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PIERS MORGAN LIVE
Battle Over Background Checks; Remembering Margaret Thatcher; All Star Panel Discusses Margaret Thatcher, North Korea and Gun Violence in America
Aired April 8, 2013 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, farewell to the "Iron Lady."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARGARET THATCHER, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: There are those who say our nation no longer has the stomach for the fight. I think I know our people and I know they do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: She was loved, loathed, feared and admired. There's no question that Margaret Thatcher changed the course of history. Tony Blair joins me exclusively to remember the controversial and crusading prime minister.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They admired the fact that she did have strong convictions and in the end, she stood up for what she believed in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Also, Rudy Giuliani, why he calls Margaret Thatcher one of the great leaders of the 21st Century. I'll ask him about her and his thoughts on North Korea and guns in America.
Plus, President Obama's emotional plea. Will this be the moment that changes the gun debate?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This is about doing the right thing for all the families who are here that have been torn apart by gun violence and all the families going forward so we can prevent this from happening again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Good evening. This is PIERS MORGAN LIVE. When word came today that Margaret Thatcher had died, there was one person I knew I had to talk to tonight. That was Tony Blair. We'll get to my exclusive with him in just a few minutes. But we begin tonight with something we talked about a lot on this show, a subject that has managed to cause as much sadness, anger and outrage as guns. President Obama agrees and tonight is in Connecticut just a few miles from Newtown. He said just that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: If you believe that the families of Newtown and Aurora and Tucson and Virginia Tech and the thousands of Americans who have been gunned down in the last four months deserve a vote, we all have to stand up.
Let's do the right thing. Let's do right by our kids. Let's do right by these families. Let's get this done, Connecticut. Thank you, God bless you, God bless the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: I'm joined by White House Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri. CNN has learned that the universal background check option is highly unlikely to pass. It will be a much more watered down version. Out of the debate all together had gone assault weapons and high capacity magazines.
The president's made this very personal. He's been to Connecticut many times, made many promises that he would take action to the families of those who lost children in Sandy Hook. And in the end, if all that he manages to get is a watered-down peripheral kind of background check, that to me is just a disaster, isn't it?
I mean, no ban on the weapon that was used to slaughter the children, no ban on the high capacity magazine that the shooter used, not even a universal background check. What kind of response to the worst school shooting in American history is that?
JENNIFER PALMIERI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, as you know, this is something the president as you know, feels really personally deeply about. This is why soon after the shooting, we took a lot of steps, every step, as a matter of fact, that we could take within the administration to take any sort of action that we could to improve background checks.
Anything that we could do to improve school safety, all the actions that as a government, without the help of Congress, that we could do and we did that in early January, even before the president was sworn in, and then put before Congress again even before the inauguration, even before the state of the union, four pieces of legislation we thought they should pass.
As you know, this is something, limit magazines, background checks, and trafficking. You seem to have a pretty pessimistic view of what the Senate may do, but we think that, you know, assault weapons ban we know is going to be really tough. We think there should be a vote on it anyway because we think that should be the law.
We think background checks have a very good chance. We think with such a big majority of Americans supporting it and we do see we've had some discussions on both sides of the aisle with people over the last couple of weeks, of senators back in our home states.
And we think we feel there's just not any reason in the world why we shouldn't be able to -- be able to do this unless people want to let politics stand in the way.
MORGAN: But everyone knows that there are a number of Democratic senators who are intending to vote against probably their own conscience, but to go for political expediency to save their sorry little backsides at the next election.
Isn't it time the president fulfilled his real promise to those families and said to these Democratic senators, his senators, right, it is time that you stop worrying about the NRA, stop worrying about your seats, and started worrying about America and gun safety and you voted with your conscience. Isn't that what the president should now be doing?
PALMIERI: Well, I think that is what the president has been saying to both members -- to both parties, and you know, the reality in the senate today is that the overwhelming majority of Democrats support background checks, and all we need is a small minority of Republicans in the United States Senate to join with the 90 percent of Americans to support doing this.
You know, it's not -- we don't have that high of a bar to reach. We need 60 votes to get something done in the Senate. We don't think there's any reason why we should not be able to get that done.
MORGAN: I mean, the problem is that if this watered-down version of background checks that CNN has learned is likely to be the one that gets through is the only success here, what it means is that after all this, somebody can privately sell an AR-15 assault rifle with no background check.
And a 30-bullet magazine to somebody who may not be of sound mind, but may not have had any record of mental illness and that person can go to a school and do exactly what Adam Lanza did all over again. And that to me just seems utterly ridiculous.
PALMIERI: Well, I'm not sure what CNN has learned about what the Senate is likely to do this week, but our view is that we need to have an enforceable background check that happens no matter where you buy a gun, if it's at a store or at a gun show.
That is what the families of Newtown have said, you know, the families of Newtown that are working on this issue said in their letter to the Senate. We believe -- we know that there is bipartisan support for that in the country, we believe there's also bipartisan support for that in the Senate and that is what we are going to push to get done.
MORGAN: Jennifer Palmieri, thank you very much indeed.
Now I want to turn to the other big story of the day, tributes to Margaret Thatcher are pouring in from around the world. She was nothing if not controversial and they didn't call her the "Iron Lady" for nothing. Listen to this from her 1980 speech at the Conservative Party Conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THATCHER: To those waiting with bated breath for that favorite media catch phrase, the u-turn, I have only one thing to say. You turn if you want to. The lady's not returning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Joining me now exclusively is former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Tony Blair, very few people I think would know what Margaret Thatcher went through as British prime minister. You, like her, served three terms. How would you sum up her tenure?
TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think I come from the opposite side of the political divide, if you like, being a labor prime minister. She was a conservative one.
But you know, whatever your politics, you've got to accept she was a huge figure, a towering figure. You know, there are very few leaders that get the chance and have the ability to change not only their own national landscape, but the global landscape, and she did that.
So I think, you know, whatever your politics, you've got to say she was, you know, a very significant considerable prime minister and widely admired globally.
MORGAN: Reading my Twitter feed today and also seeing the front pages of tonight's newspapers in Britain, the level of division that she created and the amount of vitriol but high praise, depending on which side of the coin you were on, is really quite extraordinary, unprecedented, I would say, for any modern public political leader. Why was she so divisive?
BLAIR: Look, she took some very difficult decisions and she took decisions that were often extremely unpopular, so you know, even though over here in America, she would be I think admired probably both sides of the divide.
In the U.K., there are people in my party and people in the trade union movement who absolutely detested Margaret Thatcher and who always say to me how can you say she also did great things?
But if you're trying to set all that vitriol aside and be objective about it, the fact is she was a very, very considerable political figure. And some of the things -- look, some of the things she did, I disagreed with, over Europe, for example, but on other things like how British industry became more competitive and privatizing the state industries and putting trade unions within a proper legal framework, those things are with us still today.
I think they wouldn't be there today if they hadn't in the end achieved a certain stability and consensus in British politics. So quite apart from the fact she was Britain's first woman prime minister. She's a big figure and I think if people reflect for a little bit and don't get too partisan about it, even from my side of politics they've got to say this was a big historical figure.
MORGAN: She also had an extraordinary relationship with President Reagan, not dissimilar to the one you had as British prime minister with President Clinton. She seemed to realize like you did that that relationship is a special one and has to be nurtured.
BLAIR: She really believed in the alliance between the U.K. and the USA, and you know, this for her wasn't a matter of passing convenience. It was a matter of profound conviction. I remember discussing this with her when I first became prime minister and she came and saw me on Downing Street.
She was actually very helpful to me, very personally kind and very supportive, and one of the things she talked about was just the importance of this American relationship, the importance of Britain standing with America, and she had a loving regard for America that was genuine.
And that derived from the fact that she saw America as a beacon of liberty in a world in which there often wasn't liberty for millions and millions of people. So it wasn't, you know, it wasn't just an alliance for her that was based on political necessity. It was based on a deeply held personal belief.
MORGAN: You touched on the fact you used to talk to her privately. What was she like in private, Margaret Thatcher?
BLAIR: Well, the fascinating thing because obviously, I grew up in the sense politically with her as the prime minister, very distant figure. Then I became prime minister and she used to come and see me in Downing Street, just did it in a very private way, and in private, she was very different, in fact.
She was very personally kind. The staff, for example, in Downing Street really, really regarded her and liked her and she was very good with them. And you know, I found her at a personal level, never mind politically, but at a personal level, she had a genuine sense of fellowship with the fact she was with the person who was prime minister and she just wanted to help.
She was somebody who really believed in the country. You could disagree with her. That's, you know, as I say, she took some controversial decisions a lot of people didn't like her for that reason in the U.K., but I don't think even her worst enemy would say she didn't care about the country, and do what she thought was right for the country.
MORGAN: Are you speaking as somebody who perhaps is in a similar position, a divisive reaction perhaps back home, but oddly popular perhaps in America as she indeed has proven to be today?
BLAIR: Look, I think part of the problem is in modern politics particularly, that if you're in power for any length of time, you take difficult decisions. It's part of the position of leadership. As I always say to people, when you decide, you divide.
Those divisions can become very acute and difficult and controversial. Hers were more domestic in the sense of controversy. Mine were more foreign policy decisions that were controversial.
But in either event, you're the leader, you take the decisions. I think in a way, even some people on the left, although they wouldn't want to admit this, I think they admired the fact that she did have strong convictions and in the end, she stood up for what she believed.
So even the people who said I dislike those beliefs, I think admired the fact that she was prepared to stand up for them.
MORGAN: Tony Blair, always good to talk to you. Thank you so much.
BLAIR: Thanks, Piers. All the best.
MORGAN: When we come back, America's mayor remembers the "Iron Lady." We will also ask Rudy Giuliani about North Korea, guns in America and President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THATCHER: Ladies and gentlemen, we're leaving Downing Street for the last time after 11-1/2 wonderful years and we're very happy that we leave the United Kingdom in a very, very much better state than when we came here 11-and-a-half years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GUILIANI, FORMER NYC MAYOR: These are the kind of things that Lady Thatcher introduced here in the United Kingdom that became part of the Reagan revolution, the smaller Guiliani revolution in New York. She's really unleashed a revolution to that end. And for that, we have tremendous regard for you, Lady Thatcher. Everyone does. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Rudy Giuliani paying tribute to Margaret Thatcher back in 2007. The Iron Lady, a lot of fans on this side of the pond. Joining me now is former presidential candidate and former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani. Rudy, she was quite something, wasn't she, Margaret Thatcher?
GUILIANI: She sure was. She was a hero of mine. What you showed was a great honor for me. She gave me the one and only Margaret Thatcher Medal. Unfortunately, after she gave me that medal, it was supposed to be a yearly thing, she got very ill and she wasn't able to give another one. So I possess the one and only Margaret Thatcher Medal, of which I'm extraordinarily proud, because she was a hero and a role model for me in many of the things that I did as mayor of New York.
MORGAN: I met her a few times, Margaret Thatcher. And she was a formidable lady, no question. This is what Tony Blair said earlier - "when you decide, you divide." And certainly, he has a similar reputation now in Britain to Margaret Thatcher. A lot of people love him, lot of people hate him. But in America, they both remain very widely respected and admired. Why is that, do you think?
GUILIANI: First of all, including by me. I have tremendous admiration for both of them. I think they both were great prime ministers because they made difficult decisions.
I think Americans like both of them because they both understood, appreciated and respected America. And saw the relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom as what it really is, a truly exceptional alliance that goes beyond any one political dispute or any one disagreement.
I admire Margaret Thatcher because along with Ronald Reagan and Pope John and Mikhail Gorbachev - I mean, those are the people that led millions of people out of oppression. People who lived under communism lived in oppression. And very few people in their political career get to free people from oppression. And it was her, it was her introduction of Gorbachev to Ronald Reagan that first gave President Reagan the sense he could negotiate with this man, that he could work with this man. So it was a collaborative effort.
MORGAN: She was somebody as I say who was very divisive. But she was also, as Tony Blair alluded to, capable of great acts of kindness. She was also somebody who had a ferocious work ethic. I mean, she lived off about three or four hours' sleep a night. She used to get a tumbler of whiskey down at the end of the evening and then wake up in the middle of the night and go off again. Remarkable energy and so on.
But someone said to me something very interesting today. They said, you know, she was never really happy again after she was kicked out of office. Can you recognize that in somebody like her who was so consumed by the job and the power?
GUILIANI: Sure. I think that's probably true, although probably exaggerated. I got to know Margaret Thatcher better after she was out of office. That's when I got to talk to her, got to know her. I once substituted for her at a speech when she got ill.
She was probably somewhat unhappy out of office because she always felt that she knew how to properly direct Great Britain. But she also had a very, very full life. She wrote her memoirs, she was enormously happy with her husband, she kept involved in public affairs until unfortunately dementia set in. So I think that might be exaggerated a bit.
MORGAN: What do you think her legacy should be, Rudy? GUILIANI: Well, I think revitalizing Great Britain. I think there's a real parallel between her and her good friend, Ronald Reagan. I always describe Ronald Reagan as the most consequential president of the second half of the 20th century. Roosevelt as the most consequential of the first half.
And I think you could say about Britain that Churchill was the most consequential prime minister of the first half of the century, and she was the most consequential the second half of the century. She really defined her country. She turned it in a different direction. And even Tony Blair, who I think also was a great prime minister. But to some extent, he was a reaction to her. He had to take the Labour Party to the middle the way Bill Clinton had to take the Democratic Party to the middle as a reaction to Reagan in order to win. So she had a profound effect on the politics of Great Britain that exists to this day.
MORGAN: Well, she was a remarkable woman.
And we will come back to more Thatcher memories in a moment with our star panel, but Rudy, let's move on to guns. The president seems very emotional about this issue, and yet he seems to be paddling up a large, increasingly difficult river with very little chance of success. I mean, at the moment, they seem to be squabbling over whether he can win a battle to have a watered-down background check, which would still leave numerous loopholes. This is going to be a big failure, isn't it, for President Obama if he can't do better than this?
GUILIANI: First of all, we don't know what's going to happen. You never know in politics. I mean, he could still win this or lose it.
I think the White House and the president and people who wanted to do this made a critical mistake at the very beginning. I watched the assault ban go into effect when I was mayor of New York City. I supported it, played a small role in helping to get it passed, and was lauded by President Clinton for the role that I played.
President Clinton put together an omnibus bill that gave Republicans many things they had to vote for in order to overcome their reluctance to vote for it. What he should have done was include a great many provisions on mental health. He should have included a massive increase in how the database was going to be handled, new technology.
See, the people who oppose it -- now I would vote for it -- but the people who oppose it say it really won't do much good because most of the information -- I shouldn't say most, but a lot of the information that should be in that database isn't there. If these laws were in effect, it would have no impact at all on Sandy Hook because the man who committed the crime wouldn't have been listed in the database. And the mother would have been permitted to make the purchase.
So it's hard to really -- MORGAN: But what about my idea, though Rudy, which is you remove the gun that he used? You just don't have AR-15 military assault- style rifles available to any member of the public? You just say no, enough. Sandy Hook's the tipping point. Use one of the other 2,000 guns which will still be legally available to you.
GUILIANI: Then you still would have had a Sandy Hook. I mean, the reality is an insane person --
MORGAN: Not with an AR-15. Not with 30 bullet magazines.
GUILIANI: But now you're getting into the debate that the NRA wants. You are missing the prime point. The prime point is the reason it happened is because a very sick man was allowed to operate in society. And the reality is that very sick man, like the man over in Norway, I think it was, who killed even more people, was able to do it where they have very strict gun control laws.
So if you're not addressing the mental health part of this, you're not really addressing the problem. That's 70 percent of the problem. Gun control is probably 30 percent of the problem.
So, the president could have made it more difficult for Republicans to vote against it. Probably gotten more Republicans to vote for it who think the way I do if he had included substantial mental health provisions the way Governor Cuomo did here in New York. And that's how he got his Republican votes for his pretty tough gun control measure.
MORGAN: I certainly agree. I mean, should he be doing more of the Cuomo style of campaigning on this?
GUILIANI: Well, I think what Cuomo did was he put together a very -- even a stricter gun control approach. But he was able to get Republican votes because he took some very bold stands on disclosing information about people with mental illness.
And the other thing that the president should have done here is he should have very substantially proposed a way in which you do background checks that are accurate. A lot of the background checks that we do are inaccurate. Having said that, I would vote for it. But I can't tell you it would have a major impact on crime, at least not the way in which the president is presenting it.
MORGAN: The thing that really got my goat this weekend was the suggestion that a number of Republicans are preparing to filibuster any of these gun control votes. John McCain took exception to this. Listen to what John McCain said first.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don't understand it. The purpose of the United States Senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where we stand.
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS HOST: So you would encourage Republicans not to filibuster?
MCCAIN: I would not only encourage it, I don't understand it. What are we afraid of?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Pretty disgraceful, isn't it, Rudy? Pretty disgraceful, though, for senators to threaten to filibuster gun control voting.
GUILIANI: That's why he should have been our president, John McCain. I love John.
John is a man of great common sense. First of all, we're talking about the Senate. The Senate should vote. There should be a vote. Everybody should vote up or down on this. I don't know, they're probably going to defeat it anyway even if there was no filibuster. Even if they don't, you have a Republican House you got to get it through after you get it through the Senate.
I don't understand why the Republican Party is creating this problem for themselves about filibustering. If they want to block this legislation, they have a House of Representatives in which to do it. So I don't know why they're creating this sort of additional political issue that isn't required.
MORGAN: Couldn't agree more. Rudy, thank you very much as always for joining me.
GUILIANI: Thank you, Piers. How you doing?
MORGAN: Very well, thank you.
GUILIANI: Good. Good to see you. Haven't seen you in awhile.
MORGAN: I know. You've been far too lax. Come back again soon. Take care.
When we come back, some of the smartest minds around on Margaret Thatcher, North Korea and President Obama and his battle on guns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARGARET THATCHER, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I stand before you tonight in my red star Chiffon evening gown, my face softly made up and my fair hair gently waved, the Iron Lady of the Western World.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Margaret Thatcher displaying some of the grit that earned her the nickname the Iron Lady. Joining me now is CNN's Fareed Zakaria, also Richard Haass, author and presidential Counsel on Foreign Affairs, presidential historian Douglas Brinkley and Niall Ferguson, professor of history at Harvard and author of "The Empire, the Rise and Demise of the British World Order."
Welcome to what has to be the single most stellar panel I have had in two years at CNN, gentlemen. So thank you for joining me. A lot to get through tonight. Let's start with Margaret Thatcher.
Niall Ferguson, as a fellow Brit, where does Margaret Thatcher rank in the pantheon of British prime ministers?
NIALL FERGUSON, AUTHOR, "THE EMPIRE": Second only to Churchill, I would say. Churchill was described rightly by that great historian A.J. P. Taylor (ph) as the savior of his nation. And I think Margaret Thatcher was also the savior of her nation. You know, the others on the panel won't know what Britain was like in the 1970s, but you and I know, Piers, that the country was in an appalling mess. And she single-handedly turned that around. So she is up there second only to Churchill, in my view.
MORGAN: Fareed Zakaria, rather like Churchill, she got kicked out. Churchill got kicked out, of course, after the Second World War. British have a way of doing these things. But where does she stand globally, do you think?
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, I would agree with Niall. I think in some ways -- in some ways, she's more consequential than Churchill. And I don't mean to belittle in any way Churchill. But Thatcher is the only British prime minister who I can think of who has an "ism" named after her, Thatcherism. You are a Thatcherite. Churchill was a political gadfly. He moved around. He was conservative; he was liberal. His great role was during World War II.
Margaret Thatcher came at -- came into the western world at a point where the state had expanded in a way that is -- people don't remember now. But the phone company, the utility company, the railroad company, the airline company in Britain were all state owned. She privatized all that. Unions were effectively running the country. The top marginal tax rate in Britain in the 1970s was 83 percent.
So she began the turn to markets that was then followed in country after country, not in exactly the same way. 1979, the year Margaret Thatcher comes to power, is the beginning of the kind of return of free market economics to the world. So she's very consequential.
MORGAN: Richard Haass, she once said if you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman. Would we be looking at Margaret Thatcher in a different way if she had been a man presiding over that period in Great Britain?
RICHARD HAASS, : For the most part, not at all. I don't mean to belittle her accomplishment by who she was, the first female prime minister. But, for better and for worse, her accomplishments speaks on their own -- speak for themselves, and I think for better. There's nothing about what she did with the Faulklands or what she did with Iraq or what she did with things much more nuanced, diplomacy with Rhodesia, first, and then with South Africa, that you would say this is because she was a woman, or in any way attributable to it. It was simply she showed remarkable range, at times being incredibly firm, at times showing real flexibility and realism.
That's why I think, in some ways, her record's so remarkable. Like Reagan, she was much more multi-dimensional than many of her advocates and her critics actually acknowledge.
MORGAN: Douglas Brinkley, she was divisive. But is it just a reality that to be a great leader, you have to be divisive? Tony Blair used this phrase, if you decide, you divide.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, I think that's right. First off, look, Winston Churchill's in a category all by himself as British prime minister. I mean, warding off Nazi Germany is not the Faulklands crisis. But the rest the panelists I think are right. Thatcher -- by '79, Britain was an economic mess. And she came in and really inspired Great Britain to remember that it had a role in the world. The point of the Faulklands was that it wasn't done with the U.S., that Britain could do it by itself.
I noticed Margaret Thatcher's going to have military honors -- full military honors at her funeral. That would mean a lot to her, because she was about the national security of Great Britain. And really her legacy is about winning of the Cold War, the toughness. She was part of that group with Reagan and Mulrooney (ph) and the Pope that really started putting the Soviet Union on the run, on the defense, right at the time of Perestroika and Glasnost and Gorbachev.
It's not -- there are many books now being written about the revolution of 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down. Thatcher was a key spur to all of that.
MORGAN: Niall Ferguson, you will be as well aware as I am that back home in Britain, a lot of hatred spewed out today towards Margaret Thatcher, a lot of hatred that has been simmering for a long time, never really went away. A lot of it down to things like her poll tax policy which many felt victimized for young -- the poorest and most vulnerable sections of society. There was a sense that she created the entrepreneurial spirit, yes, but with it came a venomous, the rich get richer, the poor, well they can look after themselves. Was that justified? Was it fair?
FERGUSON: Well, I have been enjoying your show not least because I heard a former editor of "The Daily Mirror" and a former Labor prime minister say positive things about Margaret Thatcher. I don't know that you would say so many of those positive things back at the time, when those of us, particularly those of us in the academy who took Margaret Thatcher's side, were a very, very small and beleaguered minority. There was a huge amount of hatred.
You know what makes people really hate a leader? It's when that leader turns out to be right. Margaret Thatcher consistently was right about things that the British left were totally wrong about. Not only was she right about the Cold War at a time when many on the left were ready to do unilateral nuclear disarmament, to give away Britain's nuclear deterrent. She was also completely right about the economy.
You know, just after she came to power, the U.K. lost in a single month nearly 12 million working days due to strike action. Inflation was in double digits. It peaked out under labor at 27 percent. She was right to say you have to impose monetary controls to bring inflation down under control. I remember vividly people on the left -- I'm not going to personalize this by blaming you personally, Piers, but certainly many people on the left vilified Margaret. They vilified Margaret Thatcher. And what they really hate today is that she was right and they were totally wrong.
MORGAN: Actually, I never vilified her. But a lot of the readers of "the Daily Mirror," the paper that I ran for ten years, did really hate her. But Fareed, in terms of Thatcher's style, we all talk at the moment about compromise in Washington, yet she really didn't stand for compromise whatsoever. She wasn't for turning. She famously never read the newspaper. She would make her own decision about stuff, wouldn't be directed by critics, wouldn't be deflected by critics and just did what she felt was right for the country. Compromise to her was an ugly word.
ZAKARIA: Yeah. Now remember, the prime minister of Britain has enormous powers. This is one of the fundamental differences between the British system and the American system. When you become prime minister of Britain, particularly with your own party's majority, not a coalition government, you are simultaneously in control of the executive branch and the legislative branch.
So imagine Barack Obama simultaneously controlling the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate. In that circumstance, you can push through an agenda. You can be much tougher. And she was even within the context I'm describing very, very tough. She believed you spell out your position and if compromises have to happen in the process, let them happen, but you don't start by negotiating with yourself and making unilateral compromises.
The American system, I would argue, is somewhat different. No one is fully in control and therefore, compromise is sort of a built- in necessity. And I'm not so sure, you know, it is as heroic a stand to say that I'm never going to compromise because the reality is it probably means you won't get very much done. Thatcher was a very practical politician and I think she would have seen that and recognized that in this context, that kind of heroic unbending stand might not work.
MORGAN: To give you some idea just how powerful she was, I once got into a ferocious argument with her at a Rupert Murdoch drinks party in the 1990s where she eventually exclaimed very loudly "don't even think about putting that rubbish about income tax into your newspaper, young man." Rupert Murdoch arrived out of the corner of the room, saw what was going on and said to me, word of advice, never tangle with Margaret Thatcher; you will not win. So that said to me that that was the woman -- ZAKARIA: On the other hand, Piers, that very attitude, that kind of completely rigid attitude is what ultimately did her in, to a certain extent.
ZAKARIA: She became so dictatorial within her own party, she stopped listening to people -- and you know, maybe 11 years is a long time anyway, but certainly it seemed -- remember, she was ousted by her own party, not by the opposition.
MORGAN: Yeah, sure. Let's take a break --
FERGUSON: can I disagree with that?
MORGAN: Yeah, you can. Quickly, yeah.
FERGUSON: Because it's very important to understand what brought Margaret Thatcher down. It wasn't a great wave of popular opposition. It was a conspiracy within her own cabinet in favor of making the British currency part of a European exchange rate mechanism. And she opposed that just as she opposed the idea of creating a single European currency. And once again, she was completely right.
The biggest problem she had in British politics, right the way through her career as prime minister, was the people in her own cabinet who didn't get it. She called them the wets, as opposed to the dries who were on her side. Ultimately the wets did for her but they were wrong. They were completely wrong about Europe. Look at Europe today, in a disastrous mess because of the single currency and a federalist project that she opposed.
MORGAN: Well, one thing's for sure, she was one of the most talked about women in history, certainly modern history. I'm sure will continue to be so. Thanks for talking about Margaret Thatcher. Let's take a break, come back and talk about North Korea and about President Obama and his battle on guns.
MORGAN: North Korea remains defiant, threatening a possible missile strike. American officials say don't be surprised if the North tests a missile this week. Back with me now is CNN's Fareed Zakaria, also Richard Haass, Douglas Brinkley, and Niall Ferguson.
Richard Haass, you've been through a few of these scrapes in the past. How serious is this one? There is a sense from a few people now that it may be getting genuinely serious.
HAASS: Well, it's serious, but not in the way people think. I do not believe we are on the cusp or the precipice of an intentional conflict. If a conflict were to happen, I really think it would be more through stumbling. I actually think all this talk about a North Korean missile launch is, in a narrow way, actually not a bad thing. And let me explain what I mean. I can actually imagine the North Koreans launching a missile that would give this young leader something he could point to. He could then claim victory, which would then let him walk things back and back down, and essentially get us out of this manufactured crisis.
None of this will affect the fundamentals. We still have a divided Korea. We still have a North Korea that has a half dozen or so or ten nuclear weapons. China is still unwilling to use all the influence it has and should be using. But I do think we are likely to walk back from the brink that we seem to have come close to.
MORGAN: Fareed Zakaria, how important is China in all this now? Because they're the ones really I guess who can have any kind of control over North Korea, if anyone can.
ZAKARIA: China is the key. And the reason China is the key is remember that North Korea is one of the most, if not the most isolated country in the world. It trades with no one. China provides it with 50 percent of its food, 80 percent of its fuel. And it could stop doing that but it rarely has. It almost never has done that because it worries if it does that, the regime will collapse. And what will that look like for China? Millions of refugees streaming across the North Korean border into China. More importantly, a Korea that's unified, but of course unified in the German style, on the South Korean nation's terms, which would mean a pro-America country with 30,000 American troops and, by the way, 10 nuclear bombs, as Richard Haass pointed out, all that on China's border.
So they look at all that and say, we're not ready to do anything that could make them, the North Korea regime, collapse. And that's fundamentally what keeps this country alive. Because absent China's help, it seems pretty clear that in 2013, a dictatorship like North Korea that managed to starve two million of its own people and survive simply could not survive any longer.
MORGAN: Doug Brinkley, is the president doing enough? Is he doing the right kind of things with North Korea?
BRINKLEY: Well, I think we need to do more to help Japan right now and have a new American military strategy. And we have asked Japan to demilitarize. They're our great ally. CNN does a lot of stories about the special relationship with Britain and Israel. What about our special relations with Japan? And how frightening it is for them to have a kooky country like North Korea and feeling very vulnerable.
You might see a missile being lobbed somewhere that really grabs the attention of the Japanese people. So I think we really need to get behind our ally, Japan, right now. President Obama is -- I think is doing all he can. Up until now, North Korea has been guys like Bill Richardson and Jimmy Carter, kind of parachuting in, trying to negotiate. I don't know how you negotiate with these people. I'm sure we're doing it on a subterranean level. But we don't want to give any serious credence to a country that is this kind of despicable rogue nation like North Korea is.
MORGAN: Let's take another break. Let's come back and talk guns and President Obama. And I am going to come to you, Niall Ferguson, after the break.
MORGAN: Back with my all star panel. Niall Ferguson, guns and America, is there ever going to be a significant cultural change in America in relation to guns, do you think?
FERGUSON: Well, I really wish there would be. I love the United States. I have made my home there, though you see me sitting in Hong Kong. There are so many things about America that I love. But this is something that I find it terribly hard to understand. I do not think that the founding fathers had in mind when the right to bear arms was part of the Constitution that people would be able to acquire assault rifles and shoot school kids in their classrooms. This is not really what was intended.
And so I have struggled to see why it is such a carefully enshrined part of American conservatism that guns should be freely available. You know, in the U.K., where I lived for many years, it's extremely difficult to possess firearms. Even if you're a farmer, you have to have your ownership of a shotgun registered with the police. That allows background checks to be done to make sure crazy people don't get assault weapons. It seems to me the most obvious common sense. We began this show by talking about Margaret Thatcher. I know exactly what she would have said on this subject. And she was not somebody who thought that a conservative was a conservative if you have a cupboard full of very powerful weapons.
That's not , to my mind. I struggle to understand why it's such an important part of American conservativism today.
MORGAN: Fareed Zakaria, the president said an interesting thing today. He said he tried to say, look, this is not about politics, not about left or right. And the reason that struck a cord with me is that we had our own Sandy Hook in Britain in Dunblane in Scotland the mid ' 90s. Sixteen young five-year-old children gunned to death by a lunatic. And it was never political, the debate. It was never left or right. Everyone just came together and said we have to do something, of course we do.
And we did do dramatic stuff in relation to gun control. I don't get why it's so politically divided here, why if you're pro-gun, you have to be a Republican; if you're pro-gun control or gun safety, you have to be a Democrat.
ZAKARIA: You know, you can look around the world and you'll find actually, by in large, the people who tend to be for tough gun control measures, in Europe, in countries like Australia, tend to be conservatives, because they're the people who listen to police chiefs, worried about law and order, feel like it's important for streets to be safe, for cities to be safe. Those positions have traditionally been associated with conservatism.
America, as you know, has this unique issue of a wild west culture and the right to bear arms. But something Niall Ferguson that's very important is the practical reality here is that England and Wales have a three percent rate of gun homicide compared to the United States. That is, their rate is three percent of ours. Our rate of gun homicide is 12 times that of the industrialized world, of other rich countries.
We don't have 12 times as many ill people. We don't watch 12 times as many bad video games. It's guns that do it.
MORGAN: Fareed, very well put. Gentlemen, got to leave it there. I could have talked to you guys all night. A really stellar panel, like I said before. So to Richard Haass, Fareed Zakaria, Douglas Brinkley and Niall Ferguson, thank you all very much, indeed.
And we'll be right back.