Full transcript of "Face the Nation" on August 25, 2019

8/25: Face The Nation

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

  • National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow (read more)
  • Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (read more)
  • 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar (read more)
  • President & CEO of Business Roundtable Joshua Bolten (watch)
  • CBS News Elections and Surveys Director Anthony Salvanto (watch)
  • Panelists: Michael Graham, Anne Gearan and Joshua Johnson (watch)

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


MARGARET BRENNAN: It's Sunday, August 25th. I'm Margaret Brennan and this is FACE THE NATION.

As the U.S. trade war with China heats up, President Trump meets with world leaders in France and dismisses concerns of an economic impact back home.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Our country is doing really well. We have horrible trade deals, and I'm straightening them out. The biggest one by far is China.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the President we don't like tariffs.

BORIS JOHNSON: Just to register a faint sheep-like note of our-- our view on-- on the trade war. We're in favor of trade peace.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Trump did just the opposite before leaving the U.S. He announced new taxes on Chinese goods in response to their retaliatory tariffs. The stock market plunged. Our guests White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow and Trump ally South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.

WOMAN: I still have a lot of confidence in the economy.

MAN: I'm anxious because it's unpredictable. It's very volatile.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And in a new CBS News poll, Americans shared their thoughts on the economy, their finances, and whether President Trump gets the credit. Plus, the race for President shrinks as more Democrats call it quits.

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: Let's get this done and win. Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll hear from one still holding strong, Minnesota's senator, Amy Klobuchar.

All that, and political analysis of the week up next on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. Today, we are focusing on the economy, its impact on policy and politics. Throughout our show you will hear from voters about what it means for them. And we begin this morning with White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow. He joins us from Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France. Good morning, Larry.

LARRY KUDLOW (National Economic Council Director): Morning, Margaret. Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The President was asked this morning if he regretted escalating the trade war with China. Then the White House released a statement saying, "he meant to say he only regretted not raising tariffs further." Which is it? Are you escalating or de-escalating?

LARRY KUDLOW: Now, look. Actually it's neither, but he didn't quite hear the question this morning, but his thought was if he had any second thoughts, and he said sometimes he does, he would have actually raised the tariff, not lower it. But there is no change. A five percent additional tariff on two hundred and fifty billion and then five percent additional tariff on the second tranche of three hundred billion, which, as you recall, goes into place September 1st, and then December 15th because there are a lot of consumer exclusions. He is responding to the Chinese action. And I want to say, in my judgment at least, both actions were very temperate, very restrained, all right? Both countries weigh in. President Trump has got to defend the American economy which he has done and, of course, as you know, our battle to stop unfair trading practices from China. More on that if you wish, but he's continued the drumbeat. But I want to make one last point if I may: the negotiations between the two great countries continue. We had deputies teleconference meeting last week. Another one is coming up this week and the principals still expect the Chinese team to come to the United States in September. So both countries seem to be protecting their turf here. But the talks and negotiations continue and I think that's very positive.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you expect China to retaliate to the tariffs the President put in place on Friday?

LARRY KUDLOW: I do not. I-- I think, you know, his was an action to respond to their action. So I doubt whether they are going to take another step.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.

LARRY KUDLOW: I have not heard their official response, yet. We'll have to wait and see on that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Larry, in the past you-- you've been very clear that you think tariffs are, essentially, a-- a tax on the American consumer and that it particularly hits low-income families. How do you tell Americans that this is not going to spiral in a way that hurts them?

LARRY KUDLOW: Well, look, one point-- point I want to make is the economic burden of these tariffs is falling most heavily on China, probably by a factor of four or five to one. As far as any impact here, I will argue, as I have, it's a very small, minimal impact. The burden of this thing is falling way on China. And let me just add to your other question the impact for ordinary American families. Look, consumer wages are booming, consumer spending is booming.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

LARRY KUDLOW: Actually, the best performing sectors in terms of wage increase, Margaret, blue-collar workers, middle-income and lower-income workers. The bottom ten percentile is doing the best. And our tax cuts have actually provided at least, I don't know, twenty-five hundred, three thousand dollars less taxes, lower tax liabilities--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

LARRY KUDLOW: --on ordinary, average American families. So the net-- net is the tax cuts, in my judgment, far outweigh very small harm regarding the tariffs. And look the President, again, he has got to defend the American economy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure, but-- but, Larry, that success you just--

LARRY KUDLOW: Chinese trading practices, and IP thefts have done great damage to certain sectors of our economy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which is why--

LARRY KUDLOW: And the President--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which is--

LARRY KUDLOW: --is determined to defend it and change it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --which is why so many people support the idea of getting tough with China, but they're worried that you're actually going to damage American businesses. I'm looking at statements from the Retail Industry Leaders Association just on Friday: "Mister President, we implore you to end this trade war before the damage is irreversible." National Retail Federation: "It's impossible for businesses to plan for the future. How and where does this end?" Larry, this is the business community saying this. China hasn't agreed to any concessions. Where does this end?

LARRY KUDLOW: Well, look, we-- we're in constant touch with all those business groups and, by the way, they're also saying before something really bad happens, which I think is an implication nothing bad has really happened. I-- I just want to disabuse so much of this recession talk out there. It just ain't so.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. But businesses--

LARRY KUDLOW: Consumers--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --you know have to plan--

LARRY KUDLOW: --employment--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --for the future--

LARRY KUDLOW: --business itself is doing very well--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --and confidence is a fragile thing, you know that. So, businesses are saying--

LARRY KUDLOW: Well that's--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --they're-- they're inhibited here.

LARRY KUDLOW: -- that's fair enough. But-- but at the same time, truly, thousands and thousands of businesses have implored the President to protect them against China's unfair trading practices and their IP theft, and their forced technologies of transfers and their high tariffs. They have implored the President to take action. Look he's the-- he's the first President in our memory, Margaret, to go after these Chinese practices, which have done so much damage to the American economy and the rest of the world's economy as well. He has to do it. He is going to continue to do it. Lower trade barriers would do great--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

LARRY KUDLOW: --great help to our economy to everybody large and small companies. We have our tax cut plan which gave the retailers and so forth great benefits, gave individuals and small businesses great benefits. And we are looking as I said earlier last week, there's a tax cut 2.0 study going under my-- under my aegis. We're looking at something. It's not immediate. We're not worried about a recession.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As you heard, the President said he was pulling back some because he was concerned it could be passed along to the consumer. Do you though-- based on what the President said again today, do you believe that the President does have the authority to block private businesses from investing in China?

LARRY KUDLOW: Well, look, ultimately, he does have authority. It's--

MARGARET BRENNAN: How would that work?

LARRY KUDLOW: --an emergency economic power authority. Well, it was nearly invoked, regarding the Mexican border crisis, before the Mexicans came to our rescue, and they've done a great job down at the border, great job. So in theory that law exists, but that's not what the President said. He is asking American companies to take a look, take a fresh look at frankly moving out of China, go in someplace else--

MARGARET BRENNAN: That takes years.

LARRY KUDLOW: --preferably coming home to America. It will take years. That is correct and that's why there's no immediate action here. He just put that out there. Look, I have heard him say this time and time again the couple of years I've been working here, he said it to individual businesses, he said it to the big business groups, he is asking them to come home. Come back home to America. We're giving you low taxes and low regulations and an entrepreneurial environment. So, in a sense this is nothing new. Maybe the way it was phrased was a little tougher than usual, but we-- come home. Come home to America. This is the bass play-- the best place to work and live and earn and invest.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. So, to be clear, the President does not believe he can block private transactions with China?

LARRY KUDLOW: He is not intending to right now. That is not his intention.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But that is still something he is thinking about?

LARRY KUDLOW: You know, I-- I don't even want to go down that road. It's like first things first let's look straight ahead.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Larry Kudlow, always good to talk to you.

LARRY KUDLOW: Thank you, Margaret. Appreciate it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, South Carolina Senior Senator Lindsey Graham. Senator, good to have you here.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-south Carolina/@LindseyGrahamSC/Judiciary Committee Chairman): Thank you. That was fun.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I-- I want to know what you think about what Larry just described there. He said the President does have the authority to block private investment in China. You said the other day you don't--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well I don't-- I don't--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --think he does.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: --know how the statute works. I think he can levy tariffs on countries that he-- that-- that are creating a national security threat to us. Maybe he can, you know, do something about exporting to countries that he believes are national security danger. I don't know. But if you start getting into that, it's a global economy. The one thing-- I love Larry Kudlow. It's a global economy. I am glad American companies are in China doing business because there's lot of customers. What I don't like is they close off markets to the American business community in China. They require you to have a Chinese business partner when you do business in China and they steal all of your stuff. Every Democrat and every Republican of note has said China cheats. The Democrats for years have been claiming that China should be stood up to. Now Trump is and we just got to accept the pain that comes with standing up to China. How do you get China to change without creating some pain on them and us? I don't know.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How much pain should people of South Carolina be prepared for?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Some. Consumer prices on commodities are going to go up. We're now that part in the trade war where you feel price increases at Walmart. The President has backed off because he's worried about the Christmas shopping season. I'd tell you, Mister President, listen, you got more bullets than they do. They sell us a lot more stuff than we sell them and the goal is get them to change their behavior. The Chinese government, the Chinese army and the Chinese business community are one and the same. They're very mercantile. You don't have these disputes among democracies, but the Chinese Communist Party runs everything in China. Until they feel the pain, they are not going to stop. They-- they need to change their intellectual property theft practices.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: They need to open up their markets to us. They need to become a reliable trading partner rather than a mercantile system that cheats everybody out of market share.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And they-- a lot of people, as you say, support the President in that China hasn't agreed to do those things--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --up to this point.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: And they never will until they pay a heavier price.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you think possibly not until after the election--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I think--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --in 2020?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: --they're trying to wait Trump out. I think they've made a calculation that our elections are right around the corner. They can play this game to 2020. If Trump keeps piling on, I don't know if they can make it that long because the supply chain is beginning to move. The more expensive it create-- you to produce products in China, the more likely you are to relocate the supply chain which would be a death blow to the Chinese economy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm. That's been happening for-- for some time but do you, because South Carolina has so many auto plants in particular--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Steel and aluminum tariffs hurt us a lot.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: But, you know, the steel and aluminum business has a chance of coming back. China produced more steel in one year than the entire world consumed. That's an unfair trade practice. They should be in the WTO as a developed nation not a developing nation. Everybody--I had a bill with Chuck Schumer seven or eight years ago to label China a currency manipulator--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: --and to put a twenty-seven-and-a-half-percent tariff on every product that benefited from currency manipulation. Bush would never do it. Obama would never do it. Trump did it. So to my Democratic colleagues, he's doing the things you've been calling for all these years.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What about the threat of tariffs and this dispute with the EU that could really impact the automakers?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I think tariffs are tools. When you look at the world tariff regime, sixty-seven percent of all the tariffs in the world disadvantage America. There's a higher tariff on American products in the country in which we do business with. India's the worst. I've been introduced a bill that allows the American president to charge the same as the country we're doing business with changes-- charges. So like in India.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: They have a hundred percent tariff on a lot of our products. Either we increase tariffs on Indian products or we all go to zero. The goal is to go to zero.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about a report out this week from the Congressional Budget Office. They raised the estimate the budget deficit to now one trillion dollars for 2020.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As a Republican, do you still believe deficits matter?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yeah, deficits matter, but they're driven by entitlement spending. I don't believe defense spending is the problem with the deficit. I don't believe--

MARGARET BRENNAN: From the tax cuts--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: --discretionary, domestic--- I don't believe the tax cuts--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --also were unpaid for.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I think the tax cuts are going to pay for themselves. I believe that. I think an infrastructure bill would probably pay for itself. You'll never get deficits in order and out of debt and to reform Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about Afghanistan.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I know you have been tracking these peace talks that--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Mm-Hm. Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --the Trump administration is holding with the Taliban. There were two American service people killed in Afghanistan this week.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: More than two thousand four hundred Americans have been killed on that battlefield over--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --the past eighteen years. Virtually every single Democrat running for President says they're going to bring the troops home.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's exact-- exactly what President Trump is saying.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, I have no--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why are all of them?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well I think they're all wrong. I think in one day, we lost three thousand Americans because we took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan. Almost three thousand Americans died because we ignored Afghanistan. To Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, read the intelligence assessment by our Intelligence Committee as to what would happen to our homeland if we pulled out of Afghanistan tomorrow. Mister President, if you don't have a counterterrorism force left behind, even if you got to deal with the Taliban, which I doubt but you might, they don't have the capability or will to protect the American homeland. Every national security adviser to this president unanimously believes we need a robust counterterrorism force to make sure that ISIS and al-Qaeda do not regenerate in Afghanistan to hit the American homeland.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you concerned the President's not listening--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I am concerned--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --to all of those advisors?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: --that the President, in his desire to get out, is going to make the same mistake that President Obama did in Iraq. I don't want you to be like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. I want you to take good, sound military advice. Mister President, lowering the cost of this war is a noble endeavor. We've lost fourteen soldiers this year. God bless them all, but they're an insurance policy against another 9/11. They act as a virtual wall against ISIS and al-Qaeda. You may get a peace deal with the Taliban, but you'll never get a peace deal with al-Qaeda or-- and ISIS. They have an intent to strike America. They just don't have the capability yet. If we leave and outsource our national security to the Taliban that they're going to take care of al-Qaeda and ISIS--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: --that would be a disastrous decision. And when you're on the stage with Bernie, Elizabeth, or Biden I wish you'd look them in the eye and say, unlike you, I'm gonna listen to my commanders. Unlike you, I'm not going to expose the American homeland to another 9/11 because of politics.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What is that number--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: The number--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --of the forces?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM:  --is going to be around eighty-six hundred. To go below that I think would be really risky. So I'm going to introduce legislation requiring the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State to certify to the Congress that to go below eighty-six hundred does not create a-- an additional national security risk to the homeland. ISIS-K which is the--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: --Afghan version of ISIS and al-Qaeda is alive and well. And it's our American soldiers, our intel community have the capability to protect the homeland. And if you've got to deal with the Taliban eighty percent of the people in Afghanistan reject the Taliban.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I hope it's an honorable deal. I hope we don't throw the women back in the soccer stadiums to be shot and killed for sport. I think you might get the Taliban to the-- to the table, but you'll never get ISIS and Al-Qaeda to the table.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is the one-year anniversary of your good friend--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --John McCain's passing.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Mm-Hm.

MARGARET BRENNAN: His widow Cindy McCain has called for acts of civility to try to remember him. Is that possible anymore? Has the rhetoric just gotten so rough and tumble that--

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: It's a rough and tumble--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --that's a past age?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: It's a rough and tumble America, but America's always been pretty rough and tumble. John was a rough and tumble guy, but he had the ability to-- to stop the fight and get results. What's missing is the desire to get results. I don't care what language you use, I want to produce results. What do I miss most about John McCain? That steady, understanding of the world. If he were alive today he would be saying exactly what I'm saying about Afghanistan. I know we're all tired of being over there. I know it's been costly in blood and treasure, but there is no way to leave Afghanistan in my view honorably and safely without having a counterterrorism force with intel capability to protect the American homeland. John McCain never sold false peace. He never sold the illusion of peace. So, Cindy McCain has taken over his job for the family.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Nobody was ever better taking care of in illness than Cindy provided care to John. She's doing a great job in her own and-- and human trafficking, and to the four boys and three daughters, they're doing-- doing great. They miss their dad. I miss him, but my job is to carry on and help this President where I can and I will.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you very much, Senator.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MAN (Urbandale, Iowa): I am concerned about a recession because I think the debt and the tariffs are eventually going to catch up.

WOMAN (Fairfax, Virginia): I think it's the buzzword recession. First it was Russia, then it was racism and now its recession.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Those were two voters our CBS News campaign reporter spoke to this week. Here to unpack more about how Americans feel they are faring in the Trump economy is CBS News director of elections and surveys, Anthony Salvanto. He has fresh numbers from a new CBS News poll. Anthony, good to see you here.

ANTHONY SALVANTO (CBS News Elections and Surveys Director/@SalvantoCBS/Where Did You Get This Number?): Thanks.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How are Americans feeling after this week?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, optimism still outweighs pessimism, certainly in people's personal finances, they tell us, but also for the economy as a whole. But then we ask people, okay, specifically, what do you think it is that you can be optimistic or pessimistic about? Because, look, there are so many ways you can measure the economy. Well, the number-one thing they told us was the job market. They think that that's in good shape. That gave them reason for optimism. More mixed was when they looked at the stock market. That's a more closed balance of optimism and pessimism.

MARGARET BRENNAN: About half of Americans own stock.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Exactly. So not everybody is affected by it. In fact, it's only about thirteen percent of people that tell us that the stock market affects them a lot. You know, the President often uses that as a measure for the economy. Important to remember that's not always coming through to the kitchen table for everybody. And then, on trade policy and on world affairs, both of those things, people tell us they look out and they see more reason for pessimism. So there is a little bit of that mix of pessimism and uncertainty still out there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, on pessimism, are people saying on the trade war that they support what President Trump is doing?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, a majority of Americans feels that the American consumer will end up paying for these tariffs, and the President gets lower marks on handling trade policy with China than he does for handling the economy overall. But we also talked to people who are specifically involved in agriculture and jobs related to it. And they are more mixed on the help-and-hurt balance for what this will do. You know it's interesting, we also asked, is this something that you think you believe will work or something that you hope will work? And that's really split, too. So I think it underpins this idea that there's a sense people want something done, although maybe not necessarily specifically this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What happens at the kitchen table? What are the pocketbook issues that have people concerned?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Right. When you look at what people are dealing with on a day-to-day basis, they tell us, they really see a split between the confident and the concern, which is to say there are people who are confident they can pay their housing, pay their-- their daily bills. But then those who are concerned about the same sorts of things, about evenly, interestingly enough, medical costs and medical bills are the thing that really stood out that people are more concerned about right now. We even talked to about a third of people who told us that they'd passed up seeing a doctor or filling a prescription because of the cost.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's always health care, always.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: It's always health care, and it's always that specific element of cost. So that's something that I think going forward we have to watch.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, do people hold the President accountable for these concerns? Or do they give him, you know, credit?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Well, the first thing that people want to look at is where they're getting their information about the economy. And that's really different today in this partisan environment. We saw the clip of the woman who was talking about what the media talks about the economy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: And there is a sizable number of people who feel that the media makes things about the economy sound worse than they really are. But then, again, they--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Trust factor.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: There is the trust factor. But then again, there is the President, and a lot of people think he makes things sound better than they really are. Which is to say, it depends on where you're getting your information. Now, the President's job handling for the economy is still better then what we would effectively be his reelect number. The number of people who say that they probably or definitely vote for him, and that's about where his approval rating is. So there's that. But then, also, when you talk about the economy, today, you have to talk about partisanship. Which is to say, Republicans say they're better off, but the ones who say they aren't better off are still voting for President Trump. Democrats who say they are better off still said they won't vote for President Trump. So any time-- the old measures of, you know, it's the economy, stupid, or are you better off today than you were--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: --four years ago? Those things kind of go out the window more and more today and it's really that partisan lens through which people view even things that might otherwise be seen as objective numbers.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So bottom line, it's not as simple as saying if the economy is booming the President will be reelected?

ANTHONY SALVANTO: No, it's not. It's that partisan lens that really dominates today or is a major factor and that's the thing people should always watch when they talk and the punditry, looking forward at this election, that that partisan lens really starts to color how people look at economic numbers, too.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Anthony, thank you very much.

ANTHONY SALVANTO: Thanks.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we'll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Some of our stations are leaving us now, but we'll be right back with Minnesota's senator, Amy Klobuchar.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We are now joined by Minnesota senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar. She joins us from Boston. Good morning to you, Senator.

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-Minnesota/@amyklobuchar/2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate): Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You've said before on this program that you agree with the premise of challenging China but you do it with allies and you wouldn't use tariffs. How exactly would you get them to the negotiating table?

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: Right now you have complete chaos, Margaret, and you can use tariffs, but not the way this President has been using tariffs. He's been using them like a meat cleaver or maybe the better word is a tweet cleaver. And when you look at what he's done just on August 1st he announced three hundred billion goods, more tariffs. Then on August 13th they reversed it. Then on August 20th they said they were going to do taxes because of the fears of recession they were going to reduce taxes which, of course, would only add more to the debt that he's created. And then the next day they reversed that. And I think one common adage, when you deal with the rest of the world then you want to have credibility for our great country, is that you keep your promises and you keep your threats. And what he does is he makes these blustering threats like kicking all of our companies out of China that people don't think really he's going to follow through on. So what I would do is go back to the negotiating table with our allies examine these tariffs. Some of them can come off; some of them could stay on and then make sure that we're using trade enforcement. I had my own experience with this to keep Minnesota iron ore mines open because of Chinese steel dumping. And at the end of the Obama administration we called for and passed some laws, got more enforcement going. And they opened up again. That is not the careful targeted approach that this President is doing and as a result you've got soybeans sitting in bins in Iowa, you've got pork down to its lowest export levels in nine years. This is starting to hurt everyday Americans because of the chaos that he's created.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Democrats are running on this message that the economy isn't working for everyone. But in this latest CBS News poll we see the majority of people say the economy is good and they approve of President Trump's handling of it. Are Democrats out of step?

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: We're not out of step and I just know the people that I talk to. They know the economy is stable and we've come out of the downturn because of the hard work and resilience of our workers and our businesses. But what a true leader does there's an old Ojibwe saying that a true leader makes decisions not for this generation but for seven generations from now. This President can't make-- keep his decision for seven minutes from now. What a true leader does it says what are these challenges? What do I see on the horizon? We know that we've got to do something long term about this debt. And he just keeps adding to it. We know we have to help people afford things like their pharmaceuticals. And he has done nothing. He's made a bunch of promises. I would take them on. It's this whole constellation of things where it's just too expensive for people to participate in this economy. And then the third thing that we need to do is to simply go back to the negotiating table when it comes to the trade war that he's created and then make sure that we are doing something about this debt in the long term. That's why I've opposed so many of his policies. Even if you just took these corporate tax giveaways, what he's done in that last tax bill, you could have so much more money--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: --to invest in people's everyday lives and infrastructure.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about Afghanistan. As commander-in-chief, you told The New York Times in your first year you would no longer have troops in that country. Senator Lindsey Graham is warning you go to zero, that's reckless. That risks having the country collapse into the hands of terrorists. So, how do you balance that?

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: I look at it this way. We have people that were now are deploying that weren't even born when we got into Afghanistan. So, a lot of this is negotiating. You know this President because of the chaos that he's created on the foreign stage makes it so our allies don't always trust him. But that doesn't mean that you don't go back to the negotiating table and you try to negotiate. I think you've got to make sure that when you're dealing with the Taliban that you know exactly what they're up to, what's going to happen. You want to make sure a lot of the gains we made with women in government and the democracy gains that we made in Afghanistan stay the same. But, yes, I think we need to start bringing our troops home.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Does any footprint need to stay?

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: You could always have training footprints and people working there ready to go if there is a complete upsurge. But I think that you have to make sure that this country can function on their own. And my concern right now is that if this President just keeps going back and forth on this once again--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: --they'll never step up. That's when-- been the past with Afghanistan.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We saw three 2020 candidates drop out recently. Seth Moulton, one of them, told the Times: "I think it's evident this is now a three-way race between Biden, Warren and Sanders. And it's a debate about how far left the party should go." Do you feel those same pressures?

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: No. I don't feel them at all because I've just made the debates for the fall. It's like making the playoffs. And it is a long haul number of our Presidents that ended up being our Presidents were in single digits at this point in the summer. And that's because I have a different kind of campaign. I am running a grassroots campaign. We have great teams in New Hampshire and in Iowa. And we're gaining support endorsements all the time.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Lastly, on immigration. The White House said this week that they want to change the Flores agreement which would allow them to detain indefinitely migrant families but do it to-- holding them together. The Obama administration also tried to get out from under the Flores agreement. Where do you stand on this?

SENATOR AMY KLOBUCHAR: This will end up in court. And my guess is that it will be thrown out because of the way this administration has handled immigration. But I think the bigger issue here, Margaret, is that if he really wanted to do something about this he'd pass comprehensive immigration reform which would be better for our economy instead of using these immigrants as pawns.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Klobuchar, thank you.

We'll be right back with Josh Bolten of the Business Roundtable.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're now joined by Joshua Bolten. He is the president and CEO of the Business Roundtable, a lobbying group that represents nearly two hundred of the world's largest companies. Many here in Washington also remember him as former White House chief of staff to George W. Bush. Welcome to the show.

JOSHUA BOLTEN (President and CEO, Business Roundtable): Thanks for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you just heard the President's Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow say that the President does have the authority, though, he is not using it right now, to, essentially, stop private investment in China. What do corporations think when they hear that?

JOSHUA BOLTEN: They get worried with that-- you know, we don't need to go into the details of what authorities the President has, but he-- he has a lot of authority through the National Security statutes to disrupt trade and commerce in a way that would cause huge damage, not just to the Chinese economy but to the global economy and the U.S. economy. So, American CEOs are concerned about the escalating tit-for-tat trade war with China.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you saw some of that reflected in that sell-off that we saw in the financial markets on Friday and some concerned about what's going to be happening in the global economy. We're hearing from American companies that they are worried about investing because they just don't know what's around the corner. And the White House is saying, "Trust us on this." Is that enough to invest on? How-- how do corporations plan around that?

JOSHUA BOLTEN: No. They can't-- they can't plan around that. I mean, look, it's a-- it's a difficult situation because the CEOs of the Business Roundtable have been very supportive of a lot of the objectives that the administration has been pursuing in their negotiation with the Chinese. There need to be structural reforms to get rid of intellectual property theft, to open their markets to more investment, to open their markets to more U.S. products, to stop forced technology transfer, to stop subsidies to-- to targeted industries. And all of those things are very important to have happened. But if the-- if this trade war spirals out of control, the damage is huge. I-- I have a lot of respect for Larry Kudlow, but he is just not reflecting the views of American business when he says, "This is all fine." A lot of American businesses now have their foot poised above-- right on top of the brake, and they're tapping the brake periodically. What we saw on Friday with the stock market was the markets tapping the brake lightly. But if this spirals out of control, the risk is that everybody is going to slam on the brake and that would be a disaster, not just for the Chinese but for the United States as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And what is-- what-- what is that tipping point?

JOSHUA BOLTEN: We don't know where the tipping point is, but-- but the-- the current situation is-- is sounding very risky. Here's-- here's what was most concerning about the President's tweet yesterday, which was he's-- he's clearly trying to ratchet up the pressure on the Chinese to make the kinds of accommodations we want in the trade negotiations. Business community supports that, but the President's tweet also implied that he thinks it would be either benign or maybe even helpful for the United States to decouple completely from the Chinese economy. That would be a disaster. Not just for the Chinese, for the global economy and for the United States--

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is the world's second largest economy and a huge business partner.

JOSHUA BOLTEN: --the world's second largest economy and the biggest market for-- for U.S. and everybody else's products and a gateway to the rest of Asia for U.S. exporters. So, it is-- it is not benign and certainly not helpful to contemplate a complete decoupling from the Chinese. We need to resolve the trade situation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JOSHUA BOLTEN: And until we do American businesses' foot is going to be poised over the brake pedal, tapping it periodically, and hopefully not slamming on the brakes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You-- you hear support for the premise, not for the tactics, from a lot of Republicans. But you also hear, though, a-- a response in some ways that this is a necessary amount of pain. You also hear out there on the campaign trail a lot of complaints, particularly from Democratic candidates that corporations have been, essentially, getting the best of American workers for years. President Trump, when he campaigned, essentially, said the same thing. This week, your organization made a change, saying that your sort of premise for the responsibility of corporations is not first to profits and shareholders but, essentially, to their employees. Is this a response to these political pressures?

JOSHUA BOLTEN: No. It's not a response to the political pressures, but it's-- it's a recognition of a hundred and eighty-two of our CEOs of some of them--America's biggest companies that it's the right thing to do. You know, for-- Margaret, for twenty years, the-- the Business Roundtable has had a policy statement that said the principal purpose of a corporation is to benefit its shareholders. And what the-- those hundred and eighty-two CEOs of the Roundtable did this past week is issued a statement withdrawing that previous policy statement and saying, "No, the purpose of a corporation is to serve all of its stakeholders, its customers--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JOSHUA BOLTEN: --its employees, its communities and its shareholders."

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that means higher wages? That means--

JOSHUA BOLTEN: It-- it does in some--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --more benefits?

JOSHUA BOLTEN: Ab-- absolutely does in some cases. Many of-- many of our companies have already raised their-- their minimum wages and for the first time the Business Roundtable supports an increase in the minimum wage. But it means taking care of all of your stakeholders because in the very long run you can't take care of your shareholders unless you've taken care of your customers, employees, and communities as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As-- as a Republican, as someone who ran the OMB, do you believe still that deficits matter when you see numbers like you saw this week?

JOSHUA BOLTEN: Yeah, deficits absolutely matter. Now they-- they have not so far mattered as much as most economists or budget directors would have predicted, but they definitely do matter. But I-- I agree with-- with Senator Graham when he says that the way to attack this problem is to go after the real drivers of the unsustainable costs in our budget--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JOSHUA BOLTEN: --which is our entitlement programs. You-- you cannot balance this budget by shrinking the economy with higher taxes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JOSHUA BOLTEN: And you cannot balance the budget by focusing just on the discretionary spending--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

JOSHUA BOLTEN: --which is really the-- a relatively small part of the problem.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Josh Bolten, thanks for joining us.

JOSHUA BOLTEN: Thank you for having me.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MAN #1: How are things going for you financially?

WOMAN #1 (Des Moines, IA): They could be better. Yeah. They could be better.

MAN #2 (Las Vegas, NV): Everybody I know is working. It seems pretty easy to get a job.

MAN #3 (Charleston, SC): I have some issues with President Trump's approach on trade. I don't think tariffs work.

WOMAN #2 (Hillsborough, NH): I'm-- I'm so upset by the fact that we're losing ground, and our allies don't even like us. Nobody likes us. And you know what I get it. I totally get it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: For some political analysis, we turn now to our panel. Michael Graham is politics editor at InsideSources and also contributor on our digital network CBSN. Joshua Johnson is the host of NPR's 1A; and Anne Gearan is a White House correspondent for the Washington Post. Good to have you all here.

MICHAEL GRAHAM (InsideSources/@IAMMGraham): Good to be here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Anne, does the White House have a clear message to calm the concerns?

ANNE GEARAN (Washington Post/@agearan): No. And we saw that play out in-- in dramatic fashion all week where Trump would say one thing in the morning, something else in the afternoon, and then by seven o'clock, we had three aides on the driveway or on-- on television cleaning it up. It has continued in-- in France, where he appeared today to say he had second thoughts about the-- the tariff war with China, only to have aides go out and say that isn't what he meant at all. So, no, no, there's no clear message.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But when you look at the polling that we're seeing here, Michael, it-- it says the majority of Americans--

MICHAEL GRAHAM: Right.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --do think things are going okay with the economy.

MICHAEL GRAHAM: And I think Larry Kudlow tried to make the case that if you look at the economy broadly, still doing well. The polling you-- you had from CBS News shows that it's still there. My question is, what does a-- a successful economy do to voter behavior? If you really believe that the economy is so good that it can survive the craziness of Trump, then it's so good it can survive no Trump.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

MICHAEL GRAHAM: And it frees voters who don't like Trump, but really like the economy, that fifty-three percent, to say, you know what? I don't have to take the craziness. I-- this economy is so strong, I can afford to vote against my economic means. And-- and you're absolutely right. The era of it's the economy, stupid, is over.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Joshua, forty-five percent of those polled say they'd definitely, probably vote for Trump. So as you were just laying out there, a strong economy, it's not decisive in the way it used to be. Is the bottom line just people can't see beyond their party anymore?

JOSHUA JOHNSON (NPR's 1A/@jejohnson322): I don't know if it's that. I think also if you look at that poll, if you combine the people who say they will and the people who say they won't and then the people who say they won't vote, within the margin of error, it could go either way. That's what I take from the poll. I don't know that we know what to make of the economy yet. There are all these different indicators that Larry Kudlow throws out. He did it this week; he did it last week in another Sunday morning interview. So there's all of this kind of like-- there's all these facts and figures flying around.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JOSHUA JOHNSON: Then you have your own personal force, and you think, well, I can still pay my bills, I can still gas the car up, I'm still going to work, my paycheck hasn't dropped, my health insurance hasn't gotten that much more expensive. Maybe I'm okay. Then you've got all these other economic things going on around the world. You've got Britain now dealing with Brexit. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC this morning that the-- that it's looking touch and go in terms of having a deal and that now the ball is in the EU's court, and the main thing is to prepare for a no-deal Brexit so the world is more complicated. Then you've got President Xi who's not thinking about the end of his administration. He's thinking about the end of his life.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JOSHUA JOHNSON: Xi Jinping will be the president of China until the day he dies and in the middle you have Americans who are trying to figure out who am I going to vote for either in the primaries or in the general? I am-- I-- I think it's going to come down to when people start cancelling their Netflix subscriptions. I mean, when it-- when it comes down to the-- to the creature comforts that we have--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JOSHUA JOHNSON: --to feeling that day-to-day life has changed. We're not there, yet. So I totally understand why people are kind of, well, maybe I like the economy. I'm not sure I like the fact that he tweets so much, but everything seems to be okay. We can't know yet. There's too much going on, and nothing rises to the top.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Anne, the other uncertainty is just what's happening in the world. We saw some breaking headlines that Iran's top diplomat, Javad Zarif, has made the surprise visit to the G7. What is he there for? Is he meeting with President Trump?

ANNE GEARAN: We don't know the answer to that. It appears that one of two things is-- is happening, either the French president, who's hosting this meeting, Emmanuel Macron, has some kind of side plan for Zarif to speak with-- with other diplomats there. This may or may not in-- include Trump, and it may-- which brings up the other possibility, which is that if-- if those advanced-- if that advanced planning does not include Trump, and we had not heard a word about it until an hour ago, that means that Macron is sandbagging Trump. And so stay tuned.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Stay tuned. We'll see, to quote the President, as-- as he said. But this uncertainty, does-- is there a political cost to the geopolitical, to the economic, to the financial un-- uncertainty?

MICHAEL GRAHAM: Obviously, it affects, you know, the world. And I think, you know, it's fascinating. Do you know who the most popular back home at the G7 summit leaders is? Anyone? Well, no, it's not Trump. That was the trick question. It's actually Shinzo Abe. But Trump is number two. He's the second most popular person at home. Not because he's, obviously, popular, but because things-- people are so unpopular. There's so much turmoil and change going at home. Imagine what it does to the global economy if there is a hard out of Brexit. I'm-- we-- we don't even know what that is going to look like. And I think Trump's theory is turmoil helps me. I am the candidate of turmoil. More turmoil, that's my team. And I, you know, that-- that energizes my people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

MICHAEL GRAHAM: And that's why he's more popular with the leaders of Warsaw-- of-- of Poland and Romania than he is with England and France.

JOSHUA JOHNSON: Although we should be careful. And I hear what you're saying. But I think for the voters who put Donald Trump in office, what some would call turmoil, they would call a shake-up. I mean, this is why Donald Trump got elected is because there were--

MICHAEL GRAHAM: Right.

JOSHUA JOHNSON: --millions of Americans who said you don't see me? Fine. I'm going to punch you in the throat and make you pay attention and I'm going to elect somebody who's going to do it for me for four years. So the voters who are getting what they want now, even those who see their economic fortune shaky but still believe in Donald Trump's vision for the country--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JOSHUA JOHNSON: --there is risk, I think, politically, for Democrats and even for some Republicans-- we heard Joe Walsh is now going to run for the Republican nomination this year--telling those voters, you know what now we need to fix this. We need to put the right person in office. You're really going to tell tens of millions of Americans that I'm what's wrong with the country because I put the wrong President in-- in office and he's doing what I want him to do just because you don't like him in the media and the press and inside the Beltway, are you supposed to make me feel like I am the problem now? I'm-- I'm looking forward to see and when the American people start to feel what's going on and how that plays out with the voters who put Donald Trump in office, and whether any other candidate can pull them over without shaming them--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

JOSHUA JOHNSON: --for what they've put the country through. And for what they've sent the country into. I'm not sure anyone's ready to do that yet.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Anne, the President, though, is feeling some pressure. He's been tweeting and talking at length about what's happening with China and he's blaming the Fed chair for a good part of it.

ANNE GEARAN: He-- he blames China. He blames the Fed chair. He blames-- he blames Germany. And he blames the media for mi-- for-- for misinterpreting him. Sometimes that order gets mixed up, but those are-- those are the main scapegoats. He, clearly, is feeling pressure. I-- I think all indications are-- our-- and our reporting shows that he does firmly believe in the power of tariffs and thinks that he can wait out China. The problem is that China thinks that China can wait out-- wait out Trump.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

ANNE GEARAN: And, yes, the U.S. economy is larger and stronger. Yes, Trump has a lot of cards that he can play. But he doesn't have a command economy, the-- the way China does. He doesn't have the-- the state control that-- that China does where they could just demand--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mm-Hm.

ANNE GEARAN: --that they wait him out.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will stay tuned. Thanks to all of you for joining us.

ANNE GEARAN: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we will be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's it for us today. Thank you all for watching. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I'm Margaret Brennan.