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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

Ohio High School Shooting; Bill Maher Exclusive Interview; New Gingrich Says Would Consult Catholic Church on Abortion Policy

Aired February 27, 2012 - 21:00   ET

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


PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Tonight, Bill Maher is mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore. Why he's putting his money where his mouth is with a controversial million-dollar donation to a super PAC.

Plus, what he think about this from my exclusive with Newt Gingrich?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love the way people who are pro-choice find the most grotesque possible moral dilemma to set up one side or the other.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: And this jab from Rick Santorum.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Bill Maher on presidential politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Mitt Romney is running on that silly idea that I ran a business, I know how to create jobs. No, actually, what he did was fire people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Live and no holds barred.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: I never say anything purposely to piss people off but I say what I feel and, you know, that will piss a lot of people off.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: My primetime exclusive with Bill Maher. The PIERS MORGAN interview starts right now. Good evening. Two big stories tonight. A deadly shooting at a high school in Ohio and a crucial primaries in Michigan and Arizona tomorrow. On the eve of the make-or-break contest, Republican presidential hopefuls are making a primary push tonight.

Bill Maher will be signing off soon on all this in a primetime exclusive plus more of my one-on-one with Newt Gingrich. I asked him if his strong performance in CNN's last debate makes him more confident now that he can actually win the race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRICH: I think frankly my energy policy, the potential to getting to $2.50 a gallon gas, on diesel fuel, the idea that there are -- there are things you can do so much better and so much smarter than Barack Obama that allows the country to create jobs, to have affordable energy, to be independent in the Middle East. I think that there's a resonating effect going on the size of the crowds we've been seeing as we've campaigned.

I am very excited by it. I'm going to spend most of this week in Georgia. We will have been in seven states in the last eight days and we're focused, you know, on winning Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Ohio, and a number of other states that I think will do well, I think we'll do better in Idaho than people expect. So I think Super Tuesday will be a very exciting day.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: More from my interview with Newt Gingrich later. But we begin with breaking news on the school shooting in Chardon, Ohio, which killed one student and left four others wounded. An interview with CNN's Martin Savidge, eyewitness Ryan Doyle identifies the shooter as T.J. Lane, a fellow student shown here on a Facebook photo. The "Plain Deal," a newspaper in Cleveland, cited another student, Nate Mueller, wounded in the shooting, also identifies the suspect as T.J. Lane.

I want to bring in Martin Savidge. He's in Chardon tonight for CNN and knows the area well.

Martin, bring us up to speed with the latest developments on this story.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Piers, I grew up in northeast Ohio. I had family inside of Chardon High School today when the shooting occurred. I can tell you that this is a story that is horrifying to this community and most people here are still in an absolute state of shock, whether it's the parents, whether it's the students, whether it's the community as a whole. They just cannot believe the violence that occurred inside what they thought was a very safe high school.

Ryan Doyle was a freshman in the cafeteria. He talked to me exclusively about what it was like when it all went down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN DOYLE, EYEWITNESS TO SCHOOL SHOOTING: My back was turned, I heard one shot. I turned, I saw another one pointed towards the -- towards the victim. And then I went under the table and I heard two more, and coach -- I saw Coach Hall, like, right when I was going under the table, he was running towards him. And then there was silence, there wasn't any shots fired, so I got up and I just ran as fast as I could outside to the soccer field and across the street. And as I was going outside, I heard one more shot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: One of the fascinating things was that during all of that, not a single word was said by the shooter. No scream, no shout, nothing. Just gunfire and absolute silence. And that's what the victims remember most -- Piers.

MORGAN: Do we know anything about this alleged shooter, T.J. Lane? We know he's 17, he attends the school, as you say, a silent attack. Is there any indication at the moment about any motive for what happened?

SAVIDGE: You know, when you talk to people here, and this sounds like cliche, but it is so true with everyone that I've spoken to that knows this young man. They say that he was quiet, that he was a loner, that he had walls of he essentially emotionally had built up around himself. Came from a broken home, raised by his grandparents, older brother in prison. He had a very hard upbringing.

He looked different. He was skinny. He had the skater haircut, kind of a Goth look, and others say that he was picked a lot, going all the way back to middle school, and that maybe, just maybe, it reached a boiling point today. Nobody says that is justification, they just pointed that it's a window on what was a very, very troubled young man -- Piers.

MORGAN: A horrific story. Martin Savidge, thank you very much.

Lots to talk about in the news today and luckily we got a man who knows all about all the stories on every day. That's Bill Maher.

Bill, welcome back.

MAHER: Nice to be here, Piers.

MORGAN: An awful story to start with. I mean another school shooting.

MAHER: Yes.

MORGAN: What is your take about it? There was an incident a couple of weeks ago, another boy went to school with a rucksack, a gun went off, and he had a gun in the bag and stuff. You know, coming from Britain as I do, I find a lot of the gun laws in this country incomprehensible.

MAHER: Yes, do the -- do the Bobbies carry guns now?

MORGAN: Very few.

MAHER: Yes.

MORGAN: You have to have a particular licenses but it's --

MAHER: Right.

MORGAN: It isn't the case everyone does that.

MAHER: It's not a gun culture. This is a gun culture. We love guns. I mean I would love somebody just to make a speech and say, OK, we're never going to get rid of all the guns. But do we have to adore them? Do we have to love them so much?

I look at guns like antibiotics. You know, maybe sometimes you need them, but I don't kiss my antibiotics, I don't polish them, I don't worship my amoxicillin. If I need it, it's there. You know? But this country just has a very bad relationship with guns.

MORGAN: What is it about this ideological dream of the right to bear arms that overrides any other rights, I mean the rights to not have your children killed at school? Yes, I mean, it seems to me it's all a little warped here, you know. Ever since I've been in America doing this show from Gabby Giffords onwards there have been regular incidents involving guns where you can't really work out how the perpetrators have got hold of these weapons in any sensible legal manner.

MAHER: And how many thousands have been killed and shot since Gabby Giffords. It's so typical of this country to focus on that one woman and we're glad that she recovered to the extent that she did. I remember when she came back to Congress, they said it was great feel- good story. And I said, maybe we need a feel-bad story to wake people up a little bit about guns. And I thought Obama was going to make a speech about them. Remember there was --

MORGAN: Yes.

MAHER: We were promised after that. I mean the speech he made when he went down to Tucson was sort of -- well, we can't point any fingers, we all love guns equally, and this is the not the time, and read the "Book of Jobs," stuff happens. That's not what we need. We need someone to stand up to the gun lobby. But we don't have that in this country.

The reason is, because Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee in the 2000 election, and ever since, because he was a little not pro-NRA enough, and ever since then, the Democratic Party has punted on this issue.

So it's one of those issues where we don't have a party at all that stands up for the millions of people in this country who believe that we should take a different approach. MORGAN: I find it so strange that there can't be at least some kind of positive debate about removing some of the 300 million guns that are apparently in circulation in America.

MAHER: It's religion.

MORGAN: Three hundred million firearms. I mean it's no surprise to me that there are so many of these crazy incidents because the access, the ease with which you can get these weapons, is just there. It's -- anyone can get a gun.

MAHER: Obviously. And Rick Santorum likes to talk about theology. This is a theology in this country. Guns are a religion. They're next to godliness for a lot of people. And you wonder what they're doing with them. I know they love to blow the brains out of innocent animals for fun, I guess that's one thing. But they also have this fantasy in their head, if you talk to a lot of right-wingers, that somehow they read the Second Amendment as necessary because we might have a tyranny in this country.

Some sort of alien totalitarian menace might take over, and they're not saying who specifically, but then they will have to rise and take this country back. They really have this fantasy in their head that they can take over the government. I mean this may have made sense when the Second Amendment was written, when maybe you could defeat the government when everybody had muskets.

But now the government has, you know, nuclear weapons, the F-22, and the Marine Corps, and it's probably unlikely that Vern and Earl are going to be able to take over the government no matter how much they dislike it.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: How many Democrats believe passionately in the right to have your own firearm, do you think? What's your sense?

MAHER: Well, I don't think they believe it as passionately as the right. But they don't want to -- they don't want to oppose them on that because --

MORGAN: I mean change will only come when a body of people, politicians, rise up and actually do something about this.

MAHER: Right.

MORGAN: Because it can't just go -- you can't just have endless proliferation of firearms.

MAHER: And politicians, of course , are moved by voters. If they thought there were votes in there or more prudently not votes to lose. I mean after all this is -- we have presidential elections that are probably only contested in 12 states. About 12 states, swing states.

We here in California, we will never see a campaign commercial because we're already in the bag for the Democrats and Texas is already in there for the Republicans. And New York doesn't see ads. Those 12 states, that's where they worry about -- Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Colorado. Well, those are states you think about them, lots of people there love their guns.

MORGAN: But when I had people -- I had this debate with them and, you know, I can get into an argument, they say to me, look, it is in the Constitution of our country, the right to bear arms. It's there. It's written down. It is our right. And it's hard to argue against that position, isn't it? It is in the Constitution.

MAHER: Well, of course, it's in the Constitution but where does that end? The Constitution could not foresee assault weapons -- or bazookas. Should we be able to have those? What about a tank? What about a nuclear weapon if you could afford it? I mean it's ridiculous. No one -- and by the way, no one is saying that we were -- that we're attempting to create a gun-free society. We know that's impossible. Just reasonable limits.

Make sure that the mentally ill people don't get them. Make sure you can't get them at these gun shows, these loopholes. I know people say, well, if we just enforce the gun laws, well, apparently we're not doing that either. So as you say, it's so easy for any nut to get ahold of a gun and then to modify it, like the guy did in Tucson, to the point where you can really do incredible damage in a short amount of time.

MORGAN: Yes, but we don't know the circumstances of this shooting today but the fact a 17-year-old boy can arm himself I think very easily, still in this country, in many parts of America, any 17-year- old kid could get a firearm. That's my problem. You know I'm not -- I'm not trying to rewrite the Constitution or tell people they can't defend themselves in their own home.

MAHER: Right.

MORGAN: I get that argument. But I don't get the ease of access to people who should not be allowed anywhere near weapons.

MAHER: And by the way, there's nothing wrong with saying we could rewrite the Constitution. The Constitution itself was rewritten. After all it is the Second Amendment. Amendment means we had --

MORGAN: (INAUDIBLE)

MAHER: We had a second thought about this and we needed to amend it.

MORGAN: Yes.

MAHER: But people, of course, they don't really read the Constitution, not really sure what's in it. There's a lot of the right-wingers in this country thinks the Constitution consists of the Second Amendment and then, blah blah, yatta, yatta, whatever.

MORGAN: Are you disappointed that Obama hasn't done something more concrete about guns?

MAHER: Of course.

MORGAN: Right.

MAHER: Very disappointing.

MORGAN: Hold that thought. I want to ask you if you're so disappointed in him, why have you just given him a million dollars, Bill Maher? We'll come back after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: I would like to tonight announce a donation to the Obama super PAC which has the very unfortunate tongue-twister name, Priority USA Action. I would like to give that PAC $1 million.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That was Bill Maher announcing his million-dollar donation to President Obama's super PAC. Bill is back with me now.

So I was -- that was surprise, I don't know. I suppose a surprise either you had a million dollar to chuck around, Bill. Congratulations. Secondly --

MAHER: It was just lying around.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: Secondly, that you would do this. I don't know why I should be surprised like your politics aren't necessarily that shocking, but why did you do? What made you get up one day and say I'm going to do this?

MAHER: OK. I didn't do it just one day but I thought about it for a long time. What I said right after that was that I wanted to make the point that this really hurt. It does hurt me to write a check for a million dollars. And I wanted to sort of inspire a lot of the people out there on the left who are rich, who this wouldn't hurt at all. There's lots of people who would never miss a million dollars. I will miss it. I'll miss it badly.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: How bad are you going to miss it, Bill?

MAHER: I'm driving a cab at night now.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: No, I mean, I'm not. I'm still going to eat the same. I'm just going to digest it a lot more peacefully. Because these Republicans scare me. You know if this was Europe and we had 10 parties to choose from, maybe I'd feel different. Yes, Obama has disappointed me in some ways. But after watching these Republicans debate for this last year and hearing their ideas for the country, not only do I think this is for the betterment of the nation, I would do this on a selfish level because if we elect a Republican and they go back to the policies that were there before Obama, I could see my money getting vaporized like it did in 2008, when I had it with Lehman Brothers.

No, I'm not -- I'm not blaming that specifically on the Republican administration but the policy of not taxing the rich, which was Bush's policy, the policy of deregulation of Wall Street, which was mostly a Republican policy, you know, Republican policies are failed ideas. And to go back to them could be more disastrous for what money I have left than anything else I can -- I can think of.

MORGAN: Have you heard from the president since your donation?

MAHER: Well, no, because it wasn't to him, it was to the super PAC.

MORGAN: To the super PAC.

MAHER: Which he has nothing to do with.

MORGAN: Nothing to do with.

(LAUGHTER)

MORGAN: Here's my issue with that is that Obama was always very anti these super PACs and then he woke up and realized, wait a second, I'm getting -- I'm going to get flattened by this.

MAHER: It's a silly argument.

MORGAN: Is it a silly argument?

MAHER: It's a silly argument. Of course it is. This is what the Republicans would like people to believe that it's somehow hypocritical. Well, of course it's not. You can be against something, as long as it's the rules of the game in the present, though, you play in the present. I'm against the --

MORGAN: Can you? That's still hypocrisy, isn't it?

MAHER: Well, first of all, he would just -- he would out-and-out lose this election if he didn't -- . You have to keep two district -- distinct thoughts in your mind at the same time. One, we're against the policy. Two, as long as this is the rules of the game, we have to play by the rules.

MORGAN: Even if you think it's morally and ethically wrong?

MAHER: Of course. Because otherwise he doesn't win. Now if he wins, he might be able to appoint a couple more Supreme Court justices which would overturn that awful ruling, Citizens United, which allowed this to happen in the first place.

MORGAN: But given that Romney is out-spending all his competitors with these super PACs, and like 10-1 and he still isn't getting very far, certainly winning his election battle at the moment, what makes you think the super PACs are actually that effective?

MAHER: Well, that's true. Money does not always win elections. Mostly it does, however. Usually, it does. It makes a huge difference. Obama beat McCain handily in the donation game in 2008 and that was a big reason why he was able to win, I think. Also McCain was a horrible candidate and Sarah Palin and everything broke right for Obama in 2008. The market crashed, all of that stuff.

But, you know, in 2008, the most you could give was $2300, I think. Now, Sheldon Adelson talks about giving one candidate a $100 million. This game has changed completely. This is the reason I did this, to draw attention to something I don't think Americans are aware of. That this is a completely different world we're playing in now. It's a world of millionaires and billionaires.

MORGAN: Who's --

MAHER: And almost all the billionaires are on the side of the Republicans. So the common everyday millionaire has to step forward for the Democrats.

MORGAN: And yet wouldn't a romantic part of you love it if President Obama came out and said, I said super PACs are morally wrong, I still believe they're morally wrong, I'm not going to get involved in super PACs, I;m not going to endorse any, I don't want any of my supporters to give any money to them.

MAHER: No.

MORGAN: And you know what, if they want to spend, spend, spend and try to negatively blow me away, I'll take my chances.

MAHER: Yes. Silly and naive. It's -- the analogy I was about to give you is this. I don't -- I don't believe in the designated hitter rule in baseball. But if I'm the manager of a team and we're in the World Series, am I not going to use the designated hitter? No. You're going to try to win the World Series under the rules of the game as they are and after the series is over --

MORGAN: Would every coach --

MAHER: You will try to --

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: You will try to get rid of the designated hitter.

MORGAN: Would every coach do that?

MAHER: Of course, every -- they always have.

MORGAN: What would we think of a coach who didn't do that?

MAHER: He was crazy is what we would think.

(LAUGHTER) MAHER: He was a nut and an idiot for doing it, and a loser on top of that because he would lose.

MORGAN: Let's take a little break. I want to come back and talk to you about a running theme of this show, keeping America great. Because it always seems to be a little bit more positive than saying America is in the cart, we're all duped.

So let's try and be positive after the break, work out ways of keeping America great other than pumping millions into Obama's super PACs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: And here's the good news for liberals. A new poll that shows Santorum and Romney are beating each other up so bad that Obama is now ahead of both of them. Another tragic result of white on white crime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: HBO's "Realtime with Bill Maher." Bill Maher is back with me now.

What do you make of the -- I mean, you've already said that you find them all vaguely ridiculous. But what do you think of their actual chances against Barack Obama in an election? Because, you know, you were saying on the break, it could be a lot closer than people think.

MAHER: Well, that's another reason why I did this because I was at party a few weeks ago, I guess it was Grammy party, after the Grammys, and all the liberals were coming out to me, wanting to talk politics. And of course these are mostly celebrities so they're not the most, you know, informed people in the world generally.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: But they are, like, isn't it great -- isn't it great that Obama has this election in the bag? And I was like, he doesn't have this election in the bag. I would bet that -- not that I have a lot to bet with left.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: But I would bet that on election night, the polls will show you a race that's too close to call. It's a very 50-50 country. And what we were kicking around at our office today to work on our concluding essay for the show Friday night is this idea of a bubble that the liberals live in. Now I have talked a lot about the conservative bubble and they certainly do live in a bubble, an insane bubble where Obama is this person that doesn't exist who slashes defense spending, who raises your taxes, who apologizes to other nations around the world, whose wife wants to out-law dessert, I mean just this insanity.

But the liberals live in a little bubble, too, which is that they look at Rick Santorum, as I do and perhaps you do, I would hope you do, and see an insane person and think, he could never be elected president but they don't live in America. They fly over it. It's true, when Rick -- when Rick Santorum says, you know, Obama thinks that your -- I don't know what -- what did he say about Obama that he wants to rule over you?

MORGAN: But here's the problem. Here's the problem.

MAHER: And that he --

MORGAN: Here's the problem. Whatever you say about Rick Santorum, he, of all the candidates I've interviewed, at least has the benefit, I think, of being true to himself more than some of the others. He's quite authentic. I think he believes what he says most of the time.

MAHER: Why else would you say that?

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: I mean that's the only reason I can think of. I mean the father of lies talking about Satan? I haven't heard that one since I was in catechism.

MORGAN: Quite a good line, though, I thought.

MAHER: The father of lies?

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: What year are we living in? I mean, and this controversy today about John F. Kennedy making him throw up. It's so funny that the Kennedy speech in 1960 was John F. Kennedy basically saying, look, I'm not going to be taking my marching orders from the Pope, and now Rick Santorum in 2012 is sort of saying the reverse.

MORGAN: Yes.

MAHER: How dare you say you won't be taking your orders from the Pope?

MORGAN: I don't think he read the speech properly because that's not what Kennedy was saying.

MAHER: It doesn't matter. Again, they live in their bubble. That's just --

MORGAN: Yes, but he's doing it very deliberately and he's appealing to the conservative heartland in a way that I think Mitt Romney is struggling to do. I thought the interesting thing today was an outrageous comment by Rick Santorum about the whole college thing that Obama came out with as though somehow encouraging Americans to go to college was this appalling attack on working class people.

MAHER: Trust me, I've been a comedian for 30 years, I could not even begun to imagine a political candidate coming out against college.

MORGAN: No.

MAHER: I couldn't -- if I went to write a sketch, I could not have come up with that.

MORGAN: Let me turn to a little miss-mash of a few other comments by the candidates. Let's just watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I like the fact that most of the cars I see are Detroit made automobiles. I drive a Mustang and a Chevy pickup truck. Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs, actually.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: I mean, I actually like Rick Santorum.

MAHER: That's what I was trying to be. What a snob.

MORGAN: I personally quite like Rick Santorum. And he's been good to us and he comes on the show unlike Mitt Romney and at least fronts out these debates.

MAHER: Right.

MORGAN: But to call Barack Obama a snob in that way simply because he encourages Americans to go to college at a time when more Americans need to go to college. I mean, China and India and other countries are rapidly, in terms of education, overtaking America.

MAHER: Let me tell you, the amount of material that those two have given me, I should have written them a check for a million dollars.

(LAUGHTER)

MAHER: But, again, you're thinking -- you're not like a lot of the country thinks. That -- I know it sounds crazy to us, we're saying --

MORGAN: Well, you can't keep speaking for me here, I'm sorry.

MAHER: I mean, that's me --

MORGAN: I need to interview these guys.

MAHER: Exactly. Exactly.

MORGAN: But isn't that the central point, though, that it's not people like you that really they're concerned about. Rick Santorum won't be watching this worrying about what Bill Maher says. He'll expect it. But in terms of the conservative Heartland that may be choosing their nominee, there is something about Santorum that is energizing the masses of the Republicans better than Mitt Romney.

MAHER: This is what I thought as I was watching the Oscars last night as the French movie kept winning over and over. I thought, in an all of middle America, they're going, see, this is what happens, a Jew and his French movie have taken over our motion picture show again, a movie that most people in the Heartlands will never see or never be interested in seeing, but somehow that's the big winner.

And the French, you know about them.

MORGAN: I haven't heard Newt Gingrich exploding yet. He must be furious that this French silent movie has won everything.

MAHER: They're not completely wrong that Hollywood is not always in touch with the regular people out there. You know, it's funny, somebody said to me the other day, have you ever known anybody who watches "NCIS"? I said, no, I haven't. I cannot think of one person. I've never seen it. And somehow it's number one in the ratings.

Who are these people who are watching "NCIS"? They live in America. They just don't come in contact with me.

MORGAN: Yes. But it -- that is true, isn't it? The other thing that struck me in the last week was, I interviewed Chris Christie. And he suddenly lost his rag about Warren Buffet, and said if Warren Buffet wants to be taxed, well, just shut up and write a check.

Then Warren Buffet today replied. Let's just watch his response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN BUFFET, BILLIONAIRE INVESTOR: It's sort of a touching response to a 1.2 trillion dollar deficit, isn't it, that somehow the American people will just all of a sudden write checks and take care of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: So there's Warren Buffet on cNBC saying it's a ridiculous argument. What do you think of that whole argument on both sides?

MAHER: It's similar to the silly thing about you -- the designated hitter and how that's a hypocrite. It's a fake argument that will get people who don't follow this very closely to agree. But, of course, Warren Buffet is right. You can't -- certain things cannot be voluntary. One of them is paying taxes.

Another one, by the way, is fixing the environment. You said before you were going to ask about how we can improve America. Some things only government can do. You know, thinking that we can fix our environmental problems by just voluntarily having people recycle, it's like saying we could have won World War II by just having them voluntarily collect tin and stuff like that, as they did, but you also kind of need the government to make tags and planes. That was sort of a big part of winning World War II.

MORGAN: How much should the government lead, and how much strays into nanny state, do you think?

MAHER: Well, sometimes you do need a nanny state. That old thing about the Constitution isn't a suicide pact. I mean, at what point does the environment get so bad that we -- that the government says, yes, we're going to have to infringe on your freedom a little? These people don't want any infringing on freedom.

That, to me, is a suicide pact. Yes, the -- I don't know what -- I don't know what it is with Republicans that they think that they're not breathing the same air.

MORGAN: If you were president, what are the three quick things that you would strive to do to put America back on its feet, do you think?

MAHER: Well, first, I would invest. You know, I would try to do what Obama has been trying to do, which is get the economy moving by stimulating the economy a little more. It worked as well as it could with the limited amount they allowed him to do it the first time.

The idea of pulling back and retrenching and saving now, we've learned that economists know that that doesn't work. Again, the economy -- the environment, I feel, is an issue that is just not going to get any better. Every time I read a headline in the paper, it's something super scary, like worse than the worst predictions were four years ago for the polar icecaps melting, for example.

I would try to link those issues, as Obama has. You know, try to -- there's a way we can get the economy moving by these new green industries, if they could stop the Republicans from blocking it.

MORGAN: I will take another break, because I want to come to another way of keeping America great, more Tim Tebows. You met the great man last night at party.

MAHER: The great man.

MORGAN: Tim Tebow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SACHA BARON COHEN, ACTOR: The funny and interesting thing is actually -- South Korea. No, no, no, sorry. Kim Jong il. Wait a minute. It's OK for you. No, if somebody asks you what you are wearing, you will say Kim Jong il.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have fun this evening.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: You see Sacha Baron Cohen on the Oscar red carpet with an urn full of ashes. I guess you have to expect something like that. Back now with Bill Maher from HBO's Bill Maher "Realtime." Did you find that funny or not?

MAHER: I hadn't seen that. But I happen to know -- Larry Charles is the guy who directed, who directed "Borat," directed my movie, "Religulous." I happen to know that that movie is going to be a scream.

MORGAN: I think Sacha Baron Cohen is a comedy genius.

MAHER: He is.

MORGAN: It just was funny. I love the fact that everyone gets so outraged. It's just a bit of humor. God knows the Oscars needed it yesterday.

MAHER: And it's silly. What's to get upset about?

MORGAN: Exactly.

MAHER: What I get upset about is the French took over our motion picture show.

MORGAN: You -- was it at the "Vanity Fair" party you met Tim Tebow. I was there and didn't get to meet him. Tell me about the moment, because Tebow is a phenomenon.

MAHER: Twenty minutes, we talked for a long time.

MORGAN: Do you like him?

MAHER: Of course. I never didn't like him. People think I don't like him because he's super religious and I'm an atheist.

MORGAN: It may be something to do with email or this Tweet you Tweeted. this was following the 40 to 14 Broncos loss to the Buffalo Bills. You Tweeted, "Wow, Jesus just (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Tim Tebow bad and on Christmas Eve. Somewhere in Hell, Satan is Tebowing, saying to Hitler, hey, Buffalo is killing them."

MAHER: Yeah. There's no animosity there against Tim Tebow. I just --

MORGAN: Satan, Hitler.

MAHER: Well, first of all, it's a joke. I don't believe in Satan and I don't believe in Jesus as a God either. What I was saying this guy does. This guy -- you know, my one gripe against him is he brings so much religiosity into the public square.

Just play football. We don't have to see it on every play.

MORGAN: Isn't it quite inspiring what he does?

MAHER: Inspiring? Inspiring to who? People who are religious. MORGAN: If you work from the point of view that most Americans are not atheists like you, then actually, if they do believe in God, having a clean living, superbly talented professional sportsman actually being very, I think, modest, you know, humble.

MAHER: Why couldn't he do this without the religiosity.

MORGAN: Why can't he do it with his religion, if he believes?

MAHER: Well, he can. It's a free country. He can do whatever he wants.

Let's not forget that faith is just an opinion. It's just somebody's opinion, which gets us back to Rick Santorum, who thinks it's something more than just an opinion. That's what I would like to say to him, because he said today very clearly he doesn't really believe in the separation of church and state.

MORGAN: Yeah, he did.

MAHER: And that's absolutely ridiculous. That is -- that is unacceptable in this country. It is just -- and you are allowed to have your opinion. You're allowed to have your opinion that a Palestinian 2,000 years ago walked on water and did magic tricks and was really -- he's really still his own father and all that stuff.

That's fine, you can have whatever opinion you want. And the fact that a billion other people believe it gives you a lot of strength and credence. But I also have the opinion that that is ridiculous, that it's anachronistic. This is the 21st Century.

MORGAN: You might have that opinion, but the reality is most Americans are God fearing.

MAHER: So.

MORGAN: And actually, I suspect, do believe that it's perfectly acceptable for people of religious influence to work in politics as well and govern?

MAHER: It is, of course. I'm not saying anybody's opinion should be outlawed in the public square. I'm just saying that is your opinion. Don't tell me this is my faith, so somehow it means something more than my opinion. Because it doesn't mean anything more than my opinion.

My opinion is just as valid as your opinion. And my opinion is you're nuts. What's a shame to me is that we had this other phenomenon, Jeremy Lin, and I'm a long-suffering Knicks fan. They have not won since '73.

MORGAN: I love Jeremy Lin.

MAHER: I do, too. I don't care if he worships Satan. But it would have been -- and he is like Tim Tebow, a very religious Christian. It would have been great to even things out if he was an atheist. He went to Harvard, for crying out loud.

MORGAN: If Jeremy Lin came to you and said, look, I want you to join me in prayer and I will score 20 more points against the Lakers, would you do it?

MAHER: Of course not. I would say prayer is ridiculous. It's trying to telepathically communicate with an imaginary friend. And I don't do that. It has nothing to do with how much you're going to score tonight.

MORGAN: As you said at the start of this interview, if that's the way the rules are played, it doesn't matter if ethically or morally you don't agree; you just do it. Get on your knees and start praying, Bill Maher.

MAHER: I'll Tebow. But Tebow was great, by the way. What a great guy, sweet guy.

MORGAN: Unfortunately, we have got to end it. I want you to come back soon. Promise me on air. That way I can hold you to it.

MAHER: OK.

MORGAN: You're also appearing at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville on March the 18th. I suspect tickets are very scarce, so get in quick. Bill Maher, always a great pleasure.

MAHER: OK. Good to see you, Piers.

MORGAN: Coming up, more from my exclusive interview with Newt Gingrich.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: It's crunch time for the candidates with tomorrow's key contests in Michigan and Arizona, and then next week, Super Tuesday. More now from my exclusive interview with Newt Gingrich.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORGAN: Being president clearly is full of almost daily moral and ethical dilemmas. I wanted to put one to you, because watching the whole debate recently about abortion and contraception and so on and so on -- I read a letter in the "New York Times" on Friday. I just wanted to read to you the conundrum that was put and ask you what your personal reaction would be to this.

It was a doctor, a gynecologist, who had a 42-year-old Christian married mother of a three-year-old boy. She came to her office with an unplanned pregnancy while using condoms for birth control. The pregnancy was life-threatening because of a clotting disorder.

Neither her monogamy nor her condoms were able to prevent it. Thankfully abortion was a life saving choice for her. And she can now watch her son start Kindergarten." What would your response have been to that particular dilemma with that woman. Would you simply have wanted -- not wanted, but have drawn the conclusion the only ethical or moral solution would be that the mother should die?

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No one -- Piers, I love the way people who are pro-choice find the most grotesque possible moral dilemma to set up one side or her to. Why don't I sometime give you the same choice on exactly the other direction?

The fact is no one, and to the best of my knowledge no religion, would advocate the death of that mother. What they would advocate is that every possible step be taken to save both. If, in the end, that means only the mother's life can survive, that would then be the outcome.

But nobody would accept the principle of killing the mother. I think that that's just -- the way that was posed --

MORGAN: That isn't actually true, though, because actually many Republicans -- I think Rick Santorum would be one of them -- would say that you cannot abort a baby from the moment of conception, because the baby's life is as valid as anybody else's. And he doesn't agree.

I think your position with abortion is you don't agree with it under any circumstances including rape and incest. This is not something I made up. This was a lead letter in the "New York Times," This was a real story and a real woman.

GINGRICH: All right. Yes. And in that tragic circumstance, you would hope that the doctor would find ways to potentially put her in bed rest, to potentially put her under clot controlling medications, to take a variety of steps that would maximize the chance of her surviving.

But the same point I made the other night in the debate, Piers; nobody stops and says, gee, how do you feel about Barack Obama voting to protect doctors who kill babies who survive abortion, which is called infanticide? You have a president of the United States who voted for infanticide.

Now do you think it's good to have infanticide? I don't hear anybody on television who is prepared to talk about that issue. So if you're going to take one extreme, you need to take the other extreme.

Now let's measure the pain involved. This is a very hard, very painful process. And part starts with when do you think life begins? If you think it begins at conception, then you have two lives in the balance. And the first duty of the doctor is to try, if possible, to save both lives.

MORGAN: Where do you think life begins?

GINGRICH: I think it begins at conception. That's why I think the doctor has a moral obligation to try to save both lives. I just outlined for you a procedure. And since you raised the question, I had no knowledge of before the show, I'm going to take this exact story. I'll have my staff get the letter. And I'm going to go talk to some folks who I trust in the Catholic hierarchy and see exactly what would their advice be at a Catholic hospital in exactly this kind of setting?

Because it is an important moral dilemma. And I think it's legitimate to talk it through.

MORGAN: What I'm going to say to you is that doctoring can be what it is, but if you're the doctor in this case and you have to make a decision, and you're the woman and you're a Christian and you are struggling with your religious beliefs and so on, and you want to make the right decision, ethically, morally, religiously, if you like, the decision you think she should be taking collectively would be that the mother's life should be saved.

The reason I'm pushing it is that because if that is the case, then clearly there are exceptions to abortion --

GINGRICH: No, but I didn't say that.

MORGAN: -- after conception.

GINGRICH: Look, what I said was every effort should be made to try to save both lives. And the first stage would be to go to bed rest and using anti-clotting medicine. And I can't tell you beyond that until I look at the case and talk to some doctors. You know, I'm -- I'm running for the presidency. I'm not running for head of OB-GYN at a major hospital.

So I can't give you an answer. You come down to a very narrow, very specialized case. And I'm going to go and ask some very smart people who deal with this regularly, what do they do in that circumstance? But I think what they'll tell you they do is they then urge bed rest and they urge anti-clotting medicine. And they do everything they can to save both lives.

MORGAN: I would be fascinated if you did look into it, actually, and come back with what you think should happen. It's an interesting debate.

People are saying to me that Speaker Gingrich has a much more disciplined campaign now. A lot of the reason for that is his wife, Calista. How do you plead to that charge?

GINGRICH: Well, I guess I'll use the word guilty, or very, very happy. Maybe very happy is a better word. You know, Calista is a very disciplined person. She's a classical pianist by background, and plays the French Horn and sings at a professional choir at the Basilica. All those teach her a level of discipline that is probably greater than mine.

We often kid that I'm kind of a jazz musician, in that I go with the crowd and I do riffs. And she wants to be much more structured. But I think that she has brought a discipline both to me and to the campaign that's been, frankly, very helpful.

MORGAN: Speaker Gingrich, thank you very much indeed.

GINGRICH: Good to be with you.

MORGAN: Coming up, Only in America, the good, the bad and the ugly of the Oscars, the awards that probably should have been given out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Tonight, Only in America, the Oscars. More than 39 million people tuned, up a bit from last year. We heard from the Academy last night. But tonight, I've come up with my own awards for the gala, the Morgans.

Let's get right to it. The most dishonest speech from the Oscars. Every one of the 3,500 winners for the movie "Hugo" who exclaimed wow, I wasn't expecting this.

The most honest speech, Christopher Plumber, who surely spoke for the whole room when he said "when I emerged from my mother's womb, I was already rehearsing my academy thank you speech."

The best supporting limb, Angelina's right leg. All right, her performance was a bit stiff, but there's no denying its quality or its movement. By the way, that leg now has its own Twitter account, @AngiesRightLeg, which has more than 19,000 followers.

The worst foreign language accent, Christian Bale.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIAN BALE, ACTOR: The five women nominated for actress in a supporting role could not look, sound or be more different from one another.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Now, trust me on this, there isn't a single inch of the British Isles where you'll find another human being who speaks like he just did.

The best impersonation, Billy Crystal doing Martin Scorsese doing Nick Nolte.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILLY CRYSTAL, ACTOR: Nick Nolte, Nick Nolte, blah.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That was the best of Billy crystal. Now the not so good, his joke from the opening.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRYSTAL: And then we're going to go kill Hitler.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: The thing is, Billy, that kind of impression may have worked back in the old SNL days of 1970 perhaps. But today it just felt a little offensive.

The best dress, Sophia Vagara. It's always Sophia Vagara, let's be honest. And she wasn't even at the ceremony. She just went to a party.

The best use of lighting, the shadow of Jennifer Lopez's dress, leading tot he greatest did it or didn't it Internet debate since Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl.

Possession of an offensive 1980s hair style, Brad Pitt. Raise your game, son.

And finally, the second best impression of the night goes to Colin Firth who, according to Twitter, played off the dramatic lead role brilliantly of me.

And to all the cynics moaning about "The Artist" winning best picture, let me just say this, the American dream was built on the premise of thinking the impossible and then making it happen. Only in America would you have ever thought you could make a silent movie in 2012 starring a bunch of unknown French actors and annoying dog and conquer the Oscars.

Harvey Weinstein of New York, Hollywood, and now Paris, I salute you.

Tomorrow, CNN's coverage of the crucial Michigan and Arizona primaries starts at 7:00 Eastern. I'll be back with a special midnight edition of PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

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