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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
More Negative Campaigning?; Holder in Contempt; Interview with Billy Corgan
Aired June 20, 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, the power of dirty politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Of course the economy isn't where it needs to be.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know why jobs come and why they go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Outsourcing jobs, Romney economics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Why Frank Rich says this country needs attack ads, the dirtier, the better.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK RICH, WRITER, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: One of these two campaigns this year is going to come up with a fear-inducing ad that works.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: I'll ask him how this could possibly be good for America.
Plus, Eric Holder, a House panel wants the attorney general cited for contempt. Will "Fast and Furious" go higher?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DAN BURTON (R), INDIANA: Who knew about this? How high up did it go? Did it go to the attorney general or even the president of the United States?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: I'll talk to the man who defended President Clinton about that, Lanny Davis.
Also a man not afraid to speak his mind. The front man of one of the biggest bands of the '90s, Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan. Why he feels so disappointed by President Obama.
And "Only in America." News flash, it's summer and it's hot. Wait a minute. That's news?
This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
Good evening, our big story tonight, the brutal raw political battle for the soul of this country. This is a little while ago, a House committee voting on strictly partisan lines recommended that President Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, be cited for contempt as part of the ongoing battle between Congress and the administration over the "Fast and Furious" failed weapon sting operation that could end with an unprecedented event, the United States Congress holding a sitting attorney general in contempt.
The measure goes to the full House next week. In a statement, the attorney general called the vote, quote, "an election year tactic intended to distract attention."
But does this battle come down to simple politics? Or is it something more serious? In a few minutes, I'll ask President Clinton's special counsel Lanny Davis.
But we begin with a new poll that showed President Obama with a 13-point lead over Mitt Romney among likely voters. That's according to the latest Bloomberg national polls.
In his "New York Magazine" article "Nuke 'Em" Frank Rich pleads with President Obama to ramp up the war against Mitt Romney, and Frank Rich joins me now.
Strong stuff here, Frank. "Nuke 'Em".
RICH: I'm not the headline writer but --
MORGAN: I know what you're getting at because actually we played this ad. This is the -- infamous "Daisy Girl" ad which I may -- I may play a little earlier, which is from a very early in the presidential campaign where this little girl was running through a flower-filled field and then gets blown to pieces by a nuclear bomb. It was like, if you vote for that guy, that's happening to your daughter, sort of thing.
And I know what I'm going to talk to you about. I know the theme of the piece. Interestingly, you're saying that although you don't necessarily agree with negativity in ads, you think they're very effective. And if Obama is going to win, he has to now step it up a gear and go double negative on Romney.
RICH: Yes. First of all, there's a long history in America of these ads, you know, back to the days of Pony Express. Forget about television and the Internet. They're always used, they're always used equally by Democrats and Republicans and to unilaterally disarm which some seemed to be suggesting to Obama, after he ran his first Bain ad and Cory Booker and Ed Rendell and others said it was nauseating and what have you, is just ridiculous. This is the world we live in.
MORGAN: I mean you talk about previous negative ads. One of the greatest ever -- I mean people think it's bad now. Get this. And you cite this in your piece. Andrew Jackson v. John Quincy Adams in 1888. Adams was accused of murder, drunkenness, cock fighting, slave trading and cannibalism. And apparently tugged at his wife, saying that Jackson's wife and mother were both whores and god knows what else.
RICH: Bigamists, yes.
MORGAN: I mean, unbelievable.
RICH: It is. You know, so everyone says this is a horrible modern development in American campaigns. It's always been there. That was in the early part of the 19th century. And by the way, Jackson won, in spite of those attacks.
MORGAN: I supposed you're going to make was, even though he got called a cannibal, murderer, drunk, and cock fighting slave trader, he ended up winning the election. So how --
RICH: It appealed to the base.
MORGAN: How effective is a very strong negative campaign? I mean, historically, since the Second World War, say, is there evidence to say that when you go really negative against a vulnerable opponent perhaps, you'll win?
RICH: Not necessarily. They're not determinative but they cement a trend that is going. And they're essential for that reason. The Daisy ad was Johnson versus Goldwater. But Johnson was ahead. But he wanted a mandate and he got it after that ad ran. But the problem now is that they've become so ubiquitous, negative ads, you've got to have the creativity that the Daisy ad showed. You've got to rival --
MORGAN: Let's see this Daisy ad because it remains my favorite political ad in history. Let's see a bit of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eight, nine --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero. These are the stakes. To make a world in which all of god's children can live. Or to go into the dark. We must either love each other or we must die.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vote for President Johnson on November 3rd.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RICH: Given that it's about nuclear holocaust, I guess (INAUDIBLE) but it is pretty funny, if I could say.
MORGAN: Well, you know, I mean, it is laughable to a point but -- I interviewed the poor girl, who's now a woman who was horrified when she found out what they had done with her lovely little flower performance.
RICH: Right. But the reason why the ad was effective in its day of 1964 is, first of all, it played on a real fear of the public which was then nuclear holocaust. And Goldwater had a habit of using loose language about nuclear weapons. Also, it was very craftily done. Goldwater's name was never mentioned in that ad.
RICH: And it just captured people's imagination. We're shown (INAUDIBLE) once in primetime during a movie on NBC on Labor Day night, and that was it. It blew Goldwater into smithereens.
MORGAN: But if a candidate tried that now, whatever the justification for it in their eyes, they would probably lose, wouldn't they? For just being so offensive.
RICH: Well, I think that -- no one would do exactly that ad now, but the truth is, one of these two campaigns this year is going to come up or may come up with a fear inducing ad that works. There was we know an attempt that now abandoned by people supporting Romney to do one with Jeremiah Wright that might have been effective.
MORGAN: The argument being that, of course, John McCain decided not to push that button. And people say, well, that's the reason you lost. You didn't get nasty enough with Obama, and you should have gone that far because it is a justifiable line of attack.
RICH: Right. But keep in mind, he did run an ad comparing Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. He ran plenty of negative ads. As did Obama for his hope and change, he ran an ad about McCain couldn't -- didn't know how many houses he owned. But a creative ad, a real fear inducing ad has to get above the tit-for-tat, the kind of ads that are generally run.
MORGAN: Let's take a look at Romney's latest ad which has just come out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Of course the economy isn't where it needs to be.
ROMNEY: Well, Mr. President, you've had your moment. We've seen the results. And now, Mr. President, this is our time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: What do you think? I mean, to me, it's a bit tamed. I mean -- I don't think the gloves have come off here, have they?
RICH: It's tamed and it's a mediocre as a piece of advertising. This is not to say that Obama has come up with great ads either. I would argue the most effective campaign ad we've seen in the cycle wasn't done by either campaign. It was the Chrysler ad at the Super Bowl with Clint Eastwood.
MORGAN: Clint Eastwood. I thought that was fantastic.
RICH: It was a fantastic ad. You need that kind of dynamite. It wasn't -- it was -- that was not a negative ad, but that kind of creativity is needed.
MORGAN: But you were left with a clear -- I remember watching it live with no warning about what was coming and the clear impression that you went away with was, the bailout of the car industry was a fundamentally good and successful thing. So it was a very well orchestrated, very simple message using this great movie star.
RICH: Exactly. And while I think the Obama campaign had nothing to do with it, it stunned sufficiently that Karl Rove both complained about it and said hey, it's a very effective ad.
MORGAN: Well, I thought it was a great line, wasn't it? He hated it so much because he knew it was good.
RICH: Yes. Exactly.
MORGAN: Which is probably the sign of a good one, right?
RICH: Yes, absolutely.
MORGAN: Let's take a look at Obama's new ad here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Running for governor, Mitt Romney campaigned as a job creator.
ROMNEY: I know how jobs are created.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But as a corporate raider, he shipped jobs to China and Mexico. As governor, he did the same thing, outsourcing state jobs to India. Now he's making the exact same pitch.
ROMNEY: I know why jobs come and why they go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Outsourcing jobs. Romney economics. It didn't work then and it won't work now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Pretty simple message. I mean clearly Obama sees the whole Romney-Bain background as a vulnerability. Whereas Cory Booker and others -- Bill Clinton perhaps as well -- don't agree with him. But is he right to keep pushing that? Would you do that if you were him? And the polls today a Bloomberg poll has Obama with the widest lead he's had for quite some time.
RICH: Right, which also may be a reflection of the new immigration move that he made late last week. I think that both Bain and the record in Massachusetts, they're obviously very fruitful for Obama, but at a certain point, I think people will get tired of them. They feel like re-runs, particularly since they were given a workout by the Republican adversaries to Romney during the primary period.
So eventually he's going to have to find a bigger message. Not that this one is wrong, but I think people will just sort of tune it out from familiarity.
MORGAN: If you're into this nuclear negativity, the real button, some would say, to press with Romney would be the Mormonism, his views on abortion, on gay marriage and the social issue hot buttons, which he's very carefully trying to avoid. Would you go there if you were Obama?
RICH: Well -- I guess that's one hot issue, but I would say there's something even more -- which is people don't really know who Romney is. They -- you find that there's often no opinion -- a fair number of people have no opinion about him. He's a mystery man. Do people really know where he lives? His whole record as governor of Massachusetts was wiped from hard disk as he left.
We don't know his tax returns that he gave to McCain. His investments remain murky. That to me is a more primal scary thing for people choosing a president than any specific social issue.
MORGAN: I saw you getting involved in the Rubio debate earlier today.
MORGAN: In the sense that -- well, I had Frank Bruni on yesterday saying he doesn't believe for a moment that actually Rubio will be the VP pick in the end. What do you think of why Romney has now come out saying yes, we are vetting him. Rubio said he wasn't being vetted. What do you make of it or what's going on behind the scenes here?
RICH: My guess is that Rubio indeed will not be the vice presidential nominee. And my guess is that ABC News had it correct when they said he wasn't being vetted. What happened during the course of the day yesterday was suddenly it looked like another diss at Hispanics. It probably angered some conservative donors who love Rubio which many do. And so Romney came before the camera after trying to booted it away, and said oh, yes, of course we're giving him a full vetting. But I think it's just -- I hate to say it, another Etch-A-Sketch moment.
MORGAN: If you were Mitt Romney, who would you be leaning towards now as a VP pick? Who's the smart pick? RICH: I don't think there really is a smart pick. I really do believe it's first do no harm. So he's probably going to end up with another boring white guy like himself. And as long as that guy has been thoroughly vetted --
MORGAN: Would you go say Pawlenty? Safe pair of pants, good talker. Or would you go for a bit more controversial? Maybe a Chris Christie who could galvanize maybe the public in a better way than most other candidates.
RICH: I don't think -- I don't think Chris Christie would work. First of all, he's still a northeast Republican, a little bit suspiciously moderate by that party's standards, but also he would just completely upstage Romney. I'm already reading reports of Romney is a bit irritated that he tends to be late -- Christie tends to be late to events. There's been investigation at times of a sort of halfway house, prison halfway houses Christie is involved with. I think he wants someone safe and who people will forget who he is by the time of Election Day.
MORGAN: Come on, you're Mitt Romney, who would you go for? Throw a name out there that would be the kind of person you're talking about.
RICH: Well, I think if he had gut, given that type of person, he should probably go for Paul Ryan. Because Paul Ryan is, like him or not, sort of the intellectual of the conservative movement right now. The -- the base loves him. He's certainly a presentable guy. And I think he's much more interesting than Pawlenty or Portman, the two most talked about.
I don't think it will happen, though. But I -- that's -- if I were he and going in that direction, that would be the -- the most interesting choice.
MORGAN: Let's turn to the possible contempt charges facing Eric Holder, the attorney general. He's refusing to hand over documents relating to the Justice Department's failed "Fast and Furious" weapons operation. The president invoking executive privilege.
Now whenever I hear that phrase, I think, OK, they're covering something up. Am I right to be that cynical?
RICH: Probably, but I have a feeling in this case it's pretty small potatoes. And also in one way, this executive privilege stand has been used so much by Democrats and Republicans, Clinton, Bush and so on. I think it's sort of lost its luster. I don't think this is a really huge issue, this "Fast and Furious." It is among the Republican base. Congress will rev up the base a bit on it, but I think it's not really a big -- a big deal.
MORGAN: As always, Frank Rich, thank you very much for coming in.
RICH: Good to see you. Thanks for having me.
MORGAN: See you again on the show very soon.
Coming up, Attorney General Eric Holder under fire, as I said. The president is standing by his man, but will it cost him politically? I'll ask President Clinton's special counsel, Lanny Davis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CHAIRMAN, OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: The clerk will report.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty-three ayes, 17 nos.
ISSA: The ayes have it. And a contempt report is ordered to -- ordered reported to the House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: That was a House committee vote today, recommending that Attorney General Eric Holder be cited for contempt of Congress. How much of a problem will this be for the president and his administration and Lanny Davis was the White House special counsel for President Clinton. And joins me now.
Lanny, you're the perfect guy to ask about all this, because apart from everything else, you're a good friend of Eric Holder. Have been for 20 years. And when you were with President Clinton, I mean, he famously operated this executive privilege many times, more than any modern president, 14 times.
What is your view of this? How serious is it for Eric Holder? How justified is the criticism?
LANNY DAVIS, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL: Well, first of all, this is an historical battle within the Constitution going back to Andrew Jackson who defied Congress and said you pass the law, now you execute it. Congress and the White House over the years, Democrat and Republican presidents have fought over executive privilege.
George Bush resisted turning over documents during the firing of the U.S. attorneys on the grounds of executive privilege. President Clinton did so many times because he was slapped with more subpoenas by Newt Gingrich --
DAVIS: -- than any other president. So this is --
MORGAN: But what does it actually mean? For those who are hearing this phrase -- and like me who aren't completely up to speed on the minutia of the detail, it just sounds murky. It sounds -- DAVIS: And --
MORGAN: -- they've got something to hide.
DAVIS: Something to hide.
MORGAN: Why wouldn't they just be coming out with it otherwise?
DAVIS: So the constitutional principle versus the political reality. The constitutional principle is, I work for the president of the United States, and I want to give him advice. I don't give advice if I know that if I put it in writing someone in Congress can hold a press conference about it. I'm going to guard my advice.
Same thing as a staff member of a member of Congress. If the president asked for it, they would assert the same.
DAVIS: So that's what it's about. Confidentiality and the ability to get candid advice. Having said that, in a political area, it looks like a cover-up. So what Eric Holder did, and full discloser, he has been a friend and he is a man of absolute integrity, he went to the Chairman Issa and said, let's sit down, let's go through these documents, let me show you why this needs to be protected, having nothing to do with your inquiry of what went wrong in this tragic misguided "Fast and Furious" operation that began under the Bush administration, this stupid technique.
And he wanted to work it out, and for some reason, and I think it's all politics, Chairman Issa didn't work it out. And that's why the contempt citation is really over the top, as far as I'm concerned.
MORGAN: What do you think will happen?
DAVIS: I think that the House will not vote contempt. If they do, a party line vote will simply reinforce exactly why today I'm organizing a company with Michael Steele to get past this food fight, hyper partisanship that the American people are sick of. Because a party line vote of contempt will take the 9 percent approval rating of Congress, down to 3 percent. We'll be left with family and staff members who approve of Congress.
MORGAN: Yes. I mean you've written this great piece today.
DAVIS: Thank you.
MORGAN: To Obama and Romney, stop negativity. Ironically, I've just had Frank Rich on the show saying the opposite. He says that actually all the negative campaigning should be ramped up to an extreme scale on both sides. Because actually that's the way you get to what they really stand for. They pulverize each other like great champion boxers and in the last few round you find out what they're really made of.
DAVIS: Well, first of all, it's easy for Frank to say that sitting in a stadium in the Roman coliseum watching the gladiators kill each other, and it's gory and it's fun. But I don't think Frank Rich means that distortion and lies are good for American politics.
Michael Steele, former chairman of the RNC, Republican National Committee, criticizes Mitt Romney for taking a Barack Obama statement that he doesn't know anything about the economy when he was referring to John McCain taking it out of context and then Mitt Romney says well, if it was out of context, what's sauce for the goose?
MORGAN: To be fair to Frank, I don't think he likes the negative ads. What he was he's saying was instinctively, he doesn't think they're a good thing, per se. What he thinks is that Mitt Romney, as he's shown in the Republican race, is going to throw the negative kitchen sink at Barack Obama, so he has to fight fire with fire.
I mean if you're going to get into that game, you may as well pulverize him with the maximum negativity.
DAVIS: So here's the quick answer. I completely agree that that's a reality that Frank is describing. But the answer is to debate issues and give people a debate choice on issues about solving problems.
The company we organized is Purple Nation Solutions, and that to me is what Frank would agree with. We can get them to debate Obama and Romney on what are we going to do about the national debt. Why hasn't Barack Obama endorsed Simpson-Bowles which would take an across-the-board approach? What is Romney going to do with debt if he doesn't raise any revenues?
Let's hear that debate and that's negativity but it's negativity contrasting ideas. That's what we think ought to happen.
MORGAN: Can a presidential candidate win through positivity alone?
DAVIS: Well, it isn't necessarily -- the answer is yes, but contrasting, I think, Barack Obama's ideas are better than Mitt Romney's. I think he's got a better approach on national health care. I want to know how Romney is going to take care of 33 million uninsured people if the Supreme Court overturns this law. People want to know answers. So there's negativity, but it's negativity about issues. It's not personal attacks.
Cory Booker tried to say that and you know who condemned him worse than anybody? This administration actually said he's dead to us when Cory Booker said more positive on that particular program about Barack Obama than he said negative. All he said was he didn't like the personal attacks on both sides. And his own fellow Democrats, fellow Obama supporters, criticized him. And that was terrible.
MORGAN: And wasn't Cory Booker a bit naive? And I like him very much, but wasn't he naive if he was going to oppose the Bain line of attack? That is a central plank of Barack Obama's attack on Mitt Romney, isn't it? He's basically saying the guy, if you judge him on the economy through his record at Bain, he's going to destroy jobs. That's why he got so touchy about it.
DAVIS: I actually was surprised at their reaction because if you read the transcript, it was almost all positive about Barack Obama. Does a friend say to a friend what you're doing, which I think is wrong, he should keep doing if he wants to get him re-elected? And yet that was the effect of saying he's dead to us.
In fact, Harold Ford Jr., a congressman from Tennessee, supporter of Barack Obama's, Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, myself, all thought the Bain attack isn't going to help you, Barack Obama. Tell your story why your health care plan is good for the American people. That will reelect you. Not the distorted ad about Bain.
MORGAN: Let's take a short break, Lanny. I want to change gears a bit and move to the Jerry Sandusky trial. You worked a lot with Penn State and therefore you'll have some pretty interesting views, I would imagine, about what's been going on this week ..
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM KLINE, VICTIM #5 ATTORNEY: Dottie Sandusky yesterday didn't say that it didn't happen. She said that she went to bed after her husband and that her husband went down to essentially tuck the overnight guests, the boys into bed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: That's Tom Kline, the attorney for alleged victim number five in the trial of Jerry Sandusky. Today, the defense rested its case. And tomorrow, closing arguments begin.
Back with me now is Lanny Davis. He's currently a legal adviser to the president of Penn State.
So, you're directly involved here. You're a top lawyer, you've been a White House counsel,, you're a crisis manager expert. All of these skills are pretty seriously tested in this case because eon the face of it it's pretty grim for Penn State, isn't it?
DAVIS: Well, first let me say, I have to be very limited in what I can say to you about this, Piers. A man is in trial and he's entitled to the presumption of innocence. And the jury is going to decide Mr. Sandusky's fate.
I can tell you that in working for Penn State now, the president -- I went to Yale and I love Yale as a great university. I have never seen an alumni, a student body, a faculty that loves a place more than I've seen in the Penn State family. And I know one thing, that they should not be judged or identified with this particularly tragedy. If it turns out he's guilty, may he go to jail for a long time.
This great university should not be defined by this tragedy.
MORGAN: Is that the problem for Penn State, that when you have such an iconic character, with Joe Paterno, for example, wielding such power through his just years of experience, decades of experience, that if it turns out that Sandusky is guilty and gets wayed (ph) off for a long time and it's sort of confirmed again that Joe Paterno knew and others knew, that that brings shame to Penn State, doesn't it, just an institution, that more young boys were allowed to be abused simply because those in positions of authority, for whatever reason, didn't do anything?
DAVIS: Look, just to be clear, to protect myself, I didn't know we would be talking about this subject tonight. And I can only say that Joe Paterno was a great man and passed away. He did admit to a Grand Jury that he knew there was conduct of a sexual nature from someone who told him. And he reported that fact to his superior.
And we can judge that decision or not. But I still say that things happen in big institutions and they shouldn't be judged by the aberration. If Mr. Sandusky is conflicted, he does not reflect Penn State as I've come to know it and love it. He is an aberration.
He doesn't reflect humanity, if he's convicted, doing these awful things, if he is convicted.
MORGAN: Do you feel optimistic that whatever happens, that every other version of Penn State in America that has sporting athletic, great sports teams, athletic coaches and so on, and academic institutions, that they will, at the very least now, be more transparent than they may have been because of what happened there? Do you think there's been a seismic shock to the whole system in this country?
DAVIS: Well, without focusing on just higher education, I think a good part of government's problem is an absence of transparency. A good part of what happens in Congress behind closed doors is an absence of transparency. I worked for a company and did some lobbying for this company. And I said to a client, when we walk in a member's door, we are on C-Span. And that idea of transparency, which I believe is an across-the-board problem in America, is I think a big solution, even in the world of campaigns, where you have these huge super PACs without transparency as to who's giving the money and paying for these negative attack ads, which I'm going to shamelessly plug.
Michael Steele and I and our company, Purple Nation Solutions, are trying to engage in a new type of politics where we're looking at solutions to problems, not food fights.
MORGAN: Lanny, I wish you --
DAVIS: I brought it back to my company.
MORGAN: You did, very skillfully. Can now see why you've pulled down all these good jobs. Good to see you, as always.
DAVIS: Thank you.
MORGAN: Up next, a man who's got strong opinions on American politics. He's written some of the great rock songs of the '90s, Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan. He is not happy with President Obama.
MORGAN: "1979," a killer song from the Smashing Pumpkins. The band's been churning out hits for years, selling 30 million albums and achieving worldwide fame. Their new album "Oceania" -- I knew I'd get it wrong.
BILLY CORGAN, THE SMASHING PUMPKINS: They actually said you'd get it wrong.
MORGAN: I know. "Oceania" is out today. Billy Corgan is the founder and front man for the Smashing Pumpkins and joins me now. Welcome, Billy.
MORGAN: I was expecting like a smoldering volcano when they booked you. I thought this angry man of rock would come in --
CORGAN: I'm sure you'll get to it, Piers. You're very good at that.
MORGAN: -- sort of Mike Tyson of music, you know, like this undercurrent of menace across the desk. You seem quite affable to me.
CORGAN: Well, I like your show. So that has a lot to do with it. You know? I talk to a lot of people, I don't respect them. And so I walk into the room with that.
MORGAN: Well, that actually means a lot to me.
CORGAN: I've seen you do some great interview. And I think for somebody who has been interviewed a lot -- and I know people in my business should understand there's the right interview and there's the -- you start phoning it in because it's just robot language.
MORGAN: What is the kind of interview that absolutely sends you demented?
CORGAN: It's -- they Google. They just Google you and then they just go with all the headlines. They don't actually get -- to me, if you're talking to an artist, it's such a rare opportunity to get into the mind of the artist. And the greatest interviewers, people like you and Charlie Rose, they penetrate into a place where you go OK, now I understand why they're like that. That's what I want to know as a fan of somebody.
MORGAN: What do you think of America right now?
CORGAN: You're starting right off there.
MORGAN: Yeah. I'm interested in your view of the country.
CORGAN: I'm very disappointed in my country right now, because I think we've kind of lost our moral compass. We've turned into a whining society. Listen, I have done plenty of whining in my life. But I think at some point we have to get out of this paternalistic churn we're in, where we want daddy to come and save us and the banks to come and save us. We need to get back to a level of social responsibility that we haven't seen for a long time.
I'm just an artist. I can only do so much. I can only say so much. I'm not a hero, but I'm disappointed. The level of political and cultural rhetoric is so low, it's kind of shocking. Everybody seems to be okay with it. Well, that's just the way it goes. I'm sorry, but I see -- I'm from the lower middle class. I see the middle class hollowing out. I see my families -- people in my family really struggling. I know so many people struggling.
And yet we're still arguing about these kind of really stupid, nuancy things which political commentators know are BS, but they kind of play along. Well, that's political theater. Meanwhile, it's affecting real people with real lives and families. That's really hard for me to watch.
MORGAN: Your comment about paternal and maternal responsibility -- you, of course, grew up in a weird situation where both of your natural parents kind of distanced themselves from you at a very young age and left you just to run your life as you could. How much has that guided your sense of people not being reliant on their parents?
CORGAN: That's a really good question. I don't know. I think we all take our experiences -- and from a spiritual point of view, it's whether or not we transmute those experiences into something positive, you know. For a lot of years, I just complained. And I looked like a very unhappy rock star.
And then one day I woke up and I thought I had a different responsibility in this world. I don't know if it was being in my 30s or something. I started thinking about the world differently and seeing my place in it, and started thinking wow, you know, my record sales versus what's really going on in my country or the world. I mean, I've got to get some proportionality here.
Once I started doing that, I started seeing the world with much different eyes.
MORGAN: Politically, you've been -- I wouldn't say vague, but nobody has ever really been able to pin you down. Are you an Obama man at heart?
CORGAN: No, no. I was basically raised a Democrat, in essence, in a somewhat liberal family. When you grow up around drug addicts and freaks, you tend to lean left, you know. I remember, as a kid, it was a lot of anti-Nixon stuff. In essence, in my family's mind, the '50s archetype of the shutdown alcoholic male worked with the Republican party for a while. It was like -- but I also remember my grandmother Connie sitting in front of the TV when Reagan was nominate nominated, before he was president -- nominated for the candidacy and crying, saying he's going to bring this country back.
So I had that experience. My grandmother was an immigrant from Italy. And I saw real tears in her eyes because she thought Reagan was going to restore this country to whatever she thought. So I've lived in both paradigms. I'm at the point now where I don't trust either political party. I don't see a reasonable third party independent run from anybody who is rational and going to get there.
But the choices we have are so compromised, I just don't get it. But again, that seems -- everybody wants the theatre more than they want the reality.
MORGAN: What is the kind of leader that you're craving in an American president?
CORGAN: Moral compass. And that's where I'm disappointed in the president, is he ran on a moral compass agenda. But what happened? I'm sure there's lots of good reasons and I'm sure they'll roll somebody out to counter thoughts like that, but I don't see it. And I travel the world and so do you. I've seen foreigners really shift on their view of America. And that's hard for me to take.
I still believe in my country. I know that the working class of this country is what this country is really about. That's where I grew up. That's my people. When I see them broken down, that's hard to watch.
MORGAN: I saw the premier of Aaron Sorkin's new drama "News Room," which is based around a cable news show like this, starring Jeff Daniels. I watched it last night. And it was -- Jeff Daniels character makes this kind of polemic speech to a bunch of students. And the point he makes -- he's asked about what he thinks about America. He says that it's completely wrong to say America is still the greatest country in the world. It used to be. And it can be again.
But actually statistically, if you look at all the criteria, education, science, literally, et cetera, et cetera, America is lagging way behind now many countries. What do you think?
CORGAN: I agree. I don't see the vigorous democracy -- not democratic -- the vigorous democracy that I was raised to believe in. And I don't understand where that went. Now, does that mean that somebody wants that debate to go down because it's easier to control, you know, an archaized people? Or is it just we're all so stuck in our phones now that we don't have time to care about the reality of our country?
I don't really totally understand all the causal effects. I have theories, but --
MORGAN: One theory could be, of course, the celebrification of America and, in fact, most of the civilized world and politics. Maybe that's part of the problem. Let's take a break. I want you to hang on to that thought. How much can we blame celebrities? Let's start naming a few. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MORGAN: Back with the Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan. That track is "the Celestials" from the band's new album "Oceania," which was released today. I got it right that time. Congratulations, Piers. I finally get the guy's album title correct.
Let's talk about celebrities. It seems to me you flirt on both sides of this fence. You've been --
CORGAN: Literally flirted with celebrities.
MORGAN: Instantly, I would have thought somebody like you would rail against the whole Paris Hilton genre of celebrity for being talentless, even though I like her -- talentless, but made themselves very famous. You've been matey with her. You've been matey with other stars of that genre.
CORGAN: That's true.
MORGAN: So what is --
CORGAN: I've even rolled in the hey with a few of them.
MORGAN: I know you have. Do you want to name how many you've rolled in the hay with?
CORGAN: More than one and less than five.
MORGAN: Jessica Simpson was one, right? Did you actually roll in the hay with her?
CORGAN: She actually has a hay bale in her bedroom.
CORGAN: And the left over cowboy hat from the movie.
MORGAN: So a little part of you is drawn to these stars.
CORGAN: Absolutely. I think -- I grew up in the 1970s. And, you know, "Dallas" and "Gilligan's Island," I mean, I love American culture in that way. It's when it's risen to this other kind of psychotic level that's kind of frightening, especially some of the messages it sends young women, and then the way it sort of reverts back on to celebrities, as if they're supposed to carry some sort of mantle.
Somebody like Jessica, who can't even gain five pounds or lose five pounds without creating a headline -- I mean, you can say whatever you want, whether you're a fan or not. But to put a woman in that position, that's not her creating that position. And I don't want to hear this argument that they're celebrities whores. It's a little more complicated than that. Now I give credit to people like Paris and Kim Kardashian for creating an industry out of their -- people's obsessed with them. That's American. Great. God bless them. It's the people who pretend they're not that that make me crazy.
MORGAN: Does it -- here's why I have an issue with it. And I actually like both Paris and Kim. Interviewed them several times. I like them. I see no problem with them doing the best that they can. They both work very hard at it. But is there a problem fundamentally with a society and a culture which puts people like that on a pedestal, in the sense that it inevitably chips away at the mystique of people who perhaps are more deserving of star status?
You go back 50 years and you have the great actors and singers, the only way you could be famous in that era was to be genuinely world-class talented. And that's gone.
CORGAN: And even if you look at Hollywood, the way Hollywood beauty standards have shifted -- we've gone to Lauren Bacalls like "Girl Next Door." Now there's nothing wrong wit "Girl Next Door," but the American public has become sort of me obsessed and that's where I think the projected thing happens. They want to project -- it's easier for them to project on somebody like Kim Kardashian than it is like Linda Evangelista, who is one of the most beautiful women in the world. It's like there's a next door neighbor kind of snippy, bitchy quality to it.
MORGAN: What do you fee about Twitter? You're an active Twitter.
MORGAN: The thing is you can't help but read all the terrible stuff on there, which is one of the downsides, which I sort of enjoy. You had a great quote. You said "the Internet has made every one Archie Bunker," which I love, because it effectively has. The flip side is that every one now has a voice, if they want, on Twitter. Why shouldn't they have a voice? Why shouldn't their opinion, their Tweets be as valuable to the world as yours or mine?
CORGAN: I have no problem with that. I have a problem when -- if you talk to most people, they have a hard time understanding what social responsibility means. You know what I mean? Like I'm out there and I understand the social responsibility and the position I have. I don't just say anything I want.
MORGAN: Tell me quickly about "Oceania." It's out now. What do you feel about this album?
CORGAN: What's interesting about it in my life is I made some great albums in the '90s and -- which become sort of almost like a mill stone around my neck. You'll never reach that height again. You'll never do it. You need the old band. Then I make an album that's just as good as those albums, and they're wait a second, OK you did -- now the question is why did you step making these kinds of albums.
And they can't understand the cultural aspects to be an artists and suddenly be in the downturn of the music business, have fans start making it about the past. And then you find yourself kind of reacting and rejecting against those expectations.
Only through maturity and a little bit of spiritual revolution have I realized that I was diminishing myself, on some level, to try to answer some question that I couldn't answer. And so this is just my way of saying, I could have done this all along. And now I'm in a good place where I can do this.
MORGAN: It's a terrific album. You are true to yourself. And that is an unusual quality in many musicians in my experience, certainly of the modern type. So I wish you all the very best with it. It's been a pleasure.
CORGAN: Thank you for having me. Thank you.
MORGAN: For tonight's Only in America, and now the weather. Atmospheric conditions are not exclusive to this country. But what seems to be unique to America is the quite extraordinary obsession over them, especially at this time of year. Today is the first official day of summer. And it's been hot, insanely hot in some places.
I walked across New York's Central Park in the blistering midday sun. and I suddenly understood what Lawrence of Arabia went through. But is that really news? Well, it is to broadcasters and meteorologists. This morning, my old buddy Al Roker made it sound almost Biblical.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL ROKER, "THE TODAY SHOW": Here are some of the temperatures we're talking about from D.C. to Boston. New York City, 95, 97 Albany, Boston 97, 98 to 99 degrees in D.C., Pittsburgh 91. And this extends back to the west as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Wow. Al you're scaring me. Next you're going to tell us it's going to get even hotter in July. Record breaking temperatures, severe heat, horrendous humidity, yada yada yada. Should we all just huddle under a sprinkler and cool down? It's supposed to be like this on the first day of summer. That's why it's called summer. It's pretty well always like this on the first day of American summers.
Yet still the reporters fan out showing sweating workers on the street, people panicked buying air conditioners, children frolicking for safety in fountains, and always a crowd favorite, frying an egg on the pavement. Now to avoid further annoying, pointless outbreaks of Groundhog Day weather reports, let me simplify things for everybody. In the summer it's hot. In the winter, it's cold. And in between, you're going to get rain, cloud and the odd tornado. The weather has been like that in America for longer than America has existed. It's not news, it's just a fact. So calm down and carry on. That's all for us today. "AC 360" starts now.