's bad behavior may have in some ways be an old story in Washington, but what's new is the fact he got caught on Twitter. Is this the new age of infidelity, and is there anything the congressman can do to clear his name?

Joining me now, Michael Sitrick, chairman and CEO of PR firm Sitrick and Company; and Vicky Ward, best-selling author and contributor to "Vanity Fair" magazine.

Michael Sitrick, on a scale of one to 10, just how tarnished is Anthony Weiner's reputation right now?

MICHAEL SITRICK, SITRICK & COMPANY: Probably eight.

MORGAN: Is it retrievable?

SITRICK: I think it is. The American public has a great propensity to forgive people, and I think what he would have to do is to pick a show like yours, go on the show with his wife, talk about this, to say, look, you know, I did something very stupid. I wish I could take it back.

I can't, -- and have his wife and he talk about this, and talk about their relationship, and how they're getting past this and they hope the public will also get past it. That he's breached the public's trust, he's breached his wife's trust, and all he can do is try to restore his reputation by doing good and doing the right thing and he hopes people will give him a chance.

MORGAN: Well, I've had him on the show before and there's certainly an open invitation. It would be a fascinating interview.

Vicky Ward, you've met Anthony Weiner.

VICKY WARD, AUTHOR: Yes.

MORGAN: A rather extraordinary circumstance. You wrote a piece in "Vanity Fair" just after 9/11 in 2001, in which you met a number of congressmen. They later accused of you of some kind of sting.

WARD: No, he did. Only he did.

MORGAN: Tell me what happened quickly.

WARD: What actually happened was this. I had been sent by "Vanity Fair" to cover the world of interns in the wake of the Gary Condit scandal, which we were doing. I was shadowing three interns. Then 9/11 happened. Clearly, the story was no longer appropriate. I took those three girls out to dinner at the capitol grill in Washington, D.C., to thank them for their time and to say, girls, go back to your lives, story's over.

As we were having dinner, about nine or 10 congressman, we didn't know they were congressman, they just -- they looked like businessmen, entered the private room next to where we were sitting and started clearly get -- clearly drunk, singing songs --

MORGAN: And one of them was Anthony Weiner, right?

WARD: Right. One of them --

MORGAN: What does he say to you?

WARD: So, he sits down. He's sitting next to me. And he says, "Hi, I'm Anthony, I'm an auto parts salesman." In which point, I look at him, and I thought, you're clearly not an auto salesman.

MORGAN: At the time, he was a congressman.

WARD: He was -- later on the evening, he gave his card and said, do let me show you around New York.

MORGAN: Let's make one thing clear, he was single at the time, but did lie to you about what his occupation was?

WARD: And he opened the conversation with a lie, at which point I replied, I'm Vicky from England, because, you know, if he wants to play chess, I'll play chess, too.

MORGAN: And after this expose appeared of all these congressmen behaving in a pretty randy way --

WARD: He was the only one to then organize a huge puff piece all about himself, in "New York" magazine, and call me and "Vanity Fair" a liar -- he called me a liar and accused "Vanity Fair" of setting up a sting operation.

MORGAN: And yet everything you published --

WARD: Was completely true! And then after the dinner, also, it was completely true that he had e-mailed one of the interns from Air Force One on his way with President Bush to visit the wreckage --

MORGAN: Using his political connections.

The other interesting thing about your view of him, I guess, is you wrote a fascinating piece in a British newspaper this week about your ex-husband. There is that likeness, because you're separated from your husband, and then as you wrote in this piece, you discovered via Facebook, when he began posting photos of his new young girlfriend.

WARD: So, what are you asking me? MORGAN: I suppose the point is, we talk about the new age of infidelity -- as a woman who's been through this kind of situation with your ex, is it as bad seeing it in a telecommunication form as the real thing? Is it worse? Is it more humiliating when people are public like that? How would you describe this new era of Facebook/Twitter infidelity?

WARD: You know, I think what it does is it provides a forum, a platform, if you like, for people's ability or, you know, voluntary sort of deep insecurities. It provides a platform for them to put them out there. So, somebody who's shy suddenly has Facebook at his disposal, and it's much easier to put something on Facebook than it is to actually speak!

MORGAN: As a woman, here's a thing, I think men are quite casual on this sort of thing. I think women are not so casual. Would you view a man that was in your life, who did the kind of thing Anthony Weiner did, is that as bad as being physically unfaithful, in your eyes? Because he says he didn't have any physical contact with these women?

WARD: That's a real tough one. That's a real tough one.

MORGAN: What's your answer?

WARD: You know, I think they're morally both pretty --

MORGAN: But is it easy to stand by your mind if in your head and heart you know he wasn't physically unfaithful?

WARD: No, because in his mind, he was. And what is he doing?

MORGAN: The same thing to you.

Michael, let me go to you on that question because that seems to me a fundamental part of this particular scandal. From a male point of view, what would you say?

SITRICK: Look, I think that -- I think that Weiner felt that he wasn't cheating, that this was -- you know, look, one of the problems with e-mail is people say things in e-mail, thinking that they're not going to be discovered. People say things on Twitter and it has this anonymity, even if you give your name.

And so, it was like Jimmy Carter said, you know, I was unfaithful in my mind or I was cheating in my mind, I think most men would dismiss that, whether it's right or not, you know, and my wife wouldn't dismiss it. She'd be standing behind me with a knife.

(LAUGHTER)

SITRICK: But I think that would be his justification. And the real issue is, there is no anonymity anymore. You can't separate Twitter or Facebook from "The New York Times" or CNN today, as we've seen. The media is all interconnected.

And so, you have to realize that everything you say, everything you do, has a sequence and is interconnected.

MORGAN: And also I think another key thing about this is that what is extraordinary is that he made such a huge deal of lying about al this --

WARD: Right.

MORGAN: -- when it was all there in his technological trace.

Anyway, Michael Sitrick, thank you all, thank you both very much indeed.

Coming up, what drives a man to send pictures like this? I'll ask Dr. Drew what's going on in Anthony Weiner's mind.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Would you seek professional help?

WEINER: I have not -- you know, I'm going to try to handle this and I haven't ruled out perhaps seeing someone, but I'm not blaming anyone. This is not something that can be treated away. This is my own personal mistake. This is not something -- this is a weakness, a deep weakness that I have demonstrated, and for that I apologize.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That was Anthony Weiner today.

And joining me now, Dr. Drew Pinsky, host of HLN's "Dr. Drew."

You've heard all this, Dr. Drew. You've been through many cases like this, famous people, non-famous people. What do you make of it? What's driven, do you think, someone like Anthony Weiner who just got married to a very beautiful woman, a very smart lady, apparently. He's got all of his political future ahead of him, everyone tipping him as a high flier, and he's seem to have had gambled everything in a very reckless manner. Why would he do that?

DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST, HLN'S DR. DREW: Well, this is the question everyone shakes their head and ask, when they look at young men of any age behaving such as this. And the fact is, in those moments when they're trying to evoke those sorts of experiences, they aren't thinking. They aren't contemplating consequences. They really don't really understand why they're doing what they're doing and they're very disconnected.

It's like -- and very often, it can be very much like any other addiction, in that the consequences aren't considered until they really come to bear. The fact is, there's often a great deal of emptiness, and these men tend to take these experiences offline, and that's actually one of the more disturbing qualities of what was described with Congressman Weiner, is that he was already contacting women on the telephone, and these things often go into flesh or face- to-face meetings. And it is in the construct of what we call sexual addiction or sexual compulsion.

MORGAN: And, you know, I suppose it also raises this whole question of social networking, Twitter, Facebook, and so on, how much easier it now is to have simultaneous flirtations with various women.

PINSKY: Well, there's that, and there's something -- I was just telling somebody a few minutes ago, for old guys like me, it's really hard to understand the exactly what they're trying to evoke. There's sort of a social vocabulary goes on now, where there's sex texting or sexting and sex pictures, these things are supposed to evoke something. It's all very provocative and it's all very sort of, you know, exploitative.

And the fact is that we're always coaching young people to recognize when they engage in these impulsive behaviors, these things remain in the electronic world permanently. These things are out there. And why a congressman wouldn't contemplate that is why we all shake our head today.

And there's no greater evidence that there was something -- it's not a weak -- well, you can contemplate it as a weakness, but it's a circumstance where the motivation is distorted and they don't contemplate the consequences of what they're doing.

To some extent, is that they, indeed, feel they're entitled, they're in position of powers, and very often, men climb to positions of power so they can sort of fuel their sense of narcissistic need to be OK and their specialness and they're entitled to these sorts -- we've seen how many cases of men doing this sort of thing that have been in positions of power now. But when the consequences come to bear, there often is profound shame and humiliation that floods in.

And in point of fact, Piers, I want to remind people that this is a human being we're talking about here. And if this were somebody I was caring for, I would have very grave concerns that this degree of public humiliation and the amount of shame that no doubt he's experiencing could precipitate a dangerous depressive episode. And, in fact, I would be very concerned about suicidality.

MORGAN: I mean, beneath all the jokes about Weiner and so on, which he himself alluded to, it is a guy's life in complete tatters here, both professionally and personally. In terms of the infidelity here, Drew, it's obviously, it's a new thing, via the Internet, this kind of nonphysical infidelity that he's been engaging in -- as far as we know, there's been no physicality. What do you make of that as a phenomenon? Forget the fact that he's well known. Obviously there must be a lot more people now indulging in this non-physical infidelity.

Is it as serious, do you think, as physical infidelity?

PINSKY: Well, it's interesting that men and women tend to experience this somewhat differently. For women, any sort of intimate dialogue, whether it is typing through the Internet or contact on the telephone, is experienced as a very significant betrayal. Men tend to not be quite as concerned when their female partners are engaged in these sorts of intimate conversations, as long as there's no plan to meet, no physical contact. Not to say that it's not an indiscretion, but men aren't as troubled by it as women are.

Women feel very violated in situations like this. And reasonably so. I mean, the fact is, you know, when we treat somebody like this, oftentimes, we can keep these marriages together. I mean, more often than not.

And they can end up in a very, very good place. I was asked earlier by someone whether or not he should end his career, focus on his marriage, or focus on both equally. The fact is, when we treat these folks, the marriages often end up in a much better place, and very often these men contemplate changes in their career.

I would certainly urge him, what really make people happy is their intimate relationships and the people they love. Focus on that first. I think, however, in this case, it sounds like he's looking -- he's looking at this as sort of a moralistic issue, contemplating that he can kind of brush it away with an apology and contrition, and attempting to hang on to his job.

And boy, I think he's got a rocky ride ahead.

MORGAN: Yep, I think we all think that. Dr. Drew, thank you very much. Your show, of course, airs 9:00 p.m. on HLN, in the unlikely event that you're not already watching mine on CNN.

Thank you very much.

PINSKY: Thanks, Piers.

MORGAN: When we come back, I sit down with a man who may well be the cleanest politician in America, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Governor Romney, welcome back.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.

Good to be back.

MORGAN: Now, I can't help but notice that the -- the tie is gone from this campaign already.

ROMNEY: Well, you sort of dress for the occasion. And I -- I figured you were dressed a little too sharp so I -- I bring it down a bit.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: Now, the last time I remember, you were very, very businesslike. It was always a tie. And when you announced last week -- and now you're here on this show to talk about your plans to be president -- it's a more relaxed Mitt Romney that we're seeing.

Is this a deliberate strategy?

ROMNEY: Well, I stopped wearing my suit to be at night. And I figured as long as that's the case, I might as well carry on.

MORGAN: But is it because President Obama is youthful and he often goes without a tie. It's -- it's -- I mean these things don't happen by accident. You have a whole team of people that analyze and debate whether you should wear a tie or not, don't you?

ROMNEY: No, not really. I -- I have a couple of friends that weigh in from time to time with that kind of question. But -- but by and large, you know, I ask the one person that counts, and that's my wife, what should I wear today?

And I said --..

MORGAN: And she said no tie?

ROMNEY: -- I said -- I said I'm going to be on with Piers today, what should I wear?

And -- and I said I think I should wear a tie, don't you?

She said, no, no, no. Just wear -- you know, just wear the shirt you've got on, a blue shirt and a sport coat. So I --

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: -- I -- I do as I'm commanded.

MORGAN: I want to talk to you straight off the top about your announcement, and in particular, Sarah Palin's decision to suddenly jump all over it, steal all the thunder, take all the headlines, knife you either in the back or the front, whichever way you choose to -- to look at it.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: I mean either way, it was politics at its most bestial.

ROMNEY: Oh, I don't think I'd go -- I'd go that far. I can say to you that I think Sarah Palin is -- is generating enthusiasm and interest in a campaign this year. That's a good thing. She has a lot of energy and passion and bringing it to -- to our race is -- is positive for us. And, frankly --

MORGAN: You're always nice about her and then she does things like that, where she basically says, well, he can be as nice to me as he'd like, but I'm going to -- I'm going to ruin his day.

ROMNEY: She really didn't ruin my day.

MORGAN: She tried to. ROMNEY: Well, in a lot of respects, it's the best thing that could happen to me. Right now, your greatest enemy is overexposure. People get tired of seeing the same person day in and day out.

MORGAN: She -- she made what I suppose you can call an apology. She felt the need to say that I do apologize if I stepped on any of the P.R. that Mitt Romney needed or wanted that day. I do sincerely apologize. We didn't mean to step on anybody's toes.

Which she did almost through the biggest grin you've seen in New Hampshire in quite a while. I mean she quite clearly wanted to step on your toes.

ROMNEY: This is politics. This is politics, you know?

MORGAN: Yes. Yes.

ROMNEY: And people can do what they think is in their best interests. We -- we may well be competitors down the road. And as competitors, we find that -- ways that we think can advance our effort.

MORGAN: It seems to me and to most impartial observers that Sarah Palin is gearing up to probably running now. You, in a funny way, are the kind of polar opposite candidate for the Republican Party.

ROMNEY: You know, I don't know that I see it in that -- that same -- that same light. I think she and I both believe that government is too big. And, interestingly, in our party, whether you're -- you're a Tea Partier or you're from another wing of the party, the message is all the same.

Right now, the message that you're hearing from Republicans is government is too big; it's too intrusive; and the economy is a wreck. People are in crisis and the president doesn't understand it.

Just the other day, the president said, look, this -- this 9 percent -- 9.1 percent unemployment is just a bump in the road. This isn't a bump, Mr. President. These are Americans.

And so you're finding my party really coming together, I think, in a very effective way to say this president is not doing the job he was elected to do.

MORGAN: Who do you most respect of all the names?

I mean, you know, we've seen Gingrich, Pawlenty, Huntsman, lots of people chucking their hat in the ring, Rudy Giuliani flirting with the idea, Donald Trump still may not be out of it, for example. Who of all these names do you see as a serious contender at this stage?

ROMNEY: Well, they're all serious contenders. I think it's too hard to predict who's going to become our nominee, who will be the two finalists? I think usually you have two people that end up battling it down the -- down the stretch. I don't know who they will be. I -- I believe I'm going to be one of those two and that I'll finally get the nomination, but I can't tell you who the other person will be.

MORGAN: Rick Santorum threw his hat in the ring today and sounding very puffed up, as if he's sort of wound up like a -- like a -- one of those toys you get, you know, rmmmm, vroom.

ROMNEY: Well, you -- you don't want to get into this without energy and passion. I -- I -- you know, I didn't hear his announcement speech, but, you know, he's a capable guy, a senator from Pennsylvania once upon a time. And if he's getting in, it means he wants to win. And so he'll -- he'll do what he's got to do to -- to get the support.

MORGAN: The interesting thing about him, I thought, was that he does have this kind of dynamic style. The one criticism I hear quite a lot about you is you're a great guy and everyone likes you. You don't meet many people that hate Mitt Romney. You don't have that polarizing thing.

But that you lack a bit of oomph, a bit of passion, a bit of firepower.

ROMNEY: I'll bet you say that to all the guys.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: I'd be surprised if people who know me well come to that conclusion. I...

MORGAN: Is there a smoldering volcano?

ROMNEY: I have --

MORGAN: -- that we don't know about?

ROMNEY: I have Romney genes. My dad was in politics and was also -- also a leader in the automotive sector. And, you know, you try and hold onto your emotions. But -- but I've never been accused of having too little passion. And -- and getting into this race, as a guy who spent his life in the private sector, suggests the departure is driven by something very deep.

And it is that I am really concerned about this country. I have to tell you, I think we are on a precipice economically.

MORGAN: This should play to your strengths. I mean the one thing that people associate with you is an understanding of the economy because of all your business background.

You're seeing the statistics. About three years into President Obama's four year term, you're seeing housing prices continue to decline. Three years in, you're seeing unemployment above 9 percent. Three years in, you're seeing record levels of foreclosure. And I understand reported today, the -- the chronic level of unemployment in this country -- people long-term unemployed. There is -- that is a bigger problem today -- more chronic unemployed today than during the Great Depression.

This president's policy has not worked.

MORGAN: If you're being fair-minded, given the scale of the financial crisis, by common consent, the worst we'd ever seen, is it really surprising it's taken a bit of time to come out of that?

I mean, do you honestly believe that a Republican president would have got America out of that hole any faster?

ROMNEY: Absolutely. What the president did on almost every dimension was the exact opposite of what was needed. He crafted a stimulus, but instead of encouraging the private sector to go out and buy stuff, capital goods and put people back to work, he instead protected government jobs, union jobs, and, if you will, saluted to the union bosses that helped finance his campaign.

He simply does not understand how the economy works. And he surrounded himself with academics and politicians, no businesspeople to speak of.

MORGAN: But if the Republicans are so smart about how the economy works --

ROMNEY: Yes?

MORGAN: -- how is it that America under eight years of the Republicans got themselves into the biggest hole of all time?

ROMNEY: Well, I'm not going to speak about all Republicans. I'm going to talk about this Republican. And -- and I --

MORGAN: So you would actively distance yourself from the whole Bush years?

ROMNEY: Well, a number -- look, a number of the things President Bush did were absolutely right. One of the things he did that was not right was to grow the scale of government at too rapid a clip. He spent too much money. We started racking up deficits.

Now, President Obama, when he was Candidate Obama, pointed out those deficits were too large. He's now multiplied them by a factor of four or five.

MORGAN: Let's take a short break.

When we come back, I want to talk to you more about the economy and in particular, what many see as your weakness, which is the similarity between your health care plan in Massachusetts and President Obama's.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (NEWS BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In fact, I agree with Mitt Romney, who recently said he's proud of what he accomplished on health care in Massachusetts and supports giving states the power to determine their own health care solutions. He's right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That was, of course, President Obama, who was praising RomneyCare earlier this year.

This is, it seems to me, your Achilles' heel, the one where you're in most trouble, because when the president, who is a Democrat, starts praising you for your health care plan, that's not good, is it?

ROMNEY: Well, I think the president is hoping that we'll be diverted from the fact that ObamaCare is going to get repealed. If I'm president, I will repeal ObamaCare, and, frankly, on the first day of my administration, I'll direct the secretary of Health & Human Services to grant a waiver to all 50 states from ObamaCare.

And one of the reasons is that when the president --

MORGAN: But you say that...-- you say that as if somehow there are these great chasms of ideology between your plan, RomneyCare, and ObamaCare.

ROMNEY: There are. What -- what he says and what he does are very different. You heard in that clip of the president that he said, look, I agree with Governor Romney that -- that these -- the power to care for the uninsured should be given to the states. Well, that's what I believe, give it to the states.

What he did was put in place a one size fits all federal take over of health care. It's a bill that's 2,700 pages long. My bill was 70 pages long.

MORGAN: Here's the problem, forget the number of pages.

ROMNEY: But you do -- he does a lot of things with those 2,630 pages, which is a take over of health care. He takes it away from the states.

MORGAN: But you do lots in your 70 pages. When it comes down to it, the ideology is to say it's a mandate, it's a mandate, it's a mandate, it's a mandate.

ROMNEY: No. You have -- you have different ways of approaching. First, let's -- let's talk about the differences...

MORGAN: But isn't the idea the same? ROMNEY: Let's come -- let's come back. One is should a state, under its constitution, have the ability to care for its uninsured?

My answer is yes. But the federal government should not take over that power.

Number two, he raised taxes a half a trillion dollars. We didn't raise taxes at all.

MORGAN: But what you're talking about --

ROMNEY: He cut benefits to Medicare...

MORGAN: -- but, Governor, what you're --

ROMNEY: -- by a half a trillion dollars.

MORGAN: -- what you're talking about is the financial cost --..

ROMNEY: Well, let me get on to the mandate.

MORGAN: Well, tell me simply about the idea.

ROMNEY: Yes?

MORGAN: Isn't the idea the same?

ROMNEY: You know, the -- if you say the idea is the same, you've got a 2,700 page bill. It's a lot more than just an idea. The idea behind our plan was to have a state deal with its own problem, on a bipartisan basis, and we said this. We said if people have -- have the ability to care for themselves, they should not be able to go to a doctor or a hospital and expect the government to pick up the tab for them.

We said personal responsibility has to take -- play a role when it -- when it comes to health care. And the other people say, no, the government should care for people for free.

I said no way. What we -- we had in my state what I'll call health care welfare. People showing up, getting free care who could have cared for themselves. And I believe it's a conservative principal to say, no, if you can care for yourself, you should. And you shouldn't expect the government to care for you...

MORGAN: But the common...

ROMNEY: -- for free.

MORGAN: When you hear leading Republicans -- and these are serious people -- Rudy, Jack Welch, you know, Sarah Palin and others, serious figures all saying come on, Mitt Romney, if you only just backed off RomneyCare, backed off trying to create some impression that it's completely different to the Obama thing, then we could be more supportive, because the problem is going to go on. It's blindingly obvious what's going to happen. All the other Republicans want to hammer Obama over ObamaCare next year in the election campaign.

How can they do that if you're the guy --

ROMNEY: Well, they -- they will --

MORGAN: -- they've got to support?

ROMNEY: Well, the great news is that when I finally debate President Obama, it will be wonderful, because he won't be able to say I'm some heartless Republican that doesn't care about people. I -- he'll say it was -- I was the inspiration for what he did.

And I'll say, Mr. President, how come you didn't call?

How come you didn't ask me about your plan, because it will not work.

MORGAN: You don't have to call.

ROMNEY: It will -- it will bankrupt America.

MORGAN: What Republicans want you to do is express some regret over RomneyCare.

ROMNEY: Piers --

MORGAN: Do you have any?

ROMNEY: -- I -- I point out that there are a number of things in the bill I didn't like, the parts I vetoed. There are a number of things that are mistakes in the legislation. I'd change if I could. And I -- and I'd veto that if --

MORGAN: Do you regret it in the way it played out?

ROMNEY: But let me tell you this, which is I know that a lot of people who say my political prospects would be much, much better if I were just to say oh, it was just a mistake, it was a bone-headed idea, I'm so sorry. And it may well be true.

That would help my political prospects a lot. The only problem with that is it wouldn't be honest.

MORGAN: Has it worked in Massachusetts?

ROMNEY: You know, that's really up to the people of Massachusetts.

MORGAN: Yes, but has it worked?

ROMNEY: Well, it's up to the people of Massachusetts.

MORGAN: Yes, because the critic say that it has actually costs more and more money and it hasn't actually worked.

ROMNEY: Well, let me give you the data.

MORGAN: You're a businessman.

ROMNEY: Let me give you the data.

MORGAN: Has it worked?

ROMNEY: The answer is yes. Some parts worked well, some parts didn't work well.

MORGAN: Has it cost more --

ROMNEY: When you --

MORGAN: Has it cost more money each year to implement RomneyCare?

ROMNEY: Well, it's about -- I understand it's about one percent of the state budget. It should cost no additional money from what we were previously spending. And so it costs more than it should.

It's about one percent of the budget. It's not breaking the state's checkbook. But the interesting thing was, for instance, this weekend, a poll was carried out by "The Boston Globe." People in the state favor the program three to one. It's not a big burning issue in the state of Massachusetts.

So let different states come up with their own plans. I would do a number of things. One is to return to the states the responsibility for caring for their own uninsured in the way they think best. That's consistent with the Constitution, with the ten -- Tenth Amendment. That's the right approach.

And, secondly, I'd let individuals be able to buy their own insurance on a tax advantage basis, the way companies do today. We discriminate against small businesses and individuals.

MORGAN: Just to conclude, here's -- here's my problem. I actually liked your idea.

ROMNEY: Good.

MORGAN: RomneyCare. And I quite like ObamaCare. You know, just to declare my colors.

ROMNEY: Not good.

MORGAN: I come from a country where we have the National Health Service. Everyone gets...

ROMNEY: That's terrible.

MORGAN: Actually, it works very well for most people. But let's not get into that debate, because it's -- we're not in Britain. But the point is, I -- I'd love to be -- I'm one -- I'm in favor of this. What I'm not in favor is a view, for political reasons now, trying to pretend that somewhere it's massively different...

ROMNEY: Piers, you know --

MORGAN: -- to President Obama's.

ROMNEY: You know, I ran for office four years ago, when -- when our plan in Massachusetts was considered by Republicans to be net-net potentially a plus. It wasn't a negative. I ran for office. We already had RomneyCare in place.

And at that time, people asked me, would you use your RomneyCare and -- and have a federal program just like it? And I said, absolutely not. It would volatile the Constitution and states have differences that you have to accommodate.

MORGAN: But in terms of the ideology, are Republicans who say that it's wrong to take those who can't afford the insurance, to mandate them into getting some form of insurance, are they wrong?

ROMNEY: You said a couple of things there. One is, do people have personal responsibility to care for themselves?

Yes, in my view.

MORGAN: But if they can't afford it...

ROMNEY: Well, if they can't -- we obviously can't mandate somebody to do something if they can't afford it and we didn't.

States have the capacity to encourage their citizens to take personal responsibility. And, by the way, the nice thing about a -- a system like ours, with a federalist approach, is that different states can reach different answers. You don't want to have Barack Obama and his colleagues, or even Mitt Romney and my friends, to impose on the nation one person's view of how our health care system ought to work.

MORGAN: We're going to take a short break and we'll be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: And tomorrow night, more fascinating revelations from Mitt Romney in my exclusive interview. Listen to what he says about his Mormon faith and what he doesn't say about homosexuality.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: I'm not a spokesman for my church. And one thing I'm not going to do in running for president is become a spokesman for my church, or apply a religious test, which simply is forbidden by the Constitution.

I'm not going there. So I can tell you, if you want to learn more about my church, talk to my church. If you learn what I would do as president --

MORGAN: Let me ask you then, do you personally think homosexuality is a sin?

ROMNEY: Nice try. But I'm not going to get into --

MORGAN: It's a valid question.

ROMNEY: It's a valid question and my answer is nice try.

MORGAN: Nice try on what?

ROMNEY: I'm going to tell you that as a leader of the American people, I will do everything in my power to treat all people with respect and dignity, and to -- and to advance the rights people have to choose their own course in life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: More from Mitt Romney tomorrow night. Also, I've got Ann Coulter on the show, which honestly I'm rather looking forward to. Ann Coulter, no holds barred tomorrow night.

And next Monday, don't forget the Republican presidential primary here on CNN, live, beginning at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. That's all for tonight. Now here's Anderson Cooper with "AC 360."