Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Joe Biden Heads into fall Facing Headwinds, Multiple Cases; COVID Surge Disrupts Biden's Promise of Pandemic Rebound; HHS: 80 Percent of all ICU Beds are in Use; New COVID-19 Cases up 300 Percent Since Last Labor Day; Joe Biden Approves Major Disaster Declaration for New York. Aired 12-12.30p ET

Aired September 06, 2021 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, everybody. Welcome to this "Special Labor Day Edition of Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

The big cleanup from IDA is a big mess. Hundreds of thousands in Louisiana are still in the dark. This week President Biden heads to the northeast where at least 50 are dead. Plus we hit Labor Day 2021 in a COVID spiral 160,000 new cases per day, 1500 COVID deaths per day. Soon Dr. Anthony Fauci warns that hospitals will face tough choices. But who gets an ICU bed and who doesn't?

And can Gavin Newsome save his job? Eight days away from the California recall. The Governor is staging massive rallies and getting some big reinforcements from Washington a very busy hour ahead on this special holiday edition beginning with the Labor Day crises confronting President Biden.

He promised a rebound summer from COVID, from economic uncertainty and from turbulent Trump era decision making on the world stage. Instead, the president now enters the fall months with his big legislative goals in limbo and with COVID, Afghanistan and climate crises all converging to test him.

Diamond policy challenges yes, and at the moment a sour political price. The President's poll numbers are slumping. Let's get straight to the White House and our Chief Correspondent Kaitlan Collins, Kaitlan, big challenges plural for the president?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. He is still in Delaware right now. But the president is coming back to the White House in a few hours. And he has a lot on his plate as he is entering this September month and of course, still dealing with Afghanistan even though U.S. troops are out of there.

There are still Americans in there that the White House is working to get out something that we heard from the Chief of Staff Ron Klain on yesterday talking about those efforts that are still ongoing with the State Department. But John also, of course Coronavirus, is still something that the White House is dealing with, in a way that a few months ago, they had not expected it to look like this come September. A lot of this has to do with questions of what lies ahead when it comes to booster shots and vaccines for children, but also the case numbers that are still happening, where we are seeing that the country is now averaging John more than 1500 deaths per day.

Those are numbers that this country has not seen since March. And that is of great concern to the White House as there is all of this uncertainty across the nation when it comes to the pandemic. And that's affecting the president's poll numbers.

And so we will see him you're coming back to the White House tonight. Tomorrow, we should note he is going to New Jersey and New York. He's going to be touring and surveying that storm damage from those catastrophic floods last week that happened in the northeast the remnants of Hurricane IDA.

And that comes John, as they were still searching for people who are missing as a result of that storm. We are learning about new deaths almost daily. And the president is trying to tie this issue to his domestic agenda, which of course, we should also note is imperiled given what Senator Joe Manchin has said about the price tag on a reconciliation package.

And so expect the president to tie that directly to his push for improving the nation's infrastructure for getting both of those bills passed. It's going to be a very busy month for the president and for his agenda. And they have a lot of issues that they're juggling with at once.

KING: It's complicated to say the least Kaitlan Collins, grateful for getting us started live at the White House. With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, Karoun Demirjian of "The Washington Post" CNN's Phil Mattingly and Tia Mitchell of the "Atlanta Journal Constitution".

Let's just put up some of the list infrastructure, Afghanistan, disaster response, pandemic programs that expire including unemployment benefits today, government funding issues, debt ceiling. On the one hand, that's a long list of challenges.

On the other hand, Phil, Joe Biden was vice president for eight years he understands being president means dealing every day with a long list of challenges. The question is the collision of big events at once. How do they sequence through it?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is quite literally what he signed up for, right? And this was part of his pitch was competent government, adults in the room. And when these challenges come, I'll be able to deal with them.

They knew September was always going to be a bit of a mess of a month on the legislative side of things. You had government funding, you had the debt ceiling as well. Afghanistan has without question been the wild card that's thrown everybody on their heels.

I think everybody thought they were going to have all of August to kind of take a step back, relax a little bit, and maybe go on vacations that most certainly did not happen. And this is not going away. I think when you talk to White House officials right now.

There are a couple things that they're focused on. They recognize that the American citizens that are still in Afghanistan have to be a priority. But the State Department is largely leading that. I don't think you'll see the president weigh in all that much on it.

With the one wildcard being whether or not the hostage situation breaks out at any point that would change the dynamics there. With COVID you're going to see, I think, a significant new focus on COVID in the weeks ahead, not that the White House ever went away from it.

But I think there's a recognition that people are down, people are depressed people thought 6, 8 or 12 weeks ago that we were going to be in a different place this summer that everybody expected did not happen. And I think they want the president to go more on offense and trying to restore a little bit of the competence there.

And then on the legislative agenda, a lot of work there but they also have a well-respected Legislative Affairs team and they know how this process works. So I think that's more kind of the work behind the scenes on that one. Watch COVID, COVID is going to be important.

KING: Let's walk through them. And let me start with Afghanistan and come back to COVID cloud over the economy over schools over the country.


KING: Afghanistan, you mentioned a potential hostage situation and Mike McCaul, the Ranking Republican in the House Foreign Affairs Committee says in his view, that we are at that moment, listen.


REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R-TX): We have six airplanes at - Sharif Airport, six airplanes with American citizens on them as I speak, also with these interpreters, and the Taliban is holding them hostage for demands right now. They - we have the state has cleared these flights, and the Taliban will not let them leave the airport.


KING: Now, the White House disputes the term hostage. They're just like we use that term. But they also say they can't be certain about the situation on the ground because one of the prices of an American withdrawal is the lack of intelligence resources of situations like this are going to happen.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. Look the term hostage is a very fraught term in a situation like this one; it could mean a very no focus life or death situation. But this just kind of illustrates the lack of control we have over the situation right now.

And you know they did take out over 100,000 people that were very, you know, historic, one of the largest evacuations that we've seen before. But a lot of it depended on the cooperation of the Taliban, they did not fight us while we were doing that they made it difficult at certain checkpoints.

But generally speaking, they hoped the United States leave now, that whole handshake deal, or at least aligned, you know, objectives is kind of done, because we hit the evacuation deadline and our military left. And so we are kind of again, now in this situation, we have to recalibrate what that balance is and does the Taliban want to exact a price from us for allowing more people to leave their frozen assets?

There is the question of standing at the table. We don't have official diplomatic relations with them right now. So there's a lot of moving pieces and a lot of potential places that they could exploit or this could break. And that's why it's so tenuous.

KING: So that's so tenuous, you're dealing with that to Phil's point about the legislative agenda of call it threading a needle calling pull a rabbit out of a heart. We always knew this was going to be hard in the sense that the House progressives want a lot more centrist in the Senate say, wait a minute, you don't have any votes to spare the Senate you only have a few to spare in the House. Listen to the White House Chief of Staff. He says yes, been here, done that.


RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: If I had a nickel for every time someone's told me this package has been dead. I would be a very, very rich person. It was dead back in May, when there was initial opposition to it. It was dead in June the day the president went to Europe, it was dead in July. Again, all I've heard is how this package is --


KING: He's right in the rearview mirror. Ron Klain is absolutely right. Is he right, looking forward? Can the Democrats will the Democrats, everyone's taking out their positions now for leverage? Will they work it out?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: I think to his point, I think Democrats whether you're a progressive or a moderate, I think Democrats want to get something done even on this, you know, soft infrastructure bill that the president wants even I think Joe Manchin wants something done.

The question is, are they able to cobble together a coalition that makes enough people satisfied that they can pass this soft infrastructure bill? Because if that is the bill that falls apart, that puts the hard infrastructure bill in jeopardy so that's the question there are slim margins, as we know, in both chambers, so Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, they just have a lot of people to wrangle to get to an agreement on the soft infrastructure bill. KING: And so one of the challenges convincing Democrats you have to come together, this is the president's first year you must figure this out. Maybe we'll work it out in the rooms, fight in the rooms, but work it out. You mentioned the COVID cloud.

I just want to show the seven day average of new Coronavirus cases. If you go back to July 4th, if you go back to July 4th, the president there we go see it there. The president was in a much more optimistic mood and he had reason to be are the numbers were going down. That's the bottom of that right foot slope there.

And then you see what has happened since that's largely the Delta variant and more importantly, unvaccinated Americans. Americans who refuse to get vaccinated because of that Phil you see the president going through something that President Trump went through, during his year in office, the president's overall approval rating, from 52 percent in April down to 44 percent.

That makes any White House nervous makes Democrats nervous heading into a midterm year, is handling on the economy down from 52 to 45. Even on the pandemic, he's lost 12 points from April to now still at 52 percent. But this cloud of COVID, as you mentioned, is it drives everything because it is the daily concern of people outside of this town, where we talked about filibusters and everything else, people at home, they think COVID, COVID, COVID.

MATTINGLY: It's so critical. That second poll is tied directly to the third poll economy is tied to COVID. The White House recognizes and the biggest concern of the White House is a recognition that his COVID approval ratings were sky high compared to everything else over the course of the last eight or nine months.

And the second that those start to drop or start to fall off, then they've got a big problem. And I think that's why you're going to see a real clear effort from the president starting this week but also moving forward.

Try to regain some of that traction on confidence in this White House and this administration in dealing with this surge in dealing with the pandemic and helping the country get out of the pandemic and therefore helping the economy and therefore helping Democrats on Capitol Hill have a little bit more reassurance as they move into these really giant legislative battles.

KING: Panel is going to stay with us. Next we'll get to the public health aspect of just that breaking down the numbers of COVID cases, rising deaths and rising hospitalizations. How this Labor Day Weekend compares last year, and what's the deal with booster shots? We'll sort all that out next.



KING: Hospitals across the United States are at the breaking point again. In Alabama ICU beds are full. Nationwide that number is at a staggering 80 percent there are staffing shortages at hospitals so bad in places like Montana, Georgia and Kentucky. The National Guard has been called in to help out.

Let's walk through the latest numbers and they are not great. You look at the case count right now Sunday 163,728 new COVID cases reported 163,000 plus go back one year ago, we were below 40,000 to 39,355. And I remember those days we were talking about how that was a dangerously high baseline heading in to winter? You see how high and how horrific it got.


KING: Well, here's where we are now one year later 39,000 then 163,000 now and with that, sadly comes a return to the high COVID deaths count 1,561 -- 1,561 of your friends, your neighbors fellow Americans dying yesterday of COVID. The low was back in the early summer of 217 one year ago it was at 804. That is another trend line heading horrifically in the wrong direction.

As is this a bit of stabilization but still nearly 100,000 99,000 Americans hospitalized yesterday with COVID one year ago, that number was 39,900. At this point, let's bring in to share his insights and expertise Dr. William Schaffner, Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Schaffner, thank you for your time today.

Dr. Fauci looks at these numbers, the overall hospitalizations and then those frankly, alarming ICU numbers worse in some states than others. It says we're at this breaking point where many hospitals are going to have to make decisions about who gets an ICU bed and who doesn't walk through what that means.

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR, VANDERBELT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, look at what's happened, John, last summer, things of this past summer, things were coming down and then Delta hit right? This highly contagious virus is now spreading across the country, largely unhindered, because there are still so many unvaccinated people.

That results in more hospitalizations, stresses on hospital beds, Intensive Care Unit admissions, there are people with heart attack soon, who may not be able to find the appropriate medical care, because we're all clogged up with COVID patients.

And this trend appears to be continuing particularly in states where mask acceptance and vaccination is still low. Yes, vaccination picked up after the licensure wasn't that great. It sustained in some places like California, they get a gold star.

In my own state, it started to taper off already. And we have so much further to go in order to catch up. So we need to really still get together and get vaccinated. That's the clue to getting some control of this virus, which I'm afraid is still in charge.

KING: Very much so in charge. And to that point about vaccinations number one, if you look at the numbers, you're right, they've essentially plateaued. 416,672, new vaccinations initiating that means first shot as of Saturday, you see there's a bit of a spike as the Delta variant took hold.

Now it's plateaued a little bit. If you look at the polling Dr. Schaffner, there's an improvement in these numbers. 74 percent of Americans say they've already got it 17 percent say they're unlikely to get COVID vaccines period. If you look back, that number was 24 in April and 32, in January.

So it is improving somewhat. But you've raised the key point that as we are urging these unvaccinated Americans to get your shot, you see the collision also coming with the flu season? How do we navigate that both in terms of the public health risk, but also should you get a flu shot and your COVID vaccine at the same time? Should you sequence them?

DR. SCHAFFNER: Well, you can certainly get both at the same time and we'll be starting to get flu vaccine, at the end of this month and intensively during October. John, I think we're going to have to reintroduce flu to the country. Let people know that this is yet another nasty respiratory virus.

And you have to get vaccinated against both. There's no cross protection. And we're worried that this season, we might well have a - kids back in school. We're back at work. We're going out to recreational facilities. We're not wearing our Masks. And we could have flue on top of COVID not an attractive prospect.

KING: No, not at all. I want to just go back to the case count, as you mentioned the collision of the flu season and the COVID winter in the sense that if you look at where we are now, 163,000 cases 39,000 cases on average every day one year ago and look at how high we got in the horrific winter spike?

This is happening now. Dr. Schaffner 160,000 cases a day more than that, as children go back to school you talked about states, hitting harder in states where there's less mass squaring where there are lower vaccinations. Look at some of these headlines just from this past weekend as we go back to school.

This is Virginia, nearly 300 students, staff and quarantine following first week of school in your county. WJLA that's right here the Washington suburbs. Nearly 1000 students quarantined after Montgomery County Schools hit hard. Texas teacher trying to decide about COVID vaccine dies three days after testing.

Euston Chronicle student COVID cases nearly double across Texas in one week. Some of these areas started school before Labor Day the rest of the country kicks in in the week to come. It's a dangerous moment.

DR. SCAFFNER: Well, certainly it is. Schools can be low risk environments, but you have to do everything. First of all, all the adults associated with the school obviously have to be vaccinated along with all those children now 12 and over who can be vaccinated.

[12:20:00] DR. SCHAFFNER: And then of course everyone attending schools, adults and children vaccinated or not, should wear the mask, social distancing, good hygiene, attention to ventilation. If we were able to do all of those things in all of the schools, then the schools would be low risk, as well as everybody in the community getting on board and getting vaccinated. You can protect our children by getting vaccinated yourself if you're an adult.

KING: Dr. Schaffner as always grateful for your expertise, sir, I appreciate it.

DR. SCHAFFNER: Thank you.

KING: Thank you. Ahead for us waterlogged furniture trash piled on sidewalks stretching for blocks, as IDA's widespread impact lingers, more than a week after it first made landfall. We'll speak to the Mayor of one Westchester village still assessing the full extent of the damage.



KING: It's been more than a week since Hurricane IDA slammed into the Gulf Coast. The death toll rising in the Northeast after the catastrophic rain from IDA's remnants caused widespread flooding and damage with at least 50 deaths recorded across six states.

President Biden will visit hard hit communities in New Jersey and New York tomorrow. In Louisiana the death toll is up to 13 now food gas water shelter, still hard to come by for many add to that power may not be restored in some areas until the end of the month. CNN's Nadia Romero joins us now live from Laplace, Louisiana. Nadia, what are you seeing?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well John, this is one of those areas that you talked about that may not see the power restored until the end of the month. We're in Laplace, Louisiana, one of the hardest hit areas by Hurricane IDA. Take a look at the long line that has been forming really since about six o'clock this morning for people who are waiting to get supplies from the storm.

And they're handing out different bottles of water for folks different supplies like diapers and, and baby formula, all of the essentials because people lost everything in the storm during the last week and then also over the last eight days. They haven't had power.

So people here say that all the food and their refrigerators or freezers, it's spoiled. They have mold now growing, we're under yet another heat advisory and they've been grilling as much as they can, but they're just running out of options. They may not get their power restored until September 28th.

So we're talking yet a couple of more weeks before they can have some of those basic necessities. So this is a food distribution and supply giveaway done by the Louisiana Cajun Navy. They say every day since the storm they've been servicing about 1500 cars and giving away about 3000 meals a day, John.

KING: Nadia Romero grateful for your reporting live on the scenes give those people are best as they go through this hardship. I appreciate it very much. Now let's move from Louisiana to the Northeast joining me now is Tom Murphy. He's the Mayor of Mamaroneck, New York Mr. Mayor grateful -- Merrimack, sorry, sir. We're grateful for your time at this moment.

We have some video from Facebook of trash piled up in your streets. And we understand from you yesterday, the town picked up three months' worth of trash in one single day. Where are you today in terms of just the clean up the mess to try to turn the page?

MAYOR TOM MURPHY (D), MAMARONECK, NEW YORK: Well John, thank you first, thanks for having me on. We are still in the process of restoration and recovery. You know, we anticipate picking up that amount of trash for the next few days at least.

We have homes that had 12 feet of water. We have people that are devastated. We have hundreds of people who are out of their home. We have people staying at Red Cross shelters, I can't give enough credit to the DPW and the emergency services of this community.

We have an all-volunteer fire department that saved many, many lives. We did over 150 water rescues. And we have, you know, hundreds of people still out of their homes, and it's going to take us a while to recover. But this is a community that looks out for each other. And there's been a great generosity and support from people who haven't been affected to those who have. And, you know, that gives me hope.

KING: Just last hour the President of the United States approved the New York disaster declaration. I know that was one of the things you said was needed from Washington. How will that help the people of your community?

MURPHY: That's going to help right away. You know, we got in contact with Senator Schumer's office the second we heard about that, we are going to offer the village of Mamaroneck as a staging area for FEMA. We have already sent out information to our residents about how they can apply both businesses and individuals to get some relief from FEMA?

You know, as often happens, John, this has affected the people on a lower economic scale, the hardest people that have the least resiliency, so we want to get them up and running. We want to get their kids back in school. We want to make their families whole again.

KING: President comes that way tomorrow stops in New Jersey stops then in New York City. What do you need to hear from the president right now is this more moment of which help is on the way as specific promises are more that the President of the United States is there to show he cares?

MURPHY: Well, I'm very glad the President of the United States is there to show - and the emergency declaration is really going to be helpful. What this community needs more than anything else John? We were promised an Army Corps of Engineer Plan a few years back, and under the Trump Administration, it was canceled. We have our Senators and our Congressmen --