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State of the Union

Interview With National Economic Council Director Brian Deese; Interview With Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR); Interview With Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Candidate Josh Shapiro. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired May 22, 2022 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Economy on edge. With high inflation, gas prices and a baby formula crisis, President Biden tries to keep Americans optimistic.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our economy is proving to be resilient.

BASH: Resilient enough to hold off a recession? I will speak to the president's top economic adviser, Brian Deese, ahead.

And the future GOP. As Republican governors prepare for a world without Roe, Republican candidates are looking more and more like Donald Trump. What will the GOP look like this fall?

Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson joins me in moments.

Plus: the party in power. Americans feel burnt out over the state of the country. As November's midterm elections take shape, do Democrats have a winning message? I will speak to the newly minted Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania governor, Josh Shapiro, ahead.


BASH: Good morning.

I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is feeling anxious. President Biden is in Japan on his first trip to Asia since taking office. But, as he tries to focus on his international agenda, problems are piling up back home.

The first planes from Operation Fly Formula arrive today, as the administration scrambles to get baby formula back onto us shelves. But the White House still has not offered a time frame for when families would begin to see the effects of these measures.

Anyone watching their 401(k) Friday might have regretted looking, as the markets continue their longest sell-off in decades, dipping briefly into bear market territory and increasing concerns for some that the U.S. could be heading toward a recession. Americans are already dealing with inflation and soaring gas prices.

And, if that's not enough, COVID-19 cases are rising again across the country. And President Biden said this morning everyone should be concerned about monkeypox.

And it's not a climate that makes governing very easy, especially five months away from the midterm elections.

Here with me to discuss all of this is the president's top economic adviser, the director of the National Economic Council, Brian Deese.

Thank you so much for coming in this morning.

Let's start with the S&P 500 dipping into bear market territory on Friday. It did rebound slightly. The Dow just experienced its longest losing streak in nearly a century. So, yes or no, is the U.S. falling into a recession?

BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Well, there are always risks, but here's where I think we are.

Our economy is in a transition from what has been the strongest recovery in modern American history to what can be a period of more stable and resilient growth that works better for families.

There's no doubt we face serious global challenges right now, inflation first and foremost among them. And it's hitting families hard. But there's also no doubt that the United States is in a better position than any other major country around the world to address inflation without giving up all the economic gains that we have had.

And that's because of the strength of our recovery. We have the strongest job market. We have businesses investing. We have Americans actually increasing their savings and paying down their debt.

BASH: So, given all of that, are you confident that the U.S. can avoid a recession?

DEESE: We -- in this transition, the United States is in a better place than any other country because of those strengths.

If you think about where we have come from, we have navigated through Delta and Omicron. We have navigated through the gyrations coming from Putin's war in Ukraine. And, still, the American consumer, the American business has been resilient through this period.

BASH: Yes.

DEESE: And so, if we keep our focus on bringing inflation down in a way that actually helps families...

BASH: But you're not saying no.

DEESE: We -- look, there are always risks, but we feel very good about where the United States is, particularly when you look on the global landscape. BASH: OK, let's talk about inflation.

It is still near the highest levels in four decades. I want to play what President Biden said about this issue almost a year ago, compared to what he's saying now.


BIDEN: By the way, talking inflation, the overwhelming consensus, it's going to pop up a little bit and then go back down.

I want every American to know that I'm taking inflation very seriously and it's my top domestic priority.


BASH: Brian, how did the administration get that so wrong?

DEESE: Look, a lot of things have changed over the course of the last a year. And we have dealt with a lot of unexpected challenges, as I mentioned, the Delta wave of COVID, Omicron on top of that, and, more recently, Putin's invasion of Ukraine, which has sent gyrations through global energy markets.

What's most important for the American people to understand right now is, they have a president who is making clear, as you just played, that inflation is his top economic priority. And that means a couple of things.


First, we need to give the Fed the space and the independence to do its job, which is to get inflation under control. Second, we need to lower costs for families, make things more affordable for them during this economic transition. And, third, we need to reduce the federal deficit.

If we reduce the federal deficit, it will help to reduce price pressures in the economy. We have made a lot of progress on that because of the president's policies, but we can do more.

BASH: But let me ask you about two specific things that would get to the second point you made about lowering costs for consumers.

Number one, a federal gas tax. Would you implement a federal gas tax holiday, yes or no?

DEESE: Well, we're looking at every option. That's something that Congress would need to take up. When it comes to...

BASH: Well, the president would have to -- not would have to, but, if the administration wants it, he could announce that that's what something he wants Congress to do.

DEESE: Look, we're working with congressional leaders on a range of different options. And the president is open to anything that could constructively move to help bring some relief at the pump.

He is already...

BASH: Including that?

DEESE: ... taking historic action, to be clear.

We're releasing a million barrels a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Countries around the world are doing the same because the president has led. That has helped to blunt the impact of oil prices.

BASH: So the gas tax holiday is very much on the table?

DEESE: Look, we're looking at any option that could constructively move us...



Let me ask you another option, rolling back Trump's tariffs on China.

DEESE: Well, that's another thing that we're actively looking at.

But it -- that goes to a broader question of how we can make trade internationally work for American families and American consumers. The president's in Asia right now, as you mentioned. And, tomorrow, we will be launching something called the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. This is designed to actually focus on those economic issues that would matter most for American families.

Let me give you a really concrete example, supply chains. This framework will help us build more resilient early warnings for supply chains. One of the reasons why prices have gone up so much is, we have seen these supply chain disruptions that then mean that Americans have to pay more at the store or online.

We can solve those types of issues. That's what the president will be talking about tomorrow.

BASH: Let's talk about baby formula, speaking of supply chain; 45 percent of baby formula products nationwide were out of stock at some point last week.

At least four babies in South Carolina have been hospitalized because of complications due to this shortage. So when will baby formula be available to Americans in the way that they need?

DEESE: Well, because of the actions that we're taking right now, we're going to see more formula coming off factory lines...

BASH: When?

DEESE: ... and more formula in stores starting as early as this week.

As you mentioned... BASH: And when will we get to normalcy?

DEESE: Well, as you mentioned, there is a flight that left last night from Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany full of formula that will land in Indiana this morning, a specialty medical grade formula, the type that we most need in this market.

Just in that plane flight alone, that will cover about 15 percent of the overall national volume that we need for that. More flights in train that will be coming in early this week. And we're going to keep ramping that up until we get there. It's going to take a little bit of time for the Abbott, that manufacturer, to bring its facility back online.

BASH: What is that time, ballpark?

DEESE: Well, the CEO this morning in "The Washington Post" said that they would have that operation back running in about a month.

But we're not going to wait that long. As I said, these planes that are landing right now are going to provide some incremental relief in the coming days. We're going to keep working on it over the course of the week.

BASH: I just have to ask. People watching this are probably wondering, as we all are, how did we get to the point where the United States of America has to airlift baby formula from another country in order to feed its children?

DEESE: Look, it's a reasonable question, and it's frustrating. I'm a parent.

And we look and we say, nothing could be more important than the health and the safety of our babies. We have to take safety very seriously. And part of what happened here was that we had a manufacturer that wasn't following the rules, and that was making formula that had the risk of making babies sick.

So we have to take action that front. But there's a bigger root to your question, which is, how did we end up in a market where we have three companies that control 90 percent of the market? It goes back to this question of how we can bring more competition in our economy, have more providers of this formula, so that no individual company has this much control over supply chains.

And we're going to have to work on that. There are some big questions underneath that, that we're going to have to get under.

BASH: Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, thanks for coming in.

DEESE: Thank you.

BASH: Appreciate it.

And Democratic candidates are facing voters worried about what we were talking about, the economy. They're tired of COVID. What's their best argument? I will ask a Democrat who just won his primary coming up.

Plus: Oklahoma moves to ban nearly all abortions from the moment of fertilization. How many other states will do the same?

Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson joins me next.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

Nearly all abortion is on track to become illegal in Oklahoma after the state legislature there passed a bill to outlaw abortion after the moment of fertilization, except in cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother.

Here with me now is the governor of Arkansas, Republican Asa Hutchinson.

Thank you for joining me this morning.

We talked about Oklahoma a lot this week. It got a lot of attention for banning abortion, as I said, starting at fertilization. But, Governor, in 2019, you signed a law in Arkansas that would do the same if Roe v. Wade is overturned. And your law only has exceptions for the life of the mother.

So, just want to be clear. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, no woman, unless her life is at risk, will be able to get an abortion in Arkansas?


GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): If Roe vs. Wade is reversed, then the trigger law in Arkansas would come into effect.

And whenever I signed that law, I did express that I support the -- also the exceptions of rape and incest. So, the life of the mother and rape and incest are two exceptions that I believe should have been added that did not have the support in the General Assembly.

And so we have to wait and see what the Supreme Court actually does. But, if that -- Roe vs. Wade is reversed, then what we have fought for 40 years, in returning the authority back to the states, will actually happen.

You will see states making different decisions based upon the values and the consensus of the people of that state.

BASH: Yes.

HUTCHINSON: In Arkansas, we actually passed a constitutional amendment supporting the life of the unborn and recognizing that.

And so the will of the people of Arkansas has been expressed. BASH: Governor, you did sign the law that does not include any

exceptions for rape and incest. I know you said that you didn't -- you would rather that not be part of the law, but it is, and you signed it.

So I want to discuss the real-world implications of this. For example, why should an 11- or a 12-year-old girl who's impregnated by her father or her uncle or another family member be forced to carry that child to term?

HUTCHINSON: I agree with you.

I have had to deal with that particular circumstance, even as governor. And while it's still life in the womb, life of the unborn, it was -- the conception was under criminal circumstances, either incest or rape. And so those are two exceptions I have -- recognize, I believe are very appropriate.

And what will happen, as time goes on, if Roe vs. Wade is reversed, these are going to become very real circumstances.

BASH: Yes.

HUTCHINSON: I think the debate and discussion will be -- will continue. And that very well could be revisited.

BASH: But, Governor, what if it can't be? You wanted the legislature in Arkansas to put those exceptions in. They didn't. Your term is almost up

What makes you think you can change it? And, if you can't, that means that people who are still -- women who -- girls who are still children, 11- and 12-year-olds, might be in this situation in a very real way in just a couple of months, potentially.

HUTCHINSON: Well, those are heartbreaking circumstances.

And that's where, in the last few years, when we passed these trigger laws, we're expressing a belief. We're trying to return that authority to states and to reduce abortions.

But whenever you see real-life circumstances like that, that debate is going to continue. And the will of the people may or may not change. But it's going to come back to the states' flexibility on that. I believe that those exceptions are going to be important in overall to save lives, because the public understands those exceptions, the importance of it.

So, I think that will be revisited. There's no guarantee of that. But the public opinion does matter whenever you come to your elected representatives.

BASH: Separate from those exceptions, I want to ask broadly about the responsibility of men here.

Right now, a woman or a girl who has an unplanned pregnancy, if she wants to get support from the man who impregnated her, she has to seek out -- seek him out, prove paternity, and then convince a judge to rule in her favor. And that all can take years.

And it puts the burden on the mother. Are you going to change the system in Arkansas to hold men equally responsible for the children they're bringing into the world?

HUTCHINSON: They should be held equally responsible, both in terms of paternity responsibilities, child support. Absolutely, that should happen.

And if we can speed up the system to be able to accomplish that, then, absolutely, we should do that. And we talked about the difficult circumstances. The state does have a responsibility to help, in terms of maternal health care, in terms of the child, and maybe, in these circumstances, making sure that there's the assistance that's needed.

So we need to have wraparound services if there those unexpected pregnancies that are traumatic or challenging.

BASH: Well, Arkansas already struggles to support vulnerable children. Nearly one in four children in Arkansas lives in poverty. More than 4,600 kids are already in your state's overloaded foster care system.


Do you really think that your state is prepared to protect and care for even more children if abortion does become illegal there?

HUTCHINSON: We have had historic challenges with poverty in Arkansas.

But you're talking about access to health care. Under my leadership, we continued the Medicaid expansion. So, we have improved health care access in our state. We have increased the support for foster parents and foster children.

It's been a high priority. And so we're addressing those needs. Obviously, there's always opportunity to do more. And we have to address this issue with compassion, because of the difficult circumstances and the fact that you're dealing with the most vulnerable of our population.

So, absolutely, we need to continue to address the issues that you just spoke about, and to make sure that we're providing good answers and support that is needed.

BASH: Governor, let's talk about the state of the Republican Party.

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Republicans nominated Doug Mastriano for governor. He spearheaded efforts to overturn the 2020 election, was at the Capitol, on the grounds, on January 6.

You're chairman of the National Governors Association. You're an outspoken critic of the GOP election lies. Does the prospect of Mastriano becoming governor in Pennsylvania alarm you? HUTCHINSON: Well, what's important is that a candidate for governor

of every state run on the future and problem-solving.

The issue is going to be the inflation and the cost of gasoline. It's going to be crime that we're struggling with across the country. And so, if you spend your time dealing with the past and the election results of the last year, then you're not going to be in good position. You have got to focus on the future.

I expect our candidates to do this. Whenever -- your previous interview talked about the shortage of baby formula. We could have more shortages this fall. Whenever you're looking at inflation, a large challenge with the inflationary costs is increased supply chain and the difficulty of the supply side.

We have got to be able to focus on that. And our candidates need to focus on that in the fall. And, if we do, party of ideas, we're going to win this fall, and I think we're in good position to do that.

BASH: So, yes or no, should Doug Mastriano be the governor of Pennsylvania?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I hope our Republican wins in November. It's all going to be about the contrast.

There's a lot of issues at stake here. And so let's see how the campaign progresses. And we talk about the future, we're going to win. And I hope he does.

BASH: Governor Asa Hutchinson, I really appreciate you coming on this morning and talking about these very important issues.

HUTCHINSON: All right, thank you. Good to be with you.

BASH: And Pennsylvania's governor's race this November really could be critical to the presidential election in 2024. We're going to tell you why.

We're going to talk to the Democratic candidate in that race, Josh Shapiro, next.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was key to President Biden's victory in 2020, so it's seen as a bellwether for Democrats in this fall's midterms, when Pennsylvania's Democratic attorney general, Josh Shapiro, faces off against GOP candidate Doug Mastriano, who won the Republican primary on a pro-Trump platform, including support for the big election lie.

Here with me now for his first national interview is Pennsylvania's Democratic nominee for governor, Josh Shapiro. Thank you so much for joining me.

Let's start with the economy. Gas prices in Pennsylvania are at a record high. Inflation is through the roof. Parents across the country are struggling to find baby formula. Your party is in power. Do you think that President Biden and Democrats are doing enough to address these very real problems?

JOSH SHAPIRO (D), PENNSYLVANIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I think what's clear is that there are national and really global reasons for all the issues you cited, and maybe not created by Pennsylvania state government, but something as governor I will address.

That's why I have put forth a plan to try and help Pennsylvanians deal with rising costs. We put this forth a few months ago, making sure that we help seniors stay in their home by doubling what's known as the property tax rent rebate, giving them relief for household goods, getting rid of a whole bunch of nuisance taxes here in Pennsylvania, like the state cell phone tax, which takes over $300 million out of the pockets of Pennsylvanians, and giving every single driver a $250 immediate gas tax rebate to offset the pain at the pump.

Now, I have called on the Pennsylvania legislature to do this right now. They don't have to wait for me to be governor. They can and they, frankly, should provide relief to Pennsylvanians right now. They're hurting, and they deserve it. And, as governor, I will deliver it.

BASH: You're understandably talking about what you would do in Pennsylvania.

But would it help you and would you like President Biden to come campaign with you?

SHAPIRO: Well, look, he's from Pennsylvania, and I will welcome him here.

But I'm focused on running a race here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, listening to the people of Washington County, not Washington, D.C. That's my focus, running a race that's focused on meeting the needs of the good people of Pennsylvania.


BASH: You're making abortion access a central focus of your campaign.

Earlier this month, the Democratic nominee for Senate, John Fetterman, told my colleague Kasie Hunt he does not support putting any restrictions on abortion. Do you agree with that? Should there be no restrictions on abortion at all in Pennsylvania, including the third trimester of pregnancy?

SHAPIRO: Here's the reality of what's going to happen in Pennsylvania.

The next governor will get a bill on his desk to ban abortion, period. And it will be up to the next governor as to whether they will sign it or veto it.

My opponent has said he will not only sign it, but he wants to criminalize doctors, jail doctors who perform abortions. I will veto that bill. And, in vetoing it, I will protect Pennsylvania law.

And, Dana, what Pennsylvania law says is that, up to 23 weeks, a woman can make a decision to have an abortion. I continue to support that. And from week 24 on, if her life or health is at risk, in consultation with her doctor, she can have an abortion.

My job as governor will be to protect Pennsylvania law. That's what I support.

BASH: You talked about your new opponent, Doug Mastriano. He led the charge on efforts to throw out Pennsylvania's 2020 election results. You are the attorney general right now.

Are there enough safeguards in place to ensure that the 2024 elections would be protected if you lose and Doug Mastriano is the one who becomes governor?

SHAPIRO: Well, we know, in 2020, we had a free and fair, safe and secure election.

And, Dana, I went to court over 40 times when I was sued by the former president and his enablers. And we won every single time to protect the will of the people and protect the sanctity of the vote.

Now, my opponent, Senator Mastriano, he wants to take us to a divisive and dark place, where he has openly talked, if he were governor, about, with the stroke of a pen, being able to do away with voting machines that had votes on it that he didn't agree with.

And it's very dangerous because, here in Pennsylvania, the next governor will appoint the secretary of state. And the governor, and the governor alone, appoints electors based on the will of the people. And Senator Mastriano has made it clear that he will appoint the electors based on his belief system.

Listen, he's essentially saying, sure, you can go vote, but I will pick the winner.

That's incredibly dangerous. And it is what is at stake in this governor's race.

BASH: You clearly wanted to have the opportunity to say what you're saying and have Doug Mastriano as your opponent.

In fact, your campaign ran an ad, seem to be designed to boost Mastriano with Republican voters to ensure that you would face him in November. I want to play a clip.


NARRATOR: He's one of Donald Trump's strongest supporters. He wants to end vote by mail. And he led the fight to audit the 2020 election. If Mastriano wins, it's a win for what Donald Trump stands for. Is

that what we want in Pennsylvania?


BASH: A columnist for "The Philadelphia Inquirer," Will Bunch, accused you of playing with fire.

Is it irresponsible to boost somebody you have called the most extreme gubernatorial candidate in the country because you think you can beat him?

SHAPIRO: Dana, it was clear several weeks ago from public polling and private polling that Doug Mastriano was going to win the Republican nomination. That was clear, and it was evident, obviously, on election night. He won in a landslide.

What we did was start the general election campaign and demonstrate the clear contrast, the stark differences between he and I. He is extreme and he is dangerous. He would ban all abortion and jail doctors who perform it.

He is -- he was there on January 6. And when the police told him to stop at the barricades, he kept marching. He is someone who wants to overturn not just the last election, but has made clear that he would pick the winner of the next one.

He wants to make it illegal to have same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania. He thinks climate change is fake. He is a danger. That contrast couldn't be clearer.

We got a jump-start on the general election. And we will continue to point out those clear differences. I have been focused on a future for Pennsylvania that grows our economy, that improves our schools...


SHAPIRO: ... that makes sure we have a safe community.

He's been focused on relitigating the past. He is dangerous. And he is divisive.

BASH: OK, Josh Shapiro, Democratic candidate for governor in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, thank you so much for joining me this morning.

SHAPIRO: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: And, on Tuesday, join us for another busy night at primary election coverage, all of the best CNN reporting and analysis. That's going to start at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday.


And one race we're going to be watching is Georgia's governor's race. It's pitting former Vice President Mike Pence against his boss. What's on the line?

We're going to talk about it with the panel next.



QUESTION: Can you win in November without Trump's support?

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): Absolutely.

I didn't get in the race not to win in November.

DAVID PERDUE (R), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I talked to President Trump this week. I talk to him frequently. He is still all in, in this race, I can assure you.


BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

This Tuesday's primaries bring another test for President Trump and his endorsements and, more broadly, the question of where the GOP is going.

My panel is with me here.


I will start with you, Alyssa. What's the answer to that question?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it turns out that the opening and closing message of "The 2020 election was stolen" is not a winning message in Georgia.

David Perdue is trailing. And Brian Kemp, who is a popular incumbent governor, is both benefiting from incumbency, but for actually delivering for the state. So, this past week, he announced a deal he helped cut bringing 7,500 new jobs for an electric vehicle factory to Georgia.

These are the kinds of things Georgians care about. Donald Trump's biggest issue that he's facing is that he's making endorsements based on grievance and his own personal kind of vendettas, rather than who is electable and who is going to be a good candidate and able to win in a general election.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean, governor's races are often about competence and likability. Kemp has been competent, and he's been likable.

And David Perdue here, I mean, it's kind of sad. I mean, to quote a man, it's sad, because Donald Trump, I think, cost him his Senate seat. And now Donald Trump has not helped him win this governor's race. And so his career is going to end with two really embarrassing losses with Donald Trump involved in it. And good for Brian Kemp, by the way, who stayed the course and showed

what you can do when you have a real record a run on, and you don't have to kowtow to this, and you don't have to try to change yourself. Be who you are.

And that's -- that authenticity, I think, has carried him in his campaign.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But Trump's probably going to get one victory on Tuesday night, which is probably his biggest victory.

I believe the secretary of state in Georgia probably will go down. And the secretary of state, as we all know, stood up to Donald Trump when others would not. So he will claim that as some type of feather in his cap.

At the end of the day, Democrats absolutely love what's going on. I mean, look, in fact, I want Donald Trump to come out and tell Perdue to run as a third party, or, if you voted for Perdue, stay at home.

What we're getting to is, we're getting to what the pay-per-view money is all on. You're going to have Stacey Abrams and Raphael Warnock against Herschel Walker and Governor Kemp. All eyes will be on Georgia.

And, for Democrats, what we realize -- and this is so simple, Dana -- all Democrats have to do is win every single state that Joe Biden won, and we have 52 seats ,Georgia being a priority.

FARAH GRIFFIN: But it gets harder when inflation is on the rise, gas prices are on the rise.

SELLERS: I was being facetious about the ease of it.


BASH: Yes.


BASH: Well, thank you for bringing that up.

First of all, Jeff, Jeff Nussbaum, welcome to the panel.


BASH: I want to tell our viewers that you have a new book out, "Undelivered: The Never-Heard Speeches That Would Have Rewritten History."


BASH: And so, because you're new, I'm going to start with the easiest question...


BASH: ... which is the poll numbers that the president is facing.

NUSSBAUM: Oh, what a softball.

BASH: That was such a -- I mean, it's actually -- in all seriousness, 78 percent say the U.S. is headed in the wrong direction; 78 percent also say the U.S. economy is in poor condition.

You are a communicator. You are a speechwriter. What is the way that the Democrats need to be communicating about this?


Well, I will start with someone who I mention in the book, the Mayor Kevin White of Boston, who once famously said, don't compare me to the almighty. Compare me to the alternative.

So, President Biden is out there. He has a record to run on. He's been successful in creating jobs, a historic number, bringing unemployment down, a historic number, working to reduce costs for families. But he's not operating in a vacuum.

Until now he has been operating in a vacuum. He has been, for the first year of his presidency, speaking in largely empty rooms, in a weird way, debating himself. Now there are -- now we see what he is up against, right? He's up against unelected judges making rules for the vast majority of Americans.

He's up against Republicans who have finally put something forward, if you count what Senator Rick Scott has -- the senator from Florida has done, is putting something forward. And so he will have something to say about what he's done.

But he will also have something to say about what the alternative is.

BASH: Is that going to work?

JENNINGS: I mean, sorry, no.


JENNINGS: I mean, no.

Look, the president is where he is, at 40 percent, for a reason. I mean, look, a couple of months ago, he was out begging Venezuela and Iran for oil. Now we're begging Europe for baby formula. This is real tabletop stuff for every single American family.

And I know it's a midterm and turnout is a little bit lower. But this is the kind of stuff that takes the nonpolitical person, the infrequent voter, and they're looking around going, what happened to America? What happened to the country that I thought we were?

And you can feel American prestige draining everyday. Right as we're on this show, there's an airlift of baby formula coming from overseas. This is not a Third World country. This is the United States.


SELLERS: But me also just -- I'm sorry for jumping in.

JENNINGS: No, no, go.

SELLERS: But let me just also say that, to your point about the denigration and how America is somewhat falling apart, I do think that these same voters, to your point, about who the man in the room -- the man in the room is still Donald Trump.

And when you look at what's happening -- we -- you may laugh, but you have Donald Trump-elected candidates. And that's what this midterm is going to be about. You're going to lose the governor's race -- Republicans are going to lose the governor's race in Pennsylvania because of the way that Donald Trump interceded.

It's going to be a closer race in Georgia because Herschel Walker is on the ballot. All of these -- all of the way that Donald Trump's imprint -- and you cannot forget the racism, bigotry, white supremacy, xenophobia that still is prevalent every single day in society.


And I'm thinking about Buffalo. And you trace that back to, what is this new Republican Party? There's a direct correlation. People see that as well.

So, yes, baby formula matters, but these other things matter as well.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Bakari is not wrong. I mean, I actually agree there. We actually agree there.


SELLERS: Yes, we can -- are we going to commercial break?

FARAH GRIFFIN: This is the problem...

BASH: No. Stay with us.


FARAH GRIFFIN: This is the problem that the Republican Party faces right now, where they're going to get dragged down by the Trump era and by the candidates that he's brought up.

We are forfeiting a governor's seat in Pennsylvania because we have put up someone who's wholly unqualified to run for it. So -- but I would note that other potential 2024 candidates ,like Vice President Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, have endorsed against the former president.

And that's going to be an interesting dynamic to watch. Is there a new Republican Party that's stepping up that could be led by someone other than a Donald Trump? And that can defeat Joe Biden much better. NUSSBAUM: And I will say, to your initial question, Dana, that, yes,

it's a communications question, yes, it's a messaging question, but the communications tail can't wag the policy dog.

And so it looks that way.

BASH: No, it can't change the inflation rate.

NUSSBAUM: So, what -- right, but what are Democrats doing? What is President Biden doing?

And what he is doing is solving problems. I mean, you say it's terrible that this flight of baby formula is coming in, but that's something the president is doing in response to a market failure. And so, right now, we don't get a lot of coverage for it, he doesn't get a lot of coverage for it, but he's working to reduce concentration in things like the baby formula industry, or meat-packing, which is driving up meat prices for families.

So he is working to do the job. And, at a certain point, you got to tell people what you're doing, and contrast it to what the others want to do.

JENNINGS: Gas is over $4 a gallon. It may be $5 or $6 a gallon.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Yes, where are you, Scott?


JENNINGS: People look -- people look...

SELLERS: I thought we were on baby formula, Scott.



And when you're out driving around from store to store paying $5 a gallon, it doesn't feel very good.


SELLERS: But, I mean, your point falls on deaf ears, when you have 132 Republicans, I believe it was, who vote against...


FARAH GRIFFIN: No, but this bill was a bailout for the FDA for the same people who failed to actually deal with the Abbott recall and led us to...


SELLERS: But at least we do understand that it's a market failure. It's not a Joe Biden failure.


JENNINGS: I'm sorry.

You want this to be about Donald Trump. You want this to be that the house is on fire, and Joe Biden is out here with a tiny fire extinguisher. Look, at the end of the day, you know midterms are about a referendum on the current state of the party in power.

And none of the people at this table can say the Democratic Party is doing anything about the problems of the American people when it comes to inflation, gas prices, baby formula, and the idea that America is no longer the light of the world.


NUSSBAUM: Disagree.

SELLERS: That's just not true. I mean, we -- you just were complaining about us shipping in baby formula.

You're putting...

JENNINGS: The fact that we have to. The fact that we have to.

SELLERS: But that's not -- Joe Biden is not in the vat mixing baby formula.

JENNINGS: Who shut down -- who shut down the factory?

SELLERS: It had to be shut down.

JENNINGS: Who shut down the factory?

SELLERS: It had to be.


FARAH GRIFFIN: It was a massive failing of the FDA.

JENNINGS: Who shut down the factory?

NUSSBAUM: Right, but what company had zero redundancy in their supply chain because they're busy buying back stock?


JENNINGS: Who shut -- Biden's administration shut down the factory.

NUSSBAUM: So, these are structural problems, right?

The president doesn't have a silver bullet, but he is firing a ton of silver buckshot at problem and problem and problem.

JENNINGS: And he's got blanks.

BASH: Before we go, really quickly, the -- you mentioned Buffalo. Jim Clyburn had a really stunning quote in "The Washington Post." He said: "I thought, in difficult times, that this too shall pass. I'm not too sure anymore. I'm really not. The country is in danger of imploding. Democracy is in danger of disintegrating. Maybe autocracy is the future of the country."

SELLERS: Yes, I mean, I hear -- I hear Scott snickering, but I think that this is why we actually need to teach the history of this country to more people, because the fact is, there's an entire generation that includes Jim Clyburn and my father.

My father was 10 years old when Emmett Till was killed. Jim might have been 13, 14. This is very real. I mean, you go from Emmett Till. You go from the Edmund Pettus Bridge. You go to Jimmie Lee Jackson, Medgar Evers . You go to Charleston, South Carolina.

These individuals were not killed because they were shopping in the wrong aisle. These individuals were killed because they were black.

And I know that we're wrapping, but I was just simply saying that there's this entire environment that started by Tucker Carlson, the right wing, that ferments this type of hate.

NUSSBAUM: And I agree.

And one thing I will say, in the book, I have Kennedy's final undelivered speech. And one of the things he says is, not everyone's going to talk sense, but when too many people listen to nonsense, it can undercut American security.

BASH: That's an important place to end. We're going to talk more about this the next time.

Thank you for talking about that.

What was it like to spend nearly 1,000 days in a Russian prison? A new clip from CNN's exclusive with Trevor Reed is next.



BASH: American Trevor Reed is settling back into life at home after spending two years in prison in Russia.

My co-anchor, Jake Tapper, sat down with Reed and his family for an exclusive interview.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It is controversial in some circles to do a prisoner swap.

People who are not in favor of it say, this is just going to incentivize other governments to take Americans hostage or prisoner under false charges, so as to get their people out of American jails. You don't buy it?

TREVOR REED, FREED FROM RUSSIAN PRISON: So, I'm really glad that you asked me that.

The thing that you have to understand is, countries like North Korea, Russia now, obviously, China, Syria, Iran, Venezuela, countries like that are going to take Americans hostage no matter what.

And even if they don't receive some type of exchange for those prisoners, they will do that anyway, just out of pure malice, just to show the United States that: We took your citizens.

And they're going to continue to do that as long as American citizens travel there.


So, that whole thing about, well, this is going to incentivize foreign governments to take us hostage, those types of governments need no incentive to take Americans hostage. They're always going to do that.

The difference, I think, between the United States and other countries is that, at least in this case and in a lot of other cases, the United States went out and made the ethical decision to exchange prisoners to get their innocent Americans out of that country, even while exchanging them for someone who's more high-profile and valuable in the United States.

So, that's what sets the United States apart from these other countries, because the Russians, the Chinese, Venezuelans, Iran, Syria, North Korea, none of them ever in their whole history have or ever would make an exchange for a prisoner who was just an average one of their citizens. They would never do that.

And that's what sets the United States apart.


BASH: Wow. Please do not miss "Finally Home: The Trevor Reed Interview." It's going to be on tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Thank you so much for spending your Sunday morning with us.

Fareed Zakaria is next.