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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Fmr. Top U.S. General In Afghanistan: Was "Not Worth The Cost"; Newsom's Ballot Strategy: Leave Questions Number 2 Blank; Pilots Warn New Security Measures Needed To Protect Air Travel; Coronavirus Pandemic; Numbers Dropping; Fall of Afghanistan. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 10, 2021 - 17:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The process is already done. And they do actually formally unveil it, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And Kaitlan, what about other possible vaccine mandates? White House officials were asked multiple times today about possible mandates for travelers for people who use airplanes.

COLLINS: Yes, this has been a big one. Are you going to have to be vaccinated to fly domestically? That is something that some people would like to see the president do. They believe that's in his purview, and that he can actually do that. It's not something where they believe there's a lot of legal questioning, like you're seeing with this Labor Department ruling from those Republican governors, but it's a step that the White House hasn't taken yet.

And so, when we asked today, if this is something that they are considering Jeff Zients, who is the President's Coronavirus advisor that played a big role in in crafting that plan that you saw yesterday said that they're not taking any measures off the table and the Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that they will continue to look at ways that they can keep people healthy, save lives.

So not ruling it out, Jake. And of course, that would be something that would be a big change to people's everyday life, because right now, you don't even have to show a negative test to get on domestic flight in the United States. So, we will be looking to see if there are more measures that the President tries to put in place once that could have an immediate effect. We should note yesterday, he did make one change when it came to airlines and that says TSA fines for not wearing a mask. They are now double what they used to be.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlin Collins, thanks so much. Appreciate it. Here to discuss former assistant US Attorney Kim Wehle. Kim, the Biden administration clearly believes that they have the legal standing to require businesses that have more than 100 employees to mandate either weekly testing or opting out without vaccines. What do you think? Do they have the legal standing to do this?

KIM WEHLE, PROFESSOR OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF BALTIMORE: I think there's very little legal argument that the Biden administration does not have this authority. The Department of Labor back in 1970, under a statute called the OSH Act was basically given power to regulate workplace safety. So, everything from ladders to ventilation, to fire escapes, and COVID kills people. And so, the argument is that workers need to be safe from infection in the workplace.

So, Congress gave this power to the Department of Labor over 50 years ago. I think there's very, very scant chance of a federal courts or any court stepping in and stopping this.

TAPPER: Even with this U.S. Supreme Court?

WEHLE: Well, again, you know, the way this works is you have to look to the power of Congress. Congress passes off power to agencies all the time. So, in the past when this court has tinkered with what presidents have done, like the DACA program under President Obama, ultimately, the court, but the Supreme Court prior to Amy Coney Barrett, uphold that deferred action against Childhood Arrivals plan that was quite controversial, but ultimately upheld it saying, you know, Congress did give this power to agencies, and we can debate whether Congress should be handing off its regulatory power this way.

But the court has upheld that kind of thing is constitutional for almost a century. So, when you drive through Washington, DC, and you see all kinds of agencies that pass regulations, lots of those regulations derived from the power of Congress in the statute. And this is no different. This is bread and butter, basic administrative law that I would teach my law students.

TAPPER: I've never seen a body of government so eager to hand over their power than the U.S. Congress because it enables them to not have to take tough stances, I suppose.

There are a number of Republican governors who have vowed to fight this order. Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted, quote, Texas is already working to halt this power grab, what case are they going to make? And how strong might that be?

WEHLE: Well, I think they're making a case in the court of public opinion, or frankly, I think it's in sort of gaslighting territory here. Remember, there are multiple Republican states that are actually banning private employers and schools from implementing measures to protect public health, including the health of children who in this moment under the age of 12, they don't have any agency over whether they can even get a vaccine.

So, I think they'll argue, as they'll argue well, Congress didn't give that much power to the Department of Labor was more -- it was narrower, but the Department of Labor even regulates oxygen in the workplace. So, it's hard to say they can regulate oxygen, but they can't regulate the Coronavirus. They might say that Congress shouldn't have given this power in the first place to Department of Labor.

But as I said, that goes actually back to FDR, the Roosevelt administration, where Congress, the power was pretty well established. And as you say, Jake, the problem with all this regulation is that Congress is passing the hot potato. Beyond that, you know, I think they can file things. People can file whatever they want. The question is whether it will go further, and I don't think it will.

TAPPER: Well, I want to bring in Ilya Shapiro right now. He's the director of the Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies at the libertarian CATO Institute. Ilya, do you think that Republican governors have a case they can pass legal merit to challenge President Biden's proposed mandate on businesses of 100 more employees to have weekly testing or a vaccine?

ILYA SHAPIRO, DIRECTOR, ROBERT A. LEVY CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL STUDIES, CATO INSTITUTE: Well, I'm not sure the governors are the ones that would have standing technically to bring the suits. But certainly, any business that's affected and does not want to comply would have standing and has a decent chance of success. Because, you know, just because Congress doesn't pass the legislation doesn't mean the president or the executive branch gets more power. This is beyond anything OSH Act or the executive branch has ever done before.

So, we're sort of back to arguing like over Obamacare and buying broccoli versus eating broccoli, what can the government compel you to do? I think this is beyond its power to regulate interstate commerce.

TAPPER: Of course, whether or not I eat broccoli doesn't affect your health, but whether or not I get vaccinated or wear a mask, theoretically could, there are at least five vaccines required for children to go to school or daycare in every state in the nation, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy, mumps, measles, polio, rubella, chickenpox, why would what President Biden is attempting to do be any different than requiring children to get these shots, Ilya?

SHAPIRO: That's an easy question, Jake. Because this is the federal government imposing the mandate rather than the thing in schools, the mandates in schools are state governments, so states and municipalities, that becomes a question about rights arguments. This is a question about powers and what powers the federal government has.

So, it's not about whether the disease, whether COVID affects me or you or how it affects vaccinate, or how the unvaccinated affect vaccinated. That's a discussion for state level arguments and litigation. This is about whether the federal government has the power.

And since the pandemic or the spread of disease is not commerce, this goes beyond again, the regulatory authority that the government has. And beyond that it's trying to get businesses to do its dirty work.

WEHLE: Well, let me just inter --

SHAPIRO: The federal government cannot directly require people to get vaccinated, and so can't do the same thing by telling businesses to do it.

WEHLE: Listen, we, I mean, as law professors, we know the Commerce Clause is very broadly interpreted. And this clearly is affecting commerce, right? It's affected the ability of businesses to function in this country. The economy has been affected by it. The virus doesn't know borders. So, the Commerce Clause has not to date in this moment that interpreted in those kinds of narrow ways.

So, the notion that somehow Congress lacks the power to give this to the Labor Department, that's not accurate, and the argument that --

TAPPER: Ilya, one second. I'll let you respond.


WEHLE: The statute itself, the OSH Act is actually quite broadly worded. And it specifically even allows emergency relief, that OSH Act can pass emergency relief to protect worker safety. So, I think that that the suggestion that somehow this is unconstitutional is overblown, if not frivolous, frankly.

TAPPER: Ilya, go ahead.

SHAPIRO: I'm getting flashbacks, Deja vu, to these sorts of arguments that I was having 10 years ago over the individual mandate. Remember, the Supreme Court held that the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause, this is why I keep saying that the government -- the federal government can't force businesses to do its dirty work. It's not necessary and proper to -- for the enforcement of interstate commerce.

Remember, I tell -- unless Chief Justice Roberts now I guess he needed Kavanaugh, he needed another vote, to decide that a vaccine mandate is actually a tax justified during the taxing power. But remember, the individual mandate failed as a matter of commerce clause regulation. And I recall all these law professors trotted out saying, you know, this affects the economy. There's no limiting principle there. So federal government --

WEHLE: Well, this is apples and oranges.

SHAPIRO: -- is one of the (INAUDIBLE) powers.

TAPPER: Kim, let me hop in one second. So, Ilya, let me just ask you a question. We have a deadly virus, more than 650,000 Americans, I believe have died as a result, the numbers actually probably much higher, not to mention, all the people that have been injured and hurt. What could the president do to push people to get mandated? He is -- he would argue, President Biden, that they have tried every persuasive technique. You can disagree with that or not. But what does -- what powers does he have that could push people to get vaccinated this holdout group, the 26 percent, that are eligible that refused to get vaccinated?

SHAPIRO: Well, assuming Congress has created a law giving the executive branch regulatory authority over a proper regulation of interstate commerce, for things like travel, interstate travel, whether airplanes, ports, things like that, to be able to travel, you could put in a band date for that, or the FAA, or you know, the appropriate regulatory agency over things like that, because that, again, involves interstate commerce.

But the federal, you know, states can impose mandates and then we'll be arguing over the rights protections and those, you know, not about federalism and separation of powers as I've been talking to you about. But again, this is about, you know, it's important that we respect the Constitution. We don't toss it out. And we're in month 18 of the pandemic. This is not the first month where we don't know what's going on.


WEHLE: Listen, the Obamacare had nothing to do with worker safety. So, if the argument is a Congress doesn't have the power to regulate workplace safety, then we're going to see a lot of accidents. We might as well just roll back a few 100 years prior to the industrial revolution in terms of the kinds of things that are in place -- in the workplace to make workers safe. And there's no question that exposure to the virus with 650 plus thousand Americans dead already does affect the safety of workers in the workplace.

TAPPER: All right, Kim and Ilya, thank you both of you. Really appreciate the respectful debate.

Coming up some new polls on President Biden and as in battles the pandemic and weathers the messy pull out from Afghanistan, there's one key number that should definitely worry the White House. Plus, US Open finalists who are 37 years old, combined. Something that has not happened this century in tennis ahead. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead Americans are growing more pessimistic when it comes to Coronavirus. And when it comes to the economy, a new CNN poll finds that 69 percent of Americans say things in the country today are going badly. That's well above the 60 percent who felt that way in March.

Let's discuss with our panel. Bill Kristol, let me start with you. When you dig into the numbers, especially when it comes to the economy, Americans say things are getting worse. And it's not just Republicans, it's across party lines. 43 percent of Democrats think the economic conditions are poor up from 28 percent. Independents grew to 65 from 50, Republicans 81 from 58. Obviously, I think a lot of what Biden is trying to do with these vaccine requirements is actually focused on the economy just as much as it is saving lives.

BILL KRISTOL, DIRECTOR, DEFENDING DEMOCRACY TOGETHER: Yes, and if these requirements work, and I think they will to some degree, and we will come out of it anyway, because of natural forces, so to speak, to some degree and the economy's pretty good a year from now. We don't have runaway inflation. The election -- the federal elections aren't until -- aren't for over a year. So, this is a good time that people become more worried if you are confident that things will be better six or nine months from now.

TAPPER: Yes, and Laura, Biden's overall approval rating stands at 52 percent, which is at least above water for him. But some troubling numbers for him. There's been a rise in his disapproval rating among independents. In April, 43 percent of independents disapprove to the way he was handling his job. Today, that number is 54 percent. If you were at the White House right now, what would you take away from this?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Well, those independents are going to be key right for Democrats in 2022 and 2024. And so, some of the Democrats I've spoken to in Congress have said that, that those are troubling numbers that they're worried about, that they want Biden to work on, these new steps, you know, the mandates are popular in a lot of states, like Georgia, Arizona, when it's been pulled. Do you support corporations mandating vaccines or mandating masks? A lot of voters, majority of voters in those swing states say that they support it.

Now, this is the federal government mandating that those corporations do that. But that's why the White House is taking this step at this time. Because, yes, his approval ratings are down, his disapproval rating is up. And they know that these mandates are popular. So, they decided that this is the moment to take it as well for the economy, like you said.

TAPPER: So how are his -- what's the view of these mandates? Do you think among independents who can be a fickle bunch?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: They can. I think it depends on if they're vaccinated or not. I think the -- one of the biggest risks with this mandate is that it really enlivens the Republican base, and really -- the loudest among them, and really --

TAPPER: The people who will turn out in 2022.

KUCINICH: The people who will turn on 2022.

BRISTOL: You know what they're very -- they're very enlivened.

KUCINICH: They are.

BRISTOL: Trust me. Trust me I know some of them.

TAPPER: I don't know if it could be more enlivened anti-vaxx fanatic.

KUCINICH: But this keeps fueling the fire, not there's the anti-vaxx fanatics, but, you know, those people that maybe voted for Biden this last election and might be inclined to vote for a Republican in the swing districts. I think polling watching how polling for Biden is for -- in these swing districts, in these majority making House members and Senate members. That's something that I know. I'm going to be watching to see, you know, how he's faring there.

TAPPER: And let me ask you, do you think there is any part of this, of these mandates, because Biden could have done something that is, you heard Ilya Shapiro on the previous segment saying it would have been more constitutionally a layup to require that domestic flights everybody be vaccinated? But he didn't do that. He went right to that something that is at least debatable. Do you think he was baiting Republicans to overreact at all Republican governors to, because as Laura notes, these mandates are broadly popular, not among the Republican base, but among the American people?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, there's a Supreme Court case decades ago that said the President can, a government -- federal government can mandate vaccines for all citizens, period. He has that power.

TAPPER: Jacobson versus Massachusetts.

BEGALA: Jacobson versus Massachusetts.

TAPPER: 1905.

BEGALA: I went to law school.


BEGALA: Yes. So --

TAPPER: It could be pretty boring.

BEGALA: It hasn't tested in a while, but -- look --

TAPPER: It was a guy who didn't want to get vaccinated for smallpox.


TAPPER: And the Supreme Court said, I'm sorry, you have to.

BEGALA: Right. By the way, if you're interested, as my conservative friends are, in the intent of the framers, George Washington was the chairman of the Constitutional Convention. Before that, he mandated that every soldier in his army be inoculated.

TAPPER: But he was a general not a president at that time.

BEGALA: Right.

TAPPER: General -- soldiers don't have any rights. That's not debatable.

BEGALA: Well, federal employees are more like a soldier than a private sector employee and that they don't have to work for their program (ph). I don't have a right to a job at CNN. But if I don't abide by its health policies at work, I can get fired. And that's well within the power of this company as well within the power of the president as an employer. I think it's going to be popular with voters.


I think the fact that Republican governors and the RNC are taking the point against this is just political morons. Because with the Affordable Care Act, the contraception case, who sued? The Little Sisters of the Poor? Oh my God, as a Catholic, that breaks my heart, right?


BEGALA: They love the Little Sisters of the Poor. Nobody loves Ron DeSantis or Greg Abbott. I mean, normal, you know, they're hard partisans.

TAPPER: (INAUDIBLE) the same thing.

BEGALA: Yes, they're lovely people. But the independents are not as moved by --


BEGALA: -- them as plaintiff's --

KUCINICH: Well, that's Morgan --

BEGALA: -- the Little Sisters of the Poor.

KUCINICH: I think what independents are more like looking at is how COVID and the economy are linked and the confidence.

TAPPER: Yes, the confidence argument.

KUCINICH: The confidence argument with Biden. If he's confident to wrap up some of these crises, get the economy back where it should be, then maybe the Democrats will be in good shape. If he's not seen as confident, well that's going to be probably --

TAPPER: I just want to -- I need to jump in because I want to introduce something else that I know you all want to talk about. And somebody else making the competence argument is Governor Chris Christie, former New Jersey Governor Republican, who is thinking of possibly running for President 2024. He is now trying to create some real distance between him and the man he endorsed for president in 2016 and 2020, Donald Trump, take a listen.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: No man, no woman, no matter what office they've held, or wealth they've acquired, are worthy of blind faith, or obedience. That's not who I am. And that's not who we are as Republicans, no matters who is demanding that we tie our future to a pile of lies. See, we deserve much better than to be misled by those trying to acquire or hold on to power.


TAPPER: Now for the record, he didn't mention Donald Trump.

KUCINICH: Because he talking about.

TAPPER: But -- He's obviously talking about Donald Trump. But let me just ask you, OK, Chris Christie says, no man, no woman, no matter what office they've held are worthy of blind faith or obedience. That's not who we are as Republicans. Is that not who you are as Republicans? Not you necessarily but is that not who the Republican Party is? The Republican Party, to me, according to polls, and according to the majority of House Republicans, they are tying their future to a pile of lies.

BRISTOL: They are. Now look, if Christie wants to genuinely depart from that part -- the party that is tied to Trump and Trumpism, he needs to say a bunch of things. He needs to say that he wouldn't support Trump in 2024 as Liz Cheney has said. He needs to support the January 6 Commission. He needs to say I wouldn't support someone like Josh Mandel or J.D. Vance given the kinds of campaigns they're running if one of them becomes the Republican nominee in Ohio.

TAPPER: One of them will.

BRISTOL: And one of them probably will. Will he support the Democrat? For me, that's the test. Otherwise, it's all just cheap talk. He's trying to get into a lane that's not quite where Liz Cheney is, but a little bit more respectable than DeSantis or then, you know, other possible successes of Trump, there will be support. But having said that, so I'm unimpressed.

Having said that, I've gotten 10 e-mails and texts this morning from sort of friends and sort of never Trump world think isn't Christie great. Boy, Christie stepping up. So, there's -- there is a real desire among more than I would like there to be honestly, among a lot of people who left Trump in 2020 for Biden. They want to come back to the party. They want to believe. They still want to believe --


BRISTOL: -- in a Republican Party they can support, and Christie has made tap into that. And then may be a little more support for that, then I think he deserves.

TAPPER: What do you think, Paul?

BEGALA: Courage is contagious. Liz Cheney has been the most courageous, Adam Kinzinger, right, with her the congressman from Illinois. But you're seeing more and more. You know, it's just one special election but the sixth District of Texas, the incumbent congressman passed away. President Trump, former President Trump endorsed his widow, she lost to a Republican who ran as a more traditional Reagan-Bush Republican. It's just one election, one place. But the more that people like Christie stand up, the more other people will as well. I think -- I do think you'll see more of this.

TAPPER: All right. Well, thanks one and all for joining. I hope you have a very reflective weekend and this 9/11 weekend. Coming up, one of the top generals in Afghanistan shares his rather shocking take on America's longest war. That's next.


[17:28:29] TAPPER: In our world lead a second flight since the U.S. military left Afghanistan took off from the Kabul airport today with Americans on board. The State Department just confirming at least 100 Americans still remain in Afghanistan and want to leave this as we approach the 20th anniversary of the day.

The change the United States of America forever, September 11, 2001. In a new CNN documentary, "America's Longest War, What Went Wrong in Afghanistan?" I spoke with most of the commanding generals who served in Afghanistan over the last 20 years for some candid conversations.


GEN. JOSEPH DUNFORD (RET.), COMMANDER, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ASSISTANCE FORCE, 2013-2014: What was our mission to prevent al Qaeda from attacking the United States prevent Afghanistan from being a sanctuary and also mitigate the risk of mass migration. And I believe over the course of 20 years that was achieved.

We shouldn't confuse the outcome with saying that we did that an appropriate level of investment. What I like to have seen us accomplish that mission with fewer young men and women having lost their lives. Family suffering casualties. There's no question about it. But at the end of the day, I'm not willing to say it wasn't worth it.

GEN. DAVID MCKIERNAN (RET.), COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES-AFGHANISTAN, 2008- 2009: I think we had to retaliate in Afghanistan, with the attack on the United States of America. Now, for the 20 years after that, have we done it the smart best way, probably not, probably lots of things we could have done differently.

GEN. DAN MCNEILL (RET.), COMMANDER, COALITION FORCES, AFGHANISTAN, 2002-2003: My first impulse is to say, yes, it was worth it. But I no longer am certain of that. But before I go to my grave, I'll get that question answered.

LT. GEN. KARL EIKENBERRY (RET.), COMMANDER, COMBINED FORCES COMMAND- AFGHANISTAN, 2005-2007: If anyone had said on the 12th of September 2001, when we knew that the attack had come from Afghanistan, we're going to be there now from this point on for about 20 years. And it's going to end with us leaving and Taliban back in power, could you imagine the reaction of the American people.

TAPPER: Was the war in Afghanistan ultimately a failure?

EIKENBERRY: The 20-year war in Afghanistan was for the results that we have achieved. We're not worth the cost.


TAPPER: That was just an excerpt of our documentary. And CNN's Nic Robertson joins me now from Kabul. Nic, you've been covering this for us since the beginning. You were actually in Afghanistan 20 years ago on September 11th. I have to say I was taken aback when Mr. Eikenberry, two-time commanding general in Afghanistan, and also former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, when he said the 20-year war in Afghanistan was for the results that we have achieved not worth the cost. I'd never heard a commanding general say anything like that about Afghanistan, what do you think?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, the cost has been incalculable in so many ways, you know, and some of it really strikes home to you. I remember running laps around the helicopter pad in host airbase, the night Pat Tillman was killed. The medevac helicopter scrammed out -- scrambled out of there. And I didn't know why, but in the next few days, I did.

You know, it's hard to grapple with so many heroes dying on what did it really bring? I remember too, you know, one of my friends, British friends, he served in Afghanistan, his brother, his younger brother was the first British Muslim soldier to be killed in Afghanistan. And he had to face his mother and explain to her why he had convinced his younger brother to follow him into the military, the pain of many families. But what did it bring?

The economy here is better. I've seen schools being built here. The education is better. There's a constitution brought here that has put women in government. There are so many things, prosperity and prospects as a generation here now that understands what democracy is. They haven't made their imprint on the world or their country yet. But they have an idea of what they might be able to achieve. The Taliban are back in power. And this is a dark cloud over all of the good that's been created here.

But is it worth it? Could I look a parent in the eye? If it had somebody, you know, who'd lost somebody here and say, does your pain and suffering count, you know, for the potential here, you have to believe in the imperfect world of imperfect democracies, that any step forward is a good step. And this country is a critical part of a geostrategic success of the United States across the world, that investment has to be worth something, if not now, then in the future.

TAPPER: And then in the documentary, there's an Afghan former ambassador to the United States, who makes that argument about life expectancy in Afghanistan going up, the things, the tangible improvements for the lives of the Afghan people because of NATO and the United States occupying and trying to improve things in that country for so long. How are Afghans feeling now, however, now that the U.S. troops are gone, now that the Taliban is in charge? Is there any optimism that these gains can be -- can persist?

ROBERTSON: I think we're in this really in between phase. You know, people absolutely panicked when the Taliban came in, and many of them with good reason. And those that are can get out, got out. Those that want to get out are still trying on the streets here today. You can see this sort of unease, you know, the men still wearing their jeans, still shaving even though the Taliban say get into more religious clothes, get into more traditional clothes, you need to grow beard, women not wearing the full burqa going out with just scars on their heads.

There's a little space right now and people are feeling out what's possible, but I think it's going to close in on them. So, there's a sense of a real impending downturn in their fortunes, whether it's, you know, just in their lives or the economy. But also, I think to be realistic, Jake, you have to say United States and NATO gave it a shot here. And many Afghans feel that they missed, they didn't deliver, that there was corruption in the government, that the elections were flawed and fraudulent.


And, and for them, you know, the United States have become a burden and not a bearer of a better future. That's a perception. But I think, you know, for many Afghans it's a time to try something else, not the Taliban, I think has to be said, but it had come to a point where I just -- where it doesn't seem things were, what were getting better. But, you know, the outcome that we're looking at, though is, you know, for the vast majority, the wrong one.

TAPPER: Nic Robertson in Kabul, Afghanistan. Thank you so much. Tune in Sunday night for more of my conversations with almost all of America's commanding generals who oversaw the 20-year war in Afghanistan, a CNN special report America's Longest War: What Went Wrong in Afghanistan that's Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. We've been working for months on this. I hope you watch.

Telling people to vote but then telling them to leave one of the questions blank, what could go wrong with the Democrat strategy in the California recall? Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our Politics Lead just four days until Tuesday's California gubernatorial recall and Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom will get some big name backing in the final stretch of the race. President Biden will campaign with Newsom in Long Beach, California on Monday. Newsom is also starting to push hard on another strategy focusing on the ballot itself, telling voters to leave question two blank. CNN's Kyung Lah reports, the strategy could sink or save Newsom's job.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No on the recall. No on the recall.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's been one message from Democrats in California about the recall election from the foot soldiers knocking doors and neighborhoods.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Vote no. Vote no, that's all you got to do.

LAH (voice-over): To the ads on T.V.


LAH (voice-over): To Governor Gavin Newsom himself. Ignore half the ballots. GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Don't even consider the second question.

LAH (on camera): Tell me what this is.

(voice-over): But there are two questions on the recall ballot.

(on camera): Question one is quite simple.

DARRY SRAGOW, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes. You either want to keep the governor office or you want to kick him out.

LAH (voice-over): More than 50 percent of voters need to decide to keep Newsom on question one for him to survive. Here's what's a potential concern for Democrats, whether you vote yes or no.

SRAGOW: Question two if you choose to answer it has 46 names front and back. And you get to pick one.

LAH (voice-over): Among the more than 40 colorful challengers on question two, there's a millionaire running ads featuring a bear, a YouTube star running as a Democrat but not backed by his party.

KEVIN PAFFRATH, YOUTUBER: My name is Kevin Paffrath and I'm running for governor.

LAH (voice-over): And reality T.V. star Caitlyn Jenner.


LAH (voice-over): Ignore them all says the Democratic governor, keep it simple. It's Newsom or nothing. Why? This. 2003 Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger defeated then Democratic Governor Gray Davis in California his last recall election. Davis wasn't the only high- profile Democratic choice on the ballot. Then Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante also ran with this slogan.

CRUZ BUSTAMANTE, FMR. CALIFORNIA LT. GOVERNOR: Vote no on the recall and vote yes on Cruz Bustamante.

LAH (voice-over): It didn't work. And helped usher in a Republican to the governor's mansion and his eventual reelection.


LAH (voice-over): Not this time. Democrats rallied behind Newsom keeping party backed Democrats off this year's ballot. But that could also backfire warned Sragow.

SRAGOW: This is not the Gavin listen party, it's the Democratic Party with no serious viable Democratic candidate on that second question if the recall wins, we're going to have -- we're likely to have a Republican governor.

LAH (voice-over): Poll show the leading candidate on question to his conservative radio host Larry elder. But the second question only matters if a majority of voters don't back Newsom. Some Democrats dropping off their ballots are following the Newsom strategy.

How many questions on this ballot?


LAH (voice-over): But not everyone. Ellie Choate got lost thinking beyond yes or no.

What happened on question two for you?

ELLIE CHOATE, CALIFORNIA VOTER: I had to stand there for 29 minutes and decide if I -- how I was going to vote because it's just an absurd, absurd system.


LAH: Our reporters were able to ask the Newsom team if this campaign strategy was worth it, where they are standing at this point, if the gamble was worth it, and from where they are standing at this point, Jake, what we are hearing from them is quote, zero regrets. It is a gamble that they are still standing behind. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Kyung Lah, thank you so much.


Coming up why the widow of one of the 9/11 pilots says 20 years later the cockpits are still too easy to access. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our National Lead, the way we fly forever changed after the loss of 246 innocent people on four passenger planes in the September 11th attacks 20 years ago tomorrow. But two decades later, the threats to air travel have transformed new vulnerabilities threatened the safety of flight crews and passengers. And as CNN's Pete Muntean reports, pilots insist more still needs to be done to secure planes.



PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ellen Saracini can hardly believe 20 years has passed since the death of her husband, Victor. He was the captain of United Flight 175 as terrorists arm with knives and mace forced their way into the cockpit then slammed the flight into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. But his widow says that should not be his legacy.

SARACINI: It would be a legacy that no one is able to get into a cockpit and use the airplane as a weapon of mass destruction.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): It is why in the months following the attacks that the federal government overhauled aviation security including a mandate that flight deck doors be made thicker. But Saracini insists that is not enough since pilots often open the door to go to the bathroom, rest on long trips or in an emergency.


SARACINI: What are you going to do the day that they take over another aircraft? You're going to say, wow, I thought we had our acts together.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Major pilot unions call a secondary cockpit barrier and inexpensive extra line of defense. Congress mandated the metal grates be installed in all new commercial aircraft. Captain Dennis Tajer, represents American Airlines pilots who say secondary barriers should be on all commercial flights.

CAPTAIN DENNIS TAJER, ALLIED PILOTS ASSOCIATION: Let's be clear this is not only protecting the aircraft I'm captain on, it's protecting my airline, my country, and our passengers.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): But the airline industry is still not fully on board. Top lobby airlines for America says there was already a sophisticated and multi-layered approach to security and adding secondary cockpit barriers should be up to each individual airline.

Flight crews say the soaring number of in-flight incidents are the latest reason to make it harder to reach the cockpit. The FAA says there have been 4,000 reports of belligerent passengers this year, including some who charged the door.

DAVID PEKOSKE, TSA ADMINISTRATOR: There's so much in that history.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): TSA administrator David Pekoske says the agency is now adapting to domestic threats. But the most critical protection in flight remains keeping the cockpit secure.

PEKOSKE: If we can improve security and I think secondary cockpit barriers will do that, that's something we ought to very seriously consider.


MUNTEAN: The Federal Aviation Administration says mandating secondary cockpit barriers on newly manufactured planes is an agency priority for this year. The Biden administration is set to release his official rules sometime in November. But pilot groups say this is unfinished business following 9/11 and they are not done pushing for this on all commercial flights.

Pete Muntean, CNN, Washington.

TAPPER: Our thanks to Pete Muntean. Two teenagers are stunning the sports world doing something that's never been done in tennis history. Stay with us.


[17:56:26] TAPPER: Our Sports Lead now pretty much no one had ever heard of them just a few days ago. But now two teenagers are all anyone's talking about after shaking up the tennis world. Nineteen-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez and 18-year-old Brit Emma Raducanu reached the U.S. Open women's final becoming the first unseeded duo to ever play for a Grand Slam trophy.

Let's bring in CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan who was covered tennis for years. Christine, let's talk about these amazing women one at a time. First Leylah Fernandez, she's been receiving praise from Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, Magic Johnson, even Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash who's also Canadian sat in her box last night. She's becoming a superstar pretty quick.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Oh, she sure is. You know, Jake, often we talk about what's wrong with sports. But this is what's right about sports. And when sports are good, they're great. And this is it. You know, the new, new thing. As much as we love the old established people in sports, the fact that you've got new fresh faces. It's exciting. It's interesting and Leylah Fernandez has done this in the most amazing way, taking on four terrific players, including Naomi Osaka, one after the next after the next winning each match in three sets, showing grit, determination, just refusing to lose, obviously not expected to win any of these.

And I think for most people, you -- people first find out about her when we saw her defeat Naomi Osaka. His story right then was Osaka. It quickly flipped to Fernandez as she continued her march. She just turned 19 years old, a fresh face who is just able to pull out victories not necessarily with power, but with guile, with brains, with strategy. And it's just absolutely delightful to watch.

TAPPER: And then there's Emma Raducanu, who's had a slightly easier road to the finals, but still just an incredible run.

BRENNAN: Well, no doubt, Jake, in terms of who she's had to play in the tournament. But she had to qualify. She didn't even have enough of a ranking to be able to make the U.S. Open field. She qualified. She had to win three qualifying matches prior to entering the tournament. She actually had a plane ticket home from New York after that. She thought she just, you know, try, fail, and go home. And instead, of course she is going to the finals.

Yes, she has not played anywhere near the difficult schedule and the difficult opponents that Fernandez has. But she has also been a force and a delightful force. And these two women are -- were born months apart in 2002. This is truly the new face of women's tennis. You add their ages together and Serena Williams is still older. Serena turns 40 in a couple of weeks. And these two women of course are 19 and 18. It's really the best of sports.

TAPPER: And quickly if you could we should note that there's also a big story on the men's side.

BRENNAN: Right. Yes, exactly. Novak Djokovic, trying to win the grand slam, become the first man to win the grand slam. That means all four major tournaments in the same calendar year for -- with Rod Laver and so we'll see if Djokovic can do it. I expect that he will.

TAPPER: All right. Christine Brennan, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

I will join you tomorrow morning for CNN special coverage of the 9/11 anniversary. I'll be in New York. Wolf Blitzer will be in Washington that starts at 8:00 a.m. Eastern. And then tomorrow evening from New York, Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, H.E.R., Brad Paisley Maroon 5, and Common will join a CNN for a special tribute to the families of September 11th, Shine a Light is at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.


On Sunday on State of the Union, my colleague Dana Bash will talk to West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin as well as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at 9:00 a.m. and noon Eastern. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room.