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State of the Union
Interview With National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci; Interview With Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH); Interview With Texas Gubernatorial Candidate Beto O'Rourke; Interview With Virginia Lieutenant Governor-Elect Winsome Sears. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired November 21, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Fighting stance. As Democrats try to pass the Biden agenda and Republicans grapple with the influence of the former president, which party has the winning message for the midterms? I will speak exclusively to two Republicans, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and Virginia's history-making lieutenant governor-elect Winsome Sears, plus Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke.
And acquitted, Kyle Rittenhouse found not guilty of murder, the trial sparking dismay...
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Clearly, there's a lot more work to do.
BASH: ... and jubilation.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Kyle Rittenhouse would probably make a good congressional intern.
BASH: What does it all say about American justice?
Plus: You get a boost. The FDA approves COVID boosters for all adults.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Get as many people who are eligible for booster -- getting boosted as possible.
BASH: But with cases rising and the holidays here, can we avoid a winter surge? I will speak to Dr. Anthony Fauci ahead.
BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is taking stock.
As the holiday week approaches, President Biden has some good news to be thankful for. After weeks of tense negotiations, Friday, the House passed the cornerstone plan of President Biden's agenda, the roughly $2 trillion social safety net and climate bill, what he calls Build Back Better.
But, on the other side of Thanksgiving, another huge challenge lies ahead for Democrats, convincing moderate senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to sign onto the legislation. As Biden confronts rising legislation and falling poll numbers and while Democrats fight over the scope of their policies, Republicans in Washington are facing a reckoning over conduct.
This week, only two Republicans voted to censure Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar for posting an edited video depicting him appearing to kill Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Not only did Gosar's Republican colleagues essentially condone the behavior. The party's de facto leader, former President Donald Trump, endorsed his reelection.
Joining me is Republican Governor Chris Sununu, who announced this month that he plans to run for reelection there in New Hampshire and stay as far away from where I am, in Washington, as possible.
Thank you so much, Governor, for joining me.
Let's first start on the president's agenda. House Democrats just passed the sweeping social safety net and climate bill.
I want to put up on the screen some of what is in this bill, clean energy, climate incentives, universal pre-K, expanded child tax credits, paid family leave, new health care subsidies and benefits, and more. Poll after poll shows these policies are broadly popular with voters in both parties.
So do you think it is a mistake for Republicans here in Washington to dismiss that and oppose these measures?
GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): It's not about the measures and the policies. Everyone likes those things. They're good things.
But this is an immense amount of money. And we don't run a balanced budget in Washington. We sure as heck do here in New Hampshire. Somebody has to pay for all of us this. We have got good programs at the state level that do a lot of these things.
So, look, more programs and all that sound good, but, at the end of the day, they have to be paid for and they have to be sustainable, because these aren't programs that we're just going to do for a couple of years. This is one-time money, most of it, but it now has to get built into a budget.
Washington doesn't seem to understand the concept of a budget, but somebody has to pay this. It's not just you and me. It's our kids and grandkids.
BASH: So, they...
SUNUNU: So, the fiscal responsibility has left the window out of Washington, D.C., and I think that's a frustration for all Americans.
BASH: They say that it is paid for, that they have ways to offset the costs.
SUNUNU: Yes, it's called taxes. Right.
So, one thing -- one of the reasons I want to stay as governor is because, as they keep raising taxes on everybody in Washington, D.C., I keep lowering them and Republican governors keep lowering them for their citizens to offset that.
Inflation, in itself, is the worst tax you can put on low- and middle- income families across America, because they got to buy a gallon of gas as much as anybody else. And so this idea that this -- we're going to spend $1.75 trillion, but, trust us, it's not going to cost you anything, nobody buys that.
The American people are smart. They're voters. They're going to vote with their feet. And if people did buy it, you would see poll numbers changing. You would see this stuff get overwhelming support from the American people, not just from one party or the other.
So, overall, you have got to find ways to get to the middle. You don't do that just by cutting a price tag from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion. You do it by looking at what happens at a local level. How do you make sure these programs can get implemented?
Remember, the Senate supports a policy. They support funding. And then they go under on to the next thing. It's governors and the citizens in local communities that have to implement these programs and that feel the real cost of them. So...
BASH: So, Governor, you talked about inflation, you have been critical of President Biden and the way he's handled rising inflation.
Gas prices in New Hampshire, I don't have to tell you, are almost 70 percent higher than last year at this time. I know you're worried about the cost of home heating this winter. What do you want the president to do that he's not already doing?
SUNUNU: So, a couple things.
When you talk -- number one, when you talk about gas and home heating fuels, the fact that he has limited the supply, said we're not going to create more supply here in the United States, well, fuel is a futures market.
So when all these companies hear that their future supply is going to be diminished here in the U.S., yet the president is asking OPEC to produce more overseas, and he's approving pipelines out of Russia that are more -- or, I should say, less environmentally sound than what we would do here, it doesn't really make much logical sense.
And so that has a huge trigger into the market. Home heating fuel is a big deal, not just on the cost, that's bad enough, but the supply chain, making sure we can get the trucks from point A to point B.
This coming February, the federal government is going to put in further regulations and further barriers to getting a CDL license, just getting someone a trucking license. That's going to actually have real impact, not just moving products onto a grocery shelf, but actually moving heating fuel where it needs to go.
So these are real policies that happened in Washington that we feel every single day in our communities.
BASH: Well, you just passed up a pretty good chance to have a say of what's going on here in Washington when you announced that you're not going to run for the Senate in New Hampshire next year.
You can actually still see Republicans around town wiping their tears from their eyes because they were so sad about it. A lot of them thought, really, that you were the best chance to take back that seat, maybe even flip the Senate. Why did you say no?
SUNUNU: You can just get so much more done as a governor.
Look, being a governor, especially over the past two years, I think people have come to realize that governors are the ones that have to implement, design programs, create opportunities. And we actually, as governors, have the best opportunity to offset what -- some of the negative things coming out of Washington.
When we see these vaccine mandates that are really impacting work force, they're impacting businesses, we're suing three times over. The Senate and the House really don't have any power to do that, because, with these executive orders, they're kind of going right past Congress.
So, as a governor, you can actually play defense and protect the interests of your citizens against the negative stuff coming out of D.C., as well as creating those opportunities. With the infrastructure money coming, with ARP money still out there, with what we did with the CARES Act, it's governors that are designing those programs to make sure we're getting the best bang for our buck, we're putting the right roads money where it can be.
With oil, steel, all of these supply chain issues driving up in both cost and in limited supply, how you implement those infrastructure dollars is going to be a real challenge.
BASH: So, you are a prominent Republican governor, so I want to ask a couple of questions about your party.
Many in the GOP want to kick 13 House Republicans who voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill off their committees. At the same time, you have Republican Congressman Gosar sharing a video showing him killing a Democratic congresswoman, and only two Republicans wanted to strip him of his committees.
What does that say to you about the GOP? Voting for a bipartisan bill is considered worse by many than encouraging violence. SUNUNU: Look, I don't think -- I think politics in its entirety on
both sides of the aisle in Washington is screwed up. I mean, it really is.
They have got their priorities all wrong. They focus on the wrong things. They don't talk about balancing budgets. They don't talk about fixing health care, immigration reform. Social Security and Medicare are going to be broken in about 10 years. You better get around to fixing that, because I have elderly citizens that are counting on those types of programs.
And, instead, we spend all of our time focusing on these nitpicky things. And I think, when a congressman says those things and puts that thing up, of course they have to be censured for that. Of course they have to be held to bear for that.
When we talk about kicking people off of committees because they don't like one vote or the other, again, I just think they have their priorities screwed up.
BASH: So, you're talking -- just to be clear...
SUNUNU: So, I don't either party's going to get 60 votes in -- yes.
BASH: I know you're talking about both parties, but, as a Republican, I'm asking you about Republicans.
It sounds to me like you said that...
BASH: ... Paul Gosar should have been censured and stripped of his committees and that...
BASH: And Republicans -- and it's OK for Republicans to support a bipartisan infrastructure bill?
SUNUNU: Of course.
Look, I think it's OK for Republicans to support anything that is bipartisan.
BASH: What does it say about your party that they're being attacked the way they are?
SUNUNU: Again, I think it says that we have our priorities wrong.
Republicans have had huge successes, with cutting taxes, limiting government, creating -- creating opportunities in schools, supporting parents, making sure kids -- those are our wins, and those are America's wins, and those are wins from not -- Republicans and independents and even some of the conservative Democrats.
And that's what we have to focus on as a party. [09:10:00]
BASH: Governor -- Governor, I was in New Hampshire the day that you announced that you wouldn't run for Senate. I was there covering Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who is facing an uncertain political future and intense criticism from her party over her position January 6.
Do you think there's room for Liz Cheney in the Republican Party, and, specifically -- you're in New Hampshire -- in the 2024 primary process?
SUNUNU: Well, I think there's room for everybody in the Republican Party. I really do. Whether you're independent or Democrat, I think we got room for everybody to come on -- come on board. And I think that's what you're going to see over the next year.
So it's not about -- it can't be about one particular issue. That's kind of that social media mob mentality that's built up in this country, where we think it's -- we don't agree with one issue, so we're going to attack and we're going to vilify one person or one individual.
We got to get beyond that, because, culturally, it's really, really ruining America. And we got to get back to showing that public service can work, and especially at a localized level.
BASH: What about you? Are you thinking about running for president in 2024?
SUNUNU: Now, people have asked me about that. And I got a -- I have got to win in '22. I still have an election and earn the votes of the people in New Hampshire in 2022, serve a couple years.
We will see what the future brings. But there is a lot to do and a lot to not just push back with Washington, but a lot to implement here. It's -- being governor is one of the most challenging jobs you can ever imagine. You got to be on 24/7. But I have the opportunity to do things, a dozen different things every single day that impact people's lives.
SUNUNU: It's incredibly fulfilling. And that's the job I'm focused on.
BASH: You just happen to be doing it in the first-in-the-nation primary state.
I want to let the record reflect that you did not say no.
SUNUNU: There you go.
BASH: Governor, thank you so much for joining me. Appreciate it.
SUNUNU: Thank you, Dana. Be good.
BASH: And she made history on election night, the first woman and woman of color elected to lieutenant governor in Virginia. Republican Winsome Sears is next.
Plus: Democrats are bracing for a difficult election cycle, so why does new gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke think Texas could swing his way?
I will ask him ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WINSOME SEARS (R), VIRGINIA LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR-ELECT: We can live where we want. We can eat where we want. We own the water fountains. We have had a black president elected not once, but twice.
And here I am, living proof.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Welcome back to the STATE OF THE UNION.
That was lieutenant governor-elect Republican Winsome Sears celebrating her history-making victory in Virginia earlier this month. She's breaking barriers as the first woman ever, not to mention the first woman of color, to serve in that role.
And that's just the latest for the conservative Republican and former Marine, who has a lifetime of firsts.
Lieutenant governor-elect Winsome Sears joins me now.
Thank you so much for joining me. Congratulations on your victory.
So, as I have said, you are now the first woman, first woman of color to be elected statewide in Virginia. You said that you didn't run to make history, but you did. So what does it mean to you?
SEARS: Well, it means that, when children look at me, they can say, well, Winsome is there. If she can do it, I can do it, because, as I have said to them in their little enclaves when they get together or in their celebrations when they're graduating, I have said, I didn't do anything special. All I did was stay in school and study. And you can do it too, because I am an example of what you can be, if you put your mind to it.
BASH: I want to talk about some issues that you will be dealing with in Virginia.
President Biden signed his bipartisan infrastructure bill. He signed it into law this week. Virginia alone will receive more than $10 billion towards improving your roads, your bridges, airports, water systems. So is that good for Virginians?
SEARS: Well, it depends on what else comes with it.
We have to look at the whole bill. And, my God, did you see the bill was this big? Who has read that whole massive thing? Do we know what's really in it? And do we have to pass it before we can know what's in it? I think that's true.
I look at some of the other parts of the bill. For example, when you talk about broadband, now, broadband is very important to me, because our Southwestern Virginia has been suffering from not having that.
In fact, 20 years ago, when I was first elected for the House of Delegates, we were crying for broadband for the Southwest. Twenty years, I'm back later still crying. And I have got the feeling it's because nobody really cares.
But, as lieutenant governor, I sit on something called the Center For Rural Advancement. So it's very important to me that we get broadband there.
So, coming back to that bill, we know now that there's money in there for rural advancement. But here's the kicker, only if you have an immigrant population that is absolutely growing and at a certain point. So, once again, our folks in the Southwest are going to be left out because we don't have that there.
And so that's what I'm saying. We're using the budget, the money to try to make things happen that are not happening. And it's not right. It's not right. So we want to know what are in these bills before they're passed, not afterwards.
We want to know, what are our representatives signing on to? And that's going to be one of my bills when I'm sworn in.
BASH: So, this one is now law, of course. Thirteen House Republicans voted yes.
SEARS: It is.
BASH: Were they right?
SEARS: That's going to be left up ultimately to the voters to decide that. And they will figure it out sooner or later.
BASH: Let's talk about some of your priorities as lieutenant governor.
You said in your victory speech that you want to fully fund historically black colleges and universities in Virginia. Do you feel confident that Republicans, who will control the executive branch and the House of Delegates in Virginia, will get that done, and, if so, how quickly?
We have the Democrats who control currently our House, our Senate, lieutenant governor, governor and attorney general. That's the whole shebang that they control. And when that money came down from the feds, that there was money there to fully fund historically black colleges and universities. And they did not.
In fact, a Republican brought that bill. I think it was delegate Glenn Davis. And they said no. They didn't have time. They didn't have the money for it, when the money was fully there. But then we hear that Democrats love historically black colleges and universities more than anybody else.
Well, I don't know what kind of love that is, because it doesn't show up. So we're going to do that. In fact, governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has promised that he is going to make that happen. He will have a Republican House to do that. I'm sure the Senate will see the tea leaves and read them, and they will go along with it. If not, I will be the vote, hopefully, that will break the tie that will pass it.
And Governor Glenn Youngkin will sign it.
BASH: Let's talk about education more broadly. You oppose Critical Race Theory being taught in schools, which I should say is not part of Virginia's curriculum.
You did say, though, that the good and the bad of American history should be taught, and that -- we should also tell viewers you're the former vice president of the Virginia Board of Education.
So, explain how you think race should be taught in Virginia public schools?
SEARS: Well, let me back up. I beg to differ that CRT is not taught.
BASH: I didn't say that. I just said it's not in the curriculum, just to be clear.
SEARS: It -- no, no, no, no, it is part of the curriculum. It's weaved in and out of the curriculum.
In fact, in 2015, former Governor, who was just defeated, McAuliffe, his state Board of Education had information how to teach it, so it's weaved in. So, it's semantics. But it's weaved in.
What we want to say and what governor-elect Youngkin has said is that all of history must be taught, the good, the bad, and the ugly, because what we learn from history, Dana, is that we don't learn from history and we continue to repeat the same mistakes. But while we're talking about history, how about we talk about how
people from the 1890s, black people from the 1890s to about 1950-1960, according to the U.S. census, had been marrying in a percentage that had far surpassed anything that whites had ever done?
When we talk about the Tulsa race riots, let's ask ourselves, how did the black people amass so much wealth right after the Civil War, so that it could even be destroyed? How did they do that? They were coming from nothing, from zero. Some of them never even got the 40 acres and a mule.
Let's try to emulate that. The one thing that the slaves wanted -- well, three top things, their freedom, certainly. Then the next thing was they wanted to find their families. And the third thing was, they wanted an education. And, my God, when did education become a bad word among black people?
No, we are going to have a good education system. It's going to -- it's going to represent all people. And I'm going to help see that through, because education lifted my father out of poverty when he came to America with only $1.75. Education lifted me, because I have to find my own way in this world. And education will lift all of us.
BASH: I want to talk about -- keeping on schools, but about vaccines in schools.
Virginia public schools are required -- children are required there to get vaccinated for a lot, a lot of things, including polio and measles and chicken pox. So, why is it OK to mandate childhood vaccines in Virginia for so many diseases, but not COVID?
SEARS: Well, let's ask ourselves. And I'm not saying yea or nay. Let's ask ourselves, if the purpose of the COVID vaccine is to prevent us from getting COVID, then why is it that those who have had COVID must get the vaccine?
The one doesn't follow the other. And so there are people who, when they get COVID, they also get the monoclonal antibody therapy. And it's working. It's working very well in Florida, if you notice what's happening there. And so why -- one size doesn't fit all.
Now, I have said, get the vaccine, and that, if you're not going to get the vaccine, then do what's necessary to keep yourself safe, keep other people safe.
But let me ask you this question. If you have the mask on, then why does somebody else have to wear the mask? You have got the mask. You have got the vaccine. My God, you're fully protected. You're armored.
I think, ultimately, we have to remember that we're America. We love our freedom. We love our liberty. People are dying to get into this country so that they can do well for themselves and their families. Let's not make it like some other countries. Let's let liberty shine. BASH: So, we -- just a couple of things that you said there. You said
that people who have had COVID have the antibodies. That is true, but scientists don't think that lasts forever, and, eventually they WARNER:, just like the antibodies you get from your vaccine wanes, which is why people are getting boosters.
But my question from the beginning was about the fact that you talk about liberty, but there are already mandates for vaccines for a host of other diseases. So, is COVID just becoming too political, especially as, you even said, you want people to get vaccinated?
SEARS: I'm not going to force anybody to do that.
Now, you talk about it's become politicized, this COVID-19 vaccine, and it has. In fact, our president, President Biden, and Vice President Harris themselves both said they would not trust any vaccine that was developed by the Trump administration. That was before their election.
After their election, they were singing a different song. And now everybody has to be vaccinated. In fact, President Biden, when he was candidate Biden, said that he would not force vaccines on us. And here we are.
I mean, what are we really believing? Then we say we're going to go along with whatever the health and the sciences say. Well, then his very own FDA 16-2 voted against booster shots. Then what happens? He comes out. His CDC director says they're going to have booster shots. What science are we following?
Then we hear that, at the border, people are coming in, COVID, no mask, no anything, and they're being let into the general population. But then the rest of us who are here have to mask up. What is the science? Can somebody tell us what to finally believe?
SEARS: This is the problem. It is all politicized.
BASH: Yes. Well, in fairness, the science, it's a novel virus, and the science is changing. And scientists are learning better.
And I just have to say that you said that candidate Biden said that he wouldn't trust the Trump vaccine. What they said was that they would only trust it if the scientists determined it, not the politicians.
But just before I let you go on this topic, during the campaign, you were -- as I said, you're encouraging people to get vaccinated, but you're not saying whether you are vaccinated. Do you want to say now?
SEARS: As I said, America, if it's nothing else, it's about liberty. It's about being able to live your life free from the government telling you what to do.
And so we understand this thing about slippery slopes. The minute that I start telling you about my vaccine status, we're going to be down the bottom of the mountain trying to figure out how we got there, because now you want to know what's in my DNA. You're going to want to know this, that and the other.
In New York, you see, we have people, waiters, waiters, asking people their vaccination status. And, by the way, do you know what else they require? A photo I.D. to determine if this vaccine card you're presenting is really you.
Who are we fooling? Come on. Let's say you get the vaccine. Go ahead and get the vaccine. If that's what you want to do, get the vaccine. Don't force it on anybody else. We know -- and, by the way, media, they're not telling us that people are suffering as a result of getting the vaccine, that they have all kinds of problems.
I understand it might be the minuscule. But when you're the one out of 30,000 that gets it, it's important to you. So we need to tell the good, the bad and the ugly about the vaccine.
BASH: Before I let you go. I want to ask about what happened in Wisconsin this past week.
A jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse of all charges. And it accepted his argument that he acted in self-defense when he killed two people in Kenosha last year and he wounded another. A number of Republican elected officials and other voices on the right are celebrating Rittenhouse as a hero.
Do you think his actions should be lionized?
SEARS: You know what I think? I think we ought to let the American justice system speak for itself.
And I'm going to quote our current president, President Biden, and he said, it's time to move on. And so let's heal. There's one verse I have used throughout my campaign written by a Jewish politician, King David, Psalm 133. How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in peace and harmony?
Can we allow this scab to finally heal? Can we stop picking up the wounds? Can -- we need a president who comes out and says, let's just get together. Let's figure it out. Let's not label people, that we see that the world is turned upside down. The right is wrong. The wrong is right.
When do we have that where we say, let's just all get along, like Rodney King said? And, by the way, can we have a media that tries to find the good among us, instead of dividing us? Because the media are complicit in this.
BASH: Winsome Sears, thank you so much for joining me this morning. Congratulations again on your win. And I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving.
SEARS: Happy Thanksgiving to you and your viewers. And please don't forget the missionaries who are kidnapped in Haiti.
We haven't been talking about them.
BASH: OK. Well, we will have you on again, I'm sure, and we can talk about a lot more. Thank you again.
And he framed his presidential campaign around gun control. Now he's running to be governor of one of the nation's most gun-friendly states.
I will talk to Beto O'Rourke about that and more next.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
As national Democrats fret over low poll numbers and dissatisfied voters ahead of next year's midterm elections, in Texas, the state's most prominent Democrat thinks he's got a shot.
Former presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke announced this week that he will challenge Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott for the statehouse next year, betting that 2022 is finally -- finally the year Texas turns blue.
Joining me now is Democratic candidate for Texas governor Beto O'Rourke.
Thank you so much for joining me this morning.
So, you just saw Republicans take the governorship in Virginia, come within striking distance of doing the same in New Jersey. You're a Democrat running in a red state. It's a difficult year for your party. So how do you look at all that and say, OK, this is my time to run?
BETO O'ROURKE (D), TEXAS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: It's not so much my time. It's the time for Texas to realize our full potential.
We really want to get back to doing the big things in this state, focusing on creating the best jobs in America right here in Texas, world-class public schools for our kids, and moving forward on commonsense ideas like expanding Medicaid, getting away from the extremism and divisiveness of Greg Abbott.
The abortion ban that puts a $10,000 bounty on the head of any Texas woman trying to make her own reproductive health care decisions, the permitless carry bill that he signed into law allows anyone to carry a loaded firearm in public without any kind of background check, without any kind of training whatsoever, these policies that pit Texans against one another are keeping us from doing the big things that we really should be doing.
I want to help bring this state together, not as Democrats and not as Republicans, but as Texans, and get back after doing the big things that Texas used to be known for. So, I don't know so much about the national political climate. I do know what the people in Texas want. And I want to make sure, as a candidate, as governor, I deliver on that.
BASH: It was -- gun control, in particular, was your number one issue in your presidential campaign.
I want to play something that you said on the debate stage in 2019 shortly after a mass shooting in your hometown of El Paso.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'ROURKE: Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
O'ROURKE: We're not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Is that what you would still do as governor of Texas?
O'ROURKE: Look, we are a state that has a long, proud tradition of responsible gun ownership. And most of us here in Texas do want -- do not want to see our friends, our family members, our neighbors shot up with these weapons of war.
So, yes, I still hold this view. But I also have been listening to my Texans, my fellow Texans who are concerned about this idea of permitless carry that Greg Abbott has signed into law, which allows any Texan to carry a loaded firearm, despite the pleadings of police chiefs and law enforcement from across the state, who said it would make their jobs more dangerous and make it harder for them to protect those that they were sworn to serve in their communities.
So, we don't want extremism in our gun laws. We want to protect the Second Amendment. We want to protect the lives of our fellow Texans. And I know that, when we come together and stop this divisive extremism that we see from Greg Abbott right now, we're going to be able to do that.
BASH: Staying on guns for a moment, on Friday, a Wisconsin jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse in his murder trial.
Rittenhouse claimed he acted in self-defense when he shot and killed two people and wounded a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year. What's your reaction to that verdict?
O'ROURKE: I mean, this entire tragedy makes the case that we should not allow our fellow Americans to own and use weapons that were originally designed for battlefield use.
That AR-15, that AK-47 has one, single solitary purpose, and that is killing people as effectively, as efficiently, in as great a number, in as little time as possible. We saw that in Kenosha. We saw that in El Paso, Texas, where 23 people were murdered by someone with an AK-47 just in a matter of minutes.
This is crazy. And we should not come to expect this as a matter of course in America. And the thing is, we don't have to.
So, here in Texas, where most of us, including myself, grew up learning how to use firearms responsibly, let's bring that experience and knowledge to bear. Let's protect the Second Amendment. Let's also make sure that we protect one another by having commonsense gun laws. I know that we can do it.
BASH: You campaigned for Joe Biden in 2020 at the -- after your presidential run came to an end.
A recent poll shows, though, that just 35 percent of Texans approve of his performance. Would you like the president to come and campaign with you?
O'ROURKE: This campaign in Texas is not going to be about Joe Biden. It's not going to be about Donald Trump. It's not going to be about anyone from outside of our state.
This is going to be about the people of Texas and what the people of Texas want. And I have told you, they want the big things, like jobs, great schools, and making sure everyone can see a doctor. But they also want to see some competence in their government.
We had an electricity grid failure here in this state this year, though we are the energy capital of North America, millions without power, hundreds who unfortunately died during that disaster. And, even afterwards, our governor has done nothing to protect this electricity grid.
And you're seeing electricity and natural gas prices continue to increase in Texas, as rate payers pay for the damage done by this governor. People in this state want change? And they're focused on what's happening here in Texas, not on what's going on in the rest of the country.
BASH: Does that mean that you would prefer that he not come, based on what you just said?
O'ROURKE: It means that I'm focused on Texas and on my fellow Texans. Those are the people most important to me.
There's no politician, there's no other person from outside of this state who can help to change the course of this election for better or for worse.
BASH: A big issue...
O'ROURKE: And that's why I'm traveling to every part of this state, making sure that no one is written off and no one is taken for granted and that we keep the focus on Texas. BASH: I don't need to tell you a big issue in your state is
immigration. There were a record number of apprehensions at the Southern border this past year, nearly 1.7 million arrests.
You said this week that President Biden could -- quote -- "do a better job" at the border. Do you think his policies are contributing to surges there?
O'ROURKE: I don't think we have seen enough urgency when it comes to rewriting our immigration laws to match the needs and the reality that we see, especially in our border communities.
As I listen to those who live on the border -- and, as you know, Dana, my wife and I are raising our kids on the border here in El Paso -- we want to make sure that we have the resources to meet some of the challenges that we have. We also want to make sure that the laws that we have on the books are improved to meet some of the reality that we see in our communities.
So, yes, we expect more of our president and those who represent us in Congress, but we also expect more of our governor, who's using the border right now as a photo opportunity, scapegoating and vilifying immigrants, asking Texans to -- quote -- "defend themselves" and take matters into their own hands from this invasion, as he describes it.
That's the kind of dangerous rhetoric that inspired that gunman more than two years ago to come to Texas and kill people, claiming that he was defending this state from an invasion of Hispanics who were coming to take over.
So, we have got to be more responsible. And we have got to be more responsive to what we see happening on the ground right now in Texas. As governor, I'm going to listen to those who understand this issue better than anyone else, the people of the U.S.-Mexico border...
O'ROURKE: ... and make sure that we have policy solutions and leadership that reflects that.
BASH: OK, Beto O'Rourke, thank you so much for joining me this morning.
Happy 15th birthday to your son Ulysses.
O'ROURKE: Thank you, Dana. Thank you very much.
BASH: The guidance for COVID booster shots just changed, so should you go get one?
I will ask Dr. Anthony Fauci about that and his advice for you this upcoming holiday season.
[09:48:31] BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
As we head into the holidays, all Americans over the age of 18 are now eligible for COVID booster shots. The CDC said that on Friday. The decision comes as some health experts warn about a possible winter surge.
Joining me now is Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Dr. Fauci, thank you so much for joining me this morning.
Let's talk about the booster shots, because they are now authorized for all adults. The CDC says those over 65 or with underlying conditions should get boosters, but, for everyone else, it only says they may get a booster.
So, can you clear this up for us?
BASH: Do you recommend that every single American 18 and older get a booster shot?
FAUCI: Absolutely, Dana.
Let's make it clear. When there's lack of clarity, people get confused. They're not sure what to do.
If you are 18 or older, and you have been vaccinated, fully vaccinated with the Moderna or the Pfizer mRNA, six months or more ago, get a booster. If it's J&J, and it's two months ago or more, get a booster. I don't think we should get hung up on should, may. Just go out and get boosted.
We know they're safe and we know they're highly effective in bringing very, very high up the optimization of your protection. So, just go ahead and get boosted. Now's the time to do it. As we're getting into the holiday season, you want to be fully protected in the sense of getting optimal.
I mean, the vaccine themselves clearly are still highly effective. But you want to make sure the durability of that protection is longer. And that's the reason why you get boosted, because we know no vaccine lasts forever, so the protection starts to wane a bit. And that's what the boost is all about.
Bottom line, Dana, get boosted.
BASH: Thank you for clarifying that. It's so important.
Two months ago, the FDA rejected authorizing boosters for all adults. And former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says the handling of boosters -- quote -- "may end up being one of the biggest missed opportunities in this pandemic." I know you have always been pro-booster, but is he right?
FAUCI: Well, in certain respect, I think the lack of clarity was the thing that got people confused.
And that's why myself and my colleagues are very pleased now we have clarity. And that's what you need, because the public cannot be confused. We have a very powerful tool at our disposal. Let's use it optimally and not get any lack of clarity in the way of doing it properly.
BASH: You have said hospitalizations for people who have had only two doses are actually ticking up.
So, does the definition of what constitutes fully vaccinated need to change now to include a booster shot?
FAUCI: We're going to follow that very carefully, Dana. And that's what we say -- that's what we mean when we say we let the science and the data follow.
So, we're going to take a look right now at what the durability is of the booster. And we're going to follow people who get boosted. We don't know right now. You have to be perfectly transparent and honest. We're going to be doing the best we can to keep the American public optimally protected.
If that means that that's going to be a boost that will absolutely everyone will have to have, then so be it. We will do it that way. But it will be guided by the science. And people should not be put off by the fact that, as time goes by, and we learn more and more about the protection, that we might modify the guidelines.
That's what we have been saying all along by follow the science. Things change, and you have to follow the data.
BASH: Which I understand.
But, given the fact that you are saying please go get boosters to people who are vaccinated, if -- before we get boosters, at this point, given what you know, is it accurate to say that two shots just doesn't mean fully vaccinated anymore?
FAUCI: Well, two shots for a time frame means you are fully vaccinated.
But the thing that you want to get the people and the viewers to understand, it isn't the effectiveness of the vaccine. It's quite effective. It's how long it lasts. And that's the reason, when we started to see the immunity start to wane, we said people should get boosted.
BASH: Got it.
FAUCI: And that's the reason why we're going to keep following it closely. That's the point. BASH: Got it.
In Europe, they are grappling with a crippling new rise in infections. And in the U.S., infections are rising for the first time in weeks. And we're once again averaging 100,000 new cases per day. Are we beginning to see a winter wave?
FAUCI: Well, certainly, you can't walk away from the data. And the data show that the cases are starting to go up, which is not unexpected when you get into a winter season and people start to go indoors more.
And we know that immunity does wane over time. And that's when you look and say, what can we do about that? And we still have about 60 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not been vaccinated.
And that results in the dynamic of virus in the community that not only is dangerous and makes people who are unvaccinated vulnerable, but it also spills over into the vaccinated people, because no vaccine is 100 percent effective. And when you have a lot of virus circulating around, we know that there are breakthrough infections, and that's how you get the uptick in cases.
The bottom-line common denominator of all -- common denominator of all of this, Dana, is, we should get vaccinated if you're not vaccinated and boostered if you have been vaccinated.
BASH: Let's talk about the holidays. A Monmouth poll this week found that two-thirds of Americans say that their Thanksgiving gatherings will go back to the size they were before the pandemic began.
So, with that in mind, what are your recommendations for Americans to celebrate safely?
FAUCI: Well, my recommendations to Americans to celebrate safely is, get vaccinated as soon as you can.
Obviously, if you're not vaccinated, you're in a situation where you're more vulnerable to getting infected. But for the people who are vaccinated, the people who can get boosted, enjoy your holiday season with your family, indoors, grandparents, children. Do it.
But be aware that, when you are in a situation where you are traveling, for example, and you are in an indoor, congregate setting, and you don't know the vaccination status of people, you need to wear a mask.
But, in the family setting, particularly among vaccinated people, enjoy the holiday. That's Thanksgiving.
Looking ahead to Christmas, right now, since we can vaccinate children from 5 to 11, you start vaccinating them now, they will be fully vaccinated by the time we get to the Christmas holidays. And that's what we should be thinking about.
BASH: I just want to underscore something that you just said and make sure that I'm clear on it and our viewers are clear on it.
So, if you are vaccinated, and you're going to a holiday setting where everybody is vaccinated, it's OK to be there without a mask?
FAUCI: Absolutely. Absolutely.
That's what I'm going to do with my family. And that's what I think people should do. You should first make sure you -- see, that's the whole point we keep getting back to. That is the safety net, is vaccination. Take away the anxiety. Take away all the concern about what you should do or not.
Get vaccinated, and you can enjoy the holidays very easily. And if you're not, please be careful. Get tested if you need to get tested when you're getting together. But that's not a substitute for getting vaccinated. Get yourself vaccinated, and you can continue to enjoy interactions with your family and others.
BASH: Dr. Anthony Fauci, thank you so much for joining me. I hope you and your family have a nice Thanksgiving.
FAUCI: Same to you, Dana. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
And thank you for spending your Sunday morning with us.
Fareed Zakaria is next.