Full transcript of “Face the Nation” on Feb. 12, 2023
On this “Face the Nation” broadcast, moderated by Margaret Brennan:
- Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana
- Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas
- Govs. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, Doug Burgum of North Dakota and Wes Moore of Maryland
Click here to browse full transcripts of “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m Margaret Brennan in Washington.
And this week on Face the Nation: breaking overnight, a U.S. F-22 shoots down a third unidentified aerial object in the skies over Northwestern Canada, and fighter jets are scrambled following a curious radar signal over Montana. What are these incursions all about?
Just one day after U.S. fighter jets shot down a high-altitude airborne object over Alaska, on Saturday, an unidentified item was taken down over the Yukon territory of Canada. Debris recovery for both objects are under way, as the FBI continues its analysis of what’s left of that Chinese spy balloon that was shot down a week ago off the coast of South Carolina.
We will talk with two key lawmakers, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul and Senator Jon Tester.
Saturday night, the military sent fighter aircraft to investigate what it called a radar anomaly over Tester’s home state of Montana. Frustration is mounting on Capitol Hill about what’s going on here and what more we can do to head off these intrusions.
Plus, we heard the president’s take on the State of the Union. But as the nation’s governors convene in Washington, we will check in with four of them on the state of their states and the challenges that they’re facing.
And, as the death toll grows in Turkey and Syria, we will have the latest on recovery efforts and share our perspective on some of these global threats.
It’s all just ahead on Face the Nation.
Good morning, and welcome to Face the Nation.
As we come on the air, the big question in our minds today is, what is going on here with what seem like a deluge of potential incursions? What are these objects? Where are they coming from? What is their purpose? And are we experiencing an increase of the so-called unidentified aerial objects, or are we just looking for them more carefully following the Chinese spy balloon event?
We will do our best to try and get some of those questions answered today.
We are going to begin with Montana Senator Jon Tester.
Good morning to you, Senator.
SENATOR JON TESTER (D-Montana): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, late Saturday, NORAD and NORTHCOM said there was a radar anomaly over your state, which is why airspace was closed.
Was it a false alarm, or is there an object over Montana?
SENATOR JON TESTER: Well, I think the investigation is still going on as we speak.
The truth is, is that there was an anomaly, and they’ve investigated. I think it got dark last night, so they couldn’t fully check it out. I’m sure, as we speak, it’s being checked out right now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So it hasn’t been ruled out? There may still be something up there?
SENATOR JON TESTER: Absolutely. There may still be something out there. It may be a false alarm.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is the policy now to shoot down any unidentified object?
SENATOR JON TESTER: Well, I think that’s a very, very good question, and that’s a better question for General Milley.
But the truth of the matter is, is that they need to have a policy. They being the military needs to have a policy to recommend to the president. It’s something that, as — as chairman of the Defense Committee and Ranking Member Collins, we’ve already talked about this. We’re going to make sure that there is a plan. We’re going to make sure, if that plan needs to be funded, that it gets funded.
This is — what’s gone on the last two weeks or so, 10 days, has been nothing short of craziness. And the military needs to have a plan to not only determine what’s out there, but determine the dangers that go with it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you don’t know what will happen to this object over Montana?
SENATOR JON TESTER: My guess is, it’ll get shot down.
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.
SENATOR JON TESTER: But the military will make an assessment as to potential collateral damage, just like they did on the Chinese spy balloon.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you have spent time, as I understand it, with General Milley…
SENATOR JON TESTER: I have.
MARGARET BRENNAN: … the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and other DOD officials.
Could he share with you anything about this mysterious object that was cylindrical and floating over Canada or the car-sized one over Alaska?
SENATOR JON TESTER: Well, I think you’ve got what he shared with me at that moment in time, and that they had done an assessment of it and determined that it was unmanned and determined that it should be shot down because they weren’t absolutely positive that it was of no threat.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, the object over Alaska was near Prudhoe Bay, which is one of the most important energy fields in this country.
SENATOR JON TESTER: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Does that sound to you like it’s espionage, state-driven espionage?
SENATOR JON TESTER: Well, look, I don’t think things happen by mistake when it comes to China.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You think this was China?
SENATOR JON TESTER: I don’t know. I don’t know that it’s China. We will find out later on if, in fact, it was affiliated with the Chinese Communist government or not.
But — but the bottom line is, is that I think we need to take these things seriously. I think the president and I think, more importantly, the military are taking it very, very seriously. And — and, to back that up, I think through the appropriations process in the Defense Committee, we’re going to make sure that they’re taking it seriously.
So, the checks and balances will be there as we move forward. But this is – – like I said, this has been a phenomenon that we haven’t had recently, where we’ve had other countries that have went into our airspace for the purpose of trying to gather information on what we’re doing here in the United States.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You said and you underscored your key role in helping to determine the budget there for the Pentagon…
SENATOR JON TESTER: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: … that you don’t remember hearing anything that dealt with balloons.
How long has the military actually been tracking this?
SENATOR JON TESTER: Well, I mean, that’s a better question for the military. From my perspective…
MARGARET BRENNAN: But they weren’t sharing it with Congress.
SENATOR JON TESTER: They weren’t sharing it with me.
And so I can’t say what their awareness was over the last 10 years. But — but, obviously, there was some awareness. But whether it was up to where it needed to be, that’s — that’s a debate that Congress needs to have and questions that need to be answered by our — our military leadership.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You were very critical — you made that very clear and plainspoken — about the fact that administration didn’t shoot down the confirmed Chinese spy balloon over the state of Montana.
And you wanted it shot down as soon as it was in U.S. airspace. Has your view changed at all after you’ve been briefed?
SENATOR JON TESTER: Yes.
Well, so, initially, I was very much for shooting it down when it was over the Aleutians. I think what transpired was is, is that the military took assessments as to potential collateral damage and the threat of this balloon. And, you know, we pay these folks good money to make sure we keep our nation safe.
And I respect their view, and the president followed that. Going on in the future, I think there needs to be a plan that’s right up front, so we know exactly what’s going to happen when these balloons come in and their threat is assessed, what’s going to happen.
But — but, look, we — I got briefed both in open session and a classified session. And, quite honestly, the military and intelligence community’s explanation of what transpired with that balloon, I accept.
Is it something that I would have done right out — right out of the chute? No. I would have probably done it different, but that’s not saying that I’m right or I’m wrong or they’re right or they’re wrong.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
SENATOR JON TESTER: In the end, we ended up with a balloon that they’ve recovered, and they’re going to take and put it back together and reverse- engineer it, and we’ll find out what they’re up to, plus the information that was gathered while it came across the United States.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, I hear you say there’s value in the — that intelligence.
SENATOR JON TESTER: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But, in terms of damage, according to what was declassified the Chinese balloon could intercept signals intelligence. It could pick up chatter.
It hovered over some pretty key states, locations in your state, including one that hose — houses — excuse me — 150 intercontinental ballistic missiles.
SENATOR JON TESTER: No doubt about that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Was there damage done?
SENATOR JON TESTER: No doubt about that, and there better not have been damage done, or it makes my case for shooting the doggone thing down over the Aleutian Islands.
Look, we’ve got ICBMs in Montana. We have got 150 of them. Malmstrom Air Force Base is an incredible deterrent for this country and has been since the early ’60s. They — the military made an assessment that they wouldn’t be able to gather the information that — that the military thought was important to China.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
SENATOR JON TESTER: And, if that didn’t happen that way, somebody screwed up.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You, on the issue of China — according to the federal government, 3 percent of the nation’s farmland is owned by foreign investors.
SENATOR JON TESTER: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You have recently introduced a bill to try to restrict foreign ownership of farmland.
I know this is an issue in a number of farming states. Why do you think that needs to be a federal ban on foreign ownership?
SENATOR JON TESTER: Well, look, I’m a farmer. I have been farming my grandparents’ land at the homestead.
And I think it’s really important for food security. The folks — this is a ban against China, Russia, North Korea and Iran, folks who don’t want to see us exist anymore as a nation. I don’t think they should have any opportunity to try to dictate our food supply or…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Any Chinese-owned company, period?
SENATOR JON TESTER: Right, period, done, because they’re all connected with the Communist Chinese government anyway.
And so I think it’s a reasonable step to take. Senator Rounds out of South Dakota does too. So it’s bipartisan. And I think we should do it as a matter of course. And I’m all about private property rights. I think people ought to be able to sell who they want to sell to, but not in this particular case, because China wants to do bad things to us.
Same thing with North Korea, Russia and Iran. So, let’s — let’s take that off the table, both in farmland and in agribusinesses.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.
SENATOR JON TESTER: I think — I think it’d be a mistake, a — really a mistake for national security and for food security.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Tester, thank you for your time this morning.
SENATOR JON TESTER: You bet. Thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Good to have you here in person.
And joining us now is David Martin, our national security correspondent.
David, you have been listening this conversation.
DAVID MARTIN: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: When you speak to the Pentagon, are they any more clear on whether it is now established U.S. policy to shoot down any UFO over North America?
DAVID MARTIN: I don’t think they have a policy.
I think, if a balloon like — or an object like the last two Friday and Saturday is impinging on commercial aviation space — these both were up at about 40,000 feet, which is just the edge of commercial aviation — and if you don’t know what they’re doing, then you shoot.
And that’s what they did in these two cases.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It’s an expensive habit.
DAVID MARTIN: It’s an expensive habit.
And, also, it may be a bad habit, because you don’t want to shoot first and ask questions later. But at least now that they’re down, we’re going to get some answers. The Canadian prime minister says he has a ground search team at the wreckage that went down over Canada. They are not yet at the wreckage that went down just off Northern Alaska, because they’re dealing with something like minus-45 degree temperatures.
But, sooner or later, we will get the — we will get that wreckage and we will know.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What do we call these? They’re called — being called objects because the military doesn’t really have a term they want to share with the public about them.
Are they balloons? What are they?
DAVID MARTIN: I would call them balloon-like objects. They do not appear to have any maneuvering capability. They appear to be floating along at the speed of the wind.
I just don’t have a better word for than — than balloon-like.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And the prime suspect is China?
DAVID MARTIN: I wouldn’t say that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: No?
DAVID MARTIN: I wouldn’t say that, no.
The prevailing wind brings everything that way, from west, east across Northern Alaska and Northern Canada. And there is a lot of what officials call sky trash up there. And sky trash includes balloons that are put up by governments, that are put up by corporations, that are put up by research institutes, and probably just by private individuals, and not for nefarious purposes, but just to collect scientific data.
In the past, the U.S. just hasn’t paid much attention to those balloons. But this Chinese balloon was a game-changer.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
DAVID MARTIN: And now, certainly, the Biden administration does not feel it can simply let these other objects pass through American airspace.
MARGARET BRENNAN: There are reports out of China about preparing to shoot down objects in their airspace.
I know, when you were here last week, you warned about the risk of miscalculation.
DAVID MARTIN: Sure.
I was talking about reconnaissance flights. So, we don’t, as far as I know, penetrate Chinese airspace with our flights, but just do it around the periphery. The Chinese have a history of coming out and buzzing those planes. And, sometimes, it gets pretty darn close. And now, in the wake of this balloon incident, you wonder how much closer it’s going to get and whether the U.S. needs to take precautions.
I asked the secretary of defense about that in an interview this week. And he just said you can be sure we are going to take all measures necessary to protect our planes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And I imagine that’s one of the things he wanted to speak to the defense minister about, although that phone call was not — not answered by the his Chinese counterpart.
DAVID MARTIN: No.
MARGARET BRENNAN: David, thank you.
DAVID MARTIN: Sure thing.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Congressman Michael McCaul.
He is the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Good morning to you.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-Texas): Morning, Margaret. Thanks for having me.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to start on this unusual activity, three takedowns in eight days.
In the case of the spy balloon, this was Chinese surveillance, according to the administration. On Friday, they put restrictions on six Chinese companies that allegedly helped China’s military build that balloon.
Is this the right move, to just try to make it harder for them to get U.S. technology, or does Congress need to do something that’s more broad?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: Well, it’s certainly the right move.
It will be one of my number one priorities, as the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in this Congress, to stop the export of technology to China that then goes into their most advanced weapons systems, in this case, a sophisticated spy balloon that went across three nuclear sites, I think it’s important to say, in plain view of the American people, you know, in Montana, the triad site, air, land, and sea nuclear weapons.
In Omaha, the spy balloon went over our Strategic Command, which is our most sensitive nuclear site. It was so sensitive that President Bush was taken there after 9/11. And then, finally, Missouri, the B-2 bomber, that’s where they are placed. It did a lot of damage.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that what U.S. intelligence told you? They have been saying they mitigated the impact.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: They say they mitigated it.
But my assessment, and — and I can’t get into the detail of the intelligence document — is that, if it was still transmitting going over these three very sensitive nuclear sites, I think — I think, if you look at the flight pattern of the balloon, it tells a story as to what the Chinese were up to as they controlled this aircraft throughout the United States.
Going over those sites, in my judgment, would cause great damage. Remember, a balloon could see a lot more on the ground than a satellite.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you said you want to try to stop the export of technology that can be used by China’s military.
As a conservative, though, how much — this has to make you a little uncomfortable to have government try to control private business investment. How do you do that?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: Well, we have what’s called an entities list. The Department of Commerce had jurisdiction over the office within their — the Department of Defense has one.
We need to harmonize those, make it more security-focused. You know, capital flows is one issue, but technology exports into China that they use to turn — that maybe eventually turn against us, we have to stop doing that.
And I think we can do it by sectors. They do it by companies now. Obviously, they identified the six. I think, shockingly, when the balloon was recovered, it had American-made component parts in there with English on that. It was made — you know, parts made in America that were put on a spy balloon from China. I don’t think the American people accept that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you believe that this was a strategic choice by Xi Jinping’s government in Beijing, or do you believe that it was just the left and right hand not knowing what was going on?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: When I saw the sites that it was flying over, it was very clear to me this was an intentional act. It was done with provocation to gather intelligence data and collect intelligence on our three major nuclear sites in this country.
Why? Because they’re looking at what — what is our capability in the event of a possible future conflict in Taiwan? They’re really assessing what we have in this country. I find it extraordinary the timing of this flight as well, right before the State of the Union speech, and also right before Secretary Blinken was scheduled to meet with Chairman Xi.
I think it was very much an act of belligerence on their part. And perhaps they don’t care what — what the American people think about that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Before I let you go, I want to ask you.
You voted in the last Congress to provide a lot of assistance to Ukraine. But, this past week, at least 10 of your members, Republican members, introduced a bill called the Ukraine Fatigue Resolution to try to cut off aid.
How hard is it going to be to have a Republican-led House continue to help Ukraine?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: I still believe, Margaret, there are many, on both sides of the aisle, a majority of the majorities in support of this.
We have — we have factions on the left and right that do not support Ukraine…
MARGARET BRENNAN: This WAS a Republican bill.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: … assistance, and that will probably continue.
Right. And I do think, for me, particularly, it’s — we have to educate, where has the money gone? You know, the audits that are in place right now, there are four of them on Ukraine funding. And we have to explain, why is Ukraine so important?
You know, what happens in Ukraine impacts Taiwan and Chairman Xi, that China’s aligned with Russia, Iran and North Korea against freedom, democracy in the West. And I think that’s a debate we’ll have, but I still feel very confident that we will give them the assistance they need.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: I would like to see it faster, so they can win this faster.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you — you think Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, others who signed this need to be educated?
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: I — you know, look, we took Marjorie Taylor Greene into a briefing.
She was satisfied, I thought, with what — the controls that have been put in place on the spending. But I don’t think that they will be — ever be persuaded that this cause is something that they would support.
I think they have this false dichotomy that somehow we can’t help Ukraine beat back the Russians, who invaded their country and — and secure the border. We can do both. We’re a great nation. And the fact of the matter is, unfortunately, this administration has chosen not to secure the border. He can’t even control and secure our airspace now, it looks like.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman McCaul, thank you for your time today.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL MCCAUL: Thanks, Margaret. Thanks for having me.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Face the Nation will be back in one minute. Stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The death toll from that massive earthquake in Turkey and Syria continues to climb.
There are now more than 28,000 dead. And the U.N. says they expect that number to double or more.
Our Imtiaz Tyab reports from Turkey.
IMTIAZ TYAB (voice-over): There are no words for this kind of grief.
IMTIAZ TYAB: But for the tens of thousands whose loved ones were also killed in the quake, it’s a gut-wrenching agony they all share, an agony that has touched every street and every corner of the Southeastern city of Hatay, one of the hardest-hit by Monday’s 7.8-magnitude quake and the powerful aftershocks that followed.
These rescue workers remain determined to keep looking for survivors, even as the hope of finding someone alive slips away with every passing minute.
It’s been seven days now, and, despite the exhaustion, the cold and the sadness, these men say they’re determined to keep searching. So too are these rescuers, as they carefully sift through the ruins of an apartment building, but then their worst fear, as dislodged chunks of concrete and twisted metal start raining down on top of them. One emergency worker was moderately injured, the rest unharmed.
For survivors who have already buried their loved one, the sadness is all- consuming, as more fresh graves are dug up in anticipation of mass burials to come. The scale of the devastation continues to defy comprehension. International aid is now pouring in from around 45 countries, including the U.S.
But, for badly devastated Syria, just two convoys have made it into the northwestern Idlib province, the last remaining rebel-held territory in a nation already torn apart by more than a decade of civil war. This week, the U.S. Treasury announced it would ease sanctions on the Syrian government for 180 days as part of efforts to speed up humanitarian assistance.
But President Bashar al-Assad insists on handling all the aid shipments himself, including to rebel-held territories, a major concern for most international donors, who remain slow in committing support. So, for now, most of what’s crossing the border into Syria from Turkey are the remains of Syrian refugees killed in the earthquake, a country they once had to flee in order to save their lives, now only to return in death.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Imtiaz Tyab reporting from Turkey.
We will be right back with a lot more Face the Nation. Stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Be sure to join us next Sunday. We will be talking with Bernie Sanders, two-time Democratic presidential contender and Vermont independent senator.
That’s next Sunday on Face the Nation.
MARGARET BRENNAN: When we come back, we will be talking with four of our nation’s governors.
And we will start off with New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu, who is also eying a possible presidential run in 2024. We will ask him about that and a lot more.
So, stay with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face the Nation.
We’re joined now by the Republican governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu.
And it’s good to have you here…
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU (R-New Hampshire): Thanks.
MARGARET BRENNAN: … in person.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Great to be here. Better here than the rest of Washington, because this whole town gives me the — it gives me the chills sometimes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you might need to go get over that if you’re going to run for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, as, apparently, you are considering doing.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Well, look, a lot of opportunity to change things, right?
I think New Hampshire has this awesome model of live free or die, limited government, local control, individual responsibility, really putting the voters first, send them some money, which is nice, but send them the regulatory authority too.
So a little decentralizing out of Washington and maybe a little better attitude would be — would be a good thing for America.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What’s the proactive reason you want to be president, not something that President Biden is doing wrong…
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Sure.
MARGARET BRENNAN: … but something you want to achieve?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Yes, which is the right question you’re asking, by the way, because I — it drives me crazy when Republicans talk in an echo chamber about how bad the president is, and Democrats.
We got the memo, as Republicans. You got to be for something. What I’m trying to do is kind of show that New Hampshire model, show the opportunity to get stuff done. I have had Republicans in my legislature. I have Democrats in my legislature. I always get my conservative agendas done.
We always cut taxes. We always balance a budget. And I can explain to folks in Washington what a balanced budget actually means. So, there are paths. And I think America is looking for results. We need results-driven leadership, not just leadership that…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Like what?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Look, whether it’s cutting taxes, being pro- business, the regulatory reform, the immigration stuff that we were told was going to happen in 2017 and 2018 as Republicans, and it didn’t.
We were told health care reform would happen. It didn’t. We were told we were going to secure the border, and we didn’t. So, there’s all this great opportunity that has a domino effect. They’re not just things to check off a list, but those things have huge impacts on the American economy and, most importantly, American families, right?
They just want flexibility to do what they do. And, frankly, they’re tired of the nonsense in D.C. They’re tired of — of extreme candidates. They’re tired of gridlock. They want somebody to come to the table. And it could be myself. It could be other governors. It could — but it has to be leadership with proven results.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: I have been in the private sector as an engineer and a business leader. I have been in the public sector. You got to be able to deliver.
And you got to, hopefully, be inspirational and hopeful, as opposed to all this negativity you see.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But you still have to get the Congress to work with you to do that very long laundry list of things you just read off to us.
So, when you were here in November, you told us that President Biden would not run for president, in your estimation. You just saw him up close for the past few days.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that still what you believe?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Well, I know other people will definitely run. They’re going to get in the race.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Democrats, you believe, will challenge him?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Oh, absolutely, yes, yes, because…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Why do you say that? Did someone tell you that in the last few days?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Well, Joe Biden has tried to move the first-in-the- nation primary from New Hampshire, right? But we’re going to — we’re going first, whether the president likes it or not.
And so that’s going to be a huge opportunity for anybody who wants to step up and challenge him. And if you look at the polls across the country, the average Democrat says, yes, thanks for your service on one term, but let’s keep it to one term, President Biden.
And I just don’t believe the Democrat left-wing elite is going to sit on the sidelines, knowing you could come to New Hampshire, get all the earned media, all the attention…
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: … without a whole lot of money, all that political momentum. He’s opened up his political flank, so to say, to give someone else a huge opportunity to charge right through and take that nomination from him.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we’ll see if your — if your projection plays out.
You’ve been talking about trying to sort of remind the party that Republicans are about limited government.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You said recently: “Republicans are almost trying to outdo Democrats at their own game of being big government and having a solution and a say on everything.”
Who were you thinking of when you say that?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Oh, there’s a lot — look, I think there’s a lot of leadership out there that forget — that forgets.
At heart, I’m a principled free market conservative. Let the markets decide. So there’s no individual, per se, but there’s a lot of leadership that says, you know what, when we’re not getting that result out of a private business or locality, we’ll just impose from the top down our conservative will.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re not talking…
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: … about the Florida governor and Disney, for example, are you?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Well, that’s a bad example. Yes, that’s — that’s an example, one of the many examples you see out there.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Ron DeSantis may be running for president as well.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Sure. Yes.
Yes, look, Ron’s a very good governor. He is. But I’m just trying to remind folks what we are at our core. And if we’re trying to beat the Democrats at being big government authoritarians, remember what’s going to happen. Eventually, they’ll have power in a state or in a position, and then they’ll start penalizing conservative businesses and conservative nonprofits and conservative ideas.
That is the worst precedent in the world. That’s exactly what the founding fathers tried not to — tried to avoid. And so I’m trying to remind my conservative friends about federalism, free markets, and being for the voter first, being for the individual.
Do I like what every private business says? No, I hate this woke cancel culture. But it’s a cultural…
MARGARET BRENNAN: What does that mean to you then?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Woke cancel culture?
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Oh, it’s — it’s — look, it’s…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Because you’re not a culture warrior, really.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: No, no, no. No, but it’s there.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What does woke cult — what does that mean in your platform?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: It’s the — it’s the divisiveness — divisiveness we see not just in our schools, but in our communities, where it is me vs. you, whereas, if you are not adhering to my ideals, then I’m going to cancel you out.
It is us vs. them. It is this binary where everything’s a war. That’s a cultural problem we have to fix in America. And it starts with good leadership, good messaging, more hopeful and optimistic. But government never solves a cultural problem.
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. Well…
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: We can lead on it, but we never solve it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Interesting idea, but you are contradicted by the Republican governor of Arkansas, who gave the response for your party after the State of the Union, who embraced culture war.
She says America’s in one.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Yes, we are.
MARGARET BRENNAN: She says it’s been waged by the left wing, “a woke mob that can’t even tell you what a woman is.”
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: That’s absolutely right. And that’s…
MARGARET BRENNAN: I mean, are you going to engage on things like this, like — like Sanders and DeSantis has in terms of issues on gender and issues of race?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: There should be absolute leadership on that about what that’s about.
And this idea that you have to — you know, we have forced language, that we have forced ideas on our kids, that we’re going to force anything…
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you are going to be a culture warrior?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: No, we have to talk about that, but it isn’t the government’s role to solve it.
The government is not here to solve your problems. It’s not. The government is here to include as many…
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, governors shouldn’t be actually talking and engaging and telling school boards and doing things like this or trying to pass laws like they are?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: I don’t think governors should be trying to pass laws to subvert the will of the voters that know better than us.
Voters are — know more than I do. The voters on that school board know, the voters in those towns know a lot more. And if — that’s the free market of politics. If they don’t like the school board, they get — they go to a town meeting, they fire them.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You are — you call yourself a pro-choice Republican.
You still have to win in a Republican primary.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Sure.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there room for someone who calls himself a pro-choice Republican?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Oh, yes, look, that issue is — look, that issue is going to change three different ways now that Dobbs has happened, right? States can decide what they want to do, right?
So, I think the definition of pro-life and pro-choice and pro-abortion are — are going to be very different, because if you’re a pro-life Republican, that’s fine. That’s — as a governor, you can do that. You can ban it in your state, and you can stay — stand behind those ideals. And maybe that’s exactly what your state wants. No problem.
I’m a pro-choice Republican in a very pro-choice state. But, at the end of the day, you’re going to have the pro-lifer over here…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: .. pro-abortion over here, and then the rest of us are, well, we have a 24-week ban, and you have a 22-week…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: … and an 18-week ban.
So, the rest of us are kind of in this spectrum of debating about weeks. So that the whole conversation is going to change.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to talk about some of these issues in-depth with you in a moment, so stay with us, Governor.
And we’re going to bring in a panel of bipartisan governors with us.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we’re back with Governor Sununu.
And we’re joined by Democrat Wes Moore, who was just sworn in as Maryland’s first black Governor. Michelle Lujan Grisham is the Democratic governor of New Mexico. Republican Doug Burgum is the governor of North Dakota.
And it’s good to have you all here at the table together.
GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM (D-New Mexico): Thanks for having us.
GOVERNOR DOUG BURGUM (R-North Dakota): Great to be with you too.
GOVERNOR WES MOORE (D-Maryland): Thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to talk about some of these issues of common cause.
Governor Burgum, I know the fentanyl crisis, the drug crisis was a topic at the White House in recent days. Your state is one of six with the lowest rates of drug overdose deaths, according to the CDC. How is that possible, when this is a national crisis?
GOVERNOR DOUG BURGUM: Well, I think all of our governors, we’re all border states now with the fentanyl that’s coming into this country, perhaps manufactured in China, coming across the Southern border.
But, in North Dakota, we’ve really taken an approach of understanding that, if you’re going to have a war on drugs, which is this thing we’ve been doing in our country since the 1970s and ’80s, it can become a war on people who have a health issue. They’ve got — addiction is a disease.
And so we want to be very tough on the people that are importing and distributing, but we also have to understand that, if people have the disease of addiction, it’s not a moral choice or a failure. And so we’ve taken an approach on a number of fronts.
One of the things that’s been most successful is treat — treating the disease of addiction is with peer support specialists, because we know now that someone who’s got lived experience, whether that’s in the criminal justice system, or living with the disease of addiction in recovery, that they can help people through it as much as an addiction counselor.
So, the whole approach is, we’ve turned it towards one of — of treating this as a national health crisis, which it is. So we want to be tough on suppliers. But we want to be super supportive of those that are dealing with it.
GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: I really appreciate that approach. That is probably going to be the nexus of real bipartisan work.
In New Mexico, we have a significant issue with substance abuse and overdose deaths. And I wish I could tell you that fentanyl is not a problem. It is. And, in fact, we were part of the FBI sting with one of the largest fentanyl busts in United States history, a million pills, two million in cash.
But we didn’t have any behavioral health system when I became governor. The former administration literally canceled behavioral health. And there were no providers. They were all in litigation. Everybody left to other states.
So now you have a crisis on top of a national, building crisis that COVID did none of us any favors to really address. Evidence-based work about making sure that treatment is available is exactly how we’re going to get ahead of this. So all of the up-front, so dealing with poverty and food security and jobs and workers and good education, while we’re treating folks who are currently dealing with this disease.
And I think we can start to do that regionally with creative solutions that allow Medicaid to pay for services across states when it’s behavioral health, and we’ve eliminated co-pays for behavioral health services.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And this is something you’re asking the federal government for help to do?
GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: You know, I didn’t actually do that during the — we have very — it’s a limited — who can ask questions. And that sounds awful.
We want to make sure that we’re all benefiting by a topic matter that we can all take back with us and get a sense of where the federal government is headed. But the Western Governors Association, which is another really effective example about bipartisan work, we’re interested in taking on behavioral health in a more regional effort.
And following some of the best practices of North Dakota absolutely is going to make its way into achievements and better outcomes in New Mexico.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Governor Moore, I mean, you’re new on the job.
GOVERNOR WES MOORE: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But what is it that you plan to execute to deal with this problem?
GOVERNOR WES MOORE: Well, I think what was said here was — is a really important point, where we cannot go through the process — excuse me — the idea that we’re going to criminalize our way out of this.
And I think we’ve learned that throughout this process, that we’re dealing with behavioral health and mental health. When you look at the proposed budget that we laid out, our proposed budget makes historic increases, increases of 39 percent, that’s actually focusing exclusively on substance abuse disorders, on making sure that we’re actually helping people when they’re returning from incarceration, things like how are we dealing with elements of record expungement, job retraining, job rescaling, making sure there’s a better reintegration with the family.
But there has to be a larger holistic way in the way that we are dealing with this challenge, because it is true we have spent two decades now dealing with a behavioral health challenge essentially by criminalizing it.
And there are long-term consequences, economic consequences, societal consequences that I know, in the state of Maryland, that we are aggressively pushing on within the way our administration is looking at this work.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We were looking at some of the research. And, in Maryland, in one county, they’ve had to use Narcan on students 11 times during the past year.
GOVERNOR WES MOORE: That’s right. That’s right.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I mean, you’re actually putting this in the schools because this is so common?
GOVERNOR WES MOORE: Because we — and because we have to.
And that’s the thing. As an administration, I always say, as a leader, I am data-driven and heart-led, right? I wear my heart on my sleeve, but I don’t move without data. And the data has been so clear about the damage that this has done to our communities, both urban and rural. I mean…
MARGARET BRENNAN: And children, apparently.
GOVERNOR WES MOORE: And children, and to the point where we’ve actually now appointed a special secretary who is a former mayor of Hagerstown who actually got into politics because of the issue of opioid addiction, had her best friend lost to — to an overdose, who is now serving as our special Secretary on this exact issue.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You were nodding at the Narcan in schools.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Oh, yes, absolutely.
Look, one of the biggest issues is — you have heard…
MARGARET BRENNAN: This is the drug when someone overdoses, to basically help them survive it.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: And Narcan works, for the most part. We can talk about where it doesn’t work.
But schools — you need access points to schools. Kids need to know that — that there is help there, what those systems are. Rural access to care is absolutely huge. People have to understand it’s not a 28-day problem, right? That’s old-school thinking. Sometimes, recovery is a lifelong journey.
GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: That’s right. That’s right.
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: So, you need — you need recovery-friendly workplaces. You need wraparound housing and those types of services.
Understand that also the fentanyl crisis that’s now being mixed with everything, it’s in vape cartridges. It’s in marijuana. It’s being mixed with xylazine. And let me tell you, if you don’t understand the xylazine- fentanyl crisis that’s coming, it’s horrid. It negates the ability of Narcan to revive you.
And so the mixing of everything — I call it a cartel-driven crisis now. It’s no longer overprescription. That’s always part of it. But the cartels have such access. And they basically are creating their own markets. They’re putting it in Adderall. They’re putting it — they’re mixing it with black market Adderall. They’re mixing it with Xanax.
MARGARET BRENNAN: How are people buying it?
GOVERNOR CHRIS SUNUNU: Black market.
As inflation goes up, more people are going to buy their pharmaceuticals offline. And so they’re going to get Adderall for the kids offline. It becomes mixed. Or the kids try to buy vape cartridges offline. And it comes mixed with fentanyl.
And the dealers know, look, we might lose a couple, but we’re going to create addicts out of it. And so the crisis is the mixing, where we have so many folks that overdose that had no idea they were even doing fentanyl.
GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: We need to be careful, in my view, that we don’t do this paradigm just shifting from one extreme to the other.
Absolutely, organized crime and cartels, which are embedded in every state, have to be held accountable. And we all collectively — that’s a federal and state-by-state decision’
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you have asked the federal government for more FBI agents.
GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: I have.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And they denied you that request, why?
GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: Well, they — so far.
Let’s — I’m — I’m tenacious. So, I’m going to — I’m — bet on me.
GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: I’m going to get those agents.
But, to your point, if we were all using our National Guard, to some degree — we need — we need them for our own state emergencies. But if we were doing drug interdiction work, then we’re dealing with the bad guys and gals in this system. And we need to do that collectively.
Instead, we’re doing it. I do a little. You do a little. You do — we should be doing it collectively. That’s the right kind of leveraging.
GOVERNOR DOUG BURGUM: One thing that we’ve stopped even using the word overdose, because no one is making a choice to kill themselves, as Chris was saying.
I mean, these people don’t know what they’re taking. We have an epidemic of just huge proportions, like we’ve never had before. And you talked about FBI. One of the things that’s happening across the Western U.S. on all of the tribal lands, that — like the sovereign nations that we share geography with in North Dakota, is, they don’t have enough BIA agents. The federal government…
MARGARET BRENNAN: The federal agents.
GOVERNOR DOUG BURGUM: Forget FBI. So, the Bureau of Indian Affairs that would be doing that drug interdiction, their staffing is way down.
Organized crime is preying on those tribal communities. And that’s where they’re basing their operations out of.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you’re seeing that in your tribes as well?
GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: We’re seeing that too, yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to — this is a huge topic, but I want to make sure I get to you on the issue of abortion, because, of course, the Supreme Court threw this back to state capitals in June when they overturned Roe vs. Wade.
Governor Burgum, the very last abortion provider in your state left after that Supreme Court decision. What has been the impact of that…
GOVERNOR DOUG BURGUM: Well…
MARGARET BRENNAN: … of not having that care?
GOVERNOR DOUG BURGUM: Well, in the — in the case of this case, because the last one was in Fargo, it moved about 400 yards. It’s now in Minnesota.
So the effect of people having access to care is really…
MARGARET BRENNAN: They leave.
GOVERNOR DOUG BURGUM: Well, they leave, but they’re going 400 yards further east.
And I think this is — this is what will happen across our nation. It’s now back in the hands of states. North Dakota has proven at the ballot box, the citizens voting. Our legislature very much is a pro-life with exception states. And so this is a — something that — that the state of North Dakota has been pursuing for a long time.
But, as Chris was talking about in the earlier segment, this is something that I think states can decide. And I think it ought to be decided at the state level.
MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s a long way for a lot of people to travel, though, if they’re not in Fargo, no?
I mean, what has been the impact in your states?
GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: We’re seeing — we’re seeing women all across America come to New Mexico. And it is a long way to travel.
And what about after-care? And what about your family? And what about the other potential family members, like other small children? It is catastrophic. This is where I think constitutional rights are a federal matter, making sure that wherever I live in this country, one country, that my constitutional rights, my bodily autonomy ought to be protected.
And with all due respect for people who have moral — who morally oppose my position on abortion, they don’t have to seek that care. But women who need that care get limited or reduced or eliminated access, and women die all across this country. And we’re going backward.
And I could not disagree more with my good friend Doug about this being a state-to-state matter.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I want to ask you on a very specific issue how you are planning to spin this forward, because abortion is legal in New Hampshire, Maryland, New Mexico.
The majority of abortions provided in this country happen via pill these days.
GOVERNOR WES MOORE: Right.
GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: That’s right.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And there’s a Texas Court decision that is pending that might strike down FDA approval, as I understand it.
Are you preparing? Are you stockpiling the drug? Are you planning at all?
GOVERNOR WES MOORE: We are. We are preparing, as long as I’m the governor of the state of Maryland, that Maryland will be a safe haven for abortion rights.
I believe abortion is health care. This is really about how are we, coming up with multiple ways, are preparing for this, and ensuring that all women know that we believe that their health, their safety and their security and of the providers is something that should be guaranteed in the state of Maryland.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you stockpiling a drug or no?
GOVERNOR WES MOORE: We’re not yet stockpiling the drug.
MARGARET BRENNAN: No.
GOVERNOR WES MOORE: But we are in preparation for that.
GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: But I think that stockpiling might be, if I can push back a little…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes, tell me.
GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: … the wrong — the wrong question. Do we have enough of those drugs available in places — and each state is going to be a little different.
But you can get those in our public health system. We’re moving towards tribal nations providing access in any number of ways, including abortion, direct abortion care inside clinic, in addition.
And the chilling effect of not having these medications now routinely manufactured is, they’re used to treat men and women for other — like bleeding ulcers. We’re going to have deaths unrelated because doctors are saying, in my state, I can’t prescribe this.
So this decision could have an even more chilling effect. So we’re trying to figure out ways, can we get a manufacturer? How much do we have? How long does it last? What are we doing about contraceptives and contraceptive care and sex education and school-based health centers? So all-of-the-above approach, we’re in.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Governors, thank you very much for your time today. There’s so much more to talk to you about. I enjoyed this.
We’ll be back in a moment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We find ourselves in yet another moment where global crises seem to be converging, and yet another reminder for us about how to put it all into perspective.
Four times in the past eight days, U.S. fighter jets scrambled to take out perceived threats tens of thousands of feet above North America.
PILOT: That is a T-kill. The balloon is completely destroyed.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The spy balloon and aerial objects are a dramatic wakeup call that the U.S. isn’t quite as insulated or as isolated as many like to think.
Record-level migration was already an unmistakable sign that failing governments, dramatic climate shifts and economic strain thousands of miles away eventually end up on America’s doorstep.
As President Biden pointed out Friday, the two biggest democracies in the Americas both recently withstood insurrections staged by far right mobs.
JOE BIDEN (President of the United States): In both the United States and Brazil, democracy prevailed.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Democracy also feels under strain in Israel, where tens of thousands took to the streets Saturday to protest against their new right-wing government.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s democracy continues its yearlong battle to survive Vladimir Putin’s brutal onslaught. NATO warned last week that China is expanding its nuclear arsenal. And so is North Korea. Kim Jong-un paraded a dozen intercontinental ballistic missiles down Pyongyang’s streets Wednesday.
And if the food and migration crisis in drought-stricken East Africa wasn’t already a sign of Mother Nature’s power, she sent us another signal Monday. This one has taken the lives of 28,000 and counting, lives in Turkey and war-torn Syria.
For all of us, the ground does feel like it is shifting. Global instability may be a constant for the near future. And that may be a needed reminder to put our petty political disagreements in perspective.
We will be right back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: This programming note: Caitlin Huey-Burns and our investigative team unravels the mystery of who is George Santos in the new CBS Reports documentary that’s available through our CBS News app.
That’s it for us here at Face the Nation today. Thank you all for watching.
Until next week, for Face the Nation, I’m Margaret Brennan.