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Dr. Anthony Fauci updates status of US Ebola patients; party chairs square off in exclusive joint interview
Written by Chris Wallace / Published October 19, 2014 / Fox News Sunday
Special Guests: Reince Priebus, Debbie Wasserman Schultz , Rep. Tim Murphy, Dr. Michael Osterholm, Dr. Osterholm, Dr. Anthony Fauci
This is a rush transcript from "Fox News Sunday," October 19, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: I'm Chris Wallace.
President Obama names an Ebola czar, but there are growing demands in Congress for a travel ban from West Africa.
DR. TOM FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: Our fundamental mission is to protect Americans. Right now, we're able to track everyone who comes in.
REP. TIM MURPHY, R - PA: But you're not stopping them from being around other people, Doctor.
WALLACE: We'll get the latest from the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
And we'll discuss criticism of the government response with the chair of the House Oversight Panel Congressman Tim Murphy, and infectious disease expert, Dr. Michael Osterholm.
Plus, has the government oversold its ability to contain the deadly virus?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If we do these protocols properly, the likelihood of widespread Ebola outbreaks in this country are very, very low.
WALLACE: Our Sunday panel weighs in.
Then, it's just 16 days to the midterm elections. With control of the Senate still up for grabs.
We'll have a debate between the chairs of both parties, Reince Priebus and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in their first joint appearance of 2014. It's a FOX NEWS SUNDAY exclusive.
And our power player of the week -- the man who keeps America on time.
All right now on "Fox News Sunday."
WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
Under fire from Republicans and some Democrats, President Obama is now scrambling to restore confidence in how his administration is handling the Ebola threat.
Today, we want to take a look at it from all angles. We'll talk with the government's point man on infectious disease, Dr. Anthony Fauci. And we'll hear from two critics, Congressman Tim Murphy, and public health Dr. Michael Osterholm.
But we begin with FOX News senior national correspondent John Roberts who has the latest from Atlanta -- John.
JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, good morning to you. This is the day that the quarantine is scheduled to be lifted on the family members of Thomas Eric Duncan. He is the first person to die from Ebola virus disease in this country. Today marks 21 days since he was first admitted to the hospital.
That hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian is admitting more mistakes today. In an open letter, the hospital apologized that its training and education programs for employees had, quote, "not been fully deployed before Duncan walked into that emergency room."
The hospital is also pushing back against new information in Duncan's medical reports that there may have been lapses in the use of proper protective gear in the first couple of days after he was hospitalized. That is when nurses Nina Pham and Amber Vinson are believed to have been infected, both of them now being treated for Ebola at Emory and the NIH.
And for that reason, Dallas County emergency management director, Judge Clay Jenkins, fears that many more health workers who are currently being monitored may be at risk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLAY JENKINS, DALLAS COUNTY JUDGE: We're very prayerful that we won't have more, but we're -- I'm making -- I've got my team making contingencies to cover double-digit numbers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Yes. He is saying that about 50 of those health care workers may potential be infected. The CDC is also making another midcourse correction to help prevent future contamination, raising the standards for personal protective equipment and new guidelines that will soon release. It's expected those guidelines will recommend similar head-to-toe type of protection that health care workers in Africa are using when they treat Ebola patients.
Now, all of these apologies and changes have many people concerned that public officials were woefully unprepared for this and are just making it up as they go along. By the way, that lab worker from Texas who was out on the Carnival cruise is now back on dry land. She landed in Galveston this morning. Public health officials, Chris, say she poses no threat.
WALLACE: Now, let's bring in one of the government's top public health officials leading the fight against Ebola -- Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.
And, Dr. Fauci, welcome back to FOX NEWS SUNDAY.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Thank you, Chris. Good to be with you.
WALLACE: Let's start with Nina Pham, the nurse who was flown from Dallas to NIH after getting the Ebola virus. She was listed in fair condition on Friday. How is she now? FAUCI: She's fine. She's fine. She's fair, very stable, comfortable.
When you get Ebola, it really knocks you out, Chris. So, obviously, there's a lot of fatigue and weakness. But she's doing quite well. I had a long conversation with her last night. She's in good spirits.
WALLACE: Are you optimistic she's going to make it?
FAUCI: You know, I -- you always hate to predict when you have a serious disease like this. But I -- I'm feeling good about the fact that she's progressing very well.
WALLACE: Now, there is a report she was one of the first people to treat Thomas Eric Duncan, patient zero, in Dallas, and the report is that she was not wearing protective gear originally.
One, is that true? And two, does she think -- does she have an idea as to how she got the virus?
FAUCI: Well, the answer is that the protocol that was originally recommended was a protocol that's a WHO protocol that's best fitted for out in the field. It doesn't cover every single aspect of your skin.
That worked in the field. What what's very clear now, if you're in an intensive care sitting, doing things you would never do in the bush or in the field in Africa, very invasive type procedures, that that is not the optimal way.
So, we don't know for sure, but it is likely she got infected because she was not completely covered.
WALLACE: President Obama has named a lawyer, Ron Klain, to be the Ebola czar. As head of infectious disease at NIH, how will you coordinate with the new Ebola czar?
FAUCI: Well, we have coordination from the White House now with Lisa Monaco and Susan Rice. So, we have multiple agencies involved. One of them is HHS.
So, right now what we're going to have with Ron is that we're going to have somebody whose full time job is doing that. So, we actually welcome that because as we know, Lisa and Susan have other very important day jobs that they need to deal with. So, we're looking forward to working with him as a coordinator of what we do.
WALLACE: One of the criticisms of the government response so far is that officials -- top officials have said things that turned out afterwards not to be true. Take a look at these.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRIEDEN: I have no doubt that we'll stop this in its tracks in the U.S.
LISA MONACO, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Every hospital in this country has the capability to isolate a patient.
OBAMA: I shook hands with, hugged and kissed not the doctors, but a couple of the nurses, and I felt perfectly safe doing so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Doctor, how do you explain all of these misstatements or overstatements from top government officials?
FAUCI: Well, I'm not so sure, Chris, that they're misstatements and overstatements. When Dr. Frieden said we can stop this in its tracks, he was talking about an outbreak. And what was applied to that was the fact that two --
WALLACE: Three people -- two more people got it.
FAUCI: No, two more people. Two more people are infected in the situation in which they were at risk. What Dr. Frieden was talking about was an outbreak in the public. Now, we certainly are not happy at all that those two nurses were in danger and actually got infected. But that is strictly not an outbreak.
WALLACE: October 3rd, Lisa Monaco says every hospital in the country can isolate a patient. Look, without relitigating each statement --
FAUCI: Right, sure.
WALLACE: -- clearly, there was a sense of certainty that was being conveyed, which has not been lived up to.
FAUCI: Right, exactly. That's unfortunate.
And I think what we need to do right now is to make sure that when we talk about things, that we talk about them. There aren't absolutes. You want to have a delicate balance between assuring the American people, but not scaring them with the fact there may be a risk. So, what we do right now is nothing is completely risk-free. And that's what people need to understand, but the relative risk of things people need to understand is very, very small.
Never zero, Chris, never zero -- but very small.
WALLACE: When you were here just two weeks ago, you flatly opposed a travel ban from the three West African countries, the hot zone up there on the map. But now, more than two dozen African countries have restricted travel from those countries, and so have a number of European airlines.
Are we here in the U.S. being just politically correct in allowing people to continue to travel in?
FAUCI: I don't think so, Chris. I think when you talk about the idea of a travel ban, we listen to and respect the opinions of people who feel that could be -- that should be the case, because their argument is an argument from people who are of good intention. They want to do the best for the American people. There are some downsides to that.
WALLACE: What's the strongest arguments against a travel ban?
FAUCI: Well, the strongest argument I believe against it is that when people are coming into the country, you know exactly, you can track them. If you say nobody comes from Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea, there are so many other ways to get into the country. You can go to one or the other countries, and then get back in. So, when they come in from a place you can track them, you know.
WALLACE: But just briefly. I mean, they're going to have a passport from that country.
WALLACE: They're gong to going to have a stamp from that country.
WALLACE: Couldn't you still screen them?
You know, I hear this talk about we're going to disrupt the democracies, the economies of these countries. We're talking about 100 to 150 people each day. Is this really going to cause that much disruption to do what a lot of countries in Africa are now doing?
FAUCI: Yes, OK. But take it from the other side. If you look at the August and September, 36,000 people came to an airport in one of those three countries to get out. By the screening there, 77 were not allowed to get on the plane for health reasons. Of those 77, none had Ebola. So, there's not a big influx of people trying to get into the country.
So, you've got to look at the possible downsides of trying to just completely not let anybody out when there isn't a -- not only not a large number, zero of 77 that was stopped actually had Ebola. Most of them had malaria.
WALLACE: Dr. Fauci, I want to thank you so much for coming in, taking time from your very schedule to talk with us. Thank you, sir.
FAUCI: Good to bet with you, Chris.
WALLACE: So, has the government done enough to stop the spread of Ebola?
Joining us now: Republican Congressman Tim Murphy, chair of the oversight panel that held a hearing this week that criticized the administration's response.
And Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
Congressman Murphy, your initial official reaction to the appointment of Ron Klain as the Ebola czar was that it was, quote, "shocking and tone-deaf." Have you heard anything since then to change your mind?
REP. TIM MURPHY, R-PA, ENERGY AND COMMERCE CMTE: No, the American people are looking for someone with some knowledge and expertise. He has none in these fields.
And I -- throughout this whole thing, given a number of missteps, and promises and reassurances the CDC has given, everything from we have had plenty of hospitals, the gowning was fine the way it was initially, fever can identify someone, you only use 100.4.
So many of those assurances have not been accurate. What people want is as much facts as possible. Don't overpromise, don't be certain when you're not certain, but the key is to protect and defend the people of the United States.
The way the CDC is coming out now and saying things like, you know, so far no one has come in -- well, this is like dealing with terrorism. We have to be right 100 percent of many time and Ebola only has to only get in once. And that's what's happened so far. So, I think that these false assurances are working.
Now, my background is not me medicine. It's psychology. And I know what creates panic. What creates panic is when people are given that proves to be false. So, we need to stop these over-certainties from these medical folks and I'm not sure that a czar that has no background can help that.
I want to pick up on that with you, Mr. Osterholm. You heard my discussion with Dr. Fauci about all the misstatements from the government. You say one of the biggest problems is that we have been too confident, too certain in what we have been telling -- with what the government has been telling the American people.
MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, UNIV OF MN EPIDEMIOLOGIST: Well, first of all, we do know a lot about Ebola, and I agree wholeheartedly, we will not have a community-wide outbreak in this country. We surely didn't get it right in Dallas as we should and should have, and frankly that it happened in a lot of other communities we probably wouldn't have gotten it right the first time.
But I think we've learned a lot in the past two weeks. And what we really need to focus on and keep our eye on the ball is not this country. While I'm concerned about what happens in this country, what I'm really concerned about is what happens in Africa, because as long as that infectious disease, forest fire is burning, those embers are going to keep coming around the world, regardless of whether they close borders or not.
WALLACE: I want to talk about, though, the threats from those countries, the hot zone, to this country, because one of the big issues, of course, is this idea of a travel ban.
And I want to talk to Congressman Murphy about it, the idea of a travel ban from those three countries to the United States.
Congressman Murphy, this is what President Obama said this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Trying to seal off an entire region of the world, if that were even possible, could actually make the situation worse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Congressman Murphy, why is the president wrong?
MURPHY: Well, look, first of all, the president has sealed off Israel in the past, and we sealed off other areas temporarily. We can have travel restrictions until we get the rest right. And the rest is not right.
The assumptions that they have for example that it will lead to some collapse of this economy in Africa I don't agree with. The idea we can't get goods and supplies -- that's totally false. We've shipped hundreds of thousands of supplies into Germany during the Berlin airlift.
And the idea that people are not going to travel unless we put in a ban is absurd. People are already moving all over Africa now for jobs and temporary work. They do that now.
We can trace passports, we can look at things, but this idea of only fever scans and asking people to be honest, we know there's two more assumptions that the CDC has that are not true. And if you're going to restore faith with the American people, and stop panic, you've got to be more accurate here.
WALLACE: Well, let me bring in Mr. Osterholm -- because as I discussed with Dr. Fauci, the fact is a number, I think two dozens African nations have restricted travel from the so-called hot zone, which raises the question -- should we?
OSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, let's be clear -- just because somebody takes an action, doesn't mean it's right. I believe that Congressman Murphy is well-intended in his assessment here, and certainly it makes some sense.
But we've actually looked at this issue quite closely over the years and you've led some program by saying I'm critical about the response, and I am. I would have no problem saying the thing to do is close the border if we could really protect this country from what's happening over there.
That's just not the case. And this is not a partisan issue and it shouldn't be a partisan issue. Just this past week, Former Secretary Mike Leavitt of HHS under the Bush administration, is somebody I very much respect and admire, himself came out and said from his own experience having been at HHS, and reviewing all the information about what --
WALLACE: But why? Why is the travel ban a bad idea?
OSTERHOLM: Well, the travel ban is a bad idea in part because of the fact that we really don't effectively stop people from getting into this country and for what?
I mean, what I'm talking about here is we've had one single so far in the big picture of what the situation is. Maybe we stop another one and two more. But we do know that travel bans will seriously impact or ability to get people in and out of that area.
And, Congressman, with all due respect, I agree on the Berlin airlift, but that was all military. If you're prepared today to give us hundreds of military planes that will fly in and out at will when we need them to move not only material but also people when we move them around, then I'll say, well, we ought to reconsider this. But I don't see anybody in Congress --
WALLACE: All right.
OSTERHOLM: -- telling us today that we're going to get hundreds of military planes.
WALLACE: Congressman Murphy?
MURPHY: Well, I've already asked Dr. Frieden and sent a letter to President Obama saying, tell us whatever Congress needs to authorize. We're sending thousands of troops over there through ships, through also planes.
We could do a lot here. I mean, the ability of U.S. military to move goods and supplies is pretty massive. We all want to stop Ebola in Africa. But we also don't want them to come here.
And even when people talk about -- well, one more case. You know, it means a lot to the family who dies in the United States and it means a lot to the security of Americans. And so, let's focus on concentrating our efforts to stop it in America, but let's make sure that we're protecting America's border from it coming in here, too.
WALLACE: All right. Finally, Mr. Osterholm, you say that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and that we are barely at the one-mile mark in our fight against Ebola. I certainly understand that in Africa. But you also say it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
Are you saying that about the U.S., too?
OSTERHOLM: Well, as long as this forest fire is burning in Africa and potentially spreads eastward into some of the larger other cities in Africa, yes, we're going to see the sparks flying off. Do I think that we will get it right in the United States, we will handle these cases very effectively that we will protect health care workers? Yes, I do.
But what I think what we are not talking about is the devastation that this is coming in Africa, not just in human lives, but the actual from a security standpoint. If this moves eastward, as we believe it now might, just by people walking on foot, not being checked at borders or not getting on airplanes, the potential this has to destabilize all of Africa is huge.
Ask anyone in the intelligence community what that means in terms of potential safe havens for terrorists, et cetera. We have to do more.
And, Congressman, I would love for you to take a look at why are we not seeing more troops on the ground? Why are our supplies not arriving in these affected countries? Why is the rest of the world not responding?
That's what we need to keep our eye on right now and we need a vaccine. Congressman, I hope you'll help us get that vaccine, because in the end, that's the only magic bullet that's going to stop this whole thing. And that right now rest largely in the hands of the United States.
WALLACE: Mr. Osterholm, Congressman Murphy, thank you both so much. Thanks for coming in today and shedding more light on the subject. Thank you.
MURPHY: Thank you.
WALLACE: Does the president's appointment of an Ebola czar mark a turning point in the United States' response? Our Sunday group joins the conversation.
Plus, what would you like to ask the panel? Just go to Facebook or Twitter @FoxNewsSunday, and we may use your question on the air.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Fighting this disease will take time. Before this is over, we may see more isolated cases here in America, but we know how to wage this fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: President Obama on Saturday trying to reassure Americans who may not be all that confident in the government's response to the Ebola threat.
And it's time now for our Sunday group. Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analyst, Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, syndicated columnist George Will, and FOX News political analyst Juan Williams. Will, I want to start with the lead story in "The New York Times" on Saturday. Put this headline up, if you will. The headline, "Amid assurances on Ebola, Obama is said to seethe." I haven't seen the word "seethe" in a headline a long time.
The story goes on to report that the president is just as upset with the administration's response as all the rest of us.
Brit, do you buy it?
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No. The story -- I felt bad for the administration and felt worse for "The New York Times" when I read the story. I didn't -- I didn't buy it at all. This was the president's aides, most of them anonymous, portraying him as having all this empathy with the public about all this.
HUME: Seething. Absolutely. No, I didn't -- I didn't believe it.
I would say that I think the appointment of Ron Klain shows you the administration thinks this is more of a political and public relations problem than it is a public health problem. It is clearly both.
And the key to the whole thing, Chris, in my view is, that Klain was not given the kind of authority, in other words reporting directly to the president, and taking overall charge of this effort that someone who was a true czar would, in fact, he's still reporting to people who have been managing this problem already.
WALLACE: Neera, I want to go bigger than Ron Klain. As the head of think tank that has close ties for the White House, how do you explain all of the screw-ups in the government response to the Ebola situation here in the U.S. so far?
NEERA TANDEN, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, look, I think it's clear that CDC was -- gave, you know, some inaccurate protocol information right at the beginning of this. They even said so on Thursday in "The New York Times" that the protocol should have been closer to Doctors Without Borders.
I do think the administration is taking the right steps, the CDC SWAT teams actually going in wherever there is a patient immediately. That's an important step. The steps they are taking now are really critical. But I do think we should put them --
WALLACE: Not to relitigate, but you had, and we played this for Dr. Fauci, Frieden saying we can stop this in the tracks. Lisa Monaco saying every hospital in this country knows how to isolate. President Obama talking about I'm hugging nurses. I mean, there was an overstatement, an over-certainty that I think has hurt the government's credibility. TANDEN: Look, I think, actually, Dr. Fauci answered these things very well. And I think this is -- it's important that Dr. Fauci is out, because these are actually public health issues.
And I think the challenge here, and he said very clearly -- look, we have three cases so far. Three hundred million people, three cases. We don't want to institute panic in the country. We now see some instances of some overreaction in the public. We want to get to these cases. There should have been CDC SWAT teams at every single location --
WALLACE: Would you have felt good if you were on that plane with the woman who was told by the CDC to fly when it turned out that she had Ebola?
TANDEN: I wouldn't feel great about it, but on the other hand, I don't think it's right, right now, for the media to instill a level of panic in the country that doesn't -- that can lead to counterproductive results.
We want people who are sick to come forward. And we think -- this is a public health issue. It shouldn't be a political crisis. It is a public health issue.
WALLACE: Fair enough.
George, we spoke yesterday and you said you wanted to focus on comments that Tom Frieden, the head of CDC made. This was about a video that President Obama sent to the hot zone in which he said you can get on a bus and you don't have to worry about catching Ebola. Frieden was asked about that. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DR. THOMAS FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: If you're a member of the traveling public and are healthy, should you be worried you might have gotten it by sitting next to someone? And the answer is no. Second, if you are sick and you may have Ebola, should you get on the bus? And the answer to that is also no. You might become ill. You might have a problem that exposes someone around you.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
WALLACE: George, you say that's the problem.
GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: That's the problem. Don't get -- if you're now feeling healthy, you're going to go on feeling healthy, because you can't get Ebola sitting next to someone. But if you have flu-like symptoms or Ebola-like symptoms, don't get on the bus because you might expose some -- you can't square that circle.
The problem is, the original assumption was that with great certitude, if not certainty, was that you need to have direct contact, meaning with bodily fluids with someone, because it's not airborne. There are now doctors who are saying, we're not so sure that it can't be in some instances transmitted by airborne. WALLACE: I'm not sure that's true.
TANDEN: Where are you getting the doctors who are saying that it's not airborne? I mean, we've had CDC, we've had the World Health Organization -- doctors have been treating this for 40 years and not just like Ebola just started. Where are the doctors? We had Dr. Osterholm here too who's basically critical of some elements of this, but he's also saying there's basics facts around this.
WILL: Well, among the basic facts are that those who said that it's not airborne, you must however understand, they said that the fluids can be infectious for up to a number of days on --
TANDEN: Yes. But you have to have interaction with fluids.
WILL: -- on a dry surface, hence they want, well, when you get on an airport perhaps, you should clean the armrest and the tray. In fact, there are doctors who are saying that in a sneeze or some cough, some of the airborne particles can be infectious?
TANDEN: I'm sorry, who are the doctors saying this? I mean, we have -- I mean, this is what I think is really important, that facts about this disease do not lead to panic. So far, every expert that I've seen have said --
WILL: Every expert that you've seen. Here we go again.
TANDEN: Well, more (ph) physicians.
WILL: Here we go again.
TANDEN: The CDC.
WILL: People saying --
WALLACE: I do want to say this, though, in the interest that there is no indication so far that it is airborne that, yes, if there's fluid, and you're a couple feet away, it can have an impact, but it isn't that you can just breathe the air --
WILL: But isn't that airborne?
WALLACE: Well, no, it's contact with a fluid. It's different than the flu. It's different than the flu.
TANDEN: It's different from the flu.
WALLACE: So, we do want to say with what we know and we don't know anything to contradict that.
Let me go quickly to you in the time we have remaining, Juan, because we asked you for questions for the panel. We got a number like this from Clay Dalton, who writes, "A lawyer with zero medical experience," he's reacting to Ron Klain, "as usual, I have no confidence in the government."
Juan, how do you answer, Clay? And what about this argument that this does not -- the appointments of Ron Klain does not instill more public confidence, particularly when our public health experts have said a lot of things that turned out to be not true?
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think there's any questions, you know, given the way the networks are running around doing their Chicken Little routines, trying to, you know, pump up --
WALLACE: It's all our fault?
WILLIAMS: I think the media has been terrible on this story, I'll tell you, just irresponsible.
But let me go beyond it and say, the Congress had hearings on this week, the political curtain has gone up on this theater, and I think Ron Klain is part of it. I think it's a political response did not please me. I thought we needed somebody with more expertise on the specific issue.
But then again the White House has come back, and they said, you know what? This is management, this guy knows how not to coordinate, implement, make sure everybody has right supplies, not only here in the United States, but also in Africa, the military.
So, all of that to me is important, but you see the politics now comes to the forefront. The Republicans are using it to try to undercut the president, he's incompetent, other instances of incompetence. The Democrats are now shifting and rushing as we approach the midterms.
To me, this is all politics and it's just so disconcerting when you think it's a human situation, there's going to be human error. We're trying to deal with it. Honestly, America is the only country doing anything. I don't see the Europeans, the Africans doing anything.
And yet, people are like, oh, Chicken Little, sky is falling. This is crazy. It's sad.
WALLACE: All right.
Panel, we have to take a break here. We'll see you a little later on the program.
When we come back, we're now entering the homestretch in the midterm election campaign and the battle for control of the Senate. The chairs of the Republican and Democratic Parties join us for their first joint interview this year. It's a "Fox News Sunday" exclusive.
WALLACE: There are now just 16 days until this year's midterm elections where we could see a big shift in the balance of power here in Washington. Joining us now for their first joint appearance of 2014, the chair of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus and Florida Congresswoman and chair of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Both of you. Welcome back to FOX NEWS SUNDAY.
DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CMTE CHAIR: Thank you.
WALLACE: We have to get together more often.
REINCE PRIEBUS, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CMTE CHAIR: No problem.
WALLACE: Let's talk about the big question, will Republicans take the Senate and as you know, there are bunch of these election labs that are out there. Nate Silver's 538 website says the GOP has a 62 percent chance of taking the Senate. The "New York Times" upshot says that a 70 percent chance and "The Washington Post" election lab says it's a 93 percent likelihood. Chairman Priebus, will your party take the Senate?
PRIEBUS: Yeah, absolutely. We feel really good about our chances of taking the Senate. And it's partly because number one, the president has taken the country in the wrong direction. These lieutenants out there across the country have followed the president off the plank. And I think that there's an incompetency malaise across this country where people are not confident in the job that the Democrats have done. And so, we are going to win on the issues, but also what you are seeing is that we are winning on the ground. The Democrat advantage in Iowa is all but evaporating. And then in no other Senate state on the ground are we losing. And so, we are doing what we need to do to win, but it's more important that we get our country turned around again, Chris.
WALLACE: Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, you can make this a really news making thing. Are you going to lose the Senate?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No, we're going to hold the Senate. And we're going to hold the Senate because over the next couple of weeks, and leading up to even today, the one question that voters are going to ask themselves, Chris, is who has my back? And on issue after issue, Democrats have stood up for jobs, for the economy, for investing in education and health care, those are the issues that voters are talking about. And the Republicans have engaged in trying to take their health care away, to oppose the minimum wage and I just want to address what Reince just said about the ground game. Imagine, could anyone have imagined, that two weeks before Election Day, the Republicans would have to invest in South Dakota, Kansas and Georgia, blood-red states that they are now worried they might lose.
PRIEBUS: Debbie, you guys are losing everywhere, first of all.
(LAUGHTER) PRIEBUS: And the president hasn't had anybody's back, now he hasn't even had your back. And so, I don't know whose back these Democrats have, but it's not the American people's back.
WALLACE: Let me interrupt for a minute, because I want to talk about that. Because I think you would both agree that perhaps the Republicans' best issue is the unpopularity of this president. Look at some interesting numbers here. In these four critical states with key Senate races, Mr. Obama's approval rating is in the 30s, and all four Democratic incumbents running for reelection in those states have voted with the president more than 90 percent of the time. Here is how Tom Cotton is going after Senator Mark Pryor in Arkansas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM COTTON, R-AR, SENATE CANDIDATE: Senator Pryor has voted with Barack Obama 93 percent of the time. He cast the signing vote for ObamaCare. And he rubberstamps Barack Obama's foreign policy of weakness and retreat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Congresswoman, not to get specifically into Arkansas, but isn't the problem -- isn't the president a real problem for these Democratic senators?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No, and Chris, from that same Fox News poll, Americans indicated that they want Democrats to maintain control of Congress and Democrats have a higher approval rating than Republicans do in Fox's own poll.
WALLACE: But the president ...
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: What Republicans ...
WALLACE: ... is in the 30S in all those states.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The president isn't on the ballot here. Republicans are desperate to put him on the ballot, because they are trying to run away from their own terrible record. Mitch McConnell -- Chris, Mitch McConnell is trying to make this election about anything but his own record. Because he was willing to shut the government down last year, costing the economy $24 billion. He's willing to do it again. And that's what we --
PRIEBUS: First of all, the Democrats are trying to walk a very difficult balance. And Debbie has got a very tough job. Because what's happening here is that the Democrats that are running, number one, they don't want to be aligned with the president. Because obviously you can't be with these numbers in the tank the way we are. But number two, they also have to defend the fact that they have supported the president, in most cases 95, 96, 97 percent of the time. And as far as Mitch McConnell, look, the Democrats have left Kentucky, I mean they've left Alison Grimes high and dry. The fact of the matter is we are winning everywhere, but it's not because, because of a great situation in our country. It's because things aren't going well, whether domestically or --
WALLACE: We got a little time, and I know we could debate any one of these issues on and on. One of the Democrats' best issues is women, and what they call the war on women by Republicans. Congresswoman, you have hit that issue hard. Let's take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Scott Walker has given women the back of his hands -- I know that is stark, I know that is direct, but that is reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Well, you later said that was a bad choice of words, you're not backing away from the argument that Democrats are helping women and Republicans are launching a war on women?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, let's take a look at Scott Walker's record.
WALLACE: But it looks like ...
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: This is a guy who signed the law -- who signed the bill ...
WALLACE: I know, but what's the bigger issue.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Taking away and forcing equal pay for equal work. And Scott Walker's record is extremely important. I mean this is the governor of Reince's own state who's promised famously that he would create 250,000 jobs and politi-fact listed that as a broken promise. In fact, in August, Wisconsin actually lost 4300 jobs, and when it comes for the issues important to women, like increasing the minimum wage, and forcing equal pay for equal work, making sure that you can make your own reproductive choice ...
WALLACE: Chairman, let me just ask you about this.
WALLACE: Whether it is fair pay or some of the aspects of Obamacare which do help women or access to birth control, don't women have legitimate concerns about Republican policy?
PRIEBUS: Well, not if you look at the latest polls, and if you look at the story this morning out of the Politico ...
WALLACE: No, no, let him finish. PRIEBUS: Actually, actually Barack Obama is losing women in battleground states today. And in fact, if you read "The Denver Post" and you read the union leader, Democrats are -- their quote in the Union Leader in New Hampshire, the Democrats are be-clowning themselves on this issue and in fact when Debbie went to Wisconsin, to say to the world that Scott Walker has given the back of his hand to women, she had to come back and apologize, because then the next day The Wall Street Journal took Debbie to task for her words and actually defended Scott Walker. The fact is this issue is backfiring on the Democrats, and we're actually going to ....
WALLACE: Go ahead.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Issue after issue, I mean I remember Reince in the autopsy that was done by the ...
WALLACE: We need to explain (ph) Reince is still alive. He did an autopsy after the 2012 defeat.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Yes, exactly.
WALLACE: OK, go ahead.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Where he said that it wasn't the principles of the Republican Party, that was the problem, it was -- but they needed to speak more nicely to groups like women and African- Americans, and Hispanic Americans, and just one second. And so then, just a couple of weeks ago Reince did another speech about Republican principles, and continues to ...
PRIEBUS: This is like a card trick --
WALLACE: I want to move on.
PRIEBUS: That you've seen ten times.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And race after race. The bottom line in race after race.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: In race -- Democrats are ...
PRIEBUS: Winning over women in Colorado. That's happening.
WALLACE: Guys, Ebola has now become a big political issue as we saw in the debate in the Iowa Senate race this week. Here you can take a look. Republican State Senator Joni Ernst with a slight lead over Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley. Here is what they talked about in the debate. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BRUCE BRALEY, D-IA, SENATE CANDIDATE: If that means putting travel bans on and it protects the American people, we need to consider doing that. If it means beefing up travel restrictions, we need to do that.
JONI ERNST, R – IA, SENATE CANDIDATE: Unfortunately our administration, including Congressman Braley has been very reactive rather than proactive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Chairman Priebus, Democrats say your party has cut funding for the National Institutes of Health and for research in infectious diseases.
PRIEBUS: Actually, funding to CDC has actually gone up over the last several years, and the last person to actually infuse the CDC with a lot more cash than this president has had been George W. Bush. And so, the fact is ...
WALLACE: Is Ebola a fair political issue?
PRIEBUS: Well, I think that we should try to refrain from making it a political issue, but I think the problem you have, is that Americans, like so many other issues that the president is touching right now, have lost confidence in this president's ability to lead. There is a -- there is a malaise in this country. Of how people are feeling that this president is handling big problems, and when you appoint this next individual, Klain, who is a lobbyist and a political hack, to head up the Ebola crisis in this country, it doesn't give Americans ...
WALLACE: We've got a minute left.
PRIEBUS: ... any confidence in this president.
PRIEBUS: And she's going to defend it now.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: When you have ...
PRIEBUS: This is going to ...
WALLACE: Wait, wait, wait.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: When you have Republican Senators like Rand Paul, who is -- who as a doctor who should know better, who are saying that you can be three feet from someone who has Ebola and actually get it, I mean that's an example of how Republicans are politicizing this. Ron Johnson, Louie Gohmert ...
WALLACE: Wait a minute, you're politicizing it, too, you're talking about all the cuts.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No, what I'm saying ...
WALLACE: which incidentally -- which incidentally, The Washington Post gave four Pinocchios to, which is very, which is the biggest whopper.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Just to clarify, I have actually not said that.
WALLACE: Have the Democrats said that.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: What I ...
WALLACE: I was talking about you as chairwoman of the party.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: nbsp; What I'm saying as the chairwoman of this party is that this is issue that should not be politicized.
PRIEBUS: Debbie, do you think there should be a travel ban?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: This is an issue that should not be politicized. We need to -- there are two cases. Two cases too many. We have a protocol that needed to be tightened which has been tightened, we have a team ...
WALLACE: Yes or no, should there be a travel ban?
PRIEBUS: Should there be a travel ban.
WALLACE: Should be there a travel ban?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The president should listen to national public health experts.
PRIEBUS: I say there should be.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: That's it. And I say we should not be rattling or sabres. We should making -- we are making sure that people understand that this is something we have to take seriously. But not ...
PRIEBUS: By appointing political hacks the head of the Ebola crisis in America.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: By working together to make sure that we don't create hysteria. And that we address legitimate problems.
WALLACE: But both sides have made it a political issue. Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, Chairman Priebus, thank you both. Thanks for coming in today.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you.
WALLACE: You should do it more often. This is a pretty good act. (LAUGHTER)
WALLACE: Up next we bring in our Sunday group to get their take on the midterms and the battle for the Senate.
WALLACE: Now you can connect with "Fox News Sunday" on Facebook and Twitter. Be sure to check out exclusive material online at Facebook, and share it with other Fox fans. And tweet us @foxnewssunday using #fns. Be part of the discussion and weigh in on the action every "Fox News Sunday."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREG ORMAN, I – KS, SENATE CANDIDATE: I appreciate Senator Roberts' service to our country. I appreciate his service in the Marines.
SEN, PAT ROBERTS, R – KS: I would say that you are a very well dressed opponent.
ROBERTS: I admire your accumulation of wealth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: One of the lighter moments in this heated campaign at a Kansas Senate debate when Independent Challenger Greg Orman and Republican incumbent Pat Roberts were asked to say something nice about each other. And we are back now with the panel.
I want to go back to that board, that I showed the two-party chairman. And again, here's what you see, the Obama approval. And these four -- these were all key states that the Republicans are trying to flip. The Obama approval between 32, 39 percent, and all of the incumbent Democratic senators voting with the president, at least 93 percent of the time. Brit, that's got to be a big problem for these Democrats?
HUME: Historically it absolutely is. And that's just one of many factors that would tell you that these things are lining up almost perfectly for the Republicans this time. They could win six, eight seats, even more in the Senate -- however, the Democrats who are doing everything they can to replicate the turn out operation that they used to support Barack Obama in the 2012 election, it was the best ever, ever, best ever built, best ever designed. And if they're able to replicate that and turn out especially...
WALLACE: You heard Reince Priebus now say...
HUME: I've heard him on that, and maybe he's right. We'll find out. But remember, it took the Democrats eight years to overtake the Republicans, who had the best turnout operation back in '04, which contributed mightily to the reelection of George W. Bush. Whether the Republicans can catch up in two years, is a good question. If they have it. And if the Democrats were able to do what they did before, there's a very good chance this election could be at least far to draw which would help the Democrats.
WALLACE: Neera, if you're a voter in one of those states, and you are one of the two thirds of people, the 70 percent of people who don't like the president and you have got a Democratic incumbent who votes with the president 95 percent of the time, why should you vote to reelect him?
TANDEN: Look, I mean -- I mean, look Mark Begich is in Alaska talking about his being elected for six years instead of two years, right? So I think there's Democrats have been dealing with this for the last year or so. We have a Democrat surging in Georgia, of all parts of the country, this is a place that Republicans didn't want to invest any money. They're putting millions of dollars on the air to defend a seat in Georgia. So, I don't think that politics is lining up perfectly, obviously, I mean the fact that Republicans are in this late date having -- looking at a candidate is getting almost 50 in Georgia is a kind of, is a surprise. I don't think it's going to be -- one way or the other. These are hard-fought races, all throughout the country, and we have governors' races, Florida, Wisconsin, in which Republicans are likely to get knocked out.
WALLACE: All right. We are tight on time in this segment. So, I'm not going to ask George a political question. You are wanted to have round two on the issue of Ebola. Go ahead.
WILL: I just thought -- we've got now the Congresswoman Schultz from Florida has raised the issue, the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease, Research and Policy has issued a report saying, quote, there is scientific and epidemiological evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients.
WALLACE: I just want to say, that actually is Michael Osterholm, the fellow we talked about. And for a segment, we asked Dr. Fauci about that two weeks ago, and he said does it have the potential? But it doesn't do it right now. But ...
WILL: Again, we're getting used to people declaring scientific debates closed over and settled, they rarely are.
WALLACE: All right. Back to politics. Juan, what stands out for you about this election at this point, two weeks out?
WILLIAMS: Achu! No, I'm kidding.
WALLACE: No play.
WILLIAMS: Well, I mean I think it goes back to what the brilliant Mr. Hume said. I mean, you know, there's no way. I mean look, everything is set up for the Republicans to do very well here. It's -- this game is being played in red states. That's why you put up that polls -- those poll numbers. That wouldn't be true for the entire [inaudible] but in these states, these are red states, and Republicans --
WALLACE: But those are the states that the Republicans are trying to flip.
WILLIAMS: Well, I'm saying, but so they should be wiping the table. They are wiping. There is no way. Remember '06, '08, '10, especially '10, 12. Wave elections
WALLACE: But we weren't so sure there was going to be a wave before.
WILLIAMS: No, we weren't.
WALLACE: That's -- to see what happens.
WILLIAMS: You are getting historically -- I think go back to the 1800s, second-term presidents, midterms, they do terribly, Chris, terribly.
WALLACE: And point is, to talk about -- talking about George Will's overstatement of certitude, we don't know.
WILLIAMS: We do know, there's no way at this point three weeks out. Second thing to say, I'm amazed the Republicans have no agenda. They have yet to say what they stand for. And third, this election is really about women. You know, the question is can you get blacks, Hispanics to turn out, it's the women and it's all about -- you go to place like Colorado, all about women's rights.
WALLACE: George you have 40 seconds to rebut Mr. Williams.
WILL: If you see, (INAUDIBLE) that refers to the president by name or refers to his signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act, the chances are very good it's a Republican ad, not a Democratic ad.
TANDEN: Because they're in red states.
WILL: In 2010, when the Democrats were facing what they thought was a wipeout akin to 1994, the president said, don't worry, you've got me. It didn't work in 2010.
WILLIAMS: Let me just say, there is no -- that the Affordable Health Care Act, not an issue. Just not there. Economy? Unemployment, down. Not an issue. That's what -- what's going on here?
WALLACE: It's a great year for the Democrats.
OK, thank you, panel. See you next Sunday. Up next, our "Power Player of the Week": the man who keeps Americans' clock ticking on time.
WALLACE: Time is a big deal in television news. This show starts on time and it ends on time. But what does that really mean? Here is our power player of the week.
DR. DEMETRIOS MATSAKIS, CHIEF SCIENTIST, TIME SERVICES, USNO: I wouldn't say I'm obsessed about time, but I do think about time all the time.
WALLACE: Dr. Demetrios Matsakis is talking about his job at the U.S. Naval Observatory's Time Service Department.
MATSAKIS: We provide the official time for the Department of Defense and for GPS, and via GPS, it goes through much of the world.
WALLACE: So it's not an exaggeration to say you are the timekeeper?
MATSAKIS: Yes, we are the timekeeper.
WALLACE: And keeping time, precise time, is important. For the financial system, for the Internet, for the Pentagon. The department has more than 100 atomic clocks, and there are three different types. One measures the oscillation of cesium atoms.
How often does a cesium atom oscillate in one second?
MATSAKIS: 9,192,631,770 times. That is the definition of a second.
WALLACE: Dr. Matsakis took us to see another kind of clock, called an atomic fountain.
MATSAKIS: We use lasers to freeze atoms to about a millionths of a degree above absolute zero, and then launch them.
WALLACE: All that information, which varies by nanoseconds, is then fed here.
WALLACE: This is the nation's master clock. All those hundreds (ph) of clocks--
MATSAKIS: This is the national clock, the master clock for the Department of Defense.
WALLACE: Next door the time transfer room sends the time out to the nation and the world. Even that phone number you call to get the time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the tone, Eastern Daylight time, 15 hours, 50 minutes exactly.
WALLACE: Matsakis headed the Time Service Department for 16 years, starting in 1997. He is now the chief scientist. He says the job comes with a certain amount of, well, time pressure.
MATSAKIS: There have been three times in my tenure when the master clock itself has broken, always when I've been on an airplane. When people leave working for a time service, it doesn't take long, maybe a week or two, when they realize they're not jittery anymore.
WALLACE: All this talk about time got me thinking. I've got 3:15, what do you got?
MATSAKIS: I don't wear a watch.
MATSAKIS: I don't wear a watch.
WALLACE: Matsakis explains, he doesn't want the measurement of time, especially with something as imprecise as a watch, to get confused with time as an objective reality. It's the pursuit of that absolute truth that drives him.
MATSAKIS: Beauty. Beauty is the satisfaction. There's a tremendous beauty to it. What's beautiful is an explanation of how things are happening, an explanation of what's going on. What's beautiful is doing the job right. That's all beautiful. That's the only way I know how to put it.
WALLACE: Dr. Matsakis says his atomic fountain clocks are so accurate, that taken together, they won't lose or gain a full second in 300 million years. But he says they're working on a new master clock that will be even more accurate. And that's it for today. Have a great week. We'll see you next "Fox News Sunday."
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The countdown is on. We'll be joined by Clinton Campaign Manager Robby Mook about their plans for the final week.
Sunday: With three weeks to go and with early voting underway, we’ll have an exclusive debate between former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump supporter, and Congressman Xavier Becerra, a Clinton backer, about the race.