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Full transcript: "Face the Nation" on October 14, 2018

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JOHN DICKERSON: It's Sunday, October 14. I am John Dickerson and this is FACE THE NATION.

This week a mystery in the Middle East. The Saudi government is accused of orchestrating the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi who walked into a Saudi consulate and vanished.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP (60 MINUTES): There's something really terrible and disgusting about that if that were the case. So we're going to have to see. We're going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment.

JOHN DICKERSON: We'll have more from tonight's 60 MINUTES interview. We'll ask a key senator on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Florida Republican Marco Rubio, what's next for the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia? He'll also give us an update on Florida's recovery from Hurricane Michael. Then in a week of back to back to back presidential rallies, we'll check in on November's midterm elections with chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Chris Van Hollen. And we'll take a look at who's ahead in the battle for control of the House with our CBS News Battleground Tracker. Plus, we'll talk to Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse about his new book.

All of that and plenty of political analysis all ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. President Trump sat down on Thursday with 60 MINUTES correspondent Lesley Stahl for an interview that will air tonight. With U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley announcing her departure last week, Stahl asked if the President has any more changes in store for his administration.

(Begin VT)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP (60 MINUTES): I have some people that I am not thrilled with. And I have other people that I am beyond thrilled with.

LESLEY STAHL (60 MINUTES): What about General Mattis, is he going to leave?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I don't know. He hasn't told me that.

LESLEY STAHL: Do you want him to leave?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I have a very good relationship with him. I had lunch with him two days ago. I have a very good relationship with him. It could be that he is. I think he's sort of a Democrat if you want to know the truth. But General Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves. Everybody. People leave. That's Washington.

(End VT)

JOHN DICKERSON: For more of that interview tune in tonight to 60 MINUTES. In their conversation President Trump told Lesley Stahl that he plans severe punishment if Saudi Arabia is proven responsible for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, though, he's reluctant to cut off arms sales to the Saudi kingdom.

A member of both the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees joins us now from Miami, Florida Republican Marco Rubio. Welcome, Senator. I want to start with Hurricane Michael. Panama City, other places, absolutely devastated. What can you tell us about the latest in Florida?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R-Florida/@marcorubio): Well, a few things obviously, Panama, I've gotten to Panama City and I've met with and seen the drone images there from the emergency operations center in Bay County and it's deep devastation. I have lived through a bunch of hurricanes myself going back to Andrew and-- and-- and here in South Florida, and what I saw in Panama City reminds me of Andrew. I mean, literally, there was-- I think the whole power grid has been shredded. But in all this conversation and that's very important, you know, Mexico Beach is-- is wiped out and all of that. But-- but I want everybody to remember one thing and that is that there are these inland areas away from Mexico Beach, away from Panama City, not on the coast, these are rural areas, a lot of them have older residents, poorer residents, people that could not evacuate even if they wanted to, many living in manufactured housing and mobile homes, large mobile homes not-- but, nonetheless, mobile homes, multi-acre properties off of dirt roads, who are completely isolated at this very moment. And I know crews are working hard to get to them. But these are the first people, these are the likeliest people to be forgotten, and I think that is where the real challenges lie ahead in the next few days in terms of saving lives and-- and getting to people quickly.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Let me switch topics now to the case of Jamal Khashoggi. You-- you said that if it turns out that Saudi Arabia had something to do with his murder that, quote, "a complete revolt against our policies with Saudi Arabia would take place in Congress."


JOHN DICKERSON: Where do you think the state of that revolt is and what are the possible range of actions Congress could take?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, on the first point I think everyone's waiting to find out exactly what happened and, frankly, this is the kind of case where we may never know exactly what happened. It was a denial. But that said there is news reports out there that there is some sort of audio-video evidence of what occurred. If that were to emerge or any other facts were to emerge or, frankly, if questions here aren't answered. There's no video of him leaving that facility. There's going to be a big problem. I can just tell you that in Congress right now there is no pro-Saudi element that's going to stick with our relationship with Saudi Arabia as it's currently structured if, in fact, they lured this man into this consulate, killed him and then, you know, cut up his body and send a team to go into that country to kill him in the first place. That's just an unacceptable thing. We should never accept that from anyone in the world. It undermines our credibility and our moral authority around the planet to go after regimes like Putin's or Maduro in Venezuela or others. As far as the options that are concerned, people talk a lot about the arms sales. Our relationship with Saudi Arabia extends well beyond arms sales as well. And I would just say it's unfortunate because Saudi Arabia is an important part of our Middle Eastern strategy. They are a key leverage and hedge point against Iranian influence in the region. But that cannot supersede our commitment to human rights.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about the moral question here. The President has recently secured the release of Andrew Brunson from Turkey so working on the one hand on that account. But in this account, he said, basically, because there's a hundred and ten billion as he claims arms purchases on-- on order from Saudi Arabia that-- you know that's-- that's, essentially, more important or has to be weighed here in the response. Give me your sense of-- of your reaction to that that moral position the President took?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, I would phrase-- yeah, I would have phrased that differently. It's not about the money. There are plenty other countries that would want to buy arms from the U.S. and, frankly that, I would have phrased it very differently. The important thing is that when you sell arms to a country. So it's true what he said that they can buy from China, Russia or anybody else. When you sell arms to Saudi Arabia, it gives you leverage over them because they need replacement parts. They need the training. So it's-- it's the kind that, you know, you can't sanction a country by cutting them off of something if you never provided it in the first place.


SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: So it is true that arms sales gives us leverage.

JOHN DICKERSON: You mentioned leverage. Were you surprised the President said upfront that these arms sales were something that he wanted to protect? In other words, aren't those, isn't that your leverage in your-- in your argument with the Saudis and he sort of said right away those are too important to mess with.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Look, if you don't sell arms, they're going to buy them anyways. And then in the future when you want to influence Saudi behavior on another topic, you're not going to have anything to threaten them with or anything to hold over their head. But to me, it isn't about the money. I don't know if the President had just been briefed and that's kind of how he used it or expressed it. But the bottom line is I mean, there-- the money, there's no way-- there's not-- there's not enough money in the world for us to buy back our credibility on human rights if-- if we do not move forward and-- and take swift action on this if, in fact, if and when it's-- it's proven to be true.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you a question about climate change in the wake of Hurricane Michael. Congressman Carlos Curbelo, a Republican colleague of yours, believes that Republicans need to stop questioning the science behind climate change. He said that that America was saddling young Americans with an environmental debt that was as bad as the fiscal debt. What's your response to that?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, I respect Carlos tremendously. He's been a leader on that topic. My view is climate, sea level rise, these are measurable things. You can measure that. So there-- it's not even a scientific debate. At some point, it's just a reality debate. You can measure whether sea levels are higher than they used to be, warmer than used to be and the like. For, as a policymaker the fundamental question is, what can we do about it? And if, in fact, humans are contributing to that, what public policy can we pursue that you can actually pass, does not destroy your economy and can be effective.

JOHN DICKERSON: But what the congressman and others are saying is-- is that if you believe the science about human contribution that there are mitigation efforts you can take with greenhouse gases and that that's where there needs to be a little more focus from Republicans is on admitting that that climate change is caused by human activity and taking actions with-- whether it's coal plants or emissions from cars or methane gas to actually get-- get it where the problem is occurring.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: The increases come from the developing world and in other places. But we're not a planet, we're a country. And the question becomes-- I-- I don't think in my mind anyway the debate has been necessarily about-- always about whether or not it's human contribution. It's about whether the public policies that are being advocated would be effective. And--


SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: --in light of the fact that in other places carbon emissions continue to grow. And, by the way, technology is moving us in the direction that those who support those measures want us to go anyways.

JOHN DICKERSON: So your view then, Senator, is that humans are the chief contributor to climate change in this recent period? You-- that's settled for you?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: My view is that's what-- my view is that-- that's what a lot of scientists say. I think there are others that dispute what percentage of that is humans and not. I'm a policymaker. There's no way that I can ever debate with a scientist or people who spend their whole life on that.

JOHN DICKERSON: But do you accept their finding?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: What I can debate is public policy. I can-- I can accept this and that is that we're going to have a debate about human contribution because scientists are saying that and, you know, a few are saying not-- something different. But if we're going to have that debate about whether certain laws should be passed in order to alleviate what some scientists or a lot of scientists are saying is the cause of this, that has to be balanced with the public interest and other topics like the economy and the like.

JOHN DICKERSON: Okay. Well, we're-- we're out of time. We'll have to leave it there. Senator, thanks so much for being with us.


JOHN DICKERSON: And we turn now to Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen, who among other things, is in charge of his party's efforts to elect more Democrats to the Senate this cycle. Welcome, Senator. I want to start where I left off--

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-Maryland/@ChrisVanHollen): Yeah.

JOHN DICKERSON: --with Senator Rubio. You are on the environmental committee and in the Senate. What did you make of the senator's remarks?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well, look, in the same week that we saw Hurricane Michael flatten the Florida Panhandle, we had this report from the world's leading climate scientists saying climate change is hurting us today and it's only getting worse. And the same time you have a Trump administration and a lot of Republicans who just want to put their head in the sands. They don't want to hear the information and we should start by not making things worse. This administration and Republicans on-- in Congress are actually rolling back auto emission standards, rolling back clean power plant rule. So let's stop making things worse and then we definitely need to take action to make things better.

JOHN DICKERSON: But what of Senator Rubio's point and the administration's point which is once you come in with all these regulations, you choke off the economic recovery that-- that the America is in the middle of now?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well, the reality is we have had auto emission standards in place for many, many years and, in fact the auto industry has grown substantially. The reality is that there are lots of economic opportunities when it comes to investing in clean energy and energy efficiency and those are homegrown jobs. Wind. Solar. These are homegrown jobs. These aren't jobs where you are importing oil from Saudi Arabia, for example.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let-- let me switch to politics. A couple of weeks ago in the Senate people were writing about, hey, the Democrats have a chance. They are writing that less these days. What happened?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well, what we've said from the beginning is this is a very tough political map for Senate Democrats. Probably the toughest we've seen in sixty years. The fact that people were talking about Democrats taking back a majority of the Senate, shows how strong we have been and what kind of momentum we got. So I have said from day one, that we have a credible path to a Democratic Senate majority. It is a narrow path. And there are so many very tight seats that this is all about turnout at this point.

JOHN DICKERSON: Two things related to the Kavanaugh nomination. First, I want to get your sense-- you talked to a number of your constituents who reached out to you during--


JOHN DICKERSON: --the confirmation process. And then you said they were-- their statements were reminders of-- of how our society has let down survivors of sexual assault for decades. Have you heard from or what have you heard from constituents in the wake of the confirmation?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well, I heard from more than fifty of my constituents. Women who had experienced sexual assault, sexual trauma years ago and had never told their own parents at the time. In many cases had not told-- told members of their families today. And it was a powerful reminder of the progress we need to make in this country when it comes to sexual assault. So, when you have the President of the United States at big rallies belittling Doctor Ford, he is belittling all those survivors of sexual assault. And I don't think people like what they see.

JOHN DICKERSON: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the case that the behavior of Democrats with respect to this confirmation was a shot in the arm for Republicans and that the President was, essentially, playing on that idea that Democrats overreached and that's what's energized a lot of these Republican voters.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Well, I don't think Democrats overreached. Democrats wanted a thorough FBI investigation. In the end, it was Mitch McConnell--Senator McConnell--who really cut that short and did not allow a full investigation, but what I have seen actually is that the Kavanaugh hearings have actually energized a lot of Democrats especially younger voters and women voters. Yes, they've energized some Republicans. It just goes to show that turnout is really important in these midterm elections.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about this-- this question of temperament because there-- there seems to be an argument going on in the Democratic Party about how to respond to Donald Trump. First of all, he wants this to be a referendum on Donald Trump, is that okay with Democrats this election?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Look, you know, the-- the President is energizing a lot of Democratic voters to get out because he's been so polarizing and so divisive. I would say in a lot of our red states, what we have are Senators who are standing up first and foremost for the people of their states and people even in red states want someone who will hold the President accountable.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about a red state Tennessee. I know of a voter there who is-- who voted for Donald Trump but was going to vote for Phil Bredesen the-- the Democrat because he had an experience with Bredesen in the state and then Hillary Clinton came out and-- and quoted-- was quoted this week saying you cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about. This voter, of course, it's an example of one and let's not go too far, John. But there were a lot of people who felt like that was not helpful to Democrats to have Hillary Clinton say that.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Look, what I think Hillary Clinton was saying is that Democrats are in a pitched battle on very important issues in our country and we need to fight hard. Look, nobody goes lower than Donald Trump. I mean that's a bottomless pit. No one's competing with that. He gets up at his rallies, he says go beat the crap out of them. He says lock them up. I actually don't think voters, especially independent voters like that. But we are going to put up a tough fight. Phil Bredesen, two-term governor, nonpartisan, bipartisan. He is doing very well in Tennessee.

JOHN DICKERSON: But you say nobody's trying to compete with them, but-- but Eric Holder, the former attorney general who was in charge of executing the laws said when, and this is a play on-- on Michelle Obama who said when they go low, we go high. Eric Holder said when they go low, we kick them. That's the new Democratic Party is all about. That is directly competing with Donald Trump.

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Look, no-- no Donald-- Donald Trump when he goes say go beat the crap out of them at a rally and then he says I'm going to pick up your legal bill. I mean look, the guy-- the guy knows no bottom, but the reality is what Democrats are saying is that we are locked in a pitched political battle and we are going to engage fully. I mean this is political trench warfare and we're going to engage in that battle. And that's why Democrats in the Senate are doing a lot better than people expected us to do more than a year ago when Republicans said they were going to win a net of eight seats.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Senator Van Hollen in twenty-three days. Thank you so much for being here.


JOHN DICKERSON: And we'll be right back in one minute with Senator and Author Ben Sasse. Don't go away.


JOHN DICKERSON: And we're back with Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse. He's the author of a new book, Them: Why We Hate Each Other--and How To Heal. Welcome, Senator.

SENATOR BEN SASSE (R-Nebraska/@BenSasse/Them): Thanks.

JOHN DICKERSON: So, you say politics--this isn't about politics.


JOHN DICKERSON: But you're a politician.

SENATOR BEN SASSE: It's one of my callings. I am also a dad and a neighbor and a Husker football addict, so.

JOHN DICKERSON: Why do-- why is it not about politics because when people think of what's tearing this country apart, politics is often the culprit.

SENATOR BEN SASSE: There's a lot that's going on that's acute in the last two years, but I think what we're really struggling with is decades in the coming. We're living through a digital revolution which is undermining place. I think the biggest problem in America right now is loneliness. And the good news is it's fixable, but it requires friendship. It requires more attention to place and family and shared vocation and work and neighborhood and worshipping communities.

JOHN DICKERSON: Help people understand what you mean by place.

SENATOR BEN SASSE: Yeah. So, you know where you live, is where you actually love and communities of love are the center of what really keeps people happy. There's a ton of literature now that shows we're the richest people in the history of humanity. And, yet, we're some of the most dissatisfied people in the history of humanity. How do you make sense of that? And it didn't start two years ago. It starts because the digital revolution is really undermining that sense of local community and neighborhood.

JOHN DICKERSON: Because we're all just looking into our phones and we're by ourselves and then suddenly the sun's gone down and the day's over.

SENATOR BEN SASSE: That's a huge part of it. It turns out if you go from two hundred to five hundred social media friends or five hundred to a thousand, you don't get happier. But if you know the neighbor who lives two doors away from you, statistically you're more likely to be happy. We need to attend to those kind of things. It's a big deal.

JOHN DICKERSON: I want to get to solutions in a minute, but let's stick with the diagnosis for a moment. You are, in fact, able to make this case because you're a politician and so what I want to ask you about is the power of example in politics. There is no more famous person probably in America than the President.


JOHN DICKERSON: How is it not about politics if you have been very critical of this President saying he is driving some of these divisions. If these divisions-- wouldn't it be very powerful if somebody in a public role like the President or senators, behaved and modeled the behavior you are talking about in this book that you should see at the church or at the little league ball field.

SENATOR BEN SASSE: Sure. I-- I think that's true. I mean the President and I wrestle on a whole bunch of issues. I-- there are things we agree on, things we disagree on. But I don't think most of what Americans are wrestling with is a problem that's two years old. I think we've had a halving of friendship in America in the last twenty-seven years. It's-- it's a stunning thing. You know nomadic tribes, agrarian history, industrial economics--people have always known their neighbors and known their co-workers. Decreasingly we don't know those things. We've gone from three and a half friends per American twenty-seven years ago to about 1.8 friends today. President Trump can't fix this. He didn't cause this. Politics can't fix this. Politics didn't cause this, but it's true that our political tribalism is filling that vacuum--


SENATOR BEN SASSE: --that loneliness that's coming from all these other institutions. We have a decline of the nuclear family structure a lot in the last twenty-five years and politics is a place people look to try to find meaning in the absence of these other communities that actually can make you happy.

JOHN DICKERSON: That's right. That's why I wondered if that's where people are going. People are addicted to what they are seeing on the news and we all experience that. Those of us who report or live in this world. Wouldn't it be-- if you had examples, for example, after this Kavanaugh fight if a Democrat had said, you know I understand what my Republican colleague was-- how passionate they got in defense of this person who was wrongly accused. Or if a Republican had said instead of calling them evil, had taught people through the power of their example--since everybody's watching anyway--taught people through the power of their example of what it looks like to forgive the other side? We just don't see that.

SENATOR BEN SASSE: Yeah. I mean you're right. I mean the-- the Senate should be an institution of a hundred people who get sent from their communities where they really are from and want to return to. And they go and have to build relationships and build a temporary community in the Senate of people who actually listen to one another. We don't do that very much right now because cable TV news has swallowed the Senate whole. Right now, we live this sort of frenzied media circus--that's not to beat up on the media, that's to beat up on the Senate as a place that people are more thinking about those distant tribes and the things we're screaming at each other against, rather than the things we should be for together. You should be for the place where you're from, the neighborhood in the city or the small town farming community where I am from. But when you're temporarily thrown together in a new community the Senate should be a place that actually does some empathy and we're pretty crappy at that right now.

JOHN DICKERSON: Yeah. Well, you have a chance to talk about this on the other side of the commercial. We'll do the solutions. So, we'll be back in just a moment with more from Senator Sasse.


JOHN DICKERSON: And we are back with Senator Ben Sasse. So, let's focus a little bit on the solutions. People know that-- that we are at this pitched moment. So what do we do to fix it?

SENATOR BEN SASSE: Well, one of the things we have to do is rediscover plural vocations, right? Work is statistically one of the most significant drivers of whether or not people are happy. And part of that's because we-- we like to do stuff together. We like to have shared projects. I was born in the 1970s. Average duration at a firm was two and a half decades for a primary breadwinner. Average duration at a firm today for an American is four point two years and getting shorter.

JOHN DICKERSON: So what does that mean? Everybody knows what looking for work looks like. But what does that mean in terms of policy change even at the very local level?

SENATOR BEN SASSE: Yeah, so, I-- I think most of this is going to be about recognizing that when you're thirty-five and forty and forty-five and fifty, you are going to get disintermediated out of not just your job, but probably your firm in your industry. We've never prepared to become a people that are lifelong learners. That has huge policy implications. I don't think politics are the main thing. I don't think they are the first thing, but, obviously, rethinking job retraining for the age of disruption. McKinsey, a company that I used to work for, says that fifty percent of Americans are going to be primarily freelancers in three years. We're not at all prepared for that.


SENATOR BEN SASSE: It has huge downstream implications for shared work together.

JOHN DICKERSON: But in this is where politics gets in it, too, because you have a politician saying your job is not going away. I'm going to protect it. You're not going to have to re-learn. And-- and so that comes back-- brings me back to politics again sending the wrong messages from what you want to say.

SENATOR BEN SASSE: Yeah, that's just not true right. So, so much of what we fight about in Washington is right versus left and a lot more of our policy should be past versus future. There aren't going to be lifelong jobs anymore and we shouldn't be lying to the American people about it. We should be thinking about what does it look like to help people get back to work, back to meaningful employment, back to shared labor with their neighbors when they are thirty-five and forty and forty-five. We can't say, "I, politician, am going to protect your jobs forever." Because it's not true.

JOHN DICKERSON: So, we have about thirty seconds. What can I do, I'm at home watching this, what can I do to just break out of this cycle?

SENATOR BEN SASSE: One of the things is we are going to have to develop habits for the technological age that get back to an awareness of-- embodied flesh and blood neighbors actually matter a lot. There's a whole bunch of tech addictions we all have to our smartphones. We know it's a problem when it's our kids. I have fourteen- and seventeen-year-old daughters. But it turns out we the adults are also addicted to technology that helps us flee the place where we're actually called to live and love our neighbor.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Senator Sasse, thank you so much for being here.

SENATOR BEN SASSE: Thanks for having me.

JOHN DICKERSON: Break-- break away from that technology but stay with us until the show's over. We'll be right back.


JOHN DICKERSON: Tomorrow night, the CBS EVENING NEWS with Jeff Glor will be coming to you from the battleground state of Missouri.

And we'll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Stay with us.


JOHN DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. The midterm elections are less than a month away. So, we'd like to welcome CBS News elections and surveys director Anthony Salvanto to share some new insights from our Battleground Tracker polling.

All right. Anthony, let's start with the top big inside. What's going to happen to the House?

ANTHONY SALVANTO (CBS News Director of Elections and Surveys/@SalvantoCBS/Where Did You Get This Number): Well, at the moment, we've got the House with the Democrats getting over the two hundred and eighteen seats that they would need to take it if the election were today. Right now we've got them at two hundred and twenty-six seats in our model. That number has been creeping up slowly over the course of the summer as long as we've been doing these Battleground Trackers, but it is still very heavily dependent on at least two things for the Democrats. And I just-- I can't emphasize this enough. It's dependent on turnout among people who don't typically vote in midterms and it's dependent on a few meaningful crossover voters coming from having voted for Donald Trump to voting Democrat now.

JOHN DICKERSON: Okay. So, what just to remind people you're not saying that it is chiseled in stone that Democrats will take-- will take the House. You're saying right now as trends go forward it looks like the Democrats have a shot, give me-- run me through those two scenarios and how they play out.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Yeah. What we did with this was because we want to emphasize for people that we're defining a range of possibilities here, especially still weeks out. We actually took the model and we reran it with the scenarios, one, how many seats could the Democrats conceivably get if everything breaks their way. If all of these folks really do show up, if all of these groups that they're dependent on these younger voters these women voters all do stay the way they are in the polling.

JOHN DICKERSON: And that top-- the first group you're talking about are people who don't usually vote in midterm elections?


JOHN DICKERSON: This is the scenario it's actually they do this time.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Actually they do. They make good on what they're telling us, most of them are telling us in the polling. Now, if we put that in the model it goes as high as two hundred and thirty-five seats so they get a little bump from that. However, let's suppose they don't show up and that's a reasonable assumption because they haven't done this before.  And, frankly, sometimes people do over report this turnout propensity in the polling, right? So, if they don't show up, these are folks who maybe, they voted in the presidential, but they didn't typically vote in the last midterms in 2010, in 2014. If they don't show up then the Democrats don't make it, they don't get the two eighteen that they need and the Republicans hold the House. So, if they don't get that and the Democrats don't get quite as many of those crossover voters--those crossovers come back home a little bit to the Republican Party then the Reps still have a chance to hold it.

JOHN DICKERSON: So, these people you're talking about are the ones who would like to tell a pollster they're going to vote, they feel it's their civic duty, but Election Day comes around, they're busy, they got a couple of jobs, whatever, they're not making it. So, these are the people who are the key to what you have identified which is maybe that's the key to whether the repub-- the Democrats take the House or not.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Yeah. And they mean it when they say it now.


ANTHONY SALVANTO: But right, life sometimes gets in the way-- in the way.

JOHN DICKERSON: You also measured this question of enthusiasm but you have a more subtle crack at it. What did you find about enthusiasm?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, enthusiasm is one of those factors. It's mixed in to what you just described. People who really mean to vote but maybe something gets in the way. Maybe enthusiasm helps you get over that hurdle. But, really, I want to say that enthusiasm is not the same thing as voting which you want to look at is that intent to vote. Look, you can only push that lever so hard. You can push it enthusiastically or you can just kind of give it a click, it's still one vote. But what you want to look at is whether that enthusiasm then drives people across that finish line, actually gets them there.

JOHN DICKERSON: So your point is people can get more enthusiastic so they're snapping the lever off when they pull it, but it doesn't mean that an-- that an additional person is going to vote necessarily. Is there a way enthusiasm splits by party?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Yeah. The Republicans have become more enthusiastic over the last couple of weeks. That's important for them, right? They want to get that base turnout and we think that helps move that. But, at the same time, the vote intention of both parties is up and it is even. It is even between Democrats and Republicans saying that they are showing up.

JOHN DICKERSON: So they're going to show up at the polls, both parties are saying as much.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Both parties are saying it.

JOHN DICKERSON: Does that represent a-- a change more for the Republicans or the Democrats recently?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, the enthusiasm is up with the Democrats and Republicans are equally up on intention of turning out.

JOHN DICKERSON: Okay. Now, let's go to the-- to the-- the groups within these-- the polling. What are we-- what are you learning and seeing in-- about women and-- and men and the so-called gender gap?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Right. Well, the gender gap is up. And that means there's an increasing difference between how women are voting, in this case, more heavily for the Democrats and how men are voting in this case more heavily for the Republicans. So we looked at why this is. And one of the reasons is that women are among this group that have-- are heavily cross-pressured this year. They say that they think the economy is doing well. Normally, that would advantage the party in power: the Republicans. They voted in these districts. They voted for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and about even measures.


ANTHONY SALVANTO: But this year they also say that they are unsatisfied with the direction of the country and they are breaking Democratic for that reason. They also tell us that they feel like the Republican Party works against the interests of women and more for the interests of men. So on a personal level as a-- as a group identifier, group affiliation, you see them breaking more heavily Democratic right now.

JOHN DICKERSON: What did we, if anything, learn about what the hearings of Justice Kavanaugh did to affect either women, men, enthusiasm, there were a lot of claims made, what did-- what does the data show?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: It inserted a lot of anger. We see anger up on both sides. We see Republicans saying they are increasingly angry about the prospect of the Democrats winning. Democrats saying they are increasingly angry about the prospect of the Republicans winning. Now anger does also correlate with intention to turn out and we feel more passionate about something, more likely to go and do it. So that's one determinant of turnout for certain. Did it change anybody's mind, though? No. It does not appear like it changed anybody's mind. It appeared to just cement what people already thought going in.

JOHN DICKERSON: Now we know that the news cycle changes, you know, multiple times a day. What is your expectation? Do you have anything in the data that tells us anything about whether that anger stays and sticks and takes people all the way to Election Day? Or, is it an acute momentary thing happening now?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, one factor you want to watch is the President. And, you know, we are on pace now for the President to be a factor in people's voting, really, would be historic levels. So, typically, a majority, maybe a slight majority of people who voted midterms say that the President is a factor in their vote either for or against. But this year we've got many more voters saying that they feel like the President is a factor. Either for or against, in fact, it's relatively split. But there's no question that he is on the ballot so to speak or at least in the minds of voters when they are going to the polls this year.

JOHN DICKERSON: He says he wants it to be a referendum on him and it turns out the voters are seeing it that way.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Yeah, very much so. Like I said, at-- at historic levels at this point.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Anthony Salvanto, thank you so much for breaking it all down for us. We'll be seeing a lot of you in the next twenty days, indeed.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Yes. Thanks, John.

JOHN DICKERSON: And we'll be right back.


JOHN DICKERSON: For some political analysis, we now like to welcome our panel. Susan Page is the Washington Bureau chief of USA Today, Jonah Goldberg is a senior editor of the National Review, and Susan Glasser writes about the presidency and foreign policy for The New Yorker. Susan Glasser, I want to start with you on the question of Jamal Khashoggi. Put all the pieces in-- in order for us of-- of this issue why it's a challenge for the White House and what you expect next.

SUSAN GLASSER (The New Yorker/@sbg1): Well, first of all, look, this is a story I think that really has captured the attention of Washington and many capitals around the world because it seems to show directly implicate not just this horrific question of this Saudi dissident journalist who is in a self-imposed exile here in the United States, writing column for The Washington Post. He's broken with the leadership of Saudi Arabia. And it appears to be a very personal feud with the-- the young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. But that's also why it's a Washington story. President Trump and, in particular, his son-in-law Jared Kushner have made the relationship extremely personal with Saudi Arabia. They have doubled down on America's traditional alliance with the Saudis. Jared Kushner has enforced a personal relationship with MBS, as he's known, overriding concerns have many here that, in fact, he was not so much a liberal reformer as someone consolidating power and cracking down on dissidents. So you see this case kind of bringing all those concerns together. And there's a real question, of course, of the judgment of the Trump administration--


SUSAN GLASSER: --and also the politics.

JOHN DICKERSON: Right. And, Susan, speaking of the politics, the President came right out and said "This is about jobs potentially." He says a hundred and ten billion in orders from the Saudi Arabia which is-- that's orders to come not already booked, but and that-- that's really what he said, "I wouldn't want to do anything that would endanger that."

SUSAN PAGE (USA Today/@SusanPage): And-- but other policymakers may have other views on whether what price are you willing to put on the life of a U.S.-- U.S. resident who is a dissident journalist, who is lured to his-- his country's embassy and then dismembered, we believe. And with the idea that there may be recordings of this, I think escalates. It has been no surprise to anybody in Washington that Saudi Arabia has a very questionable record when it comes to human rights. But is this a bridge too far when it comes to these contracts? And you saw the discomfort in your interview with Marco Rubio with the way the President had expressed this concern as of these contracts over-- would necessarily override whatever you might want to do to sanction Saudi Arabia, if this is-- indeed is what happened.

JOHN DICKERSON: Jonah, do you-- where do you think this fits in America First? Because the President in a sense is saying something that maybe previous Presidents wouldn't have said out loud--

JONAH GOLDBERG (National Review/@JonahNRO): Mm-Hm.

JOHN DICKERSON: --but they would put America's interest, multi-faceted interests. We should also mention that Saudi Arabia is a great counter weight to Iran for the United States.


JOHN DICKERSON: And maybe he is just saying out loud what previous Presidents just wouldn't have said out loud. But there is-- there are American jobs to be thought about here, and that this is perfectly in keeping with President Trump's kind of vision of foreign policy.

JONAH GOLDBERG: I-- I think it is perfectly in keeping. And, you know, when he says I don't want to jeopardize this hundred and ten billion dollars in orders to-- I wish someone would ask him, okay, so how many journalists does Saudi Arabia get to kill before it might jeopardize it, right? I mean, this is a problem with the rhetoric. And it's also a problem with the relationship and it makes a lot of sense to me or at least it's perfectly defensible to have a better relationship with Saudi Arabia to work this out as a counter aid to Iran, all of those things are fine or at least defensible. But it has to be-- when you get into this situation, it is clear that no one communicated to Saudi Arabia that if we're going to go down this path you cannot embarrass us or put us in a situation like this. And so now we're at this stage where there are no really very good options, the White House is in a bind on this. And it's because they went down this cul-de-sac to begin with without a proper line of communication, someone led the Saudia Arabian government to believe that they could get away with this that this wouldn't be a problem. And that's why it's a mess now.

JOHN DICKERSON: And, Susan, may-- maybe some people are arguing what led the Saudis to believe this is not a lot of scolding on what is happening in Yemen. And that there were-- there is a pattern here of, basically, saying either explicitly or implicitly, "We're not going to mess with your sovereignty."

SUSAN GLASSER: Absolutely. I think this is going to emerge as a case study of why words do matter in the Trump presidency. And Jonah's point is a very important one. What have we seen that's different from President Trump from his predecessors, Democrat and Republican? I would say that it's so much more of a transactional view of America's position in the world. And that is something that's-- that's quite different. Certainly, you've had criticism of even Barack Obama for not emphasizing human rights as much as others. But you've never had a President before who called journalist the enemy of the people. Now if you are the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, do you think you might factor that in to your calculation about what you could do with this particular dissident journalist when you have your good friend and ally, the President, say "The journalists are enemies of the people." I think it's-- it's a really interesting example. Also, you know, values no longer figures in American foreign policy in the way that it has in the past.

JOHN DICKERSON: Although the President is-- was visited yesterday by pastor Andrew Brunson who was released from Turkey based on pressure the-- the President had put. And so the President's supporters are rightly pointing out that were it not for the President he'd still be in jail.

SUSAN PAGE: And the President notes correctly that he has gotten several people who had been held in North Korea and elsewhere, and-- and got them returned to the United States, and that's-- and that's a fair point. Although the bizarre element of that moment I thought was not the prayer, because, understandably, the pastor would say a prayer of gratitude of being back, but the President then asking him, let me ask you, did you vote for me in 2016 when, of course, he was in prison in Turkey.


SUSAN GLASSER: And, again, your supporters, you know, the thing is, is not that, you know, human rights has become another tool in the partisan arsenal, I think is-- is the big transition there. That's a great example of it.

JOHN DICKERSON: Right. Jonah, let me switch topics here to a departure from the administration. U.N. Secretary Nikki Haley is leaving. It was extraordinary this week to see an event at the White House where she said, "I've had a great time and it was all quite orderly."

JONAH GOLDBERG (National Review/@JonahNRO): Mm-Hm.

JOHN DICKERSON: We have not seen all departures from the admonition happen in an orderly fashion. What do you-- what do you make of it?

JONAH GOLDBERG: Yeah. It's great she wasn't left on a tarmac, for example. Yeah, full disclosure, my wife works for-- for Nikki Haley and so I-- I'm conflicted and biased about this. but I-- I think you can make a persuasive case that she's arguably-- first of all, she's probably the most popular politician in America right now when you think about it. If you look at her poll ratings in-- in-- among Democrats and independents, also among pro Trump conservatives and anti-Trump conservatives, she's kind of a unifying figure. And I think her timing in all of this was, you know, either lucky or brilliant. To no other person who has worked for the Trump administration has seen their reputation enhanced in the process. And she is getting out while the getting is good, by doing it this way, it won't look like she's abandoning a sinking ship, if the midterms go south on the Republicans. And I-- looking forward to find out what happens with her next.

JOHN DICKERSON: Yes. Susan Page, what Jonah says is-- is amazing when you think about where Nikki Haley once was in 2016 giving a Republican response to the Democratic President, she talked about angry voices within the Republican Party, which nobody mistook for anything, but a shot at Donald Trump. Yet, then she goes into the cabinet and now is-- goes into the administration is now leaving, managed pretty nicely. Does this-- give me your thoughts on that and then also-- well, just give me your thoughts on that.

SUSAN PAGE: You know, we obsess about the 2020 Democratic presidential lineup, but if you want to look a little farther down the road for Republicans, I think you'd have to include Nikki Haley on that list, which is a-- a remarkable thing for a minority woman to win election as governor in South Carolina and then win re-election and then criticized President Trump as a candidate and then turn around and become one of his most prominent spokespersons on foreign policy is-- shows a remarkable nimbleness and political skill. And she emerges from this, as you say, enhanced and can you think of another example of someone who has come into the administration, served the President, had the President praise her and emerge without criticism really even from those predecessors.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Very quickly. To pick on a point that Sue made earlier. She was the one figure in the administration who actually did talk about values and human rights around the world, and got away with it in a way that someone else in the administration might not have.

JOHN DICKERSON: What does that mean then, Susan Glasser, for the foreign policy? Does this tell us anything about the current makeup of the foreign policy team and then what does it mean going forward?

SUSAN GLASSER: Well, just a quick thing. I-- I do think nimble is a very charitable word, you know, for somebody who has really-- Donald Trump hasn't changed but many of his critics have changed in how they approach and-- and frame him. She did leave the Oval Office saying that Jared Kushner was a hidden genius in the administration the same week that this-- this Saudi controversy has arisen. And this goes to the point of, you know, what is the administration's foreign policy increasingly these days? I think we see a situation where it's less and less true that there's a Trump administration foreign policy and a Trump foreign policy. Since President Trump got rid of Rex Tillerson, his first secretary of state, got rid of H. R. McMaster, replaced them with Mike Pompeo and John Bolton. Both of them come out of certainly much more of a classic, very conservative, very hard line Republican foreign policy establishment. They differ on their own policy positions from President Trump. But he's made it very clear that he doesn't want to have any more public disagreements and it appears that they have not challenged him as much, even privately as their predecessors did. Nikki Haley is someone who did speak up repeatedly at various points in time where she disagreed on Russia, for example, and on other aspects of foreign policy. So I think you are going to see a more Trumpian approach to the United Nations, that's also John Bolton, his very hawkish national security advisor's made an entire career of U.N. bashing. They're already talking about downgrading the United Nations' portfolio with absence of Nikki Haley is probably no longer going to be a cabinet level position.

JOHN DICKERSON: Right. So a consolidation there. Let's switch to politics. Susan Page, the USA Today ran an op-ed from the President on the question of health care this week that was-- well, take it from there.

SUSAN PAGE: So this was the editorial page ran an op-ed, not the news site. I thought it was good that we gave the President a platform, the arguments he is making in-- in rallies and as he campaigns for candidates in the midterms. There was a big furor because it was not a fact-- there wasn't a fact check article that went with it and provided context and information for readers. I thought that was a legitimate criticism. I am glad that we, eventually, posted a fact checked about it. It's does show how much-- how inflammatory President Trump is for both sides. And how much he defines this midterm election that we're going to see in just three weeks.

JOHN DICKERSON: John, in the old days if a President had written an op-ed that could have been fact checked, somebody would have maybe lost a job or there would have been embarrassment. There is a theory out there now that in this polarized world we're in that you, in fact, want to insert some things to get fact checked so you'll get another news cycle, and that the people you're trying to rile up are going to believe you no mountain-- if there's a mountain of fact checking. And so the second round in which there is fact checking actually ends up distributing the message through-- to a larger audience and that that's then good for you. Do you see that in play here?

JONAH GOLDBERG: It might well be. I actually wrote a column about this on Hillary Clinton coming in very late in the early Kavanaugh controversy about getting something completely wrong that Kavanaugh allegedly said about birth control. And it was very strange that she would jump in after it had already been debunked by all the fact checkers. I made exactly this argument is that we sort of live in the republic of trolling now, and everybody-- it benefits you more to be the sub-- in a world of negative polarization, to be attacked by your enemies is a benefit in and of itself even if the attack is legitimate. And I think it's a sort of spreading model of Trumpism that is infecting a lot of our politics and our media.

JOHN DICKERSON: And, yet, Susan Glasser, we have in our Battleground Tracker poll, when people are asked what issue will affect your-- your vote, what is the most important issue to you in your vote in 2018, health care comes in number one ahead of the economy and ahead of the-- so at seventy percent, economy sixty-seven percent, and the Supreme Court at fifty-seven percent. So the President is at least talking about an issue that people really seem to care about.

SUSAN GLASSER: Well, that's right. It's interesting that he started to-- to do so, as you know, his major health care initiative failed, essentially, which was the repeal of Obamacare, which was something that President Trump as well as Republican Party for years campaigned upon, it failed by a single vote. Trump is still interestingly bashing the late Senator John McCain for his decisive vote on that. He did that in an interview with Fox this week, you know, even because he understands that, you know, they haven't really come up with a convincing answer to it. Interestingly, tax cuts doesn't figure on that list. I did-- that-- call it crazy or what you want, effort of binge-watching all six hours and fifty-one minutes of President Trump's six rallies so far. There was another one last night for my column in the New Yorker this week. So that's almost seven hours of Trump. Interestingly, tax cuts which was going to be the centerpiece of Republican campaigns, generally, came in at about the fifty-one-minute mark to his rallies. These are not about--

JONAH GOLDBERG: Saving the best for last.

SUSAN GLASSER: Well, that's right. But-- but I think, you know, you mentioned the issues that-- that are top of the list, health care, the economy, it's not really an issues campaign if you listen to President Trump, and, frankly, if you even listen to voters in your poll, the-- the issue is President Trump. And more than any midterm election that I can remember this genuinely for both Republicans and Democrats is a-- a vote about President Trump it seems to me.

SUSAN PAGE: You know that's in part by President Trump's design.


SUSAN PAGE: You know when President Obama was very unpopular to midterm he started to stay out of the news. When President George W. Bush was unpopular to midterm, he tried to stay away. President Trump is as unpopular as they were and he is pushing himself out there in a way we've never seen a President for a midterm election. For a President who's been four or five days a week doing rallies around the country it makes it impossible for this election not to be about him.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Just, very quickly, I think thought one of the interesting data points was that Fox News stopped carrying all of his rallies--

JOHN DICKERSON: That's right.

JONAH GOLDBERG: --all the way through and I am a Fox News contributor. But it was interesting.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. We're going to have to end it there. And we didn't talk about Kanye West.

We'll be back in a moment.


JOHN DICKERSON: That's it for us today. Thanks for watching. And we'll be back in two weeks. For FACE THE NATION, I am John Dickerson. I'll see you tomorrow and all this week on CBS THIS MORNING.

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