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Inside Politics

COVID-19 Hospitalizations Among Kids Highest Ever; CA Gov. Candidate: Women Exaggerate Problem Of Sexism; U.S. Military Evacuation Flights Paused. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 20, 2021 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thank you for your time today, the vaccination numbers are more positive after a bleak stretch, they're getting a little bit better. The question is too late in many ways in the case -- in the sense that as of yesterday, 141,000, 141,000 new infections a day is the average, one month ago, it was at 35,000. So every vaccination is welcome. The question is, how fast can you go to stop what is a pretty steady climb?

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXEC. ASSOC. DEAN, EMORY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT GRADY HEALTH SYSTEM: Yes, John, unfortunately, if you started your vaccination today or yesterday, you're not going to be fully protected until six weeks from today. So you're talking about, really, we need to remind people getting their vaccines and I'm very happy people are getting finally more vaccines than they were before, that they still need to behave as if they were unvaccinated. Because the reality is the protection is going to take some time to happen.

KING: It's an excellent point. I appreciate your making it. Here's Dr. Del Rio of all these stats, many of them are just frankly depressing. This one is scary as a parent of a 10-year-old. Today, there are 2,066 children under the age of 17 in the hospital with COVID. That is the highest level ever, higher than the initial surge, higher than the horrors of last winter. Why?

DEL RIO: Well, we need to fully understand this, John. But clearly, yes, we're seeing much more transmission of the Delta variant to children. In the winter peak, there were about 230, an average 230, 240 children hospitalized with COVID. It was very rare. Now as you see, it's 10 times that amount. And we're seeing a increase in those numbers, probably for a variety of reasons. But I think the most important one is you got more adults infected and they are bringing that COVID into their household and then the kids are getting infected.

As a proportion of all hospitalizations, children make about 2.5 percent. But again, that's a really high number when you consider where we were before.

KING: Right. A really high number, especially if it is preventable. I one of the things you see I know there in Georgia as well, we're getting close or already in back to school season and the places that are gone back to school. We're starting to see headlines like this. This is Texas rural schools shut down to keep COVID-19 from overwhelming small communities, 20,000 Mississippi students in quarantine already for COVID-19. This is Florida, 8,400 students in single Florida school already in quarantine.

If you look Florida, Mississippi, Texas, Dr. Del Rio, am I wrong to connect the dots in places where masks are discouraged, in some cases, you cannot have a mask mandate in schools. You're seeing kids going back to school in quarantine.

DEL RIO: Undoubtedly, John, I mean, what we needed to do to have our kids go safely back to school is we needed a couple things. Number one, we needed to be sure that all teachers and every adult and every person eligible in those schools were vaccinated. Number two, we need to have mask mandates. Number three, we needed to have good ventilation in the schools. And number four, we needed to use testing more effectively in order to prevent outbreaks in the schools.

And unfortunately, we didn't do that. We -- it's a hodgepodge of things that are being done. And as you mentioned, many states actually have, you know, make it illegal to mandate masking in schools. I think it's really unconscionable and something that is putting our children at risk.

KING: Something that puts all of us at risk, I think you would agree is this, adults in ICU units across the country. In 10 States, the percentage of ICU beds taken up by COVID patients is now above 50 percent, it's 60 percent in Mississippi, 53 percent in Alabama, 50 percent, Dr. Del Rio, where you are in Georgia. Help us with your experience in a health system. Why does this matter? Why is it so troubling?

DEL RIO: You know, it matters, John, because if, you know, the sweet spot for an ICU is to be about 75 percent capacity. You need to have some empty beds in order to take care of trauma, to take care of unexpected things, to take care of the patient who comes in with a very complicated surgery, let's say a heart surgery, or a cancer surgery that's going to end up in the ICU.

But if, you know, most of the ICS's are occupied. And right now our ICU are running at 100 percent capacity with about 50 to 60 percent of the beds occupied by COVID patients, you have no empty beds in your ICU. So if you were to need an emergency surgery, major surgery that is going to need to, you know, at the recovery phase, take it to the ICU like a heart surgery or brain surgery, that's not going to be able to be done. It's not going to be able to reschedule. And if you had a major trauma, you may not end up in an ICU. You may end up in the emergency room in a hallway. And that is very dangerous because you're not getting the care you need in an ICU. So the fact that ICU are occupied at 100 percent capacity in many places, is putting everybody out at risk. All of us are at risk.

KING: Dr. Del Rio, grateful for your time. I wish it was a more upbeat conversation but I'm grateful for your time and insights sir, very much.

Up next for us a close look --

DEL RIO: Good luck to you.

KING: Thank you, Sir.


Up next for us, a close look at the leading Republican candidate at the California recall race. He's a radio host with a long history of sexist comments.


KING: Topping our political radar today, the embattled California Governor Gavin Newsom getting some high profile help as he tries to fend off a recall effort. Vice President Kamala Harris plans to campaign for Newsom in the Bay Area next week. Question one on the September 14th recall ballot is whether to recall the governor. If the answer is yes, the candidate with the most votes on question two becomes governor. Well, the top Republican in that field at the moment is a radio host and a Trump supporter who has never held elective office. As CNN senior national correspondent Kyung Lah reports here, Larry Elder's long history of provocative rhetoric includes disparaging and derogatory comments about women.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's going to be no question so.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): California Gubernatorial Candidate Larry Elder won't stop to answer our questions outside his public rally what he prefers the prepared stage and his fans.

Elder is the leading Republican candidate in the recall election of Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom.

LARRY ELDER (R), CALIFORNIA GOV. CANDIDATE: This man that I'm going to defeat on September the 14th.

LAH (voice-over): A Trump supporter and talk radio fixture Elder is energizing the Republican base.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know it's a Democratic state. Larry elder is the one that can save it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The momentum is going with the Republicans hopefully.

ELDER: Good morning road rangers.

LAH (voice-over): A first time candidate he's never held office better known for inflammatory take no prisoners talk in conservative radio. His sharpest comments are on race and gender.

ELDER: I argue that the welfare state has incentivized women to marry the government. I've always felt that minorities and women complain too much about racism and sexism.

LAH (voice-over): In May 2000, Elder penned this editorial writing, women know less than men about political issues, economics, and current events. Adding, the less one knows, the easier the manipulation. And family leave, Elder tweeted in 2016, you have no right to maternity leave. Just this week, Elders said employers should be able to ask women if they plan on getting pregnant.

ELDER: And I believe that a female employee-her could ask questions of a female employee-he or a male employee that directly impacts on whether or not that person is going to be available to work full time, a full 40 hour a week.

LAH (voice-over): On climate change, this was Elder's position in 2008.

ELDER: The bad news is that global warming is a crock.

LAH (voice-over): It's a position his campaign indicates he's evolved from now believing man may be partially involved in climate change. But Elder spent years online promoting global warming as a myth, he also posted a 10 steps to fix America plan which include abolish the IRS, eliminate corporate taxes, take government out of education, arguing it should be in the hands of the private sector, legalize drugs, and abolish the minimum wage. That position has not changed.

Elder tweeted this month, the ideal minimum wage is zero. One position shifting just this month who won the 2020 election to the Sacramento Bee --

ELDER: I do believe that Joe Biden won the election.

LAH (voice-over): Then just two weeks later after blowback from the Trump base.

ELDER: Do I believe that Joe Biden won the election fair and square? Give me a mulligan on that one, Jen and Grant, no, I don't. Was there election fraud in 2020, are you kidding me?

LAH (voice-over): But the factual flip flop isn't sitting well with Trump supporters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Elder, you're beating around the Bush. Do you believe that Joe Biden won the election fairly and squarely? Please address the question.

ELDER: I'm answering the question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, you're not.

LAH (voice-over): He didn't want to talk to us about it either.

(on camera): There was that last question, the second and the last question.

ELDER: Why don't you talk about --


ELDER: Why don't you talk, what else I talked about? Are you concern about any of those things?

LAH (voice-over): He didn't stick around long enough for me to ask.


LAH: So could this really happen in a state as blue as California, a Governor Larry Elder? Well, Democrats believe that it's possible. And here's why the ballot is in two parts question one is yes or no to recall Newsom. Question two, Newsom's name does not appear. And the person they believe is the biggest threat to the governor is Larry Elder. John?

KING: Kyung Lah, fascinating reporting. We'll stay on top of the recall battle.

CNN moving on now, CNN has learned that booster shots will be made available on Capitol Hill for people who have compromised immune system. This coming after three United States senators announced yesterday they have COVID, Senators Roger Wicker of Mississippi, John Hickenlooper of Colorado, and Angus King of Maine, all fully vaccinated but experienced breakthrough infections.


This quick programming note join CNN for the "We Love New York City: The Homecoming Concert." This once in a lifetime event, tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. Eastern exclusively right here on CNN.

Up next for us, we're just moments away from President Biden speech on Afghanistan. A veteran diplomat shares his perspective on what went wrong and what the President needs to do now.


KING: Ten thousand Afghans processed and ready to go are stuck. Soldiers at Hamid Karzai Airport in Afghanistan tell CNN's Clarissa Ward, thousands of Afghans are waiting on flights now, as the United States searches for new places to land evacuation planes, need new places because Qatar has stopped accepting Afghans.

At the top of the hour, President Biden is set to address this crisis. Let's get some perspective now on the challenge from the former deputy United Nations envoy to Afghanistan, Peter Galbraith, also the former U.S. ambassador to Croatia, Ambassador Galbraith grateful for your time today. If you had a minute with the President right now who's going to talk to the American people in the world at the top of the hour in the middle of what is a mess, what to you is the greatest challenge for the President? PETER GALBRAITH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CROATIA: I think the greatest immediate challenge is to evacuate the rest of the U.S. and foreign nationals from Kabul, the Afghans who worked with the, not only with the United States, but with the United Nations, with the international humanitarian organizations and find a place for them to go. If necessary to Guam, which is where we've evacuated people from Kurdistan in the 1990s until they can be reprocessed to someplace else.


KING: The administration --

GALBRAITH: So that's the immediate --

KING: Forgive me for interrupting, the administration says it planned for every contingency and yet no flights out of Kabul in eight hours because it is scrambling now to find new locations to send those plans. They obviously didn't plan for that, how, why?

GALBRAITH: I think it was a tough situation. Obviously they didn't anticipate the speed of the collapse. And, you know, you have to consider, I was in Afghanistan on the very day the Soviets withdrew with the Mujahideen. It took another two years before the Soviet installed regime collapse. It even outlasted the Soviet Union. This government, the American sponsored one didn't eat last long enough for the U.S. to complete its withdraw.

KING: And to that point, if you see this cable, "The Wall Street Journal" reporting some of that match by CNN and this cable sent by 23 American diplomats at the embassy in Kabul, you know how important diplomats on the ground are. You have served in locations like that. Essentially warning the Secretary of State Antony Blinken, A, this collapse is going to happen very quickly. When it happens, we need a better plan to get the Afghans out. Why do you think the administration was caught flat footed? Is that the right term?

GALBRAITH: I again, I think it's very difficult to plan for these kinds of contingencies. What happened in this situation is that you have snowballing, a snowballing collapse of the Afghan military so that at a certain point, they were simply unwilling to fight. Nobody wants to fight a war that they see is already lost. You don't risk your life for a lost war, no matter how much you might believe in the cause. And that produced the rapidity of the collapse. Clearly, things were not as manages they could be. That's a diplomatic understatement. But I think the focus now has to be on getting people out.

KING: Help me with your deep experience here answer a question. I think everybody around the world is asking certainly Americans, especially Americans who are either waiting for a loved one to get out, or American servicemen and women who are trying to help their former translators and other assistance Afghans get out with their families. The administration now says is in daily frequent communication with the Taliban trying to ensure safe passage of people to the Kabul airport, doing business with the Taliban is risky business, given their history, is that the administration's only choice at this moment?

GALBRAITH: It is absolutely the correct thing to do. The Taliban are the government of Afghanistan and having dealings with the government, whether -- no matter how much you may dislike it, it's simply a recognition of the reality. I hope there'll be some kind of continued diplomatic presence even going forward. Again, it's not approval. It's simply recognition of reality. But there's some things that can still be accomplished promotion that, you know, put some effort to, you know, push the Taliban to do more on the rights of women and girls to protect the Hazara, the ethnic minority, that fate that risk to face a potential genocide last time they were in power. And in the short term, while we're still there, we can help get people out. If we leave, then the possibility of getting people out disappears.

KING: You hear that running commentary that this is a giant stain in America's image in the world. Do you agree?

GALBRAITH: Well, it certainly doesn't. It isn't a plus. But it is the whole Afghanistan episode. And even more than that the Iraq war that has diminished America's leadership in the world. It isn't how it ended. It's the fact that it went on for 20 years with without a strategy, strategy to produce success and yet constantly representing by our political and military leaders, that everything was working out great. And then this accompanied by a war -- an unnecessary war in Iraq, that is also proved to be very costly. So one should -- the stain is not just on how this ended, or even primarily on how it's ended. It's how it was conducted. And again, the parallel war that took place in Iraq.

KING: Ambassador Galbraith grateful for your time, Sir, appreciate it very much. Thank you.


And thank you for joining us on Inside Politics today. Ana Cabrera picks up our special coverage, next.


ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello, thanks for being with us on this Friday. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. At any minute now, President Biden addresses the nation on Afghanistan. This will be his second such address in four days, a measure of the extraordinary crisis now testing his presidency. His goal, assure Americans that the evacuation from Afghanistan is under control, a tall task, given the grim images and the bleak reality on the ground.

Here a reminder of the desperation as a baby is lifted over barbed wire and handed to a U.S. Marine. We've learned that baby was then rushed to a medical facility. The U.S. says 3,000 people were flown out yesterday. But we learned there was a pause in flights from Kabul today. There was an apparent backup as they were processing people in third party countries and the commander on the ground has just to issue the order to recommence.