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Biden: Troops May Stay In Kabul Beyond Aug. 31 To Get Americans Out; FL Gov.: Parent Should Decide If Kid Quarantines After Exposure; Chaos At Kabul Airport As Thousands Try To Flee. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired August 19, 2021 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Accommodate this exit number one, and number two provided all that aircraft in the Gulf to get people out. We prepositioned all that, anticipated that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you think when you first saw those pictures?
BIDEN: Well, I thought was we have to gain control this, we have to move this more quickly. We have to move in a way in which we can take control that airport. And we did.
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JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Two things there. Number one, this one might be nitpicking. But he says we prepositioned all that. That's not true. Many troops were already there, there were troops moved to the region. But some troops left Fort Bragg, the 82nd airborne after the Taliban took power. They weren't at all positioned, perhaps that's a nitpick. But this is what struck me. This is an American president, we have to gain control of this. That is an admission you lost control of this.
VIVIAN SALAMA, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I'll nitpick a little further with you. And the administration keeps on telling us on the one hand, they didn't see how fast this would happen that the Taliban moved away quicker than even the intelligence assessments that on the other hand, they said we had to move really quickly so that we could ensure the safety of our embassy staff. And so there's a lot of contradiction there in terms of well, did you know or did you not know.
And unfortunately, a lot of got lines got crossed in between. And so, we had this scramble last week, in the few days before the Taliban actually reached Kabul. But it's really alarming that they were that close. And we still didn't really have a strategy and an exit plan to secure all of our embassy stuff to get out. JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And the underlying question is very similar to who ran on a platform of love -- leveling with the American people and being catted with the American voter, which he did last year. Why not level with them on the execution of what happened? He's trying to talk about the overall policy itself, obviously, because he's on safer ground there looking at the polling data, but he's just not willing to concede an inch on the execution, which everybody's eyes see for themselves was obviously a problem.
KING: What are you talking about what I see for themselves, listen here, George Stephanopoulos asked him, what about him, when he saw some of the pictures? What did he think?
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BIDEN: There were Afghan women outside the gate, I told him, get him on the planes, get them out, get them out, get their families out if you can.
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KING: That is, you know, A, the right response, the human response, the empathetic Biden's that people have gotten to know. But again, then he goes on to say essentially that he was dealt this bad hand and he had no choice. Trump negotiated this timeline, he had no choice.
Why did they close the Bagram airbase as well? Why didn't they tell the Afghans before, even if you want to stay, even if you have patriotic pride, we're leaving, you need to get on a plane now. And why didn't they just say to the Taliban, Trump left us no plan? We are taking three more months. No, we're not asking for it. We're taking three more months.
JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF & ASST. MANAGING EDITOR, ASSOCIATED PRESS: There's a lot of there's a lot of finger pointing that's happening. Even though Biden seems to actually believe that it is the right thing to do to be out he then casts a lot of blame, blames Trump for putting him in the position to have to withdraw on this timeline.
He obviously could have moved the timeline, blames Ashraf Ghani, saying that Ghani was asking him to not prioritize evacuations through the summer because he didn't want to look like it was a situation that people had to flee. He wanted to look like Afghanistan could be stable. There's a --
KING: And then he fled.
PACE: And then he flees himself ironically here, right? And ultimately, like to Jonathan's point, I do think that there is a way that the White House can square this where they can both acknowledge that this part, this phase has not gone well. But they still believe that this overall was the right thing to do. I think that would be in a lot of ways, a much more honest assessment of the situation that we're in right now. KING: We've all covered the White House. You do this, you grant these presidential interviews when you're trying to essentially write the ship or reset the ship.
KING: Did this do it?
MARTIN: No. And I'm surprised that he didn't use the opportunity to do just that. Instead, he used it to basically double down on his previous comments that he gave the speech on Monday.
KING: We'll see if there's another one coming and more importantly, we'll see if the numbers get better in the next 24 to 48 hours of getting people out.
Up next for us to the COVID crisis, hospitalizations spike guess where, in states with low vaccination rates, as unvaccinated COVID patients now filling up ICUs.
KING: A new analysis by our health team underscores how much this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated and how much the unvaccinated are putting all of us and the healthcare system we all rely on under growing stress. Americans who live in states with low vaccination rates are four times more likely to be hospitalized than those who live in the states with good vaccination rates nearly six in 10 dying, dying.
Let's look through the numbers as we go through them right now. Number one, let's look at what the CDC tells us. It tells us 93 percent of the American population lives in a red county. That is a community with high transmission. CDC says even if you're vaccinated, you should be wearing a mask indoors and a lot more often if you live in these communities.
If you do it by population, you look here, this is the 10 lowest states, right, the 10 lowest states. The states in red, they have nearly four times the number of hospitalizations compared to the 10 highest states. Those are the states in yellow that have the highest rate of vaccination Vermont 67, Maine 65, for example.
At that point, let's bring in to the conversation, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, our CNN medical analyst and Professor of Medicine and Surgery at George Washington University. Dr. Reiner, we've had this conversation sadly, too many times. But again, the numbers don't lie. If you're in a state with a lousy low vaccination rate, you are four times more likely to be hospitalized, six times more likely to die than if you live in a state that has a good vaccination rate if anything would motivate people to get vaccinated. Shouldn't that be it?
DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Yes, absolutely. And we really have become two different countries. You have the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast where vaccination rates are high and even though the surge has increased infections, it's been relatively moderate compared to places like the South and the parts of the country that you just outlined.
Look, the unfortunate situation is that the parts of the United States that have the lowest vaccination rates also have the lowest mask adherence rates. And this virus is relentless. And in places where there are a lot of people who are unvaccinated and also unmasked, this virus will infect them. Well. And I think it's reasonable to -- I'm sorry, go ahead John.
KING: No, as you were talking -- as you were talking about the mask, I just was going to say, and I'll bring back the community spread mask because obviously, we're in the back to school environment now we're having this mask wore again, for Lord knows what reason. I'm showing this to all the states here, but the state of Florida is completely red. It is a high transmission state right now. And the governor of Florida does not want kids wearing masks in schools. So I want you to listen to his explanation.
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GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I think quarantining healthy kids deprives these kids of an ability to get an education. Now, maybe a parent would want a healthy kid to be quarantined, if there's an exposure, but I think that should be the choice of the parent.
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KING: So the governor is saying, number one, he doesn't want mask in schools. Number two, that if there's an outbreak in a school, if your kid is healthy, if your kid is healthy, it should be up to the parent. Does that make sense in the sense that we need rules, parents don't get decide, you know, I guess I want you to help me draw the line.
In a normal world, yes, we want parents to make decisions about their children. But at some point, the greater good, the public health crisis comes into play. Whereas the line parents, for example, don't get to say I don't like booster seats, or I don't like speed limits.
REINER: What is so surprising to me is that the governor of Florida never really misses an opportunity to get this wrong. So what he said yesterday was, if there is an exposure in the school, he wants the parents to decide whether their child who has been exposed to a contagion needs to quarantine. Now, what he is not understanding, apparently, is that the risk is not to that -- the risk is not just to that child, it's to the rest of the group. So if a child needs to stay home, it's not just to protect that single individual is to protect the rest of the school.
So I am not surprised. He wants to prevent schools from masking. He wants to prevent quarantines. He wants to prevent vaccine passports or vaccine mandates. What other tools does he have to suppress a pandemic in his state? It's maddening. KING: It's an excellent question. I want to come back and look through some of the Israel numbers because when the administration yesterday rolled out its booster shot plan saying every American who has been vaccinated, eight months out, should get a boost shot one of the things they sided with this Israeli study is 63 percent of the Israeli population is fully vaccinated.
And what they noticed was look back in June, Israel was down to 17 cases on average new infections daily on average, and they've had this spike up to 6,200 yesterday that was the administration's argument. And even if you're vaccinated, we've seen for the example of Israel with a relatively high vaccination rate, suddenly boom with the Delta variant spread. And Dr. Collins who runs the NIH likened this to being on a long trip. At some point, you have to think I need to refuel the car set the right analogy.
REINER: Yes, look, you know, these vaccines give a very robust rise in the COVID neutralizing antibodies. But over time, we've seen it wane. And more data that was published yesterday by the CDC suggests that the efficacy of the vaccine has dropped from over 90, 95 percent down to less than 80 percent in the beginning of July. And in particularly in more vulnerable groups like the elderly, we're really seeing a spike in infections. So this is what has spurred the decision to recommend boosting throughout the United States. And I think it's the right decision.
KING: You think it's the right decision, you just say. Just one more thing I want to bring up here. This is the ICU beds across the country right now. And you see the red right here. This -- the red states means more than 40 percent of the patients in intensive care are COVID patients. It's 54 percent in Florida, Dr. Reiner, 57 percent in Mississippi. What are we talking about here about the domino effect on the health care system if this continues?
REINER: Right, so as hospitals fill, they lose the ability to care for more patients, not because they don't have enough room in the facilities, but because they lack qualified staff. So then they put out a call to neighboring states and nurses leave places where the situation has been a little bit more stable and they go to these hotter states. And that creates a problem and staffing hospitals in places that maybe have done a little bit better. So it is -- there is this domino effect around the United States.
There is a massive shortage of ICU nurses in the United States. And some of them have quit because of the terrible toll this virus has taken, and many of them are taking rightfully opportunities to make a really enormous amount of money in these surge states. I don't blame them one bit for doing that. But the net effect has been a tremendous strain on the healthcare system.
KING: Dr. Reiner, I wish we had more encouraging news, but I'm grateful for your time. Thank you.
REINER: My pleasure, John. KING: Up next for us, a veteran of three tours in Afghanistan her desperate effort to help Afghans who helped her back then get to safety now.
KING: The Kabul airport is of course under American control but nothing about the situation just outside its gates speaks control. It is out of chaos. Thousands of Afghans many of them worked alongside U.S. troops gathered there hoping for any chance to escape the country. Some like this young child sleeping on board an American plane have made it out. Countless others though have not.
My next guest is an army veteran who deployed to Afghanistan three times and is now trying to help the Afghan translators who helped her. Kristen Rouse welcome back. You were here on Tuesday. And you describe quite powerfully your frustration trying to help these heroes who served alongside you, helping American forces through the Afghan struggle. Any better, you set told our staff you spent nine hours last night trying to help. Is today any better than Tuesday?
KRISTEN ROUSE, PRESIDENT & FOUNDER, NYC VETERANS ALLIANCE: No, it has gotten worse. It has gotten more chaotic, John. Thank you for having me on to voice this.
Keep in mind I am one of thousands of veterans who are hearing from our Afghan friends and allies, our interpreters, people who worked with us, there are thousands of us right now doing all that we can to connect our Afghan friends with these evacuation flights.
We are calling this the digital Dunkirk except the problem is that none of us have lifeboats. And we are contacting everybody within our networks of veterans, people still serving in the military, people in government, we are screaming for them to get the lifeboats to our friends. Our friends are calling out our name on the beach head outside the Kabul airport like that. And we need to bring our friends in to the lifeboats.
We're hearing that there have been flights that have been leaving half empty, or even more empty because people aren't getting led in the gates. They aren't being processed. They're being told that they need to work through more bureaucracy before they can get an e-mail saying that it's their turn. And even when they get e-mails saying it is your turn, come to the airport gates, they are waiting for hours and many of them still cannot get in.
There are shootings outside of all of these gates. They're being told different things at each gate. They're telling -- they're being told you're now at the wrong gate. Once they get through the throngs of people. And then they have to pass up to six or more Taliban checkpoints to get another gate outside.
The time for bureaucracy is over. We have to get people into the gates of the airport so they can get out on evacuation flights and finish the bureaucratic processes later when their families aren't being threatened, when they aren't being shot at. This is an absolute dire emergency.
KING: You shared with us an e-mail. I believe it is, of an immigrant visa refusal form they're getting from the State Department, the checkbox there. And I'm going to read this if you can't read it at home. It says you've been denied. You need more processing. And then it goes on, Kristen Rouse, to say that process will quote likely take several months or more, several months or more I assume to these translators and their families as tantamount at least in their view, they perceive that is a death sentence.
ROUSE: They have been getting these messages even as the embassy has closed. The time for bureaucracy is done. The man -- the interpreter who sent me that refusal notice, we took off his name and identifying information.
But the man who received that refusal notice he's sending me all of these letters of recommendation from military officers who said, you did a great job for us as an interpreter. We relied on you. You deserve a visa. And he's begging me, just like so many other veterans are hearing is he said, what did I do wrong? What did I do that was not good enough? How can I get my family out?
We're depending on you. We are depending on you to get us out. We are hearing from even interpreters like just 20 minutes ago, 20 minutes ago, I'm not even kidding if the messages are constant. And again, I'm just one veteran. But 20 minutes ago, we heard from an interpreter who is saying, what can you do to move this along? What can we do?
What can we do? I'm having to move my family every three hours in Kabul. The Taliban keep finding and saying they're going to come for me. They know who I am. They're going to come for me and my family. They're sending messages. They're threatening. We've been hearing of Taliban killing people disappearing them and we don't know what they're doing once they're being kidnapped. People are running for their life right now.
KING: Well, Kristen, we're going to keep bringing you back, if you're willing, keep in touch with us as we go through this. It sounds horrific. But what you're doing is heroic. What your fellow veterans are doing is heroic, and we will help you stay on top of it if we can't thank you so much for your time today. I wish we have --
ROUSE: Thank you, John.
KING: I wish we had more time. We'll be right back.
KING: This quick programming note, join CNN for "We Love New York City: The Homecoming Concert." This once in a lifetime concert event is Saturday starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern exclusively right here on CNN. Thanks for your time today in Inside Politics. I hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Busy News Day, Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello and thanks for being with us.