On this “Face the Nation” broadcast, moderated by Margaret Brennan:
- Keisha Lance Bottoms, former mayor of Atlanta and senior adviser to President Biden
- Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire
- Chris Krebs, former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and CBS News cybersecurity expert and analyst
- Laura Meckler, Dr. Scott Gottlieb and Emily Oster
Clickto browse full transcripts of “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m Margaret Brennan in Washington.
And this week on Face the Nation: The midterm elections are just hours away, and candidates are spending the weekend barnstorming their states with some of the biggest names in politics.
Democrats argue democracy is on the line. Republicans say the party in power is wrecking the economy. It’s a mad dash to get out the vote. And the stakes are high, as both parties vie for control of Congress for the next two years.
It’s all just ahead on Face the Nation.
Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation.
The most important and probably most competitive midterm election in years is now down to the wire. More than 39 million votes have already been cast. And across the country, candidates are out in full force, hoping to persuade the persuadable, turn out their true believers and, perhaps their most difficult challenge, explain to people why this election is so important and why they need to vote.
In their words, here is what it comes down to:
GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS (R-Florida): They came into office, and they created the worst inflation crisis that we have seen in four decades.
BARACK OBAMA (Former President of the United States): The Republicans like to talk about it, but what’s their answer? What’s their economic policy? They want to gut Social Security. They want to gut Medicare. They want to give rich folks and big corporations more tax cuts.
MEHMET OZ (R-Pennsylvania Senatorial Candidate): Young couples want to make that first investment for a starter home. They can’t afford the interest rates. We have families all over the commonwealth worried about crime, so much so, they won’t send their kids outside.
JOE BIDEN (President of the United States): Your right to choose is on the ballot.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Your right to vote is on the ballot. There’s something else on the ballot: character. Character is on the ballot.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
HERSCHEL WALKER (R-Georgia Senatorial Candidate): But you heard him say the biggest threat to democracy is voting for the Republican. Are they serious? The biggest threat to democracy is having Joe Biden in the White House.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The main event is Tuesday, control of the House, which has been shifting in Republicans’ favor in these last weeks — they need five seats to take over — and control of this Senate, where just one turnover will put them on top.
We are tracking 10 key battleground races, five of which are hotly contested toss-ups.
Our Kris Van Cleave is in Arizona, our Nikole Killion is in Georgia, and our Robert Costa has been reporting in Pennsylvania.
And that’s where we begin this morning.
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: It’s a choice, a choice between two vastly different visions of America.
ROBERT COSTA (voice-over): It’s a choice that’s as competitive as ever. Right now, the Senate race between Republican Mehmet Oz and Democrat John Fetterman could not be closer. Three presidents barnstormed the state this weekend.
DONALD TRUMP (Former President of the United States): If you want to stop the destruction of our country and save the American dream, then, this Tuesday, you must vote Republican in a giant red wave.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ROBERT COSTA: On the Road from the campus of Penn State to the suburbs of Philadelphia, voters told us that the economy is front and center.
Are you feeling economic pain in your life?
MAN #1: Yes. I’m a fixed income.
ROBERT COSTA: Fetterman, who is recovering from a stroke in May, says that voters who want to blame Democrats for inflation should think again.
LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR JOHN FETTERMAN (D-Pennsylvania): What I would say to them is, is that you need a senator that is going to push back against corporate greed and the kind of price gouging as well too. I mean, like that — this is my point.
ROBERT COSTA: Oz has courted frustrated voters. Last night, near Pittsburgh, he urged his supporters to win over neighbors by asking them if they’re happy with the nation’s direction.
MEHMET OZ: I want you to contact 10 people. Do it at church. Do it before the Steelers game. Just find the time.
ROBERT COSTA: But the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t play this week, and the remark gives Oz’s critics another chance to claim he is out of touch.
KRIS VAN CLEAVE: This is Kris Van Cleave in Arizona, where both the Senate and governor’s races appear to be in dead heats.
Battling for his political life, Senator Mark Kelly rallied in Phoenix with first lady Jill Biden.
SENATOR MARK KELLY (D-Arizona): Women have lost a constitutional right, and that is taking us in the wrong direction.
KRIS VAN CLEAVE: Republican challenger Blake Masters has closed the gap by hammering Kelly on the economy, crime and the border.
BLAKE MASTERS (R-Arizona Senatorial Candidate): Mark Kelly, Joe Biden, they have opened up our Southern border. They have given our sovereignty over to the Mexican drug cartels.
KRIS VAN CLEAVE: Kari Lake is a rising star in the Republican Party and one of three election deniers at that top of the state’s GOP ticket. Democrats have seized on that.
FORMER PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Democracy as we know it may not survive in Arizona.
KRIS VAN CLEAVE: That is quite a statement, that you are a threat to democracy.
KARI LAKE (R-Arizona Gubernatorial Candidate): I wonder what he’d call Hillary Clinton, because she’s denied so many past elections. And she’s already denying the next election in 2024.
KRIS VAN CLEAVE: But she’s running for governor.
KARI LAKE: We have the right — we have the right to question our government and our elections. It’s called the First Amendment. And I intend to continue to use that right.
KRIS VAN CLEAVE: Her opponent, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs:
KATIE HOBBS (D-Arizona Gubernatorial Candidate): Kari Lake is focused on being as extreme as possible, whether it’s the issue of abortion, whether it’s the 2020 election.
KRIS VAN CLEAVE: Starkly different campaigns on a collision course over the future of Arizona.
NIKOLE KILLION: I’m Nikole Killion in Georgia.
MAN #2: From the great state of Georgia, Herschel Walker!
NIKOLE KILLION: It was a homecoming for Herschel Walker at the University of Georgia, where the former football star was game-ready.
HERSCHEL WALKER: Just like the Dawgs are going to win today, that’s what’s going to happen on Tuesday.
SENATOR RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-Georgia): The way to have a voice in a democracy is to have a vote.
NIKOLE KILLION: Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Walker are locked in a heated contest that could determine control of the U.S. Senate.
STACEY ABRAMS (D-Georgia Gubernatorial Candidate): I’m here to tell you, we have got the power, Georgia!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
NIKOLE KILLION: In the governor’s race, it’s a rematch between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican incumbent Brian Kemp.
STACEY ABRAMS: Polls tell us that this is a tight race.
GOVERNOR BRIAN KEMP (R-Georgia): We need a big turnout on Election Day.
NIKOLE KILLION: More than 2.5 million Georgians have already voted, a state record, but, here in Cobb County, elections officials say more than 1,000 absentee ballots were never mailed, calling it a critical error.
They blame overworked staff, but say that’s no excuse, and they’re working to contact impacted voters — Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Nikole Killion, Kris Van Cleave, and Robert Costa, thanks to all of you.
We turn now to Keisha Lance Bottoms, the former mayor of Atlanta. She now serves as a senior adviser to President Biden, but the White House tells us that, this morning, she’s appearing only in a personal capacity.
Good morning to you.
KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D-Former Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia): Good morning. Thank you for having me.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You said last month you were concerned about a lack of voter enthusiasm in Georgia, but the secretary of state says there is a historic level of turnout.
What does that signal to you now?
FORMER MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: Well, I’m glad that people are turning out to vote.
When I said that last month, I was sounding the alarm. And we have seen a record number of people turn out in the early vote, but we still have an election on Tuesday, and we cannot let up until this election is over.
I was on the ballot five years ago, seven points down going into Election Day, and I won by less than 800 votes. It doesn’t matter what the polls say. People still have the ability to show up to vote on Tuesday and to make a difference in Georgia.
The thought of Herschel Walker going to the Senate is frightening.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That is the Republican candidate for the Senate.
Black voters helped turn Georgia blue back in 2020 and send two Democratic senators here to Washington.
How do you explain to Black voters now, who are so key in Georgia, that they should help support the party, given that, when Democrats held the majority for these past two years, top priorities like police reform and voting rights really haven’t been addressed?
FORMER MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: Well, we have to remember that there has been a very thin margin, but there have been a number of issues that have been addressed that impact not just African-American voters, but voters across this country, student debt relief, $10,000, $20,000 if you are Pell Grant-eligible.
A vast majority of African-American students are Pell Grant-eligible. There’s also been a reduction in prescription drug costs. Insulin will be capped at $35 a month, $2,000 a month annually.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Starting in January.
FORMER MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: Absolutely, starting in January.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And the loans are — the student debt relief is caught up in the courts and you know a part of dispute.
FORMER MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: They are caught up in the courts because Republicans are pushing back against relief to American families across this country.
African-American voters are key in Georgia; 29 percent so far have shown up in the early vote. That means that there are a lot of people left out there, not just African-American voters, but voters across the state, who can still show up on Tuesday and make a difference in this election.
And that’s what Democrats will need in Georgia for us to continue to send Raphael Warnock to the Senate and also to have Stacey Abrams elected as governor.
MARGARET BRENNAN: In our polling, we see consistently that it is the economy and inflation that are top of mind for voters.
The president said just a few days ago that he has passed so many good things, but people haven’t realized how good they are yet.
Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin said, the truth is: Democrats have done a poor job of communicating our approach on the economy.”
DNC adviser Cedric Richmond, you know him well. He told CBS: “The president’s message of what he’s been able to accomplish has not gotten out there.”
Hillary Clinton just said: “The work done by Democrats is impressive, but we got to get that message across more effectively.”
If the policies are so good, why is communicating them such a problem?
FORMER MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: Well, it’s been a very difficult couple of years.
We have been in the midst of a pandemic. There’s been a lot of misinformation flooding the airwaves. We see it in waves, not just on television, but we’re seeing it through YouTube. We’re seeing it on other social media platforms. So, it is more difficult to get the message out.
But I’m sitting here today getting the message out. This administration, Democrats in Congress have delivered for the American people. And to turn back the clock and not allow us to keep pushing through will be devastating for people across America.
If we want prescription drug costs to remain low, then we need Democrats in Congress. If we want voting rights finally passed in Congress, we need Democrats in Congress. If we don’t want a national ban on abortion and for doctors and health care providers to be sent to prison for offering an abortion to a woman whose life may be in danger, then we need Democrats in Congress.
And that’s the message that we will continue to push out, not just through Election Day, but beyond, because we know that elections happen quite frequently, and we can’t have people so discouraged that they think their votes don’t matter.
MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden said this week at a fund-raiser, if Democrats do lose in the midterms — so, he’s entertaining it is a real possibility — he said: “It’ll be a horrible two years. The good news is, I will have a veto pen.”
Is complete gridlock what America needs to prepare for?
FORMER MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS: Well, we know that President Biden ran on being able to work across the aisle.
So, of course, the American people want us to be able to get things done. But when you have Republicans say that they will pull back aid to Ukraine, that their — their entire platform is based on doing what Joe Biden doesn’t want done, that’s not what the American people want.
We want progress in this country. And we want leaders who believe in democracy. We don’t want leaders who deny elections. I heard Kari Lake say that people have a right to question their government. They absolutely do, but they don’t have a right to overthrow their government, in the way that we saw that on January 6.
So, when you have election deniers who have the — who may go to Congress, who may be elected to statewide office — we have one in Georgia, Burt Jones, who’s running for lieutenant governor, an election denier — that’s — that’s not just a danger to Democrats. That’s a danger to everyone who believes in what this country stands for.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Keisha Lance Bottoms, thank you for joining us this morning.
And we go now to Newfields, New Hampshire, and that state’s Republican governor, Chris Sununu, who is up for reelection on Tuesday.
Welcome back to the broadcast.
Governor, our public polling that we’re looking at indicates that you’re likely to keep the governor’s seat after Tuesday. Back in 2021, you canceled your own inauguration due to security threats.
You’ve personally experienced the threat of political violence. I’m wondering, how concerned are you in this moment now? And will you hold an inauguration if you win again?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU (R-New Hampshire): Yeah, so a couple of things here.
Obviously, with — with Speaker Pelosi and what happened recently, I think that is kind of re-looking at — everyone’s kind of looking at what this political violence is. It’s on both sides. It’s everywhere. The heat is too high all across America. Good leadership brings that down.
I will be holding my inauguration, fully plan to do so. But, again, we have got to, as leaders, bring the temperature down. It’s OK to disagree, but, at the end of the day, you got to be able to move forward. And we fully plan to do that here in New Hampshire.
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. I want to come back to that topic in a moment, but, first, inflation. It’s top of mind.
New England is facing its highest energy costs in more than 25 years. Could be a cold winter. Your largest utility in the region is asking the White House to prepare emergency measures to prevent a natural gas shortage this winter. What — what’s the federal response been so far? And are you, at the state level, prepared for what could be a safety threat?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Yeah, I will say the federal response so far has — has been very underwhelming.
All the governors got on the phone recently, about a month ago, with the secretary of energy and tried to talk about what those opportunities were in terms of increasing natural gas. New England is really at the end of the line for natural gas, right? All of our natural gas comes through Albany.
And, in previous years, if there was a high demand or a big cold snap, folks come home, they turn their heat on, the Marcellus Shale would increase production. But no one’s incentivized to do that. There’s no — no opportunity to do that right now.
And I think that’s where a lot of the utilities, and rightly so, are telling this administration, you’ve put policies in place. It’s having a very drastic effect on energy and fuel oil prices today, and likely is just going to get worse. So we need to see something across New England.
There’s nothing political about energy prices, right? But when you have all the ability in the world to produce your own fuels and refuse to do it, obviously, folks in New England are quite frustrated.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, there’s record production right now, as you know. But this is a very real problem.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Yes.
And, because of the Jones Act, because — and because of the Jones Act, that is this antiquated 100-year-old union-driven policy that President Biden refuses to get rid of, we have very minimal opportunity to bring natural gas from even parts of our own country and land it right here in — in New England.
So it’s not just New Hampshire. It’s Massachusetts. It’s Maine. It’s all of these states that are that are — that are feeling record high prices because, again, we’ve shut down natural gas plants. We’ve disincentivized fossil fuels. It’s — look, we all want to transition into renewables. And, of course, that’s a very smart thing to do, but it must be a transition.
This administration went all or nothing. So that’s why you see your — it takes — costs twice as much to fill your gas tank, your fuel oil, your energy prices. And, in New England, when it gets cold, it’s going to be — there’s going to be some real pain for all of us.
And, again, we’re just asking the administration to reverse some of these policies, in — incentivize more production and more natural gas through Albany, New York, to get us what we need.
MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden, in one of his closing arguments, is framing a selection is protecting democracy against extreme Republicans. Listen.
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: The extreme MAGA element of the Republican Party, which is a minority of that party, as I said earlier, But it’s its driving force, is trying to succeed where they failed in 2020, to suppress the right of voters and subvert the electoral system itself.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you agree that parts of your party are emboldening violence and posing a threat to democracy?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Look, what is shocking to me about all of this is, you have the Democrat Party, which is now using the president of the United States, not as leader of our country, but leader of their party, as a political tool, right before the election, to drive and effectively tell half of America that they’re too extreme for America.
It makes absolutely no sense. And to say…
MARGARET BRENNAN: You think the MAGA element of the Republican Party is half of America? Because I wouldn’t necessarily put you in that half.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: No, well, definitely not.
But again, to say that that extremism belongs in one party, and it doesn’t appear in the Democrat Party is — is nonsensical. Nobody buys that…
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re saying the party is all one now…
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: … because we see it on both sides.
MARGARET BRENNAN: … unified, that extreme MAGA is part of the Republican Party’s ideology?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: No, no, absolutely not.
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Absolutely not, no.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But it seemed like that’s what you were implying.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: It’s an absolute minority.
But what I’m saying is, extreme — no, no, no, no, definitely not. Extremism is on both sides. And for the president of the United States to come up and be more of a political tool, as opposed to a uniter — remember, he got elected because he said he was going to unite folks, not threaten them.
He was going to bring everybody together and get stuff done and not polarize this country, which is exactly what has happened.
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: If that was not the reality, then Democrats wouldn’t be in for the rude awakening they’re going to come — that’s going to come Tuesday.
But it is coming, and not because of politics. Because of what is happening in people’s homes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: What’s happening at their kitchen tables, what’s happening with trying to balance a checkbook.
And the president has to take a lot of responsibility for that. It’s easy to blame ex — just blame extremism.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well…
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: But most of us are not extreme.
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.
Well, President — former President Donald Trump is expected to announce his candidacy for the presidency. CBS is reporting that. That could be within a matter of days.
What does that do to your party? Does anyone have a chance of actually beating him in a Republican primary?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: What does it do to our party? Nothing. Nothing. It’ll have no effect on anything. And I mean that quite sincerely.
First off, announcing you’re going to run for office between an election and Christmas is a terrible idea, because one thing I can say for America is, we’re all going to be really happy, one way or the other, that the election is over come Tuesday, and everyone’s going to want to take a breath and reengage with their families and deal with some really serious issues.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well…
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: And then politics really gets back into the mix of things in early ’23.
Whether the — President Trump decides to run or not, it’s not going to make any difference in terms of the fact that you’re still going to see eight to maybe even a dozen other candidates jump in the race.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: He doesn’t keep anybody out of the race, right?
So it’s still going to be, I think, on both sides. I think — I don’t think President Biden is going to run again. I think on both sides of the aisle, you are going to have maybe a dozen individuals over the next six to nine months come out and decide to run.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
Well, and your name’s floated as one of them, potentially. I know you’re not going to give me an answer to that question right now. But you did turn down the invitation to run for Senate.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Yeah.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has voiced some concern about candidate quality in this midterm election.
You told “The Washington Examiner” that the Republican majority would just obstruct President Biden until 2024. You didn’t want to be a roadblock for two years.
You’re setting pretty low expectations for what a Republican majority would actually mean. Is that what we should expect, just nothing for two years, total gridlock?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: No, I — look, I think — well, I think both sides both sides of the aisle — both sides of the aisle in Washington have set a horribly low expectation for Washington.
I mean, think about it. They pass — one way or another, they pass a bill, Republicans or Democrats or both, and we cheer it. It’s supposed to be this great, great success because they got something done?
It is just an absolute gridlock mess there on both sides of the aisle. So, as a governor, I can have so much more impact on what is happening on the ground level, redesigning systems, implementing better mental health services, implementing better opioid services, whatever it might be.
And this is New Hampshire.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: And if you spent — anyone who spends more than 10 minutes in New Hampshire knows now not an easy place to leave.
So I just want to get stuff done. If I’m going to put my family through the difficulties of public service and all that comes with it, I’m sure as heck going to get something done. And you can do that far more effectively as a governor than you can as a senator or congressman.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Now, leadership can change that. Leadership in Washington can absolutely change that on both sides of the aisle.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: And I think that’s what America is looking for.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, I’m — sounds like we’ll be talking to you again.
Governor, thank you for your time today.
We’re joined now by Chris Krebs, former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. He’s a CBS News expert and analyst.
Good morning to you, Chris. Good to have you back.
How do you react to this idea of President Biden characterizing the MAGA element of the party as an extreme threat to democracy?
CHRISTOPHER KREBS: The area that I’m most focused on right now is the undermining of the legitimacy of American elections.
And Governor Sununu mentioned leaders need to stand up and — and speak truth to power, and — and particularly the elements of the GOP that continue to repeat countlessly debunked claims.
I mean, we even have the GOP candidate for governor, Kari Lake, in Arizona just the other day making a joke about there’s no way that President Biden got 81 million votes. In fact, he got more than 81 million votes.
But the point here is that we do need leaders like Governor Sununu to stand up and say that this is not acceptable behavior in American democracy, and that we need the — those that continue to push these narratives for clout, for political influence, for — for money, for fund-raising, that they need to let it go, and we need to move on, if this American experiment is going to continue.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we’re going to continue this on the other side of that, but, just to your point, there are 308 Republican candidates who have raised doubts about the integrity and validity of the last election.
They’re standing for office now. There’s a reason they are using that as a political message. We’re going to talk about that in a moment.
So, stay with us on Face the Nation.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Tune in Tuesday for our CBS News election coverage. We start at 5:00 p.m. on our streaming network and then go on the air at 8:00 p.m. on our broadcast network.
So, join me, Norah O’Donnell, Gayle King, John Dickerson, and the whole CBS News political team. Chris Krebs will be there too. Full coverage of the midterm elections.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Join me Tuesday, Norah O’Donnell, Natalie Morales, Nikole Killion, Caitlin Huey-Burns, all of us.
On Monday, we will also have a Twitter Space conversation about the role of women voters in the midterm elections. That’s Monday at 3:00. And you can listen live on the CBS News and Face the Nation Twitter handles Tuesday, full election coverage.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.
We return to our conversation now about election security with CBS News cyber security expert and analyst Chris Krebs.
Chris, I want to talk about something that’s happening right now. Social media has already changed the way we communicate, and certainly our political world. President Biden said a few days ago that he has concerns about billionaire Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter. He said the platform spews lies all across the world. There’s no editors anymore in America. There are no editors. How do we expect kids to be able to understand what is at stake.
It’s not just kids, right? What concerns do you have about this happening just days before the election, these changes to Twitter?
CHRISTOPHER KREBS: Well, I think – I think the government, for one, has a mechanism by which they can review the acquisition. The Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States can take a look at particularly the second and third ownership positions in Twitter, including Saudi Arabia. That is something that I’m assuming that the Treasury Department is taking a look at right now, see if they can put in place a national security agreement or even potentially unwind the purchase.
But I think more specifically to what’s happening right now with Twitter, I think there are kind of — there are two Elons that we’re seeing. There’s the public Elon that’s, you know, trolling and saying $8, please, on all the complaints about some of the shifts in the moderation and other activities. Then there’s what’s happening behind the scenes, the conversations with the civil rights groups, with advertisers, with the teams, which, perhaps, may be a little bit more stable.
And I think if you look at the platform itself right now, not a whole lot has changed. That may not be a popular opinion, but I think the reality is that most you haven’t seen too much of a change in the moderation.
Now, the concern, though –
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
CHRISTOPHER KREBS: Is what happens tomorrow where you can buy the blue check for $8 a month. The Twitter Blue.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And just for our viewers who don’t use Twitter.
CHRISTOPHER KREBS: Right.
MARGARET BRENNAN: A blue check is a sign of credibility.
CHRISTOPHER KREBS: It has historically been a marker of trust in that Twitter has said, we have confirmed and authenticated the identity of this person, which tends to be a politician or a news media personality or a journalist, an academic or someone that may be a popular voice in certain civil rights, civil liberties issues.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Now you can buy it for $8 a month.
CHRISTOPHER KREBS: And along with a number of other features of editing and longer form video posting. But, again, to have such a dramatic shift in that marker of trust, now you can buy it, in advance of, as we’ve been talking about, a very contentious and important election, it opens the information space to a broader community of influencers, clout chasers, election denialists and – and is —
MARGARET BRENNAN: Foreign actors?
CHRISTOPHER KREBS: Absolutely. I mean we’ve seen reports lately of Russia, China and Iran back at their old tricks. And it is going to create a very chaotic environment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: To that point, in 2018, during the midterms, cyber command took offensive operations to take out Russian trolls who were spreading misinformation. “The New York Times” has a story today saying, Russia’s back at it. What does that say to you about U.S. defenses?
CHRISTOPHER KREBS: Well, I think – so, recorded future and graphic of two research firms have released information that Russian bots, trolls associated with the internet research agency, which is a group that targeted the 2016 and the 2018 election, are back at it and are undermining this time Democratic candidates for Senate in some of the – the – the more contentious races.
I think what it says is that the – that there’s a broader community of actors. They recognize that political discourse is very divisive here in the U.S. and they have more opportunities probably than ever before to continue to undermine confidence, to create chaos, which is really their primary objective here is not necessarily that a winner wins, but that we’ve all lost confidence and they degrade the American, you know, democracy experiment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There are also a number of sitting senators, and, of note, Ambassador Richard Grenell of — former President Trump’s acting director of national intelligence, has been posting some misleading information — that’s him on the screen — about the election. He said any state which doesn’t count all the votes and announce the winner Tuesday night is incompetent.
Now, votes –
CHRISTOPHER KREBS: So, all 50 states then by that formulation.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Because what you’re saying is just the fact that votes are never finalized on election night. But why do you think someone who knows better is posting something like that?
CHRISTOPHER KREBS: Well, whether he knows better, I can’t assume that. But the point here is that it’s for clout-chasing. It’s for influence. There is a reward system and structure set up right now within the far right of the GOP that provides additional engagement. So, you tweet something like that and you can see your likes, your retweets, your amplification really take off. And if you’re just talking about some other, you know, more mundane domestic issue, nobody cares. But there’s a reward system and incentive structure that’s set up where exactly this sort of messaging is – is rewarded. It’s encouraged.
And – and this is, again, going back to Governor Sununu’s comments. We need leaders to lead. We need the presumptive leaders of the Republican Party to stand up and say, this is unacceptable. This is not how it works. We need to be good-faith actors in this process and, unfortunately, leaders aren’t leading right now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Chris Krebs, thank you, as always for your analysis.
And we will see you on election night as part of CBS coverage at our democracy desk here at CBS News.
MARGARET BRENNAN: This year CBS News has been tracking four groups of election influencers who could prove decisive in this year’s midterm campaign. One group, Pressured Parents. They say they’re anxious about the post-Covid era, particularly when it comes to their finances and their children’s well-being.
For a closer look at some of the concerns facing this group, we’re joined now by Laura Meckler, national education writer at “The Washington Post,” Scott Gottlieb, as you know him, the former commissioner of the FDA and a board member at Pfizer, and Emily Oster, an economist at Brown University, and she joins us from Providence, Rhode Island.
Good morning to you all.
Emily, I want to start with you. You wrote an article about pandemic amnesty. You said, basically, we need to forgive public officials for what they didn’t know during the worst of the pandemic. You had argued early on for opening of schools when the pandemic was still raging. What do you think we need to be focused on now? Because some of the debate still seems to be stuck two years ago.
EMILY OSTER, (Economist, Brown University): Yes, so I’m an economist, but I’m also a parent. And I talk to a lot of parents. And what I can say is right now parents are very worried about the next steps for their kids. They see the historic test score declines. They see the declines in routine vaccination rates for kids. And they want us to be looking to solutions. They don’t want to be looking to rehash the debates that we had two years ago. They want to know, what investments are we going to make as a policy group to fix the problems that they’re seeing for their kids.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, amen to talking about solutions, but we aren’t, Laura, talking much about them as a country. To those scores that we just heard mentioned, the Education Department reported appalling historic declines. Twenty-five percent of fourth graders are below the basic level in math, 37 percent were below the basic level in reading. How much of it is linked to the pandemic closures? How much of it is linked to a broader problem? And why aren’t we hearing more about it?
LAURA MECKLER, (National Education Writer, “The Washington Post”): Well, we’re talking — some of us are talking a lot about it. I think that it is really important. We have seen historic declines in — particularly in math, but also in reading. And it is certainly linked to the pandemic. Some of it is linked to the schools that were remote for an extended period of time. But even schools that were not remote, also we’ve seen — I mean that were not remote for very long, I should say –
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
LAURA MECKLER: Have also seen significant declines in academic achievement. So – and I think that compared with the sort of social, emotional mental health real crisis that we’re seeing among children and teenagers right now is really putting enormous amount of pressure on schools and on families.
MARGARET BRENNAN: To your point, because we looked at it, New Hampshire, which opened earlier, Georgia, Florida, where schools reopened faster, they may have fared better but they still saw declines.
LAURA MECKLER: Exactly.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, there’s still something happening.
LAURA MECKLER: Exactly. And I think that what most experts will tell you is that, you know, the pandemic was still happening. Even if kids were back in school. First of all, there were closures. There were quarantines. People were in and out of school.
But beyond that, you know, people were experiencing loss. They were seeing stress all around them. They didn’t have their normal lives. So, I think that, you know, the pandemic had a deep effect on families and on children and on schools. And I think those are going to be continuing for really many years to come.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And I know I don’t like it when people say the pandemic’s over because I still feel like I’m living through this haze, Dr. Gottlieb. School closures are still a live issue. I mean we’ve seen upticks in RSV, in flu and other viruses and some schools have closed. In Indiana we just saw one. Virginia. Should communities just take this out of the tool kit and keep schools open no matter what?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB, (Former FDA Commissioner): Well, look, we have a major epidemic of RSV. It may be peaking right now. We’re going to enter into a major epidemic of flu. And we haven’t been taking the actions that we would normally be taking to try to mitigate these kinds of pandemics because. I think a lot of public health officials and I think a lot of school districts are a little bit gun shy right now given the backlash to what we did during the pandemic.
Closing a school for one incubation cycle for two or three days when you had a major outbreak of flu or RSV in the past was not that uncommon. If you had 40 percent, 50 percent of the kids out of school, you might close for a day or two. Now when a school does in Indiana, it’s national news.
We know hand hygiene, for example, is very effective at stopping flu transmission. Do you hear any school district talking about hand hygiene right now? We know wearing a mask if you have the flu or RSV when you go out is effective at preventing forward transmission. Nobody wants to say that. So, I think that there’s a lot of reluctance now, in part because of the failures of public health messaging during the pandemic and the things we got wrong and the backlash to it. So we don’t have a good solution for what we’re entering right now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you make of – of Emily’s premise here, that there needs to be amnesty?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, look, I think we need to distinguish – and she was at the vanguard, to your point, at arguing for schools to opened. A lot of kids got back in the classroom because of her efforts. So she’s – she’s advocating on behalf of others when she talks about amnesty.
I think we need to distinguish between structural failures of institutions and mistakes that were made because we were in the fog of viral war and we didn’t understand the – the virus itself. There were institutions that failed. CDC. There were a lot of systemic failures there. Even people talk about the teachers union not working to get people back in the classroom.
And then there were things we got wrong. We didn’t recognize the virus was airborne. We thought it was droplet transmission, so we advocated the use of cloth masks when they weren’t effective. So, there were things we did wrong because we didn’t understand the virus. We need to learn from that.
But I think the – the structural features that we got wrong, where institutions failed, that we can’t move on from because we need to reform those institutions.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Emily, parental rights has been harnessed effectively by Republicans in certain places on the campaign trail. But our CBS News polling shows this is broad concern, to your point.
Seventy-two percent of those polled say they’re concerned about learning declines after Covid. Seventy-two percent said they’re worried about bullying at their kids’ school. Sixty-eight percent said they’re worried about gun violence. Fifty-seven percent said discussions of sexuality and gender concern them.
There’s so much concern about the classroom. What — where does the focus need to be and where does it need to come from here?
EMILY OSTER: I think that the focus needs to be on what we need to do to move forward for solutions, and, you know, and — to give you a concrete example, when we look at something like test scores, which many parents are very worried about, we see that over the last school year there’s been some test score recovery, but that’s uneven. Some school districts have recovered to where they were in 2019. Some school districts haven’t recovered at all.
At this point, if we want to speak to these concerns of parents, we need to think about, what are the investments we’re making to figure out, why have some school districts been successful, what did they do that was successful? How can we comport those lessons over to districts that haven’t been successful? This kind of solutions-based focus has to be where we go rather than rehashing the discussions we had two years ago. That’s how we’re going to find solutions and get kids back on track because it’s, frankly, exactly as you say, kids are really suffering and we’re losing time on getting them back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Laura, the focus that we are hearing about the classrooms is on like the content of what’s being taught in them. And we saw that in that 57 percent discussion of sexuality and gender. Is that just because it’s easier to access or understand or – you — why?
LAURA MECKLER: I think that the sort of culture wars that are — have gripped schools in the last couple of years are now coming to the question of gender and sexuality. For a long time we saw them centered on issues of race. Like, so-called critical race theory and there was conversation — discomfort among conservatives of conversations – of talking about systemic racism, for instance. And – and that has kind of given way now to concerns around gender identity, and transgender, transgender women competing in sports. All of those things, I think, are – are concerns among many conservatives and there are a lot of candidates for office and political figures who are playing on that and talking a lot about that.
And I think when they talk about parental rights, that’s what they’re talking about. They don’t want – they – they will assert things like, you know, schools are trying to turn boys into girls and girls into boys.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
LAURA MECKLER: I don’t think that that’s true. But that’s the kind of fears that — because I think there’s still a lot of discomfort with the idea of questions around gender identity and there are people really working to tap into that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. I mean what Emily has argued is like, we need data on how to make up for educational deficits.
LAURA MECKLER: Well, this has nothing to do with that. I mean —
MARGARET BRENNAN: That – that’s (INAUDIBLE) on a bumper sticker?
LAURA MECKLER: Yes. I mean, right. Exactly. I mean, yes, that is the core problem facing education today, right now. Actual academics. Can kids do math? Can kids read at the levels they need to? Those are skills you’re going to need on into your education and into life. These other things are just much more emotional and tapping into sort of these culture war conversations that we’re having in this country.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Dr. Gottlieb, I mean when you look at parents, it’s like a formula shortage, completely incoherent messaging from the CDC that you just laid out here, child care shortages in part due to what’s going on with infection rates. It is hard not to have anger and emotion about public health and how it’s communicated.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Yes, look, I think that there’s a pervasive sense, rightly so, that public health institutions have failed the public and that they weren’t equipped to tackle the challenges that people have been facing. We shouldn’t have had this shortage that we had with the formula. We should have responded to it more adequately than we did. CDC didn’t put out practical guidance, didn’t advise families on what to do. They required them for six feet of distancing is what kept most schools shut well into the spring of 2021. So, there’s a pervasive sense that public health institutions didn’t work on behalf of families. They were slow to integrate new information. And there’s not a – there’s not real evidence that they’ve reformed themselves. There hasn’t been an effort by the administration to try to, you know, try to reform – fundamentally reform CDC. CDC s working to reform itself, but that’s not usually the way it works. It’s hard to self-organize around a new mission if you’re an agency.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: So, I think if the administration had been more aggressive at addressing these deficits, they’d probably — people wouldn’t feel so much angst.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Or you need to hear that from perhaps the new Congress, the pressure to reform.
Emily, you also raise, in your article, the question of mandates for vaccines. Are you arguing for flu and Covid vaccine mandates, because that’s very controversial?
EMILY OSTER: In the article I discuss routine vaccinations, measles pertussis, where we don’t typically have mandates, but the rates have been very high. They have gone down over time. We haven’t seen schools move to Covid vaccine mandates, and I don’t expect them to.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
EMILY OSTER: And, similarly, we haven’t seen flu mandates, and I don’t expect to see those either.
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. And I know Dr. Gottlieb also is against mandates of – of flu.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Yes, I don’t think this vaccine reaches the threshold of being mandated in schools.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
All right. Thanks for all of you. We could do a whole hour or more on all the parental tensions right now, but we’ve got to leave it there.
We’ll be back in a moment with more on how the fight over abortion rights is impacting the midterms.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We are joined now by our chief legal correspondent, Jan Crawford, and our political correspondent, Caitlin Huey-Burns.
Good to have you both here at the table.
Caitlin, I want to start with you.
You’ve been covering abortion access in states around the country. And that’s where the decision about access will be made, at the state level.
There are five states where abortion access is literally on the ballot November the 8th. What’s the expectation on whether this election will make access looser or tighter?
CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS: Yes, and in three of those states, California, Vermont, Michigan, the question is whether to amend the Constitution to enshrine abortion rights into law. And then the other two states there is either a ban or attempts to criminalize it.
But the biggest one I’m watching is in Michigan, that ballot measure, because there’s such a competitive governor’s race there with Gretchen Whitmer, the incumbent, the Democrat, very much campaigning on this issue of abortion access and rights, trying to galvanize her base of support and reach out to those independent suburban women in particular. And it’s interesting because Tudor Dixon, who’s the Republican running against her, is trying to say to voters, look, you can vote for this measure and also vote against Gretchen Whitmer and vote for me.
The biggest question that we’ve been having this election cycle, when it comes to ballot measures is, you know, does this actually translate to support for the Democratic candidate?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS: I was in Kansas covering that ballot measure where we saw overwhelming turnout, where we even saw Republicans vote for it. But that was a direct question to voters. And so when it’s on the ballot with candidates, does that have the same effect? And I think Michigan will be an interesting test of that.
We’re also looking at states like Wisconsin and North Carolina, that don’t have ballot measures, but the makeup of the state legislatures and other competitive races there could shape how this comes out because that’s really where this is being decided, it’s at the state legislative level.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Which is what the court intended.
JAN CRAWFORD: Sure. I mean it said that, you know, this is not a federal constitutional issue. This is an issue the state should decide. And leave it to the political process. And that’s what we’re seeing.
I think what’s interesting, though, is, you know, some of the – the – the debate and the outcry among Democrats back in July has kind of receded a bit. I think once people realize the Supreme Court hadn’t banned abortion when it overturned Roe versus Wade and that many state laws weren’t really changing at all has kind of taken a backseat to issues like crime, inflation, the economy. But it does still have an impact.
And then, on the flip side, I think it’s important to remember for Republicans what that decision has done. Had the court refused to overturn Roe versus Wade, it would have really demoralized a key segment of the Republican base. Those voters who care deeply about social issues. The pro- lifers, the evangelicals, people who care about religious liberty. Instead, in order turning Roe, they’re galvanized. Those voters are excited, enthusiastic about voting. And — and that’s an important segment for Republicans.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re also seeing, at the national level, where there isn’t a law protecting abortion. The conversation from President Biden is, if Democrats win, I will enshrine abortion access, specifically at that 24- week — the language that was in Roe.
But then you have Senator Lindsey Graham trying to start the conversation and say it’s got to be up until 15 weeks. Is the bottom line that we will just not see any national law, period, that it will stay at the states?
CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS: Well, what we’re seeing is both sides are using it to galvanize their supporters, right? Democrats are threatening that Republicans get control and then there will be a ban. And Lindsey Graham handed them kind of a gift in saying, look, I would like to implement national restrictions.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Restrictions but not a ban?
CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS: But not an outright ban at 15 weeks. But I think, you know, and you talk to Republicans and they don’t want to say at this point, yes, I’m supportive of a national ban, because they don’t want to turn voters away. That they need to attract here. And it also kind of flies in the face of their argument that this should be a state’s issue. But there – there is no question that this is a base amplifying issue and — and Democrats need it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Jan, I want to ask you about a case that is also getting politicized potentially here. Moore versus Harper. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke about it to a progressive group and said it’s about right-wing extremists having a plan to literally steal the next presidential election. That’s a big statement. What is this case about and what’s the outcome?
JAN CRAWFORD: Well, she’s talking about a case that the court’s going to hear arguments on next month. And it involves this kind of — called the independent state legislator theory. And to opponents, that’s a radical theory that would really strip state courts from having any oversight into the election laws and procedures that are adopted by state legislatures for federal elections.
Now, supporters of this new theory say, well, the federal constitution gives that power to the state legislatures, not to the state courts. And if you’ve got a problem, take it to federal court and they can deal with it.
The question I think is not so much would it directly address things like seating presidential electors. The concern for opponents of this theory, and it is a serious concern that they have, is that if the court adopts this theory, then that sends a message, Katie bar the door, state legislatures can do anything they want. And that, they believe, is dangerous in terms of what they may try to do in some of these election laws and procedures.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you, ladies, for tracking that for us.
We’ll be back in a moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s it for us today. We will see you Tuesday for election coverage. For FACE THE NATION, I’m Margaret Brennan.