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Piers Morgan Live
Interview with Jonah Goldberg; Interview with Rosario Dawson; Interview with Benjamin Brafman
Aired April 30, 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 a battle over bin Laden, a year after the mission to take him out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: He took the harder and the more honorable path and the one that produced, in my opinion, the best result.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN (voice-over): Does President Obama's latest campaign ad cross the line? Jonah Goldberg says the president's real problem isn't that video, it's his record. I'll challenge him on that.
Plus She made quite a splash at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. I know because I was there and I saw it. Rosario Dawson is just as smart and political as she is sexy. She's here tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSARIO DAWSON, ACTRESS, SINGER, AND WRITER: (Inaudible) a politician to change his mind or her mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN (voice-over): Also do prosecutors really have a case against John Edwards or George Zimmerman? I'll ask the man who'd defended everyone, from Dominique Strauss-Kahn to P. Diddy, Benjamin Brafman.
And out of the ashes at Ground Zero, bigger, stronger than ever before, only in America. This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
MORGAN: Good evening. Our big story tonight, the raging campaign controversy over Osama bin Laden. The Al Qaeda leader has been dead for a year, but now the Obama and Romney campaigns the waging the bin Laden battle all over again. Listen to what the president and challenger Mitt Romney said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) the order, Governor?
FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, of course. Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said that I'd go after bin Laden if we had a clear shot at him, and I did. If there are others who have said one thing and now suggest they'd do something else, then I'd go ahead and let them explain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: So is this really an outrage or is it just politics as usual? In just a moment I'll go one to one with Jonah Goldberg.
Also tonight, keeping American great with the beautiful and political Rosario Dawson. (Inaudible) head-turning entrance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
And my interview with celebrity defense attorney Benjamin Brafman, the man who defended Dominique Strauss-Kahn, amongst many other high-profile clients.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY BENJAMIN BRAFMAN: I think I have the hardest job of any professional. I'm not like a cardiologist. I'm not even like an oncologist. No one's ever happy to see me when they first come there. But unlike people, just as you said, unlike people who are sick, they have a support system in place. People rally for their support.
I deal with the fact that you're only looking at not only the loss of your freedom, but public humiliation, loss of a career. It's devastating. I think I've talked more people out of committing suicide than most psychiatrists in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: We begin tonight with our big story, the battle over bin Laden on the eve of the one-year anniversary of his death. Joining me now is Jonah Goldberg, editor at large of the "National Review" online. And the author of "The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas."
JONAH GOLDBERG, AUTHOR: Hey, it's great to be here.
MORGAN: I love the fact you use these great phrases, "liberal fascists," liberal cheats. Explain the premise of your book.
GOLDBERG: The premise of my book is that everyone a bit ideological to some extent. Everyone comes from a ideological perspective. The main difference between liberals and conservatives is that conservatives are honest about it. We're kind of dorks about it. We are kind of like Dungeons and Dragons geeks.
We (inaudible) -- we talk about Edmund Burke and Ayn Rand. We wear ties with Adam Smith on them. And meanwhile, liberals have this thing where they consistently promise that they're not ideological. They're just centrists, they're pragmatists. They only want to do what works.
They want to get rid of all these ideological labels and just do the hard work that the people of America sent them to Washington to do. And that's a lie. And that's a lie that that (inaudible) first and foremost tell themselves. Of course liberals have an ideology. But they don't understand it. They don't think about it. They don't question it.
MORGAN: Well, tell me this. What do you think of this row over the bin Laden tape? There's a campaign ad by Obama's people. It features Bill Clinton. And it says what I would have expected him to say. Let's take a little look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: He had to decide. And that's what you hire a president to do. You hire the president to make the calls when no one else can do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: I mean, he's right, isn't he? I mean, President Clinton, he's been there. He knows what the job entails.
GOLDBERG: He didn't do it when he had a chance. Sure. He knows all about it.
MORGAN: He's applauding Barack Obama for when it really mattered, taking a decision to take out Osama bin Laden. What's wrong with that?
GOLDBERG: Nothing. But that's not the controversial part of the ad. I mean, why would you stop it there? The controversial part of the ad is where it then says what would Mitt Romney do? Which was -- first of all, It's controversial because what he's doing is, you know, one of these cliches we always hear is foreign policy is supposed to stop at the water's edge.
And it's the President of the United States who said he wasn't going to spike the football and all this, we shouldn't gloat about it, running campaign ads, gloating about it and saying the other guy isn't good enough to do the tough things that I did, which I think is, one reprehensible.
Second of all --
MORGAN: Do you think it's reprehensible?
GOLDBERG: Well, I do -- I do and going by Obama's own standards, I think it's reprehensible. MORGAN: I mean, the first --
GOLDBERG: I have no problem with him campaigning on the fact that he killed bin Laden.
MORGAN: All right. So how do you feel about Senator John McCain who said, "Shame on Barack Obama for diminishing the memory of September the 11th and the killing of Osama bin Laden by turning it into a cheap political attack ad. This is the same president who once criticized Hillary Clinton for invoking bin Laden to score political points."
Do you agree with him?
GOLDBERG: Yes, pretty much. I mean, here's --
MORGAN: Do you agree with him?
MORGAN: How do you feel about the speech that John McCain gave in 2004 at the RNC when he used the capture of Saddam Hussein in the speech while campaigning for George Bush?
He said the following, "George Bush ordered American forces to Afghanistan, took the fight to our enemies and away from our shores, seriously injuring Al Qaeda and destroying the regime that gave him safe haven. President Bush made the difficult decision to liberate Iraq. We need a leader with the experience to make the tough decisions and the resolve to stick with it."
What is the difference?
GOLDBERG: There's a big difference. The big difference is nowhere in there does John McCain say anything about John Kerry. And that's the part of the problem here. Forget whether it's outrageous or just politics as usually. That's fine.
MORGAN: (Inaudible), hang on.
GOLDBERG: No, it's an important point here. It was stupid of the White House to do this, because instead of talking about how great Barack Obama was for killing Osama bin Laden, we're arguing about whether it was appropriate for him to have this political ad.
MORGAN: But you're missing the big point. The reason they mention Mitt Romney was that he had gone on record as saying it wasn't worth all the money that was being spent to go and get one guy. He said that, on the record. That's why they went after him.
GOLDBERG: Yes. And the context of what he was talking about was in terms of the larger war on terror and that it is absolutely --
MORGAN: But shouldn't politicians stand by -- if Mitt Romney genuinely believed it wasn't worth spending all this money to go after one man, can he really keep a straight face when he turns around today and says, of course, I would have done it. Even Jimmy Carter would have done it.
GOLDBERG: No. I think you're having a category error here. I mean, what Romney was talking about --
MORGAN: I'm having a what?
GOLDBERG: A category error.
MORGAN: A category error?
MORGAN: I've never even heard of that.
GOLDBERG: Well, it's sort of like apples and oranges. I'm sure you've heard of that, right?
MORGAN: Explain to me why I've got my apples and oranges mixed up, that.
GOLDBERG: Because what Romney was -- as I understand it -- and look, I'm not exactly famous around the world for -- as a huge booster of Mitt Romney's. But what my understanding is that what Romney was talking about is you don't conduct a transnational war on terror as simply a manhunt. That doesn't mean that if you have the opportunity to get bin Laden you don't take him out.
Part of the problem with all this is that, in the larger context of it all, that I don't understand why we didn't capture Osama bin Laden. I give Obama credit for having done it. I don't think it was as incredibly -- Joe Biden, who's not smart enough to be a --
MORGAN: You don't think it was incredible? Come off it, Jonah. (Inaudible) the President of the United States. He knows from the aforementioned Jimmy Carter, you get these things wrong, it can end your presidency.
You will get voted out, mainly because the opposition -- in Jimmy Carter's case, Republicans scream, you got it wrong. You didn't know what you were doing. You disgraced and shamed America. Right?
Step forward to Barack Obama. He's told we should go and get bin Laden, but it is incredibly perilous. This could all go wrong. We don't even know 100 percent he's in there. And Barack Obama takes the decision to send in the Navy SEALs and it is perilous. They lose a helicopter. Anything could have happened.
But they take out Osama bin Laden and America restores in that moment a vast chunk of pride. Why would any Republican -- you're a patriotic bunch -- why would you turn around and legitimately try and criticize any aspect of that?
And why shouldn't he, frankly, in his campaign ad -- and I'm not batting for Democrats or Republicans. Why shouldn't he then actually say in a campaign ad, using Bill Clinton, this is what we did. We were right to do it. If you're not batting for Democrats, that's a wonderful approximation of it. Look --
MORGAN: Let's deal with reality.
GOLDBERG: OK, well, then, look --
MORGAN: I don't understand how any Republican can genuinely criticize it. John McCain, when it was --
GOLDBERG: I'm not criticizing him.
MORGAN: -- respect to Senator McCain, but John McCain, when it was George Bush and Saddam Hussein, praised him from the rooftops.
GOLDBERG: It's one thing to praise a guy for a decision. I praise Barack Obama for the decision. I don't think it was as fantastic a decision as you may think it was.
MORGAN: Tell me --
MORGAN: -- tell me one other single foreign policy decision that Barack Obama could have taken in this term that could be bigger than taking out Osama bin Laden, for the American people?
GOLDBERG: For the American people?
GOLDBERG: I don't know. Figuring out a way to stabilize the government in Pakistan. I mean, there are all sorts of decisions you can make. Figuring out a deal with the Middle East. Osama bin Laden was away in some walled compound. Right? It was barely cut -- largely cut off. I -- look, you're trying to box me in --
MORGAN: What's your point?
GOLDBERG: My point is that he wasn't the day-to-day tactical operative, guy running Al Qaeda. He was a figurehead.
MORGAN: It was a hugely symbolic (inaudible).
GOLDBERG: Look, I agree. It was important.
MORGAN: -- computers laden with his messages to his people.
GOLDBERG: Are we really going to have -- ?
MORGAN: Yes, we are having this argument.
GOLDBERG: But I don't want to have that argument because I don't think it's an interesting argument. I think it was a good decision. I support him in the decision. I thought the ad was stupid. I think the way they've been framing it --
MORGAN: Why is the ad stupid? Explain it to me.
GOLDBERG: I tell you what I think is really offensive.
MORGAN: Why is it stupid?
GOLDBERG: Because instead of making it -- taking a victory lap and getting the praise that he deserved for the decision, he turned it into this nanny-nanny-nanny thing against Mitt Romney, changing -- stepping on his own presidential message.
GOLDBERG: I bet you they regret it.
MORGAN: He made the point that Mitt Romney said he wouldn't have spent the money to go after one guy, and today Mitt Romney says, of course I would have done it. Even Jimmy Carter would have. Hammering --
GOLDBERG: Let's talk about politicizing this. Forget the ad for a second. In Barack Obama's State of the Union address, what he does is he goes out before the American people and he says, you know what would be fantastic?
You know those Navy SEALs, they weren't Democrats and Republicans. They were just doing what was best for America. Wouldn't that be a great country if all of you Americans were just like that? You followed orders, you marched in step and you followed my agenda. That is one of the sort of central cliches I talk about in the book, by the way. It's the moral equivalent of (inaudible) --
MORGAN: If Barack Obama had been on the record two or three years ago, saying -- and Mitt Romney was the president at the time -- and said I do not believe it is worth spending this kind of money, going after one guy, are you telling me with a straight face, again, that Mitt Romney wouldn't have capitalized on that if he had then taken out Osama bin Laden?
He wouldn't have reminded his number one challenger that he said he wouldn't have spent the money?
GOLDBERG: Well, first of all, your characterization of what Mitt Romney said, I think, is off.
MORGAN: No, it's not.
GOLDBERG: Of course it is.
MORGAN: No, it's not.
GOLDBERG: Mitt Romney was talking about fighting the war on terror in the context of fighting one -- coming after one man. He never said if I have the opportunity, you know, he wasn't spending all of this money. That's not what Barack Obama did when he got Osama bin Laden. It was a pretty cheap operation. No problem with --
GOLDBERG: It didn't cost --
GOLDBERG: Are we really going to do this sort of high school debating tactic crap?
MORGAN: I'm curious what you're thinking what (inaudible).
GOLDBERG: I would put it at -- I don't know, $50 million, $40 million.
MORGAN: Wow. That's cheap in the Republican world?
GOLDBERG: That's cheap in comparison to what the cost of the war on terror is.
MORGAN: No wonder the country got into the mess it did.
GOLDBERG: I suppose that that's supposed to be a really telling point. I'm not quite sure how it is.
MORGAN: I'm just saying the Republican administration obviously led to a huge financial collapse. You wouldn't dispute that.
GOLDBERG: I would and I would also say Barack Obama has spent much, much, much, much more money than the Republicans.
MORGAN: Would you dispute that after eight years of Republican administration the country went into a huge economic collapse?
GOLDBERG: No, but that's a timeline question.
GOLDBERG: (Inaudible) came afterwards, yes.
MORGAN: Again, we're talking about ideology, as you put it.
MORGAN: Isn't the ideology that $50 million is cheap? I don't know what it cost, the mission, actually, but (inaudible) cheap is part of the problem here?
GOLDBERG: I think the debate tactic of getting -- of sort of standing on a soap box and waxing poetic about how much I think this operation cost is cheap. That said -- MORGAN: But you're criticizing the cliched ideology of the liberals here, and I'm playing devil's advocate. I'm not saying you're wrong. But I'm saying when it comes to cheap ideology, chucking out statements like $50 million is cheap --
GOLDBERG: Well, I didn't chuck it out. You pried it out of me. You begged me for an answer.
MORGAN: That's good journalism, isn't it?
GOLDBERG: Maybe, yes.
MORGAN: Isn't that the point of an interview about this kind of issue?
GOLDBERG: Well, you're cross-examining me. You're not interviewing.
MORGAN: What do you think the whole debate about Obama's too cool? Republicans throwing this back at him, saying you can't be on entertainment shows, doing the slow jam with Jimmy Fallon. You can't be on the cover of "Rolling Stone" magazine. Nobody will take him seriously.
This is the wrong kind of thing. I mean, are they really expecting us to believe that if Mitt Romney was president, he wouldn't do stuff like this occasionally?
GOLDBERG: I would think he would do stuff like that. I don't think he'd be on "Rolling Stone," because I think "Rolling Stone" would burst into flames before that happened. But --
MORGAN: Is it legitimate --
GOLDBERG: I don't think that's quite the (inaudible). I think he certainly has every right to do it. I don't think any -- I don't know of anybody who says he can't do it. But at the same time, I do think some of that act is wearing thin. You can only be cool for so long in American life, and I think in life in general.
MORGAN: I watched him at the White House Correspondents Dinner. I was there. And he had a ready wit, charm, delivery, great comic timing. You couldn't dispute it. Everybody was falling about laughing. He got more laughs than Jimmy Kimmel did. You can't dispute the guy is quite cool.
And why would Americans not like to have a cool president? Doesn't it resonate quite well around the world to have a guy that can sing like Al Green, that can crack jokes like the best comedians? I mean, isn't this good for America?
GOLDBERG: I think as -- all in all, it's better to have a cool president than a not cool president. But if the choice is a cool president and 8 or 10 percent unemployment in a declining economy and a country that seems to be going in the wrong direction and structural unemployment for young people at 50 percent, I'd rather have a dorky president who fixed those problems.
MORGAN: Is Mitt Romney a dork?
GOLDBERG: He's a stiff, to be sure.
MORGAN: What's the difference?
GOLDBERG: Oh, the etymological differences are small. I think --
MORGAN: Is there a difference between a stiff and a dork?
GOLDBERG: I would think there probably is, yes.
MORGAN: Can you enunciate for me?
GOLDBERG: I would say the latter is more of a geeky nerd sort of type. And Mitt Romney is not that. Mitt Romney --
MORGAN: Could you be a stiff and a dork?
GOLDBERG: Oh, absolutely. Yes.
MORGAN: Jonah, it's been a pleasure.
MORGAN: Nice to see you.
GOLDBERG: Nice to see you.
MORGAN: Coming up next, more on our big story of the woman who created quite a stir at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, Rosario Dawson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: My fellow Americans, we gather during a historic anniversary. Last year at this time, in fact, on this very weekend, we finally delivered justice to one of the world's most notorious individuals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: President Obama's jab at Donald Trump at Saturday night's White House Correspondents' Dinner. Here with me now to talk about this big story is Rosario Dawson, a stunningly beautiful actress, an activist who takes her causes and her politics pretty seriously. She also roots for my favorite British soccer team, Arsenal.
Rosario, welcome. DAWSON: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.
MORGAN: Do you know any Arsenal chants? Do you want to start chanting?
DAWSON: No --
MORGAN: Ooh, to be a gooner (ph).
DAWSON: I wish. You know, I've always had a hard time deciphering what was being said when I was watching it on screen. And when I went --
MORGAN: Probably just as well.
DAWSON: When I went to the (inaudible) station, I thought I was going to -- you know, like stadium, I would -- I thought I was going to be able to hear it better. But instead it just seemed like I was watching "West Side Story" the entire time.
Every single time one team scored over the other, it was like, "We are the Jets (inaudible) -- Arsenal, we won. It was like amazing. To see these grown men jumping up and women and just singing at each other. It was great.
MORGAN: But just to clarify you are a 100 percent bona fide Arsenal supporter?
DAWSON: Yeah, man. (Inaudible) looks like Mr. Bean, you know, (inaudible).
DAWSON: I'm always going to be a big fan.
DAWSON: Yes, I love so much. I hope everything continues to move forward.
MORGAN: Now we were on a hot date on Saturday, you and I. I mean, there were 3,000 other people there, obviously, and I didn't actually see you. But (inaudible) my friends back at Arsenal we were on a hot date. The White House Correspondents' Dinner. It was the first time I've been to it, and it's an amazing event.
DAWSON: Oh, it was your first time? That's great. Yes.
MORGAN: You were there last year.
DAWSON: Yes. MORGAN: And President Obama made a very funny speech, this year and last year. But it was extraordinary that, when he made it last year, he knew he'd ordered the SEAL Team 6 in to get bin Laden. When you found out afterwards -- because you're a big Obama supporter.
DAWSON: Am I?
MORGAN: What did you -- aren't you?
MORGAN: Are you?
DAWSON: Well, what I am is actually I'm a co-founder of a voter organization that's non-partisan. So I'm a big fan of the voters. I'm a big supporter -- well, I'm not an outspoken supporter of any candidate.
MORGAN: OK. Well, I retract that in that case. So tell me what you think of his speech last year, knowing what he knew, and his speech this year? What do you think of him as a speaker?
DAWSON: Oh, I think he's a great speaker. And I think it was interesting. I said that last year, you know, last year was really fun.
I felt like it was the beginning of the election and he did his speech and it was a kind of -- you know, Seth Meyers was really incredible and really, really funny, but a lot could be said for -- when he put on that video (inaudible), for his birthday video. The whole room was like, oh, my God.
MORGAN: And (inaudible) great comic timing.
DAWSON: Unbelievable --
MORGAN: And this year, he had more natural comic timing I thought than even Jimmy Kimmel. He was amazing.
DAWSON: He was just really amazing. So it was that thing of when he did that speech and then a couple days later he was saying that Osama bin Laden had been killed, it was like he'd run for president and won within two days.
MORGAN: It was an amazing period in his presidency.
MORGAN: When you look at the battle raging today over this campaign ad, and basically it has President Clinton saying being president's all about these big decisions. Obama took it when he had to, took out bin Laden.
And, by the way Romney said he wouldn't have spent all the money getting one guy and now says he would have done it. (Inaudible) saying he's a hypocrite. What do you think of that argument? Do you think that's valid to do a campaign ad, saying we took out Osama bin Laden? Are you surprised a politician would do that?
DAWSON: I'm not surprised a politician would do that. But I also am not surprised a politician would change his mind or her mind. You know, I think that -- so that is used so often in politics. It's like, well, you said this 20 years ago and now you're saying something different. I think, well, I'd hope that with new facts and information you might change your position on something. But --
MORGAN: You know, I'd agree with that. I think there's a fine line between what they call flip-flopping, which is where you deliberately change an opinion, simply because you want to more to get more votes, and genuinely maturing as a politician, as a human being.
DAWSON: Which is hard to sometimes decipher. And ultimately I think with just these kinds of ads -- and my friend is from Germany and she says it's illegal to do hate kind of commercials there. Like that's just sort of been taken out of the whole sort of thing.
So it would be wonderful if we could see campaign commercials that were coming out and going I'm the right person for this job because of these things. And then that's it. Without having to do any sort of thing to smear someone else, so that we could --
MORGAN: Would they work?
DAWSON: I think so. I think American people are --
MORGAN: Newt Gingrich tried it. He tried being Saint Newt and saying I'm not going to attack any opponents. And Mitt Romney unloaded the mother of all attack campaigns against him, blew him out the water. And in the end you had to go back to being nasty, Newt.
DAWSON: But did he have to? I mean --
MORGAN: He didn't have to, but he was getting slaughtered.
DAWSON: Yes, well, I mean, that's a lot of money in the campaigns. There's a lot of other reasons as to why that's working, and also the things that Newt is and what he's said and what he's done, that also worked against him maybe in a lot of ways.
MORGAN: Let's take a short break and come back and talk about your campaign to get Latinos in particular out voting, because they're becoming an increasingly dominant political force in this country.
DAWSON: Very much.
MORGAN: If they vote. So "Keeping America Great" special coming after the break.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "UNSTOPPABLE")
The rear (inaudible) was left open so if we could catch up, we could tie it onto (inaudible) locomotive, try and slow down Triple 7.
Frank, you can't.
We already are.
That train is carrying 30,000 gallons of toxic chemicals. They had a window before, but that train's going into populated areas. There's no way they'd derail it now.
Are you sure about that?
(END VIDEO CLIP, "UNSTOPPABLE")
MORGAN: Rosario Dawson in "unstoppable." She's back with me now to talk about a topic that gets a lot of attention on this show, "Keeping America Great." You do a lot of stuff, don't you? Your fingers are in many pies. There's this votolatino.org.
That is a campaign to get more young Latinos to vote, because there are millions and millions of young Latinos, the Latino population is ever burgeoning and yet many of them simply don't vote. Tell me about that.
DAWSON: Yes. I think our census numbers showed like just how fast this demographic is growing and how big it is.
And like I was saying, that 12.2 million Latinos will vote in this coming election, I think that's why "Time" magazine had its cover recently saying that Latinos will decide this election. But that's saying that's going to be a 26 percent increase in voter turnout. So it's like, you know, (inaudible) 50,000 Latinos turning 18 every month --
MORGAN: Why aren't they voting?
DAWSON: -- huge. Why aren't they? I think they really are. I mean, half the population still, 12.2 is still --
MORGAN: Not in the numbers that you would like them to. How are you encouraging them?
DAWSON: Absolutely I think they have been. I mean, this past several elections, they're -- of all the different demographics they're the one that's growing the most. But I mean, they're also disproportionately affected by this housing crisis, the economy, jobs, health care. All of these different things.
So people are really -- they're bogged down. They're -- they have a lot of things to be thinking about and doing. And with voter IDs changing, laws changing and all of the things that are making it even more difficult for them to get out and vote. It's understandable, I think a lot of demographics aren't showing up to turn out.
But I think this election in particular is going to draw a lot of people. Because there's been so much negative conversation about immigration, violence against Latinos has gone up by I think the FBI said by 61 percent. I think people are -- they're wanting to show their numbers as being Americans. They want to be civically engaged, the dreamers, Occupy movement, the growers movement, all of these things are definitely going to be driving especially young people to the polls.
But it's also women. And it's about the elderly not being taken out because of this voter ID laws that are changing. And it was a veteran who was just writing in, saying that he wasn't able to vote. He had to -- he asked someone to drive him because they took his driver's license away. But his vet card made him --
MORGAN: So it's not necessarily about them not wanting to vote, it's about the capability to vote.
DAWSON: A lot of times (inaudible) capability, but it's also -- and just the bog down of like, you know, where (inaudible) -- you know, we've told the people of America that the best thing to do to fight terrorism is to go shopping.
So, you know, when you have that, you've really made a big space between how -- what's -- the issues that are affecting you in your life are and how your vote can effect that change. If I'm a blue state or a red state, my vote's not going to count.
You know, and so a lot of the things that we keep coming across is that people feel they're not being asked to vote, that they don't really feel that their vote's going to count and they don't necessarily know what's going on with the issues, because as soon as you actually really start targeting them, what you've been doing about the Latino and been so successful with, and we start that conversation, it's like they're full on activists.
MORGAN: I don't know how anyone resists you when you're in this mood, Rosario. Talk about unstoppable. My God. So here's the thing, are you actually Latino? Because I read somewhere your Afro-Cuban, Puerto Rican, Native American and Irish.
MORGAN: I am partly Irish. I mean, mainly Irish.
DAWSON: I'm mainly Irish as well. But no one ever confuses me for that.
MORGAN: So you're basically Irish masquerading as a Latino.
DAWSON: Masquerading. You know, I'm American. That's really what it is. And I'm -- I'm a mixed heritage American. There's a lot of us out there. MORGAN: I'm now going to utter the words I never thought I would utter.
MORGAN. Rosario Dawson, let's talk trains.
DAWSON: OK. Let's do it.
MORGAN: Why should I be talking about trains?
DAWSON: Well, we have National Train Day, which is the fifth one of its kind, coming up May 12th. I'm the official spokesperson for National Train Day, which I'm very excited about.
I love trains. I love train travel. I've been doing it, you know, obviously in Subway trains in New York City my entire life. Taking trains going from -- every year now for the White House Correspondents Dinner, I take the train from D.C. up, which is always fun.
MORGAN: Is the point basically that with gas prices soaring, gas guzzling cars on the increase, it's time for America to wake up, get real, get on the trains and start conserving that kind of wasted energy?
DAWSON: It is definitely one of the greener ways of traveling. But it's also just one of the most beautiful ways of traveling. You know, I really -- I love the conversations that I have when I'm on a train. I love the view of America that I get to have.
It's one of the things, I travel on trains around the world. When I'm in Europe and you're going on a speed train and you're in just farm land and all of a sudden you see a lot of graffiti, and you're like, we're about to hit Paris. There's something about it that -- and for me, it's like I travel all the time. The whole thing with the little liquids --
MORGAN: What are the chances of me getting the subway tomorrow and finding you in the next --
DAWSON: Pretty high. It's not just the King of New York who rides the train.
MORGAN: Do you still get on the subway, seriously?
DAWSON: Of course I do.
DAWSON: In disguise? No, I'm a New Yorker. That's the best thing about New York, is you create New York moments. People are like, yo, what up, Rosario. I'm like, yo, what's up. Then we move on our way.
MORGAN: Rosario Dawson, an Arsenal fan, that's all I'm taking away from that. When we come back, my interview with the man that big stars have on speed dial when they run into big trouble with the law, Benjamin Brafman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN BRAFMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Unless you have been falsely accused of a very serious crime that you did not commit, it is impossible for you to understand or grasp the full measure of relief that Dominique Strauss-Kahn feels today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: That's top defense attorney Benjamin Brafman with one of his high profile clients, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. He's also represented Sean P. Diddy Combs, Jay-Z, Michael Jackson, assorted Mafia members, including Sammy the Bull Gravano. Just about everyone, in fact, who wants to get of the rat. I know what he thinks of the biggest cases of the day, and also what makes Benjamin Brafman tick?
The reason I ask that, Benjamin -- welcome, first of all --
BRAFMAN: Thank you.
MORGAN: -- is that there are two quotes about you which strung out to me. One was from CNN's Jeff Toobin, who said that you are the best he has ever seen in a courtroom, the best defending lawyer. And then other one was a poll recently which named you as one of the top ten toughest living Jews in the world, which as an Irish Catholic boy, I've got to say, I found pretty impressive.
How do you answer those two charges?
BRAFMAN: Well, in terms of being the best criminal defense lawyer, I leave that to others like Jeff if they want to comment. I think I'm good at what I do. I think it'd be a reach to suggest that I'm the best. I know some very, very good criminal lawyers who I think I would run to if I were in trouble. So I don't think I'm the best.
In terms of being a tough Jew, I don't think I'm among the top ten. But I think I'm a tough Jew and I'm proud of that fact.
MORGAN: You must have quite liked that poll, didn't you?
BRAFMAN: I like that. I like that poll very much. I've taken a lot of ribbing and a lot of people have challenged me to a fight. But it's flattering.
MORGAN: You have had a tough upbringing. Your family escaped from the Holocaust. Many perished from the Holocaust. You yourself grew up in Brooklyn and Queens. You even, I read, waited tables in the Catskills, which is about as rough as an upbringing could possibly be. But all this toughened you up to what you are today. How much of the scrappy kid that we saw in the earlier days is down to that upbringing? How much of what you bring to the courtroom is down to that upbringing?
BRAFMAN: I think a lot. I think being a -- a serious person, even though you can have a great sense of humor, being someone with a wonderful work ethic is something that was instilled in me very early on. I always worked. I worked in grade school. I worked in college. I worked in high school. I worked in law school. I've always worked.
So when you work, you don't take things for granted. While people will say he's a good lawyer, he's the best lawyer, I think I'm one of the hardest working lawyers in the country. And I know a lot of people who as good as I am, some better. I don't know anybody who has worked harder than I have. I know people who have worked as hard.
So I think being a scrappy person as a kid, I think I've shaped up fairly well, even if I do say so myself. But I take that as a compliment. I like the fact that I earned where I've gotten to today. I've been very blessed and very fortunate.
MORGAN: What is your template? When you take on a s you do many times, high-profile cases, and the odds of getting an acquittal in any of these big cases are often loaded against you -- it doesn't happen that often. That's why it's always a big deal when it has. What is the Benjamin Brafman template? What do you work through? What process do you go through in your head?
BRAFMAN: I think it's important for me that whoever the client is, even if they are powerful, important celebrity super star, that they understand that I am in charge until this case is resolved, that this is not business as usual. You're having a heart attack, I'm the cardiologist and I want to know that you're going to follow my advice.
MORGAN: On that paint -- it's interesting you say that about the comparison to cardiologist. Because I've heard you say a great insightful remark about what you do. A great cardiologist treats somebody who's very sick. When you're very sick, even if you're the most famous person in the world, everyone rallies around you. You're in actually a dark place, but you have huge support. People want you to get better.
When you're charged with a serious criminal offense, you don't have that. It's like a double blow, isn't it? So when they come to you, you may be the legal version of a cardiologist, but the reality is you're dealing with people whose lives are in a terrible place, and nobody cares.
BRAFMAN: I'm usually the only one who really cares. I'm like a lifeboat. And I will tell you that I think I have the hardest job of any professional. I'm not like cardiologists. I'm not even like an oncologist. No one's ever happy to see me when they first come there.
But unlike people who are sick, they have a support system in place. People rally to their support. I deal with the fact that you're only looking at not only the loss of your freedom, but public humiliation, loss of a career. It's devastating.
I think I've talked more people out of committing suicide than most psychiatrists in the world.
MORGAN: Is that right?
BRAFMAN: Yes. I've had people in my office say to me, my family would be better off if I were dead. And I have to bite my tongue and not say you're right. Because for the next couple of years, they're going to go through living hell. You're going to go through a living hell. If everything works perfectly, we're going to be able to save you. But it's got to work perfectly.
And you've got to be fortunate. And there's got to be some divine intervention. You've got to be quiet for the next two years, while everyone in the city and the world perhaps is kicking the hell out of you. We've got to sit in there and take it on the chin. But the objective is to win.
MORGAN: Do you have to believe 100 percent in the innocence of your client? Or is your job to ensure that the opposition, the prosecution can't prove 100 percent your client's guilty?
BRAFMAN: Every case is different. Every case is fact specific. But it's never my job to determine whether my client is 100 percent guilty or 100 percent innocent. I have found in life that there rarely is black and white. There's a lot of gray.
In a most of the cases I work on, white collar cases, for example, the facts are rarely in dispute. It's what was in the person's state of mind at the time he or she did what they are accused of. My job is to make the system work fairly.
America needs good criminal defense lawyers, because we keep the government in check and we keep the system working properly. When you have the government on your tail, it's -- it's daunting. It's overwhelming. Most people panic. And it's unlike any other adversary.
It's the government. It's the United States of America against X. And the only one standing next to X is me. And it's a daunting responsibility.
MORGAN: Having said that, when you believe overwhelmingly in a client's innocence, as with P-Diddy, for example, when you repped him, it was so intense for you personally that when he was acquitted, you wept for him, which was an extraordinary thing for a lawyer to do. Tell me about what was going through your head then.
BRAFMAN: Well, we were waiting for a verdict for hours and days. Suddenly, you know, there was a verdict. I remember standing there thinking to myself that here's a man who's innocent. He's put his life in my hands. I've done a really good job.
If I win this case, he is probably going to turn out to be one of the most successful African-American entrepreneurs in the history of the world. And he has. And if I lose this case, he's going to lose everything. When they said the final not guilty, it -- I thought I was having a stroke. Actually I just started to cry because the pressure in that courtroom was so thick, you could actually reach out and grab it.
I don't think I've ever been able to accurately describe what listening to a verdict means, not only to the person who's going to have that verdict announced in their own life, but for someone like me. I think what separates me from a lot of people, I bring a lot of passion and sincerity to my work. And I think I sometimes am able to convey that.
I think jurors get it. They think this guy really is serious about his job. And sometimes it helps.
MORGAN: Want to take a short break, come back and talk to you about some of the very high-profile cases raging at the moment, the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case, the John Edwards case, ask you what you would do to defend both of those men, but also about the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case, because I have quite strong feelings about that, given the way that your client was treated. And I'm sure you do too.
We'll talk after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE ZIMMERMAN, ACCUSED OF 2ND DEGREE MURDER: I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son. I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I am. And I did not know if he was armed or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: George Zimmerman apologizing to Trayvon Martin's parents. I'm back now with top criminal defense attorney Benjamin Brafman. What do you make of the Trayvon Martin case?
BRAFMAN: It's a horrible case. There isn't anything good about that case. I look at that case as a horrific tragedy, whatever happens to Mr. Zimmerman. You have a kid who's dead. Parents are going through the loss of a child. You can't imagine that kind of grief.
And I think this case plays out badly for America one way or the other. I just have a bad feeling about it.
MORGAN: There can't be a happy result for anybody.
MORGAN: Nothing's going to bring Trayvon Martin back. I think it has raised all sorts of dark specters that involve the legal process in America. Race has entered it, but also this Stand Your Ground Law, which -- on that specific point, Stand Your Ground, New York doesn't have that. George Zimmerman couldn't use that as a defense in New York. But he can where he is now. Do you think it should be scrapped after this?
BRAFMAN: I think it's a terrible law. I think it encourages vigilantism. I think it creates these types of horrific tragedies. So even if George Zimmerman is found not guilty, it doesn't mean what he did was good. I think at the end of the day, what I'm frightened by, to be honest with you, as a citizen, is the reaction of the public in the event he is acquitted.
And based on the evidence I've seen to date, a strong possibility that he might be found not guilty, certainly not guilty of murder. I think that was a terrible mistake by the prosecution to charge murder. There are so many other crimes that might be more natural fits.
MORGAN: What do you make of the John Edwards case?
BRAFMAN: It's a sad case in many ways, because I think the perception of John Edwards before this case and before his fall from grace was that he is a pretty good guy and that he might have been actually a very good president. I think this case has what I call bad cosmetics.
Cosmetics sometimes can overwhelm a case, even if the facts and the evidence don't. I mean, he has a prejudice that he comes into the courtroom with. He has a child out of wedlock while his wife is dying of cancer. That's a heavy baggage to bring into a courtroom. And sometimes the facts pale by comparison to that issue. I hope not, because this case shouldn't be decided whether he's a good man or not a good man.
MORGAN: But it raises the point which I think was never more clear than with Dominique Strauss-Kahn, your other client, which is the media now is so overwhelming in these cases, you now have people Tweeting from a courtroom. This gets picked up by bloggers.
The court of public opinion decides people's guilt within seconds of the first piece of evidence or maybe not evidence in many cases. How difficult is it now to defend high profile people, particularly politicians, who are by nature polarizing, when you have this kind of overwhelming media onslaught?
BRAFMAN: It's much more difficult than it ever was. But I think you're right. The instantaneous technology that we have all developed and all use and all admire and respect has turned our court system on its head. People have now eight second deadlines. They used to have 12 hour deadlines.
They can't afford to wait and get it right, because someone else is going to post before they do. So it's terrible.
But I'll tell you something which I say in every high profile case. My objective is not to get a good press day. My objective is to win the case. That requires a great deal of discipline. And this is the mantra that I think I have developed. If you try this case in order to get a good press day, and by doing so you lose the case, no one is going to remember the good press day when your client has been convicted.
If you keep quiet and you try this case looking to win this case, and in the process, you get some really bad press days, when you win the case, no one's going to ever remember the bad press days. So I think you need to be disciplined. You need to be focused. And it's easier said than done, because there's a relentless barrage on you that's 24/7.
In the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case, at some point, we were on the front page of every newspaper in the world. And everything they were printing was wrong. And you have --
MORGAN: You could argue in his case the consequences were particularly catastrophic. It may have cost him the presidency of France. I mean, the stakes couldn't have been higher for him professionally. By the time he was able to go home, it was all over.
BRAFMAN: You're 100 percent right. In his case more than any, I think he would be president of France today if not for that case. And I was asked once, what are the consequences, what's the damage, and how do you get back to your old life when it's over? I said, you don't. The damage is irreparable. Dominique Strauss-Kahn will never again enjoy the world respect that he had before that case.
At the end of the day, I think Cy Vance did something very courageous by dismissing the case after indictment. It took a lot of guts to do that. I think it was the right decision. But I think that case was fed by a media frenzy unlike any I've ever seen. And I've been in the eye of the storm with Michael Jackson and P-Diddy, and some heavy duty people.
My God, this was the world out your door. And it was -- it was wrong. That's the only word I can think of. It was wrong, because A, it was a bad case. B, in the whole scheme of things, it really wasn't an earth shattering case, even if the allegations were real.
This was not a world event. It was not the bribery of a corporation. It was a private act. I could not imagine -- I could not imagine the frenzy that took off. And I learned a lot from it.
MORGAN: What did he say to you at the end?
BRAFMAN: God bless you, thank you. When you come to France, please visit. I will say this, in fairness to having gone through the worst process you can imagine, he never lost his charm. He never lost his cool. He was very, very good as a client. He listened. He did not pull rank.
He and Anne Sinclair (ph) were among the two brightest, most charming people I've ever met. And to their credit, they listened to Bill Taylor and me. And it was not easy to sit there and take one shot after another and not fight back.
MORGAN: Fascinating case, another great win for you. Keep up the great work. I think you do American justice proud, where many perhaps do not reach those dizzy heights. Benjamin Brafman, it's been a pleasure.
BRAFMAN: Thank you very much.
MORGAN: Coming up, Only in America, a big dream rising from the ashes of Ground Zero.
MORGAN: Tonight's Only in America is perhaps the most perfect example of what this new regular segment was designed for, a story that illustrates the unique quality and essence of the United States. On September 11th, 2001, New York was hit by the worst terrorist attack in American history. It destroyed the World Trade Center's Twin Towers, including nearly 3,000 people.
I flew over Ground Zero in helicopter a month after it happened. I was shocked to my very core at what I saw, a vast slice of this great city's commercial heartland ripped down to smoldering rubble. It was a sickening sight.
The biggest question that I and so many others who love and admire this country asked myself after was how would America respond? Well, today, we got the answer, bigger and better than ever.
This afternoon, One World Trade Center, formally known as the Freedom Tower, surpassed the Empire State Building as the tallest building in New York at 1,271 feet. With magnificent timing, this milestone was achieved on the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter what the obstacle is we're faced with, you know, we will survive. We will resurface. We can do this. So it's a pride thing as an American, and -- but more importantly, as a New Yorker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: The message from America to those who wish to bring it harm couldn't be clearer: you may hurt us, you may damage us, you may even kill some of us. But you will never, ever beat us. That surely is the spirit that made America the world's greatest superpower, and the spirit that will ensure whatever difficulties are thrown its way, it stays there for a long time to come.
That's all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts now.