How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

Buffett likens debt fight to 'nuclear bombs'

October 4, 2013: 11:34 AM ET

Warren Buffett likens the impasse in Washington to nuclear war. Out of this crisis, Americans should learn a great lesson, he says.

FORTUNE -- Fighting about the debt ceiling "ought to be banned as a weapon," says Warren Buffett. "It should be like nuclear bombs: too horrible to use."

"It's deeply immoral," adds Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA), where Buffett is chairman and CEO. Munger calls the recent U.S. government shutdown "deeply irresponsible" and says, "I think if my Republican friends keep doing this, they're going to pay a terrible price."

While the legendary investing partners have agreed on stock-picking principles for 54 years, they've never been extremely in sync on politics -- Buffett has supported Democrats, while Munger is a Republican. But when I interviewed them Thursday evening, they agreed on the inanity of the current showdown in Washington. And they noted lessons from five years ago, when Congress united to pass the historic bailout bill and stabilize the economy.

"Go back and behave like that," Munger, 89, advises Congress.

Buffett, 83, agrees, hoping that Democrats and Republicans recall the value of cooperating in 2008 -- and learn from the current crisis. "Some good may come out of this," Buffett says. "This may be like after we dropped a couple of atomic bombs. We saw that we didn't want to do it again."

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About This Author
Pattie Sellers
Pattie Sellers
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune
Executive Director of MPW/Live Content, Time Inc.

Pattie Sellers has written more than 20 Fortune cover stories including "Marissa Mayer: Ready to Rumble at Yahoo," "Muhtar Kent's New Coke," "Oprah's Next Act", "The $100 Billion Woman" (Melinda Gates), and "Gone with the Wind" (Ted Turner). She co-founded Fortune Most Powerful Women and oversees the Fortune MPW Summit, the preeminent gathering of women leaders in business and beyond—and programs such as Fortune MPW Entrepreneurs and the Fortune-U.S. State Department Global Women Leaders Mentoring Partnership. Pattie also develops Live Content across Time Inc. Her blog, Postcards, is about how power players lead and navigate their careers. Pattie won Time Inc.'s prestigious MVP award for her performance in 2012.

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