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State of the Union
Interview With Gov. Spencer Cox (R-UT); Interview With Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO); Interview With Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Interview With Former Vice President Mike Pence. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired July 23, 2023 - 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): Deja vu. Donald Trump faces a potential third indictment over his actions around January 6. What do leaders there that day think should happen?
House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi and former Vice President and GOP presidential candidate Mike Pence join me ahead.
And picking a fight? Trump's legal woes rattle the Republican field again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand up to that man.
BASH: While Kamala Harris takes her fight to Florida.
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is unnecessary.
BASH: Our political panel will break it all down.
Plus: Disagree better. Two bipartisan governors launch a new campaign to save your family dinners and maybe even democracy itself.
GOV. JARED POLIS (D-CO): It's OK to disagree.
GOV. SPENCER COX (R-UT): It's not just OK. It's crucial.
BASH: Governors Jared Polis and Spencer Cox join me live.
BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is wondering if a third shoe is about to drop.
This weekend, former President Donald Trump finds himself once again at the center of the legal and political universe, as he awaits a potential third indictment, this time over his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
That has effectively frozen the Republican primary race while candidates wait to see just what exactly special counsel Jack Smith might have uncovered about the party's front-runner.
Today, I will talk with the two most powerful people inside the Capitol during the January 6 attacks, the then-House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who worked to coordinate a police and military response to the riot, and former Vice President Mike Pence, who refused pressure by Donald Trump to overturn the election.
BASH: Joining me now is GOP candidate and former Vice President Mike Pence.
Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it.
I want to start by asking about --
MIKE PENCE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Dana. Good to be on.
BASH: Thank you -- about your former boss.
He is facing a potential third indictment over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. You said you -- quote -- "hope it doesn't come to that" and the American people should decide his future at the ballot box.
But I just want be clear. If the Justice Department has evidence that he committed a crime related to January 6, you do not think he should be charged?
PENCE: Well, look, I -- I know I did my duty that day under the Constitution.
And, frankly, as we traveled across New Hampshire this week to 10 events in communities across the state, I was deeply moved at how many people expressed their appreciation to me for the stand that we took for the Constitution.
And I have said many times that the president's words were reckless that day. I had no right to overturn the election. But while his words were reckless, I -- based on what I know, I'm not yet convinced that they were criminal. I obviously wasn't there for every meeting. I was busy trying to help reopen the government and the country after the COVID pandemic.
I was spending a fair amount of time in Georgia, Dana, as you remember, in those special elections. But, from what I know, I just -- I really do hope it doesn't come to that, and also for the reason that I do think the Department of Justice has lost the confidence of the American people.
I mean, in one town hall after another across New Hampshire, I heard a deep concern for a perception about the unequal treatment of the law. And I think one more indictment against the former president will only contribute to that sense among the American people.
BASH: Well --
PENCE: And, as I said, I'd rather that these issues and the judgment about his conduct on January 6 be left to the American people in the upcoming primaries. And then I will leave it at that.
BASH: Well, part of the reason why people believe that the Justice Department is not being fair is because your former boss is telling them that's the case.
I just want to follow up and to say, you're right. I remember you were traveling a lot, and you weren't in every meeting that he had. This is what the -- the special counsel has been doing, gathering evidence. If that evidence does point to an actual crime, you still think that it's better for the country that he not be indicted and held accountable?
PENCE: Well, look, I -- it's not just what the former president has said about his situation.
I mean, look, we -- we had whistle-blower testimony on Capitol Hill this week that, in all fairness, was largely ignored by much of the national media.
BASH: Well, no, we -- we did that. But I just want to ask about this.
PENCE: We had IRS agents that were talking about obstructions of investigations into the president's family. And then we learned about one instance after another of FBI officials saying that they were obstructed from asking questions.
I just -- I will be honest with you. As I traveled around New Hampshire, I heard again and again from people about a deep concern about unequal treatment of the law. And it's why I said to people, if I'm elected president of the United States, we're not just going to have a new attorney general. We're going to clean house among all the senior leadership at the Justice Department.
And we're going to appoint men and women of integrity who will have the confidence of Americans across the political spectrum for their commitment to the rule of law.
BASH: Sir -- sir, I hear what you're saying about that, and I'm sure you are hearing that on the campaign trail.
But, because you are you --
PENCE: We are.
BASH: -- you have a very unique perspective, because your life and the life of your family was at risk that day, which you have talked about very extensively.
You still believe that the former president should be held to a different standard, if what you experienced turned out to be based in breaking the law, and that is shown through evidence found by the special counsel's investigation?
PENCE: Well, Dana, let me be very clear.
President Trump was wrong on that day, and he's still wrong in asserting that I had the right to overturn the election. But what his intentions were -- and, as you know, criminal charges have everything to do with intent, what the president's state of mind was.
PENCE: And I don't honestly know what his intention was that day, whether -- as he spoke to that crowd, as he tweeted during the riot itself.
But, for my part, from what I saw, as I have said, his actions were reckless. I believe that history will hold him accountable. I believe that Republican primary voters know that we need new leadership in this party. I know that some of the pundits and the pollsters think it's different out there.
But I got to tell you, based on the enthusiasm and the support that we're seeing, not only across New Hampshire this week, but Iowa and states around the country, I'm absolutely convinced that we're going to have a new standard-bearer in this party, and we're going to work every day to make sure it's us.
BASH: I just have one last question about this, because this is so personal to you.
And, when I say this, I'm talking about the potential for violence. Donald Trump said this week -- talked about how his supporters might react if he is charged and faces potential jail time.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it's a very dangerous thing to even talk about, because we do have a tremendously passionate group of voters, much more passion than they had in 2020 and much more passion than they had in 2016. I think it would be very dangerous.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BASH: Does that kind of rhetoric worry you?
PENCE: Well, it doesn't worry me because I have -- I have more confidence in the American people and in the people in our movement.
Look, it was one of the things that infuriated me on January 6 with what I saw, people ransacking the Capitol and engaging in violence against law enforcement officers, Dana. I just -- the -- I would say not just the majority, but virtually everyone in our movement are the kind of Americans who love this country, are patriotic, or are law- and-order people who would never have done anything like that there or anywhere else. So, I don't -- no, I have more confidence in the American people than
that. I hear -- I hear my former running mate's frustration in his voice. But -- but I'm sure the American people will respond in our movement in a way that will express -- as they have every right to under the First Amendment, to express concerns that they have about what they perceive to be unequal treatment of the law.
But I don't -- I'm not concerned about it beyond that.
BASH: That's pretty remarkable that you're not concerned about it, given the fact that they wanted to hang you on January 6.
I want to move on to the issues that you were talking about --
PENCE: Well, Dana, wait a minute. Now, there -- wait a minute. I want to say to you --
PENCE: -- there's -- there's been an effort to take those that perpetrated violence on January 6 and use a broad brush to describe everyone in our movement that way.
BASH: No, and I didn't mean to do that.
PENCE: And I'm just here to tell you, it's just -- it's not the case.
The people in this movement, the people who rallied behind our cause in 2016 and 2020 are the most God-fearing, law-abiding --
PENCE: -- patriotic people in this country.
And I just -- I won't stand for those kind of generalizations, because they have no basis in fact.
BASH: Yes, and what I meant was that it has the potential to incite those who were incited on January 6.
Let's talk about the issues that you're talking about on the trail. Abortion is one of them. I know you believe that every Republican candidate should join you in supporting a 15-week federal ban. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says he applauds states like Iowa that have passed strict abortion laws.
But he also said this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a big, diverse country. I acknowledge that. And I'm not suggesting that, somehow, New York is necessarily going to follow Iowa's lead on that. I think you're going to see some differences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: What's your response to that?
PENCE: Well, I'm pro-life. I don't apologize for it.
And I couldn't be more proud to have been a small part of the process in an administration that appointed three of the justices that sent Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history and gave the question of abortion back to the states and the American people. And I'm going to continue to be a champion for advancing the sanctity of life in every state in this country.
But I do believe that the time has also come for us to establish a minimum national standard of 15 weeks. I think creating a minimum national standard for after a child is able to feel pain in the womb is an idea whose time has come. Frankly, it's supported by an overwhelming majority of the American people.
And if I'm president of the United States, I will champion that in the Congress, even while we look for even greater protections for the unborn in states across the country.
BASH: And the notion of Governor Ron DeSantis, who is very much competing in Iowa and New Hampshire, where you are as well, saying, we might just have to accept that there won't be that kind of level of the law in a place like New York, you say?
PENCE: Well, I say it's one of the reasons why we ought to have a debate over a minimum national standard for this country.
And -- but I think winning hearts and minds to the cause of life is going to be the calling of our time. I really do believe that the principle and the compassion that people have shown over the last 50 years brought us to this new era for life.
And I look forward, whether I'm president of the United States someday or a private citizen in the cause of life, to continuing to champion the cause of the unborn until we restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law, where it belongs.
BASH: You support banning abortion even in cases where pregnancy isn't viable.
So the question is, if a doctor looks at a woman's ultrasound, sees her fetus is missing parts of its skull and a brain -- and I bring that up because it's a real scenario that a woman testified to in Texas this week -- you're saying that the woman should still have to carry that child to term, even if there's no chance the baby would survive?
PENCE: Well, let me be clear about this, because we have got to be very clear on language.
BASH: Mm-hmm. PENCE: Look, I'm pro-life but I have always recognized and accepted abortions in tragic circumstances, rape, incest, the life of the mother.
And, candidly, Dana, in cases like an ectopic pregnancy, where the child simply cannot survive, I would assume that that would be covered by the life-of-the-mother exception. But in cases where it is simply the subjective judgment of a physician or a percentage potential, I always want to err on the side of life.
I want to give that unborn child every chance at life. And so, for me, I think the suggestion that, when a baby simply is terminal or cannot survive, that we go for -- that's -- to me, that's a misnomer. I believe that that's covered by the existing exceptions that I have acknowledged.
But -- but I have just known so many cases where early diagnosis or an early DNA test suggests that a child may not go to term, and then, because of the courageous decisions of mothers and fathers, they have gone forward and been blessed with a healthy baby at the end of that pregnancy.
So I always want to err on the side of life, but I always want to recognize exceptions in tragic circumstances.
BASH: Let's turn to Ukraine.
You're the only Republican presidential candidate who has visited Ukraine. President Biden says the U.S. will support Ukraine for as long as it takes. Do you believe in that? Do you stand by that pledge? And would you if you were president?
PENCE: Well, I think President Joe Biden has done a terrible job explaining our national interest in Ukraine.
I mean, I know he said we're there as long as it takes, but, frankly, it shouldn't take that long, Dana. I mean, this administration has been, not surprisingly, dragging their feet on providing military support from early on. They cut off the military aid that we had been providing to Ukraine under the Trump/Pence administration in the early going.
And even after the initiation of hostilities and the unconscionable Russian invasion, the administration had been slow in delivering armor and delivering munitions and still hasn't given permission to provide aircraft and F-16s from our allies.
Joe Biden gives these gauzy speeches about democracy in Ukraine. Well, look, I -- we're there supporting them on a military basis and supporting their soldiers for the reason that I believe, if Vladimir Putin overran Ukraine, it wouldn't be long before the Russian military crossed the border, where our men and women in uniform would be called upon to go and fight and defend.
BASH: As part of NATO.
PENCE: So, I -- to me, making that clear that that's our national interest here.
And, also, I think giving the Ukrainians what they need to repel the Russian invasion, I think is the best way to send a message to China that America is the leader of the free world, and we're not going to tolerate either Russia or China, should they attempt to do so, to redraw international lines by force.
This is all about America being the leader of the free world. And, if I'm president of the United States, we're going to lead from American strength.
BASH: Before I let you go, you have not yet qualified for the first Republican debate. It's just a month away.
How far are you from reaching the 40,000-donor requirement?
PENCE: Well, we -- we make the polling requirement very easily, Dana.
I'm very humbled at the support around the country, which is one of the criteria. But, yes, having 40,000 individual donors, we're literally working around the clock. Got about a month to go. I'm confident that we will be there.
People every day are going to MikePence2024.com and donating even a dollar to get us on the stage. We're not offering kickbacks. We're not offering gift cards. We're not even offering soccer tickets. We're just -- we're just asking people for their support, and we're getting support all over the country. And I couldn't be more grateful.
BASH: How far along are you? How close are you?
PENCE: We're making incredible progress toward that goal. We're not there yet, but, Dana, I promise you, when we know, you will know.
BASH: And you will make it?
PENCE: We will make it. I will see you at that debate stage.
BASH: All right, thank you, sir, former Vice President and, of course, presidential candidate Mike Pence.
Thank you so much for your time.
PENCE: Thank you, Dana.
BASH: And House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi joins me right here after a quick break.
[09:21:53] BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
You just heard from the highest-ranking Republican on Capitol Hill on January 6. Now let's hear from the leading Democrat that day.
Here with me now is Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi.
Thank you so much for being here. It's nice to see you in person.
I want to play something that you said just days after the January 6 attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): -- weigh a ton. And if you're Donald Trump talking to these people, they believe it. And they used his words to come here.
And the crime in some cases was murder. And this president is an accessory to that crime, because he instigated that insurrection that caused those deaths and this destruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Do you still believe, as you did then, that Donald Trump committed a crime?
PELOSI: First, let me thank you for the opportunity to be here today. Congratulations to on your 30 years.
BASH: Thank you.
PELOSI: It seems impossible.
BASH: Thank you.
PELOSI: But, nonetheless, how wonderful.
The president is not above the law. I'm afraid what I heard the vice president say earlier, as much as I admire him -- he was a hero that day. Mike Pence was. The president is not above the law.
We saw what happened. It was very clear. It's heartbreaking, because my motto for all these things, and the flag was still there, being from Baltimore, national anthem, written there. And the flag was still there. We always have to make sure that it's about the rule of law and about freedom of speech and all of that.
And he has -- I mean, the courts will act. He has -- innocent until proven guilty.
BASH: But what does justice look like to you?
PELOSI: Well, justice has to be something that relates to the facts and the law. What are the facts? What is the law? Now make the case. And I have been through this so many times in the Congress on ethics
cases and the rest of that, nothing about rumor, nothing about reputation, nothing about hearsay, the facts and the law.
BASH: In a private call, the now-speaker, Kevin McCarthy, told the former president that he supported the idea of expunging Trump's two impeachments, but, apparently, he didn't commit to bringing it to the floor for a vote.
You oversaw both of those impeachment proceedings.
BASH: What's your reaction to this notion?
PELOSI: Well, the president was impeached because we had no choice. He had undermined our national security, jeopardized our well-being of our country.
I was very careful about bringing any impeachment forward. But when the president made that phone call in terms of Ukraine, there was no choice. We had no choice. He must be impeached.
Kevin is, you know, playing politics. It's not even clear if he constitutionally can expunge those things. If he wants to put his members on the spot, his members in difficult races on the spot, that's a decision he has to make.
But this is not responsible. This is not about the flag still being there. This is about being afraid. As I have said before, Donald Trump is the puppeteer. And what does he do all the time but shine the light on the strings. These people look pathetic.
BASH: I want to ask about the economy.
Inflation, it looks good --
BASH: -- when you look at the numbers. Inflation is down to just 3 percent. The labor market is steadily adding jobs. Wages are up. Consumer sentiment is the highest since September of 2021.
BASH: So there's, a lot for President Biden to tout.
So the question is about why Americans don't seem to be giving him the credit. A Quinnipiac poll this week found nearly six in 10 Americans still disapprove of his handling of the economy. Why is that? And what does he have to do to turn that around?
PELOSI: Well, a lot of it's about messaging, of course. I'm so proud of this president. In the two years that we were in the majority working with him, he broke all records, on the level with a Lyndon Johnson or a Franklin Roosevelt, in terms of the caliber of legislation that he passed for the good of the people, lowering prescription drugs, again, cutting in half -- as you indicate, cutting in half unemployment.
BASH: So, why isn't the American public giving him credit for it?
PELOSI: Almost like 14 million jobs.
It has to be messaged. It is a legitimate question I ask myself all the time too. This president did such a remarkable job. He is a person of such knowledge, such vision for the country, such knowledge of the issues, such strategic thinking and such a legislator, and, on top of it all, a person who connects with the American people.
He just has to get out there. It's a busy job being president. I can say that as being speaker. You're doing your work. But he's just going to have to make sure the American people know at that kitchen table what this means to them, in terms of jobs and pay, reducing inflation, as you indicated, lowest in the whole Western world.
You have seen that the number of strikes, unions striking --
BASH: Not only do we see striking in Hollywood, the writers and the actors, just generally, more than 650,000 Americans could be on strike this summer.
UPS workers could go on strike next month. The United Auto Workers could do the same in September. You and President Biden are strong allies of the unions. Could these strikes jeopardize the fragile economic recovery?
PELOSI: Well, I'm hoping that the Hollywood -- the writers strike and the actors strike will find a path, because --
BASH: Pretty far apart.
PELOSI: Well, they're far apart, but the fact is, is that these people have to be paid for their creativity. And, again, we want to -- we like the creativity on the management side as well. They have to come together.
In terms of UPS, I'm close to UPS. For 100 years, they have been a union shop. And so I respect that. And I also want to make sure that everybody understands what the -- what is happening there.
BASH: Are you worried that all of this could hurt the recovery?
PELOSI: I'm hoping that we don't have a UPS strike.
PELOSI: I'm hoping -- I'm not as familiar with the United Auto Workers strike, but I am familiar with the UPS strike.
And I think that that's within range not to be a strike. And I would hope so, because these people work very hard. And some of the terms are a difference between temporary workers and former work -- all -- there's no use going into all of it.
But the fact is, there has to be a path, so that there isn't a strike. Respect for workers. And I'm hopeful that that will be the case.
BASH: This past week, two IRS whistle-blowers, career investigators, testified under oath that the Justice Department slow-walked the investigation into President Biden's son Hunter and ignored recommendations to file more serious felony charges.
Are you confident the politics did not play a role here?
PELOSI: Well, it was a -- since you reference the hearing, what a ridiculous clown show, again, on the part of the Republicans.
Here was a purpose that you described. What did they do? Bring in Joe Kennedy talking about censorship, that he's being censored, as he's talking to the world in a congressional hearing, and showing pictures that had nothing to do with the essence of it.
BASH: I think you mentioned Robert -- Robert F. Kennedy. But on the --
PELOSI: Excuse me. I'm sorry.
BASH: That's OK. There are lot of Kennedys.
BASH: Did you -- do you feel confident no politics by the DOJ?
PELOSI: Well, the district -- the U.S. attorney was a Trump appointee, a Trump appointee.
Now, I'm -- I have respect for whistle-blowers, but the fact is that, from the basis of that hearing, they -- they didn't even have a fair shot at what they came to say, in light of the clown show that was going on with pictures, and Robert F. Kennedy -- Robert Kennedy, with his ridiculous presentation.
No, I'm not -- I'm not confident of -- about what the whistle-blower said. The U.S. attorney was a Trump attorney. This is their opinion. It was not the opinion of others there.
BASH: On Friday, Alabama's Republican governor defied a court order --
BASH: -- one that was upheld by the Supreme Court, to redraw the state's congressional map and add a second majority-black district.
What's your reaction to that?
PELOSI: That's ridiculous. That is so completely, totally ridiculous.
I have a great deal of respect for Eric Holder, who's the head of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. He's not a partisan. He's just saying, let's have an objective redistricting.
Terri Sewell, our member of Congress from the area, in the district they drew earlier in the week, they took her out of Selma, they took her out of Montgomery. She's an iconic figure there, and, of course, John Lewis and Martin Luther King Jr --
PELOSI: -- and took her out of that.
So, something is wrong with that picture, and it's larger. You see the racism that is happening in our country. They had an article in the paper this morning about a black man who was elected mayor of a Southern town, and the whites said, you can't serve.
So it's getting to be pretty blatant. So, maybe they intend to take this back up to the Supreme Court, but they cannot. They cannot. And that's why we have to pass the Voting Rights Act. When I was not even speaker, I was a leader, we passed -- we wrote it in our office, with the Republicans, bipartisan way, the Voting Rights Act.
We -- first, the senator -- leader in the Senate, and I walked down the steps. In the House, we had 400-and-something votes.
BASH: Yes, it was a big bipartisan vote.
PELOSI: Not -- unanimous in the Senate.
What has happened to the Republican Party that they have taken it to this?
BASH: Before I let you go, are you going to run for reelection?
PELOSI: I'm not making any political plans here today, but I'm enjoying my service with the members.
The -- our new members are wonderful, our leadership, Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark, Pete Aguilar.
BASH: What's your timeline? When will you decide? PELOSI: We will see. We will see.
PELOSI: But, anyway, it's lovely to see you.
BASH: Thank you for coming in.
PELOSI: Again, we must make sure our flag is still there.
Our -- all of our values as a country are at stake because of what Donald Trump has put forth.
BASH: Speaker --
PELOSI: He's not above the law.
BASH: Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, thank you.
PELOSI: My pleasure. Thank you.
BASH: And two bipartisan governors on a mission to disagree better will join me next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COX: We're here to help save your family dinners.
POLIS: You know what we're talking about.
COX: You're halfway through your second helping of mashed potatoes when your MAGA uncle decides to share his thoughts on the latest election conspiracy.
POLIS: We all have that uncle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COX: I'm Spencer Cox, Republican governor of Utah.
POLIS: And I'm Jared Polis, Democratic governor of Colorado.
COX: And we're here to help save your family dinners.
POLIS: There's a healthy way to deal with conflicting opinions. Actually, it's OK to disagree.
COX: It's not just OK. It's crucial.
POLIS: Did you just disagree with me about disagreeing? COX: Conflict isn't bad. It's the way we disagree that matters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: These two bipartisan governors want Americans to -- quote -- "disagree better over politics." That's what they're calling their new effort.
And they are here with me now, the leaders of the National Governors Association, Republican Spencer Cox of Utah and Democrat Jared Polis of Colorado.
Thank you so much, gentlemen, for joining me.
Governor Cox, I want to start with a question about the reality that you're facing here. How are you going to take this message and grow it and get people to actually adopt it?
COX: Yes. Well, it's a great question, Dana, and something that we have been thinking about ourselves.
We're actually working with universities trying to understand the science behind depolarization. And we know that politics is downstream of culture. And so this is not something that's going to change overnight, but we do believe it's absolutely critical.
The good news is that there are some numbers out there, some polling numbers that show that there is a growing majority of Americans that are tired of the toxic disagreement, the divisiveness of tearing each other down, that they're actually looking for something better.
Governors are uniquely positioned to take this on, in that we -- we actually have to get stuff done. We work together. We learn from each other. We are the laboratories of democracy. And so we're going to take messages like this. And many of our fellow governors will be doing similar ads like the one that you just shared.
And we're going to do everything we can over the course of the next year to elevate this conversation.
BASH: Governor Polis, what does your party you need to do better?
POLIS: Well, I think it's about at the individual level.
We need to really have authentic conversations with those that we disagree with. And what does that mean? It means, don't question the motives, Republicans, Democrats, independents, or good Americans, right?
But go ahead, put the issues on the table, talk about what works, what doesn't work, use data as your guide. This initiative doesn't mean everybody needs to agree on every topic, but it means we should have conversations of disagreement at a better level, a higher level, a more effective level for the future of our country.
[09:40:10] BASH: And, Governor Cox, the elephant in the room, so to speak, is Donald Trump, the leader of your party.
According to every poll, he is someone, routinely spreads lies and demonizes those who disagree with him. Can you change the tenor or discourse in this country as long as Donald Trump is the dominant force in your party?
COX: Well, look, there are so many examples of the wrong type of behavior, including myself. I'm often guilty of attacking and tearing down, instead of treating opponents with dignity and respect.
And I do think this gives us an opportunity. I mean, again, the polling shows that 60 percent of Republicans aren't crazy about their front-runner, and 70 percent of Democrats actually aren't crazy about their front-runner. We're kind of sleepwalking into this election that nobody is excited about and that nobody wants.
And, sadly, we're heading into what I believe and I think most Americans believe will be the next, most divisive election of our lifetimes. And so our hope is that, over the course of the next year, we can provide some counterprogramming to what we're seeing at the national discourse.
And this isn't just about politicians. And I think this is very important to say, Dana. This is about all of us as Americans. Again, it's -- politicians respond to the incentives that are out there. And, right now, the incentives with social media and cable news and the media, I mean, we all play a part in this, is to be loud and extreme and to attack.
And until all of us start being better on Facebook and Twitter, this is going to continue. So it's not just about politicians. It really is about Americans. There's nothing more un-American than hating our fellow Americans. And we need to start acting like that, or we're going to be in big trouble.
We can't continue down this path.
BASH: Well, on that note, Governor Polis, some in your party might argue that it's naive to call for more respectful debate at a time when many Republicans are just, for example, trying to restrict abortion access or roll back LGBTQ rights.
You're the first openly gay man elected governor. How would you disagree better with someone who says your marriage is not legitimate?
POLIS: Look, you start with a common ground on something like abortion choice.
Democrats don't believe that abortion is good. We believe it's bad, it should be minimized. How do you prevent unwanted pregnancies? What techniques do you use to make sure that people are empowered with the information they need to not become pregnant unless they choose? How do they get good medical care, so they don't face a difficult decision midway through their pregnancy? So there's common ground there to have a constructive discussion about
how families can be healthier, about how people can be happier. And it doesn't mean that we're going to agree on every part of a very difficult and challenging issue, but at least you can have the conversation at a better level.
And it's not so much the fault of politicians that sow the seeds of rhetoric. Rather, they're reacting to a market of, unfortunately, people that are reinforcing that. And this conversation, led by governors, chief executives of states, great people to lead this conversation, is really hopefully about looking ourselves in the mirror and coming up with a better way to have civic dialogue across the country.
BASH: Really important effort that you're both undertaking.
Governor Cox, Governor Polis, thank you so much for sharing it here this morning.
COX: Thank you, Dana.
BASH: And up next: Did we just see a side of Kamala Harris that Democrats have been waiting for?
We will talk about that with my panel next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: We know the history.
And let us not let these politicians who are trying to divide our country win. This is unnecessary, to debate whether enslaved people benefited from slavery. Are you kidding me?
HARRIS: Are we supposed to debate that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
Vice President Kamala Harris talking about the Florida Board of Education's new standards for how black history should be taught in public schools.
My panel joins me now.
Karen Finney, I know that you have heard a lot of Democrats over the past two-and-a-half years saying, the vice president needs to get out there more, where's Kamala, all of those things. What do you make of this? KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It was a stellar moment.
And I think she did something that she has done often in the last couple of years, which is, in a moment when something needed to be said, she got out there and said it and really channeled what people were feeling.
And the idea that we would literally have a conversation -- I mean, I have to laugh, it's so disgusting -- that there were personal benefits of any kind to slaves, that's like saying, know, we're happy when we couldn't vote and we couldn't have our own banking account. It's just ridiculous.
She's done -- she's had these moments, when she's talked about reproductive freedom, when she went down to Tennessee after the shooting and the two gentlemen were expelled from the legislature. I mean, she's been able to, in these moments, speak to what people are feeling. I think we're going to see a lot more of it throughout this campaign.
We're going to see her on the road talking about these issues and reminding us that that literally, as we're talking about the economy, and we're talking about the progress that the Biden/Harris administration has made, there are also very real serious issues at stake in terms of who gets to be part of our democracy.
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's amazing to me that how little Kamala Harris apparently has to do, that she can read something on Twitter one day and be on an airplane the next to make something literally out of nothing.
This is a completely made-up deal. I looked at the standards. I even looked at an analysis of the standards in every instance where the word slavery or slave was used.
I even read the statement of the African-American scholars that wrote the standards, not Ron DeSantis, but the scholars. Everybody involved in this says this is completely a fabricated issue. And yet look how quickly Kamala Harris jumped on it.
So, the fact that this is her best moment, a fabricated matter, is pretty ridiculous, in my opinion.
BASH: Let's get Ashley in.
ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'm glad she said -- went down, and I'm glad she spoke on the issue.
And just because black people write it don't mean -- that doesn't mean it's going to be accurate. Like, we can disagree as black people as well. I think what the bigger picture is, is that this is happening in Florida. This is happening in a Florida where you have a governor who has an anti-woke bill, who has a don't say gay bill, who wants to ban DEI problems, who wants to do -- wants to ban Rosa Parks. And now you have -- children reading Rosa Parks or other academic books that talk about a diversity of issues. I think, at this panel, we can all agree that slaves did not benefit from slavery, even if the citation says, well, they might have gotten something -- but they didn't have a choice, so that's not a benefit.
Slaves did not have the freedom to choose if -- Ron DeSantis said maybe they could have become a blacksmith, not when they didn't have the choice to become a blacksmith. And so that was what Kamala Harris is saying.
And I hope, in this moment, when we have such a contentious political environment, that we can all agree that slavery was not a good thing and slaves did not benefit, and then we could move on. But the problem is, the governor, who is the second in the polls for the Republican nomination, won't do that.
BASH: Well, let's talk about the polls and, more specifically, the Republican race, because we have some new polling out this morning, FOX News Iowa poll.
Check this out, Donald Trump, 46 percent, Ron DeSantis 16 percent. Sorry. That's South Carolina. Let's do that first, Donald Trump 48 percent, Nikki Haley 14 percent, Ron DeSantis 13 percent. And then let's also look at Iowa, 46, DeSantis 16.
I mean, it's not even close. Donald Trump is by far and away the front-runner, even more so than he was before.
Miles Taylor, you are here. You have a new book called "Blowback." And you talk about what happened when you were working inside the Trump administration. I want to look at it as it pertains to a potential second Trump term.
And you said" "The aids that guarded the book," meaning -- you're talking about something called the Doomsday Book -- "were concerned about the president reading it or MAGA allies around him getting ahold of it, because, especially towards the end of the administration, they witnessed the president's proclivity to abuse his authorities for political purposes, and especially as he started to signal that the 2020 election might be stolen or he could be cheated."
MILES TAYLOR, AUTHOR, "BLOWBACK: A WARNING TO SAVE DEMOCRACY FROM THE NEXT TRUMP": Well, to your point about the polls, I want to say that I do think that Donald Trump is stronger than he was politically in 2016.
I mean, the odds markets had him at 9 percent of winning the presidency in 2016. Right now, the betting markets have him at something like 30 percent or above. And it's confounding, I think, to a lot of people that the twice-indicted, soon-to-be-probably-thrice- indicted, Donald Trump would be the leader in the field.
But we have to then, if that's the case, really think in a clear-eyed way about what a second term would look like. And you point to what's called the Doomsday Book. When I was at the Department of Homeland Security, one of the things we were responsible for was continuity of government, the most extraordinary presidential powers that could be used in the case of armed foreign invasion or nuclear attack.
Now, I didn't find out until I was talking to former colleagues about this book that Donald Trump wasn't aware of some of those authorities, but now he is. And if returned to the White House, those are the types of things he wish he'd known about during the January 6 insurrection.
JENNINGS: He is crushing everyone in Iowa and South Carolina. I mean, there's just no way around it. I mean, the polls are obvious.
And it's a tale we have been telling for months. As long as half the party that doesn't want to do Donald Trump remains fragmented by all these other candidates, he's going to be nearly impossible to defeat. So the only real question about this primary is, unless he collapses, which I don't know if that's likely or not, is, how quickly can you get it down to a two-person race, and -- after Iowa?
And, also, if he wins Iowa by more than a handful of points, does that just functionally end the race at that point?
FINNEY: You know, I just want to take a step back though.
The reason we have the legislation that we were just talking about or the bills in Florida is because of the stranglehold that Donald Trump and this third, I guess, maybe part of Republicans and MAGA extremists have on the Republican Party.
Ron DeSantis has been trying to show that he can out-Trump Trump using his own record in Florida to do that. That's why children are going to be taught that there was some personal benefit to slaves. And I think we have to take a step back and ask ourselves and the Republican Party has to ask itself, is that who you really want to be?
Is that -- do you really want to not stand up to someone who endangered the national security of our country and who presents such a very real threat to our core values?
ALLISON: Well, you know, I'm training for a marathon right now. It's not going great, but I'm still doing it.
ALLISON: And part of training is that, you know, when you're running race, you don't -- and you're the last person in the race, you don't try and beat the winner. You try and slowly clip off the people in front of you.
And I don't understand why that's not what Republican people in the primary are doing. They're not going to go after Donald Trump. Why not slowly try to get that field shrunk and start to go after for each other to make it smaller? Otherwise, none of them stand a chance.
BASH: That's going to be the question. Sorry to interrupt you. We're out of time. That is going to be the question as we go forward.
BASH: I also want to add that not only do you have a book. You have a podcast called "Speaking Up With Miles Taylor."
Nice to see you all.
Thank you so much for spending your Sunday morning with us.
Fareed Zakaria sits down with the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, next.