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Piers Morgan Live
Facing Fiscal Cliff; One on One with America's Pastor
Aired November 27, 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, battleground America. The looming fiscal cliff and the fight to save the economy. In his first interview since the big Romney loss, I'll ask RNC chairman Reince Priebus if his party is out of touch with the country. Plus his plans to fix the GOP.
Also, President Obama's tax push. He wants the rich to pay up but is it fair?
And one of the most influential spiritual leaders in the world, America's pastor, Rick Warren. He was there at Barack Obama's first inauguration. Will he be there again?
We're talking politics, same-sex marriage and the "two and a half men" star whose Christian conversion has him now attacking his own show.
This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
Good evening. Our big story tonight, countdown to financial doomsday. It's the fiscal cliff and the clock is ticking. Just 35 days left before this massive sweeping tax hike. America's now at the mercy of Washington, hoping that both sides can end the fighting and make a deal.
Anti-tax champion Grover Norquist last night told me he's keeping Republicans to the no tax increase pledge they made decades ago. But should his party back away from that promise?
Joining me now in his first interview since the election is Reince Priebus. He's the chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Welcome back, Mr. Priebus. How are you?
REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I'm doing great, Piers. How are you?
MORGAN: You've been keeping your head below the Parapet since the shellacking you guys took in the election. What is your reaction to the pretty poor defeat?
PRIEBUS: Well, I mean I think that we got to look at everything that we're doing. I think that's what we have to do. I don't think you can draw any quick conclusions other than the fact that we lost and we know that. But I think in order to get back in the game, you've got to look at and do a full autopsy of what happened, what we did well and what we didn't do well, what we can do better in the next year with two governors' races coming up and then two years later, and then four years from now.
So what we're going to do is we want to bring everyone together. Leaders from across the country, to look at everything that we've done, come up with a game plan, sort of a four-year plan, Piers, of what we can do in the communities, out there across America, to do a long sustained year-by-year campaign and operation, and learn from what Obama did and then learn from some of our mistakes and keep doing some of the things that we've done well.
MORGAN: With hindsight, was it a mistake to choose Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee?
PRIEBUS: No, I don't think so at all. I think he would have made a great president. I think most people that were polled actually thought that he would make a better president than even Barack Obama, but I think that what we saw in team Obama was something that was pretty good in the sense of a four-year long campaign on the ground in the communities, something that we're going to look at doing as well.
But, you know, there are other things at play, too. And you know there's macro politics and there's microtargeting and everything in between. And it's not something obviously that we can cover in a seven-minute interview, but I think that what we can conclude is that we've got to be better, and that's something that we're committed to doing and I think our grassroots and our donors are all committed to doing more and doing more of a sustained operation in the years to come.
MORGAN: One of the big challenges that will be facing the GOP now, of course, is the fiscal cliff. The new CNN/ORC poll, when asked is the GOP doing enough to cooperate with Obama, 70 percent said no, of Americans, whereas when they asked if Obama is doing enough to cooperate with the GOP, 45 percent yes, 49 percent no. So clearly the Republicans are being predominantly blamed for the breakdown in bipartisanship in Washington.
The fiscal cliff is a classic opportunity, many would argue, to show the Americans you've listened, you've changed, you're ready to do deals that are to the benefit of the American national interest.
PRIEBUS: Well, I mean, Piers, look, the president is the leader of this country and he's got to lead and he's got to take control, and he's got to show the American people that he can put people together and a team together, meaning Republicans and Democrats, and come up with solutions but so far, Piers, we don't even know what the president's plans are.
I mean, he's done a good job of apparently making Americans feel that that's the case, but what he hasn't done a good job is really leading with evidence and with substance on the table as far as what he would do. I mean, here's the problem, Piers. I mean if -- if we really want to have an honest discussion about where we're at in this country and this fiscal problem facing America, I mean, the reality is if you look at any chart, and you study any basic description of what's happening to this country, what you'll see is that, as compared to revenue, our bigger problem in this country, by far, by an astronomical amount, is what's happening in regard to the spending that's going on in Washington. I mean it's almost --
MORGAN: Yes, yes, but hang on. Hang on.
PRIEBUS: But it -- wait, wait.
MORGAN: Let me jump in. Let me jump in.
PRIEBUS: But it's dishonest --
MORGAN: Let me jump in because -- I've heard all this. I've heard all this. Grover Norquist --
PRIEBUS: But it's true. You can --
PRIEBUS: You can hear it a thousand more times.
MORGAN: Well, it may be true -- it may be true to Republican Party, but the reality is in the CNN/ORC poll just taken --
PRIEBUS: I understand but we are -- I understand what's --
MORGAN: No, hang on. Let me -- hang on. Would you prefer a budget plan with only spending cuts, 29 percent. Would you prefer a mix of spending cuts and tax increases, 67 percent. A thumping, thumping majority.
MORGAN: Of Americans would prefer to see --
PRIEBUS: But here's the deal. OK.
MORGAN: -- cuts in spending and tax increases. But you Republicans led by Grover Norquist are absolutely intransigent about allowing any raise in taxation, and yet the American public want you to do it.
PRIEBUS: Listen, first of all, there's a lot of things you said that aren't true.
MORGAN: Well, name one.
PRIEBUS: Nobody is opposed to -- well, first of all, no one is opposed to increasing revenues by closing some loopholes, but they have to be met with --
MORGAN: That wasn't what I said. Hang on. That --
PRIEBUS: They have to be met with commensurate tax cuts --
MORGAN: That was not what I said. That wasn't what I said.
PRIEBUS: They have to be met with commensurate tax cuts, I think --
MORGAN: Well, hang on. You said what I said wasn't true.
PRIEBUS: In order -- in order to spur economic growth.
MORGAN: No, Reince, come on. I have to stop you here.
MORGAN: No. You can't put words in my mouth. You said what I said wasn't true.
PRIEBUS: Well, you can't -- listen.
MORGAN: And then you give a completely different answer to what I actually said.
PRIEBUS: Here's the deal. We have to -- OK. Listen, here's the issue. The issue is if you took every dime of profit from every Fortune 500 company in America, took it all, send it all to Washington, you'd run the federal government for six months.
Here's my point, Piers. The point is, it is absolutely intellectually dishonest to have a conversation about tax increases unless and until you talk about massive cuts in spending of the federal government, getting our spending to GDP ratio below 20 percent, it's about at 25 percent today, and my point is, is that the first problem is spending.
And I don't think you can even get to a dishonest conversation about how tax increases is somehow going to resolve this problem, it's like going to the hospital with a broken leg, taking a bunch of pain pills --
MORGAN: Yes, but -- OK. All right. But again --
PRIEBUS: And then after a few hours, you still have a broken leg. You have to fix the broken leg, Piers.
MORGAN: Right. But the point I'm making to you is that in the CNN poll, it wasn't just about raising taxes. It's about a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. Now let me play a quote from Jay Carney talking about exactly what the president is offering.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Here's a fact. The president has on the table a proposal that reduces the deficit by $4 trillion, that does it -- does so in a balanced way, that includes substantial cuts to discretionary non-defense spending, over $1 trillion. It includes revenue and includes $340 billion in savings from our health care entitlement programs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: I mean, fairly unequivocal, isn't it? It's a mixture of --
PRIEBUS: Right, where is it?
MORGAN: -- pretty substantial spending cuts and tax increases.
PRIEBUS: We haven't seen the plan. I haven't seen the plan. I don't think the speaker --
MORGAN: Are you accusing the president of lying?
PRIEBUS: You've never seen this plan.
MORGAN: Is the president lying?
PRIEBUS: Well, where is the plan?
MORGAN: Is he lying?
PRIEBUS: I don't think the plan is out there. Well, I think Jay Carney might be but I don't see the plan. I mean, maybe they have a plan.
MORGAN: So Jay Carney is lying and he's the White House spokesman.
PRIEBUS: No. No, listen.
MORGAN: They're lying, are they?
PRIEBUS: I'm not saying that. Maybe -- Piers, maybe they've got a plan but they didn't share.
MORGAN: You just did. You just called him a liar.
PRIEBUS: He hasn't shared with -- they haven't shared the plan with the American people. Paul Ryan and the Republicans in Congress have passed more -- twice now and last year -- excuse me, two years ago as well, a 10-year plan for our budget that deals with our 10-year debt window, that deals with our deficits, that deals with entitlement reform.
I mean we have done that time and time again. It's the Democrats, it's the Democrats, and this president that haven't passed a budget in over three and a half years. I mean we're -- for us to be lectured as far as budgetary discipline, Piers, by the Democrats is absurdity.
We're the only ones that passed a budget in this country for the past three and a half years. It's the Democrats that violated the law and didn't do their job for the American people and it's the president that hasn't led this country and come up with a plan for the American people.
Now Jay Carney might say hey, listen, we've got a plan and this is the plan. Well then share the plan with the American people. And then we can get somewhere in this country and we can actually tackle the spending and debt that's going to bankrupt us all.
MORGAN: Yes, but, Reince, if the plan is exactly as he has stated here, and it includes some tax increases as the vast majority, nearly two thirds, more than two thirds of the American public want, actually want, if that is on the table, why wouldn't the Republicans sign up to it?
PRIEBUS: Listen, I don't know the details of what he's offering, Piers. And I'm not trying to hide behind any of it. I just can't actually have an intelligent conversation about a plan hypothetically that we haven't seen, that might include tax increases and might not and might include some deduction loophole eliminations that we haven't seen.
I mean how can you have an intelligent conversation like this? I mean you actually have to see a plan, you have to have a negotiation, you have to discuss these things and potentially an open forum, for the American people to make a decision. But right now from this president we don't have anything but talking points and apparently, Jay Carney's comments today at a press conference.
MORGAN: Right. I mean if your plan had been so popular, though, you would have won the election and you lost badly.
PRIEBUS: Well, I mean that's one -- that's one -- I mean that could be one -- that could be one issue but there's a lot of issues that were being discussed at the -- during the time of the election and there's a lot of reasons for losing and there's a lot of reasons for winning. But tax increases I'm sure on the ballot weren't a reason that we lost the election.
MORGAN: Let's move on to another subject today which is the ongoing battle between John McCain and a few senators and Ambassador Susan Rice.
There is a view that it's all beginning to get a little too personal, a little too ugly. What is your opinion of it?
PRIEBUS: Well, I'm going to -- listen, and that's kind of things, Piers, national security, the decisions that have to be made in regard to the secretary of state, I'm going to leave that up to the leadership in our -- in our Senate.
MORGAN: Well, it's good to see you again. I have actually missed you on the airways, Reince Priebus. So welcome back. (LAUGHTER)
PRIEBUS: Hey, I miss you, too. Thank you, Piers.
MORGAN: Take care.
President Obama is launching a full court press of Bush era tax cuts for the middle cuts are allowed to expire, it will cripple the economy. But joining me now is Alan Krueger, who's the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
Mr. Krueger, welcome to you.
ALAN KRUEGER, CHAIRMAN, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Thank you.
MORGAN: Is the president going to hold his nerve and increase taxes or is he going to be bullied off by the Republicans to try and do a deal to avoid falling off the fiscal cliff?
KRUEGER: The president has been quite clear that he wants a balanced approach to our deficit problems, that he wants higher revenue raised from increasing taxes for the top 2 percent, the most fortunate Americans, and spending cuts so that we are on a fiscally sustainable path.
MORGAN: But what happens if the Republicans get to December 30th and say no deal? We are not going to sign up to anything that involves genuinely increasing taxation even for the 2 percent? What is plan B?
KRUEGER: Well, first of all, I don't think that's in the country's best interest, and I think we've heard from Republicans that they are finally talking about raising revenue from upper income families, so these are solvable problems and we are doing our best to try to solve them.
MORGAN: Right. But I mean everyone is getting very tired of this kind of Groundhog Day fiscal cliff scenario. I feel like I've been covering this my entire life. And there's got to be a sense in Washington of the public just wanting this to be settled sooner rather than later. A show of bipartisan cooperation that actually gets things done.
KRUEGER: Oh, I agree with that. Congress set up this process to force themselves to make a decision, to reach a more sustainable set of policies, and that's what we're working towards. And I think it will help the economy if we do reach reasonable agreement that is balanced, that raises revenue from the most fortunate Americans and reduces our spending so we're growing the budget at a sustainable rate, and if we don't do that, the president has made it quite clear he's not going to sign an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the upper income groups, and that would cause tremendous damage to the economy if we're pushed in a situation where all of the rates go back to their earlier levels. That would cause a big tax increase on middle class families which the president has made quite clear he wants to protect. Ninety- eight percent of American families. So we're working very hard to try to address these problems so that the typical middle class family won't see a $2200 tax increase next year.
MORGAN: I interviewed Grover Norquist yesterday, who is still maintaining that a pledge is a pledge is a pledge, and that the Republicans who are beginning to, you know, slightly jump over the ship are betraying their own pledges and shouldn't be doing this.
But what do you feel about Grover Norquist and his implacable opposition to raising taxes which seems to have been the mantra for so many Republicans for so long?
KRUEGER: No, I'm an economist and to me, the solution to our problems is quite clear. We should pursue as the president has proposed a balanced approach. We had higher tax rates for upper income families in the 1990s and the economy did quite well. We added 23 million jobs and we had a budget surplus at the end of the 1990s. So this view that raising tax rates for the most fortunate 2 percent of families back to where they were during the Clinton years would hurt the economy, I think is just plain wrong.
MORGAN: Alan Krueger, thank you for joining me. I appreciate it.
KRUEGER: Thanks for having me.
MORGAN: Coming next, battleground America. I talked to two top business experts with very different views on the fiscal cliff and how to save the economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GROVER NORQUIST, PRESIDENT, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: It's a little funny to watch a senator or a congressman who got himself elected by promising the citizens of his state that he would go to Washington to reform government, not raise taxes to pay for all our problems, deciding that when they haven't done that and the going gets rough, that they have an argument with me?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Anti-tax champ Grover Norquist with me last night. Republicans are keeping their no-tax promise but is the fiscal cliff a game changer?
With me in battleground America, Robert Reich, who's the former labor secretary under President Clinton and author of "Beyond Outrage," and business strategist and author, Carol Roth.
Welcome to you both.
CAROL ROTH, BUSINESS STRATEGIST, AUTHOR: Thanks, Piers.
MORGAN: Let me start with you, Carol.
ROBERT REICH, FORMER CLINTON LABOR SECRETARY: Hello.
MORGAN: Here's what I don't get when I talk to the Republicans, particularly the Grover Norquist gang. When you have an intransigent utterly implacable position like a pledge, there will be no tax increase come what may, it just seems to me looking on the outside as a Brit, and educate me about this, a ridiculous thing to do when you have no idea what may happen next.
ROTH: I don't disagree with that. I don't know that I would have ever signed that pledge but they have that pledge in place. I think that that's not the crux of the issue, though, Piers. The crux of the issue is in terms of raising taxes, will that fix the problems of the United States, and it absolutely will not.
The fact of the matter is we have a crazy amount of debt and we have an economy that's not growing. So does raising taxes fix the spending problem? No. And will it get the economy going? No. So regardless of pledge or no pledge -- I don't have a horse in this race, I'm part of the common sense party here -- we have to fix the problem and raising taxes doesn't fix that problem.
MORGAN: Warren Buffett came out this week and said the complete opposite. And no disrespect to you but he's worth $40 billion and is considered to be the most successful investor in the history of mankind. He says, throughout his life, throughout his career, there have been many periods with much higher tax rates, it's never made a Dickey bird's difference to people's willingness to invest and that the combination of reduced spending and a few higher taxes for the wealthier people in America is the perfect answer.
I just don't get a coherent argument why you can't do a bit of both.
ROTH: OK. So here's the issue, is that we have never had a period with more than 1 percent of the GDP in terms of tax hikes since 1969. That was the last time that happened and that put us into a recession and then we had several decades of increasing unemployment.
The amount of tax hikes we're talking about here, Piers, are about 3 percent of the GDP. So you're comparing apples to oranges. You can't say oh well, under Clinton, this didn't happen. That was less than 1 percent of the GDP. We're talking three times that in the situation that we're in today, having a 3 percent increase in taxes as a percentage of the GDP will throw us back into a recession.
Does that make sense?
MORGAN: OK. Robert Reich -- well, I'll ask Robert Reich. He's the perfect guy to ask.
What do you think, Robert?
REICH: I don't think that's correct. We do have a huge budget deficits. I don't think taxes should be increased on the middle class but we have an almost record percentage of total national income going to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. I don't see why they should be let off the hook. Why shouldn't they pay their fair share? They are paying a lower tax rate today and effective tax rates --
ROTH: That doesn't solve the problem.
REICH: -- that they paid in about 80 years and it will help solve the problem because that means more revenues into government. Almost everybody, everybody who has looked at this issue, common sense party people, will say that you've got to have some balance between spending cuts and tax increases, particularly on the wealthy.
And I don't see what the problem is. I mean we had a tax increase on the wealthy in the Clinton administration, the economy did tremendously well. We had a tax cut particularly on the wealthy on the -- in the Bush administration, the George W. Bush administration, and very few jobs were created and the median wage started to drop, and that ended in the great recession.
I don't think there's any correlation between raising taxes on the rich and economic growth or lack of economic growth.
ROTH: Under President Clinton, we had an increasing national debt for every single year with the exception of his last year. Every single year, the national debt increased. The only reason we have this surplus farce is because we're counting the amount that we took in from Social Security. That should be off the table entirely. It's something different. That was included in the general fund.
If you backed out Social Security, he would have ran a deficit. So that is one of the imaginary tales that people are telling to try and sell this tax increase. Fundamentally, increasing taxes right now and I'm not talking about forever, I'm talking about today, in the state of our economy today, would put us back into recession and it would be detrimental for everybody. So let's take it off the table for today.
MORGAN: But on that point, on that point, Carol.
MORGAN: Right, on that point, Warren --
REICH: If I may, if I may, Piers, I just don't understand that point --
MORGAN: Yes, sure, Robert. After you. REICH: Because again, I understand why we don't want to raise taxes on the middle class, the vast middle class, because their spending is important, a lot of people are very hard up. The median wage has declined substantially over the past 30 years. In fact, it's 8 percent adjusted for inflation below what it was in 2000. But in terms of the very wealthiest members of this society or on -- you know, raising marginal income taxes just on income in excess of $250,000, that is not going to put a crimp on this economy. It is going to be helpful with regard to deficit reduction. It is not going to slow the economy down. It is also going to --
MORGAN: Right. Let me jump in. Let me jump in. Let me jump in. Let me jump in.
Carol, the point is that Warren Buffett was very explicit about this, that the wealthier people in America, the top 2 percent, if they were taxable, it wouldn't make an iota of difference to any of their investment plans whatsoever. So basically, you're just getting extra revenue with no pain, no negative, no downside whatsoever. Says Warren Buffett.
ROTH: Oh, come on. First of all, Warren Buffett has other issues at hand here but the reality is he's not holding the government to the same standards that he would hold his investments. So I'm going to cast that aside for a second.
The problem is, Piers, is the amount that we're talking about. So when we look at, for example, the payroll tax cut and the Obamacare tax, if you put those two things together, that's over 1 percent of the GDP. If you throw in then the top 1 or 2 percent earners, that's going to put us at 1.5 or 2 percent of the GDP which is not a sustainable amount of tax hikes given the fact that we're in a sluggish growth period. And I think that Warren Buffett certainly understands that.
And you know what, Mr. Buffett, here's an idea for you. If you want to add in more revenue, go ahead. I mean, why not make this something of choice instead of making it compulsory. If you feel like you can help, go ahead. Put some extra money in. But we shouldn't have --
REICH: That's completely --
ROTH: We shouldn't have a gun to our head.
REICH: Look, nobody has any guns to anybody's head. We have a -- we have a common problem. It's called a budget deficit, particularly in out years. We have some common responsibilities and when you do consider that the wealthy in this country are now taking home between 20 and 25 percent of total income, 40 percent of the total wealth of this country, we haven't seen this degree of concentrated income and wealth in 80 years. (CROSSTALK)
ROTH: So we have a common responsibility --
REICH: And are paying an effective tax rate -- if I may -- if I may --
MORGAN: OK. OK.
REICH: If I may just finish my thought for just a second.
MORGAN: I'm afraid I have to jump in because --
REICH: The effective tax rate is lower than it's been in 50 years.
ROTH: We have a common --
MORGAN: Well, we've run out of time. The good news is, that was a terrific debate. We've got 35 days left. I'm going to bring you both back and we'll carry it on. So thank you both very much, Robert Reich and Carol Roth.
REICH: Very good.
ROTH: Thanks, Piers.
REICH: OK, Piers. Thanks very much. Bye-bye.
MORGAN: Coming up, America's pastor Rick Warren joins me live to talk politics, faith, same-sex marriage and much more. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PASTOR RICK WARREN, FOUNDER, SADDLEBACK CHURCH: We're grateful to live in this land, a land of unequalled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Pastor Rick Warren at President Obama's inauguration in 2009. He's been called America's pastor and considered to be one of the most influential men in the world both as a religious leader and a philanthropist. He's the author of "The Purpose Driven Life" now marking its tenth anniversary and sales of over 32 million copies. And Rick Warren joins me now.
That must be, even to you, pretty staggering, isn't it? Thirty- two million copies, Rick Warren?
WARREN: Yes, nobody is more surprised than I am. Actually, Piers, I don't think actually anybody bought them. My mom and I gave them all away, all 32 million copies. (LAUGHTER)
MORGAN: We've had a great debate tonight about this fiscal cliff and really it comes down to this. Whether the wealthier 2 percent of Americans should be paying a bigger share of taxation. Republicans almost to a man or woman seem utterly opposed to this, but Warren Buffett, the richest guy in America, is advocating that's exactly what should happen.
You are somebody who's interesting to me because you give away 90 percent --
MORGAN: -- of all your earnings and you famously do that and you've given away millions as a result. What do you think? I mean I'm assuming you would be in the wealthiest who should give away more, right?
WARREN: Well, yes. And actually -- I actually think it's better for people to give it away than for it to be taken away. I would maybe disagree with both sides and say, I'd like to see a tax code that rewards generosity, that rewards behavior that causes people -- see, Piers, if somebody taxes me to do good, I don't get any credit for it. It's not my -- it's not my volunteerism involved. On the other hand, if you incentivize people to be generous which, by the way, America is by far the most generous nation in the world, and one of the reasons for it is actually the tax code.
There are countries that are not very generous because people don't have actually that much to give. And so I would love to see rather than -- you know, one of the things they're talking about right now is well, we don't want to raise taxes so we will lower deductions. And maybe we'll lower deductions on, for instance, charitable giving. Well, what does that do?
It stymies the behavior we actually want to support, that we want to favor, which is teaching people to be more generous. That's good for the heart.
MORGAN: I actually think that's a really good point. I think that that is the last thing they should be doing. They should make it as you say more incentivizing thing to give money to charities because that's actually, as you say, it makes you feel better, doesn't it? Just writing a check to the government.
WARREN: It makes you feel better. It's good for character and, as I said, I don't get any reward for being taxed to help other people. Clearly the scripture says that people who have more are to help those who have less. And actually, the purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence.
I find that even -- often both sides will agree on the ultimate goal which is to help people. The problem is the dividing over what's the best method to do that. And when we start, you know, denying each other's motivations or questioning each other's motivations and why you do what you want to do, you know, Piers, the bottom line is in America, everybody really wants the same thing. Everybody in America wants good health care -- wants their kids to be healthy.
Everybody wants their family to be safe. Everybody wants the freedom to believe and live as they want to believe and live. Everybody wants our nation to be secure. Everybody wants to have peace. Everybody wants to have prosperity.
The debates are always over how, how do you get there. And when we disagree on the how, what often happens, and I saw this happening -- to me it was very disappointing in the last election cycle, is that people start questioning other people's motives because they have a different method than yours.
I happen to know both Republicans and Democrats who are quite patriotic, and to question their patriotism because they believe in a different method of getting to the goal that we all agree in, to me seems a little disingenuous.
MORGAN: Have you -- have you ever known America to be so divided, politically in particular, with Washington? Approval ratings for everyone in Washington are like record lows. But it does seem to be particularly poisonous.
MORGAN: I thought this election campaign really plummeted new depths on occasion.
WARREN: Well, as you know, it was reported that I canceled the Saddleback Civil Forum on the presidency for this very reason. Early in the election cycle, before the Republican candidate had even been chosen, both sides talked to me about doing the civil forum again, and it was well received the last time, four years ago, and I thought well, OK, I'll think about it.
But I just found that, to be honest with you, in my personal opinion, neither side was really presenting a compelling vision of the future because there was so much negativity over the other guy as a jerk. And we spent $2 billion on this election and literally nothing changed. We have the same White House, we have the same Congress, and we have the same Senate, and I'm going, what was that all about? Was that really necessary? Did that really prove the value of negative ads? Did that really prove the value of demeaning somebody else simply because they disagree with you?
You know, this goes back to the whole issue of tolerance. Tolerance used to mean I respect you and I treat you with dignity, and I could even love you, even though I may violently disagree with you. I totally disagree with what you say but you're a child of God and so I'm going to treat you with respect and dignity.
Now tolerance has changed in meaning. Today, many people actually think tolerance means you must agree with me and if you -- unless you agree with me, then you are intolerant. In other words, if -- they don't understand the difference between tolerance and approval.
If I were to say -- let me just say this. If I were to say I believe everybody in America should be baptized, in fact, I think you should be baptized and you must accept that as a part of your lifestyle, then if you said to me well, Rick, I don't think that's right, I happen to disagree with you, it would be nonsense for me to say to you well, Piers, you're a bigot or you're hateful or you're afraid of me. It's just not true. You just happen to disagree.
MORGAN: OK. But, look --
WARREN: If you only --
MORGAN: I'm going to -- I'm going to --
WARREN: If you only disagree -- if you only love people you agree with, you're not going to love anybody. Because even your wife disagrees with you a lot of the times.
MORGAN: My wife disagrees with me almost all the time. But let's take a break, Rick.
WARREN: Mine too. Mine too.
MORGAN: And we're going to come back and explore tolerance because I'm going to put you to the test.
WARREN: That'll be fine.
MORGAN: Because there are a few things I want to talk to you about on which I vehemently disagree with you.
WARREN: That's fine.
MORGAN: So we'll get into that after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: About 2 percent of Americans are homosexual or gay/lesbian people. We should not let 2 percent of the population determine to change the definition of marriage. God created marriage for the purpose of family, love and procreation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Pastor Rick Warren speaking out against same-sex marriage. And I'm back with him now.
So let's talk about gay marriage for a moment because clearly a number of states in America are moving to legalize this and it's becoming less and less of a kind of hot button issue and more of a sort of inevitable change in social times. Your position has remained pretty entrenched about this.
Here's my issue with it. Unless I'm wrong, and clarify this for me. You base your opposition to it on the literal interpretation of what the bible says about marriage. Am I right?
WARREN: Yes, that's true. Everybody has a source of authority for their lives. Some people, the source of authority is culture. Some people, their source of authority is philosophy. Everybody has a world view. My world view simply happens to be based on a literal and strict interpretation of scripture. Not everybody's interpretation but it is mine.
MORGAN: Right. Now here's my problem. Because I'm a catholic like you, and I respect the bible enormously, and I respect all --
MORGAN: Actually all religious beliefs from everybody. But here's my problem with taking the literal interpretation of the bible to the modern era and not allowing yourself to move with the times and it's this. There are so many things in the bible which are plainly ridiculous these days, right?
Children who curse their parents will be put to death. There would be no children left over the age of 8 in America, right? With the possible exception of yours.
MORGAN: And if you commit adultery, you will be put to death.
MORGAN: But you yourself in an interview with Ann Curry on NBC, which I remember watching, you admitted you have looked lustfully at women but you've never actually sealed the deal. Now if you look lustfully at women according to Matthew 5:28, it says, "I tell you anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." You then go to Leviticus who says, "If you commit adultery, you should be put to death."
You're going to have to stone yourself, Rick Warren, if you take the bible literally.
WARREN: I know where you're going with this. This is a very common misunderstanding on the laws of scripture, Piers. There aren't -- there aren't just one set of laws in scripture. There are actually three sets of laws and they are not equally binding. Many people think every law in the bible is the exact same kind of law.
In the bible, there are three kinds of laws. There are civil laws, which by the way apply only to the nation of Israel. Those are called civil laws. There are ceremonial laws which are the laws that apply to cleanliness as kosher Jews would practice today, in the laws of Leviticus, the priestly laws that are ceremonial laws that involve worship, and then there are moral laws. As a Christian, I'm not bound by the civil laws given to the nation of Israel, and I'm not even bound by the ceremonial laws given to the priesthood of Israel. I am bound, I believe, to the moral laws. The "Ten Commandments" are neither civil laws nor ceremonial. Those are moral laws. They were the ones chiseled in stone.
And so when people make this -- it's a very common argument. Yes, but what about this law and what about this law. Well, granted, OK, that was that law for that point in time, and I'm under no obligation to do that. But when a law says, for instance, you will always tell the truth, you may not lie, sorry, that doesn't matter how times change. I am --
MORGAN: But here's my -- here's my -- here's my confusion about you.
MORGAN: Because you've been with your wife Kay, extremely generous in tackling things like AIDS.
MORGAN: You've given millions to helping fight AIDS.
MORGAN: Don't tell you don't have any --
WARREN: And worked with gay organizations all around the world.
MORGAN: Right. Right. So you clearly have no problem with gay people per se.
MORGAN: And yet you want to prevent them having the same rights to get married as straight people. That leads me to I suppose a more obvious supplementary question. Do you personally believe that gay people are born gay? Or do they become gay? Are they made gay?
WARREN: Yes. Yes. You know what, I think the jury's still out on that. It wouldn't -- it wouldn't bother me if there was, quote, "a gay gene" found, because here's what we know about life. I have all kinds of natural feelings in my life and it doesn't necessarily mean that I should act on every feeling. Sometimes I get angry and I feel like punching a guy in the nose. It doesn't mean I act on it.
Sometimes I -- as you pointed out, sometimes I feel attracted to women who are not my wife. I don't act on it. Just because I have a feeling doesn't make it right. Not everything natural is good for me. Arsenic is natural -- MORGAN: Yes, but that's -- but that's why, Rick, that's why -- I have to jump in again.
MORGAN: That is why, though, this is such an interesting debate, because, you know, I just -- I just believe fundamentally and passionately that gay people are born gay. I don't think you become gay. And I think if you were able to convince yourself that they were born gay, you would see it differently. You would see it as a natural condition that people are gay, and then you may change your mind about their rights to have the same fundamental rights as straight people.
But if you still believe that they're not born gay but become or get turned gay, then I can see that you can hide behind that as the justification, if you like, for not endorsing same-sex marriage.
WARREN: Sure. Sure. I do not believe attraction is a sin, but I do believe that some actions are sin. I'm not responsible for all of my attractions. We know, for instance, that some people are born with natural predispositions toward certain things, either good or bad. Every one of us have those.
I may not -- I'm automatically attracted to certain kinds of art, certain kinds of music, certain kinds -- I don't think that's a matter of right or wrong. But the bible clearly states that I am absolutely in control of my actions, and since I have chosen as my authority for my life not the government, not common culture, like that. And by the way, I appreciate the way you're developing this right now, because this is the very kind of discussions that we need to be having that are saying, that treat everybody with dignity, that treat everybody with love, but could disagree on certain issues and still say, you know what, I don't agree with that guy but I think he has come to his position from his background and from his basis.
MORGAN: OK. Rick, we're going to take -- I want to take a short break. Let's continue this after the break. And also talk about this fantastic story today, Angus Jones from "Two and a Half Men" who described his own show as complete filth.
MORGAN: Yes. Want to know if you agree with him or not. WARREN: I haven't heard this yet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGUS JONES, ACTOR, TWO AND A HALF MEN: Because people will see us and be like, oh, I can -- I can be a Christian and be on a show like "Two and a Half Men." I -- you can't, you cannot be a true God- fearing person and be on a television show like that. I know I can't. I am not OK with what I'm learning what the bible says and being on that television show.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Angus T. Jones, the young star of "Two and a Half Men," attacking his own show, calling it filth and saying it goes against his Christian values.
I'm back with Pastor Rick Warren.
A quite extraordinary 24 hours in that young man's life.
MORGAN: He's now recanted and apologized, I suspect at the behest of his publicist and employers. But clearly he felt very compromised by his new Christian beliefs in terms of what he'd done on the show, where the show to most people is just a bit of fun, a sort of fun comedy. Do you think he's taking it too far? And what would you -- what would you counsel him?
WARREN: Well, I don't really know his motivation behind it, so I would -- I would like to talk to him first before I would comment on his issue. I would say, and I think pretty much there's agreement that there has been a coarsening of our culture over generations and generations. And I know that things that used to happen in college, you know, filtered down to the high school level into the junior high level.
I was talking to somebody today just in the green room and they were telling me that they were -- their junior high -- I mean grade school teacher was asked everybody in the class to write a letter on friendship, an essay on friendship. This is a group of fifth graders. And one of the girls wrote an essay on friends, you know, with benefits on the concept of, you know, having sex with whoever you want to.
And this is a girl in the fifth grade. And so it's obviously that things are getting -- the standards of morality seem to be going lower and lower in our culture.
And another thing that's happening is that the Internet has definitely increased the level of rudeness in our society. We are losing, Piers, the civility in our civilization because it's very easy to hide behind a screen and to lob emotional -- emotionally loaded words and attacks at people without even -- you know, in the protection of your own security of your home, and I -- I would love to see liberals, conservatives, Muslims, Jews, Christians, gays, straights, and everybody else form a coalition to end stereotyping. I think that's an important thing that would be --
MORGAN: Well, I agree with -- I agree with that. Unfortunately I've got to be stereotypical as a cable news anchor and be bloody rude to you, I'm afraid, Rick Warren, because I've got to end it. We ran out of time. But I really enjoyed the conversation. I think it's an important conversation.
WARREN: Good to talk --
MORGAN: About a number of these issues. Please come back and discuss it in more depth soon.
WARREN: I enjoyed it.
MORGAN: The book "The Purpose Driven Life," of course, 10th anniversary expanded is on sale now. Very good to finally get to interview you. I enjoyed it.
WARREN: Thanks, Piers.
MORGAN: My thanks to Pastor Rick Warren. "AC 360" starts in a few moments.