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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

The Latest from Libya; Interview with Jon Huntsman

Aired August 22, 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: Anderson, thanks very much.

Let me go straight to -- live -- CNN's Sara Sidner, in the coastal city of Zawiya.

Sara, if you can hear me, I know there's been problems with communication here, what is the latest there right now?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We were hearing loud booms, loud blasts, a lot of rapid gunfire. We saw tracer rounds coming over our heads very, very close to us, literally right over us. We had to take cover.

And so, we started to wonder what exactly was going on, if there was some sort of fight that started up again in this town, which is just about 30 miles from Tripoli. As it turned out as the night went on, even though that went on about an hour and a half, we finally got in touch with rebel sources who told us, no, actually they are celebrating. Yes, they're blowing of things like mortars but they are celebrating still in Zawiya.

What we do know, though, there were gun battles in the city of Tripoli today. We drove into the main drag from the west, the Street known as Girgeris (ph). That is where a lot of businesses normally are, a lot of commerce takes place and some neighborhoods.

We drove straight down towards Green Square and we were stopped in the evening because they were telling us that we couldn't go any further. We could hear gunfire. The rebels telling us that there were snipers in the area, that the situation was very tense, that they were at one point surrounded but that they were fighting their way out of that and that is the last we heard on that situation there in the center of the city -- very close also to the Gadhafi compound there and to the hotel where a lot of the international journalists are housed -- Piers.

MORGAN: Sara, I mean, one of the big problems here is watching yesterday the dramatic events, and you were particularly heroic with the reporting you were doing, you got a sense of the rebels overthrowing Tripoli and making the final charge on Gadhafi. But today, the situation seems to be changing again pretty dramatically.

And we saw earlier, Moammar Gadhafi's son, Saif al-Islam appearing at the Rixos Hotel. He claims that Tripoli is still under his family's control. He says that his father is safe and well.

Matthew Chance, who's our guy inside the hotel, actually talked to Gadhafi's son, Saif, and took a photograph of him.

So, it would appear that the story that was being put out by the rebels yesterday, that at least two of the sons were in custody, was probably untrue. Is that right?

SIDNER: Well, what we are hearing from the rebels is that, yes, they had hold of all three of the sons and now, they're saying hold on, Mohammed -- one of his sons -- Mohammed Gadhafi has escaped.

How did that happen? We have no idea. We don't have the details on that, but we do have reporting that he has escaped rebel clutches and now you're seeing Saif, who is able to make it to the hotel to talk with the international correspondents there, including our Matthew Chance who is holed up in the hotel.

MORGAN: Yes, Sara, I'm very interrupt --

SIDNER: It was very, very disconcerting.

MORGAN: Sara, I'm sorry to interrupt you, but we've actually got Matthew now. We've got a link to him live at the Rixos Hotel.

Matthew Chance, if you can hear me, obviously, another very tense day for you and the journalists in there. You had this extraordinary encounter with Saif Gadhafi. Tell me what happened.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was very strange indeed, Piers. (AUDIO BREAK). He was expected at a press conference earlier in the evening, at about 11:30 in the night local time. But, you know, we were told he was going to turn up and give us a little briefing, which would have been surprising obviously.

But he didn't turn up, he was a no-show so we all assumed this was just spin on the part of the Gadhafi regime, that he really was in custody of the rebels. But they insisted that he wasn't.

So, then, you know, a few hours later, 1:30 in the morning here local time, so a couple of hours ago now. And, you know, there was all this kerfuffle in the lobby of the hotel. I was woken up out of my room, ran downstairs and everyone was pointing at this white armored Land Cruiser saying, Saif, he's in there, he's in there.

So I walked up and knocked on the door, he was about to drive off. I knocked on the door. It opened up and I said, Saif, I need to see you with my own eyes. I leaned in and turned on the light on the ceiling on the back seat of this Land Cruiser and there he was.

So, I took a photograph of him. I asked him about where his father was. He said all of his family are in Tripoli. He went on to say it was all a trick, the rebels coming into Tripoli. That we've now broken their backbone and we've given them a hard time.

He then invited me to get into the car and to drive around Tripoli so he could prove how much it was under the government's control. But before I had a chance to do that, the door closed and he drove off. But it was quite incredible because as we've been discussing, we all thought the rebels had reported that the ICC, the International Criminal Court in The Hague had confirmed, we believed, that he was in the custody of the rebels. But he's not, he's free and he's driving around Tripoli, Piers.

MORGAN: Yes. I mean, it does raise into question the credibility of statements by the rebels, unquestionably. What do you think is really going on here? How much can we believe? How much is spin from the rebels?

Do you actually believe that either of these sons were ever in proper custody or were we just spun a yarn here?

CHANCE: Yes, it's difficult to say in this place, isn't it, because one correspondent who's been here much longer than me said that, you know, the thing is about Libya, the trouble with reporting it is that lying is the national sport. Obviously, that was a little tongue in cheek.

But, you know, the fact is both sides in this conflict have been, you know, spinning us a line. Both sides have been exaggerating. Both sides have been telling us untruths.

And it's been very difficult all along for the whole -- for the past six months. It's been very difficult, sort of picking through that and trying to get to the truth or as close to it as we can. This was another, you know, really vivid example of that, Piers.

MORGAN: Matthew Chance and Sara Sidner, we'll come back to you a little later on, but thank you for now.

Joining me now is Ibrahim Dabbashi. He was Moammar Gadhafi's deputy ambassador to the U.N. and now works for the rebels. Also, Mahmoud Shamam, who is a spokesman for the National Transitional Council, who's on the phone from Tunisia.

I suppose let me start with you, Mr. Ambassador. You know Colonel Gadhafi well. He has vowed to die as a martyr at the end. What do you think is now happening in Tripoli? Do you think he's still there?

IBRAHIM DABBASHI, FMR. DEP. PERMANENT REP. OF LIBYA TO THE U.N.: Well, I think the capital of Tripoli is mostly under the control of the revolutionary forces. But certainly, Gadhafi is there in Tripoli somewhere hiding in underground shelters he built over the last decades.

I think this is the safest place for him, so I don't expect him to leave Tripoli in any way.

MORGAN: But, obviously, there are mixed reports now coming out of Tripoli. Yesterday, it appeared the rebels were surging to victory against Gadhafi, but we were also told they captured two of Moammar Gadhafi's sons. That now is clearly untrue.

How much do you now believe from what the rebels are telling us? DABBASHI: Well, I think it is not completely untrue, because I think Mohammed Gadhafi was really in the hands of the opposition forces and they gave him -- they guaranteed his security and his safety and left him at home and then he escaped.

Anyway, I think maybe there is -- there is something wrong with the security system of the opposition certainly. But it is understandable in a city like Tripoli, a very large city with two -- almost 2 million inhabitants and with the opposition forces coming, many of them from the outside of the city, so mistakes can take place.

But anyway, I am not sure whether Saif al Islam was in the hands of the opposition or not, but Mohammed, certainly, he was in their hands.

MORGAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador.

I've actually got Reza Aslan here who's an expert in all this.

Reza, put this in some kind of context for us because clearly disinformation as one of the people said there is part of life in Libya. It's very important for the credibility, I guess, of everyone involved here that we can believe what we've been told by the rebels.

What do you make of what's going on?

REZA ASLAN, MIDDLE EAST EXPERT: Well, obviously, there is a lot of confusion, a lot of misinformation going on here. It's hard to know who's got the upper hand.

But I think there's one thing we can be absolutely certain about. Six months ago, Moammar Gadhafi controlled the entire country. Today, he controls a few scattered neighborhoods in Tripoli.

So, the end is near. Whether it happens in the next 24 hours or 48 hours or what have you, I think it's fairly clear at this moment that it's beginning to start -- it's time to start thinking about what happens next. What's Libya going to look like post-Gadhafi?

MORGAN: Are we at that stage yet? Because it seems extraordinary to me and most impartial observers that you could capture two of Gadhafi's sons as the Libyan rebel force and simply lose them.

ASLAN: I think Matthew Chance said it best. I mean, this is a country that because it's been under the control of a single man for so many years, it's really taken on his personality. It is a paranoid country. It's a schizophrenic country in many ways. And you are going to have a hard time getting the truth.

Now, I will say that the journalists in the Rixos Hotel are in a perfect position right now to sort of get through the cacophony and the noise and figure out exactly what's going on. So, I think a lot will be cleared up in the immediate future.

MORGAN: Do you feel we're at the end game now? Do you feel that Moammar Gadhafi's position is basically over and we're just watching the beginning of the end? ASLAN: It's hard to imagine a scenario whereby the Gadhafi loyalists manage to actually regain control over Tripoli, let alone over the entire country. I think it's fairly clear at this point that this is the end for Gadhafi.

MORGAN: And once he goes -- I mean, we've seen this issue in places like Egypt. It's all very well getting rid of these dictators, whatever you want to call them, after the long periods of time. The problem then is what do you put in their place?

What is going to happen in Libya to reassure the world that we're actually into a better situation for Libyan people?

ASLAN: And the situation, of course, is much worse in Libya than it was in Egypt where you had at least the centralized military that could really form the backbone of a post-revolutionary society. Nothing like that exists in Libya.

You know, one of the things that's remarkable is that the NTC, the National Transitional Council, has managed to maintain a sense of unity, despite the fact that you're talking about former regime loyalists, Islamists, expats, a whole group of militias, young revolutionaries. The only thing that these guys have in common is the common bond to get rid of Gadhafi.

But once Gadhafi is gone, you can expect that fracturing, that fragmentation, is going to rise to the surface.

MORGAN: I mean, obviously, America has played a fairly I wouldn't say lukewarm role but certainly not as full on as they would normally be in this situation. Can you see a situation where if it gets completely out of control, though, the Americans will have to go in more harder and more people on the ground?

ASLAN: Under no circumstances is that going to happen. I think, you know, that this idea of leading from behind, as it's been called, I think Ben Smith had a great article in "Politico" talking about how it actually works. That it's a fairly inexpensive, fairly multi-national way of doing interventions. I think the entire six-month NATO campaign cost American taxpayers $1 billion, which is about a day in Iraq.

It seemed to have worked just fine for Obama doing it this way. And I can't imagine that he'll want to take a more active role. I think boots on the ground, absolutely out of the question.

MORGAN: What about this sort of ongoing fear that when he's cornered, finally, Gadhafi, that he has the kind of mentality, something crazy, that he may do something really horrific? Do you have any credence to those kinds of reports?

ASLAN: Yes, we've talked about this before, you and I. You know, we like to talk about dictators and megalomaniacs like Gadhafi as being crazy, but in Gadhafi's case, we mean it quite literally. This is an unstable man. He is not someone who is thinking clearly. And whereas maybe 24 hours ago, 48 hours ago, there was some hope of some kind of negotiated settlement whereby Gadhafi could perhaps go to Zimbabwe, maybe South Africa or maybe Venezuela, I think that time is now over.

I can't for the life of me, Piers, figure out how this ends without Gadhafi in a body bag.

MORGAN: And what timing are we looking at do you think for this to be completed? When is Gadhafi going to be gone, do you think, looking at the situation as it is now?

ASLAN: I mean with the rebels in control of from what I understand some 80 percent of the capital city of Tripoli, it's only a matter of time. I see things moving very rapidly at this point. Though let's be clear, it's not over.

We're talking about this being over, we're talking about the rebels having captured Tripoli and talking about what's next. These are important questions but it's not over yet.

MORGAN: It's not over and he's been there 43 years, and he's not going to go without one hell of a fight. He's always made clear.

Reza, thank you very much.

ASLAN: Thank you.

MORGAN: When we come back, one of the worst crimes of the Gadhafi regime, the Lockerbie bombing. I'll talk to a woman who lost her husband on Pan Am flight 103.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)

MORGAN: For many Americans, the name Gadhafi will be forever linked to Lockerbie, the terror attack that killed 270 people in 1988 and now, New York Senator Chuck Schumer is calling for the mastermind of that attack, Ali al-Megrahi, to go back to prison.

Joining me now, a woman who lost her husband in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, Victoria Cummock.

Mrs. Cummock, thank you very much for joining me again.

What is your reaction to what we're seeing in Libya?

VICTORIA CUMMOCK, LOST HUSBAND ON PAN AM 103: Well, I'm elated to see the progress that the freedom fighters have made. In the last six months, these people have done more to pursue Moammar Gadhafi and take him out of power and out of business than our government or any of the world superpowers have done in over 22 years.

You have to remember that only seven months ago, these were average, ordinary Libyan citizens who had the majority of them, 95 percent of them had never held a weapon in their hand. They're students, they're plumbers, they're doctors, they're people from all walks of life who courageously took up this fight and not had any military training. And here we are at a very pivotal time in our history with Libya.

This is the closest that we will -- we have come in 22 years to bringing Moammar Gadhafi to justice and holding him accountable for the mass murder of our loved ones and hundreds of people across the world.

MORGAN: Elated though you were by the progress of the rebels. Were you disheartened to hear that two of Gadhafi's sons, having been in some form of custody, are now liberated again and are no longer in custody?

CUMMOCK: Well, this is a very fluid situation. And you have, as I said, these were ordinary people that seven months ago had no military training and, you know, were not organized. I think they have done a phenomenal job.

What the nuances are of who they have in custody and how they are being reported, whether they are in custody or not, I think the fact that 90 percent of the country is under the freedom fighters or the rebels' control and we're closer to bringing this man, who has been a brutal dictator and killed thousands of his own people, as well as many of our family members to justice.

You have to understand that the world superpowers have had 22 years of opportunity to hold him accountable. Not one indictment has ever been issued against Moammar Gadhafi. Not one indictment has ever been issued to anyone in the Gadhafi regime.

Our government has never tried to prosecute him. All the energy of the U.S. government and the U.K. government frankly has been to do commerce. Moammar Gadhafi years ago was actually rewarded for everything that he had done with billions of dollars of oil contracts.

You should go to my Web site, betrayalforoil.com and see what has happened in order to pursue justice and accountability with Moammar Gadhafi. What these people have done, the freedom fighters have done right now up until this point in only six months is phenomenal. Our only concern at this point --

MORGAN: Excuse me, may I ask you just very quickly, because we're running out of time here. If you had a choice in the way that the American SEALs had a choice with Osama bin Laden of killing Moammar Gadhafi or bringing him back to justice, which would you prefer?

CUMMOCK: Moammar Gadhafi should be brought to justice and I think that it's important that the U.S. government does not try to broker a deal to find him asylum or grant him immunity, but he should be adjudicated either in the Libyan -- in the Libyan judicial system that needs to be revamped or with the international criminal court.

You have to understand, though, that the U.S. government is not a member of the International Criminal Court. So, we really need to rely on the Libyan people or the International Criminal Court to bring these people to justice, the Gadhafi regime.

MORGAN: Victoria, thank you very much for your time. Thank you.

CUMMOCK: Thank you for your interest.

MORGAN: We'll have more on the battle of Tripoli, coming up.

But, next, my exclusive one on one with a man who wants to be your next president, Jon Huntsman.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORGAN: Governor Huntsman, let me start, I suppose, with the obvious question.

Here you are at a great time in your life. You've got a lovely family. You're financially secure. You've had an amazing career. There are many things you could do.

Why on earth would you possibly want to go into the cauldron of being president of the United States?

JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you questioning by judgment or what?

MORGAN: I'm already questioning your judgment.

HUNTSMAN: We've just gotten to know each other for heaven's sake.

Because I love this country. Because I think the people of the United States of America have had enough in the way of hope and hype. And I refuse to see the end of the American century. This is the greatest nation that ever was.

And we're about to the first time ever to hand it down to the next generation less good, less productive, less competitive, saddled with debt. And that totally is unacceptable.

And if you come from the vantage point of having served in a position like governor, lived overseas four times, been ambassador three times, once to our most important relationship -- if you've got something to bring to the table that speaks to where we are in history. We're a center right nation. I'm a center right candidate. I think I've got pragmatic and practical solutions.

If you don't step up and do what Teddy Roosevelt would have advocated, get in the arena, it says something about you.

MORGAN: What is the Jon Huntsman for America?

HUNTSMAN: Preeminence with the United States. The world works better with a strong United States.

We are the only beacon of hope, the only safe haven for people who are fighting oppression abroad. We speak to democracy, we speak to human rights, we speak to liberty, we speak to free markets.

Our core is weak in this country.

MORGAN: Is the American dream still the same? Can it be the same as it used to be?

HUNTSMAN: Of course.

MORGAN: Or should the American dream be slightly reinvented for the modern world?

HUNTSMAN: The American dream is the same. We aspire to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The pursuit of happiness is jobs, it's entrepreneurship, it's the creative class in this country.

The problem is we have an environment that doesn't speak to perpetuating the creative class and entrepreneurship, bogged down in regulation, bogged down in taxation. Because of that what America has always been so good at and the ways in which we've always inspired the rest of the world isn't coming through.

The American Dream is there, although for I think a lot of people, they feel it's out of their reach. I hear that all the time. I can't get a loan because of the financial services regulations. Too much in the way of regulatory barriers, so why do it? Why run a risk? Why try to build something like they did the last generation?

MORGAN: And you were in China for a couple of years and you well know that when you compared bureaucracy in China to bureaucracy in America, one of the reasons that they are marching on, good or bad, whatever your view of it, is they are not consumed with red tape over every tiny thing they do. They just ignore it half the time, which is probably not healthy either.

But does America have a fundamental problem businesswise with the sheer volume of paperwork, red tape, legalese, stuff that I believe slows down modern business?

HUNTSMAN: In an autocratic system like China, there's plenty of red tape.

But their decision making at the top with a little board of directors called the standing committee of the politburo -- you've got nine guys effectively who are making decisions for the country. They don't deliberate. They don't take it to a larger body for approval. They just do it.

In our country, which really relies on freedom and democracy and the marketplace working, you create red tape and bureaucracy and regulation, you're dead. Our country doesn't work.

I mean, we are fueled by our creative class in this country. If our creative class is stalled, which it is today, you can't make America what it ought to be.

MORGAN: Governor, what do you think are the biggest misconceptions about you personally? Other than people saying you're boring?

HUNTSMAN: I'll disabuse them of that real fast.

(LAUGHTER)

HUNTSMAN: All they have to do is watch this interview and get to know me.

MORGAN: Exactly. Exactly.

HUNTSMAN: Probably that, you know, the guy was born with a silver spoon. You know, I like to say maybe it was a plastic spoon. We got into the plastics industry later on.

But, yes, I was born in the Navy. My dad was serving in the Navy at the time. And it was a very strong ethos that ran through at least my early years. You put on the uniform of the United States, you serve in other ways, you make the country a better place. There's no higher calling than serving your country.

MORGAN: What values did your father -- I know you're still very close to him. He's a hugely influential part of your life. What values did he instill in you?

HUNTSMAN: Hard work. I watched a great entrepreneur start up a company. It wasn't until much later in life that that company had any success at all, that we even had a family business.

So through the early years, I was raised in a very normal fashion, Southern California. My dad took a job with government back in Maryland. We settled in Utah. Pretty normal upbringing.

MORGAN: The bit I like about your early background, which is not commonly known I think, is that you dropped out of high school to be a rock star, to be the next Freddie Mercury. That alone dispels all sports of rumors.

HUNTSMAN: As you can see, it didn't work out so well. I did have the platform shoes and a lot of other things to show that we gave it best efforts.

MORGAN: What was the name of your band?

HUNTSMAN: Well, we had a lot of bands. But the last one, the good one was Wizard. You laugh.

MORGAN: Well, there's another Wizard of course. You had a competitor out there with a better name that had already been there.

HUNTSMAN: Well, we tried. It was during that period of art rock, you know, classical rock, the days of Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Yes. You know those bands well in the U.K. Rick Wakeman was my hero. Keith Emerson was my hero. And I thought -- I was always raised to follow your dreams. Go for it, go for the roses, be the best that you can be. I thought that we could make it in the music business. MORGAN: I wouldn't say that the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, governor, isn't necessarily compatible with a Mormon lifestyle, for example. Did you see a potential conflict arising had you pursued your dream?

HUNTSMAN: Donnie and Marie did OK.

MORGAN: There was an allegation -- and this is pretty damaging to you, I think, for any presidential hope -- that your real hero musically was Captain Beefheart. Now is that true?

HUNTSMAN: If you can tell me anything about Captain Beefheart, I'll give you an answer. But you can't.

MORGAN: I'm told you're the expert. I mean, to me, he was always a bit of a joke, but perhaps you can give me another spin on it.

HUNTSMAN: Let's just say he was avant-garde. He was discovered by Frank Zappa. That should tell you everything you need to know. But there was a period in time between 1968 and 1978, maybe the early '80s, where he was probably the most cutting edge avant-garde music, not for everybody's taste, but hey, I liked it. It brought out those creative juices.

MORGAN: You're the same kind of age of President Obama. I think you're a year older than him. You both come in on this likeable ticket. You both come in on a change ticket, I want America to be better. Lots of similarities people have drawn between you both as men, as human beings.

What Barack Obama has discovered is that the reality of being president is that it's pretty brutal and Washington is a brutal place. And you're going to get chewed up, spat out. Your hair is going to turn gray, which in your case isn't too big a problem because you're halfway there already. It's fine.

But it's a draining, relentless, pretty unpleasant job to have. Are you, Jon Huntsman, who is, by common consent, one of the nice guys in politics -- are you ready for that? Do you want to get your hands dirty in the grubbiness of running for high office and all that comes with it?

HUNTSMAN: We've come this far. I've raised seven kids. You want a challenge in life, you raise teenagers in today's environment. I've run for political office. I sat in the trenches of China, our most difficult and combative relationship. I bring a lot of experiences that most people never have when they come into the presidential fray.

Are you prepared for it? I ask one question and then I have my answer. And that is can your family stand by you through thick and thin? Are all of them, to a person, dedicated to mission and to purpose. And they are.

MORGAN: I interviewed Governor Chris Christie. He said that he didn't want to run this time because his family just weren't old enough or ready for all the pressure of a White House campaign. Your family, a lot of them are very young. Are they ready? Are you comfortable that they're ready?

HUNTSMAN: They have been raised in a public milieu, a public environment. They have seen the good and the bad. They have read the blogs that sometimes can be very painful. So you times that by 50 or 100. You know, the pain is the same basically, but they have been in that basic environment.

MORGAN: Obviously America is looking at all the candidates now. And what they're hearing is that the favorites are Bachman, Perry, Romney. They're not hearing Huntsman. Why is that and how do you change that?

HUNTSMAN: Well, it's early days. I mean, how many front runners have we had in this race so far, a race that hasn't even taken off yet. I think we've had four or five front runners.

MORGAN: When does it get real to you? When is the point when we should look at how you're performing and properly judge you?

HUNTSMAN: Not August. August is the dog days of summer. But you get into the fall season, you get close to the early primary states, people begin to tune in. They take a look at the candidates, they start inventorying where they are on the issues. And that's where they're going to say, that guy right there is a problem solver. That guy brings something to the table. He's been there and he's done that.

MORGAN: Take a short break and then come back and ask you about specifically your opponents in this Republican race, and what you think of the Tea Party generally, who I guess are as much your enemy as they are Barack Obama's right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HUNTSMAN: We will conduct this campaign on the high road. I don't think you need to run down someone's reputation in order to run for the office of president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Governor, let's talk about your opponents or potential opponents, the ones who declared so far.

HUNTSMAN: You really want to get me in trouble, do you?

MORGAN: I do, yes. I want you to be provocative, show a bit of fire in your belly.

HUNTSMAN: I've got that.

MORGAN: Shut down a few opponents here. You're, as everyone knows, Mr. Nice Guy. You said we will conduct this campaign on the high road. The problem with wanting to be on the high road is a lot of your competitors will not want to be on the high road. They're going to want to rip you to pieces. HUNTSMAN: Of course, that's politics. Let me tell you about the high road. It is unnatural in this country to be as divided as we are. What I was talking about in terms of civility -- listen, civility can coexist with the facts. You bring out the facts in a campaign. You compare and contrast with your candidates. That's totally fair.

But it is unnatural to be as divided as we are as Americans. We need to come together and we need to come together around some real solutions. We're going to disagree on the pathway in order to get there. But the bigger picture stuff, like the idea that we want to leave the country to the next generation in better shape than it is today, that's about coming together as people.

MORGAN: What is your honest view of the Tea Party? What's the one that you would say to a friend over dinner?

HUNTSMAN: I don't -- well, I tell you what I've told most people, if not everybody. And that is I think we're having discussions today about fiscal responsibility because of the Tea Party. It was a manifest -- and I saw this in China. You know, the rise of the Tea Party, a total manifestation of American democracy. You wouldn't se that happen anywhere else.

Rising up from different corners of the country, yelling and screaming about something they feel passionately about. I think it's good for the system. I really do. I think it's putting the kind of pressure on elected officials and narrowing the focus of debate around fiscal sanity and responsibility, which makes it good.

MORGAN: The problem, as we saw over the battle over the debt ceiling, a very spurious battle many would argue, is that if the Tea Party got into actual government, there is a sense that they would just never compromise with anybody. And normal process of government, given you all have to compromise, becomes paralyzed, as we saw over the debt ceiling route. And the victim in all that is America and its economy, as we saw.

HUNTSMAN: You've got to run the country at the end of the day. You've got to get out from our respective corners politically. And you've got to make a deal. You've got to make the country function. I was the only candidate who stood up on the debt ceiling debate and said this country shouldn't default. We should cut a deal that allows us not to -- we're 25 percent of the world's GDP.

MORGAN: So when you heard all the Tea Party candidates, to a man and woman, saying no compromise, presumably you think that is absolutely unacceptable.

HUNTSMAN: I thought it was the height of irresponsibility. The height of irresponsibility. We're 25 percent of the world's GDP. The United States of America, that has never defaulted before, just let it go over a cliff. You can imagine what the marketplace would have done in response.

The marketplace is trashing everybody right now. I mean, assets are under water, 401(k)s, retirement. You can only imagine what this country would look like today if we had defaulted. It was complete lunacy for people to even talk about that.

MORGAN: Do you have sympathy for Barack Obama, who's been a friend of yours personally? Do you have sympathy for him in the position he found himself in, where you have such an intransigent part of the republican party really just refusing to compromise?

HUNTSMAN: He appointed me and I stood up and took the appointment to serve my country. I love this country. You serve her. But in terms of any personal relationship, there's not a personal relationship. You know, you work for -- you work for your president when you're asked to serve.

He had two and a half years to get this country right. He had two and a half years to do the most important thing demanded by the American people, fix the economy, create an environment that is conducive to job growth. And he's failed us. He's a good man. He's earnest, but he has failed us on the most important issue of our day.

MORGAN: But if you're the Republican nominee, how are you going to control these Tea Party side of the GOP, because they are so intransigent. They have got their gander up. They have held the president to ransom successfully. They're all sitting there thinking we've got them on the run here.

HUNTSMAN: Well, I think they're going to say here's somebody who has a fiscally conservative world view, who basically cut taxes historically in his state, who created the most business friendly environment, who balanced his budgets, who comes from the private sector. All of that I think they're going to like.

Ultimately, the stamp of approval in 2012 is going to be around someone who can expand the economy, create jobs and get the country moving.

MORGAN: When Michele Bachmann speaks in public, how many times do you find yourself shaking your head? Where would you disagree with her?

HUNTSMAN: Well, on the debt ceiling. Let's just talk about the most fundamental of issues right there. Is there an issue more important than meeting our obligations as a country?

First and foremost, it's how we proceed in our responsibility as a country and meeting our obligations. That is about as fundamental as it gets.

MORGAN: The problem with running for president is that people want to see a fully rounded picture of the character of the man or woman that's going to be in the White House. For argument sake, a hot issue of this show, which was when I asked Christine O'Donnell about her view of gay marriage. And she simply walks out. Michele Bachmann has pretty strong views on that. What is your view?

HUNTSMAN: On gay marriage?

MORGAN: Yeah. HUNTSMAN: I believe in civil unions. I think we can do a better job in this country as it relates to equality and basic reciprocal beneficiary rights. I'm in favor of traditional marriage. I don't think you can redefine it without getting in trouble.

But I think along with that, we can have civil unions. I think this country has arrived at a point in time where we can show a little more equality and respect. Leave it to the states, I think it's a state issue that ought to be driven by discussions in various states. And you've got the Defense of Marriage Act that basically is a safeguard that allows that to happen.

MORGAN: What is your view of abortion?

HUNTSMAN: I am pro-life. I've got two little adopted girls who remind me every day about the value of life. Their mothers, for whatever reason, I'll never get to meet them, one from China, one from India. They chose life. They didn't have to. They lost their girls. They dropped them off. They were both born into extreme dire poverty circumstances.

We now have them in our family. And every day I look at the contributions they're making through their own lives and I appreciate that.

MORGAN: Do you think there are any circumstances where you would think an abortion is acceptable?

HUNTSMAN: Rape, incest and life of the mother would be the exceptions that I could live with.

MORGAN: When you see, again, intransigence by some of the -- particularly the Tea Party end of the Republican party on this kind of thing, do you think again that it's bordering on bigotry?

HUNTSMAN: All I have to say -- I don't have a lot of patience on a lot of the non-economic issues. People know where I am. I'm pro- life. I'm pro Second Amendment. But this country is collapsing economically. And every minute we spend talking about non-economic issues is to me something that is not a good use of our time.

MORGAN: Governor, when we come back, I want to talk to you about all the men and women who are now lining up against you on the Republican field, whether you would ever consider being a running mate for one of them, and who you might like as a running mate yourself from the pool.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Rick Perry came out swinging last weekend. He said that the Fed should show a few more teeth. He was attacking Bernanke. He was giving them all full barrels. Would you endorse what he said?

HUNTSMAN: No. You know, I don't think you can call the head of the Fed treasonous and expect to be taken seriously. I don't think people who are going to vote for a president are going to hear that sound bite and say that represents serious thinking on the part of a presidential candidate.

Now, you can fault the Fed. They have only got so many tools with which to draw their policy options. But treasonous I think is a little bit beyond. But again, it gets to my point. We've got these, you know, political sideshows going on at a time when we've got to get serious about fixing our tax code, about this regulatory reign of terror that we've had, about energy independence, about fixing Afghanistan.

We've got some core issues we've got to get right, or this country is going to continue to sink.

MORGAN: The candidate I'm most curious about in relation to your relationship with him is Mitt Romney. You've been long-time rivals. You look both very presentable and wholesome, typical classic Republican guys. Big families, both Mormons, a lot of similarities there, both determined to focus, as you say, laser-like on the economy, and both with good records on the economy.

What is your view of Mitt Romney. Do you like him?

HUNTSMAN: I don't know him that well. I got to know him as governor. Or my grandfather and his father knew each other 100 years ago. I respect him. I think he's a good man and I think he's got a terrific family.

But when it comes to going up against Barack Obama, in an election cycle that is going to be 100 percent about expanding the economy and creating jobs, being number 47 as job creator ain't going to cut it. We were number one in job creation. I think that works.

Creating Obama Care before Obama, the most despised and reviled health care legislation in the history of this country, doesn't cut it. And I think that will be terribly problematic.

MORGAN: I mean, you said it in a very nice way. But what you're basically doing is knifing him straight in the back, aren't you?

HUNTSMAN: I'm just pointing out the facts.

MORGAN: You've just taken a large scabbard and gone straight down.

HUNTSMAN: It's on the record. It's discussed in every debate on every talk show. It's the reality of where we are.

MORGAN: I'm not criticizing. If I was you, I'd do the same. But what I'm saying is you clearly have it in you?

HUNTSMAN: I'm glad to get your endorsement, Piers.

MORGAN: Let's not go that far, governor. It's a long way until the race.

HUNTSMAN: Give me time.

MORGAN: I think the interesting thing about the pair of you is that it may well come down to a choice between you and Mitt Romney. Why should we choose you over Mitt Romney?

HUNTSMAN: How about first in job creation versus 47th? How about a free-market approach to health care reform, as opposed to a heavy- handed, Obama-like mandate? How about experience overseas in a time of great uncertainty and trouble? Intimate knowledge of our most significant economic relationship and most significant strategic challenge?

I think these are all reasons that will, in the minds of voters, be differentiators. They should be differentiators.

MORGAN: Could you ever imagine running as a running mate to someone like Mitt Romney?

HUNTSMAN: There would be too many jokes about that. No, I can't imagine it at all.

MORGAN: What about to a Tea Party candidate?

HUNTSMAN: You know, anyone who is going to --

MORGAN: If Michele Bachmann continued to get real traction, and she came to you and said, look, you're the other part of the party. Together we can create sweet music. Could you countenance such an idea?

HUNTSMAN: Captain Beefheart music, I assume you're talking. You know, if you love this country, you serve this country. Every time I've been asked to serve over different administrations, from Reagan to the two Bushes to President Obama, I have the same answer and that is -- if you love this country, you serve her.

And so if you're in a position to better the country, to bring whatever background you have to bear, whatever experiences to use in fine-tuning our future, I'll be the first person to sign up, absolutely.

MORGAN: You see, that's an unusual admission, I would say. I think it's to you're credit. But it will get headlines. People will pick up on that and say, Jon Huntsman says yes, I'd happily serve under Michele Bachmann. There's a kind of I wouldn't say an admission of potential defeat. But you're at least acknowledging that it could happen, that you may not be the guy.

HUNTSMAN: This is a hypothetical conversation. And I give you more or less, a hypothetical answer. That's OK. We're going to win. And I have no doubt about that. I think we have the background. I think we have the temperament. I think we're right on the issues. And I think we're at the center right of the political scale, which is exactly where this country is. So I don't worry about that.

MORGAN: If you do win, the way that you may end up getting the nomination is if you actually said, you know what? I would take someone like Michele Bachmann as my running mate, because the Tea Party need to be recognized for all the work they have done for this party in the last two or three years. HUNTSMAN: The Tea Party has framed the issues. They framed it well.

MORGAN: Shouldn't they be rewarded with a seat at the right hand?

HUNTSMAN: Everybody knows -- I think they're rewarded by people who they elect and put into Congress.

MORGAN: You wouldn't rule out Michele Bachmann?

HUNTSMAN: I'm not playing the name game at all. I'm going to do what's right for my country.

MORGAN: You have already said you might be hers. The least you can do is turn the favor.

HUNTSMAN: At the right time, we'll have this conversation with hopefully a very strong list of potential candidates. I hope we're in that position to be able to do the analysis. I think we will be.>

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MORGAN: Tomorrow night, Jon Huntsman on China and my conversation with a woman who knows him better than most, his wife, Mary Kay.

Part two of our exclusive interview tomorrow.

And coming up next, the latest breaking news out of Libya.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Straight back to Libya, where senior international correspondent for CNN Matthew Chance is live. Just a little while ago, he spoke to Muammar Gadhafi 's son, Saif al Islam, who was in custody, but is now free again, at Tripoli's Rixios (ph) Hotel. Saif Gadhafi claims Tripoli is under his family's control still and says his father is safe and well.

Matthew Chance joins me to now bring me up to date. Matthew, how dangerous is it where you are? We keep hearing of gunfights outside the hotel, et cetera. What is the situation?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The situation now is pretty calm. There have been some ferocious gun battles over the course of the past 24 hours around this Rixios Hotel in the center of Tripoli. A short distance away is Colonel Gadhafi's compound.

There have been ferocious battle between these rebels and the Gadhafi loyalists there as well. But as we speak now, Piers, the situation has calmed somewhat. I think it shows that the government do have firm control, at least over this area of Tripoli.

Just to pick up on something you said, that one of the points that Saif Gadhafi made was that he was never in detention. He was never picked up by the rebels. That was just what he called a lie put out by them. MORGAN: Obviously we don't know who's really lying here, do we? All we do know is what you've seen with your own eyes. He's clearly is a free man. And that in itself is a propaganda victory for the Gadhafi family right now.

CHANE: It is. It's a huge P.R. coup. We don't know whether the rebels did take him into custody at some point or not. But we do know, as you say, he's not in custody now. And if there is a suspicion that the rebels lied about this, then it opens the question about what we can believe about what they've been telling us.

For instance, they've been saying they control 80 or 90 percent of Tripoli, but we know there are areas, quite -- areas, pockets of this capitol which are not under rebel control, but which are under the control of Gadhafi loyalists still, Piers.

MORGAN: Matthew, continue your excellent reporting there. Stay safe. It's a very chaotic scene. And we'll come back to you again tomorrow.

That's all for us tonight. Tomorrow, more from my exclusive interview with presidential candidate Jon Huntsman. Some surprising revelations from the man himself. And "AC 360" starts right now.