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State of the Union

Interview With Fmr. Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA); Interview With Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI); Interview With Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD); Interview With CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired May 16, 2021 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Masks off. The CDC says it's OK to take off that mask if you're vaccinated.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We can get back to some sense of normalcy.

BASH: But the surprise move has states scrambling to figure out how best to keep everyone safe. I will speak to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan next.

And rewriting history. A top Republican strikes a deal with Democrats to investigate the Capitol Hill insurrection, as some members are denying the horrors of that day and another is expelled from leadership for telling the truth.

What next? Michigan Republican Congressman Fred Upton joins me exclusively in moments.

Plus: put to the test. A cyberattack that has gas pumps running dry, rockets and missiles flying in the Middle East. As President Biden faces challenges at home and abroad, is he doing enough?

I will speak to former Congresswoman and foreign policy expert Jane Harman ahead.


BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is relieved and confused, after the CDC announced fully vaccinated Americans do not need to wear masks or practice social distancing outside doors or inside, with some exceptions, that decision made after data showed vaccinated people are very unlikely to get sick from COVID, even from variants, and are very unlikely to spread it to others.

Public health experts hope this will be another carrot dangling in front of people who are still hesitant about getting the shots, but, alongside celebrations this week, a fair amount of uncertainty. States and businesses are scrambling to decide whether they can trust the honor system. For example, you can shop at Walmart mask-free, but if you need something at Target, you better run back to the car and grab your mask.

So, some are warning about the CDC's about-face on indoor masking for vaccinated people and whether that will prompt unvaccinated people to also drop their masks.

Well, joining me now is the director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

Dr. Walensky, thank you so much for joining me this morning.

So, as you know by now, this move set off confusion for the 1.21 (sic) million fully vaccinated Americans. You and Dr. Fauci and President Biden told them that they didn't need to wear masks anymore. Almost 20 states, plus companies like Walmart and Starbucks, they're lifting or relaxing their mask mandates.

So, did you mean for this guidance to result in stores and local governments lifting those mask mandates?

WALENSKY: Good morning, Dana. Thanks for having me.

I think we should just take a moment and pause and celebrate where we are in this moment. Cases have come down by about a third just in the last two weeks. Our death rates are as low as they have been since April of 2020. So -- and vaccines are available and eligible -- everyone is eligible above the age of 12.

So, we have a plenty of vaccine. And the science, as you just conveyed, demonstrate that they work. And so that is what allowed us to make this guidance at the individual level.

This was a first step. It was foundational guidance. Everybody's really thinking about what this means now, at this moment, 16 months later, as we really think about opening up. And we needed to sort of set this foundation, based on the science, to make sure people understood as they make their recommendations moving forward.

And we are doing the hard work with them to make those recommendations.

BASH: Yes, and I understand what you mean about a first step. But can you see -- since this is big news for every American, can you see how your guidance that vaccinated people can take their masks off, but requirements from businesses, local governments to keep the masks on, are sending a mixed message?

WALENSKY: Here's what I know.

I know that we need to do the hard work -- this was individual guidance -- to understand what this means for communities, what this means for businesses.

We know, at the individual level, the vaccinated people are safe. More than one-third of Americans have been vaccinated, over 45 percent of adults above the age of 18. Those people are safe when they get vaccinated, after they're fully vaccinated. For those who are unvaccinated, we're really asking those businesses

to work hard to make sure that they have available vaccine for those people, so that they have time off, so -- paid time off, so that they can get their employees vaccinated.

And for those people, we really are asking them to get vaccinated or wear masks to keep themselves safe.

BASH: And what you're describing relies on the honor system for unvaccinated individuals to wear masks.

I want you to listen to what the United Food and Commercial Workers Union leader said on CNN this week about that.


MARC PERRONE, PRESIDENT, UNITED FOOD AND COMMERCIAL WORKERS UNION: They were actually verbally abused and in some cases physically abused by some of the customers.


So, now we have a situation where you really don't know whether or not somebody has been vaccinated or not. And you're going to change them from the mask police to the vaccination police.


BASH: What's the remedy for this, in your view? Should businesses even try to tell who's vaccinated and who is not? Otherwise, it's a free-for-all, as you just heard described.


So, first, I want to convey that we are not saying that everybody has to take off their mask if they're vaccinated. And it's been 16 months that we have been telling people to mask. And this is going to be a slow process.

The other thing is that every community is not the same. Not all communities have vaccination rates that are high. Not all -- and some communities still have case rates that are high. So, these decisions have to be made at the community level.

But what we're saying to those essential workers is that, if those workers are vaccinated, they are safe. So, it's really -- we are really asking the businesses to work with their workers to make sure that they have the paid time off to get themselves vaccinated, so they can be safe.

BASH: Yes. And that makes sense.

I guess I was trying to think there hasn't been an interview that I have done that has -- in recent times that has been so pertinent to people's lives, how they are going to function when they walk out the door as this interview I'm doing with you right now. And so you understand that, for the past year-plus, people have been

hanging on the CDC's every word, every guideline. And so this was a big one. And even the local businesses are relying on you and your guidance to decide what to do and how to function.

WALENSKY: And I completely acknowledge that.

My job as the CDC director, which I promised the American people when I took it, is that I would deliver the science to them and our recommendations to them as we had it. We had two studies that were published the week prior to last, a major study that was published in the MMWR on Friday, that demonstrates that vaccinated people are safe.

Now we have the hard work to do. This was the first building block. We, as a society, have the hard work to do, and we at CDC are doing that work, to say, what does that mean in the whole plethora of settings that we have, in childcare settings, in retail businesses, in schools, in camps, in travel?

What does that foundation, that science that we delivered on Thursday mean for all of these other settings?

BASH: I want to ask you about a scenario that Dr. Leana Wen wrote about in "The Washington Post."

Here's what she said. She said: "Let's say you go to the grocery store. It's crowded and few people are masked. Perhaps everyone is vaccinated, but perhaps not. What if you don't have childcare, so you had to bring your kids along? They didn't choose to remain unvaccinated. The shots aren't available for them? Surely, it's not fair to put them at risk."

So, let's just get practical here. Is it safe for that unvaccinated child, even in a mask, to be in a grocery store when people around them could be unmasked and not following the honor system because they're not vaccinated?

WALENSKY: Thank you for that question.

We were going to be at this period of time. We knew that there was going to be a time where we had the majority of Americans who wanted to be vaccinated vaccinated, and yet the children were not going to be eligible, yes.

And we are working really hard. Let's celebrate the fact that, this week, we also got news that we can vaccinate our 12-to-15-year-olds. We hope, by the fall, by this -- by the end of this year, we will have vaccine eligible -- kids eligible at even younger ranges.

And what we're saying is, those kids should continue to wear masks in those settings. We recognize the challenge of parents who can't leave their kids at home, should be masked in those settings and, to the best of their ability, to keep a distance. Those -- the recommendations for those settings have not changed.

BASH: And do you trust that people who are not vaccinated, given what we have seen over the past year-plus, will actually keep their masks on?

WALENSKY: You know, I think that people who were not inclined to wear masks were not inclined to wear masks before Thursday.

BASH: But some of them were mandated to do so. And those mandates are lifting in part because of your new guidelines.


And what we're really asking in those settings is to say, in terms of the honor system, people have to be honest with themselves. You're protected if you're vaccinated. You're not if you're not vaccinated.

BASH: Just to follow up on something you said about children 12, younger than 12, you said the fall or the end of this year.

Has the timeline changed, because things seem to be moving pretty rapidly?

WALENSKY: No, the timeline hasn't changed.

A lot of this is how many cases they have, what their end points are. So, we're really -- not all of this is something that we can accurately predict, but I'm really hoping by the end of 2021.

BASH: OK. So, let's dig down on those younger kids, kids in general and summer camps.

You know, we're, as parents, making plans for camps for our children. CDC guidelines right now still require distancing and masks at all times, including outdoor sports. There are exceptions, of course, for eating, drinking and swimming and sleeping.


What should Americans expect when it comes to summer camp guidance? Will there be new guidance?

WALENSKY: So, first, maybe...

BASH: And how quickly will it happen?


So, first, I want to say, with regard to schools, because we have gotten a lot of questions about schools, we have asked that schools not -- we will not be changing our guidance for the end of this school year. Most kids will not be vaccinated or fully vaccinated before the end of this year, and we're going to work on updating our school guidance.

But your point about camps is really important. We are -- so much evolved just in this week, both with our guidance with unmasked, if you're vaccinated, as well as the eligibility of vaccination for 12- to-15-year-olds.

So, yes, we do have to rapidly update our school -- our camp guidance. And we're working on that right now.


And you said on PBS this week -- quote -- "What we would recommend is for those with immune-compromising conditions, as well as really any other conditions that affect your health that put you at high risk for disease, that you consult your doctor before you take off your mask."

That's a lot of people you're talking about. So can you clarify what exactly you mean? Are you talking about people who are obese? Are you talking about people who are pregnant, have diabetes?

WALENSKY: So, for the most part, the studies that are evolving now are for people who have immunocompromised and conditions or on medications that interrupt their immune system, so people who have had transplants, people who have -- are on chemotherapy.

There have -- there's been at least one study that demonstrates that, if you're on -- a dialysis patient, that you may not be as well- protected at all, so -- as well -- sorry.

So, what we would recommend is, certainly for people who have immune- compromising diseases or on those medications, to consult their physicians. And, really, again, not everybody has to rip off their mask because our guidance changed on Thursday.

So, yes, if you are concerned, please do consult your physician before you take off your mask.

BASH: If you were a pregnant woman, would you keep your mask on?

WALENSKY: We're encouraging pregnant women to get vaccinated. We do have increasing data now that pregnant women should get vaccinated.

That's going to really be an individual-by-individual decision. And so it really just depends on how much risk you're willing to tolerate, how hard it is for that -- for you to wear that mask, how much disease is in your community.

BASH: Are you aware of any fully vaccinated individual who has died of COVID-19?

WALENSKY: We do keep a track of this on our Web site.

We are asking hospitals and health care facilities to send us cases of what we're calling breakthrough infections. They occur. They are rare. We are aware of 223 as of May 10 that are among the 115 million people that had been vaccinated by that time.

I also want to convey that now many, many hospitals are screening people for COVID when they come in, so not all of those 223 cases who had COVID actually died of COVID. They may have had mild disease, but died, for example, of a heart attack.

BASH: So, case -- you said 223 cases, but no confirmed deaths of people who are vaccinated from COVID? WALENSKY: Two hundred twenty -- I'm sorry. There have been 223 deaths out of 115 million...

BASH: Got it. Thank you for clarifying that.

WALENSKY: ... people who have been vaccinated, an extraordinarily -- an extraordinarily low rate, when you consider the death rate of COVID itself.

BASH: Thank you so much.

And I think what you started with is important. This is really, really good news. Thank you to scientists. Thank you for making this time possible. And it's just a question of what it means, because, as a parent, and I'm sure you know as well, not just as a scientist, it's been confusing.

So, hopefully, we will get it worked out very soon.

Dr. Walensky, thank you so much.

WALENSKY: Thanks for having me, Dana.

BASH: And, as states and store owners trying to figure out what to do about the new CDC guidance, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan will be here to discuss putting it into practice.

And he chose truth over Trump, just like Liz Cheney, so where does veteran Congressman Fred Upton stand where -- when it comes to his own party right now?

I will ask him.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash.

Last week, House Republicans voted out their number three leader, Liz Cheney, for telling the truth about former President Trump and the January 6 Capitol attacks.

Well, this week, House Republicans will take another vote on a bipartisan deal to form a commission to examine those attacks, even as several House Republicans are trying to rewrite history about that terrible day.

My next guest was at the Capitol during the attacks of January 6 and voted to impeach President Trump over it.

Joining me now is Republican Congressman Fred Upton of Michigan.

Thank you so much for joining me, Congressman.

So, your colleagues working to form a January 6 commission said they struck a bipartisan deal. GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy says he's still looking into it.

Do you support the proposal? And would you like to see McCarthy support it?

REP. FRED UPTON (R-MI): Absolutely, I support it.

John Katko has done a remarkable job as the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee. He's a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, of which I'm a vice chair. And he has been working very hard the last number of weeks now, like five to six weeks, on trying to craft a deal that really does make sense that will bring Republican support to it.

You will remember that, initially, Speaker Pelosi said that it was going to be a partisan commission. It was going to be seven Democrats, four Republicans. Virtually all of us have balked at that, said that's not really fair.

So, they have moved. The Democrats have moved. I have talked to the -- Steny Hoyer and others. This is an equal -- equal commission. They have subpoena power. Both sides have to agree to it. You have to have a majority vote. Has to be done before the end of the year.


BASH: Yes.

UPTON: It's not going to be current sitting members of Congress.

So, I think it's going to be fair. It should get a good number of votes. And, yes, I do hope Kevin McCarthy supports it.

BASH: So, Leader McCarthy spoke to then-President Trump at -- on January 6, as the rioters were inside the Capitol.

Liz Cheney said he should testify before the commission. Do you agree?

UPTON: Yes, well, sense is that that body, the 10 people that are there, are going to subpoena a number of folks.

I would suspect -- and I'm not a lawyer -- I would suspect that Kevin will be subpoenaed. He will be asked to give his rendition of what happened, as will a number of members of Congress that were there, whether they were barricading the doors inside the chamber.

I wasn't actually in the chamber when it happened. But I was obviously on Capitol Hill. I have some broken glass, in fact, that I picked up when we returned from votes that night -- for votes that night.

But, yes, they're going to subpoena a number of people. It's important to get to the truth and find out just how widespread this thing was, and what can we do to make sure that it never can happen again?

BASH: Speaking of the truth, some of your Republican colleagues are trying to rewrite history about the January 6 insurrection.

Listen to what some of them said this week.


REP. PAUL GOSAR (R-AZ): The DOJ is harassing, harassing peaceful patriots across the country.

REP. JODY HICE (R-GA): It was Trump supporters who lost their lives that day, not Trump supporters who were taking the lives of others.

REP. ANDREW CLYDE (R-GA): It was not an insurrection.

You know, if you didn't know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.


BASH: Congressman Upton, what's your response to those statements from your Republican colleagues?

UPTON: Bogus. It's absolutely bogus. It's absolutely bogus.

I was there. I watched a number of the folks walk down to the White House and then back. I have got a balcony on my office. So, I saw them go down. I heard the noise, the flashbangs, smelled the some of the gas as it moved my way, obviously was watching live the live video. It was carried on all the networks at the time.

Talked to a number of the SWAT team members after it was over, obviously talked to some of my colleagues who were in the chamber. And I spent some time with Officer Fanone, the Metropolitan Police officer whose bodycam was -- you all aired it earlier this week, but it's been widely now available.

I saw firsthand what that was. And it did not change my opinion from what I personally saw back on January 6.

BASH: Does it make you angry when you hear your Republican colleagues do that?

UPTON: So, it's important that we do this -- well, I just -- someone said earlier this week that one of my colleagues who said some of those things was actually in the chamber, hearing the noise, heard the shots.

BASH: So, what are they doing? What -- I mean...

UPTON: I don't know how you can be a better witness if...

BASH: So, what are they doing here? Why are they doing this?

UPTON: Well, that's why it's important -- I don't know.


UPTON: I don't know what their motivation is. But I know that, as I talked to some colleagues even again this week

who were in the chamber, it was terribly frightening. It was -- they -- and they knew that, by stopping some of those folks from getting inside to the House chamber, it probably -- it probably saved their lives.

I saw the gallows that were constructed on the East Front of the Capitol. I have talked -- one of the police officers, Capitol Hill police officers, is from my hometown. I spent some time with him. It was chilling, what happened, absolutely chilling.

And that's why I think that it's important that we move forward with this bipartisan commission, get the facts out...

BASH: Yes.

UPTON: ... try to assure the American public this is what happened...

BASH: But...

UPTON: ... and let the facts lead us to the conclusion.

BASH: Let's talk more broadly about the state of your party.

Your friend and colleague Liz Cheney, of course, was replaced with Elise Stefanik as conference chair this week.

I want you to listen to what Congresswoman Cheney had to say right after she was voted out.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We must go forward based on truth. We cannot both embrace the big lie and embrace the Constitution.

I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.


BASH: Congressman Upton, you have been a member of Congress since 1987. You have seen a lot of ups and downs. You're one of only 10 Republicans who voted to impeach President Trump.

How worried are you about the future of your party and, more broadly, democracy?

UPTON: Well, a couple of things. We only win by addition, not subtraction.


I was a supporter of Liz. I have gotten to know her quite well over the last number of months, for sure. You're not going to win elections unless you have that big tent. So, I was very disappointed about what we did. She accepted that it

should go by a voice vote earlier this week. And so that's the way that it happened.

It's the president, former president, that continues, and even yesterday, about the big lie about the election being stolen. We're not going to win unless we're a big tent. And we're not going to win unless we add to our base, not subtract from it...

BASH: Does it...

UPTON: ... certainly in '24.

BASH: Does it concern you that your own party leadership now, to a person, subscribes to a former president who, in your words, is still pushing the big lie?

UPTON: Well, it sort of is what it is. It's just the way that it is.

We all run our own races. We all have our district operations. We're all -- for me, I have never been afraid to be for or against a particular president, regardless of party, and trying to get things done. That's always been my mission.

And I know that, as you look to the future, we have to have somewhat of that independent voice, particularly from purple states or purple districts. You can't be a rubber stamp. What works in Southwest Michigan is entirely different than what happens in Plano, Texas.

BASH: Yes. Well, it's certainly not easy.

I appreciate you coming on. And I appreciate you speaking the truth. It's important for those of us in the media who are trying to get the truth out to hear.

So, thank you, Congressman Upton. Appreciate it.

UPTON: Thanks.

BASH: And his father broke with the GOP to push Richard Nixon out, but what would happen to him in today's Republican Party?

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan joins me next.




GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): Today is the day that so many of us have been waiting for and working toward. We finally do clearly see that light at the end of the tunnel. Our long, hard-fought battle against the worst global pandemic in more than a century is finally nearing an end.


BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Dana Bash.

Lots of smiles and some confused faces after the CDC said it's OK for vaccinated Americans to unmask indoors. The decision caught many states by surprise. Some are still deciding how to respond.

Joining me now is Republican Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, which, as of yesterday, lifted it statewide mask mandate.

Governor, thank you so much for joining me.

HOGAN: Good morning.

BASH: So, you have said that masks are still strongly recommended for unvaccinated individuals, but they're not required legally anymore in your state of Maryland. So, why not keep the mandate in place for unvaccinated people to protect their health and incentivize them to get shots?

HOGAN: Well, look, we're making tremendous progress.

This really is a hopeful time. And we have -- all of our health metrics are just doing terrific. We're down below 2 percent on our positivity. Hospitalizations are down. And it's the result of these vaccines that work.

And we have got -- we have vaccinated two-thirds of the people in the state, 87 percent of all the vulnerable people, the folks over 65. And it's made a huge difference.

But we -- the CDC came out with guidance, and we're following that guidance. But the governors of states have to actually operationalize it. And it just -- it's very hard. You can't -- there's no way to differentiate between vaccinated and unvaccinated people from a legal requirement basis.

So, we're still advising people that are not yet vaccinated that it will help keep them safe. The people that are vaccinated, they're completely safe and ready to go about getting their lives back to normal.

BASH: There's no way to differentiate between unvaccinated and vaccinated from a legal requirement point of view.

That's interesting, because the big question, as you're alluding to, is businesses. How do you function?


BASH: How do you maintain mask requirements, if you're a business, when you don't really know who is vaccinated and who isn't? I mean, it's very, very difficult.

So, what is your answer to the businesses in your state? HOGAN: Well, so, we're giving the businesses the flexibility to do

what they think is right, depending on the type of business and their clientele, their customers, their workers.

They have the right to take actions, just like telling people no shirt, no shoes, no service. But it's not going to be something that's legally mandated from either the federal or the state government.

BASH: So...

HOGAN: But individuals and businesses get to make their own decisions.

BASH: So, should they be -- so, should they, businesses, be allowed to ask their customers for proof of vaccination, just like they're telling them that they have to wear a shirt and shoes?

HOGAN: You know, I don't think that's really going to happen in that -- we -- I said two-thirds of our state has already been vaccinated, but I would say less than 5 percent of them are carrying around some card saying that they have been.

So, it's just going to make a decision. I think they're just going to decide everyone wears a mask or everyone doesn't wear a mask, rather than trying to pick and choose winners and losers.

BASH: So, House Republicans ousted Congressman -- Congresswoman Liz Cheney from party leadership this week over her criticism of former President Trump and the big lie.

You have praised Congresswoman Cheney, and then you have spoken out against Donald Trump as well.


Does her removal send a signal that people like her, and, by extension, people like you, Governor, are not welcome in today's Republican Party?

HOGAN: Well, it certainly appears to send that signal.

But I would just caution everybody to say that this is very early in the fight. I have said that this is a four-year battle for the soul of the Republican Party. We have got another election coming up next year, in 2022.

I think it was a mistake. Liz Cheney is a solid conservative Republican who voted with the president 93 percent of the time. I thought she just stood up and told the truth and said exactly what she thought. And to ostracize somebody, remove them from their leadership position, it's crazy.

I mean, it's kind of doubling down on failure. We have lost the White House, the House and the Senate over the past four years. And to continue to do the exact same thing and expect a different result is the definition of insanity. BASH: Do you agree with Congresswoman Cheney that former President

Trump poses, in her words, an ongoing threat to American democracy?

HOGAN: I think he's toxic for the Republican Party and for the country.

And I think we have got to -- we have got to find a way to get the Republican Party back to the party of Lincoln and Reagan, get back to the more traditional big tent party that can appeal to a majority of people. Otherwise, we simply aren't going to have control, we're not going to get the White House back, and we won't have control of the House and the Senate.

BASH: So, how do you do that, given the fact that your entire party leadership in the House is on the side of the big lie?

HOGAN: Well, I would -- I know that folks like you and I pay a lot of attention about what's going on in the House Republican politics, but the average person across America, I don't think, does.

And those folks in the House of Representatives don't represent all of the views of all the people in the country. And there are leaders outside of Washington, Republican governors, that...

BASH: But they do represent a lot of the Republican base.

HOGAN: Yes, they do rep -- look, we don't want to alienate the entire Republican base, but we also have to tell them the truth.

And we also have to figure out a way to move on, so that we can win elections. We have to have the base. And then you have got to go appeal to other people, like I have done in the bluest state in the country, getting reelected by broadening the tent. That's the way you win elections.

BASH: At a House hearing this week, Republican after Republican distorted the facts about the Capitol insurrection.

Georgia Congressman Andrew Clyde, who you can see he is here at the center of this photo barricading the House chamber doors on January 6, compared what you're looking at right now, what our viewers are, Governor, to a normal tourist visit.

You, Governor, since you're local in D.C., you spent January 6 fielding desperate calls from lawmakers asking for help.

So, why are so many of these elected Republicans lying about what happened that day?

HOGAN: Well, it's definitely revisionist history.

And it's crazy, in my opinion. I mean, everybody saw exactly what happened. And I was in the middle of that, as you say. We were getting desperate calls from the leaders of Congress, who were under attack. And the Capitol Police were overwhelmed. We sent into the Maryland State Police and the Maryland National Guard to try to put down the insurrection.

And people to say that didn't happen, it's just -- it's just nuts.

BASH: Governor, I drove by a gas station in Maryland yesterday. The line was 20 cars' long, probably more.

There are a lot of places up and down the East Coast with no gas at all, thanks to panic buying, after the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack. What does this tell you about the vulnerabilities of America's infrastructure?

HOGAN: Well, it's certainly a wakeup call.

We have been -- I led a yearlong initiative for the NGA on rebuilding America's infrastructure. And part of that was focused on resiliency and on securing our energy assets. And cybersecurity is a huge issue that -- we're going to continue to deal with these problems.

But this showed the vulnerability. It's a -- it was just a tremendous problem that we have got to address.

And that's one of the reasons why we need to get a bipartisan consensus on an infrastructure bill. And I'm working along with Congressman Upton and a number of others, the Problem Solvers Caucus, and Joe Manchin. We're trying to reach that bipartisan agreement.

BASH: Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, thank you so much for your time this morning. I appreciate it.

HOGAN: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: Thank you.

And an Israeli airstrike destroys the building housing the Associated Press in Gaza. As the U.N. warns the region may be headed toward full- scale war, is it time for the Biden administration to be more involved?

Former Congresswoman and foreign policy expert Jane Harman weighs in next.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

The Palestinian Health Ministry says dozens were killed overnight in Gaza, making the deadliest day yet in the now weeklong conflict, while Israel says that Hamas has already fired nearly 3,000 rockets at Israel at a faster pace than any of the recent conflicts with Palestinians.

On Saturday, the White House said President Biden spoke directly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and expressed grave concern over escalating military attacks, especially civilian Palestinian casualties.

But those calls seem to have done little to calm tensions.

Joining me now is former Congresswoman and Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee Jane Harman. She is the author of a timely new book, "Insanity Defense: Why Our Failure to Confront Hard National Security Problems Makes Us Less Safe."


Thank you so much for joining me this morning.

The civilian death toll in Gaza is growing. Does the U.S., and President Biden in particular, need to take a more active role in bringing this conflict to an end?

FMR. REP. JANE HARMAN (D-CA): Well, the sad truth, Dana, is that we can't want peace on the ground more than the parties want peace on the ground.

And, certainly, I have been in favor of a two-state solution for decades. But my point in "Insanity Defense" is, we keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. And the different result will only come here if the Palestinians and Israelis make it happen.

President Biden calling Mahmoud Abbas is fine, but he is the leader of the Palestinian Authority, which basically doesn't have much to do with Hamas, the terrorist organization. We don't talk to Hamas.

And what's happened here, in my view, is that both sides have escalated this to a point where I worry that we won't be -- they won't be able to crawl back.

I mean, like the thousands of rockets and hundreds of casualties are heartbreaking, more on the Palestinian side, but on the Israeli side too. Israel has the benefit of Iron Dome, something I supported as a member of Congress, which protects it from rockets. But Pales -- but the Hamas -- Gaza has none of that.

And so Israel is destroying the tunnel system under Gaza, which it has been a pernicious thing, but it's also taking out Hamas leadership. That's what's going on.

BASH: Progressive Democrats are increasingly pushing your party to more forcefully condemn Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

You have seen Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar also accused the Biden administration of supporting -- quote -- "an oppressive occupation." Senator Bernie Sanders said the U.S. should stop...

HARMAN: Right.

BASH: ... being an apologist for the Netanyahu government.

How is the increasing prominence of progressive voices in the Democratic Party going to affect how the Biden administration deals with this?

HARMAN: Well, this has been going on for years.

There has been a split in the Democratic Party. The BDS movement is reflective of that split. And the sadness is that Israel has always depended on rock-solid bipartisan support in the U.S. And now the Democratic support is somewhat split.

Will it affect Biden? Maybe. But the idea that we should all support is Israel as a Jewish state and a pluralist democracy. And one of the things we're seeing is that Israeli Arabs inside Israel are now pulling -- protesting their own government.

So, what do I think should happen? Let's see where the leadership contest in Israel goes. Bibi is the ultimate survivor, Bibi Netanyahu. And this whole action came days before he might have lost control of his government. But, also, Mahmoud Abbas was supposed to call elections, and he deferred because the polls didn't look good for him. And he said it was because of Israelis preventing the Palestinians from voting in East Jerusalem.

But, again, let's come back to the leadership there. They have to want this.

And one more thing. Biden properly, finally, has a national security strategy, something I call for in my book. And that strategy is to make foreign policy relevant to Americans. And this conflict, sadly, is relevant, in the sense that there are many pro-Israel Americans.

But we have to find a way, I think, to stand somewhat above it, to look at the Middle East as a region. Someone quipped yesterday that it's like the Hotel California. You can check in whenever you want, but you can never leave. But it is important for the U.S. to do what we're trying to do in Afghanistan to keep, to the extent we can, the Abraham Accords, a good initiative of the Trump administration, going, and to negotiate a much broader, hopefully, outcome that the people on the ground endorse.

BASH: Well, let me ask you about the Abraham Accords, because President Trump really touted that as a way to normalize relations between Israel and a number of Arab countries, called it the dawn of a new Middle East.

But he also cut out Palestinians of the peace process.

HARMAN: Right.

BASH: He openly supported Israeli settlements -- settlements in Palestinian territories, ended aid to Gaza and the West Bank.

So, did that approach help lead to where they are now?

HARMAN: Unfortunately, yes.

I supported the Abraham Accords because I think that what had been going on informally, which was conversations between the Sunni Arab states and Israel, now became formal. Good idea.

But cutting out the Palestinians was, I think, a grave mistake.

BASH: Yes.

HARMAN: And President Biden was right to restore aid. And it fueled all of this anger and dissatisfaction.

But let's understand that Mahmoud Abbas also postponed an election that would have, could have led to better leadership, and maybe the reintegration of Gaza and the West Bank into a more coherent and more responsible government.


BASH: Congresswoman, we're almost out of time.

But your book, the "Insanity Defense," comes from that old saying that you have talked about, even Congress, Governor Hogan talked about it, that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.

Real quick, that applies, obviously, to the Mideast conflict. But President Biden was hoping to redirect to competing with China.


BASH: Does the premise of your book make it clear that he just can't do that because of the realities?

HARMAN: No, I think he can do that.

And, again, I think his interim national security strategy to make foreign -- to take the foreign out of foreign policy and make it relevant to Americans is right on.

The one thing that sad is to see this incredible breakdown in Congress, especially of the Republican Party in the House...

BASH: Yes.

HARMAN: ... because, as I say in my last chapter, we have the incredible shrinking Congress.

And Congress has to be an equal partner in forging a coherent and important and effective foreign policy.

BASH: Well said. It is first in the Constitution.

Thank you so much, Congresswoman Jane Harman. Appreciate it.

HARMAN: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: Before we go we want to underline an important milestone, the news this week that vaccinated people can remove their masks. We talked a lot on this program about the fact that there are still a lot of questions about the safest way to implement the change but the return towards normalcy is so welcome. We want to say thank you to scientists for making it possible.

The news continues next.