Governor Doug Burgum
On this edition of Iowa Press, Governor Doug Burgum (R - North Dakota) discusses his campaign for president and the Iowa caucuses.
Joining moderator Kay Henderson at the Iowa Press table are Erin Murphy, Des Moines bureau chief for The Gazette and Katie Akin, statehouse reporter for The Des Moines Register.
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He leads a small rural state and he's crisscrossing Iowa, asking caucus goers to support his campaign for president. We sit down with Republican Governor Doug Burgum of North Dakota on this edition of Iowa Press.
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For decades, Iowa Press has brought you political leaders and newsmakers from across Iowa and beyond. Celebrating 50 years of broadcast excellence on statewide Iowa PBS, this is the Friday, October 20th edition of Iowa Press. Here is Kay Henderson.
Our guest today is the governor of North Dakota. He's won two terms as that state's governor. Before that, he was a tech entrepreneur and he sold his company to Microsoft in 2001. Welcome to Iowa Press, Doug Burgum.
Kay, great to be with you.
Thank you for being here. Also joining our conversation are Katie of the Des Moines Register and Erin of the Gazette in Cedar Rapids.
So, Governor Burgum, you're obviously one of the candidates for president. Right now, President Biden has introduced proposed $105 billion aid package that includes assistance for Ukraine, Israel, US-Mexico border improvements that packaging all that together. Is that the right approach to it? Would you encourage your colleagues in Congress to support that?
Well, let me just say, first of all, that I feel like that we wouldn't be in this mess that we're in for Joe Biden. I mean, the idea that we have first allowed all of Western Europe to become dependent on Russian energy, which then greenlighted the ability for Putin to move into Ukraine. We had the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, which created a vacuum of power in the Middle East.
And then, of course, the worst of all has been this consistent going back to the Obama administration. But now under Biden, to continue to find ways to release funds or fund directly Iran, the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism. So we're I mean, you're asking about funding from our side, but the failed sanctions on Russia has allowed Putin, who might be worth $100 billion himself, to continue to make all kinds of bank off of Russian oil sales.
And they've become China's discount gas station. We've we're not enforcing the Iranian oil sanctions just for starting this summer. They've shot up through the roof to millions of barrels a day. That's tens of billions of dollars of revenue. The Biden administration released 10 billion to Iraq, to Iran earlier this summer, and now the 6 billion in this failed hostage deal that they were doing.
Where we're trading five, four, five, we're going to throw in $6 billion, putting a price tag on every American student, every American tourist and every American business leader making the world less safe. And in all of that aid to Iran then goes to Hamas, Hezbollah and actually back to Russia, because Russia's using Iranian made drones to fight the brave Ukrainians.
And so, you know, we're having you're asking me a question about, you know, how much funding we should give this. I he's funding the other side of these battles. And so this is what's so confusing to me and why our foreign policy under Joe Biden is, you know, it's hurting our economy. It's our energy policy is empowering dictators and it's destabilizing the globe.
And that's why on day one, when we announced back on June 7th, we said our campaign was about three things economy, energy, national security. Joe Biden, 180 degrees in the wrong direction. And now it's just playing out. You know, sadly for the American lives have been lost, Israeli lives have been lost playing out in that wrong direction.
Okay. But just given all that, we are where we are. Is that is that a package that you, the US, should consider that the Congress should pass?
Well, we have to support our allies. And of course, we can't write blank checks to anyone. We have to make sure that all those dollars are accounted for. But on the Ukrainian aid, I mean, we got a country that wasn't even viewed as having a military presence. They're not part of NATO's. So we haven't had to send NATO troops or US troops.
Not a single troop has gone into that war. And yet Ukraine, with some assistance from us, has taken out half of Russia's military capability. 6,700 tanks have been disabled. I mean, you know, their lives have been lost from the brave Ukrainian fighters. But from May 1st you're asking a financial fiscal question. This is the greatest bargain in military history for the United States to have someone else in there actually destroying a pair of competitors, half of their capability, which matters right now as we inch closer towards World War three, because we're in a Cold War with China, we're in a proxy war with Russia.
We're in a proxy war with Iran. Joe Biden's funding both sides of these of these affairs and having somebody like Ukraine destroy a bunch of Russia's military capability, that's a very positive. That helps. That's a definite plus for the United States.
In your opinion, should the United States accept refugees from Gaza?
I just say we've got a Hamas is both a political organization that's been running that country and I mean running Gaza Strip. And they're also a terrorist organization. And I don't know if there's any way that we can sort that out. And right now, we have a talk about accepting more refugees when we when under the open border policies of Joe Biden, six and a half million people have come into our country seeking asylum from over 100 countries.
I was I've been at the border more than Joe Biden has. We've had North Dakota National Guard troops down there on multiple deployments throughout my time as governor. I was down there in August. We had two groups, some on the border and some flying helicopter missions. And leading a helicopter mission that is runs from San Diego to the Gulf Coast, stopping, attempting to stop transnational criminal organizations.
If you take every man, woman and child in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Joe Biden's home state of Delaware, and then throw in Montana, that's the six and a half million people that have come into our country. That would be the equivalent of six states worth the population that have come in. And then there's another statistic when you're at the border, it's called the known gotaways.
There's a million and a half people that have been seen on camera but don't have any papers have come in. And then there's another category called The Unknown Gotaways which could be larger than the known gotaways. The chance of us having an internal terrorist attack has gone increase so greatly in the last two and a half years.
You cannot have an open border at a time when there are places like Iran funding, funding terrorist groups all over the world. And we know from the border sector that I was in just recently in August, there are people that come from over 100 countries, including all the countries we're talking about Iran and Syria. I mean, North Korea, China.
I mean, all the folks that are coming, these are not just Latin American people seeking asylum. This is these are people that are that actually get up every day and say, death to America, death to Israel. And they're just walking into our country on an unguarded border. So I'm afraid that there's going to be more challenges ahead for our country, that we're going to be we're going to be reaping disaster in the future because the border policy now, not to mention the fact that we've had during this last two and a half years, we've had more now than five Vietnams worth of mass casualties because we're now approaching 270,000 overdose deaths in our country in the last two and a half years. That these that's an incomprehensible statistic. But that's 300 sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, moms and dads a day. I mean, we're losing a 300-person airplane crash every day and then again tomorrow and then again the next day. America would be screaming for some let's do something about it. But instead, when we're silently, you know, having both an invasion and mass casualties, then somehow we're not doing something about it.
So I, I, we have to have to have national security, we have to have border security. And the idea that we would let people in from a country that just killed Americans and just I mean, not a country, but from a terrorist organization, Hamas, let them come into our country right now on top of what we've already been doing, would just be it's too much risk. The job of the president is to protect the American people.
And Joe Biden's not doing that.
So in terms of these foreign conflicts and particularly, you know, thinking about Israel and Ukraine, what is the role of the United States in your opinion, to bring them to a peaceful conclusion?
Well, I don't know that they're I mean, people act like that. Again, you're going to negotiate with terrorists like they're a regular country. You're going to negotiate with Russia. I mean, it's not a country the way we think of like two countries. And let's sit down and have a conversation. As I said earlier, Putin's worth a hundred billion. He's a mob boss. And if he doesn't like the other mob bosses, he just kills the other mob bosses. So these are large criminal organizations with global reach and I mean global. I mean, the Wagner group, which Putin took out their leader, was operating in 65 countries. I mean, when they went down to the Wagner and went to help out in Syria, they got 25% of the oil production when they went to help out in Africa, you know, take over a 200 square mile and the shipping all the gold back to back to Russia.
These are just big. They're criminal organizations that also have armies with them and they have navies and they have nuclear weapons. And we're so naive to think that somehow we're going to just, you know, draw a line with a Sharpie on a map and everything's going to be fine. You know, the role of the United States has to be to help make Americans safer and more prosperous.
That's what we have to do. And under Joe Biden's policies, we're making the world less safe and Americans less prosperous. And so the job of the president of the United States, when we're in these wars and in a Cold War, we have to actually not just negotiate, we actually have to figure out a way to actually win in some of these situations.
And winning includes putting deterrence in place as opposed to, you know, so we have to achieve peace through strength as opposed to right now we're inciting conflicts through weakness and appeasement.
Governor Burgum, as we record here on Friday morning, the US House is still without a speaker as Republicans work to elect a new speaker. If you were a Republican president right now and this was happening in the House, what would you see as the president's role in helping to move that process along? That, again, as we sit here Friday morning, is sort of stalled?
Well, I understand the difference because as a governor, you lead the executive branch president leads the executive branch. I will never be a congressman. I will never be a senator. You know, I'm not trying to sell a book. I'm not running for a cabinet position. All I've done my whole life, everything I've done and I look I look down that debate stage. I've created more jobs than all the rest of the candidates combined. You know, I grew up working jobs on the farm, the ranch, the grain elevator, and even as a chimney sweep, you know, every job I had was one I took a shower at the end of the day, not the beginning of the day. And the economy is actually the number one issue.
We're talking about these important national security and foreign affairs. But the economy is what's crushing every American right now. We have to have someone from outside of Washington to actually come in and restore trust in the institution. We have to have someone who understands how the global economy works. I had people working for me in 130 countries and people that didn't have the right to vote. They didn't have the right to free speech. I mean, when you're a kid and you see that you understand how great our country is. And in 1989, when I walked into a street market in China and I saw that they were stealing the software that we're making in Fargo, North Dakota, you could buy all of our software for a buck on a five and a quarter inch floppy.
That was like $25,000 of software. People, you know, you realize that some people have just figured out how and even said at the first debate, I was the only one that said we're in a cold war with China. And it wasn't like a new thing that I came up with because I was running for president. They've been stealing every piece of software I've ever made for the last 34 years.
So having someone who understands how the world works, someone who understands executive leadership, because when you're the in the executive branch, when there's a blizzard in North Dakota, guess what? We plow the roads for everybody. We don't ask, did you vote for us or are you an independent? You're a Democrat. When whether it's schools or health care, the executive branch delivers services for everybody.
You do it right. You improve every American life. You can bring out the best of America. So your question about leadership is the leader of the executive branch has got to be the person that unites the country, not divide. They've got they can't be basing your, you know, leadership isn't based on grievances. It's not based on the past. It's based on a vision for the future. And we're at a spot right now where if we could get by all of these self-inflicted world conflicts, the self-inflicted, horrible economy we’re in and actually focus on what's happening right now, there's an opportunity. If you're under age 25 right now, you're going to live to be 100.
So I'm sorry to interrupt to get back on the question, is there a role for the president? Because it's all the issues you talk about Congress could be helping to address, but they can't right now because there's no speaker of the House or the House can't conduct his business. Is that is there a role for the president, for a president, or is that just, in your view, have to be sorted out by the legislative branch?
No, there's the role. The president's more important than ever. However, we have to have a leader who understands they serve every American, not just serve one party they've got once elected, the job of the executive branch, the cabinet agencies, the limited role the federal government is to serve everybody in our country. That's what you do. And you in your job is again, get our economy strong, keep our nation safe. Those are the limited roles of the federal government. The rest, through the 10th Amendment, is delegated back to the states. We've got to get back to having leadership that actually creates the possibility to help everybody in our country realize their fullest potential. Congress…
And I mean, is there a role for the president play when there's a struggle like we're seeing in Congress right now to help get a speaker in so the government can get back to doing its business?
Well. Well, absolutely there is. But this is a spot where if we're going to have the kind of gerrymandering we have around the country, we're going to have a divided Congress and whatever party is in power is going to be slightly a few votes ahead of the other one. And so we could be in as a country in for, you know, these kinds of deadlocks led by one party or another.
But if you're just talking politically, you know, you know, who loves the fact that the Republicans can't get their act together and lead the Democrats because this is they love what we're doing because this is all helping them in 2024. And we don't have either side that's actually working to try to solve the issues for the American people.
So I'd like to turn to your, you know, some of your record as the governor of North Dakota. You've been an advocate for carbon capture pipelines. Here in Iowa, this has been an ongoing debate. Many Iowans, including some Iowa Republicans, object to the use of eminent domain to seize land for those carbon capture pipelines. Can you talk a bit about your view on eminent domain, particularly as it pertains to pipelines?
Well, as a myself, as someone who's a both farm and ranch land owner and a someone who understands and believes in the private sector, I understand the property rights, understand what people are concerned about. But, you know, the amount of misinformation around this is just stunning. You know, people talk about it being new in North Dakota. We've had carbon pipelines operating for over two decades.
We've moved 42 million metric tons of CO2 from North Dakota up to Canada for enhanced oil recovery. We've got relatively new CO2 pipeline that was built by private entities that comes from Wyoming through Montana into North Dakota, that's injecting CO2 for enhanced oil recovery. And they're putting more CO2 in the ground than the barrel of oil produces.
So we've actually got a carbon negative barrel of oil in North Dakota. And this is at a time when the Biden administration is trying to subsidize, you know, batteries made in China and trying to shift our whole transportation fleet to electric vehicles. I mean, just trading OPEC for Sinopec at a time when, you know, China controls 85% of the rare earth minerals and every battery in China is made in the power plant is made in a plant that is powered by coal. They're opening up a coal plant one a week in China right now. They're the world's largest polluter. The idea that we're going to somehow help the environment by buying Chinese battery is just a complete lie. It's not factually true at all. And so when you say, you know, so I say, you know, if you believe in liquid fuels like we have in Iowa, you know, ethanol and biofuels and U.S. produced, we produce energy cleaner and safer and smarter than anywhere in the world.
If you believe in that and there's a market for low carbon fuels, then wow, that's a huge boon for the Midwest. It's huge boon for America. And if you're in if you believe in liquid fuels, you're on Team USA. If you believe in EVs, you're on Team China.
So what do you say to Republican property owners who do not want the carbon pipeline on their property?
I say let your neighbor take the big check. I mean, the other misinformation. Say all this a private entity. Well, every railroad built in this country was built by a private company. Every transmission line in this country is built by a private company. And at some point, you've got a…people get to choose, but it's railroads and power lines are hard to not have to go in the straight lines.
There's been thousands of changes made to pipeline. We've put 40,000 miles of pipe in North Dakota to get the Bakken going for gas capture or saltwater transfer the refined products. I mean, we understand how pipelines work. If you don't want the big check for the easement, then let your neighbor take it. But it's the markets will sort it out. The role of government doesn't even have to play in here. I mean,
So you're against eminent domain for seizing the land?
Well, eminent domain is was designed to protect the rights of the majority at some point. If you have, what's the threshold? If a bill passes, you know, the Iowa State House by one vote, its law, if it passes by a super majority, you know, then the other things go in. And when you've got private entities that like in North Dakota, we've got 92% of everybody in a 32 square mile voted yes, that they want to be doing CO2 storage and they want to get mailbox money for the CO2 storage safely underneath their ground in North Dakota state law.
The other 8%, they get the highest price that anybody else in that 32 square mile get. They don't have to hire a lawyer. They don't have to worry about court. They don't like oh, they're trying to sue me. Just let it play out and you get paid the highest price. And so the market can figure these things out and so I, I, I'm confident that's going to work out here.
But if you want to see higher prices for corn, if you want to see preserve baseload energy in our country, and if you want to not kill the oil and gas industry, then then having CO2 is a value added input for all of these things that we can do in our country is going to be essential part of the part of the future.
Okay. I'm going to ask you about the economy. We're in a kind of an interesting time where inflation is starting to slow, even while economic growth and hiring have been good lately. Federal Reserve Chairman Powell just said this week in his view that interest rates may have to be raised again. Just curious, your perspective is the is the Fed managing the US economy correctly right now, or how do you think things should be looking different?
Well, the Fed is just responding to this ridiculous spending that the federal government did. You can't inject trillions and trillions of dollars of stimulus into an economy above and beyond what would have been needed to get the economy going.
Can I ask real quick on that? Because I hear that a lot. So much of that funding was made to help businesses stay open early in the pandemic. What was the proper level, if not, what was spent?
Well, the proper level is to take what economic activity was lost and then replace that. But instead of replacing it, we went trillions of dollars above that. And when you print more money and just shove that money into the economy, and then particularly when it was a lot of like on the infrastructure and the and the this thing which was really buried inside of it was the Green New Deal was buried inside of these other things that they called the you know, the I call it Inflation Creation Act for the Inflation Reduction Act.
But they buried a bunch of stuff where they're picking winners and losers. We're going to subsidize not just cars, we're going to subsidize cars that have batteries versus cars that don't. We're going to subsidize the companies, but not the workers. I mean, the distortions when the federal government jumps into something and you don't just look at the last 25 years, the two areas that had the highest amount inflation were higher ed and health care. And those are the two things that got your federal money shoved at it. Again, $1.6 trillion in student loans that students are saddled with. You know what they did with those loans? They wrote a check to a university who raised tuition and then gave higher prices and hired more administrators and paid professors more. We didn't get better education.
We didn't get more graduates. We didn't get any productivity gains. We just got higher prices. Health care. Is health care more productive now than it was 20 years ago? No, it's actually the other way because we shoved a bunch of money towards health care IT systems, which made doctors less productive. When the federal government injects money and doesn't do anything to increase productivity, you're going to get inflation.
Governor, we have some questions about your candidacy specifically. Katie Akin.
We only have a few minutes left, but some of your opponents in this primary race have said if individuals don't qualify for the next debate in Miami, they should drop out. What's your opinion on that?
I, I think that they when they say that, first of all, they can say that because we have free speech in America. But I think it's an insult to every person living in Iowa. I mean, Theodore Roosevelt fought against party bosses and big media that tried to restrict who the candidates were and actually helped invent the modern presidential primary, the modern presidential primary with people that we meet around Iowa, that come that care, that are like the folks, the 100 folks that were with last night and they've got in-depth questions and they are meeting multiple candidates and they're spending all the time doing that.
You know, if you want to if you want to if you want to let a network and a party a couple of people with a you know, a clubhouse rules decide who gets to be a finalist, you don't need an Iowa primary because you'll be down to you'll be down to one candidate by January. And so I think it's an affront to all of the primary voters that are actually investing their time to figure out who they think, to get to know the people that should do it.
So, no, we're not dropping out. We're on the ballot in New Hampshire. We're going to be on the ballot in Iowa. And we're running. And by the way, in Iowa, five of the seven times the lead changed in the last month. And so and again, if there used to be gravitas around presidential debates, but these aren't, there's no gravitas. It's political theater at best. And it's actually it's actually reality TV. I mean, these are designed to drive into candidate conflict. They're not designed to help the voters understand who the candidates are. So I completely reject that thesis. We’ll be here for the voters to decide. And the voters get to pick. Iowa voters get to pick presidents, not TV networks and not political insiders.
Just a real basic question. Why did you decide to run and not support Donald Trump in his bid for reelection?
Well, I looked at the field of candidates last spring and I said, wow, you know, here we are. We've got technology is changing. Every job, every company in every industry. We've never had anybody who's run for president that actually understands technology. We took 27% out of the general fund cost in North Dakota reduction not a slowing the growth 27%, $1.7 billion we took out and all the trains left on time the first four months I was in office. You can do that because inside a government there is so much waste because we haven't invested in any kind of automation. I mean, any of the listeners out there, any of you, you've all got a smartphone. Any of you got an app from the federal government on it? You got 100 apps and 150 apps.
So is it an indictment of the Trump presidency that you decided he was not the candidate who fit that bill?
I'm running against Joe Biden. I'm running for the Republican nomination. I'm running against all these other candidates. And I just say, look, if we have someone who understands how the world works, someone who understands how the economy works, someone who understands how technology works. Someone who's been an innovator and job creator, because we need innovation and high growth in our economy to win the Cold War and win the wars we’re in.
I understand when you bring a business leader and put them in an executive role and they know how to do that, and you can deliver better services for everybody. You can get our economy so it lifts up every American. You can paint a vision where people understand that we're actually entering into this period of mass flourishing, even though we're talking about these horrible things.
Then you say, and that's what I've done my whole life. That's all I've ever done. So I said I looked at that and said, you know, of course, people, competition is good for the Republican Party. It's good for America. People should have these choices. And I also would you say to the folks in Iowa, you know, when was the last time we had someone who wasn't pinned on the East Coast as a candidate?
How about someone from the Midwest that understands small towns, understands agriculture, understands that food security is also part of national security. And that's so that's why I'm in. I'm running for the American people. I'm running for all those hardworking Americans.
Thank you for being here. Governor, we are out of time.
Thank you, Kay.
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