CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

One-on-One with Bill Clinton

Aired September 25, 2012 - 21:00   ET

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


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, blunt words from Bill Clinton. The 42nd president of the United States on the nuclear threat from Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: You trust Ahmadinejad?

BILL CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not on this, I don't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: And why should Israel be allowed to have nukes?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: No one thinks that Israel is about to drop a bomb on Tehran.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: What this master campaigner would say to Mitt Romney.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: If he's going to double down on that 47 percent remark, that will cause difficulties because we now know that the overwhelming number of those people work and have children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: And his take on President Obama and the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: How has he managed to avoid public retribution for not fixing the economy better than he has done?

CLINTON: Because this is not a normal time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Plus his extraordinary work with the Clinton Global Initiative.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: We don't have to produce miracles. All we have to produce is progress. And we just keep pushing these rocks up the hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: And is the world ready for a Clinton back in the highest office?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: I can run for president of Ireland because of my Irish heritage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

Good evening. The most powerful men and women in the world are gathered in New York tonight at the U.N. and across town at the Clinton Global Initiative. President Obama spoke at CGI today. We'll get to that in a moment. Although at the U.N. he had some tough talk on Iran's nuclear program.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So let me be clear. America wants to resolve this through diplomacy and we believe that there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: With just 42 days to go until the election, Mitt Romney blasted Iran in his speech to the CGI.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: A voice of unspeakable evil and hatred has spoken out, threatening Israel and the entire civilized world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: All of this on the heels of my extraordinary hour with Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Tonight my special guest is former president, Bill Clinton. Since leaving the White House he's focused his considerable political muscle on the mission of the Clinton Global Initiative and now he speaks his mind on a world on the brink and on the race for the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORGAN: Mr. President, thank you very much for sparing the time to talk to me. You're in the eighth year now of the Clinton Global Initiative and I would imagine of all the world leaders you've managed to amass here, there are a few topics of concentrated attention. And probably right at the top of the list would be this simmering tension now between Israel and Iran.

Now I interviewed President Ahmadinejad last night, and he was adamant that he has no plan to build a nuclear weapon, that he has purely peaceful intention. Clearly, most people here don't believe him.

What is the smart thing for America to do right now, given the ratcheting up of all the rhetoric on both sides?

CLINTON: I think the smart thing for us to do is to maintain constant conflict with the Israeli intelligence services and the Arab intelligence services who also don't want Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

Saudi Arabia doesn't want to have to decide to acquire a nuclear weapon. The Gulf states don't want to have to decide to acquire a nuclear weapon. They don't want an arms race in the Middle East. And then I -- then I think that the other smart thing to do is just to say, just take the quote from President Ahmadinejad and say, OK.

If you don't want a nuclear weapon, then why won't you comply with the international community's inspection regime and just keep saying it over and over and over again, every single day, if you don't want a nuclear weapon, you have been given nine ways from Sunday to prove that.

A decade ago, the Russians offered to take their fissile material and process for them enough uranium to run a power plant, to run a number of power plants, and to do it in a way that couldn't be taken to weapons grade. There are so many ways they can have a nuclear program that won't produce a nuclear weapon.

So what they're really saying is in spite of the fact that we deny the Holocaust, that we threaten Israel and we demonize the United States, and we do all this stuff, we want you to trust us. In spite of the fact that we won't cooperate with the international regime set up to avoid an arms race in the Middle East and set up to avoid nuclear proliferation, we want you to trust us.

So they don't have a tenable position. The reason nobody believes him --

MORGAN: Do you trust him?

CLINTON: -- is they don't have a tenable position.

MORGAN: Do you trust Ahmadinejad?

CLINTON: Not on this, I don't.

MORGAN: His argument is, look, why should America be allowed nuclear weapons? Why should Israel, who've never admitted they have them, why should they be permitted to have them? Why should many countries be allowed nuclear weapons and not Iran?

CLINTON: Well, then, why isn't he going for some bigger non- proliferation initiative instead of acting like what he really wants is a nuclear bomb because that will help to get everybody get rid of their nuclear weapons? No serious person believes that.

Israel is not supporting Hezbollah. Israel doesn't send terrorists to cross Syria to train in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. Israel has -- no one thinks that Israel is about to drop a bomb on Tehran.

So the difference is this is a government with a record of supporting terror and, look, no one talks about this very much, but if they had a nuclear weapon, there would be two dangers, even if you believe they never use it, that is, if you believe that they are sane and rational and understand that their country, their civilization, their whole history would be destroyed if they ever dropped a bomb on someone, because everybody would know it and the retaliation would be incomprehensible.

Even if you believe that, two bad things will happen if they get a bomb. A lot of their neighbors will get bombed and the more of these weapons you have hanging around, the more fissile material you've got, the more they're vulnerable to being stolen or sold or just simply transferred to terrorists.

And that brings me to the second point, which is that Iran has all these extensive contacts with terrorist groups and even if the government didn't directly sanction it, it wouldn't be that much trouble to be -- to get a Girl Scout cookie's worth of fissile material, which, if put in the same fertilizer bomb Timothy McVeigh used in Oklahoma City, is enough to take out 20 to 25 percent of Washington, D.C. Just that little bit.

So the prospect of spreading, in a way, dirty nuclear bombs with smaller payloads that could wreak havoc and do untold damage, goes up exponentially every time some new country gets this capacity. And you don't have any control over and you don't know whether they do over what happens to the fissile material. So that --

MORGAN: If Israel was to launch an airstrike against Iran, a preemptive strike, because they believe, as appears to be the case with many of their top leadership, that Iran is right on the cusp now of developing a nuclear weapon -- if they do that, what should America's response be?

CLINTON: I shouldn't answer that question because of my wife's position and that's the president and the security team's desire to -- a decision to make. But I generally have confidence with what they said and how they tried to explain it to the American people.

And Ahmadinejad certainly knows that we have not picked this fight. We have not gone out of our way to get into a military confrontation, but we have made some very clear red lines there.

MORGAN: People will say this is very reminiscent of Iraq. You have a bad guy who is believed to be in the process of either developing or has WMD. We know what happened with Iraq, that that intelligence was flawed.

Can America -- can the world risk another flawed military action, if it turns out that Ahmadinejad is actually telling the truth?

CLINTON: First of all, it's very different from Iraq. I personally never saw any intelligence that was at all persuasive on the nuclear issue. I wanted the inspectors to go in there for a simple reason. When the first Gulf War was over, we began an accounting of all of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, which mostly consisted of chemical warheads and chemical and biological agents.

In 1998, when he kicked the inspectors out, there were two biological agents and two chemical agents, a substantial quantity unaccounted for. We bombed, the U.S. and the U.K.

After 9/11, I thought it was important for the inspectors to go in and try to find out whether we had destroyed that or not. We later learned when he was deposed that it was destroyed in '98 and he didn't want anybody to know about it because he thought it would weaken him against Iran. But there was never, to me, any really incredible nuclear intelligence.

This is quite different. They don't even pretend that they're not -- they don't have centrifuges, that they can't enrich uranium, that they've gone right up to the limit and that they have the capacity to go well beyond what is necessary to generate the kind of material necessary to turn on the lights, to generate electricity. So I think it's a very, very different thing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MORGAN: President Clinton's main focus is the Clinton Global Initiative but he's also making quite a splash on the campaign trail for Democrats and Republicans alike. When we come back, his advice for Mitt Romney.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: The Clinton Global Initiative has become a draw for leaders from around the world. Not to mention the candidate for the highest office in this country. President Obama and Mitt Romney both spoke at the CGI today. And former President Clinton who steal the show at the Democratic National Convention had some tough advice for the Republican candidate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORGAN: Mitt Romney today came out with this line, which was -- went down very well with the audience, as you'd expect.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: If there's one thing we've learned in this election season, by the way, it is that a few words from Bill Clinton can do a man a lot of good.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: What words would you have for Mitt Romney, given the state of the election campaign right now?

CLINTON: Well, I think you know the debates are very important for him.

MORGAN: Crucial?

CLINTON: I think so. And I think if he's going to double down on that 47 percent remark, that will cause difficulties, because we now know that the overwhelming number of those people work and have children. And the reason they don't pay federal income taxes is the median income is as low as it was in 1995 now.

And until the current election season, Republicans and Democrats supported both the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

I doubled the Earned Income Tax Credit, but it was signed under a Republican president; Reagan supported it. And we started the Child Tax Credit with the strong support of the Republicans in Congress. And President Bush doubled that. Then President Obama and the Democratic Congress increased the Earned Income Tax Credit for families with more than three children.

So you had -- this is a rejection of basically more than three decades of bipartisan policy to support work and family. It's not a bunch of freeloaders. There are only about a little less than 4 percent of the total population who don't pay federal income tax and don't work and may not be looking for work. We now have the numbers on this.

So I think that most important thing for him is to find a way to relate to more people in these debates and speak to more of them. This is not the Republican primary anymore. But if the problems --

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: Is he -- is he principled, do you think, Mitt Romney?

CLINTON: That's not the issue to me. I think he will -- I think he's principled in the sense that he will keep the commitments that he has made. Almost all people, when they run for president, make a number of commitments.

When they get elected, almost all president since -- modern studies have been done on this, last seven or eight presidents -- make an exceptional effort to do what they said they were going to do. And when there is an exception to that, there's normally an overwhelming reason. Like Abraham Lincoln promised not to free the slaves. We're glad he didn't keep that promise. Franklin Roosevelt promised to balance the budget in his first term. He couldn't have done that because of the Depression. So we're glad he didn't try. Then almost every other president may have one smaller issue. But by and large they all do what they said they were going to do. So, yes, I think we should assume that he will be principled on that. He knows what he promised to do in the primary. And what he said in the general has been consistent with that.

I think we should assume that's what he'd do.

MORGAN: Under normal circumstances, an incumbent president who still had 8.2 percent unemployment, $16 trillion of debt which had risen by $5 trillion, gas prices doubled, you wouldn't politically give that incumbent president much of a prayer in an election, and yet the polls suggest that Barack Obama right now would win.

How has he managed to avoid public retribution for not fixing the economy better than he has done?

CLINTON: Because this is not a normal time. And the damage done to the economy could not be fully repaired in four years. And most of the debt that's been run up on his watch is a direct result of the economic collapse. First the recession that began in 2007 and the economic collapse that happened in 2008, which has driven tax revenues down below 15 percent of income for the first time in 50 years, and driven spending above 21 percent of income, because so many people are on unemployment and food stamps and Medicaid, medical assistance.

If we had -- when the economy recovers a higher rate of growth, which it will in the next year or so, what's going to happen is with nothing happening, tax receipts will go up to about 17 percent; spending will drop to under 21 percent. There's still be a substantial deficit, but it'll be much smaller.

President Obama's main contribution to this $16 billion debt, which is a trillion-dollar debt which is a 10-year figure, you know, projecting out 10 years, was the stimulus bill, which is $800 billion, which I believe was a good thing to do. I think the debt might even be even bigger without it because it kept people working and paying taxes, and off the government payrolls, and because it created new jobs and infrastructure and energy.

If you look at his annual spending budgets, they are about 2 percent increases. That's less than the rate of inflation. So I think that the reason that I believe he'll win reelection is that we're beginning to recover, we've had a higher rate of job creation since the recession bottomed out, the collapse bottomed out in the middle of 2009, than in the previous eight years and we're moving in the right direction. And the policies he's advocated are more likely to produce a good economic result. That's why.

If people thought this was just like another recession, he would be in real trouble. But it isn't like another recession. They know it and --

MORGAN: The biggest problem, people say, is the paralysis in Washington, the inability to get in a room and get a deal done. When I've interviewed Newt Gingrich, he often says to me, now the way it worked with President Clinton, when he was the speaker, was that you would be in a roomful full of advisors. And then a moment would come, you'd sling them all out and it would be you and him, mano-to-mano, get it done, compromise, get it done.

Why is that not happening now? And what advice to give to Barack Obama to try and get into that kind of mindset with the Republicans?

CLINTON: Well, that's the -- what Speaker Gingrich said is true, but it's not the whole truth, that is we had one year when virtually nothing got done. I was a real stickler for passing all my budgets on time. And but in 2005, we didn't. And I had to veto what they did. And they had to do what they did because what's they promised the voters they'd do in the '94 elections.

And then the citizens decided they agreed with me more than them. They didn't want the government shut down. They didn't want to take a radical departure. They just wanted to keep bringing the deficit down. So after the two government shutdowns in late '95 and early '96, then we began this compromise process everybody talks about. There has been no such action forcing event so far. That's what the election is.

You -- mark my words. if President Obama wins this election -- and I think he will; I really do believe he'll win -- there will be a lame duck session of Congress. They will avoid the fiscal cliff. They will either pass a multiyear budget then or agree to conditions to keep the government going while they work on the budget in the next couple of months after the election.

And you will see a much higher level of cooperation, because their number one goal, the Republicans was, as Senator McConnell said, to defeat the president. Well, that can't be their goal anymore, because he can't run for anything anymore. That'll -- that's a done deal.

So then I believe their number one goal will be either to make some progress or at least to hold onto their majority, which they can't do without making some progress. Then I think you will see both sides begin to compromise, work for -- together, and you'll see this logjam break.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MORGAN: When we come back the question all Americans and people around the world have been asking ever since Bill Clinton's big speech at the Democratic convention, would America had been better with another Clinton term.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: You know I was young. Perhaps I could have done another term.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I come to CGI every year that I've been president. And I've talked with you about how we need to sustain the economic recovery, how we need to create more jobs. I've talked about the importance of development, from global health to our fight against HIV-AIDS. The growth that left nations to prosperity.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Let's talk about the Clinton Global Initiative. It's turned into this extraordinary event. An unbelievable lineup of speakers. What is the purpose going forward for you, because you've done the hard bit? You've turned it into one of the world's leading events of its type that there is.

What do you really want to achieve? When you sit and look at the next 10 years --

CLINTON: Well, what I --

MORGAN: What is the big achievement?

CLINTON: What I tried to do, when I started -- I said I'm going to give it 10 years and see where we are, if we can last 10 years. I tried to create a global network of givers to bring in public leaders when they're here for the opening of the U.N., to bring in business leaders and philanthropists, but also leaders of non-government groups all across America and all across the world.

We've -- every year we fly a fair number of people in that otherwise couldn't afford to be here and they sit together in these working sessions, and they develop commitments. And then we help -- we work all year long to help people develop these commitments and then to help people keep them. So it's an organic sort of networking thing now that just goes on and on and on.

Yesterday, I went to one of our permanent working groups on Haiti and we helped each other to keep these commitments. And we kept score. We said, OK, this is what we've done; this is what we haven't done.

So I think that until there is some other mechanism through which this can happen, we should just -- we just keep doing this because, you know, nobody's running for anything. We don't have to produce miracles. All we produce is progress. And we just keep pushing these rocks up the hill.

And I think there's a real need for that in the world today. It can't all be done over the Internet. There needs to be some face time, some specific commitments, and some mechanism through which you help people to keep these commitments.

MORGAN: People see you putting on this event. They heard you at the convention make a barnstorming speech, an incredible speech.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: If you want a winner-take-all, you're on-your-own society, you should support the Republican ticket. But if you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibility, but we're all in this together society, you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That was that. You electrified the place. And they all say, why do we have this goddamned 22nd Amendment? Why couldn't Bill Clinton just run again and be president for the next 30 years?

CLINTON: Well, we had it for a good reason. There -- it's a hard job being president. And you also have a vast array of people working for you. It worked, I think, well. We -- I think we did the right thing to keep President Roosevelt for a third term.

But when he died shortly after being elected to a fourth term, and people didn't really know a full measure of his health challenges, the 22nd Amendment passed. It's ironic that the 22nd Amendment passed at a time when people thought the Democrats had a lock on the White House and then it was -- then after the last 50 years, the Republicans had it more than the Democrats.

But I think there's still an argument for saying that eight years, certainly eight years in a row, is enough. You don't want this -- you don't want to run the risk of sclerosis in a democratic society. You want to keep the blood running. You don't want to get the idea that any country, particularly not one this big and diverse and important as ours, is dependent on any one person.

You look at a lot of these dictators that have been deposed in the last few years, and the few that are hanging on. Almost all of them at one time were young and idealistic and incredibly capable. And they really meant to do something good. And they just kind of outstayed their welcome. So I love the life I have now.

I like helping the president. I like helping my country. I'm interested in politics, but I like what I'm doing. I think that, on balance, the system we have is better than the no limits.

Maybe someday the rules will be changed so if you can serve two years and lay out and -- serve two terms and lay out a term or two, you could run again because for a simple reason, we're all living so much longer and we're maintaining the capacity to work and think clearly for a longer period. So some future people might be affected that -- by that. It shouldn't affect me or anybody who's been president --

MORGAN: We're trying to change the rules in Britain, actually, because if you can't be president again here, we'd quite like you to be prime minister in our country. Are you available if it comes to -- I get this through? CLINTON: They -- there are only two countries I'm eligible to run for the leadership position is if I move to Ireland and buy a house, I can -- I can run for president of Ireland, because of my Irish heritage.

And because I was born in Arkansas, which is part of the Louisiana Purchase, any person anywhere in the world that was born in a place that ever was part of the French empire, if you move to -- if you live in France for six months and speak French, you can run for president.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: However, I once polled very well in a French presidential race. And I said, you know, this is great, but that's the best I'd ever do because once they heard my broken French with a Southern accent, I would drop into single digits within a week and I'd be toast. I just don't think -- that's what I think. I think the system we have may have some opportunity costs.

You know, I was young, perhaps I could have done another term, but I thought Al Gore was going to win and I wanted him to win. I thought he would have been a good president. I still think so. And the thing that's kept America going is that we've trusted the people over the leaders. And I love my life now.

And if I can help my country, I will. But I -- we're organized around institutions, values, restraints on power and people. And it's worked out pretty well for us for 200 years. We ought not to fool with it too much.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MORGAN: Later, I'll ask President Clinton about the one thing everyone at CGI seems to be talking about, the Seattle Seahawks and their Hail Mary pass. And tomorrow, more from the Clinton Global Initiative, Deepak Chopra, General Wesley Clarke, will.i.am and Princess Amira al-Taweel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILL.I.AM, RAPPER: America has to figure out what it is we are. We are our own enemy right now. I still -- somebody still hasn't told me why we spend so much money on prisons and not for education. Why does that just slip over people's -- why is --

DEEPAK CHOPRA, SPIRITUAL LEADER: Prison is a better business. This is a private --

WILL.I.AM: Yes, but why is that -- who said that was OK? I don't -- just answer the --

MORGAN: I agree. Who did say that was OK?

CHOPRA: Who said guns were OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: That's the Clinton Global Initiative Panel tomorrow. And coming up next, my own all star panel on President Obama, Mitt Romney and who will get the Clinton bump from CGI.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through translator): We said justice for all, the rule of law for all, the right of peaceful nuclear energy for all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad telling me he has no plans to build nuclear weapons and only has peaceful intentions. President Clinton just told me he doesn't trust Ahmadinejad on this. Today, Iran claimed it had test-fired four missiles in apparent response to U.S. military drills in the Persian Gulf.

Joining me now to discuss all this, P.J. Crowley, he's president Obama's former assistant secretary of state for public affairs and former ambassador Richard Williamson, Mitt Romney's senior foreign policy advisor. Welcome to you both.

Let me start with you, P.J. Crowley. What do we do about Iran and President Ahmadinejad?

P.J. CROWLEY, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, this clearly will be one of the most compelling issues that the next president faces, either Obama in a second term or Romney in a first term. As the president said today, there's still time and space to work this diplomatically. He's put down a very firm position that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon. I think Governor Romney actually agrees with that.

MORGAN: Richard Williamson, one of the problems here of course is credibility on all sides. And the reason I say that, I discussed with President Clinton earlier the comparisons to Iraq. Here you have another bad guy in the same kind of region who everyone says has WMD or wants to, in this case, get WMD. It turned out to be not true in the case of Saddam Hussein. He didn't have any weapons of mass destruction.

Can the west afford to go into any kind of military conflict with Iran, with Ahmadinejad, and then discover actually all he was saying turned out to be true?

RICHARD WILLIAMSON, ADVISER TO MITT ROMNEY: Well, first of all, Piers, the evidence is not just intelligence services, but also the International Atomic Energy Agency that's had inspectors in there, though Tehran has interrupted and obstructed their inspections from time to time.

But we know they have 3.5, five percent enriched uranium. We know they have thousands more cascades than they had four years ago, creating -- enriching uranium. And we know they have some uranium that's been enriched to 20 percent. This is all IAEA, who have been on site and seen these things. So I think the likelihood of a mistake there is not great.

MORGAN: Right. Let me just ask you both the same question. I'll start with P.J. Crowley. The key thing is what America does, clearly. If we assume that Israel is serious, that Benjamin Netanyahu is absolutely deadly serious, that he is ready to launch some kind of preemptive strike against Iran, imagine that happens. What does the Obama administration do if it's still in power come November and the election? What do you do?

CROWLEY: Well, I mean, that's the dilemma in terms of turning to military action that may well be necessary at some point. Israel probably has -- certainly has the capability to in some ways delay, you know, the advance towards that nuclear line, but perhaps does not have the ability to destroy the entire program.

And that's the conundrum when you get to military action, is, in many respects, if you start this fight, one of two things has to happen. You have to continue to regime change, as we did in Iraq. That's a legitimate policy option, but obviously a very expensive one. But the other is, should it not destroy Iran's nuclear program, you probably make that Iranian bomb inevitable, because you can destroy facilities, but you can't destroy knowledge.

MORGAN: Richard Williamson, let's assume Mitt Romney wins in November. His rhetoric has been even stronger against President Ahmadinejad and Iran. What would a Romney administration do if Israel decides to go it alone?

WILLIAMSON: Well, I would like to make a couple points, Piers. First, I think Bismarck was right when he said that diplomacy without a credible use of force is like instruments with no music -- or music with no instruments. Unfortunately, that's been U.S. policy the last few years.

Second, there's a breach between Jerusalem and Washington today. We seem more intent on saying no to Israel to protect itself than no to Iran to stop the nuclear weapons. We have to try to have a more concerted, close cooperative relationship with our strongest ally in the region and others, which is one reason so many of us are disappointed the president didn't use the General Assembly as an opportunity for one-on-one meetings with leaders throughout the region, including Bibi Netanyahu.

MORGAN: It does seem a little perverse, that, P.J. Crowley. Why wouldn't Barack Obama want to meet with world leaders at such a critical time, given they're all here in New York and he's been here all day? I've met with more world leaders on this show than the president of the United States this week. It seems absolutely ridiculous.

CROWLEY: Well, there is a campaign going on. I'm not part of the campaign, so I'll leave it to the White House to explain. But I think I understand that, you know, having -- the president normally spends a day, day and a half in New York. He has in the past, but you've got to make this basic decision. If you commit to one meeting, you commit to several. In this particular case, as Rich knows well, there's always great tension within a White House on how much time you have for domestic policy and how much time you have for foreign policy.

And these are always difficult calculations that any president in the White House has to make.

MORGAN: Well, yes, but let's be honest. If you're Benjamin Netanyahu this week and you're turning on "The View," for example, midmorning perfectly good television, but you're watching him finding time for that, as Richard said, this president has played more than 100 rounds of golf, more than any president in history, but he can't find time to meet any heads of state. And he has got time to appear on "The View."

I say it again, P.J. Crowley, with the benefit of hindsight and the way this has all played out, wouldn't it have been more prudent for the president to have found time in his busy television schedule to do some meetings?

CROWLEY: Well, he talked to Prime Minister Netanyahu the other day. I don't think that anyone can suggest that there's not close coordination and a great deal of communication between the United States and Israel. They talk about -- you know, at various levels including at the highest level, they talk about this issue and this challenge on a regular basis.

MORGAN: Let's take a short break. When we come back, I want to talk about which candidate will get a bounce from appearing at the Clinton Global Initiative. Everything seems to revolve around President Bill Clinton at the moment. Let's discuss that after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People recognize that we don't want a government getting larger and larger and more intrusive in our lives. And we have a question about what course America's going to take. I represent one that will create more jobs and more take-home pay. The president represents more of the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Mitt Romney earlier today blasting President Obama as more of the same. Back now with my all-star panel, P.J. Crowley, President Obama's former assistant secretary of state for public affairs, and Richard Williamson, Mitt Romney's senior foreign policy adviser.

Let's talk about Bill Clinton for a moment. I interviewed him today. He's a fascinating interview in many ways. He's such a charismatic and powerful and influential figure, even though he's no longer president. Let's me start with you, P.J. Crowley. Is it massively helpful having this kind of huge beast now fully behind you guys? Because all the evidence shows since he made that barn-storming convention speech, you guys have been back in the driving seat.

CROWLEY: Well, I think that, you know, the president -- both presidents, you know, have great gravitas on foreign policy. And President Clinton did give President Obama a boost in Charlotte. And I think this allows the president on a day like today, you know, to look presidential. I think probably Governor Romney felt the same way in coming to CGI. I think both men being there, it's important to put foreign policy front and center at this point in the campaign.

MORGAN: I thought it was good that Mitt Romney went there, and he cracked a couple of good jokes. But you have to say that you look at the overall position in this election, it seems extraordinary to me that the polls seem to be widening, when you have a country that's 8.2 percent unemployment, 16 trillion dollars in debt, gas prices doubling, all of these huge sticks to beat the incumbent president with.

And if you take somewhere like Ohio, for example, which really Mitt Romney has to win, the lead has stretched apparently to an eight- point lead, we discover today. Why is this happening? Why is Mitt Romney not able to persuade the American public that, despite all these devastating statistics against Barack Obama's tenure, he's apparently rolling away to victory in places like Ohio?

WILLIAMSON: Is that for me, Piers?

MORGAN: Yes, for you, Richard Williamson.

WILLIAMSON: Thank you. Thanks. First, this ebbs and flows. Jimmy Carter was far ahead at this time in his election against Ronald Reagan, where he was beaten decisively. I think the polls that show them statistically tied. There's tough fights in certain swing states. But what Governor Romney is trying to do is point out the fundamental differences between his faith in the private sector, unleashing it, economic growth, and the president's view that we should invest in companies and have more government intrusion on the economy. And we've had these -- frankly, a failed recovery.

And then on foreign policy, whether we're going to lead from behind and have the type of turmoil in the Middle East, or that Mitt Romney's position of peace through strength and leadership can leave America better off, and our interests more protected.

MORGAN: Finally gentlemen, I'll just throw this both to you, because I put this to President Clinton. We're about to reveal what he had to say about it. The really big story in New York has nothing to do with the CGI or the U.N. or anything else. It's all about this NFL match last night.

President Obama has weighed in apparently on Twitter, saying "NFL fans on both sides of the aisle hope the refs lockout is settled soon." What is your take on it? Was that a touchdown? Let me ask you, P.J. Crowley.

CROWLEY: It was a close call. I think the rules state if you have dual possession in the end zone, the offensive team wins. So I -- I really think it was a tough call, and a scramble there, but I think the referees got it right.

MORGAN: Wow. Controversial position there, Mr. Crowley.

CROWLEY: Piers, I also think President Clinton got it right when he said Americans are going to win the Ryder Cup.

MORGAN: You will be interested to see what President Clinton says about the NFL matter. But on the Ryder Cup, you are both wrong. Let me turn to Richard Williamson. What is your view of the touchdown, or the Fail Mary pass, as it's now being known?

WILLIAMSON: First, I played college football. I'm old fashioned. I think the players should decide, not the referees. And if you are going to have referees, you should have the best and professionals. So I think Chairman Ryan was right. It's time for the NFL to bring the professionals back and it's time to retire the amateur referees. And it's time to retire the amateur president and bring in a real leader.

MORGAN: A last-second zinger there.

CROWLEY: Half right. I think he's right about the referees. He's wrong about the outcome of the election.

MORGAN: You surprise me when you say that. P.J. Crowley, thank you very much. Richard Williamson, thank you very much indeed.

WILLIAMSON: Thank you.

MORGAN: Coming up next, Only in America, more on the national outrage. President Clinton tackles the NFL refs, the play, and you'll see what kind of bet we made on the Ryder Cup.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Only in America could a Brit and a former president of the United States find common ground when it comes to football -- well, the American kind of football anyway. I asked the former leader of the free world about the Seattle Seahawks scandal. And we struck a bet on the Ryder Cup.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Final question, Mr. President, very quickly, two huge talking points at CGI today I detected. One is the Seattle Seahawks and their Hail Mary pass. Did you think that that was a touchdown? And if it wasn't, should we get these referees back?

And the second thing I keep hearing is -- and I don't understand this -- a confidence amongst the Americans that you're going to win the Ryder Cup. And as a European, do you fancy a bet? CLINTON: Well, on the football game, no, I did not think it was a touchdown. I thought the pass was intercepted. I thought the defender hit the ground before there was joint possession. And, yes, it means that we need to get the strike over and get more experienced people in there.

And, yes, I'll make a bet with you on the Ryder Cup.

MORGAN: Hundred dollars to a charity of our choice?

CLINTON: You got a deal.

MORGAN: Mr. President, thank you very much.

CLINTON: Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Thanks again to President Clinton. And tomorrow more from the Clinton Global Initiative. I'll talk to Deepak Chopra, General Wesley Clarke, will.i.am and Princess Amira al-Taweel, a quite star studded, eclectic panel. That's all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts now.