Return to Transcripts main page
The Lead with Jake Tapper
Pediatric Group Warns Cases in Kids are Rising "Exponentially"; One-on-One with Biden Chief Medical Adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Final Stretch of Voting in Election to Keep or Replace Governor Newsom; Blinken Defends U.S. Afghan Exit in Testimony Before Congress; Trump's Erratic Final Days; Antony Blinken Testifies Before Congress; Tropical Storm Nicholas Slows, Dumps Torrential Rain Over Texas; Biden In Colorado To Push His Infrastructure & Climate Plans. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired September 14, 2021 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It is a scarier time for children than any other time in this pandemic.
THE LEAD starts right now.
Cases in kids in the U.S. up 240 percent as they go back to school, and some states continue to fight against masks in the classroom. When will the FDA approve a vaccine for kids? Dr. Anthony Fauci will join us live.
Stripping the football. The top general's secret action to try to prevent Trump from ordering a nuclear strike in those hours after Trump supporters stormed the capitol. How the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed with the conclusion that Trump was, quote, crazy.
Plus, deja vu all over again. New Orleans bracing for another nasty flood before everyone even gets their power back from the previous storm.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We start today with our health lead. An alarming new coronavirus trends especially among children. New data from the American Academy of Pediatrics show infections are up 240 percent since July. To put that into context, more than 240,000 kids in the U.S. tested positive for coronavirus just last week.
Now, it is important, as always, to note that kids remain far less likely than adults to get seriously sick or to die from coronavirus. But that does not mean that some don't get seriously ill or worse. And either way, kids can still carry and spread the virus. With hospitalizations and deaths on the rise again among adults and with a quarter of the country refusing to get vaccinated, health experts say, once again, communities need to focus on slowing the spread. In just a few moments, I'm go to speak with Dr. Anthony Fauci about what parents need to know and whether booster shots will be ready by the original deadline, which is in less than a week.
But, first, let's got to CNN's Miguel Marquez who reports for us on the new chapter in the battle over mask wearing in schools.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As the delta variant continues ripping through the unvaccinated, children, many too young to get the shot, are now contracting the virus at a worrying rate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We knew that children congregating and school districts without having mask mandates, children who are not able to get vaccinated, was a prime vector to spread disease.
MARQUEZ: Childhood cases up about 240 percent since July, representing 29 percent of all cases nationwide, says new data from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Rising case numbers only adding to the fight on how to keep kids safe in school. In Iowa, a federal judge rules bans on mask mandates in schools cannot be enforced. Des Moines schools not wasting time, students must wear masks starting tomorrow.
Outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, the Union County public school district going in a different direction, stopping contact tracing for students and pretty much ending quarantine rules for kids who may have been exposed. Some of parents are not happy.
ANGIE MCCRAY, MOTHER OF UNION COUNTY, NC PUBLIC SCHOOLS STUDENT: I have a first grader that's at an elementary school here in the county, and it's very concerning for me, I'm currently pregnant, and I'm concerned for my family's safety.
MARQUEZ: And Florida's Governor DeSantis, in an effort to counter Biden's vaccine mandate, says if a city or county agency makes getting vaccinated a condition of employment, it will be fined $5,000 per violation. The mayor of Orange County, Florida, in a statement said, I'm not going to take action that would adversely impact the safety of our community. I question whether or not the governor really sees it that way.
The unvaccinated filling up hospitals and ICUs. Unfortunately, nothing more can be done to save some people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will worship together, we will have congregational singing, and we can do that without the government interfering.
MARQUEZ: A popular Denver pastor and conservative radio show host Bob Enyart passed away from COVID. He was a vaccine skeptic.
A husband and wife in California dying just weeks apart, leaving behind five children, including a newborn baby. (END VIDEOTAPE)
MARQUEZ (on camera): Now, just another sign of how infectious this delta variant is. Seven staff members of the New Orleans Saints and one player on the reserve list have all tested positive for the coronavirus. The staff members, it appears, were vaccinated. It's unclear if that player was. The team had been moved from New Orleans because of Hurricane Ida to Texas. CNN reached out to the team to get some comments, and so far, they are not saying anything about these infections -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Miguel Marquez, thanks so much.
Joining us now to discuss, Dr. Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden.
Dr. Fauci, why do you think we're seeing this major spike of new cases in kids? Is it because they're back indoors, in school, and because some governors are not letting mask mandates take place?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I think all of the above that you mentioned, Jake. But also, we've got to realize that this is happening in the context of the delta variant, which is remarkably more transmissible. So we're getting more cases in everyone.
And since you get more cases in everyone, children who generally are undervaccinated, many of the adults, particularly the elderly, for example, we have now 85 percent of the elderly, 65 years of age or older have been vaccinated. So the older population as a group is more vaccinated than the younger population. So when you get a highly transmissible virus that's going around the community, you're going to see a lot more children get infected. And that's exactly what's happening, and also for the reasons that you just mentioned.
TAPPER: We talked about last year how damaging it was academically and psychologically for kids to be out of the classrooms for an entire year learning remotely. So what would you tell parents about calculating risks? Is it better to have kids in a classroom than to have them at home? What's your advice?
FAUCI: I still hold to what I've said many times, Jake, that we really want to get the children back in school for the reasons that you mentioned, the psychological, mental, and other deleterious effects from keeping them out of the classroom. But the way you do it, you have to keep them safe. And you keep them safe by surrounding them with people who are vaccinated, such as teachers and school personnel as well as children who are old enough 12 years old and older to get vaccinated.
And you superimpose upon that wearing masks in the school. That is very important. We know that masks prevent infection. So if you surround the kids with vaccinated people and you have everybody wear a mask, you can get a situation where the children will be relatively safe in school.
TAPPER: So former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, he predicted a vaccine could be approved for kids under 12 by Halloween. He's on the board of Pfizer, we should note, so he might know something I don't. Is that time line realistic based on what you know?
FAUCI: Yeah. Based on what we know, it's going to be some time in the fall. If you look at the studies that we at the NIH are doing in collaboration with the pharmaceutical companies, there will be enough data to apply for an emergency use authorization both by Pfizer, a little bit later by Moderna. But I believe both of them with Pfizer first will very likely be able to have a situation where we'll be able to vaccinate children if the FDA judges the data sufficient enough, we could do it by the fall.
So, what Dr. Gottlieb says is correct, sometime during the fall.
TAPPER: We've been talking since last spring 2020 about how the virus is hitting communities of color in the United States harder than it's hitting white Americans. That remains the case. A new analysis of CDC data by Johns Hopkins shows black and Hispanic-Americans are at least twice as likely to die of COVID than white people, three more times to be hospitalized, disproportionately unvaccinated.
Why have the efforts to fix these inequities not worked sufficiently as of now?
FAUCI: Well, we are certainly trying very hard, Jake. We're reaching out at the community trying to get trusted messengers to reach out. And that could be community people, clergy, family physicians, trusted friends, sports celebrities, and others to try and answer the questions. And these are reasonable questions that many of these people have about why they're hesitant to be vaccinated. Very often if you reach out to them in a way that's not pejorative to explain to them why it's important, I believe we are making progress.
We're not where we want to be with regard to the percentage of African-Americans and Hispanics vaccinated, but we're doing better than we were before.
TAPPER: Speaking of trusted messengers, pop star Nicki Minaj tweeted yesterday that she's not vaccinated. She's doing her own research.
And then she shared an anecdote I found rather unbelievable, to be honest, about alleged side effects that her cousin's friend supposedly experienced in Trinidad. I wouldn't normally even ask you about this, but Nicki Minaj has nearly 180 million followers on Twitter and Instagram combined.
She's beloved by her fans. She's a huge talent. Her tweet was seized upon by vaccine opponents as some sort of evidence.
I want you to address what she said because for anyone out there who has any questions about this, Dr. Fauci, is there any evidence that the Pfizer or the Moderna or the J&J vaccines cause any reproductive issues in men or women? [16:10:00]
FAUCI: The answer to that, Jake, is a resounding no. There's no evidence that it happens, nor is there any mechanistic region to imagine that it would happen. So the answer to your question is no.
TAPPER: How can health authorities even attempt to combat this kind of misinformation coming from somebody who is a huge and beloved international star like Nicki Minaj?
FAUCI: It's very difficult. There is a lot of misinformation mostly on social media. And the only way we know to counter mis- and disinformation is to provide a lot of correct information and to essentially debunk these kinds of claims which, you know, may be innocent on her part. I'm not blaming her for anything, but she should be thinking twice about propagating information that really has no basis except a one-off anecdote. And that's not what science is all about.
TAPPER: The FDA will meet on Friday to discuss this issue of COVID booster shots, third shots for people who are already vaccinated. You've said you think three shots will be the correct regimen, ultimately.
I wonder if the science keeps changing, are you 100 percent that three shots will be enough and not four or five ultimately?
FAUCI: No, absolutely not, Jake. I can't be 100 percent because you're absolutely right. The science evolves and we have to follow with the science and make adjustments with the science. I certainly believe from the data that I've seen and the data that are going to evolve that we will need a third shot as a booster.
I would hope that that would sustain us for an extended period of time. But I don't know that right now. We're just going to have to do the boost and then follow people long enough to determine what the durability of that protection is.
TAPPER: All right, Dr. Anthony Fauci, thank you, as always, we appreciate your time and expertise.
FAUCI: Thank you for having me.
TAPPER: We're counting down the hours until we're going to get the first results in the California recall election. Will voters decide to dump Democrat Gavin Newsom for a Trump-loving radio host?
And the top general in the U.S. afraid President Trump would launch a nuclear weapon in the final derange days in office. What he did to try to prevent that possibly happening, according to Bob Woodward?
Stay with us.
[16:16:29] TAPPER: In our politics lead, in just a matter of hours, we're going to get the first results in the California recall, as voters in the largest state in the United States decide if they will keep Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom or replace him with one of any of 40-plus names running to take his job. More than 9 million ballots are already in. That's now more than half of all the votes cast in the state during the 2020 race for president.
Let's bring in CNN's Kyung Lah at Newsom's election headquarters in Sacramento, and CNN's Nick Watt at a voting location near Los Angeles in the southern part of the state.
Nick, let's start with you. Walk us through the two questions that California voters will be faced with when they go to vote.
NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, question one is very simple. Shall Gavin Newsom be recalled, removed from the office of governor? Straight yes or no. If he is fired and voted out, that's where the answers to question two kick in.
We've got 46 names here on this ballot of potential replacements. Larry elder, of course, Caitlyn Jenner, former San Diego mayor, the guy who Newsom beat by a landslide last time around, also a few pastors, farmers, teachers, local politicians.
Now, the law -- the election law in California means that pretty much every governor is routinely threatened with recall, but only once has it ever succeeded back in 2003 when Grey Davis was voted out and Arnold Schwarzenegger was voted in -- Jake.
TAPPER: And, Kyung, the leading canned, according to polls, to replace Newsom if he is recalled, is conservative talk show host Larry Elder. He's a talk radio guy. And he's been making all these baseless claims of voter fraud and chicanery. He was asked about this.
Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VDEO CLIP)
LARRY ELDER (R), CANDIDATE FOR CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: So many people are going to vote yes on the recall. There won't be any question about the outcome. I just hope my opponent is willing to accept the results when he loses.
I have every hope that this election is going to be free of fraud and it's going to be one of integrity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, he's sounding a little bit more measured there than he has been in recent days, but he still says he hopes the election's going to be free of fraud.
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Make no mistake about it, Jake. In the last few days the closing message from the Elder campaign has been this baseless theory of election fraud, this conspiracy-driven belief, a reminder not a single vote has been counted yet. That doesn't happen until the polls close at 8:00 Pacific Time. So, that's something to keep in mind.
Now what the Newsom campaign says is they are framing this as something they just have to be prepared for. They say that in this is now Trump play book, that this is a coming attraction in 2022 and 2024. They're trying to attach what Elder is saying here in California to the rest of the country, to the rest of the Republican Party.
But, again, Jake, this is a strange closing message when you consider not a single vote has been counted yet -- Jake.
TAPPER: And, Nick, every registered voter in California was mailed a ballot for this race. Turnout is already higher than the Newsom campaign expected. The results tonight are bound to have national implications, especially if Newsom is recalled.
WATT: Totally. Those mail-in ballots in Los Angeles, about a third of them have been returned. That's why we're not seeing a line snaking around the block here at this polling center.
And, yeah, completely, listen, Joe Biden himself last night here in Long Beach campaigning for Newsom said the result of this will not just be felt, reverberate around the country, but the world. And when you see who the Democrats have put up to stump for Newsom, both in person and in TV ads, you can see how seriously they're taking this. Biden's been here, Kamala Harris has been here, Klobuchar has appeared, Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama.
They are taking this very seriously because, you know, at stake, listen, is control of a huge blue state, the fifth largest economy in the world. And of course should a Senate vacancy come up, the governor would appoint somebody to fill that. And also, listen, anything other than a pretty convincing win for Gavin Newsom is going to be a very bad look, not just for Gavin Newsom but for the Democratic Party on a national level -- Jake.
TAPPER: And, Kyung, Governor Newsom made a last-minute campaign stop in San Francisco this afternoon, one of the big population centers in that state. What is his closing message as he fights to keep his job?
LAH: Well, that just wrapped up a short time ago, Jake. And what we heard from the governor is, look, you got to get out there and finish the job, that there is spill some time left on the clock. What he is saying in this final message to Democrats here in the state of California is that it's not a state election per se. Yes, it is technically. But it is the national Democratic agenda at stake here. You keep hearing him, you know, you just heard Nick say all of those national Democrats who have stumped for the governor. They're talking about issues like voting rights, like climate change, women's rights, as well as COVID measures. That is what the governor says is on the ballot, Jake, and the reason he keeps harping on it is because largely it seems to have worked with the Democratic base here -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Kyung Lah and Nick Watt in California, thanks to you both.
Be sure to tune in tonight for CNN's special coverage of the California governor recall election. Coverage will start at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. for our friends in the West Coast, on the Pacific.
The secretary of state on Capitol Hill today admitting that thousands of legal U.S. residents may be stranded in Afghanistan. That's next.
TAPPER: In our world lead today, rampant frustration on Capitol Hill over how the Biden administration withdrew from Afghanistan, leaving behind thousands of American citizens and legal permanent residents to say nothing of Afghan allies.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken facing a second day of tough questioning, this time from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
As CNN's Kylie Atwood reports for us now from the State Department, Blinken admitted that some Americans have been a higher priority than others to rescue from Afghanistan.
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Secretary of State Tony Blinken back in front of Congress for a second grilling. This time in person, defending the administration's response to the collapse of the Afghan government.
ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: And the military placed on standby by President Biden was able to secure the airport and start the evacuation within 72 hours. And, yes, that evacuation was an extraordinary effort under the most difficult conditions imaginable.
ATWOOD: While Blinken faced bipartisan criticism for the withdrawal --
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ), CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Information from State, the Pentagon, and the White House has often been vague or contradictory. This was obviously a fluid and difficult situation, frustration among many members was high and this has to improve.
ATWOOD: The hearing on the end of America's longest war became a partisan battle.
SEN. JAMES RISCH (R-ID): The administration is painting itself in the back for this evacuation is like an arsonist taking credit for saving people from a burning building he just set on fire.
SEN. BILL HAGERTY (R-TN): The lack of accountability in this administration is shocking to me.
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): I want to know where that outrage was during the negotiations by the Trump administration and former Secretary Pompeo when they were giving away the rights of women and girls.
ATWOOD: Several lawmakers focused in on the failure of U.S. intelligence to anticipate the possibility of the Taliban taking over the country in just 11 days.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): We have the wrong people analyzing this. Someone didn't see this, either someone didn't see this or someone didn't want to see this.
BLINKEN: You're right, I think we need to look back at all of this because, to your point, we collectively over 20 years invested extraordinary amounts in those security forces and in that government.
ATWOOD: When it comes to the way forward, Blinken said the administration is keenly focused on around a hundred U.S. citizens that remain in Afghanistan, prioritizing them above thousands of U.S. green card holders who are still there.
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): In terms of legal permanent residents, is your priority just as high to get them out as it is to get out citizens, or is there a different level of commitment for a legal permanent resident's return to the United States relative to a citizen?
BLINKEN: Senator, our number one priority is American citizens, and that has, I think, long been the case in this situation.
ATWOOD: On the future of the U.S. relationship with the Taliban, Blinken said that determination would be based on the Taliban's actions. But the top Democrat pointed out that the Taliban are showing their true colors.
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ): Their actions since taking over Afghanistan have been pretty horrifying, beating women activists, murdering ethnic and religious minorities, such as the Hazara, separating classrooms by gender, shutting down local medium, refusal to break with al Qaeda, appointing the head of a foreign terrorist organization, as designated by our government, from the Haqqani Network to lead the Ministry of Interior.
And the list goes on.
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Now, Secretary Blinken today also significantly saying that the Taliban's relationship with al Qaeda has not been completely severed.
And with regard to al Qaeda, two top Biden administration intelligence officials today publicly saying one to two years is the timeline for how long it could take al Qaeda to reconstitute in Afghanistan to the point where it could threaten the U.S. homeland -- Jake. JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, CNN's Kylie Atwood at the State
Department, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
President Trump threatening to unfriend Vice President Pence if he didn't try to upend democracy on January 6, the claims in Bob Woodward's new book about Trump unraveling in his final days in office.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our politics lead: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, was apparently so concerned that then- President Trump would -- quote -- "go rogue" after the January 6 attack on the Capitol, Milley took top-secret steps to protect U.S. nuclear weapons and prevent Trump from using them, according to an explosive new book from Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of "The Washington Post."
CNN's Jamie Gangel joins us now.
And, Jamie, for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to try to get nuclear powers away from the president, in a way -- I shouldn't have said top secret, by the way.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Secret.
TAPPER: It was more of just like a secret, furtive, yes, exactly. yes.
TAPPER: But tell us more. What did he do?
GANGEL: So I think the way we need to phrase this is that General Milley took secret action to limit what Donald Trump was doing because he was so concerned that he might do something dangerous.
Let's just go back, set the stage for the book. It's January 8. It's two days after the insurrection. And General Milley has already had two back-channel calls, according to the book with his Chinese counterpart, who Woodward and Costa describe that the Chinese are on edge. They're afraid Trump may do a wag the dog moment.
And Milley has growing concern about that. And then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi calls. And in this conversation, Woodward and Costa report that Pelosi has the same concerns that Milley does. She's afraid that Trump is unpredictable. She says on the call that he's crazy.
The author's got a transcript of that phone call, which we knew about, but now we know the details of the call. And Pelosi says to Milley she wants reassurance about the nuclear weapons. It already did happen. In other words, he goes, because of the assault on the Capitol.
"An assault on our democracy happened. And nobody said you can't do that. Nobody."
Milley: "Well, Madam Speaker, the launching of nuclear weapons and the incitement of a riot" -- and she interrupts him and says: "What I'm saying to you is that if they couldn't even stop him from an assault on the Capitol, who even knows what else he may do? And is there anybody in charge at the White House who is doing anything but kissing his fat butt all over this?"
TAPPER: And then that leads to -- I mean, he makes a cogent -- I mean, she makes a cogent point. You can talk about guardrails all you want, but look at what happened at the Capitol.
And so that leads to a meeting at the Pentagon.
GANGEL: So he gets off the phone, and he says, you know what, she's right. And according to Woodward and Costa, he decides to act.
He calls a secret meeting at the Pentagon. He brings in the generals and the colonels, the officials who are in the Pentagon war room, the guys who are there seven days a week, 24 hours a day. And he basically says, you have got to follow the procedures, but I'm now part of that procedure.
And here's what would Woodward and Costa report. And just we have to make the point that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs is not in the chain of command.
GANGEL: So this is slightly different.
And he says to the generals and officials from the war room -- quote -- "If you get calls, no matter who they're from, there's a process here, there's a procedure. No matter what you're told, you do the procedure, you do the process. And I'm part of that procedure."
Milley may be criticized for overstepping his authority, but Woodward and Costa write that he felt he was simply taking the necessary precautions, when there was a president who he thought was unpredictable and unstable.
And Woodward Costa write that Milley believed that Trump after the election was in serious mental decline.
TAPPER: He's not the only one.
The book also lays out the role that Steve Bannon played in getting Trump to attend this January 6 rally, where the crowd got whipped into shape -- into whatever.
GANGEL: So, Steve Bannon was once fired. Now he's back. TAPPER: Right.
GANGEL: And there are several remarkable scenes in the book.
One is December 30, when Trump is on the phone. He's -- Trump is down to Mar-a-Lago. Steve Bannon is in Washington. And Trump is complaining that the Republicans aren't doing enough for his effort. And Bannon says to him -- and there's a -- when you read it, there's sort of a Svengali-like quality to this passage.
Bannon says to Trump: "You have got to return to Washington right now. You have got to make a dramatic return." And then he says, according to Woodward and Costa, "And you have got to call Pence off the F'ing ski slopes and get him back here today. This is a crisis."
He calls January 6 a moment for reckoning. And then he goes even further. This is about Bannon on Biden.
And he says -- quote -- "People are going to go what the F is going on here? We're going to bury Biden on January 6, F'ing bury him."
This was, it sounds like from Woodward and Costa, that Bannon saw this as a moment to undermine Biden's legitimacy. And he goes on. According to the book, Bannon says -- quote -- "We're going to kill it in the crib, kill the Biden presidency in the crib."
And there are also some extraordinary scenes where Bannon and Rudy Giuliani and Jason Miller are at the Willard Hotel the night of January 5, having phone calls back and forth with Trump. The January 6 select committee is going to be reading this book very carefully.
TAPPER: That is just absolutely terrifying.
Jamie Gangel, thank you so much.
I want to bring in "Washington Post" columnist George Will, whose new book, "American Happiness and Discontents," is out in stores today. It's a collection of his works from 2008 to 2020, some of them, not all of them, of course.
And, George, I'm going into your great book in a second. But, first, I want to give you a moment to react to Jamie's reporting, to Bob Woodward and Bob Costa's reporting. I mean, you have long been a Trump skeptic, at the very least.
You have been opposed to Trump. And, I mean, is this what you were afraid of?
GEORGE WILL, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: Not really.
His bark usually was worse than his bite, in part because he's too disorganized to be a serious threat to democracy, in my judgment. There is a kind of precedent for this. It has been reliably, convincingly reported that, in the last hours of the Nixon administration, Secretary of Defense Schlesinger told the senior military leaders not to obey orders coming from the commander in chief without first passing them by him.
I don't know if that's true. I say plausibly reported. So...
TAPPER: Wasn't a lot of that because Nixon was drinking so much?
WILL: He was drinking and he was under astonishing pressure.
And it was, by Jim -- Schlesinger's lights, a prudent measure to take, although outside the chain of command that we like to consider sacrosanct and respected.
There is, of course, also that -- I mean, yes, it's outside of the chain of command, but we have this system of guardrails. And we have seen how close we came as a country to the guardrails meaning nothing.
If somebody else -- if General Flynn had been chairman of the Joint Chiefs, instead of Mark Milley, if there had been different individuals at the secretary of state, at the gubernatorial, at the canvassing board level throughout the country, there could have been what was essentially going to be an American coup.
WILL: Well, I think Milley felt ill-used by the episode in Lafayette Square when he was used as a prop in what turned into a political rally where Trump held the Bible up upside down outside St. John's Church.
So one can understand Milley's anxieties.
TAPPER: Your new book, "American Happiness and Discontents," out today reflects on the ebbs and flows of the Republican Party through the years.
How do you predict these next several years are going to play out for the GOP?
WILL: Well, it may be the wish being farther to the thought, but my thought is that Mr. Trump is a fading flower.
He is an entertainer, and he doesn't have a second act. He's worked one pedal on the organ constantly. And one thing an entertainer cannot be as predictable and boring. And I think he might be becoming that.
TAPPER: You say that, but a CNN poll asked Republicans about what being a Republican means to them; 59 percent said believing Trump won in 2020 is part of that.
WILL: That's 59 percent of a somewhat shrinking, coherent cohort, though, enthusiastic Republicans.
What makes the Republican Party interesting and without precedent in our history is, it is a party today in which most of the elected officials are terrified of their voters, which means they don't like their voters and don't respect their voters, because they know that one sulfuric belch from Mar-a-Lago can turn them all into -- into a digital mob.
So it's a party without a -- without a heart at the moment.
TAPPER: When you look back on all your writing from 2008 to 2020, as you prepared this collection, did you see moments of this madness that has now taken over far too many officials in what I want to be, what you want to be a thriving, fact-based, principled party?
WILL: I see it but I'm more alarmed by the fact that culture is upstream from politics. And the culture that I see, there are an enormous number of columns about what's happening in parenting and academia, and they're related.
Parenting today is producing fragile, risk-averse children who get to college and insist on safe spaces, trigger warnings, micro aggressions and all the rest, and they are not prepared for life. They've been so cosseted in youth by overbearing helicopter parents that they've never had to cope with failure. Coping with failure, in other words for that is growing up.
WILL: And they get to college extremely immature, and college does nothing to prepare them for the outside world. College today is undermining the essence of democratic culture, which is a culture of persuasion. They prefer indoctrination, and it's going to radiate through our society for years.
TAPPER: On that cheerful note, George Will --
WILL: Always a ray of sunshine.
TAPPER: You are. It's always good to see you. Thanks so much. Congrats on the book, "American Happiness and Discontent". Good to see you again, sir.
Louisiana bracing for a massive rain dump right after hurricane Ida devastated the state. We've got an update on that tropical storm, next.
TAPPER: It's one of those days when our "Earth Matters" series coincides with the national lead. Tropical storm Nicholas, which made landfall over Texas as a hurricane earlier, spent the afternoon passing over Houston. The storm's forward progress has slowed and the rain keeps coming down. Forecasters predict life-threatening flash floods across portions of
the Deep South over the next couple days, over 20 inches of rain are possible across central and southern Louisiana if, as expected, the storm stalls. In the coming days, the danger shifts to southern Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle. We will obviously keep an eye on all of that for you.
President Biden is currently getting briefed on the storm. He's in Colorado this afternoon to push for his economic plan which includes major provisions to try to deal with the climate crisis.
CNN's Jeremy Diamond is in Colorado.
Jeremy, what is the president doing this afternoon?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, Jake, climate change and how President Biden plans to combat it has been front and center during what has been his first trip out west as president. We saw the president yesterday in California and in Idaho, touring wildfire damage as well as visiting with officials who are working on the broader strategy to combat those wildfires.
And today, we're seeing him now at this National Renewable Energy Lab, which is a project of the U.S. Department of Energy where the president is touring some of the ways in which the U.S. can move beyond fossil fuel-based energy to clean energy. Of course, President Biden has committed that the U.S. would cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050. So, this is certainly part of it.
And as he's doing this, we expect the president today to really focus on the two pieces of legislation that are working their way through Congress right now. The infrastructure bill, that $1.2 trillion bill, as well as this, as much as $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation program that President Biden is pushing.
Both of those bills represent hundreds of billions of dollars in investments in renewable energies, as well as climate resiliency efforts to try and combat and mitigate really the damage of the effects of climate change that we have been seeing across the country in recent weeks.
So, and this is really a make-or-break moment for President Biden's agenda, as lawmakers work to write in the details of that budget reconciliation plan, President Biden certainly trying to use the power of the bully pulpit to draw attention to one of the central pillars of that plan, which again is the fight cleanse climate change -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. CNN's Jeremy Diamond, travelling with President Biden in Colorado, thank you so much.
Coming up, the final hours of the California recall race. We'll show you what to keep your eye on, where to keep your eye on, and the early clues coming in. That's next. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
This hour, a 240 percent spike of COVID infections in children in the U.S. coming back from school spreading among everyone else, and somehow the war over masking kids is still a thing.
They did not train for this in basic. The National Guard now being recruited to drive school buses in one state to deal with a crippling shortage of workers.
But, first, leading this hour, decision day in California in a race that will have an impact from coast to coast as voters in California decide whether to dump Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom in the recall election. His top challenger, not the Terminator, but a provocative far-right radio talk show host, or in the view of President Biden who campaigned for Newsom last night, a Trump clone.
Larry Elder is following the Trump playbook in many ways, including not even waiting for the results to come in before aselessly claiming that the election is riddled with fraud.
Now as CNN's Lucy Kafanov reports, Democratic strategists are hoping a big turnout will translate to a big win for Governor Gavin Newsom.
GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: We may have defeated Donald Trump, but we have not defeated Trumpism. Trumpism is still on the ballot in California.