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Billionaire Mort Zuckerman on His Disappointment With President Obama

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," January 20, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Meanwhile, Mort is mad. And you do not want to make a billionaire mad. A publisher, a real estate developer named Mort Zuckerman voted for President Obama, said a lot of great things about President Obama.

Now he's fed up with President Obama, penning a stinging column in which he wrote of the big guy, among others, revolting, politically corrupt, the worst he's ever seen. It is called "He's Done Everything Wrong."

You don't want to get on this fellow's bad side.

Mort Zuckerman, good to see you.

(LAUGHTER)

MORT ZUCKERMAN, CHAIRMAN & PUBLISHER, THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: It's good to see you, Neil.

CAVUTO: Man, if he's lost you, he's lost.

ZUCKERMAN: Well, I don't know that he has lost me, but it's sure has been disappointing.

I mean, I think his administration has just failed on several key areas. I think they didn't have the right priorities, which should have been the economy. I think the health care program should have had as its first priority to get costs under control, which is what the majority of the American public wanted, and then to see how much you could afford in the way of expanding coverage.

Instead, we have got a health care program that I think has really, really dismayed the American public, in terms of how it was handled. I mean, to buy off all of these different senators and congressmen in one way or another is a form of political corruption that is exactly contrary to what Obama said he would end, which is politics as usual.

Well, he ended politics as usual. He made it worse than usual, not better than usual. And I think this health care process has alienated the American public. There are only 34 percent who now support it, and 54 percent in the public, according to opinion polls, are against it.

This is something that they're going to try and force down the throats of America. And I think it's really unfortunate.

CAVUTO: When he has lost, you know, big liberal backers like you, I mean, that's not good, Mort.

ZUCKERMAN: Well, I don't know if it's good or bad. I'm just one individual. And all I can say is that I'm certainly involved in politics. And I...

CAVUTO: You're not just one individual.

ZUCKERMAN: Well, OK, I'm not just one individual.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: My point is, what does he have to do, then, to get back on Mort's good side?

ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think he has to do things that, frankly, are pragmatic, rather than ideological. And I don't think that's what we're getting.

I think we have to move to the middle. I think you have to do health care as a bipartisan effort, not as a partisan effort, which is what it's turned out to be. And I think this is why there has been this reaction in Massachusetts, which I think, to a good degree, was running against the health care program.

I also wrote several editorials really very strongly criticizing it, because I think it's a fiscal disaster for the country, the way it's coming out. And I...

CAVUTO: But, as important as even health care was for you...

ZUCKERMAN: Yes. I...

CAVUTO: ... you, as a businessman, would have said, well, let's prioritize the big things, right?

ZUCKERMAN: Yes. I mean, think they had the — they — they — I don't know why they have just lost touch with what the American public was thinking about.

The American public wanted to do something about health care, but what they wanted to do was to control its costs. That's the most important thing. The secondary thing was to expand its coverage. And it's being completely reversed by this administration. It's as if the costs don't count.

But they do count. And...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But a pragmatic politician — and maybe Bill Clinton was that — would have said, as he did after the '94 elections, in which his party as pummeled...

ZUCKERMAN: Right.

CAVUTO: ... the age of big government is over.

Do you expect to hear anything like that from this president?

ZUCKERMAN: I don't know. I would be very surprised, because I think they have gotten...

CAVUTO: So, then what happens?

ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think they're going to be in the deepest kind of political trouble. I think it's going to show up in the November election.

The biggest issue that this country faces, from the point of view of the average American family, is the economy. The jobless numbers are horrific. If you really take them all into account, it's somewhere above 20 percent, if you take partial employment, people who have left the labor force and people who are — who have looked for a job in the last four weeks. That is a disaster for America.

America is about — is a country where people do work hard and want to make a decent living out of it. Everybody is now really nervous about their economic well-being, and for good reason. So, we have huge problems.

And the deficit problems, I tell you why the deficit is such an issue, which it wasn't for a long time. When Americans find that they have mortgages that exceed the value of their homes, and credit card lines that they can no longer afford, they realize that debt means something.

We're going to go on a debt diet here in this country. But the government is going on a debt binge. You know, we are adding numbers to this, as if it means nothing. Trillions are just a casual number to add to the national debt. Who is going to pay for it? It's going to be the next generation of people.

CAVUTO: Well, why are you surprised, though? He did telegraph that, that he was going to be doing a lot of spending.

ZUCKERMAN: No, he did not telegraph that he was going to run this kind of health care effort.

And I will say to you he inherited a good deal of this economic program, economic difficulties.

CAVUTO: Right. But you think, by just increasing it, he just made it worse?

ZUCKERMAN: Right.

You look at what the stimulus program was. The stimulus program had a huge piece of it that was basically patronage and earmarks and a lot of Democratic programs that really had nothing to do with what was happening to the economy.

CAVUTO: What do you think the way he went after Wall Street, financial guys, fat cat bankers, and salaries, bonuses?

(CROSSTALK)

ZUCKERMAN: Yes. No, I mean, look, there is an issue. There is a great deal of anger.

CAVUTO: You're a big New Yorker. You're one of the richest New Yorkers.

ZUCKERMAN: Well, I don't know...

CAVUTO: He went after a lot of New Yorkers.

What do you make of it?

ZUCKERMAN: Well, I think it's wrong to do that. I don't think it's right to demonize these people.

I know there is a lot of populist outrage, but do they remember — and I said this at time when he went and spoke to Wall Street. What about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which got there with the support of the Democrats in the Congress? That's what kicked off the great housing bubble. That's what caused — started this whole thing rolling down the hill.

Did they ever talk about that kind of excess in the Congress? No. And, by the way, there were a lot of people who lied about their income and their net worth on these mortgage applications, because everybody thought housing prices were going up. This isn't something that is just due to the — quote, unquote — "the Wall Street community."

The Wall Street community or the so-called financial world is critical, not only to our economy, but is also critical to the extension of American power around the world. So, you just don't diminish them and beat them over the head and shoulders for political reasons. And that's what it's about.

CAVUTO: All righty. I don't think I would like to get on your bad side.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Mort Zuckerman, very good seeing you.

Could you imagine Mort being like a movie reviewer?

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Very good job, my friend. Thank you.

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