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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
Interview with Ehud Barak; Billy Bob Thornton Talks American Obsession With Technology and Pop Culture; Billionaire Hedge Fund Manager Recommends Very Safe Investments
Aired May 16, 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, how far will Israel's defense minister go to protect his country from Iran, and what does he want America to do? I'll ask him in an exclusive interview.
And Billy Bob Thornton, a primetime exclusive. Hollywood anti-hero, Oscar winner and of course Angelina Jolie's ex.
BILLY BOB THORNTON, ACTOR: I'm so normal that I would probably bore anyone to tears if they hung out with me.
MORGAN: Tonight he tells all the rumors, the romances and the one that got away.
And "Keeping America Great" with President Obama's power fundraiser, the man they call the George Clooney of hedge funds, knows Wall Street better than anybody. What he thinks of the Facebook frenzy and JPMorgan Chase and that $2 billion mistake.
Plus "Only in America," why you should never ever come between a man and his fish.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They refuse to give us any more fish.
MORGAN: This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
We begin tonight, as we do every night, with the big story. Tonight, it's the very real threat of a war between Iran and Israel, one that Washington is desperately trying to avoid.
No matter who wins the election in November, the president will have to face the reality that this country's closest ally in the Middle East may be on the verge of attacking the Islamic Republic. The consequences could be catastrophic. But is it too late to stop?
Joining me now, an exclusive interview with Israel's top military official, defense minister and former prime minister, Ehud Barak, and a friend of this show.
Thank you for coming back, sir. How are you?
EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER: Thank you. I'm very good.
MORGAN: Good to see you. Now you are here because tomorrow you're going to go to Washington to see Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on funding for a middle -- a missile defense system for Israel. This puts the whole atmosphere about Israel's security to the central political fore right now. And the key issue, it seems, is Iran.
Everyone says at the moment it's a tale of two Baraks, Barack Obama and Ehud Barak, that he believes that you are the key figure in the Israeli administration, the one who is keenest on taking military action against Iran.
What do you say to that?
BARAK: I say we have a different political system. We have a government. We don't have -- I don't believe that I'm the key person. There is a prime minister, Netanyahu. There is a government. It should take decisions collectively. And I'm not sure whether we are yet on this decision.
We are now facing -- I don't like the use of words like catastrophe that you have mentioned. It's not about catastrophe. It's about a real challenge to the whole world, not just to Israel. I think that a nuclear Iran will change the whole landscape of the Middle East. We have to do something to block it from happening, be it these sanctions or the negotiations or else.
And I think that now we are in the negotiations. And we have to see. I have talked with them in Vienna. They seemed just too maneuver. Probably, they will meet again before the 27th, before Baghdad. And then there is Baghdad. And we talked to Baroness Ashton a few days ago in Jerusalem.
MORGAN: I mean these are high level talks in Baghdad. They're critical talks, in many ways, leading countries meeting there to discuss what to do next about Iran.
Are you of the belief that the reason you have to get stuck into Iran now rather than too late is because if you leave it too late, you see what happens in North Korea, you see what happens in Pakistan, that countries that are unstable can develop nuclear weapons if people don't take action soon enough. You would point, I guess, Israel to Iraq and Syria as cases where you intervened, where you struck and you were successful in stopping those programs continuing.
Do you see Iran as being in those categories, that you have to get in now because if you leave it and they can protect themselves from air strikes or whatever, it becomes too late?
BARAK: No, because I cannot improve your distinction was so close to (INAUDIBLE). But I think that the real challenge now is these negotiations. And what should be done about the negotiations? We strongly believe and we rely upon the United States and the other members of the P5 Plus 1 and expect them to set the bow at the place where it becomes clear that at least once agreed and however long it takes to reach there, it will block Iran from turning military nuclear, which means that there is a need to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent or even to 3.5 percent, to take all the enriched uranium out of the country. They can -- you can allow them to play with some negligible amount that will never be suffice for even one single weapon. And basically, there is a little destroyed is the installation in near Qom. So if all these elements are set and the IAEA has the tightest protocols, 3.1, it's called, a kind of a -- of an inspection, that's it.
But if the world community will set the threshold in a way that even if fully accepted, not to mention if partially accepted by the Iranians, but if it was fully accepted, it still allows them to keep moving toward nuclear --
MORGAN: But your -- your concern --
BARAK: And military problem. That -- that's --
MORGAN: Your concern is that --
BARAK: Ridiculous. It's ridiculous.
MORGAN: Right. I get that.
BARAK: It's like -- in delusion.
MORGAN: But your main concern is that the Iranians may, in this impasse, the time that goes on, they may start to move the uranium enriching process and factories or whatever, into areas -- mountainous areas, perhaps, where they cannot be destroyed?
Is that your primary concern?
BARAK: Our primary concern is that Iran will not be blocked when the time is still there to block them. And what they are doing, they tried to reach such a level of redundancy through digging it into hills the soil, spreading it on many sides or accumulating a lot of enriched uranium for probably half a dozen weapons or whatever.
It's still not fully enriched. But it will come inevitably because the Iranians basically are trying to reach nuclear military capability and defy the (INAUDIBLE) world. Otherwise, there was no need for all these sanctions and --
MORGAN: President Obama --
BARAK: -- and diplomatic steps.
MORGAN: Right. President Obama clearly would prefer not to see Israel take any action before the election. So there is a time sensitivity here, that he would see that as politically dangerous for his presidency. And you would be aware of that.
How much does that that factor into your military planning on Israel's behalf that the president of the United States has an election coming in November? BARAK: You know, first of all, we are trying to avoid of letting it slip into anything that carries a certain relationship to internal politics into here or in Israel. But we basically share the same rhetoric. We say loud and clear, the Americans say the same, the president said the same, a nuclear military Iran is unacceptable.
We are determined to prevent them from turning nuclear and that no option except for containment, no option should be removed off the table in order to achieve these objectives. So basically we are on the same page. The rest of it is about there are differences. We try to discuss them fairly and honestly. And we --
MORGAN: But you're --
BARAK: When we say -- when we say no option should be removed from the table. And when the Americans say it, we assume, and I genuinely assume that the president means it and I can assure you that we mean it.
MORGAN: You're a military man, though. And you know that there is always an optimum time to take military action in these cases. Are you prepared to act completely unilaterally if you have to?
BARAK: I don't want to respond to this question. But I think that the overall situation is clear. We say, other the leaders of the world saying, including the American president, no option should be removed off the table. And we basically mean it. And we have said many times that we always listen to America, especially to America. They are -- you are our best allies, the most trusted and trustworthy allies of us.
But at the same time, we cannot afford delegating the responsibility for the future security of Israel, even to the -- into the hands of our best and most trusted and trustworthy allies.
MORGAN: You've also been keen to say that the president of the United States and America are friends of Israel. But friends can come in many qualities. Who do you think --
BARAK: They're high quality friends.
MORGAN: OK, but who would be a higher quality friend come November, President Obama or, potentially, President Mitt Romney, do you think?
BARAK: I can't say. I'm sorry. You know, I don't think that there is a shortage of energy in this race in America. I just noticed here Joe Biden speaking.
BARAK: I couldn't hear it. The volume was muted. But I saw the --
MORGAN: You didn't need to have it. It was unbelievable.
BARAK: The new energy kind of into this race. I don't think that we have to contribute to it in any way.
MORGAN: You're not concerned about the outcome either way? You think that whoever -- whoever wins would still be a resolute friend of Israel?
BARAK: I think it's improper for an Israeli political leader to express a public -- publicly any kind of judgment or even to make remarks. It doesn't mean that we do not -- we just respect the American process and we rely upon the American people to make your judgment. It's up to the American people. And our tradition is to the extent I can remember backward, American presidents, all along the years, from both sides of the political aisle, be it in their first term or second term, were always friendly toward Israel because it reflects something much deeper that goes through the American society.
We are sharing the same values. When we look at the Arab Spring that turns now green, green, not in theological -- in theological terms, not in a kind of environment terms, it's extremely, extremely disturbing. And Israel is the only outpost of democracy, of stability, of the Western way of life in the region.
MORGAN: How concerned are you about the situation in Syria, given that it's going on, but world attention, as it often does, is starting to move into other areas, but the situation remains unchanged. And it's still very dangerous and very unstable.
BARAK: I'm quite frustrated for the slowness of his collapse. I believe that he is doomed anyhow. I believe that there is a need to raise our voices, both from moral reasons and practically as much more kind of loudly and to make sure that every possible step is taken by the world community, by NATO, by the United States, by the Russians. Turkey could have a special role in it.
MORGAN: But it seem -- it seems --
BARAK: To accelerate the whole thing.
MORGAN: It seems to people there's a different way of dealing with Syria than there was to Libya, for example, and that the main reason is that the Russians and the Chinese are more concerned about Syria. But from a humanitarian point of view, why should that come into it? Shouldn't the international community now be driving as hard against Syria as they did in the Libyan situation?
BARAK: I think that they have to push harder. I don't want to make comparisons, because the Russians were quite, against their judgment, dragged into the Libyan story. And here in Syria, they see the only successful outpost of them in the Middle East. They invested political capital and financial resources for two generations almost now, in this family and group.
I think that the ways should be found, while pushing harder to change the situation in Syria, preferably through the Yemenite example, namely to let the Assad and his group go out and try to keep, not to repeat the mistakes in Iraq, not to -- not to dismantle their party, the intelligence, the armed forces, to find a way to keep a role for Russia, a living role around the table of nations.
Because if you try to do it in a way that will deprive them from their only asset down in the Middle East, they will resist it. And it's -- it could be extremely influential. But to mention Iran, it will be a major blow to Iran when Assad falls. And they are now supporting him very actively. It will be a weakening blow to the Hezbollah and probably Islamic Jihad.
So basically, it's something -- you know, sometimes people contemplate probably better that they will win out. I don't believe it. It's better to reach a conclusion there and try to keep civil society, the present organs of power, basically in place, without the elite which was kind of extremely intimate and close to Assad.
MORGAN: Ehud Barak, always fascinating to see you. Thank you very much for coming in.
BARAK: Thank you.
MORGAN: Coming up, my primetime exclusive with Billy Bob Thornton, Hollywood anti-hero and the man Angelina Jolie says is not a normal person.
THORNTON: That is 18. That is a new record.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: That's Billy Bob Thornton in "Pushing Tin," the cult hit that changed his life. He's Hollywood's number one anti-hero, with nearly 30 films to his credit and grosses of about a billion dollars. But he's remained as mad as hell throughout it all, I'm delighted to say.
He's also called the tabloid superstar. And he tells all of it in "The Billy Bob Tapes," a brilliant new book, "A Cave Full of Ghosts." Billy Bob joins me now.
This is a fascinating tome. You've had a fascinating life.
THORNTON: It's been different.
MORGAN: It certainly has, hasn't it?
MORGAN: What I love about it is I can't think of anybody else who would have had a foreword written to their book by one of their ex- wives who just happens to be one of the most famous women in the world. And it's such a brilliant foreword that I thought the best way to start this interview is to go through what Angelina Jolie says about you and get you to respond to, in some cases, I would even use the word allegations.
MORGAN: Because it's fascinating. So she says before she met you, shared friends described you as like the Hillbilly Orson Welles. Fantastic phrase. How do you feel about being called the Hillbilly Orson Welles?
THORNTON: Well, I guess it depends on if she means my mind or my body.
THORNTON: But, no, I mean that's pretty cool. Actually, the person who coined that phrase for me was Robert Duvall.
MORGAN: Was it really?
THORNTON: Yes. And so I think she picked up on that from him. But yes, it's a -- sure, I'd rather be called that than a lot of other things.
MORGAN: She says that to try to acquaint herself with you, Angelina went to a theater alone, full of strangers engrossed in "Sling Blade." And I want to just play a clip from that movie and then say what she said about it because it was really interesting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THORNTON: My mother, she jumped up from there and started holler, "What did you kill Jesse for? What did you kill Jesse for?" Come to find out I don't reckon my mother minded what Jesse was doing to her. I reckon that made me madder what Jesse made me. So I takened the kaiser blade, some folks call it a sling blade, I call it a kaiser blade, and I hit my mother up side the head with it. Killed her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: An utterly compelling performance, sir. I remember watching it. But she watched it alone, like I say, in a theater full of strangers, as she says, engrossed in the film, "Every nuance, every facial gesture, the sound of the chair as it's dragged along the floor, the characters, each one completely original yet as if she knew them intimately. You watch as the filmmaker helps you to understand a place and time and people who he knows so well. You're getting to know him, his mind, his humanity."
An amazing thing for somebody to be observing about a man she doesn't know, who she then goes on to marry. What do you think of that description?
THORNTON: Well, I mean I was, you know, I'm honored any time anyone talented, you know, says anything nice about me. But I did find that interesting, that -- and it's happened to me a couple of times also, for someone to see you in some other way before they meet you and feel some connection to you, you know, that's always an interesting thing. MORGAN: But she said that she smile -- "I smile as I write this," Angelina writes, "because my instinct is to say simply he's not a normal person."
MORGAN: "But he isn't. I've known him for more than a decade. I still haven't quite figured him out, not that I want to. The puzzle is so much fun."
Do you like being a character of mystique even to your loved ones?
THORNTON: Well, it's certainly not on purpose. I don't feel that I, you know, purposely sort of shroud myself in mystery or anything like that. I think it's that maybe I don't do enough of the things that people are expected to do when they're in a -- in the entertainment business or something, you know?
I kind of live a sort of 50 percent of the time I'm so normal that I would probably bore anyone to tears if they hung out with me.
THORNTON: And that's one of the things that --
MORGAN: That can't be true.
THORNTON: Well, I mean, it's kind of a misconception that I'm such an oddball because -- I mean there are a few things. But, you know, this whole idea of, you know, eccentricities and everything, you could probably walk up to anyone here on the streets of New York City, just about, and talk to them for 10 minutes and find out --
MORGAN: I think you could in New York.
THORNTON: Yes, right. Exactly.
THORNTON: Yes, maybe not Des Moines, you know.
MORGAN: You're an agoraphobic.
THORNTON: A bit, yes.
MORGAN: Actually, it seems a miracle that you would even get out of the house to make films. If you had your way, you'd make them in some underground dungeon inside the house?
THORNTON: Yes, or some place. I wasn't always that way. I think I -- I've been driven inside in the last few years a lot more, you know.
MORGAN: By tabloid attention? By being that guy that used to be married to Angelina, as much as everything else?
THORNTON: Well, no, not so much. It -- it's really more about the sort of -- I'm more afraid of people now. I'm not afraid of them physically, but afraid of the -- well, it's like the social network, you know. It -- it's kind of a creepy thing to me. And I think it's doing something to people. And I know that sounds like, you know, I get signals through my head or something from Mars or whatever, but no, I mean it's really -- I'm just observing people's behavior these days. And there's a real lack of privacy now. And I think we're living in a more cynical society.
And that's one of the reasons I like to stay home, is because, you know, people are really -- it's almost like a witch hunt out there, in some ways, you know. And it kind of creeps me out, so I stay in the house.
MORGAN: So let's take a short break. I want to come back and talk more about this. It's really intriguing, I think, about your character. Let's talk about Brad and Angelina getting married. Are you going to get an invite?
MORGAN: Back with my special guest, Billy Bob Thornton.
An interesting book, like I say, I love the way you've done this, so many people contributing. Angelina Jolie one of them, obviously, but lots of other great actors and friends of yours really capturing the essence of Billy Bob Thornton. And she says this is really I think an insightful thing to you. One of the favorite things Angelina felt when she was with you was to watch Billy play an entire game of baseball with himself on the tennis court. Only himself.
He threw the ball, he called out the action moment to moment, caught the ball. He would scold or congratulate teammates. It's fascinating. Some who don't know him well might call it crazy if they watched it for hours on end. But then you don't know Billy."
I'd say it sounds pretty crazy, Billy.
THORNTON: Well, it's not what --
MORGAN: How could you play baseball with yourself?
THORNTON: Not much lately. I mean I'm getting older. You know, the old arm is not what it used to be. But --
THORNTON: It's -- yes, out on the -- we've got a court out there with basketball goals and everything. And I was -- I was a pitcher growing up. And, you know, I was a pretty decent pitcher. So I, you know, I made a target out there on the wall and I would, you know, throw the ball. And of course, hits the wall and bounces back to you. So I would play out the action. But we did that when we were kids, it's just that usually I was with my brother or somebody.
MORGAN: Now Angelina says that, "To him, I am the number four. It may sound strange, but it means a lot to me."
How did she get to be number four?
THORNTON: Well, you know, that's -- those numbers are assigned to different people in my life through a process that I can't quite explain, but it has to do with my obsessive-compulsive disorder. And see, when you have OCD, a lot of it is about -- a lot of abused children have OCD, because they don't feel a way to control anything in their world. So they use, you know, different things like if I count to this before my dad gets home, then everything will be OK, or whatever. You know, you start developing things like that.
And then it gets worse and worse until suddenly you feel responsible to the entire world, you know. And so --
THORNTON: The next thing you know people get numbers assigned to them. But, no, all the -- all the people who are friends and loved ones in my life all have a special number. And it -- you know, it is impossible to explain. But it makes complete sense to me. But if I -- once again, there's not enough time here to tell you exactly how that works.
MORGAN: Well, it was very nice. Chapter 14 is entitled simply, "Angie." And it's about Angelina. But you write a beautiful poem at the start. Let's read a couple of lines.
"She's a golden gypsy lighting up the way for anyone who needs her, night or day. Her thunder casts a spell in magic tones. Her lightning strikes and courses through your bones. Her power leaves you spent there where you lay and leaves you trying to find something to say. Beautiful is all that comes to mind."
MORGAN: You clearly have, to this day, an incredibly close relationship.
Is it strange when you see Angelina go off now getting married to Brad Pitt, probably the most famous female celebrity in the world with, arguably, the most famous male?
Do you find it odd, the -- the circus that goes with that, the -- the sheer oddity of having somebody so close to you become such a ridiculously famous person?
THORNTON: Well, I mean I'm not -- I don't really follow, you know, the celebrity news much. And that's --
MORGAN: Do you care, though?
THORNTON: -- that's an overstatement, I would say, that -- that I don't follow it.
THORNTON: But I only see her occasionally when she comes to town. And I talk to them on the phone sometimes, you know. She's a great friend and would be there if I needed her and vice versa. And Brad is a great guy. And I love them both. And they're -- they're terrific people.
But, you know, when you're inside a situation, it's -- it's so much smaller, you know, than it is to the public sometimes. In other words, you know, they'll have a big news story and if you're the person involved in it, you know exactly how it is. And -- and so if people say to me what do you think about her getting married and all this kind of thing, and it's not like I didn't know this already.
THORNTON: I mean it's not news to me or anything like that.
MORGAN: Yes, yes.
THORNTON: So it -- it's -- there -- there's not much that shocks me or gets to me, you know.
MORGAN: Will you be at their wedding, do you think?
THORNTON: I don't know. I mean, I don't --
MORGAN: Would you feel odd about that?
Would you feel uncomfortable?
THORNTON: Oh, gosh, no. Not at all. No, if I were invited to something, I would go for any friend of mine. Like I said, they're -- they're friends. And they're -- they're great people. And -- but if I didn't go, it certainly wouldn't be because of being uncomfortable. It would be because I don't go anywhere. I mean you're --
THORNTON: -- you're lucky to drag me to a funeral --
THORNTON: -- wedding, you know. So anyplace I don't go, it's simply because I just don't feel like getting out of the house.
MORGAN: Let's take a short break, Bob -- Billy.
When we come back, I want to talk to you about Connie, the woman you've been with for the last 10 years, who's managed so far to avoid becoming wife number six. She's a sensible woman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THORNTON: Talent from the old man and I just --
HALLE BERRY, ACTRESS: And the only thing (EXPLETIVE DELETED) that boy was some growing.
THORNTON: It runs in the family.
BERRY: Yes. He was a good kid. You know, he was a really good kid. He was so good. He was -- he really -- he loved me. He really loved me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: That was "Monster's Ball," the movie that earned Halle Berry an Oscar.
And Billy Bob Thornton is back with me now.
Tell me about Connie, the woman in your life for the last 10 years. You've married five times, but you haven't married Connie.
THORNTON: Well, I told her, I said, look, when you think of it this way, this is my longest relationship and we're not married, you know, so it's not real hard to figure out. And -- and plus, you know, if you do that, then you're going to -- the press would get into that. It would be like call her number six or something like that. And that's not fun.
But we're doing just fine the way we are. And we have a beautiful seven-year-old daughter and then it's -- it's all fine.
So I just said let's leave well enough alone, you know?
MORGAN: There's some great stuff in the book about -- and you touched on this earlier -- about modern life. You know, you've got this thing about you don't like the whole iPhone, iChat, Twitter, Facebook society that we've become, everyone being led by gadgets. And I thought -- I was very struck by what you said about the nature of stardom, proper movie stars in the old days.
You didn't know much about them. You knew what you'd saw on screen. And they became these wonderful kind of mythical figures, Steve McQueen and people like that.
It's just not possible anymore. We all know way too much about people, because of the nature of everybody wanting to be famous, everybody having the ability, through social media, to become partly famous --
MORGAN: -- and chipping away constantly at famous people's lives so they become just like everybody else. THORNTON: Yes.
MORGAN: Killing the mystique. I was very struck by that.
Tell me about that.
THORNTON: Well, I think it's -- it's really easy to brush it aside because it's so convenient. And it is providing so many people with entertainment and a lot of other things. So I have nothing against, as an inanimate objects, some gadget. You know, I mean it's like they say about guns; guns don't kill people, people kill people.
And so I see some value in having a cell phone, because, you know, I have one. If you're away and you need to contact the family, if you have a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, that's a great thing for phone calls and all this.
But when it becomes a tool for people's hatred and jealousy and whatever it is -- and like you said, and like I talk about in the book, we're losing the magic in life because people are communicating and they're not going through the process of life anymore.
I mean part of the joy and the magic of life is the process, it's the journey. And there's no journey anymore. It's -- I mean America has become a -- one big drug addict and the drug is technology. And the thing is, is you can say it, it's not just 19 year olds or 12 year olds. I -- I hear of guys who are 65 years old and they're saying I just Tweeted somebody something, you know.
And first of all, it doesn't sound like a word an adult should be saying. But --
THORNTON: -- it's really interesting to me that when you say this stuff, people always go yes, I agree with you, we -- we all look at our phones and all this kind of thing now. But just like a drug addict, you can say that to a drug addict, you know, we've got to stop this -- this cynicism and this -- you know, there's no privacy and people go, yes, yes, yes while they're doing this, you know what I mean?
And so I think people are in real denial that they're losing the magic in life. And -- and the system has always found a way to control people. And I think this time they've done it by selling them things that make them feel accepted, loved and important, you know.
And everyone should feel that, but I think you should feel it through natural things instead of all this other stuff.
And so they call things YouTube, iPhone, MySpace. You know, it's named after the people. And then they sell it and these guys make billions of dollars while the people think they're important.
And I just think it's a -- a very dangerous thing. And they're taking away, like I said, the joy in life. And, you know, I came up the hard way in the entertainment business. And horrible things are said about people like me and all -- all the other people in the entertainment business all the time now. We've become fodder, you know.
And -- which is a real shame, because we had heroes and idols and it made you feel good to have those. And now the -- it's anti that.
MORGAN: Well, what do you think of America generally, in the sense of where it's gone with the whole financial crisis?
A lot of people wanting to blame lots of people.
Do you think that enough Americans lead lives of sensible frugality, if you like, who, you know, take personal responsibility?
THORNTON: I think -- I think we, as a country, are very happy as long as we're comfortable in our own house and our own backyard. And I think that's maybe one of the problems, you know.
So once that comfort goes away, then all of a sudden we're made at everybody, you know. I don't -- I'm not a very political guy. I don't know enough about it to -- to talk about this stuff. But it seems like to me that the economy usually is at the center of -- of every political debate these days because it's not doing so well.
Some years, they don't care about that. If that's OK, they're talking about something else, gasoline or whatever -- whatever it is.
I think if people started looking around the world a little bit more and started to see how it's actually our culture that's crumbling, I think if you start there -- in other words, if you have a foundation in your culture, if we keep learning and if our -- and if we start paying attention more to our history, learning lessons from our past and things like that, I think it would help us in these times.
I -- I can say one thing. And this -- this goes back to social media thing. I believe one reason that Americans aren't getting what they want right now is because we don't have leaders -- and I'm not talking about political leaders. I'm talking about leaders among ourselves out there, who step to the forefront and get on a soapbox and start talking about this stuff.
Because, you know, during the American Revolution and many other times during our history, we've had people that would step out, you know, Patrick Henry or whoever it would be, you know, Benjamin Franklin, someone, who would actually come to the forefront and start talking.
And we need more people to talk about real things as opposed to oh, guess what happened to Actor X or this or that or the other, you know?
I think we've gotten a little shallow. And I think it's our fault in a lot of ways. You can't always blame the system, in other words. The system is an eating machine. And it's always been an eating machine and always will be an eating machine, so you can't blame them.
You've got to blame yourselves at some point. And -- and people have to come together and start to live meaningful lives again and everything, because I think if you have that foundation when a financial crisis hits, you're more prepared for it.
If that makes any sense.
MORGAN: -- the strange thing about you, Billy Bob Thornton? You just sound resolutely normal to me.
THORNTON: I know. I --
MORGAN: I was expecting some weirdo monster. And you've just been talking in a way that I've been nodding to everything you've been saying.
THORNTON: Well --
MORGAN: You're the most normal oddball I've ever met.
THORNTON: Well, yes. I mean and I -- I'm also the most pessimistic optimist you'll ever meet.
MORGAN: I love that line. I love that line.
You've got a -- a current movie, "Jayne Mansfield's Car" with Kevin Bacon, and one of your great mentors, Robert Duvall.
Tell me about that film, quickly.
THORNTON: It was a thing -- when my dad -- when I was a kid, my dad would bring my brother and I to car accidents. So that was where we bonded. I don't know how that happened, but he would literally take us to the aftermath of accidents all the time. He was fascinated with them.
So from the time I was a little kid, I -- I was at these horrific scenes. And I always wanted to put it in a movie, but I didn't know that -- how to make that the movie.
But I'd had this idea for a long time about a British family and an American family who were related to each other sort of loosely through the -- a common mother.
And -- because I love -- I love British and American culture clash, which, at the end of the day, you find out is not one.
THORNTON: Because we come from that, you know, here.
THORNTON: And so I sort of put those two things together. And the movie, you know, at the end of the day, it's a -- a movie about how generations view war and how it manifests itself in families and how these generations don't always pass the lessons along to the next.
MORGAN: And when does it come out?
THORNTON: It'll come out this fall.
MORGAN: In the fall. Well, good luck with that.
MORGAN: It's a great book. I love this book.
Billy Bob Thornton and Kinky Friedman, "The Billy Bob Tapes: A Cave Full of Ghosts." It is a cave full of ghosts. A brilliant picture on the front, because it makes you look completely mad, which you're clearly not. It's a total scam.
THORNTON: That's right.
MORGAN: It's been a real pleasure.
THORNTON: Thank you.
MORGAN: Come back again.
THORNTON: I'll do it.
MORGAN: Billy Bob Thornton, a great character.
Coming up next, the man they call the George Clooney of hedge funds -- what he thinks Wall Street can do to keep America great.
MORGAN: I now want to turn to one of my favorite topics on the show, Keeping America Great. One man who knows a lot about that is hedge fund king Marc Lasry. He's the chairman and CEO and co-founder of Avenue Capital Group. He's also a power fund-raiser for President Obama and a man who's been called the George Clooney of hedge funds.
He's profiled in the new book "The Alpha Masters, Unlocking the Genius of the World's Top Hedge Funds" by Maneet Ahuja. And Marc Lasry joins me now. Welcome, Marc.
MARC LASRY, CHMN, CEO, CO FOUNDER, AVENUE CAPITAL GROUP: Pleasure.
MORGAN: You are a billionaire hedge fund George Clooney creature. How does that make you feel?
LASRY: I guess that would make me feel pretty good.
MORGAN: Being a hedge fund manager, simply a very successful one, now carries with it a sort of dirty connotation of greedy capitalist pigs fleecing the populace. How do you feel about that and how you trying to change the image, if you are, of hedge funds and hedge fund managers? LASRY: Look, I think in what we do, or at least what I try to do, really what we're trying to do is generate a return for our investors. So I think at the end of the day, it's a phenomenal job. I mean, I have the ability to be able to invest money for pension plans, for investors and try to make them money for, you know, their holders.
So I think, day in and day out, as long as we're generating returns for our investors, we're trying to do our bit to help.
MORGAN: Well, when you see the scandal at JP Morgan erupting, you know, in a company led by a very respected man, you know, who has taken a big hit this week, because he was one of the few who wanted no regulation coming in really above and beyond what's already there. And now he's caught a big cold and everyone can see that.
But the public go, oh God, here we go again. These financial institutions helping themselves, not helping anybody else, squandering, risking billions of dollars. What do you think of what happened to JP Morgan?
LASRY: Look, I don't know all the details. But I think what happened there is I think Jamie or JP Morgan was actually trying to reduce risk. The problem in all of this is when things don't go the right way, everybody looks at it and says, look, you made a huge mistake. I think the intent there was to try to minimize risk, so to try to protect part of the bank's balance sheet.
Look, it went wrong. Part of the problem is -- I look at what we do, day in and day out, we're making investments. You hope that those investments work out. And you hope that you're right. And when you're not, everybody looking at that and says, well, how did you not know that?
MORGAN: Let's turn to Facebook, a happier story, in many ways, an amazing success story for American capitalism.
MORGAN: Is it worth 100 billion?
LASRY: That I don't know.
MORGAN: Is there any way of valuing Facebook really, in any sensible way?
LASRY: That I honestly don't know. I think that's -- that's a complicated --
MORGAN: How big of a slice of the Facebook pie are you hoping to carve out for yourself?
LASRY: Nothing. MORGAN: Why not?
LASRY: I think what we do is we try to invest in companies that are in trouble. So Facebook is not one of those companies at all. I think Facebook, it's a phenomenal company. It's going to do extremely well. The question is going to be two or three years from now, is the valuation today the right valuation. We may fine out that it's too low today. We may find out it's too high.
MORGAN: You raise money for President Obama.
MORGAN: You make no bones about that. You are probably on both ends of the spectrum. You're a good Democrat to him, but also you're in the one percent that he wants to flay and flog, tax to high heaven. Are you -- are you prepared to be Buffetted, to be taxed at a much higher level?
LASRY: I personally don't have an issue in paying higher taxes. I mean, I think it's -- the law is the law and I'm happy to pay whatever my taxes are. I think personally I'd rather you have taxes -- higher taxes be used to reduce the deficit, but that's in my own personal view.
MORGAN: Do you think Obama is going to win easily or does he have a hell of a fight on his hands?
LASRY: I think it is going to be a difficult election. I think ultimately a lot of it is going to be on what's going on with the economy. So if the economy is doing well, I think President Obama wins. I think if the economy isn't doing well, I think then it becomes a little bit harder.
MORGAN: For everyone in America struggling a bit, but they have a little bit of money to invest, what is the kind of thing you would urge them to consider as a relatively safe bet right now?
LASRY: I think the safe bets are investing in the U.S. Treasuries. I mean, I -- I think today there's a lot of risk in the system. And when you look around the world, you look at what's going on in Europe, you look at what's going on outside, there's just a lot of risk.
So the question is are you getting paid for those risks? I think for most normal Americans, today I would be trying to take less risk until things calm down a little bit.
MORGAN: Marc Lasry, thank you very much.
LASRY: A pleasure.
MORGAN: Coming up next, Only in America, back away from the buffet, when all you can eat doesn't mean all you can eat.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MORGAN: For tonight's Only in America, fish, fried and fed up. No, not Peter Finch in "Network." One Wisconsin man is as mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore. Meet Bill Wiss (ph). Yes, that's his name. And it is as hard to pronounce as I just tried to pronounce it.
He really loves the all you can eat fish fry at a local restaurant called Chuck's Place. It does say all you can eat. The thing about Mr. Wiss is that he stands six foot six, and weighs 350 pounds. So for him this is a pretty good deal, because he can eat a lot.
But then came, as Brando said in "Apocalypse Now," the horror.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We asked for more fish and they refused to give us any more fish.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Yep, you heard it correctly. They stopped serving Mr. Wiss his fish. He had 12 portions and they said that's enough, because if we carry on serving him food, we're going to run out of food. But that's not really fair, is it? Because they were offering an all you can eat deal.
And Bill Wiss is a big guy who hadn't finished eating. And he wanted his contractual rights, so he called the police and said, I want my rights and I want my fish.
Chuck's insists they were running out of fish and had no choice, which may be true. But you know what? You had a deal. And if you have a deal in America, you should keep it. Shame on you, Chuck's Place. Give bill his fish.
That's all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts now.