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Biden Speaks at D.C. School after Unveiling Vaccine Mandate; White House Says, Taliban Have Been Cooperative and Shown Flexibility in Getting Americans Out of Afghanistan. Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired September 10, 2021 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. TODD RICE, CRITICAL CARE PHYSICIAN, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: And that creates additional shortages and troubles.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: You noted how this is now worse than your previous pandemic peak, which took place in the fall/winter time, which is typically when you get concerned about things like this, right, that, typically, a spike in flu, et cetera. Given that we are already in the surge at this point, are you worried that when we get into the fall/winter period that we're going to see another one?
RICE: Yes, absolutely. It is a little bit an unknown and it makes me anxious to think about this is sort of the end of the summer and this should be a time when we don't see a lot of respiratory viral illness and we're seeing a lot of it. And what is that going to mean for the winter time when we normally see these respiratory viral illnesses. It's sort of an anxiety0provoking thought and a lot of unknown, that's for sure.
SCIUTTO: Well, listen, I know you got a lot of hard work to do and tough conversations, frankly, with some of these patients. I wish you the best of luck, Dr. Todd Rice.
RICE: Thank you very much.
SCIUTTO: Coming up next, a former associate of Rudy Giuliani is back in court in the next hour. What Igor Fruman's guilty plea could mean for former President Trump's former attorney.
SCIUTTO: President Biden touring the Brookland Middle School here in Washington, D.C. He's just begun his public comments there. Let's have a listen.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: -- because I used to talk -- talk like -- like that, I stutter, and especially when I had to do something in public or read aloud. And I am amazed when I see young men and women like you stand up and speak with such grace and ease. It is really impressive, really, really impressive.
Well, folks, this is not like the school I went to. When they said we were going to speak outside, I wonder why the hell are we going up all of these stairs. I thought we'd be out in the parking lot. I mean, for real, that is where I thought we were going to be.
Elijah, thank you for the introduction and Jill and I along with Secretary Cardona and Mayor Bowser are here because we want you to know how very proud of you and your classmates we all are.
I also want to thank Principal Richardson. I was kidding him. I was saying, this school is really something else. And the way we talked about the interfacing of all the students and the social educations taking place and how things are changing. And Chancellor Ferebee, I told you, I think that's maybe the harder job than anything that I can think of. But thank you, you're doing a heck of a job.
We know the start of a school year is an excellent time to mix anticipation and nervousness, and the pandemic adds that mix of emotions. And I think about all of the parents I've talked to since the start of this pandemic worried about the loss of learning that their child or missed opportunities their child is having because so many of them had to stay at home, all had to stay at home.
But so many of them didn't have access to the internet, didn't have access to -- I mean, just it was -- they didn't have the equipment. Worried about whether or not the school lunch program was going to still be available, so much anxiety.
And it is not just academics. It is the friendship and the socialization and maybe equally as consequential. It is access to critical services, like meals, school counseling, that helps the students stay physically and mentally alert.
But I want to -- I want folks to know that we're going to be okay. We're going to be okay. We know what it takes to keep our children safe and our schools open. And we have the tools to do it. Last night, I laid out a plan for the fall to beat this pandemic. And, basically, I had six parts, vaccinate the unvaccinated and thank you for getting the vaccination and thank your parents for doing that. And two is to protect the vaccinated. Three is increased testing and masking. Four is to take care of people with COVID.
Five is to keep our economy going. And six is keep our children safe and in school and the schools open.
Now, for any parent, it doesn't matter how low the risk of any illnesses whether it could happen to your child. But we all know if schools follow the science, and they are here, and implement safety measures, like vaccinations, testing, masking and children can be safe in schools, safe from COVID-19. My plan does all of these things.
On vaccinations, it comes down to two separate categories, children ages 12 and older, like Elijah, who are eligible for vaccines, and he got his, children ages 11 and under who are not yet eligible. The safest thing that you can do for your child 12 and over is get them vaccinated. That is it, simple, plane, straightforward, get them vaccinated. So, parents, get your teenagers vaccinated. You've got them vaccinated for all kinds of other things, measles, mumps, rubella, for them to go to school to be able to play sports. They have to have those vaccinations. Get them vaccinated.
COVID-19 vaccine is easy, it is safe and it is convenient. And we'll work to bring the vaccine clinics to our schools as well. Mayor Browser has done one heck of a job. No, you really have, Mayor. You're doing a heck of a job across the board. I really mean that. But you set up vaccination clinics in about 20 school sites, including here in Brookland, because we're going to continue through the month of September.
So there is really no excuse to not be able. You could get vaccinated. It is not like it is so distant to do. We're giving prizes to encourage children and families to get the shots. And, look, their efforts are working. 65 percent of the children ages 12 to 17 here in D.C. have gotten at least one shot, like Elijah. That is incredible. That is one of the highest rates in the nation for children between the ages of 12 and 17.
And for students here at Brookland, once you all get vaccinated, you're invited to a special visit at the White House. I'm going to get in trouble with the Secret Service and everybody else. I'm not sure how we're going to mechanically do it, but I assume the buses could get you to the White House. And if we can't get you all in one room, we'll be out in the rose garden or out in the back there and maybe let you fly the helicopters. No, I'm only joking about that.
I was just downstairs in the science class. It is amazing, you saw it, Mayor. It is amazing these kids are excited about building a vehicle that could land on the moon. I really mean it. And I asked them, I said how many want to go to the moon. Everybody but one said they wanted to go to the moon. I asked how many want to go to Mars, and I think they all raised their hand as well. But it is really -- and they're excited about it.
Now, the best way for parent to protect a child under 12 starts at home. Every parent, every teen sibling, every caregiver around them should be vaccinated. Children have four times higher chance of getting hospitalized if they live in an area with low vaccination rates rather than high vaccination rates. And it goes for the home as well. There is a high vaccination rate in the home significantly diminishes the possibilities.
Now, if you're a parent of a young child, you're wondering when will the vaccine be available for them? I strongly support independent scientific review of vaccine usage for children under 12. But I've told them, I will do everything within any power to support the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, on its ongoing efforts to do the science as safely and as quickly as possible. And our nation's doctors will keep the public updated on the process so parents could have a plan to give them a sense of what progress is being made. The vaccinations of our educators today, about 90 percent of school staff and teachers are vaccinated. We should have that at 100 percent. We're requiring vaccinations for teachers, where I have authority to require it, who work in U.S. government and educators in head start, which is a federal program, because it is funded by the federal government.
But I'm calling on all governors to require vaccinations for all teachers and staff. Vaccination requirements in schools were nothing new. They work. They're overwhelmingly supported educators and their unions.
Now, on school safety measures, in our American rescue plan, which we passed early on, we provided the funding for ventilation systems, cleaning and sanitizing services and critical safety measures to significantly reduce the spread of the virus and protect our children and keep our schools safe. And we'll do whatever it take this is school year as well, especially on increasing testing.
We provided funding through the American rescue plan to implement testing in schools for teachers, staff and students, and that includes bus drivers as well. I want all, I want all schools setting up regular testing programs to make sure we detect and isolate cases before they can spread. I will mobilize American industry to produce nearly 300 million more rapid COVID-19 tests for distribution all around the country, including the schools that need them.
You know, I'm going to use what we call the Defense Production Act that allows me to ensure that we -- what we need made, we can ask the private enterprise to make them because they're of national interest, where they're going to make these tests as quickly as possible. I'm going to use the Defense Production Act.
My plan will also expand free testing that you can get at 10,000 pharmacies around the country. Walmart, Amazon and Kroger will sell at-home rapid tests at cost, which means it will cost -- they're going to charge no more than it cost them to buy the test from the manufacturer. And that will be the same way for the next three months. That is a discount of about 35 percent, about 35 percent. This is important for everyone, particularly for a parent of a child not old enough to be vaccinated. You'll be able to test your child at home and to test those around them as well.
And on masking, we know masks work. They are uncomfortable sometimes and they get tired of wearing them. I understand. I really do. And I wear them in the White House. Under the CDC guidelines, every person in school, teachers, staff, students, should be masked while indoors. To all of the school officials trying to do the right thing by our children, I will always be on your side no matter how much heat you're getting from outside.
And let me -- let me close with this. I've often said that our children are the kite strings -- they're all our children, not just our children but everybody's children. They're the kite strings that lift our national ambitions aloft. That is not hyperbole. That is a fact.
We owe it to them to do everything we can to keep them safe in school, dreaming, learning, thriving, socializing, becoming good citizens. It means following the science, wearing a mask, getting tested, getting vaccinated. It means working together and looking out for each other, like they teach you in school. We can look out for each other. We can do this.
I think you're going to have a great school year. I can see the enthusiasm. And if you just walk in the classrooms, there is real enthusiasm. I'm sure there are some classrooms that I was in through school where anybody walked in, it would be, here we go. But you've been really great. You really have.
And, Principal, this is a -- you've done a great job here. You really have. And I think this is -- I hope everybody gets to see this, I wish I could take the whole nation around this, every one of these classrooms and see what's is going on because it is such a great example.
So, again, thank you. Have a great school year. And, Elijah, I'm going to find out, if I can find out when your football games are. I may want to try to figure out without 10,000 Secret Service agents to come and to see you play a little bit, okay?
Thank you very much, everybody.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) are calling your vaccination requirements an overreach, threatening to challenge it in the court.
BIDEN: Have at it. Look, I am so disappointed that particularly some of the Republican governors had been so cavalier with the health of these kids, so cavalier for the health of their communities. This is -- we're playing for real here. This isn't a game.
And I don't know of any scientist out there in this field that doesn't think it makes a considerable sense to do these six things I've suggested.
But, you know, let me conclude with this. One of the lessons I hope our students could unlearn is that politics doesn't have to be this way. Politics doesn't have to be this way. They're growing up in an environment where they see it is like a war, like a bitter feud. If a Democrat says, right, everybody says left. And if they say left, they say right. I mean, it is not who we are as a nation and it is not how we beat every other crisis in our history.
We have got to come together.
And I think the vast majority -- look at the polling data. The vast majority of American people know we have to do these things. They're hard but necessary but we're going to get them done. Thank you.
SCIUTTO: President Biden speaking there at Brookland Middle School here in Washington, D.C., asked just then about plans by GOP governors to challenge his vaccine mandates announced yesterday. His words, three words, have at it, basically saying, ready to face those challenges.
He also had a positive note about schools saying that it is -- can be safe to go to school even within the COVID surge but we need measures, such as masking and also encouraging kids above the age of 12, 12 and above, to get vaccinated. We'll continue to monitor as he visits the school there.
Meanwhile, we'll take a short break.
SCIUTTO: Cooperative, business-like, professional. These are all words recently used by Biden administration officials to describe the Taliban and its help in ongoing evacuations of Americans from Afghanistan, the Taliban. I mean, just a remarkable change in tone by the U.S. after nearly 20 years of war against the Taliban and just ahead, of course, of the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
CNN's Jake Tapper looks back at last two decades of the nation's longest war in a special report called, What Went Wrong in Afghanistan. Here is a brief clip.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I accepted the fact that I was an economy of force and I just look for ways to use what I had to get to where I thought they wanted us to go.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): The White House was so focused on Iraq, that according to a memo from Secretary Rumsfeld obtained by the National Security Archive, President Bush did not even know who his own commander was. Rumsfeld wrote, quote, he said, who is General McNeill? I said he is the general in charge of Afghanistan. He said, well I don't need to meet with him.
Who is General McNeill? He's this man, the man who was fighting to stabilize Afghanistan while his bosses were fixated on overthrowing a different regime in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The essence of your question is did Iraq consume resources that could have been applied in Afghanistan. The answer to that is just too obvious.
TAPPER: You're saying that you didn't have everything that you needed?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is correct.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't forget us if Iraq happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SCIUTTO: My colleague, Jake Tapper, joins me now. And, Jake, I think folks can forget, but it was pretty much just a year-and-a-half after 9/11 that the Bush administration started another war in Iraq, a little more than a year-and-a-half. And you spoke to 8 of the 11 commanding generals in Afghanistan. Did they echo, McNeill, that that move really made the difference in sinking, rather, the Afghan campaign?
TAPPER: Everyone that we asked said that that was a major problem. I mean, you have seven or eight lost years basically where the commanders in Afghanistan don't have what they need. And that doesn't only include soldiers, it also includes resources, it includes State Department employees, it includes attention. I mean, in that memo from Rumsfeld, President Bush didn't know the name of General McNeill.
And I think that when we look at the war in Afghanistan and put it in the context of all 20 years, there is a lot of blame to go around. The generals, the presidents and all sorts of other individuals involved with this. But this is the original sin of why the U.S. did so poorly in Afghanistan, did not succeed in the way anybody wanted the U.S. to succeed in Afghanistan. President Bush was not paying attention to the war in Afghanistan.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, because, of course, the country, the military, the government fell more quickly, much more quickly than many saw coming. And I wonder, did U.S. officials, did commanders through the years, did they miscalculate about what the U.S. had built there or did they just straight up mislead? Did they exaggerate their success on the ground?
TAPPER: Well, I think both, depending on the commander. Some misled, some tried to put as optimistic a spin on it as they could. But there is another aspect to this that we talk about in the documentary. You can be -- let's say you are a captain or a major assigned to train a specific Afghan national army brigade. You don't get promoted. You don't get a medal.
If you go back to your lieutenant colonel or colonel and say, I can't train these people, they don't know -- they're not literate. They don't know how to count. These are all things that are -- that came up in some of the studies of what went wrong. I can't do it. That doesn't get you a medal. That doesn't get a promotion. The army -- the military in the United States is not constructed in a way so that truth telling is rewarded.
What is rewarded is accomplishment.
And that is something that the U.S. military, that is something that the Pentagon needs to think long and hard about. Because as one of the veterans said in our special, Lieutenant Colonel Dempsey, how can it be that every single person involved in this war got an A, but the war got an F.
SCIUTTO: It's a great point. It's evocative of Vietnam, right? I mean, that's the Pentagon papers all over, reverse incentives, in effect, to speak truth to power.
TAPPER: Right. No, and the fact, look, somebody that I know worked for the defense intelligence agency in the middle of the war told me straight up that the incentives were for him to not be honest because that would reflect poorly on the secretary of defense and everybody else in the command structure.
SCIUTTO: Goodness. Well, listen, it bears watching sadly, right, because it is lessons to be learned, hopefully learned. Jake Tapper, thanks so much for doing this.
And please, if you haven't made plans yet, do tune in to watch Jake as he asks the tough questions about America's Longest War. It's going to be Sunday night, 9:00 Eastern Time just here on CNN.
And thanks so much to all of you joining us today. I hope you have a great weekend. Take a break from it all. I'm Jim Sciutto.
At this hour with Kate Bolduan starts right after a short break.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.