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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

Interview of Piers Morgan with Presidential Candidate, Jon Huntsman;

Aired September 4, 2011 - 21:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, a man who wants to be our next president.

JON HUNTSMAN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to win and I have no doubt about that.

MORGAN: Is Jon Huntsman the real deal?

JON HUNTSMAN: I was the only candidate who stood up on the debt ceiling debate and said this country shouldn't default.

MORGAN: Can a Republican who favors civil unions to gay couples, favors evolution and global warming? But President Obama's ambassador to China, buck the tea party time and be a serious candidate.

JON HUNTSMAN: I'm just going to stick laser like to the issues that really matter to the American people right now and will be totally responsible for getting us back, back in the game.

MORGAN: Is Jon Huntsman the most radical thing of all in the GOP? A true moderate.

JON HUNTSMAN: I'm just the right candidate. I think I've got pragmatic and practical solutions.

MORGAN: Tonight Jon Huntsman one on one for the hour.

JON HUNTSMAN: Piers, I'm in it to win and I promise I won't walk off.

This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

(END 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: Are you questioning my judgment or what?

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: I'm already questioning your judgment.

JON HUNTSMAN: We've just got 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 for 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'll 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 vision for America?

JON HUNTSMAN: Pre-eminence for 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? Or should the American dream be slightly re- invented for the modern world?

JON HUNTSMAN: The American dream is the same. We aspire to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The pursuit of happiness is jobs, its 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 is out of their reach. I hear that al the time. "I can't get a loan because of the financial services regulation," "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: You worked in China for a couple of years and you well know that when you compare bureaucracy to 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 business wise with the sheer volume of paperwork, red tape; legalese stuff that I believe slows down modern business?

JON 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 poet there 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. We are fueled by our creative class in this country. And 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?

(LAUGHTER)

JON HUNTSMAN: Well, all of these obvious real fast. All they have to do is watch this interview and get to know me.

MORGAN: Exactly.

JON 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 industrial later on. But 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 another nation. You make the country a better place. There's no higher calling than serving your country.

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

JON HUNTSMAN: Hard work. I watched a great entrepreneur start up a company. And it wasn't until much later in life that that can be 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: I mean 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. I mean that alone dispels all sorts of rumors.

JON HUNTSMAN: As you can see, it didn't work out so well.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: I'm not looking necessary for that. JON HUNTSMAN: I did have the platform shoes and other things to show that we gave it the best efforts.

MORGAN: What was the name of your band?

JON HUNTSMAN: We had a lot of bands but the last one, the good one, was wizard. You laugh.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: Well, there's another wizard, of course. I mean you had a competitor out there with birdie name. They'd already been there.

JON 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. (Inaudible) was my hero, Keith Emerson was my hero. And I thought you know I was always raised to follow your dreams, go for it, go for the roses, be the best that you can be and 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. Did you see potential conflict arising?

JON HUNTSMAN: Donny and Marie did OK.

(LAUGHTER)

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

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

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: You're the expert. I mean to me he was always a bit of a joke but perhaps you can give me another -

JON HUNTSMAN: Let's just say he was Avant-garde. He was he was discovered by Frank Zappa that should tell you everything you know about the Captain Beefheart.

(LAUGHTER) JON HUNTSMAN: But there was a period maybe 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 like it. It brought up those creative juices.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: You're the same kind of age as President Obama. I think you are a year older than him. You both come in on this likable 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 it is pretty brutal and Washington is a brew it will place. And you're going to get chewed up, spat out, your hair is going to turn gray, which in your case is not too big a problem, it is half-way there already. But it is fine that it is 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 hand dirty in the grubbiness of running for high office and all that comes with it?

JON 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 run for political office. I've 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: When I interviewed Governor Chris Christie, he said that he didn't want to run this time because his family just weren't old enough already 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?

JON HUNTSMAN: They have been raised in a public environment. They've seen the good, the bad. They've 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've 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 Bachmann, Perry, Romney, They're not hearing Huntsman. Why is that and how do you change that?

JON HUNTSMAN: Well, its early days. I mean how many front- runners have we had in this race so far, a race that hasn't even taken of 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 it?

JON 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 will begin to tune in, they take a look at candidates, they start inventorying where they are on the issues and that's where they're going to say that's, 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, 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)

JON 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 have declared so far.

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

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

JON HUNTSMAN: Oh, got that, got that.

MORGAN: Shoot down a few opponents here. I mean you're, as everyone knows, mister nice guy you say in the bumped, "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 are going to try to rip you to pieces.

JON HUNTSMAN: Of course, that's politics. But 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, that civility can co-exist with the facts. You know you bring out facts in the campaign. You compare and contrast with the 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 you know in order to get there but the bigger picture stuff, like the idea that we want to leave the country to the next generation better than it is today, that's coming together as people.

MORGAN: What is your honest view of the tea party? What is something that you would say to a friend over dinner?

JON HUNTSMAN: I don't - well, I'll tell you what I told most people, if not everybody. And that is you know 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 see that happen anywhere else. Rising up from different corners of the country, yelling and screaming about something they feel passionately about. I think it is good for the system. I really do. I think it is 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 though, as we saw over the battle over the debt ceiling, and 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. And the victim in all that are America and its economy, as we saw.

JON 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 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 default. We're 25 percent of the world's GDP.

MORGAN: So when you heard all the tea party candidates to a man or woman saying no compromise, presumably you think that is completely unacceptable.

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

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 he had such an intransigent part of the Republican Party really just refusing to compromise?

JON 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 is not a personal relationship. You know you work for your president when 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 the tea party side of the GOP? Because they are so, intransigent. They've got (inaudible). They felt the president to ransom successfully they're all sitting there thinking we've all got them on the run here.

JON 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 budget, who comes from the private sector. All of that I think they're going to like and ultimately you know 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?

JON HUNTSMAN: Well, on the debt ceiling. Let's talk about the most fundamental of issues right there. Is there an issue more important than meeting our obligations as a country? I mean first and foremost, it's how we proceed in our responsibilities 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, take the 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?

JON HUNTSMAN: On gay marriage?

MORGAN: Yes.

JON 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 is a state issue that ought to be driven by discussions in various states an you've got the defense of marriage act that's basically a safeguard that allows that to happen.

MORGAN: What is your view of abortion?

JON HUNTSMAN: I am pro life. I mean 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 and I respect it.

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

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

MORGAN: When you see again intransigents by some of the particularly the tea party and of the Republican Party on this kind of thing, do you think again that it's bordering on bigotry? JON 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 in 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?

JON 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. You know, they've 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 political side shows going on at a time when we've got to bet 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 the same.

MORGAN: The candidate I'm most curious about is your relationship with Mitt Romney. You've been long-time rivals. You look both very presentable, very wholesome, typical classic Republican guys. Big families, both Mormons, 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 s your view of Mitt Romney? Do you like him?

JON HUNTSMAN: You know 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 is 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? And being number 47 as job creator will not 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've said it in a very nice way but what you're basically doing is knifing him straight in the back, aren't you?

JON HUNTSMAN: I'm just pointing out the facts, just pointing out the facts.

MORGAN: Yes, but you've just taken a large -

JON HUNTSMAN: It's on the record. It's on the record. It's discussed in every debate on every talk show and it is the reality -

MORGAN: I'm not criticizing you and if I was you, I would do the same. What I'm saying is you clearly have it in you.

JON HUNTSMAN: I'm glad to get your endorsement.

MORGAN: Let's not go that far, governor. Let's wait, it's a long race.

JON HUNTSMAN: Give me time, give me time. Get over that boring thing and we will get -

MORGAN: But I think the interesting about the Para view thing, is that you know it may well come down to a choice between you and Mitt Romney. Why should they choose you over Mitt Romney?

JON HUNTSMAN: How about first in job creation versus 47th? How about a free market in health care reform as opposed to a heavy-handed Obama 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 and they should be differentiators.

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

(LAUGHTER)

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

MORGAN: What about to a tea party candidate?

JON HUNTSMAN: You know, anyone who's going -

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 here. Together we can create sweet music. Could you entertain such idea?

JON HUNTSMAN: Captain Beefheart music, I assume you are talking about. 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 and 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 is to your credit that you've done it. But it will get headlines you know. And people will pick up on that and say Jon Huntsman says, yes, I'd happily serve under Michele Bachmann. As a kind of, I wouldn't say the mission of potential be at least acknowledging defeat could happen, that you may not be the guy.

JON 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've got the background, I think we have the temperament, I think we're right at the issues and I think we are the center right of the political scale which is exactly where this country is.

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 needs to be recognized for all the work they have done for this party in the last two or three years.

JON HUNTSMAN: The tea party has framed the issues. They framed it well.

MORGAN: Shouldn't they be rewarded for -

(CROSSTALK)

JON HUNTSMAN: I think they are rewarded by people who they elect and put into congress.

MORGAN: You wouldn't rule out Michele Bachmann?

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

MORGAN: You've already said that you might be hers. The least you can do is return the favor.

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

MORGAN: I want to come back after the break and talk about why President Obama said that you were the yin to his yang.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I'm sure he will be very successful in whatever endeavors he chooses in the future and I'm sure that in having worked so well with me, he will be a great asset in any Republican primary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: The president did say at gridiron dinner in March, I'm a little biased toward my dear, dear friend Jon Huntsman. As his good friends in China said, he truly is the yin to my yang. And I'm going to make sure that every primary vote knows that.

JON HUNTSMAN: Well, let me just remind you that there isn't a personal relationship. A professional relationship during my service, but this is a little bit of political hyperbole.

MORGAN: Well a little bit embarrassing when the president tried to pretend he was your best man.

JON HUNTSMAN: No. Because you see right through it for what it is. It is hype and it is hyperbole and in politics, anything goes. So you just laugh it off. It is all part of political theater.

MORGAN: There is a theory that he's a cunning sly FOX, the president. And that when you were booming in the ratings following your performance as governor he thought I know what we'll do. We'll send Mister Huntsman to China. We'll get rid of him, remove the problem.

JON HUNTSMAN: You know, there's probably a little hint of politics in every decision made in Washington, but I also like to think that some people make decisions based on what is right for the country. For 40 years the U.S.-China relationship has never fallen victim to partisanship.

MORGAN: So governor, this is the big moment for you because only one member of the Republican field can speak the native tongue of America's biggest commercial ally and whatever you want to call it.

JON HUNTSMAN: You haven't tested everybody else.

MORGAN: I'm pretty sure. I can't imagine Michele Bachmann jabbering away in Mandarin. Here you go, speak to me in Mandarin.

JON HUNTSMAN: (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

MORGAN: That is spectacularly good!

JON HUNTSMAN: How do you know?

MORGAN: What the hell have you just said to me?

JON HUNTSMAN: I said whatever I say you'll have no idea what it is and after that I said, my name in Chinese and I said I'm going to become the next president of the United States. And for the billion people who live on this earth who actually know hey am in my Chinese name, the unfortunate name is, Piers, I'm known by the wrong quarter of the world's population. They're all going to get it.

MORGAN: At the moment, this is going to be big in China. They've never heard any American candidate talking in their language. This is going to be huge, right? This clip can become viral. We could be huge here.

JON HUNTSMAN: You just wait and see. I have no doubt about that.

MORGAN: Tell me about China because I've been to China. I've done documentaries in China. And I've interviewed people like Donald Trump who as you know think we should be, America should be at war with China, should be a trade war, they're the enemy, they're stealing American jobs. You've heard all this. He wants big tariffs and all the rest of it. What is your view?

JON HUNTSMAN: It's the most important relationship of the 21st century. Make no mistake about it. There are only two countries on the world stage, the United States and China. We've been at this relationship for 40 years, since Nixon stepped off the plane. It's gone from zero trade to $400 billion today. There are a lot of soybean exporters in Iowa who make a whole lot of money of the relationship. There are a lot of alfalfa farmers in Utah that make a lot of money off the relationship. There are a lot of businesses that thrive. So, of course it is a competitive relationship. It's going to be competitive for as far as the high can see. But we also need to make sure we find a collaborative aspect to the U.S.-China relationship because you are going to see the largest middle class form in the history of humankind.

MORGAN: Is it healthy that China has so much of America's debt in its clutches? Because -

JON HUNTSMAN: It's not healthy.

MORGAN: Because it allows them to apply a pressure that may not be good for America?

JON HUNTSMAN: Of course it is unhealthy. It is unhealthy to have the debt we do to begin with. I mean when people say they own so much of our debt, which is just around a trillion dollars, who got us in the first place? We've got the whole for ourselves. Somebody's got to buy the debt but the answer is we've got to do a little nation building in our own country. Because our economy is weak and our core is crumbling. And we don't have leverage with Chinese so we need to maintain that healthy relationship.

MORGAN: One thing the Chinese don't do in their economic march around the world is add a military or imperialistic aspect to it. America still has vast amounts of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan costing huge amounts of money, money that could be rechanneled now back into domestic jobs. Has the time come for America to simply pull out all of its troops now from Iraq and Afghanistan and just start on concentrating on domestic issues?

JON HUNTSMAN: We have no choice, Piers. We have no choice other than to do home building right here in the United States of America, strengthen our core. The answer is yes. We don't need 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. This should not and nation building exercise. This is a counter terror effort. You need intelligence collection on the ground. You need Special Forces on the ground, and you need some element to tree the afghan nationals. I think in Iraq the same. We fought the good fight for ten years. This country has given its all. A lot of great families in this country have paid the ultimate sacrifice as well but it is time to come home.

MORGAN: There are people who say it's unpatriotic to pull troops out when the job isn't finished. The job clearly isn't finished and most impartial observers would say, if America pulled out now, they could really not claim victory in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Is it acceptable for America and its national psyche and morale to pull out of two countries where a war has not been won?

JON HUNTSMAN: It is a counter terror effort that we are waging. This is going to go on for a whole lot of years into the future. Not only in Afghanistan.

MORGAN: So these aren't wars. Are you redefining the nature of the conflict?

JON HUNTSMAN: Yes.

MORGAN: Because remember, when George Bush went into these things he pronounced it as "wars."

JON HUNTSMAN: This is an asymmetric war. This is not a traditional nation state against nation state war. This is an invisible enemy that doesn't call any nation state home. It's got something they train in but we're up against an asymmetric threat and that threat can rise up in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Mindanao, Philippines. And we have to have a presence around the world that allows us to go after them and knocked them down wherever they show themselves.

MORGAN: Are you more in the revenge business then?

JON HUNTSMAN: No, I'm in the keep America safe business. We first and foremost -

MORGAN: You said wherever they attack you said you go and take them out.

JON HUNTSMAN: No, that's not revenge. That's keeping America safe. I think we have achieved some very important objectives for this country and it's time to bring people home. It is time to focus on our core in this country. And we cannot do it with our eye taken off the ball. Of course we're going to have security challenges with these subsidiaries that have formed all over the world. It is a counter terror effort. We have to rise to the occasion. We have to be prepared to wage that kind of war. It is a much different approach. It isn't heavy boots on the ground but it is more Special Forces and tactical intelligence gathering. That's what our future is going to be like and we have to be prepared for that reality.

MORGAN: If come this time next year the battle for the White House is you against Barack Obama, a man who believes he's your dear, dear friend, are you prepared to gun him down politically?

JON HUNTSMAN: We'll have a good debate and it will be around the issues and it will be a complete, complete approach that speaks to economic expansion and job creation where he has failed the American people miserably and where we're going to bring our strength from our background.

MORGAN: To win an election you have to be tough and you also have to be politically ruthless. Are you politically ruthless?

JON HUNTSMAN: I've got what it takes to win and I've got the vision which -

MORGAN: I'll repeat the question. Can you be ruthless?

JON HUNTSMAN: Listen. You can be ruthless by the way that you carry out a vision for the American people. I am ruthless in pursuit of that vision and so if you're saying are you ruthless, I am ruthless in pursuit of the vision that I've got based on economic expansion and job creation and I will go whatever lengths necessary.

MORGAN: If people who work for you l let you down or incompetent or worse, do you fire them? Are you brutal at them?

JON HUNTSMAN: of course I do. You bring that same skill set from the private sector.

MORGAN: and you you'd do it, boom, out the door.

JON HUNTSMAN: Boom, out the door. Yes, we've had to do that in the past.

MORGAN: I'm going to have another break and bring on Misses Huntsman, the one who may have the real answers.

(LAUGHTER)

SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Hendricks at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Here are the headlines at this hour.

Tropical storm Lee is spoiling a lot of Labor Day plans. So far the giant weather system has dumped more than ten inches of rain on New Orleans and surrounding areas. Mayor Mitch Landrieu says despite some flooding, all 24 of the city's storm pumps are working. He said only about 200 homes in the city are without power tonight.

Meanwhile, President Obama today got a firsthand look at the damage caused by last weekend's big storm, hurricane Irene. He toured hard-hit areas in northern New Jersey where Irene's torrential rains caused the Passaic River to overflow. The president offered moral support and government aid to people struggling to recover from that storm and he said the people hit hard by Irene will not be forgotten.

The former head of the international monetary fund Dominique Strauss-Khan has arrived back home in Paris. This less than two weeks after sexual assault charges were dropped against him in the U.S. a judge threw out the case against Strauss-Khan citing credibility issues with his accuser. A maid at a hotel where he was staying back in may. His troubles are not completely over though. He still faces a civil suit from that woman and another woman in France, a journalist, accuses him of attempted rape. In Italy, the sister of the woman that American Amanda Knox was convicted of killing is speaking out. Stephanie Kercher is worried that her sister Meredith is being forgotten in the media frenzy surrounding Amanda's appeal. Final arguments on the appeal are set for tomorrow. Knox was convicted of killing Kercher, her roommate, in 2007 and sentenced to 26 years in prison. New DNA analysis may call her conviction into question.

Those are the headlines. I'll see you back here at the top of the hour. "Piers Morgan Tonight" continues right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Right now, my guest, Jon Huntsman, I'm enjoyed, I'm delighted to say, of his extremely glamorous wife of 29 years, Mary Kaye. When did you first meet John?

JON HUNTSMAN: Careful.

MARY KAYE HUNTSMAN, WIFE OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Met him in high school. I grew up in Florida, he grew up in California and we met shortly thereafter in high school and I was a salad girl in a restaurant. He was a dishwasher. And you know I fell in love with a rock 'n' roll guy. What did I say?

MORGAN: Did you think you were marrying the next Freddie Mercury? It must have been disappointing, isn't it?

MARY KAYE HUNTSMAN: Oh, yes. I thought we would have a rock band, a van, a bus, and a - but he still has that in him today and I laugh when anyone says boring. I think he is probably the most colorful guy I know. I mean you know, it's you know rock 'n' roll, motocross, Harley, he -

MORGAN: Harley? You ride Harleys?

JON HUNTSMAN: 40-year rider

MORGAN: You ride Harley-Davidsons. You wanted to be a rock star. I'm told you play jazz piano. Is that right?

JON HUNTSMAN: Something like that.

MORGAN: Why should he be president?

MARY KAYE HUNTSMAN: Because I think he's the greatest leader out there. He's been there and done that and taken a state right to number one right there. I think the confidence is there and people would have confidence, knowing we are in good hands from day one with Jon at helm.

MORGAN: It is an impressive record in Utah. In easy-to- understand terms, how would you get America back to work? What is your great master plan?

JON HUNTSMAN: The principles are the same, whether in Utah or whether on a national basis. We've got to make ourselves a safe haven for the attraction of brain power and the aggregation of capital. One, we need tax reform. You can't have the second-highest business tax in the developed world and expect to compete. I want to do what we did in Utah. You phase out the deductions and the loopholes and the biases and you buy down the rate and you broaden the base. It's not a difficult thing to do.

Two, we've got to get the regulatory monkey off our back. There's no predictability in the marketplace. Capital isn't flowing and people aren't being hired because of the red tape and regulatory measures.

Three, energy independence. It is the lowest of low hanging fruit. T. Boone Pickens says 500,000 jobs over five years and I believe it. Those are the three steps that I believe would be the most powerful immediately in getting this country going again. And the marketplace would respond.

MORGAN: The one part of the debt ceiling debate I was surprised about involving you, because you're a pragmatic, sensible member of the Republican Party and not all of them are. And there came a moment when you were all asked, look, you know if you cut spending by $10 would you get a dollar up in revenue and you voted against it. I would have thought the pragmatist would have said, just as they say it, you're a compromise guy. You're the guy who gets deal done. Why would you vote against them?

JON HUNTSMAN: Yes. I'm not the compromise guy. I'm the guy who would lead out based upon principles and what I've done.

MORGAN: I had the pleasure of meeting your oldest daughter and also your two adopted daughters one from India one from China, all delightful ladies. You have an interesting thing to do. You had five children and adopted two others. What was the thinking there?

MARY KAYE HUNTSMAN: The think is there that we had a little more love to give. And we lived in Taiwan for a while and ran into an orphanage where there were children you know waiting you know to have homes.

MORGAN: Two of your sons are going into the Navy. One wants to be a Navy SEAL. Obviously, that carries with it as we know from recent events, serious danger potentially. And you could have a situation where your husband is the commander in chief sending your sons into battle which may lead to a terrible event un-furling. Are you prepared for that?

MARY KAYE HUNTSMAN: I don't know that you are ever prepared. I will say that I'm proud. I'm proud they have made the decision to serve. I have tears as a mother at the thought of what they could be doing. And I think they are tears of pride. I couldn't be more proud. Each day I wake up and think we can do this. And you know there's a country out there that's divided right now. He's a consensus builder. He knows how to bring people together. He's a leader and what our country needs.

MORGAN: You can't be doing too badly if a lady like Misses Huntsman here after 29 years still gives you such a ringing endorsement. Finally, I want to ask you both about the whole issue of the Mormon faith aspect of your lives. Because I interviewed the Romney's and they are pretty straight Mormons, I would say. From what I have read about you both, you are not as strict. Where do you see the line drawn in terms of your adherence to the Mormon faith?

JON HUNTSMAN: I have a deep belief in God. I am a very Christian person. I'm very proud of my Mormon heritage. In our relationship where Mary Kaye draws from an Episcopalian background you know you blend two cultures, you blend two traditions. You try to raise kids in a responsible fashion growing from the strength of both. And you come up with something that's kind of a hybrid model that first and foremost it puts God at the center of your life.

MORGAN: One of your daughters recently married in an Episcopal church which raised a few eyebrows. I would imagine some opponents could use that as evidence that you are not proper Mormons. What would you say to that?

JON HUNTSMAN: Well, I'd say there are 13 million Mormons around the world today. It is increasingly a very heterogeneous bunch, a very diverse bunch. And we probably add to the diversity. You know I come from a long line of salon keepers and Proselytizes. You know some rebel rousers in the bunch. People forget to see that the Mormon population is more diverse, a lot more heterogeneous, and lot more free-thinking in certain instances than people may give it credit for.

MORGAN: You think you are kind of the racier end of the Mormon faith as opposed to boring Mitt Romney? Something like that?

(LAUGHTER)

JON HUNTSMAN: You started by calling us boring and now you say I'm racier at the end. I think I'll take it.

MORGAN: I think you succeeded in that. You made your point. It's been a pleasure to meet you both.

What I am about to do now is go and find a piano and see if you're as good at the jazz piano if you are at speaking mandarin and I may try to sway your eldest daughter who is a classically concert pianist to tickle the ivories too. Are you ready for this?

JON HUNTSMAN: I think so. I could give it a go.

MORGAN: Thank you both very much.

MARY KAYE HUNTSMAN: Thank you.

JON HUNTSMAN: Thank you Piers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: I'm here with Governor Huntsman who has declared that he's a pretty useful jazz pianist.

JON HUNTSMAN: Used to be.

MORGAN: We'll see how good you are. Let's see it. Take it away, governor.

JON HUNTSMAN: (PLAYING PIANO)

MORGAN: Oh, Dudley Moore, eat your heart out. That was good! Now, are you the only member of your family that can do this?

JON HUNTSMAN: You know, it just so happens that I have a daughter who actually plays somewhat. I have had to help her along. She's here with us.

MORGAN: Hello Mary Anne. Governor, you're off the stool.

JON HUNTSMAN: Mary Anne, come on over.

MORGAN: Yes, she says, she can't work with you -

(CROSSTALK)

JON HUNTSMAN: That' true.

MORGAN: Mary Anne, welcome.

MARY ANNE HUNTSMAN, ELDEST DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.

MORGAN: Formal introduction.

MORGAN: What are you going to play?

JON HUNTSMAN: Don't embarrass me too bad.

MARY ANNE HUNTSMAN: I am going to play a little bit of Liszt, a waltz.

MORGAN: I love it. Off you go.

MARY ANNE HUNTSMAN Here we go.

(PLAYING PIANO)

MORGAN: OK. OK. You win. Are we agreed?

JON HUNTSMAN: I have a coin you can flip if you want.

MORGAN: No question of coins. Governor, you lose. Unbelievable!

MARY ANNE HUNTSMAN: Thank you.

MORGAN: But if you do go to the White House, I've got to say, you know the Huntsmans' could be the most musically talented first family we have seen.

JON HUNTSMAN: Give us a chance.

MARY ANNE HUNTSMAN: Yes, give us a chance.

MORGAN: Good luck and thank you for sharing your skills.

MARY ANNE HUNTSMAN: Thank you for having me on.