Interviews

Fmr. Morgan Stanley CEO Throws Support Behing Jon Huntsman

Former Morgan Stanley CEO and chairman of Huntsman's Business Advisory Council on his choice for 2012

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," January 9, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF “YOUR WORLD”: Well, he could be the surprise story tomorrow. Jon Huntsman on the hunt and now looking at least for a late surge.

The Republican presidential candidate has seen his numbers improve ahead of tomorrow’s New Hampshire primary. My guest is not all that surprised. John Mack, the former CEO of Morgan Stanley, now a top economic adviser to the former Utah governor, he joins me now in this exclusive chat. John Mack, good to see you.

JOHN MACK, FORMER CEO, MORGAN STANLEY: Good to see you, Neil. Thank you. Happy new year to you.

CAVUTO: You could have glommed on to any guy who looked like a winner, and you glommed on to the one by almost measure didn’t and doesn’t. Why?

MACK: Well, it’s pretty straightforward. I go to China often, as you know. And I got to know the governor there as ambassador. And I spent more time with him. And I would say three or four months later, he and his wife, Mary Kaye, were in town and wanted to sit down with me to get my support. So, Christy, my wife, and I sat down with them, and we enjoyed spending some time with them. And then we had dinner. We liked what he had to say. So on a lot of levels, we like what he stood for. You go back to what he did in Utah as governor and how he created jobs and what he did with taxes. I think his views are balanced.

CAVUTO: We just had a Club for Growth here who said they are not very balanced, he is a spender, and not the guy that a Club for Growth guy should like.

MACK: Well, look, everyone has a different view. I am giving you my view.

In my view, he is balanced. If you saw him on the debate this past Sunday, some of the questions that were asked, the way he handled it, and I think one of the things that resonated clearly with the audience and also with Christy and myself was his answer or his comment about the viciousness of the politics and the debate.

Let’s get to the issues. And stop picking on any nuance of a candidate that could embarrass them. Let’s talk what are about the real issues in the United States, and what we need to work on.

CAVUTO: When you talk about nastiness, then, John, what do you think of Newt Gingrich going after Mitt Romney and his Bain Capital stewardship? That almost sounds like a populist Democratic campaign.

MACK: Look, it is all about gotcha and he was trying to get him. I think what Romney did, it was private equity. As you and I have talked about that in the past, he did a good job at Bain. So that is not an issue that really needs to be flaunted and beaten up, just like I think some of the issues that people are going after Newt Gingrich on are not issues to me that really have to do how he would be as a president.

So, to get back to Huntsman, though, I like what he stands for. I like his experience in the international world. I like what he did when he was in Singapore as an ambassador. I like what he has done in China. And I like the answer to the criticism as a Republican, how can you take this job and work for a president and say some of the things you said about that president? His view is, as he has said, he’s an American, and you do what the president of the United States asks you to do.

So, I like all of that. I like his balance. I like his family values.

CAVUTO: You mentioned ambassador to China. The rap against him is he might be too congenial with the Chinese, as they’re taking advantage of us on trade and opening Apple stores and foreign Apple stores and on and on and on, and that he would be Mr. Nice Guy, but too nice.

MACK: But, Neil, what is the answer to that? Send no ambassador to China?

CAVUTO: I think Donald Trump gets a little in their face.

MACK: Yes, but Donald doesn’t do any business in China. And if he did I’m sure he would modify it somewhat.

We need someone to work with the Chinese and work with the U.S. politicians. One of the frustrating things I see when I go overseas -- and especially with China -- is what little experience our politicians have in dealing in the international community.

CAVUTO: So he has the international gravitas. You’re right there. But this is all politics, as you said. I know I am being very simplistic on it. But by not taking the "I will not hike taxes" pledge, he got a lot of conservatives in the party angry.

MACK: Right.

CAVUTO: His views on a lot of other issues are deemed to be much more to the left of his rivals, and that as a result, the only shot he has is in New Hampshire and that if he doesn’t make it here he will not make it anywhere. What do you make of that?

MACK: Well, number one, from a personal perspective, I like him being to the left of some of the candidates.

CAVUTO: You don’t think they could win?

MACK: I don’t know that.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Who is your second choice?

MACK: My second choice is not why I’m on this show. But my second choice would be Romney. There’s no question about that.

CAVUTO: All right, but would you support any of them over Barack Obama?

MACK: I think the toughest president for the president would be Jon Huntsman. That would be my view.

I think he’s more balanced, he has broader experience, and he led when he was governor of Utah for two consecutive terms. He has international experience and he has served his country. I think he would be the toughest candidate for the president to run against.

CAVUTO: What do you think of the president seeing Bill Daley go today?

MACK: I have been so busy today, I did not see that.

CAVUTO: His chief of staff is leaving, not even a year on the job.

MACK: Well, you know, I have spoken to Bill about three or four months ago when he was transitioning. So once he made that original transition, his job was bifurcated.

I think everyone knew it was just a matter of time he would leave. So I don’t think anyone is surprised by that. I think it is unfortunate. I think Bill Daley has good balance. I think he understands the business community.

CAVUTO: It sounded to me, John, that he could not a word in edgewise or couldn’t get his views to reach out to business out there.

MACK: Neil, I would say -- and I don’t have firsthand experience, so it is kind of hearsay, but what I have heard, I think that has been an issue for a number of people in the White House, including Rahm.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Rahm Emanuel, who went on to become mayor.

MACK: I think a number of people would say that.

The president has his group advisers and that who he knows and trusts and that is who he goes with.

CAVUTO: What about your old Wall Street colleagues? I know you’re just fresh into this former thing. But we have heard from Goldman Sachs and others that they are giving more money to Mitt Romney, appear -- front- runner for the time being of the Republicans, and that they don’t like this president, they don’t like the way they have been bastardized, they don’t like the way they have been framed, and they don’t like the fact that they have become the target of this P.R. rap.

MACK: I think the facts speak for themselves. I think they have become the targets.

CAVUTO: Justified?

MACK: I don’t think it is justified. Look, did we as bankers do everything right? The answer is no. But when you take a role that we are being accused of, I mean, we have all made mistakes, but we have been painted as a nefarious group of businessmen who are out to take advantage of anyone they can. And that is just not the case, but that is not what is portrayed.

So I think whether it is Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley, or whoever it may be who is talking about it, I think it’s justified.

CAVUTO: Generically, the economy right now, do you think it’s rounding the bend? The president seems to be hopeful, improving jobs numbers, retail sales numbers; all this other stuff is combining to make it look good.

MACK: Well, the numbers show that things are getting better. There’s no doubt about that.

CAVUTO: Do you buy that?

MACK: The question is, how much better?

I think a lot of it is dependent on what happens globally, especially in Europe. I think a lot of it depends on what happens politically, especially this coming year, and what goes in on the election. But things are better.

I think corporate balance sheets have never had this kind of liquidity and I think leverage is down dramatically. As you just said, you are seeing some growth in the job market. And people are feeling better.

CAVUTO: Good for the president.

(CROSSTALK)

MACK: Good for the president and good for the American people, but we still have a long way to get.

CAVUTO: Jon Huntsman, if he doesn’t do well tomorrow, the argument has been he has nowhere to go because some of the other states are more conservative and that he might entertain a third-party run.

MACK: I have not had that conversation with the governor. I would be surprised if he would do that.

CAVUTO: Would you support him if he did?

MACK: I would support him.

CAVUTO: Really, a third-party run, knowing that it could hurt the Republican?

MACK: Well, listen, I believe in voting for the right person, the person I trust and the person I want to see in that office. And I would absolutely consider to do that.

Look, if you go back and look traditionally -- I have been a Republican voter. In the last election, I supported Hillary Clinton. I thought she would be the best candidate.

CAVUTO: I remember that.

MACK: She didn’t get that. I ended up voting for a Democrat. But after four years of this Democrat, we need someone else.

CAVUTO: Very interesting.

We will watch very close. John Mack, former Morgan Stanley CEO, just fresh in that former role.

How do you like that?

MACK: I like it a lot.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Well, a real honor having you, John.

MACK: Real pleasure being here. Thank you.

CAVUTO: Best of luck. Enjoy your retirement, whatever that is like.

MACK: Thank you very much.

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