Return to Transcripts main page

PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

Obama Blasts GOP; Interview with Rudy Giuliani; Interview With Penn Jillette

Aired August 16, 2011 - 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, 34 percent -- that's right -- just 34 percent of Americans like the way that President Obama's handling the economy. If that number doesn't go up a lot, the White House is in big trouble.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ultimately, the buck stops with me. I'm going to be accountable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Can't the presidency be saved? We'll ask the man that sat down with him today, my colleague Wolf Blitzer.

Plus, he ran for president himself and could be eyeing the White House again, Rudy Giuliani.

And one of President Obama's trusted fundraisers, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Plus, a man of very strong opinions, he likes nothing better than a good argument. He's come to the right place, magic man, and atheist Penn Jillette.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: When you see the state of America with this economy that's so completely tanking, you're a successful businessman.

PENN JILLETTE, MAGIC MAN: Is it going to come to praying again?

MORGAN: Well, praying does help. At least I got a prayer.

JILLETTE: Do more! Do more! If it helps, do more. You can tell these people aren't praying enough. That's what's wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.

Good evening.

President Obama is out on the trail today blasting his Republican rivals and urging Americans to send a message to Congress. He sat down with Wolf Blitzer for a one-on-one interview.

Wolf joins me now.

Wolf, congratulations on your scoop interview.

What was the most striking part of it from your point of view?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": At one point, we started talking about the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

And I'm very worried, Piers, I don't know about you, but I'm very worried -- having studied terrorism in the Middle East for a long time -- that al Qaeda elements, whatever is left of al Qaeda or sympathizers, will seek to do something spectacular on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

I was wondering how concerned the president was. And he's very concerned. And he specifically is concerned about what he called the lone wolf terrorist emerging, someone along the lines of what happened in Norway.

He is worried about, you know, other potentially more significant kinds of terror attacks. But he says that they're going to step up their precautions and it was sort of stark to me that, you know, the enormous responsibility he has as commander in chief on this upcoming tenth anniversary, you know that there are al Qaeda elements who will want to seek revenge against the United States come on this tenth anniversary.

And I'm sure he's very concerned about it.

MORGAN: Yes. I mean, it must be pretty stressful, particularly when you take out their commander in chief in effect with bin Laden.

BLITZER: Right.

MORGAN: How do you seem physically to you? You interviewed the president three years ago. It's the first time you interviewed him since.

How had he changed physically and in himself and his demeanor to you?

BLITZER: He's got a lot more gray hair. He's obviously much more knowledgeable about what's going on, because at one point we spoke about some of the things he said to me. And here in Iowa, actually it was in the end of October 2008, only a few days before he was elected president of the United States and he appreciates a lot more what he didn't necessarily appreciate then.

And, in fact, you know, I pressed him on the whole -- he had said just after he took office that if he hadn't turned around the economy and got things moving in the right direction within three years of taking office, he would be a one-term president. And I pressed him on that point.

MORGAN: Let's play that now and I come back to you after we've seen this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: When I came into office, I knew I was going to have a big mess to clean up. And, frankly, the mess has been bigger than I think a lot of people anticipated at the time. We have made steady progress on these fronts. But we're not making progress fast enough.

And what I continue to believe is that ultimately the buck stops with me. I'm going to be accountable. I think people understand that a lot of these problems were decades in the making.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: I mean, it's interesting position to take, isn't it, Wolf? Because he's making it very clear that the buck stops with him. I will be accountable.

He is already on record as saying the economy doesn't get better in my presidency, I could be a one-term president.

Stakes are high. I mean, his approval rating below 40 percent now. You know, the economy clearly not improving. Anything is getting worse. This is a precarious time for the president.

BLITZER: Yes, very precarious. He fully appreciates this although he did predict to me he would get himself re-elected. But it's certainly precarious for him right now. And I sense that as low as his job approval numbers are right now, the only thing you could take some comfort in knowing that Congress's job approval numbers are much worse than his job approval numbers.

So, he's going to be railing not only against the Republican candidate, the nominee, whoever that turns out to be, but he is also railing against Congress, along the lines of maybe Harry Truman the way he did, the buck stops with him -- as well as you recall.

So, it's going to be a long struggle. The president minced no words, though in, going after the Republicans and making it clear that there is a real difference on so many issues between where he and the Democrats stand and where the Republican candidates and the Republican members of Congress stand as well, Piers.

MORGAN: Yes. Well, let's have a little listen to a bit of that because it was a pretty lively exchange.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: When I saw our Republican presidential primary candidates suggesting that they would not be willing to close a single loophole or close a single special interest tax break even if they were going to get $10 of savings for every $1 of revenue that raised, that is no longer thinking in a common sense way. At that point, what you're saying is ideological rigidity that is preventing us from so many offing the problems.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: I mean, in summary, Wolf, I think what we reached with these last few days is a fully engaged and pumped up president, and a fully engaged Republican Party beginning to select their nominee.

Has the election proper started now, do you think?

BLITZER: Yes. I do think this week here in Iowa, the election, the campaigning has really started on both sides. And the Republican field, it is still large, but it's getting smaller. There may be one or two other candidates who eventually jump in.

But we're beginning to see the Republican candidate eventually is going to be. So, it's going to get very, very intense. I think the exchanges, the language that we're hearing, it's only just beginning, Piers. It's going to become a lot livelier.

MORGAN: Wolf Blitzer, thank you very much.

BLITZER: Thank you.

MORGAN: Rudy Giuliani disagrees with President Obama on the economy -- well, he disagrees with the president a lot of things perhaps, coincidentally. Rudy is still considering a run for the White House himself. And he joins me now.

Rudy, interesting interview there with Wolf Blitzer and the president. Hammering the same drum he is beating all week which it's now all about jobs -- clearly all about the economy. He's personally pleading really to the American public to have faith in him. And, yet, at the same time is this battle bus tour. We see his personal approval rating drop below 40 percent to record lows for him.

What's your overview of what the president is up to and where he stands?

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NYC MAYOR: Well, I mean, my overview is that president is seeing the impact of the results that he's had. I mean, he's been president now for three years. He still is trying to blame it on Bush. It's not working.

I mean, three years into it, I couldn't blame my problems on my predecessor when I was the mayor. He was elected to straighten out the economy. And he's made it much worse. And the proof is in the results.

When he did the stimulus, he told us we would get unemployment down below 8 percent. It's over 10 percent. We've got a stock market that is dangerously volatile and an American dollar that is exceedingly weak.

With those results, any American president would be headed for the door. And we have thrown out American presidents for less than the bad results than Barack Obama has had so far.

MORGAN: A "New York Times" columnist this week said that President Obama was possibly the weakest incumbent since Jimmy Carter. Would you agree with that?

GIULIANI: I don't know yet. I mean, we have a year to go. I think he's the worst president we had since before Jimmy Carter. I think Jimmy Carter had a better sense of the economy than Barack Obama does.

And when I see him criticizing the Republican candidates, which are so silly for a president to be doing, we don't want the president to become a commentator on 10 Republican candidates.

We want the president of United States to have his own plan for leadership which he doesn't have. He has no plan for leadership. He has no articulated plan to get us out of the mess that we're in.

And I took over New York City when it was in a terrible fiscal mess. I didn't complain about the Democrats and complain about the liberals. What I did was I laid out a plan, staked my reputation on it and it worked.

MORGAN: Obviously, the Republican race is heating up. People seem to assume it's now down to one of three, Perry, Bachmann or Romney. I mean, curious, a new poll just came out that in New York, for example, you have run a close second to President Obama there. And you've not really declared your colors really.

Are you feeling more inclined to run now or less inclined?

GIULIANI: I don't think I've changed my thinking about it very much. I mean, I'm interested to see Governor Perry's entrance into the race and what that does and what he has to say. And pretty much my time line is to decide at the end of September. But I haven't gotten any closer to a decision.

And I think the president should pay less attention to the Republican candidates and more attention to the economy.

I also think, you know, his criticism of the Republicans saying they wouldn't raise revenues and his desire to get higher revenues is a big mistake. What it shows is he's addicted to spending. He can seem to get himself off the idea that he needs more revenue so he can spend more money.

The reason I wouldn't spend revenues has nothing to do with the rich or poor or this class warfare battle that he gets into. I wouldn't give the government anymore money to waste. I think this government is a profound waster of money. Just like I wouldn't give a business more money to waste, I wouldn't give this government more money to waste.

MORGAN: Recent polls seem to be more and more in favor of tax increases. Then you have Warren Buffett, for example, one of the richest men in the country, almost pleading to be taxed more.

So although I understand the Tea Party in particular and many Republicans along the party have got a bit of traction with this "we will not raise taxation" campaign -- the reality is it wouldn't be that unpopular, would it? So why rule that out? Why not have a two- tier attack on this economy where you have more revenue but you also dramatically reduce spending? What is wrong with that?

GIULIANI: Well, because the only way you're going to increase confidence in the American economy which China is worried about and the rest of the world is to stop us from spending money. The more money you give it, the more it's going to spend. Ronald Reagan used to call it, don't feed the monster. You know, don't feed the beast.

When somebody has an addiction to something, you don't enable it. We have an addiction to spending money. President Obama has a massive addiction to spending money -- much worse than even, you know, the Bush administration. Number two, it's not unusual that Americans would favor paying taxes by, you know, by a slight majority -- 43 percent don't pay taxes. So obviously that 43 percent isn't going to care.

And Warren Buffett, I mean, I would be in favor of raising taxes on Warren Buffett. Let's have a voluntary raising of paying taxes. If you want to pay more taxes, like Warren Buffett, you get to put your rate up to 80 percent, 90 percent. He can pay 100 percent as far as I'm concerned.

What I'm worried about is what that would do to small businesses, medium sized businesses, what it will do to investment. Basically, we lowered taxes dramatically three times -- Kennedy, Reagan, and Bush. Each time we've gotten a big economic bounce.

MORGAN: Let me ask you -- if you don't run, Rudy, which of the candidates at the moment is the one that you would feel most comfortable being the nominee for the Republicans?

GIULIANI: I haven't really focused in on it. You know, I think that Governor Perry's record as governor of Texas is an excellent one. Ten years of excellent management. He has kind of the background that President Obama lacked.

But Michele Bachmann and Governor Romney also have things to argue in their favor. I'm a close friend of Rick Santorum.

So, I have -- there are a lot of -- and Newt Gingrich may be the single smartest guy in the entire race.

So, you got a lot of good people.

MORGAN: Is it conceivable, do you think, that a Tea Party candidate like a Michele Bachmann could end up being the nominee?

GIULIANI: Sure is. Sure is conceivable.

You know, it's very hard to tell exactly what the impact of the worsening economy is on the American people. And the reality is I think that the president doesn't realize how bad the economy really is. Otherwise, he wouldn't be playing this political game with it. He'd be stepping up and acting more like a leader and taking a risk on whatever plan he believes in. But this economy is devastating to many, many people. And that can have a very big impact. It can be a real benefit to a populist candidate. And, you know, that's -- if you look at Michele Bachmann, that's what she really is. She's a populist candidate.

MORGAN: Funny, Rudy, what's the latest you could leave it personally to make a decision as to whether or not you're going to run?

GIULIANI: End of September, I'd say, would be the latest. Not just for me, but for anybody else that is still -- that is still thinking about it -- like Sarah Palin or whoever else is out there that's still thinking about it. I think that I will be the latest you could do it. And I think that, you know, making a decision before then doesn't matter very much because there isn't much happening between now and then.

MORGAN: Well, I'd like to book you in that case for September the 30th if that's all right, Rudy.

GIULIANI: That sounds perfect.

MORGAN: When we come back, a man who raised big bucks for President Obama, Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Joining me now is one of the President Obama's biggest celebrity supporters, Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, founder and co-chair of the Weinstein Company. He just hosted a star studded fund-raiser for the president.

Harvey joins me now.

How was the president? He's taken a hell of a kicking for the last few weeks. How did he seem to you?

HARVEW WEINSTEIN, HOLLYWOOD MOGUL: I think, you know, like we see with Wolf Blitzer today, the president is pumped up. Jobs is on his mind, the economy.

And I think he's in great spirits. I think he's ready to engage. I think he's just done a great job.

And I think he's going to be one of our great presidents, for sure.

MORGAN: You are a man who speaks his mind ands you're good at giving critique, good and bad. If you were his teacher and you were doing a school report after three years, good marks and where could he be better?

WEINSTEIN: I think he has great marks. But I think we can do is all communicate just how stunning some of the achievements are. The thing that, you know, bothers me the most is the opposition, because I'm fairly successful. I read today about Warren Buffett saying he is taxed at 17 percent. He makes $50 billion.

I'm happy to make an investment in America. I don't look at as tax evil. I say, OK, I have to pay a little more, we'll get it back. Just like the president saved the auto industry.

MORGAN: So, you agree with Warren Buffett?

WEINSTEIN: I agree with Warren Buffett. It's time --

MORGAN: The rich should get pay more?

WEINSTEIN: Yes. But it's not like paying more that you don't get it back, that you get a better United States. The history of this country is what President Obama has been saying. You come in, you rescue the country, you help the country, and then a better economy means more people go to the movies, more people buy DVDs, more people watch our TV shows. And we get it back in a million different ways with a better people, a better country, a better spirit.

Like -- I said to the president, my dad always said, it's not just about what the president is going to do for us. It's about rolling up our sleeves. Since John Kennedy said ask not what your country can do for you, what you're going to do for your country?

MORGAN: Yes. And he's made it personal. He's come out this week and said the buck stops with me. I'm the leader of the country. I'm the commander in chief. You know, this is down to me now.

The economy is clearly going to be the great election issue. And which ever way you look at it, the economy is certainly no better than when he took over, and arguably worse. So he's got his work cut out, hasn't he?

WEINSTEIN: Well, I think he's already, you know, made spectacular gains. There are 40 million people who have health insurance that didn't have it before. There's an auto industry that was on its knees.

And remember, let's not forget, the president is modest about this. But he inherited this. It wasn't like the president created any of this. He walked in day one, handed him the keys and the country was in deep, deep trouble. Economic oversights -- I mean, you know, were thrown out the window.

MORGAN: Yes. But, you have to say, Harvey, there comes a point when you can't keep blaming the ghost of Christmas past. You have to, as he's now doing this week, I think, take it full on and say, OK, now it's me. I'm the president. I've had three years. We've got to solve this.

I agreed with him. Challenging the Republicans to actually reach more consensus on this. Because the public are sick and tired of the squabbling in Washington. It's making no difference in their lives. It's making it worse.

WEINSTEIN: I think what I said was the president doesn't blame anybody. We're the ones that reminded he inherited the mess. The president never talks about that. He's just a futurist -- he just looks forward.

But when you have people like Warren Buffett, he would be a better guy to go into Congress and explain how this country should work and how an economic bill should pass.

MORGAN: I'm going to say, you are very successful producer. You employ a lot of people. The key issue, as the president said today -- jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. That's what this all comes down to, getting America back to work.

What is the big problem? And how do you fix it with jobs, do you think?

WEINSTEIN: I think the president, has much better ways than me as a producer. I'm here to volunteer on the taxes. I mean, I think --

MORGAN: You must have -- you must have a thought about it.

WEINSTEIN: I think he will stimulate the economy. I think he's already stimulated the economy. I see people in the media sector -- the reports from our sector in the media, we've had record profits in our companies. The media companies are off the charts. Companies are earning off the charts.

MORGAN: You are hiring more staff?

WEINSTEIN: Apple, Google -- I am. I mean, the company is doing better than ever.

MORGAN: Talking of your movie career --

WEINSTEIN: Yes, sir.

MORGAN: -- you got a whole splurge of movies coming out. "Sarah's Key," which we have discussed before. We have a world exclusive clip from a new film "Butter" with Jennifer Garner. Let's have a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER GARNER, ACTRESS: Like the thread of a grandmother's quilt, butter is the centerpiece of a family dinner. And family, in turn, is the thread that holds our great country together. Without butter, there is no family. And without family, there is n no -- this is really hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Is this about Michelle Obama, isn't it?

WEINSTEIN: She's tall. She's good looking. And she's a little frightening.

(LAUGHTER)

WEINSTEIN: And it takes place in Des Moines, Iowa.

But I assure you, Piers, I have no slightest political intention. I'm sure the opposition will have a great sense of humor.

MORGAN: I'm sure they can't wait to see it, Harvey.

WEINSTEIN: I'm sure. I can't wait to show it to 'em.

MORGAN: I think the only thing I'm more excited about is your own starring role in "Funny or Die," in which you have apparently come up with such a piece of comic genius that Robert de Niro described you as wooden.

WEINSTEIN: Yes. Michelle Williams told me before I did it. She said why don't you predict you have malaria. You know, run. Don't do this with Paul Rudd.

MORGAN: So, you and Paul Rudd have done this. You can check it out at funnyordie.com. But the crucial battle theme, you're a competitive man, is you're very near to beating Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in the number of people who viewed this, right?

WEINSTEIN: The first week that Sandra and Ryan did the proposal, "Funny or Die," they did 600,000. We're at 585,000 now. So, I think we need 14,000 or 15,000 more people. And we have about another three or four hours.

MORGAN: Harvey, I want every one of my viewers to click on funnyordie.com.

WEINSTEIN: I appreciate that, Piers.

MORGAN: I appreciate that, Piers. My pleasure.

WEINSTEIN: Thank you. What a pleasure. Thank you.

MORGAN: Coming up, a man who loves a good argument and he's come to the right place, magic man Penn Jillette.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Penn Jillette is the outspoken larger half of the world famous magic act Penn and Teller. He's also the author of "God, No!" signs he may have already been an atheist of magical tales. And Penn Jillette joins me now.

"God, No!"

JILLETTE: Boy, you read that wonderfully.

MORGAN: Thank you.

JILLETTE: I should have a book on tape. I should have you do at least the title. MORGAN: Here's the thing I know you about. I read the little intro you write here.

"You may already be an atheist! If God, however you perceive him or -- told you to kill your child, would you do it? If you answer no, in my booklet, you're an atheist. There is doubt in your mind. Love and morality are more important to you than your faith. Your answer is yes, please reconsider."

That's pretty strong stuff.

JILLETTE: Very strong.

MORGAN: Even by your standards.

JILLETTE: Yes. Well, you know, my point is always to be an atheist, I think you have to be a tremendous optimist. And I think that the way to turn someone an atheist is just flood them with love. I mean, I had a wonderful --

(CROSSTALK)

MORGAN: I mean, a lot of the atheists I met over the years, I declare my colors. I believe in God.

JILLETTE: OK.

MORGAN: I was reared an Irish Catholic boy. I had some --

JILLETTE: There's no hope for you.

MORGAN: I had spiritual education from Catholic nuns. So, I'm a believer.

And my issue with --

JILLETTE: I love when you quote the monkeys.

MORGAN: Exactly.

JILLETTE: I just love it when you quote the monkeys.

MORGAN: Here's the thing. I have always had a belief about atheists that my irritation with atheists is that their belief is a non-belief. And when you write a book about it, you're basically writing a whole book telling a bunch of people who have a genuine sincere belief in something "I don't believe in what you believe in." You don't actually believe anything to write of it from what I can gather.

JILLETTE: I don't think that's true.

MORGAN: You just don't believe in their belief.

JILLETTE: I don't think that's true.

MORGAN: It's a negative thing, isn't it?

JILLETTE: I don't find it negative at all. I find it -- that's one of the points of this. I mean it's one of the important things when people come up to me about atheism and they do, is that they talk about the bitterness and having all the answers and the hubris of thinking we can know everything.

MORGAN: You talk about alternative being love, family, spiritual thesis.

JILLETTE: That's not spiritual. That's real.

MORGAN: But -- OK, most people that believe in God also believe in love, family and all the things you offer as some kind of strange alternative.

By the way, I say this as a huge fan of you as a magician.

JILLETTE: Thank you.

MORGAN: You've been on "America's Got Talent." I think the act is incredible. I urge everyone to go and see it.

But when it comes to this particular premise, "God, No!" -- you anger me.

JILLETTE: I do really?

MORGAN: Yes.

JILLETTE: Do I really anger you?

MORGAN: You do. I think it is a deliberately provocative start. It is designed to annoy and agitate people who have a sincere belief.

JILLETTE: I don't think so at all. You won't find in this book anywhere any attacks on people. I mean, one of the things -- I don't know if you've seen "The Book of Mormon," Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

MORGAN: Yes. It's brilliant.

JILLETTE: Which they described as a love letter to religion from an atheist. And that's one of the things Matt said about it. And a lot of this talking -- I've been talking to Matt and Trey for years about this. And when they did the Richard Dawkins episode of "South Park," one of the things we talked about is that I view bitterness and the idea of the anger that comes from that.

And I am a huge fan of proselytizing. I am a huge fan of speaking your mind. The only way we can share the universe -- the only way we can share humanity is by talking very strongly about what we believe.

MORGAN: You are the chief atheist out there. How did you get here? How did we get here?

JILLETTE: Let me ask you. How did we get here?

MORGAN: I believe in this superior being, a God.

JILLETTE: Of course.

MORGAN: And, therefore, the questions which always baffle atheists, the hard reality of life, I believe there is something greater out there. There is a greater entity, which is a spiritual being that allows comprehension on a scale we can never understand.

JILLETTE: Exactly.

MORGAN: But you don't believe in that. What do you think happened?

JILLETTE: If it's comprehension on a scale that we can't possibly understand, aren't you done? Why do you need to label that as something that's God or something? Why isn't --

MORGAN: Because I've never heard an atheist --

JILLETTE: Why isn't there a humility to saying I don't know?

MORGAN: Because I never hear an atheist give me any answers to how did we get here and what happens at the end of our lives?

JILLETTE: But answer to something -- saying we can't understand it is not an answer.

MORGAN: Right. How do you think we got here?

JILLETTE: I don't know.

MORGAN: What do you think happens when whether you die?

JILLETTE: Well, nothing. I think --

MORGAN: Where do you go?

JILLETTE: Where do you go?

MORGAN: Where do go? When you die --

JILLETTE: You cease to live.

MORGAN: You're terrified of death.

JILLETTE: Not even slightly.

MORGAN: What do you think happens to you?

JILLETTE: How scared of you are of 1890. Does 1890 terrify you?

MORGAN: 1890?

JILLETTE: 1890, yes. MORGAN: What are you on about?

JILLETTE: You weren't alive then, right?

MORGAN: No.

JILLETTE: You weren't alive. You didn't exist in any way. Is that a horror to you?

MORGAN: No.

JILLETTE: So why is 2090 any worse than that?

MORGAN: I'm not horrified by any thought of dying, because I believe you go on to a celestial place which is wonderful. And for you atheists, there is nothing.

JILLETTE: Where is your evidence of a celestial place?

MORGAN: I come back to the issue of creation.

JILLETTE: Right.

MORGAN: Where do atheists --

JILLETTE: All you have answered with the issue of creation is you've answered -- your answer to -- my answer is I don't know. And your answer is something beyond comprehension.

MORGAN: You cannot write a book -- you cannot write a book basically telling a bunch of people around the world, billions of people who believe in a God, you're all wrong. But by the way, I don't have any explanations.

JILLETTE: They don't either. You don't have an explanation. You said beyond understanding.

MORGAN: Your provocative views don't offend me. However, there will be many, many, many Christians watching this who find this offensive that you'd write a book called "God No" and then calmly sit here and go, I don't have any explanation for anything. However, you are barking mad.

JILLETTE: You said the same thing. But what I'm saying -- I never say you are barking mad. At least not in English.

MORGAN: We're all a bit crazy, a bit nuts?

JILLETTE: No, no, no, not at all. One of the things that was so important to me -- I think you're maybe wrong about Americans here. I did a show called "BS" for eight years where I said this stuff that was very, very provocative. And when I pitched this show to Showtime, I say with embarrassment that I pitched it kind of cynically. I pitched it saying, you know, there will be people that will hate us and that will drive the whole thing. What I found out was when we would do shows that were -- that were strongly atheist, we would get hundreds of letters from Christians saying it's nice that people are being passionate and saying what they believe from their heart.

MORGAN: That's my point. I have a religious and spiritual belief which I find --

JILLETTE: I don't think it's a belief.

MORGAN: -- in the way that I do prayer and faith. It is a belief.

JILLETTE: Faith is different.

MORGAN: You believe in God. Your belief is a non-belief. It's an anti-belief. You don't have a belief. You just don't believe that what I believe is right.

JILLETTE: Let me just ask you, do you believe in Thor?

MORGAN: Thor?

JILLETTE: Yeah, Thor?

MORGAN: No, because that is not the type of God I believe in.

JILLETTE: But you're an atheist on every single God except the one you happened to be taught when you were a child. On everything else, you're an atheist. Everything you believe is a negation of every other God that ever existed.

MORGAN: I don't think you can compare Thor to God?

JILLETTE: Why?

MORGAN: Because it's not the same thing. You know it isn't. You're being deliberately --

JILLETTE: Is there any God that I think --

MORGAN: I think a soccer player called Tiari Henri (ph) is God like. You can't equate him to God.

JILLETTE: OK. So you are saying that all the Muslim God, the god of Hindu, the gods of Catholics and Protestants are all the same God? Even though there are different rules?

MORGAN: No, but I have an absolute respect for anybody from any religion that has a spiritual and religious conviction and belief in a god-like entity in their lives.

JILLETTE: How active a Christian are you? Are you as active as Garth Brooks? I mean, active is a very relative term.

MORGAN: I agree with that. Probably not as active as Garth Brooks.

JILLETTE: OK. So you're going to have people in the whole spectrum. And the most important part of this book is that I think that proselytizing is really good. I love Jehovah Witnesses saying what they believe. If you believe in your God, tell people about it. Pray for me. Explain it to me.

MORGAN: What if you were dying, hypothetically?

JILLETTE: I am dying.

MORGAN: -- horrendous hypothetically about killing children. I can be horrendous to you. So you're dying.

JILLETTE: OK.

MORGAN: You got a week to live. Right?

JILLETTE: Do you know this?

MORGAN: No.

JILLETTE: It is going to change what I do today. I have other stuff to do.

MORGAN: Don't worry. I'm praying for you, so it probably won't happen.

JILLETTE: You're not packing, are you? Are you packing? Sometime people like you, they pull a gun. They shoot you in the face. You're dying, bang. I'm dead.

MORGAN: I can reassure you, I'm not about to shoot you.

JILLETTE: You're not packed.

MORGAN: No, I'm not. You have a week to live. You have two young children.

JILLETTE: Yes, I do.

MORGAN: You need to explain to them what is going to happen to daddy. What do you say? Tough to come from them in this terrible time.

JILLETTE: I don't think to comfort them I lie to them. And I don't think I have the immodesty to say that I know. I say that they'll miss me and I hope they remember me. I have lost my mom, my dad and my sister. The love will live on as long as I will. There will not be a second in my life that I will not love my mom, my dad, my sister and everybody that I've loved that's died.

MORGAN: We'll take a short break. The good news for you is it doesn't have the finality of everything else in your life. We'll be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: So, look, you live in Las Vegas, Sin City. You have never touched alcohol.

JILLETTE: I believe touching it might be wrong.

MORGAN: You didn't drink alcohol.

JILLETTE: I don't drink alcohol.

MORGAN: You don't take drugs.

JILLETTE: I don't drink caffeine.

MORGAN: You don't fornicate with ladies in the night.

JILLETTE: No. Although my wife exists during the night.

MORGAN: You don't gamble.

JILLETTE: I have -- when I say I haven't drank, I really mean it. When I say I haven't gambled, that wouldn't be true. I have probably put maybe five dollars in a slot machine, ten dollars in a slot machine.

MORGAN: Why would you live in Las Vegas?

JILLETTE: Because there is nothing I like doing more than my show. And in New York, we had two Broadway runs that were very successful, two off way Broadway runs that were very successful. And that's pushing your luck.

And in Vegas, we can have a theater called the Penn and Teller Theater. And we can play there year round. I just love it. Johnny Rotten said of Berlin, "a cheap holiday and other people's misery." I'm afraid that sometimes Las Vegas can seem like that.

But, I mean, I park very close to my dressing room. I don't even walk through a casino. I walk to my dressing room. I do the show. And I'm also very much in favor of people living their lives in different ways than I do.

The fact that other people drink doesn't bother me.

MORGAN: When you see the state of America with its economy just so completely tanking and you see the politicians squabbling like little children, and no one seems to really have an answer to how to get out of this.

JILLETTE: Is this going to come to praying again?

MORGAN: Well, prayer does help, doesn't it?

JILLETTE: Really?

MORGAN: At least I got a prayer. JILLETTE: Do more! Do more! If it helps, do more. Are you telling me people are not praying enough? That's what's wrong?

MORGAN: Give me the atheist way to get out of economic strife? In other words, harsh reality, with your business brain, successful guy, where has America gone wrong? What's the answer?

JILLETTE: I always seem to think that the most important thing is individuals. And the most important thing is diversity. And the most important thing is to have someone like you, someone like me who disagree on a very important issue. Constantly talking, constantly working it out.

I think that the problem is maybe thinking that somebody above us, someone in power can take care of all of us, can fix everything.

MORGAN: They should. It's their job in government, isn't it? That's why you vote for people. It's why they get elected. That's why they run for office.

JILLETTE: I'm not sure that's exactly the way I see it.

MORGAN: That's how it ought to be. When America has been revived in the past, whether it's FDR or Harry Truman or John F. Kennedy or Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan -- when you've had these great recoveries from difficult times, they've come through great leadership and good government and big ideas.

JILLETTE: That's not -- the way it feels to me is that when you wait for a decision to be made from someone in power above you, and you give up your personal responsibility, you give up your own power. That's where the danger comes.

MORGAN: Right now, small business people, for example, they have absolutely no mechanism out there to get their businesses going again. They just don't. It's just not there.

JILLETTE: Right.

MORGAN: So what do you say to those people? How do they -- how do they operate? This government --

JILLETTE: -- to give them government money.

MORGAN: I think the solution is probably to do a bit job. The solution is probably to raise taxes, to cut spending, to do special incentivizing for business people.

JILLETTE: You think they're raising taxes not on the small business people.

MORGAN: Got to get the revenue from the higher earners, in my view. People have to pay for this.

JILLETTE: It's always going to be the middle class that has to really pay. You can't really get the money from the rich because -- MORGAN: I agree.

JILLETTE: You have to tax them 100 percent

MORGAN: I come from a quaint old fashioned view. You look after the poorest people in the community first. They're the biggest problem in America right now. I don't worry so much about whether the middle classes can afford two holidays or one. I worry about people -- I saw this week, there's been a 70 percent increase in families living off stamps in the last five years I think it was. Shocking statistics.

JILLETTE: Horrible.

MORGAN: They're the people I care about.

JILLETTE: Yes. And I assume you're helping them.

MORGAN: Well, I'm talking about it.

MORGAN: But you're also giving them money and so on, I assume.

JILLETTE: I do give money, yeah. I'm not going to say I give money directly to these people, because I don't know who they are. But I can tell you, yes.

JILLETTE: But we know -- there is a place for charity and there is a place for compassion.

MORGAN: There is no charity. See that is completely the wrong response. It's not about me or you giving a few handouts to these people. This is about a system in America that's gone horribly wrong. When one in seven Americans is living off stamps, this system is broken.

JILLETTE: That's six in seven Americans that can help them.

MORGAN: Yes. How? They have to be directed by government.

JILLETTE: They do?

MORGAN: I think so.

JILLETTE: You don't think can you help people directly? I've seen experience of helping people directly.

MORGAN: On a mass scale?

JILLETTE: Yeah.

MORGAN: Really?

JILLETTE: I think. So you know, you got Keva doing the micro loans all over the world that are making huge changes without any government force at all. Micro loans have ended up doing huge things overseas and now they're working a bit in the USA. MORGAN: What is the one thing you would do, if you were president, to get Americans back to work?

JILLETTE: What I would do is I think make the government much, much smaller. I think I would give people more individual responsibility and give them more money back. But I mean, I don't have to worry about this, because me being president is exactly as likely as your God being 100 percent right. Exactly. Precisely.

MORGAN: Let's take another break, just to shut you up. When we come back, I want to talk to you about magic.

JILLETTE: Sure!

MORGAN: Even you can't than controversial about magic. You don't need to pray to me.

JILLETTE: You don't want to shut me up. You asked me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MORGAN: that was real horns, you know, real big band. That's a real big band.

MORGAN: That's your "Penn and Teller Show" at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Vegas. It's a spectacularly good show.

JILLETTE: Well, thank you.

MORGAN: I commend my viewers to go see it. Your two kids are called Zoltan Penn and Moxie Crime Fighter.

JILLETTE: My son's name -- his first name is my wife's maiden name. Her name was Zoltan. My father-in-law had nothing but girls. He had five girls. And so he has -- he has one of his grandchildren have his name as his first name.

MORGAN: Moxie Crime Fighter?

JILLETTE: Moxie. This is one -- Moxie, as you may not know, not being from our wonderful country -- Moxie is the beverage that -- it's an American brand name out of Maine called Moxie that then went into -- it's one of the odd brand names that went into the dictionary not as like Coke, meaning soda, but rather as meaning guts and gumption and so on.

Then my wife does not have a middle name. So I have to explain why our daughter's called Crime Fighter. It was my wife's idea, but I get the blame for it. My wife said -- I said, what's our daughter's middle name? I said we're very happy with Moxie Gillette. She said I don't have a middle name. Middle names are jive. I want nothing to do with it.

I said a lot of people have middle names. She said I don't care. Anything. Then our piano player said, you know, in your book -- a novel that I wrote called "Sock" -- you have one of the characters say simply "call me crime fighter." Why don't you name her crime fighter?

And my wife said, I am married to you and I don't know your middle name. Middle names don't matter. We're going with Crime Fighter. So her name is Moxie Gillette. But if pushed, her name is -- and my thinking was, there's a genius --

MORGAN: Has Moxie thanked you? Is she old enough to realize what you've done?

JILLETTE: Better than that. It was a genius idea by my wife. My thinking was, when she is 17 and pulled over by the police for whatever she does --

MORGAN: Her name.

JILLETTE: -- she's able to pull out her driver's license and say "my middle name is crime fighter. We're on the same team". That was my thinking and my wife's genius. But my wife is smarter than that. Because when Moxie was three, she was sitting in the backseat. And my wife was speeding with our children in the car, speeding.

And a police officer pulled her over. And my wife Emily said, you know who this is in the backseat? This is our daughter. Her middle name is Crime Fighter. And the police officer said, well, if she's fighting crime, I don't have to. Just drive a little slower.

So I mean, that middle name has gotten us out of one speeding ticket so far!

MORGAN: Let me talk about your other wife, Teller.

You've been partners for 35 years.

JILLETTE: Longer than that, actually.

MORGAN: Does it feel like a marriage to you?

JILLETTE: No. I think the whole trick to having a partnership that lasts a long time is an awful lot of respect and very little affection. When I first started working with Teller --

MORGAN: Do you like him?

MORGAN: There was no sort of cuddly feeling for him. It was strictly intellectual. It was essentially an e-mail before e-mail, an e-mail type relationship. I felt I did better stuff with Teller than I did alone. He was never late for a meeting. I could put my life in his hands and he'd never make a mistake.

We would never argue. But the relationship was essentially business. Essentially two guys running a dry cleaning business.

MORGAN: And how do you get on now? JILLETTE: Wonderfully. What I can't understand is that people who get more successful and then start arguing. When Teller and I started out, we were carney trash. We were in the same car all day, sharing hotel rooms at night, eating every meal together.

Now we have separate houses, separate friends. It's so easy now. But I think the problem is --

MORGAN: Do you socialize away from work?

JILLETTE: About twice a year we go out socially together. Maybe we see a movie or maybe have dinner. The rest of the time -- of course, work is at least 10 hours a day.

MORGAN: Do you do all the talking?

JILLETTE: No, no, no. Teller is -- Teller was a high school Latin teacher. He's a Latin scholar.

MORGAN: So he's perfectly garrulous when you have dinner?

JILLETTE: More so than me. The joke that they would have whenever we're rehearsing is that Penn talks onstage, never talks offstage. Teller doesn't talk onstage, never stops offstage. He's essentially the director of the show. He runs all the crew. I sit over in the corner and read the paper.

MORGAN: Let's end on a hypothetical. If I could give you the power of prayer, I awarded it to you, what would you pray for?

JILLETTE: I would pray, I think, for more perfect knowledge. I would pray for information.

MORGAN: You certainly need it.

JILLETTE: You try to be nice to a guy.

MORGAN: It's actually been surprisingly good fun.

JILLETTE: Surprisingly? I expected to have fun with you! Why surprising?

MORGAN: I don't know. Good luck with the show.

JILLETTE: Thanks so much, man.

MORGAN: A pleasure.