Return to Transcripts main page


The Battle for the Soul of the GOP; White House Insider Fired Up over the Clintons; From Hollywood to Tehran

Aired February 23, 2012 - 21:00   ET


PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Tonight, the battle for the soul of the GOP. Mitt Romney blasts Rick Santorum.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know that I've ever seen a politician explain in so many ways why it was he voted against his principles.


MORGAN: Could Tuesday's Michigan primary decide the Republican race? I'll ask former governor, Jennifer Granholm.

Also why one White House insider is fired up about Bill Clinton.


LANNY DAVIS, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL: Do we talk about Alexander Hamilton's affair? Did we talk about John Kennedy? Is that the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt? Is that the legacy we really talk about? No.


MORGAN: Lanny Davis on politics and scandal.

Plus superstar director Oliver Stone's son converting to Islam and defending what appears to be the indefensible.


SEAN STONE, FILMMAKER, SON OF OLIVER STONE: Why don't we have a dialogue with him? Why am I the only person going over there and actually talking to him.


MORGAN: Also only in America. Why is this man banned from the Oscars? What outrage.


Good evening, the big story tonight, the battle for the GOP in the wake of last night's debate. Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney are fighting for the lead as they head for the next major contest in Michigan and Arizona on Tuesday. We'll have much more on that in a moment.

But also from Hollywood to Tehran. Director Oliver Stone's son Sean on his remarkable conversion to Islam and why he's defending Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


STONE: He's been vilified. And we label him as an extremist. The speeches that I heard him say was very clear in the sense that he preached we're all made in the image of god, all people of all countries, and all colors are brothers and sisters. That was his very clear message.


MORGAN: But we begin with our big story, the race for the White House. As far as the GOP is concerned, it could all come down to Michigan's primary on Tuesday. And joining me now a woman who knows quite a lot about the state's politics in Michigan, former Michigan governor, Jennifer Granholm.

Governor, welcome. How are you?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D), FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: I'm great. How are you doing, Piers?

MORGAN: I'm good. I'm sort of befuddled after last night's debate. I watched it with wrapped interest but in the end decided I couldn't work out who on earth is going to win this race.

GRANHOLM: Well, I wish I could tell you but I can tell you that certainly whatever happens in Michigan is going to be determinative, I think, for whether there is a brokered convention or whether Romney takes it all the way.

MORGAN: Yes, I mean, it seems to me if you lose in your own backyard, which Michigan would be to Mitt Romney, it's an area he grew up in. If you lose there, that's a big problem if you are presumed to be a frontrunner, right?

GRANHOLM: For sure. For sure. And in Michigan, you know, the whole thing with the auto industry, it cuts both ways in a Republican primary, understandably. But in a general election, it is a killer. I mean in Michigan, if Romney or Santorum go up against Obama, at least if you believe the polls as of today, they would get trounced by a larger than double digit margins. So while in the primary for the Republican, it's a bit more split, 44 percent of the Republican primary electorate believe that it was a good thing in Michigan. I think in a general election, it's over.

MORGAN: I don't know if you saw my interview with Chris Christie, but I was baffled by -- although he's a very impressive man in many ways and is always a great interview. He just refused to talk about the bailout of the car industry or indeed the car industry at all. And the conclusion I drew was he didn't say what he really wanted to say, which is actually the bailout has been a good thing. There was reluctance to give President Obama the praise that many believe he deserves for what he did with that bailout.

GRANHOLM: Well, of course, he saved 1.4 million jobs. GM is number one. It's back on top. GM and Chrysler making profits, bigger profits than they've made -- for the past decade and a half. It's an unequivocal success. And it gets back to this issue about the Republicans sort of rooting for failure. If they hadn't -- if the president hand not stepped in to save General Motors and Chrysler, it would not have been a managed bankruptcy.

As much as Mitt Romney wants to tell everybody that there would have been or there should have been a managed bankruptcy, it would not have been that because there was no private entity that was willing to put up the money to save General Motors and Chrysler in the middle of a financial meltdown.

It would have been a liquidation. And if that had happened, unemployment in Michigan and throughout the industrial Midwest would have been through the roof. In Michigan, it would have been 20 percent. There is no question that this was a success.

MORGAN: Yes, it's still a great vote, it seems to me, to just keep repeating, I would have let Detroit go bust. I just don't think there's a lot of -- a lot of votes out there for that campaign.

GRANHOLM: Well, and in addition to that, I mean, Mitt Romney -- Mitt Romney supported the bailout of the financial industry but didn't support the bailout of an industry that is critical to blue-collar America. And so how do you justify the treatment other than the sort of background that Mitt Romney which is coming from the financial industry.

And by the way, I thought I read in "The New York Times" the other day that Bain Capital, his company was one of the companies that was -- that General Motors or Chrysler went to to ask whether they would be willing to step in and help with a managed bankruptcy, and they turned them down. There was no willingness to do that.

So, bottom line is, when you support a bailout of the financial industry and you don't support the bailout of a mainstream industry that provides jobs all across America, you're hurting.

MORGAN: Let's take a little listen to some of the rhetoric about President Obama from the candidates last night. It got pretty extreme, I thought.


ROMNEY: I don't think we've seen in the history of this country, the kind of attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious tolerance that we've seen under Barack Obama.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's afraid to stand- up to Iran. He opposed the sanctions in Iran against the -- against the central banks until his own party finally said you're killing us. Please support the sanctions.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think this is a very sober period. And I believe this is the most dangerous president on national security grounds in American history.


MORGAN: So he's the weakest, most dangerous president in history. Maybe even the most dangerous human being. How do you answer that charge?

GRANHOLM: Well, you know, it just makes me laugh out loud. I mean Newt Gingrich, the most dangerous in history. I mean his sense of hyperbole knows no bounds. I'll just say that. I heard David Axelrod on earlier and he was saying that I'm sure that Osama bin Laden, if he were alive, would provide a good rebuttal to that.

MORGAN: What strikes me as slightly unusual about this particular election battle going on is the rhetoric about religion. It seems to me to be more religious the debate than any I can remember in recent years certainly. Why do you think that is and how will this play out?

GRANHOLM: Well, I certainly think it's driven by the presence of Rick Santorum. Clearly Mitt Romney does not want to be talking about religion. And that's not his strength. He wants to be talking about the economy. But that's not giving him a whole lot to talk about anymore as the unemployment number has continued to drop and as the stock market continues to soar. And the manufacturing sector continues to come back.

So that's all -- all that's left is this war on religion, as they say, which ends up, of course, being a war on women's reproductive freedom. And that's not a good argument in a general election, either, when you've got, you know, these governors across the country who are rushing legislation through their legislatures that end up depriving women of not just choice, but, you know, the stuff that was happening in Virginia for example. These transvaginal ultrasounds.

I mean it's shocking, this war that's happening. That's not really a great argument in a general election either. Frankly, all of this I think bodes well for President Obama.

MORGAN: Yes. I mean it did strike me very, very noticeably last night that this whole debate about abortion, about contraception would be massively enhanced on the Republican side if any of the people contributing were women or women who had any kind of sense that this might not be a smart move for them.

GRANHOLM: Well, this is why, honestly, Piers, we need more women in elected office. It's just crazy. You know, the Congressmen Issa hearing when there was no women present, and of course they were talking about something that's near and dear to most women, it's -- it is really -- I think women in America are waking up. And I think you're seeing it play out across the country that we realized that this -- that we have to have more women's voices, not just in executive offices but in legislative offices as well. And I hope it certainly exhorts people, women, to serve their country.

MORGAN: Well, many think that you should be serving us in higher office, Jennifer Granholm. I hope you give that some serious thought. It's been a pleasure talking to you again.

GRANHOLM: Well, nice to talk with you, too. Thanks, Piers.

MORGAN: So is a Republican infighting a dream come true for any White House Democrat? And joining me now is Lanny Davis, special counsel to President Bill Clinton from 1996 to 1998.

Welcome, Mr. David.

DAVIS: Hi, Piers. Thank you.

MORGAN: Well, you heard Jennifer Granholm there. Well, what do you make? You worked in the White House under Bill Clinton and you also worked there for George W. Bush. What do you make of the current GOP race?

DAVIS: I have to correct that I served on a panel that President Bush appointed but I didn't work in his White House.

Look, I think the Republicans are committing political suicide not just because of their hyperbole which moderates that decide elections are turned off about, but the way they're behaving and the negativity is violating all that Ronald Reagan ever said about the 11th commandment. Much less Democrats have had some pretty tough primaries. I certainly went through one when I supported Senator Clinton and Obama and Senator Clinton really went at it.

But the level of personal character assassination and negativity, and especially Mitt Romney's ads and money being spent tearing each other apart, I must say isn't pretty to behold, but it's very pleasant for Democrats to watch.

MORGAN: Yes, I mean I can't help thinking when I see them ripping each other's throats out, although it's always been the case that in these things it gets ugly and negativity comes out. It can't -- have ever been quite as bad as this. And it doesn't seem to be that effective. I mean Mitt Romney is throwing hundreds and millions of dollars of these things and he's still struggling to maintain a frontrunner position. So how effective is it to go carpet-bomb your opponents like this?

DAVIS: I think that Romney has rendered himself unelectable in the general election and I think Rick Santorum, if he had stayed with the blue-collar narrative would have been much better off than heading into the religious rights territory that turns off moderates. And Newt Gingrich actually had a lot of promise as the idea person, staying positive in most of the early debates. It's why he had his comeback. But again the negativity that he was deluge with and then he got angry didn't help him either. Look, Barack Obama has a tough re- election no matter what. There still is a 50/50 divided country. Even right now President Obama's approval rating is only 50 percent. So we Democrats are going to have a tough contest. But it couldn't be going any better from our perspective watching the Republicans destroy each other with character attacks as opposed to debating the issues.

MORGAN: Is it likely or possible that you could see somebody else on the Republican side jump into the race? I mean is that even a possibility, do you think?

DAVIS: No. No. It happens every four years. When people aren't happy with their candidates. If people don't put themselves through the process and test the electorate, and let people vote for or against you, the "Dark Horse" -- one of my favorite movies was Henry Fonda, "The Best Man" and Cliff Robertson in the "Dark Horse." Ultimately it was nominated.

That doesn't happen anymore with primaries and elections. And anyone who thinks they can get nominated by not putting themselves through this difficult process, it's utterly a fantasy.

MORGAN: What do you think of these super PACs? There's a lot of controversy raging about them. Do you think that they should be prohibited? I mean President Obama said he hated the whole idea of them and now he's endorsing them with as much gusto as his rivals. What do you think?

DAVIS: Well, it's a horrible fact of life that money decides elections and that now after what the Republicans have done negative money with no limits can really corrupt the process. I happen to be off the reservation as a liberal Democrat which I am that I think the Supreme Court decision made a ruling here that had terrible results allowing the super PACs it's still very much First Amendment, free expression protected.

So I have great conflicts about whether the Supreme Court was right or wrong. But I think it's terrible policy and terrible for the country. And money is corrupting our politics on both sides, the Democratic as well as the Republican side.

MORGAN: Let's take a short break, Lanny. I want to come back and talk to you about this PBS documentary on Bill Clinton. I watched it and was enthralled, I have to say. But I know that you are livid with it. And I want to find out why after the break.

DAVIS: Thank you.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With the government closed, Clinton prowled the empty halls of the White House deprived of the human contact he craved. Among the few people permitted to come to work were the White House interns. Including a 22-year-old named Monica Lewinsky.


MORGAN: That's from a new PBS documentary about Bill Clinton. A documentary some critics say focused too much on that kind of scandal and not enough about his achievements as president.

Back now with Lanny Davis who was a legal counsel for President Bill Clinton.

So, Lanny, come on. You're not happy with this. And I watched it all, four hours of it. I found it gripping television. And I didn't get a sense, as I watched it, if I'm honest, that I felt that it was disproportionate attention to the scandal and it is purely because some of them, like the Monica Lewinsky thing, were pretty big, pretty big fare, weren't they? I mean you talk about impeachment, this isn't a small-time scandal for a president to deal with. So why are you feeling that it was disproportionate.

DAVIS: Well, Piers, full disclosure, I'm here on my own as an old friend of the Clintons. I didn't call them and ask them to do this. And I wrote a column today that's been pretty well circulated. And I did this on my own.

I am talking about proportionately. Yes, the Lewinsky story was a big story and President Clinton apologized to the American people. The impeachment was a partisan party line vote needed to be in the story. But they forgot to mention that out of 55 Republicans, they couldn't get 51, a majority, to support that very partisan impeachment process.

So yes, that had to be part of this. But what my point is, proportionality based upon minutes. You got four hours and none of those four hours, at least three of the four, and probably higher than 75 percent, were devoted to completely bogus scandals. For example, White Water took up about four years of the Clinton presidency led to the appointment of an independent council directly straight lined to the impeachment.

White Water, according to Mr. Star, led to no charges being made against either Clinton despite all the column interest and all the time spent on this PBS broadcast and all the other scandals in the first term were rabbit holes leading to nowhere.

Rather than the achievements of the Clinton president is a man who inherited a $300 billion deficit. Left office with a $1 trillion surplus and a 65 percent approval rating despite all those so-called scandals, yet those facts were left out of four hours of what is a PBS, not an E! Entertainment, network broadcast.

MORGAN: I mean I can understand why you, as a friend of the Clintons, as someone that worked closely with him, might feel that. I got to say, though, that I was watching it, as I say, pretty enthralled by what I was watching. It brought back so many good memories to me of Bill Clinton. And I ended up at the end of it thinking god, I wish that guy was still president. As I'm sure many of you have stated.

So although I get your point, I'm not sure I would be too hard about it because, to me, some of those sort of scandalous elements of the Clinton administration made him almost what he was. You know he was a brilliant president how had a few problems which were focused on as well. But he also had a lot of great achievements. And people missed him. And his approval ratings now are higher than they've ever been, aren't they? And people love the guy.

DAVIS: Well, look, you are PBS and you have a commitment in the American perspective series to history and you're not telling good history if you spent three-fourths of your time about bogus scandals, scandals that went nowhere. Yes, there was a point to be made about the horrible experience President Clinton went through in the Monica Lewinsky matter and the impeachment process. Of course.

But the disproportionality, not to talk about 23 million jobs and 162nd spot by Robert Ruben, the former secretary of treasury who said that Bill Clinton got a budget bill passed in '93 without one Republican vote, cutting $500 billion of spending and $500 billion increased taxes where the Republicans all said there would be unemployment because of that budget bill and the result was, as I said, one of the most successful presidencies in terms of the economy.

How do you not tell that story where you spend so much time about White Water and Filegate and Hillary Clinton's billing records that is a rabbit hole of a non-story? So I'm talking about factual accuracy. I can see why you'd be enthralled. It was entertaining, but it's not on a PBS network about American history, it's on entertainment weekly.

MORGAN: Maybe. Maybe. I take a slight issue. I got to say I enjoyed it on many levels. I thought it was entertaining but I thought it was also politically fascinating.

DAVIS: Sure.

MORGAN: And the overall impression I got was exactly the one I got when I once saw Bill Clinton give a speech at the Labour Party conference in Black Pole in the north of England. And it was a howling cold, wet day. He spoke without notes for an hour. And everybody was absolutely gripped by every word. It's incredible. And then afterwards, as if he couldn't get anymore popular to the locals, he went marching down the promenade, with a -- bought a pint of bitter and a Big Mac and large fries. That is what the American president should be doing around the world.

DAVIS: That's Bill Clinton. And let me at least be a little bit more uplifting so far. I have known the Clintons since law school. I met Hillary when her name was Rodham and I met Bill Clinton the next year. And I followed his career and we've been friends for many, many years. These are truly two great people, they're truly great friends. And Bill Clinton, as you've just pointed out, has become larger than life and proven, despite all the efforts to bring him down. including in the 2008 campaign where things got pretty nasty towards Bill Clinton. Look at how he's proved all of his critics wrong. He and Hillary Clinton today are probably two of the most popular people on the planet, not just in this country.

So I'm here just as a friend disappointed that there wasn't more balance for PBS. Maybe my standards for PBS were too high. But at least I agree that it was enthralling if you are looking for some form of an entertaining program. But for American history, for PBS, I thought it was disappointing. My opinion.

MORGAN: Well, we will have to agree to disagree. Although I think our central point of agreement is probably more important.


MORGAN: It was a fantastic president and I think missed by a lot of people. I -- many people in Britain never understand your eight- year rule. You know? If we'd had our way, President Clinton would still be there. So it's probably --

DAVIS: He might be prime minister of --

MORGAN: Probably a wider issue.

DAVIS: He'd probably get elected prime minister of the UK tomorrow. Maybe that would be a good idea.


MORGAN: He actually would. On a ticket of Big Mac, large fries and pints of beer. It'll be a winning manifesto.

Lanny Davis, thank you -- thank you very indeed.

DAVIS: Thank you, Piers. Thanks for having me, truly.

MORGAN: Next from Hollywood to Tehran. Why director Oliver Stone's son is defending Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Yes. You heard me right.


MORGAN: Controversy is director Oliver Stone's middle name. And his son had been following his own footsteps. Sean Stone made headlines recently with reports that he's converted to Islam and has been defending Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president.

Sean Stone, joins me now to explain why.

Sean, welcome. You've been taking a lot of flak for all this. I supposed my first thought was, what was your father's reaction as a Jewish legendary Hollywood producer when you told him that you were going to be converting to Islam and doing it in Iraq? Be honest?

STONE: Honestly, I explained that, you know, I feel like I am trying to create a dialogue and end this clash of civilization. Clash of civilization is nonsense. We've heard this motto especially since the 1990s in particular. And this conception that Jews and Muslims and Christians cannot live in harmony. And I want to end that rhetoric and say, I'm a Jewish-Christian-Muslim. I want to be able to understand all three religions and have a dialogue with people from all across the board and say we don't need to fight each other based on the book.

MORGAN: Right. So what did your -- what did your father say to that?

STONE: He said, Allah be with you.

MORGAN: Really?

STONE: Yes. I mean I said --

MORGAN: Your father said that?

STONE: My father made "Alexander the Great," don't forget, who was a great unifier of people. You know, Alexander went as a Greek to Persia and he took over the Persian empire, became their leader, their great king. And he married Greek and Persians and he was trying to incorporate the cultures and elevate mankind as a whole. So I think he gets that.

MORGAN: But, you know, again, I come back to the fact your father is a very famous Jewish Hollywood producer. He now has a son who has a meeting with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad, as you know, and I've checked the exact quotes, because often they get misquoted. He's on record of saying on September 18th, 2009, he said the following.

"The holocaust is alive based on unprovable and mythical claim". He went on. "They, the Western powers launched the myth of the holocaust. They lied, they put on a show and then they support the Jews."

I mean, it seems very perverse that you would wish to spend much time with this guy given your family upbringing.

STONE: Well, I saw many Orthodox Jews when I was in the country, too. And you know a lot of Orthodox Jews are oppose to the state of Israel, you know, in its rights. Whether or not he -- as I said, I want to -- I want to clarify his position regarding the holocaust which is to say, regardless if he believes it or not, it does not justify to our thinking, at least, the occupation of the West Bank and the fact that the Palestinian situation has not been resolved in that region. And why people are not having this dialogue anymore? You know if we really want to clarify that, why don't we just take it to him and say look, let's start proposal. Let's talk to all Middle Eastern countries and go back to the campaign with style accords. Why is this not happening? You know, this is the essence of what I'm trying to say. I'm not trying to defend whether or not he believes in the Holocaust. I don't care if he believes in the Holocaust.


MORGAN: When you met him, did you bring up this denial of the Holocaust that he keeps purporting? STONE: No. Actually, I asked him more about the nuclear bomb issue. And he said no bomb. My issue, really, is I don't want to see our country go to war. And if it's going to be over the potential threat that Iran is to Israel, I would say that's a complete lie.

We are in a very dangerous situation, a precarious situation right now if Israel gets the green light and attacks preemptively Iran, the way that we preemptively attacked Iraq. That's what I'm most concerned about.

MORGAN: Do you -- but you said yesterday I think that you believe that Iran should have the right to develop a nuclear weapon. Do you stand by that?

STONE: Yes. It has to do with nuclear power. See I believe in nuclear energy and the sovereignty of nation states. We have to go back to the Treaty of Westphalia.

If Iran has the right to develop nuclear energy, then, of course, there's going to be the question of will they then take it and develop nuclear bombs? Now based on the preventive war doctrine, established by Bush, if we allege that they are developing nuclear bombs, then we can just allege it and attack them.

So it doesn't matter at that point, you see, whether or not they are actually intending to build it. I'm trying to negate the preventive war doctrine, and negate by saying OK, they have a right to it at least as a defensive mechanism within their sovereign borders.

If they were to ever use it on anybody, of course there would be nuclear Holocaust. There would be no reason. If you see Tehran, it's a city of 16 million people. OK, it's twice the size of New York City. The capital of the country is there.

One radical Iranian bomb going off, you don't think there would hundreds of Israeli bombs firing at Tehran? I mean, it's over. There's --

MORGAN: I suppose that the problem is that you are considering Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a man of sane mind. And when you look at some of the other things he has said, and about 9/11 -- "some segments within the American government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East, not to save the Zionist regime."

I mean, it's obviously a complete clap trap. I guess when people -- you know, Americans who are patriotic, who maybe love your father's movies and so on, when they see you going over there -- I don't have any problem with you converting to Islam. It's absolutely your right to do that.

I have no issue with that at all, or indeed you visiting Iran. Where I slightly have an agitation about what you are up to is the kind of positioning you are putting yourself in looks like you are defending the indefensible. STONE: OK. Currently, I would say we are in a dangerous situation. If Israel, for example, decides to attack Iran preventively, Russia is not going to stand by and let this happen. They have already voiced their opinion, they do not want to see a war. Because this is on their border. It would be like a country invading Mexico. It would destabilize this region.

It would blow Iran was blown up, the same way Syria is being blown up right now. What you do is you are going to radicalize the Sunni and Shiites divisions even more. You are going to create a Lebanon situation of the '80s, the Afghanistan situation of the '80s it now.

You're going to recreate it now. That's going to create even more terrorism across the world, not just the region. This is World War III that we are looking at. That's what I'm most --

MORGAN: Yes, but of course -- but the argument, of course, if you are in Israel is that they could be facing potentially World War III from somebody that they see as completely unstable for some of the reasons I have stated, with these statements he has made on the record, particularly in relation to Israel. They worry that if he's in possession of a nuclear weapon, he wouldn't hesitate to carry out some of the threats and statements that he's made.

Don't they have a right to feel vulnerable about that?

STONE: So you basically are defending the preventive war doctrine, which goes back to Bush.

MORGAN: No, no, no. No, I don't, actually. In fact, just to clarify, I would have agreed about the futility of the Iraq war, for example. But in this case, it seems to me that unlike with Saddam Hussein, you actually have Ahmadinejad threatening to exterminate Israel. He's developing -- he's developing ever faster nuclear capacity.

Now that is a matter for concern, isn't it?

STONE: Where is he currently threatening to destroy Israel? That is my question.

MORGAN: He's made statements which allude to that in the past.

STONE: Allude to it, OK. The dissolution of the Israeli state, that's like saying we want the dissolution other Soviet Union. It doesn't mean anyone's going to launch nuclear weapons to achieve it. You can do it through other means. Dialogue is an important path, for example, if you want to solve the situation.

We should have dialogue with these countries again. We need to have a dialogue regarding the Israel/Palestine problem, the two-state solution, for example. We need to clarify.

Also, the president does not rule this country as a dictator. It's not an autocracy. It's a republic. There's a supreme leader that he answers to. There's a parliament that he's going before at this point in time to answer for corruption charges.

So there's -- it's much like this country. If you think one man -- because I've heard for example he talks to Gin (ph), you know, genies. These are the kind of allegations we get. Because he's a lunatic, he's going to go and commit national suicide for a country that has a very proud evolution of their evolution going back 33 years, that I saw rallies, demonstrations in the millions for?

There's no credibility to this report. This is just rumors. You're warmongering. You are spreading -- you're just spreading rumors at this point.

MORGAN: Well, that is certainly an opinion, Sean Stone. I respect your opinion. I think I disagree with most of it and many others will. But I respect you for having it. Thank you for joining me.

STONE: Thank you, Piers.

MORGAN: Coming up, who will win the battle for the heart and soul of the GOP? What will that battle mean for the party's chances in November? Conservative heavyweights Andrew Breitbart and Michael Reagan are here to talk about all that.



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: You have a new television ad that labels him a fake, why?



PAUL: Congratulations.

I find it really fascinating that when people are running for office, they are fiscally conservative. When they are in office, they do something different. Then when they explain themselves, they say, oh, I want to repeal that.


MORGAN: Things got pretty heated at last night's CNN Republican debate. I am hoping they will get heated again now. Here to talk about what's going on right now with the GOP is Michael Reagan, author of "The New Reagan Revolution," of course the son of Ronald Reagan, also conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, Amy Holmes, news anchor of Glenn Beck's "The Blaze," and Carol Roth, business strategist and author of "The Entrepreneurial Equation."

My star panel, this is the first time we have done this before midnight, I think. I must say Andrew, you scrub up a lot better earlier in the evening.


MORGAN: Exactly. And you collectively have the longest introduction in television history. It's a record you keep breaking. So congratulations.

Let's start, Michael, with you. I watched it last night, the debate. In the end I thought I haven't got a clue who is going to be the nominee. I really haven't. Do you?

MICHAEL REAGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I don't think the party has a clue who is going to be the nominee, after watching last night. It's gotten to a point where I think those of us watching the debates could superimpose ourselves into those positions and answer the questions, because they all seem to be the same questions we have had in 20 debates now.

And in every debate, you see who is going to break out. I don't think anybody really is breaking out. I think last night, Newt was in his element sitting down.


REAGAN: I think it was great.

MORGAN: I thought he had the best night, actually.


MORGAN: To rule him out is actually I think a rather perilous thing to do, because never rule out Newt Gingrich. He's made about five comebacks in this race.

REAGAN: I know. Because of the way it's set up, very well could make another comeback.

MORGAN: Andrew, Rick Santorum was the front-runner going into this debate. He's played this religious driven, real conservative card very heavily. Last night, you know, it was -- a lot of the stuff was about social issues, religion and so on.

Is this a wise way for the party to be going? Is this a debate they should be having, given that the rest of America is screaming about jobs and the economy?

BREITBART: I couldn't agree with you more that he's taken the exact wrong tack on this. The reason why people were looking for Rick Santorum to emerge as the authentic conservative voice is because Mitt Romney wasn't connecting with the Tea Party.

He's taken this Herman Cain position, this Newt Gingrich position of the conservative we're going to give a second look at in lieu of Mitt Romney, and taken this as a position to go all social conservative all the time. I think he's misreading the electorate right now.

MORGAN: Amy Holmes, I thought it was also strange and glaring last night, was when you have, you know, four white guys in their 50s, 60s and 70s pontificating about abortion and contraception to a large audience of -- a lot of them will be single mothers in states up and down America, cities and so on, thinking what are these guys talking about.

Is there a danger that this particular obsessive debate with social conservative issues is just going to make them look rather out of touch with modern America?

AMY HOLMES, "THE BLAZE": I don't think that it was the candidates so much that wanted to focus on these issues. In fact, the audience booed these type of questions. The question came from one of the viewers of CNN, asking if the candidates, quote unquote, believe in co contraception. My boss, Glenn Beck, he looked at it and found that 25 percent of the questions were about this topic.

It seemed that the candidates really wanted to get back to the issues of debt and deficit and the earmark back and forth, those type of debates. But I think for Republicans, there is a danger if they get too far down this road about contraception, in particular, and not what spawned this entire debate, which was Obamacare and the mandate having to do with religious institutions.

You can even take that a step further, which is how many more mandates might there be buried in Obamacare?

MORGAN: Carol Roth, I mean, Mitt Romney is still I guess de facto the front-runner. But he really is struggling to cement that position. What is the problem for Mitt Romney, do you think?

CAROL ROTH, BUSINESS STRATEGIST: The problem with Mitt Romney is the same problem that all the candidates had last night. They lacked passion and they are lacking a connection with the American public. John King asked a great question. He said define yourself in one word. This was the softball.

They are coming out with words like resolute and courageous. Not one of them, Piers, said American. That was the softball answer. They are just making the stupidest mistakes. They should be stopping, talking about I, I, I, and talk about we, talk about us, talk about Americans.

I'll tell you what, Piers, if Mitt Romney had half the passion in the debate last night that you have for the Arsenal Football Club, he would wrapped up this nomination a long time ago.

MORGAN: Funny enough, it doesn't matter if it's Arsenal or if it's a pop group or whatever it is, you have to have a passion for something in life. I totally agree. I watched it last night. You are struggling to see any of the candidates really displaying a vivid passion for an issue that connects with the audience.

We keep saying this, but the real issue is jobs, job creation and the economy. That is going to be the battleground, I think, for the election, not contraception, abortion or the ever more wild religious views which some of the candidates are beginning to espouse. REAGAN: You're right. The reason the Republican party did so well in the last election is because when you went out to speak at the Tea Party events -- I spoke at a lot of them -- they would say to you do not speak about social issues; that will divide us.

Speak about the economy. Speak about what brings us together, not what splits us apart. If we get caught up in the social issues, you're right. Republicans will be sitting home. Barack Obama will be the president of the United States for four more years.

We have to find what brings us together. But remember, right now, they are fighting for the nomination of the party, not the general election.

MORGAN: I'll come straight back to you after this break. We are going to come back in with Barack Obama's new attack ad, and I want your reaction after we watch this after the break.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When a million jobs were on the line, every Republican turned their back, even said "let Detroit go bankrupt." Not him.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Don't bet against the American auto industry.


MORGAN: That's President Obama's latest campaign ad in Michigan. But now talking politics with Michael Reagan, Andrew Breitbart, Amy Holmes and Carol Roth. Great Tweets just came in from somebody called KrutNacker (ph), who says "it's good to see Andrew Breitbart took the time to stick his hair into a rotating fan blade before appearing on PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT."

BREITBART: That's true. I was -- people were saying I was looking a little bit unkempt with the beard. I didn't take care of the top part of the --

MORGAN: You know what, you've come half-kempt (ph) tonight, and I'll take that. Let's talk Michigan. Michigan and Arizona coming out. It's going to be big for all the candidates, particularly Mitt Romney.

His -- one of his aids came out today and said, "we will win Michigan, no doubt, no we might, finally we will win this."

That's because it is big, isn't it? This is his own backyard. This is where he spent a lot of his life. If he was to lose in Michigan, then that's bad for him, isn't it?

BREITBART: It would be a disaster. Last night was a good night for him. I think that the momentum is leading in Mitt Romney's direction. But what conservatives are looking for other than -- he's saying the right things these days.

But do people believe what he's saying? Do they believe that he's a convicted conservative now, because he's saying the right things? But what they are really looking for is for him not to pivot like Newt Gingrich, which is to attack the media, but to use jujitsu and start going not just at the media, but going after Barack Obama.

Somebody is looking for Mitt Romney to show that he has the fight. Because what you saw in that ad is going to be replicated millions of times over, hundreds of millions of dollars of negative campaigns that are already framed. The narrative that has been framed by the framing of the Occupy Movement, the haves versus the have nots.

MORGAN: Actually, Romney was doing better when he focused purely on Obama. It's when he's got into this scrap with the other candidates that you've seen his ratings beginning to slip.

Amy Holmes, let me come to you about this. Obviously it's going to be huge, I think, this Michigan one, because they are setting their stall on winning this. What do you see happening Super Tuesday?

Because a lot of delegates are at stake then. A lot of people say to me, stop banging on about individual primaries; it's all about the delegates. Count the numbers.

Super Tuesday is going to be the really big indicator as to whether Mitt Romney can become a proper front-runner, isn't it?

HOLMES: Well, I think it is because, of course, it's all of those states in contention that night. It will be certainly a reflection of the momentum that any candidate has going into Super Tuesday.

I just wanted to point out with the Obama ad that you played, it's so interesting that it looks like at least the Obama campaign has decided that Mitt Romney is the guy to beat. They would put up that ad in Michigan featuring Mitt Romney, perhaps they think, you know, getting -- knocking him out in Michigan and raising up Santorum suits their campaign strategy.

You know, all these things are certainly -- are planned.

MORGAN: Certainly -- I mean, Carol Roth, I think it's a fascinating thing to see Republicans trying to insist the bailout of the auto industry was a failure and the wrong thing to do when it's so palpably been a spectacular success. I tried to get it out of Chris Christie the other night, and he wouldn't even talk about the auto industry.

I knew why. He's a smart guy who clearly has strong views. And I suspect they differ to Mitt Romneys. Hence the wall of silence.

ROTH: I'm going to disagree with you there, Piers. I think that it wasn't a clear success. I think this is an opportunity for Mitt Romney to be a myth buster. He can go in and say yes, we bailed out Chrysler. What happened? The American taxpayers lost, by all accounts, 1.3 billion. And now the company is owned almost 60 percent by an Italian company, Fiat.

That is a raging failure. So I think he can come in and really be this myth buster, dispel the myth that Obama is taking credit for. That doesn't seem like a success. You can put somebody up there to say hey, does that sound like a success to you? I think most people would say no.

MORGAN: I've got to say, I've always rather liked Fiat. Michael, last word with you.

REAGAN: You could bring into that, what about the Volt? The Volt -- the people who buy the Volt, the average income is 170,000 dollars. The people who subsidize the Volt, their income is about 36,000 dollars.

I think part of the problem is in the questions being asked. Nothing about China, nothing really about jobs. That's what upsets me really about the debates. They are getting lost in process. I don't want to hear about process. I don't want to hear about earmarks.

The people want to hear how are you going to get me a job? How am I going to feed my family? That's not coming across in these debates?

MORGAN: I totally agree. I think they are beginning to drift away into areas which are disconnected with the average American voter. They want jobs and they want bread on their table and they want politicians who are going to lead on the economy.

Star panel, you have all been fantastic, as always. It's sort of slightly zippier at 9:00 than midnight, especially you Andrew. Thanks a lot. We'll speak again very soon.

Coming up, Only in America; why Sacha Baron Cohen is apparently Oscar's worst nightmare.


MORGAN: Tonight's Only in America, Sacha Baron Cohen, is he or isn't he banned from the Oscars? The trouble began when rumors swirled the former "Borat" start would show up on the red carpet as the title character for his upcoming movie "the Dictator."




MORGAN: Listen to what the man himself says about playing a dictator.


COHEN: You know, Colonel Gadhafi was terrifying and a monster, but also laughably hysterical. There were a lot of people offended by it.


MORGAN: Yes. And I would imagine that would include many members of the Academy. Baron Cohen is a cast member of the Oscar nominated "Hugo." And a spokesperson for the Academy says he's welcome if he shows up as himself but not as the Dictator, and goes on to say, quote, "we don't like our red carpet to be used as a promotional stunt."

Of course, they don't. The last thing that any of those stars are thinking as they spend millions of dollars on expensive clothes and jewelry is any kind of self promotion. Be that as it may, the Academy is now waiting with bated breath to hear from Baron Cohen, who so far is sensibly keeping all his options open.


COHEN: When you're playing a dictator, there's nothing you can't do.


MORGAN: Of course, there isn't. That's the whole point of being a dictator. You can do what the hell you like. So I say, Sasha, stand firm. Do it for Britain. Do it for the world. Come as the Dictator and give us all a damn good laugh.

That's all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts now.