Watch CBS News

Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on May 22, 2022

On this "Face the Nation" broadcast moderated by Margaret Brennan:

  • Sen. Rick Scott, Republican of Florida
  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York
  • Jason Furman, former chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers
  • Robert Gates, former defense secretary

Click here to browse full transcripts of "Face the Nation."  

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome to Face the Nation. I'm Margaret Brennan. Good morning.

We have learned that the number of Americans who say things are going badly in this country, particularly with the economy, is at the highest rate it has been during the Biden presidency. Six out of 10 Americans surveyed feel uneasy or worried about the state of the country.

Today, we will hear from key players in both parties, the head of Senate Republicans' campaign efforts, Florida Senator Rick Scott, and a top House Democrat, New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries.

Plus, we will take an in-depth look at the state of the economy and talk with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who offers a little bit of optimism for us.

We begin with our CBS News poll.

Joining us now to help us break it down is CBS News director of elections and surveys Anthony Salvanto.

Anthony, good morning. Great to have you here at the table.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Thank you for having me. Great to be here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you have some fairly pessimistic news for us, I know, but is inflation still the number one electoral issue for Americans?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: So much of this is about inflation.

That view of the nation that you described at the top is driven by concerns about inflation. So much of these views of the economy are driven by concerns about inflation. In fact, the number who say that the economy is bad is now the highest it's been during the Biden administration.

And then, recently, we see people reacting to the drop in the stock market, where now they're pessimistic about both the market and maybe their retirement. So, all of that is piling on. And the longer that it goes, you see people becoming more pessimistic that it can be reversed.

Having said all that, Margaret, I do need to point out a couple of optimistic things. One is the jobs market. People are optimistic that they can find a job in their area. And then the other part is, you have to say, after two years of a pandemic and all the losses, people are starting to feel optimistic about that effort as we head into the summer.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So how are Americans assessing the president's performance?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, on inflation, it's not good. His handling of inflation and his ratings for that are low.

But there's another component of this. And that is, a majority of the public, two-thirds, feel like the administration has been slow to react, slow to react to events as they come up. Of course, that's been a critique on inflation and on other matters. It's also starting to stick a little among his party, among Democrats, who are also now more likely to say that, and then that the economy is bad.

So, that's tough politically. And I think, coming into this, we saw numbers where people were expecting him to be effective, and now those ratings are low. So, it's that setup of expectations here, because people reason backwards from results. If they don't see results on inflation, then he pays a political price.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What about the parties themselves? Do Americans think they're talking enough about the issues that actually matter to them?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, in a word, no.

You're seeing the party primaries play out in state after state around the country now. And, yes, the candidates are forced to speak to their bases in those places. But something that both Democrats and Republicans share is that they want those potential nominees to talk about inflation.

And maybe, by virtue of the fact that they're not talking about it enough, the parties are actually even on this. Republicans don't have a large advantage on handling inflation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's interesting.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Right, even though the Democrats are the party in power.

But after that, the bases really diverge, you have to point out. The Democrats are very concerned about the potential overthrow of Roe v. Wade, and they want their candidates to talk about that and abortion rights. And then the Republicans are having this split -- and it's really important as people watch this go forward -- over former President Trump.

You have got half of Republicans who say they want their candidates to talk about being loyal to the former president. You have got nearly half who say that they want to basically relitigate 2020 and talk about what they feel was a rigged election, even though that's been disproven.

So, you have got the other half of the Republicans that don't want that. And that's a intraparty fight that you're seeing play out in race after race, state after state right now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, what we are also seeing here is, voters feel the parties are dividing them, not just along partisan lines, but demographic lines.

Explain that.


It starts with the views of the partisans. When you look at Democrats, and you look at things like what's happening in America -- it's going through cultural change. It's going through demographic change.

Democrats think that's a good thing. They think increasing diversity is a good thing, that immigrants contribute to the country. Republicans disagree and, by and large, think that that diversity is not a good thing.

That's then reflected in what you hear from the candidates and what you hear from the debate in these primaries. There's something else too. And that is, we asked people to just label the parties. And a majority said they thought the Republicans were extreme, but far less than majority said they describe the Democrats as effective.

And they're the party in power. So I think, when you go forward into these midterms, you're looking at that. If the Republican label of extreme doesn't come down, they may not do as well as in midterms as they could. And for the Democrats, as the party in power, they need to get that effective number up to stay in.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Fascinating snapshot of the country.

Anthony Salvanto, thank you.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Florida Senator Rick Scott. He's the Republican tasked with winning the Senate majority for the GOP in this year's midterm elections. And he joins us from Naples, Florida.

Good morning to you, Senator.

SENATOR RICK SCOTT (R-Florida) Good morning, Margaret.

I think those numbers are consistent with what we've seen, that inflation is still the number one issue in the country. And the president is slow to react, whether it's the border, whether it's inflation, whether it's gas prices, even Ukraine.

I think the expectation is that whoever the president is gets ahead of the problems, rather than behind the problems.


SENATOR RICK SCOTT: So, I think the election this fall is going to be about inflation. It's going to be about the effectiveness of the Biden administration. And I think it bodes well for Republicans.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, why do you think that? Because you just heard our poll, which shows Republicans don't really have much of an advantage on that specific issue; 51 percent of those polled trust the GOP on inflation; 49 percent trust Democrats.

How do you advise Republicans to change that?

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: Well, I think it's important that we talk about what we're going to do, and we -- we explain the problem that the Biden administration has, that they don't react to record gas prices, an open border, things like this.

But, also, we tell people what we're going to do to bring down inflation. We're going to balance the budget. We're going to start watching the dollars very closely. We're going to watch our spending. We are going to expect the Federal Reserve to reduce their balance sheet.

So, I think we have to talk about the things that we're going to do to make it better for people.


SENATOR RICK SCOTT: But, if you go and look at the races around the country, Biden's numbers are really, really bad. And he's -- he is the face of the Democrat Party right now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But -- so, then, if you want your candidates to be -- Republican candidates to be talking about inflation, is it a waste of time for so many of them to talk about relitigating the 2020 election?

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: You know, what I have seen, Margaret, is people want to know that the election's going to be fair and their votes are not going to be diluted.

So, I -- when I -- as I go around the country and talk to people, what they're hoping is that Republicans will make sure that, there's voter I.D., there's no ballot harvesting, signatures have to match. And that's what -- when I talk to people, that's what they care about.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you don't want them to talk about 2020.


MARGARET BRENNAN: You want -- sorry. Go ahead. I'm sorry.

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: No, Margaret, there's -- there is clearly people that are still concerned about what happened in 2020, and they would like the facts to come out.

And they -- and they want to know what happened, why it happened.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you mean by that?

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: Well, they want to know -- they want to know that -- exactly what happened, if -- were there problems, exactly what happened.

They'd like to know that. But, also, they're -- you know, they also want to make sure we win in '22. So they -- they want to make sure that we're going to make sure their vote's not diluted. So I think you have to -- you have to talk about making sure people understand what happened in 2020, but also make sure you know -- they know that you're going to focus on making sure that 2022 is a -- is a fair election.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Just -- OK, just to be abundantly clear, you have recognized President Biden is the duly elected president of the United States, correct?

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: Absolutely. Absolutely.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. So, let's just move on from there.


MARGARET BRENNAN: So, in terms of the things you think Republicans should be talking about and inflation, you put forward this 11-point plan.

One of the things you're suggesting is to end all imports from China. Isn't that going to add to price inflation?

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: Well, I think what we've got to do is, we've got -- we've got to figure out how to decouple from China.

And it's going to take a while to do that. But if you look at what they want to do, they're sending fentanyl in this country. We had over 100,000 people die of drug overdose last year. They never comply with any trade agreements. They've never complied with the World Trade Association, so, you know, it's -- organization.

So, what we've got to do is we got to start building American jobs. We've got to get American manufacturing back. And, when we do that, one, our wages will go up.


SENATOR RICK SCOTT: We'll have more jobs in this country.

And we -- and people want to buy American products. And there's other countries to do business with.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure. OK. So, it's a long-term goal that's not actually banning Chinese imports now.

Let me ask you about something else you talk about. The Institute on Taxation Economic Policy says your plan you put forward would increase taxes by more than $1,000, on average, for the poorest 40 percent of Americans.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said this:

(Begin VT)

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-Kentucky): We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years.

(End VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, if your fellow Republicans don't support this alternative you're putting forward, who does?

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: Well, first off, it's Rick Scott's plan.

I believe we ought to have a plan for how we go forward. I'm a business guy. I created plans when I -- in my business life. I created plans when I was governor.

But here's how -- here's the way I look at it. My mom told me I had to have skin in the game. And what she meant by that is, I had to get to work and participate in the American dream. When you get a job, you pay payroll taxes. You pay income taxes. You buy things, you pay sales tax. You buy a house, you pay property taxes.

We have very low labor participation right now. I want people back to work. And with regard to Medicare and Social Security, think about this. We have got to be honest with the American people and come up with solutions. Medicare goes bankrupt in four years. Social Security goes bankrupt in 12 years.

We're not talking about that. I want to -- I want to fix those programs. I believe in those programs. And people rely on those programs.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You want Congress to review them every single -- every five years?


SENATOR RICK SCOTT: Joe Biden has proposed cutting those.

Well, we -- think about it. We do the military every year. We ought to -- you know, we ought to be looking at it. I mean, people expect us. It's our job. If you get elected, it's your job to go through and figure out how you fix things. That's our job.

We do the military every year, and we fight over what we should do to make sure we have the most lethal military. We ought to be honest with the American people: Here's the things we're going to do to make sure you get your Medicare, make sure you get your Social Security.

So I will never raise a tax. I cut taxes more than 100 times.


SENATOR RICK SCOTT: But I'm going to make sure we fix and make sure these Medicare -- the Medicare programs and Social Security work.


As you know, there's concern that in giving the opportunity to review it, that you could put some of those programs at risk.

But I want to move on to have you respond to something else that was in our polling that I think is important to have you comment on. Do you personally think it's important for political leaders, particularly in your party, to condemn white nationalism?

Because, according to our poll, 75 percent of Democrats say it is very important. Only 23 percent of Republicans say it's very important.

Why do you think there is such a gap?

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: Well, clearly, we ought to all condemn any hatred.

We ought to condemn any white supremacy. We -- I mean, we've got to figure out how to come together. I believe we got to stop all this racial politics. And what -- the plan I put out at, I said, we have to stop asking people on government forms for their skin color. We ought to judge people by their character, not the -- not their skin color.

So, we've got to figure out how to bring people together.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you would tell all Senate Republicans running for election that they need to, each and every one of them, condemn white nationalism?

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: Well, I tell people what I believe.

And every -- every Senate candidate on both sides is going to decide what is important to them and what is important to the citizens of their state.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you would advise them -- you think...

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: But I can tell you, I'm clear.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, the answer is yes?

SENATOR RICK SCOTT: Oh, if they -- if they asked me, I would say, be clear. Be clear.

I mean, we do not believe, none of us -- I don't think any American should believe in white supremacy or hatred of any kind. I mean, it's wrong.


Senator Scott, thank you for joining us today.


MARGARET BRENNAN: And Face the Nation will be back in a minute with New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries.

So, stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're joined now by New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. He's the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, and he is in San Diego, California this morning.

Good morning to you. Congressman.


MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to get to you on some of this poll data that you also heard here.

Specifically, young people, Hispanics and half of Black Americans say the president has been too slow to react. His ratings on effectiveness are low. Perceptions of competence are low. A majority of Democrats now say the economy is bad. How does your party hold on to the majority?

REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES: I'm very confident that we will be able to hold on to the majority.

President Biden has done a very good job under incredibly difficult circumstances. I understand that the electorate, of course, is going to be unsettled, experiencing COVID fatigue, inflationary pressures, high gas prices, a war in Ukraine, a radical, extreme Republican Party that doesn't appear to believe in democracy any longer.

And so this is a tough moment for our country. But President Biden has been very decisive in his leadership, beginning with the American Rescue Plan. We rescued the economy, put shots in arms and money in pockets, Kids back in school, laid the foundation for a robust economic recovery that has led to more than eight million good-paying jobs being created and unemployment at 3.6 percent.

That's a tremendous start. Of course, there's more that needs to be done.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. And you know inflation, as you heard, is the chief concern.

But specifically on looking like the president is reacting too slow and not taking action, talk to me about a specific issue, police reform, for example. It's been two years. It'll be two years this weekend since the killing of George Floyd and the national protests that followed.

The President has been looking at an executive order on police reform for months now, continues to say it's coming. Does he need to act on something specific like that before November?

REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES: Well, it's my hope and expectation that we will see some further decisive action from the administration.

It's unfortunate that we find ourselves in this position because Senator Tim Scott decided to walk away from negotiations that were bipartisan in nature. In terms of striking the right balance between...

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Democrats walked away in the Senate on that one.

But on the question of the president, is the urgency on police reform fading?

REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES: I think the president has said it correctly, that we are going to lean into public safety, make sure we strengthen the relationship between the police and the community, that we confront the rise in gun violence, and that we also invest in young people, in violence interruption, and making sure that young people have access to extracurricular programming, summer enrichment programs, summer jobs, and the things that allow for them to live a productive life, and not be put in the position where they are influenced by destructive behavior around them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, for fellow Democrats who are up for election, this bit from our poll may stand out.

More than a third of Democrats call their own party weak, and that is particularly acute among young people, 41 percent. That could hurt your turnout. How do you respond to that? Is it -- is there time for change here in terms of congressional leadership?

REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES: No, I think, led by Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer, we've been acting decisively.

Just this week, we responded by passing legislation to address the price gouging that we believe, particularly as it relates to the oil and gas industry, is taking place and hurting the American consumer.

We, of course, passed legislation to deal with the rise in domestic terrorism and white supremacy in this country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The president said that law wasn't needed.

REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES: Unfortunately, every single Republican, except for about one or two, voted against this in the immediate aftermath of the tragic massacre in Buffalo.

So, we are acting decisively. But I think we do have to crystallize the differences between what we're about and what Republicans are all about. It's clear that Washington Republicans want to raise taxes on everyday Americans, on police officers, on firefighters, on nurses, on factory workers, on grocery store clerks.

And we are trying to provide them with relief. The Republicans, including your prior guest, actually want to end Social Security and Medicare as we know it in five years, forcing it to sunset.

Those are serious differences between the two parties. And I think, once the voters understand that dynamic, the choice will be as clear as a sunny day in San Diego.


MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you a bit about what's happening in your home state of New York.

We've talked on this program previously about the redistricting that has been happening around the country, New York, to Democrats' advantage largely. But you've had this fight internally over the congressional map.

Bottom line, did Democrats put their own communities at risk in your state by gerrymandering it to the degree they did?

REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES: Well, the Court of Appeals was wrong in the decision that they made, both on the substance and in terms of turning over redistricting to an out-of-town unelected special master and a judicial overseer in Steuben County, who's a Republican-leaning partisan judge.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Democrats control your state legislature. This was a Democrat-led process, even though I know you're talking about the court right now.

REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES: Well, the process -- right.

Well, the process, unfortunately, was hijacked by the Court of Appeals. A bad process has now led to a bad result. You're talking about five different congressional districts where the Black and Latino population was degraded. The only -- most significant Jewish district in the country has been detonated, for no good reason.

The core of many congressional districts...

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think have a -- file -- a case to file in court?

REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES: I think that the lawyers are taking a close look at that.

But here's what's most important. We're going to remain united, because we believe in a very simple vision for America.


REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES: Work hard, play by the rules, you should be able to provide a comfortable living for yourself and for your family...


REPRESENTATIVE HAKEEM JEFFRIES: ... educate your children, purchase a home, and retire with grace and dignity.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you, Congressman.

We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Friday, we traveled to Williamsburg, Virginia, to talk with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Here's what he said about the GOP and former President Trump.

(Begin VT)

MARGARET BRENNAN: You've said that you've been disappointed in Republican leaders for not standing up for traditional Republican values.

We just had this awful shooting in Buffalo, New York.

Liz Cheney, Congresswoman, said: "House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy and antisemitism. History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. Republican leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them."

Do you think Republican leaders are enabling those things she said?

ROBERT GATES (Former U.S. Secretary of Defense): I don't know that I would go that far.

I do know that there aren't enough of them denouncing those things, denouncing white supremacy, denouncing...


FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: We have too many people who -- who are in politics to further their own agendas and to further their own personal prospects, rather than what's good for the country. And I would say that's true in both parties.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think it is important for the American public to have a full accounting of the events of January 6 with these public hearings that are planned in the weeks ahead?


What happened on January 6 was -- was a huge blight on our democracy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You think there is value in having this aired publicly?

FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: I think so, yes. I think people need to understand.

My worry is that people will -- that everybody will retreat to their ideological corner, and so nobody will -- nobody will listen. I think maybe the best thing to do is just to rerun the videos.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Former Trump Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was with us on Face the Nation recently.

And he revealed some pretty shocking things about what he witnessed when he was part of the administration, unconstitutional, illegal, immoral actions, firing missiles into Mexico, shooting American protesters in the legs.

Did you know that these types of ideas were being considered at that time?

FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT GATES: A few of them, not those specific ones, but some others that he talks about.

So, people would call me from the Pentagon and tell me that: We're wrestling with how to respond to this.

So I had some flavor of it, but none of the kind of detail that -- that Mark Esper has in his book.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you believe President Trump running for office again would present that threat to national security?


MARGARET BRENNAN: That's a very diplomatic phrase.


That's -- and that's where I am.

(End VT)



The midterm primary season is turning into an exciting one. Last Tuesday's Republican contest for Pennsylvania Senate between TV Dr. Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund manager David McCormack likely won't be decided until after a recount.

CBS News senior White House and political correspondent Ed O'Keefe is on the campaign trail in Atlanta, Georgia, one of the four states with contest this is coming Tuesday.


ED O'KEEFE: Margaret, great to see you.

Some big contests here on Tuesday that remind us, they're all former President Trumps to lose because he's decided to engage in them.

First off, in the Senate race, former football star Herschel Walker is coasting to a Republican win here. He'll take on the Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock in what promises to be one of the most expensive and divisive Senate contest this cycle.

But it's the governor's race where former President Trump is perhaps most personally invested. Republican Brian Kemp facing a challenge from the former senator, David Purdue, who was put up to the race by Mr. Trump. Kemp, however, appears to be pulling away in what will end up being a general election match-up between the governor and his former Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams.

But there's another contest that we wouldn't normally focus on here on FACE THE NATION, the race for secretary of state. Brad Raffensperger, like Governor Kemp, decided to stand against former President Trump's push to change the results of the 2020 election here in Georgia and somehow get him to win. Raffensperger is in a crowded field and he's likely headed to a runoff election next month. But elections observers all across the country concerned that if he loses it's a sign that someone like the former president can come in and try to manipulate elections.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, Ed, I mean that's an important point. We don't normally cover primary race this closely on the national level. And it is very unusual a former president gets directly involved. In fact, endorsing candidates who are at odds with his own party's selected candidates. And this is going to get even more dramatic when the former vice president, Mike Pence, comes to town.

ED O'KEEFE: That's right, because he's defying former President Trump by showing up tomorrow and endorsing and campaigning with Governor Kemp. Pence and a handful of other GOP office holders have been here in Georgia in recent weeks believing -- seeing the trends that show that Kemp is going to win despite standing against the former president because they come out of the wing of the party that still believes that somebody other than Trump can somehow prevail in 2024, retake control of the party, and win over general election voters that continue to show up in our polling as not necessarily big fans of the former president.

But, you're right, you never see a former president and vice president quite at odds like this. The race here in Atlanta across Georgia is a big proxy fight for them.


You know, we have to talk about Democrats here too, and, excuse me, you heard our CBS poll, Democrats view the party as weak. A large number of them. There's also such sharp criticism of the president reacting too slowly.

What's the signal here for Democrats?

ED O'KEEFE: Well, the biggest one, and you talked about it with Anthony and with Congressman Jeffries there, the fact that young voters, black voters, Latino voters now also are in agreement that the president isn't necessarily doing enough to take on the economic challenges and inflation. That's the secret sauce. If you can't convince young people, black people, Latino voters in this state, like Georgia, in others across the country, you're going to see Democrats lose big statewide elections.

Stacey Abrams, Raphael Warnock, here in Georgia, need those numbers to improve in order to get the Biden coalition to turn out again. Same story goes in places like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, all across the country. So, the White House as to be looking at these numbers today with great concern. It's part of the reason why you've seen the White House, in recent days, really step up its attempts to demonstrate that it's on top of the baby formula shortage. You have those flights arriving today with the first stockpiles from Europe because they understand, unless they're demonstrating action, those numbers are only going to get worse.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Absolutely. And a very personal issue for so many.

Ed O'Keefe, thanks for your great reporting from Atlanta.

We'll be right back with a closer look at the economy. Stay with us.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We're joined now by Jason Furman. He was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under former President Obama, and he joins us today from Davos, Switzerland.

Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.

You know, it was a rough week, really, for the markets. The Treasury Secretary kind of spooked people when she started talking about high energy prices, high food prices, having a slowing effect on the economy. Ben Bernanke, the former Fed chair, also used this word, stagflation.

What should American consumers understand is going on?

JASON FURMAN, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL: Look, I'd put some perspective on what we're going through right now. The market is not the same as the economy. When you look at the economy, you see a 3.6 percent unemployment rate, you see 500,000 jobs being created a month, you see consumer spending quite strongly. So, there's a lot of good things going on there.

But the market is sending a signal, and it's one that we should be somewhat concerned about and pay attention to, just no time to panic.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the Treasury secretary was also sending a signal by acknowledging that this could be weighing on consumers, which would offset the positive data points you just pointed to there.

Looking at this, what are the odds of a recession?

JASON FURMAN: Look, we've seen a remarkable things. Consumers, if you survey them, are very pessimistic and negative about the economy. When they vote with their wallets, we saw -- we got the consumer spending data for April and it was way up. Consumer spending on just about everything has been booming.

Over the next six to 12 months, I'm not super worried about a recession. After that is where I start to get worried because that's where the Fed's policy will start having more of an effect.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you know, we talk and have been talking about inflation on this program. It is, of course, the job of the central bankers, the Fed, as you just referenced there, to act to control it. But, politically, there's a cost, as you know.

Democrats are pushing bills in Congress, as Congressman Jeffries just talked about, trying to cap what they are calling price gouging. You hear President Biden using that phrase, also talking about raising taxes on the wealthy.

As an economist, do any of those things have a measurable impact for consumers in fighting inflation?

JASON FURMAN: Look -- look, as you said, most of the job of fighting inflation is with the Fed. There's a little bit the president can do. He's done some good steps, whether it's opening up ports, getting more truckers on the road, releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. I'd like to see him do more, like lower tariffs on China that were placed there by President Bush.

I don't think, though, that these anti-price gouging bills would do much to bring inflation down. They just increase the type of shortages that consumers probably hate even more than the high prices.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You were quoted as saying, corporate greed is a bad theory of inflation. Is that another way to say that what Democrats are talking about is just a gimmick?

JASON FURMAN: I think it's pretty gimmicky, these price gouging bills, because, you know, you've got a lot of extra demand. What happens when demand goes up? Prices go up.

There's an old saying, the cure for high prices is high prices. That's a little bit of a painful thing to deal with, but it's what elicits the additional supply, it brings more producers into the market, and it's what brings prices down. And we need to let that process work. You try to interfere with it and you're going to make things worse. We tried that in the '70s. it was a big failure. We shouldn't be repeating it again.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You mentioned that you do think the president should act to lower inflation, at least partially, by lifting the trade tariffs off of -- of China. Those are the Trump era trade tariffs. But you know there's disagreement within the administration about doing that because they like the leverage here.

For consumers, how should they understand how much exactly of the inflation they're experiencing is due to this fight?

JASON FURMAN: It's just a small portion of it. I would -- that may be a quarter of a point to half of a point of inflation. That's off of an 8 percent inflation rate. So it's not huge. I just think if you're the president and you've made inflation rightfully your number one priority, you want to leave no stone unturned. And this is one of the bigger tools he has.

It's not without controversy. But in terms of jobs, there's record jobs opening right now. This is about as good a time to take a step like this as I could imagine because the relief is needed by consumers. Anything you can do is worth it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It seems the Treasury secretary would agree with you on that.

On the bigger picture here, we're hearing on the campaign trail a lot of blame of where the inflation came from and, you know, there's an argument that this is like 20 years' worth of spending and, you know, it's all sort of added up, plus all the geopolitical things going on.

How do you digest that for someone watching at home? How much are democrats actually to blame for continuing to pump in pandemic era spending at a time when the economy was already recovering last spring?

JASON FURMAN: Look, in March of 2021, the president signed the American Rescue Plan into law. That's part of why the United States has had a faster recovery than any other economy, but it's also part of why we have incredibly high inflation. I wished at the time that he would -- did something smaller. I think it was larger than it needed to be. But it's good that something happened.

Then, after that, the Fed made a bunch of mistakes. It was behind the curve for most of last year. It kept thinking the inflation was transitory. It kept not moving to normalize rates. And now you add on top of that President's Putin's invasion of Ukraine, and that's like the cherry on top of this terrible concoction that we already had.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes, it's quite a picture.

Jason, thank you for your analysis and for joining us today.

We'll be back in a moment.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Last week President Biden welcomed the heads of Finland and Sweden to the White House in honor of both countries declaration to join NATO. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates tells us why this move will have such an enormous impact on Russian President Vladimir Putin and the western military alliance.


ROBERT GATES, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think it's huge, Margaret. I think it changes the geopolitics in Europe in a dramatic way.

Now he's got NATO on his doorstep, not only in Ukraine and elsewhere, he's going to have them on his border in Finland. And -- and, you know, it -- it's an amazing thing he's done because he's -- he's gotten Sweden to abandon 200 years of neutrality.

So I think -- I think Putin, one of his many huge miscalculations in invading Ukraine is he has dramatically changed the geostrategic posture of western Europe. And now that you have the Swedes and the Fins as part of that, he's really put Russia in a -- in a much worse tragic position than it had before the invasion.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But he could still win? Vladimir Putin could still win in Ukraine?

ROBERT GATES: If winning means taking over the country and absorbing it into Russia, the whole country, I think that's very unlikely at this point. He has the potential to hold on to a good part of the Donbas. But I think in terms of pushing on to Odessa or trying to bring a change of government in Kyiv or absorb Ukraine, I think if that's winning, I don't see that he can win.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What are the security guarantees that the west needs to put in Zelenskyy's hands, to put in Ukraine's hands, to actually broker a deal?

ROBERT GATES: I think access to western weapons, continued training by NATO countries, including the United States, a promise to have a -- keep a large NATO presence in eastern Europe next door to Ukraine, the supply lines.

The other thing that I think is really going to be critically important, especially if this conflict drags on for a very long time, is the west has to come together and figure out some way to help Ukraine economically long- term, both short-term humanitarian needs, but then rebuilding.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you have a concern that if Putin is cornered that he would actually use a tactical nuke?

ROBERT GATES: I think the probability of him using a tactical nuclear weapon is low but not zero. There are no large masses of Ukrainian forces that would be taken out by a tactical nuclear weapon. And if it's not got a military purpose, then the only purpose is as a terror weapon, to try and break the will of the Ukrainian people. And I think that moment has come and gone. I don't think that there's anything at this point that will break the will of the Ukrainian people.

The other thing that I hope somebody around Putin is reminding him is that, in that part of the world, and particularly in eastern Ukraine, the winds tend to blow from the west. If you send off a tactical nuclear weapon in eastern Ukraine, it's going to -- the radiation is going to go into Russia. So, I just hope somebody reminds him of that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you've called Vladimir Putin a man of the past. But when I talk to officials now, they say he could be around for another decade.

ROBERT GATES: His invasion has weakened Russia and -- and it's got now long-term economic problems.

Europe, I think, is very serious at this point about weaning itself away from Russian and dependence on Russian oil and gas. So that will weaken Russia significantly.

Where is -- where is he going to find that market around the world for --


ROBERT GATES: China is not going to want to become dependent on Russia for its energy sources. China will want to remain diversified. They might -- might buy some more Russian oil and gas, but nothing like what would be required to replace the -- the European market.

Putin will remain a pariah. It's hard to see Putin ever walking in he door of the White House or Number 10 Downing Street or at the Elysee. So, I -- I think Russia -- he has put Russia really behind the eight ball economically, militarily. And -- because now people are going to look at the Russian military and say, you know, this was supposed to be this fantastic military. Well, they give a good parade, but in actual combat, not so hot.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Xi Jinping is watching what's happening in Ukraine and he is taking notes.

What do you think his lesson is so far?

ROBERT GATES: He and Putin have -- have had a common narrative about the decline of the west. We're paralyzed. We're polarized. We can't get anything done. The alliance was divided and had lost its purpose and so on.

Boom, we totally underestimated the west. We underestimated the United States' willingness to take the lead again. We underestimated the willingness of the Europeans to come together and of the United States to put this coalition together. And we underestimated how fast and how severe the sanctions are that they could place. So, maybe the west isn't as weak as we thought.

The second lesson is, looking at the Russian military performance, he's got to ask himself, what if my equipment isn't any better than the Russians? What if my troops aren't any better than the Russians? Maybe my military's not as good as they are telling me they are.

The Chinese have given the Russians all kinds of rhetorical and political support, but they are doing very little concretely to help the Russians.

My guess is, Putin though Xi before the Olympics, look, I'm going to do this. It's going to take a few days and it will be done. I'd wager that Xi never expected a protracted, brutal conflict that would isolate Russia so much from the rest of the world. And so I think he's playing it actually very cautiously.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is the rise of China still inevitable?

ROBERT GATES: China and -- and its role as a -- its growing role as a global power will continue. They do have some real problems. The -- the big issue for Xi, where he can't admit he's wrong, is on the zero Covid. And, you know, when you shut down a city of 25 million people for weeks, and people don't have food, they don't have water, they don't have medical care, this has consequences. And -- and how can he say, I got that wrong, when you've -- when it's resulted in so much economic and human costs?

MARGARET BRENNAN: You were directly involved in those -- in overseeing the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan for so long. The Taliban's back in power in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda is in the government. Women on the street have to cover their faces and their bodies now. Girls don't have widespread access to education. How do you make sense of where we are now?

ROBERT GATES: Well, I think people predicted every single one of those things would happen if we got out of Afghanistan altogether. I think we made a mistake in pulling everybody out. I think that had we kept a small number of U.S. troops, 5,000, 6,000, something on that order, the contractors would have stayed, the equipment would have been repaired and taken care of. I mean we built -- we built a military modeled on our own, which requires a lot of logistical support, a lot of sophisticated maintenance and so on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How was that not known after 20 years of war? How is that dependence not recognized?

ROBERT GATES: I think people did recognize it, and that's one of the reasons that people in the military argued for keeping a number of people there, because only if we had some representation in our military would the contractors who take care of those things been willing to stay. So, they weren't at risk.

And when you had military, Afghan military, suddenly realizing they're getting no ammunition, they're getting no food, they're getting no support and they're isolated, it's kind of no wonder that most of them gave up. It wasn't that they were cowardly or that they were unwilling to fight. It was, they had poor leadership and -- and they had this dependency on -- on technical support that went away.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You must have seen the special inspector general report that came out just a few days ago.


MARGARET BRENNAN: It blamed both President Trump and President Biden for withdrawing the military and contractors.

ROBERT GATES: Well, don't forget, it started under President Obama. So you have three presidents.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You would add culpability there?

ROBERT GATES: Yes. They all wanted out of Afghanistan, the forever war. But that allows for no shades of grey. It's either all in or out, all out, is the way it was portrayed. And, in fact, there were alternatives. And the military put forward some of those alternatives, which was a relatively small number of people that we would plan to keep there some indefinite period.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You admitted your owner error there in that model of replicating an American type military style and trying to rebuild it within the Afghan forces.

ROBERT GATES: Yes. I mean it was well along that way when I got there, but I certainly didn't do anything to change it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You said before, the biggest threat to the United States is our polarization and the distance, the two square miles that encompassed the White House and the Capitol Building. Do you still feel that way?


MARGARET BRENNAN: You don't see signs of improvement?

ROBERT GATES: No. I will say this, there is one glimmer of hope that I see. And it's in kind of my world.

Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin have done something no other living human beings have done. They've actually brought Republicans and Democrats together on Capitol Hill, and with the administration. You know, apart from a handful of isolationists Republican senators, you've got pretty, from left to right, a pretty strong consensus in Washington. But I would say it's broader than just Ukraine. You have the same kind of attitudes toward China and how we react to China, and to Russia more broadly, beyond Ukraine. So maybe that's -- maybe that's a foundation. Maybe there's a way to build on that. And, who knows, if you begin to get it in national security policy, maybe you can get it in some other places.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'll take the optimism.

ROBERT GATES: Well, I'm not sure I'd take the bet, but you might take the optimism.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Our full interview with former Secretary Gates is on our website and our YouTube channel.

We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: that's it for us today. Thank you all for watching.

Until next week, or FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.