tv Meet the Press MSNBC August 23, 2021 1:00am-2:01am PDT
they were declaring to me, in the world, that i'm innocent. >> curtis lovelace, a life interrupted. ♪♪ this sunday, chaos, fear and desperation in afghanistan. >> of course, they will kill us. >> as u.s. troops struggle to restore order at kabul's airport. >> they run behind you with an ak-47. boom, boom, boom, boom. >> president biden defended the decision. >> the idea that there's a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, i don't know how that happens. >> and makes this promise. >> let me be clear. any american who wants to come home, we will get you home. >> but the u.s. is relying on the taliban to allow safe
passage of americans and our allies. >> my guests this morning, national security adivsor jake sullivan and republican congresswoman liz cheney of wyoming. plus, our numb nbc news poll. new numbers on president biden's approval rating, his handling of covid, the economy in a deeply divided country. also, kids, schools, and covid. cases rising nationwide. >> the situation is dire, and we are simply out of time. >> with more and more children now falling in -- >> critically, critically ill children. >> -- local school districts are pushing back against statewide bans on mask mandates. >> these school boards are having to essentially protect kids from their own governors. >> i'll talk to education secretary miguel cardona about the fight over masking children. joining me for insight and analysis are, nbc news national washington correspondent andrea mitchell, stephen hayes, founder of "the dispatch," helene cooper, pentagon correspondent from "the new york times" and leo shane, deputy editor of "the military times." welcome to sunday.
it's "meet the press." >> announcer: from nbc news in washington, the longest running show in television history, this is "meet the press" with chuck todd. good sunday morning. we'll get right to it. one week after the taliban took total control of kabul, the crisis at kabul airport remains a scene of chaos and panic. fearful crowds are now being harassed and menaced by fighters. they're still desperately trying to get into the airport and out of afghanistan. now, on top of all of this, there's an isis threat against americans in the area as well. so we're going to get right to our chief foreign correspondent richard engel. he's been covering this. obviously was in kabul. now in doha, ka ta, where a lot of these planes from kabul are landing. richard, who is making it out? >> reporter: nobody really knows. people who could get onto the base, could convince the marines that they had a sympathetic case. some have paperwork. some do not.
some are unaccompanied minors. it's really a mixed bag. that's part of the problem here, that this was initially supposed to be evacuation for very limited people who are american citizens, foreign contractors, foreign nationals, and those who worked with american troops and were at risk. but now there is total panic in kabul. people are rushing to that base, so it is very, very difficult, because you have really half a base that is trying to do this evacuation plan, this extraction plan to try and pull out the people that the united states wants to pull out, but also so many others are flooding in at the same time. >> richard, do we have any idea how many more people who are -- who should be getting out, american citizens and our allies, are left to be gotten out, do we have a good idea of what number that is? >> reporter: not really. thousands certainly. the state department has lists,
but a lot of people in kabul were not done filling out their forms, were never able to fill out their forms. there are a lot of people in afghanistan who think they should qualify because they worked in some sort of peripheral way for the americans. so there are many, many people who qualify to get out, and then you have -- pretty soon it will be millions of people in kabul who are trying to get out, trying to rush to that half of a base. so is it surprising that there is a threat against them from isis, this very extremist group? they're telling them all to congregate in one place. they need another staging area. >> that's for sure, and then some, and perhaps more troops. richard engel in dohar, qatar, glad you got out. look. politicians in four parties have their fingers on afghanistan's 20-year policy. it's now president biden who has become the face of this disastrous withdrawal. we have a new nbc news poll taken as americans were witnessing this chaos in kabul. mr. biden's approval rating stands at a fairly mediocre 49%,
48% disapproving in our polarized politics. that isn't the end of the world. if you compare it to last april when the numbers were 53% approved, 39% disapproved, you start to see erosion. not surprisingly, approval of mr. biden's handling of the situation in afghanistan is extremely low, just 25%. but the president's overall slippage is less about afghanistan than about two other issues. approval of his handling of the coronavirus is down a whopping 16 points, just 53% approve now, 69% in april. approval of his handling of the economy is standing at 49%. that's upside down now. it was 52%. mr. biden has three weeks to set things right in afghanistan. let's be honest, with headlines like this one in "the economist," the humid an tragedy in this forever war is threatening to be a forever stain on mr. biden's presidency.
>> let me be clear. any american who wants to come home, we will let you home. >> president biden defending the chaotic u.s. withdrawal from afghanistan. >> we have no indication that they haven't been able to get in kabul through the airport. we have made an agreement with the taliban thus far. they've allowed them to go through. >> i can say definitively that that is completely untrue. >> david fox is an american still in afghanistan. >> the only way you can actually get to the u.s. marines is by fighting your way in, just by pure physical, you know, brutal force. >> defense secretary lloyd austin told lawmakers on friday that americans trying to leave afghanistan have been harassed and even beaten by taliban fighters. it's not clear how many americans remain in afghanistan. >> we don't have a perfect figure of how many are in afghanistan, let alone kabul. if you're an american and you're at a gate, you'll be let in that gate. >> thousands of afghans continue to crowd the airport, barred from entering by taliban
shooting, flash bangs and whips. >> they run behind you with ak-47, boom, boom, boom, boom. >> the u.s. says it will bring up to 22,000 afghans to the united states and facilitate more to other countries. the international rescue committee estimates more than 300,000 afghan civilians have been affiliated with the united states mission since 2001. >> if you go outside, of course, they will kill us. >> i'm old enough to remember saigon. this is a lot worse than saigon in 1975. >> despite the president's claims -- >> i have seen no question of our credibility from our allies around the world. >> -- some u.s. allies are criticizing the president and questioning america's role in the world. >> this is a catastrophe. >> to see their commander-in-chief to call into question the courage of men i fought with, to claim that they ran, shameful. >> this is a shame on all of us, not just america, but also the whole of nato. >> president biden ran on competence and good judgment. how much will be chaos in
afghanistan erode his standing. just 25% of americans approve of his current handling of afghanistan, americans are sour on the war overall. 61% saying it wasn't worth it. >> send your sons, your daughters, like my son was sent to iraq to maybe die, and for what? for what? >> joining me now is president biden's national security adviser jake sullivan. mr. sullivan, welcome to "meet the press." >> thanks for having me. >> i want to start with the security situation around the airport in kabul. it appears to be deteriorating. there's now a threat from isis, terror attacks against americans. is the administration considering sending more troops to try to secure the perimeter and secure the area? >> at the moment we believe we have sufficient forces on the ground, but every single day the president asks his military commanders, including those at the airport and those at the pentagon whether they need additional resources, additional
troops. so far the answer has been no. he'll ask again today. >> how many americans have trying to get out of afghanistan? this has been a question you've been asked numerous times, and we haven't known the answer. on this sunday morning, do we know the answer? >> well, we know that it's roughly a few thousand, chuck. let me explain to the american people why we don't exactly know. because when people come to afghanistan who are american citizens, we ask them to register with the u.s. embassy. many leave and never deregister or others come and choose not to register in the first place. of course, as americans, that's their right. we've been working for the past few days to get fidelity on as much as possible. we have reached out to thousands of americans by phone, email, text, and we're working on plans to, as we get in touch with people, give them direction for the best and most safe and most effective way for them to get into the airport.
>> about our afghan allies, how many are you committed to getting out of the country? >> just yesterday, chuck, we flew out a total -- facilitated the flight out of 7,800 people, 3,900 on u.s. military aircraft, 3,900 on charter aircraft from private organizations and other countries. since the beginning of this evacuation, it's been 30,000 people total. since august 14th, it's been 25,000. we're going to continue that in the days ahead and get out thousands more afghans who are at risk and/or who supported the u.s. military effort in afghanistan along with continuing to ensure that we're focused on getting american citizens out who want to leave the country. >> i want to understand this august 31st deadline because this is what the president said on friday about a so-called agreement with the taliban. i want to play it. >> we have no indication that they haven't been able to get in kabul through the airport. we made an agreement with the taliban thus far. they've allowed them to go
through. it's in their interest for them to go through. >> all right. i want to understand this agreement with the taliban. what is this agreement, and what was agreed to? >> so the agreement with the taliban, which is produced and reinforced daily through contacts in military channels on the ground in kabul, is that american citizens get passage to the airport, get the opportunity to pass through any checkpoints on the way to the airport, and then it's our responsibility to get them inside. one of the challenges, as you know, chuck, is once arriving at the airport, the three main gates coming into the airport have been crowded with large numbers of afghans, just ordinary afghans who want to get on a plane out of the country. so we've been spending the last period working out various operational solutions to get americans onto the air base. we are continuing to work with the taliban to ensure that any american who faces any
challenge getting from their home to the airport, that that gets resolved, that they be able to have safe passage. then it's up to us to get them inside the airport. that's what we're doing now. >> it seems, though, that americans are getting harassed by the taliban, and our allies are getting harassed by them. what's the fallout for the taliban if they're reneging on this agreement? >> if in the end americans are blocked from getting to the airport, blocked from leaving the country or our operations are disrupted or our evacuations are in some way interfered with, we have explained to them that there will be a swift and forceful response. >> what does the taliban get in return if you believe they've upheld this agreement that you guys have negotiated with them? >> this isn't some kind of quid pro quo. we haven't made any commitments. we have laid out our expectations. we have explained to them that the united states of america intends to evacuate any american who wants to leave, as well as
afghans at risk. we intend to follow through on that, and we intend to ensure that they follow through on that. >> look, there's a lot of after-action reports that are going to come out, a lot of this fallout. it seems as if the core mistake here, it appears, in your withdrawal plan was pulling the military out before the civilians and before our allies. why did the military get withdrawn before the civilians? in hindsight, that looks like just a catastrophic mistake. >> which civilians are you referring to, chuck? >> our american diplomats, the americans to get out, our afghan allies, all the people we wanted to get out. why did we withdraw the military and our military support before we could get them out? why did we hand over bagram before we got those people out? >> let me start with our diplomats, because the plan from the beginning was to sustain a u.s. diplomatic presence in kabul after our military departed. that was the plan from the beginning, and because we believed, if necessary, we could
draw down our embassy presence in a crisis and get our diplomats out. we had a plan in place to do that. we did that. with respect to americans citizens in kabul, we began messaging them months ago telling them the situation was deteriorating and they should leave the country. we explained to them, if they didn't have the financial resources to be able to leave the country, those resources would be provided to them. many chose to stay right till the end. that, of course, was their choice. then what we did was made sure that we had a plan in place with the president ordering three military battalions pre-positioned in the gulf to be able to fly in and secure that airfield so those american citizens could be evacuated. we're doing that now. finally, when it comes to bagram, the best military advice that we received was that, number one, bagram is an immense facility that would be difficult to secure over time and put our troops at risk, and second, it didn't logistically make sense from an evacuation perspective
because it is located outside of kabul, and both american diplomats, american citizens, and most of the afghans at risk live inside kabul. that's the reason for bagram, which was the recommendation offered to the president by his national security experts at the pentagon and elsewhere. >> so you followed the military advice on closing bagram, but the same military advisers were telling you to keep a force on the ground. they told you not to pursue this withdrawal agreement with the taliban, correct? >> there are strategic judgments that a president makes, and there are tactical judgments that you give absolute premium to the commanders on the ground to make. if a commander on the ground says i need this resource or this move to accomplish my mission or keep my people safe, you weigh that very heavily. when it comes to the fundamental question of whether the united states should remain in a civil war in afghanistan with american men and women fighting and dying for a third decade, that is a presidential call, not a call by
anyone at the pentagon or the state department or the intelligence department. >> the president said on monday you plan for every contingency. if this is a plan, it doesn't look like it's been well thought out. did you really plan for this contingency, or is this the one contingency you didn't plan for? >> you know, chuck, i know the scenes around the airport are heartbreaking. large crowds of people wanting to leave. i know that there is complexity and there is turbulence on the ground in kabul, and it's very risky and dangerous because there's a genuine threat from isis-k. that's the reality of what we're up against. i'm not going to sugarcoat that reality. chuck, let's just review what has happened. a week after kabul fell, we have 30,000 people evacuated from the country. we have control of an airport in a city controlled by the other side after the collapse of the government. we are moving people through and
out, thousands of people at a time. we have agreements with 26 nations around the world to logistically move africans and americans and third country nationals out of the country and to air bases throughout neighboring countries and further afield. all of that within seven days. no plan survives first contact with reality. no plan can account for every contingency that occurs at a tactical level on a day-to-day basis. what you do is you adjust. we've adjusted, and while we're continuing to face genuine challenges, we believe we are making progress. >> jake sullivan, national security adviser to president biden, i appreciate you coming on and sharing the administration's perspective. good luck. >> thanks for having me, chuck. joining me now is republican congresswoman liz cheney of wyoming. congresswoman cheney, welcome back to "meet the press." >> thank you, chuck. >> i know you disagree with the withdrawal decision sort of overall, but let's focus short term here for a moment.
the national security adviser did say, if the president gets advice that more resources are needed to get americans out, then he would be open to that. given the situation, should that be the next course of action? >> we have to ensure that we get every american out. and we have to ensure that we get out the afghans who helped us. that's our duty. that's our responsibility. as you pointed out, chuck, what you're watching unfold on the ground is a complete catastrophe. to hear the national security adviser say, well, it's a little complexity, a little turbulence, or that this is a civil war is fundamentally at odds with reality. our mission in afghanistan was to deny terrorists a sanctuary. the biden decision now to completely withdraw has handed them an entire country, has, in fact, ensured, not just the taliban, but al qaeda, isis, the haqqani network, terrorist organizations that want to attack the united states now have an entire country as a sanctuary from which to do so. >> is the taliban a direct threat to the united states or not? >> absolutely. >> what makes you say that? >> absolutely. well, we know. the facts make me say it.
we know the taliban has never renounced al qaeda. this is one of the things that was such an indefensible step by the trump administration. when president trump and secretary of state pompeo decided that they were going to sign a surrender agreement with the taliban -- >> president trump's national security adviser, h.r. mcmaster, basically accused secretary of state pompeo at the time and the president. he called it a surrender agreement. >> it is, absolutely. because we sat down and negotiated with terrorists, because we completely excluded the afghan government from those negotiations. we gave credibility to the taliban. secretary pompeo told us that the taliban was going to renounce al qaeda. they told us that the taliban was going to fight terrorists. they forced the afghan national government -- we did, to release 5,000 prisoners. so we completely undercut the
afghan national government, absolutely emboldened the taliban. we know from public reporting that the moment that agreement was signed, the taliban went to members of the afghan national army and said, the americans are leaving you, you should lay down your arms when the time comes or we'll kill you and your families. that led directly to the catastrophe we're seeing today. >> do you think president biden could have gotten out of that agreement? he feels as if we would have paid a high price, maybe even with more attacks on our soldiers on the ground. >> i think there's no question -- president biden is the president of the united states. he's had no problem in reversing course on other things. he decided he's going to rejoin the jcpoa, rejoin the paris climate accord. he's reversed a number of decisions of the trump administration. so in this circumstance where absolutely the u.s. national security requirement was to maintain a presence on the ground, to help to frankly embolden and train the afghans who are bearing the brunt of this and fighting for us, president biden ignored the advice of his military
leadership and decided instead he's going to withdraw. all you need to do is look at what is unfolding today, look at the interview we just heard. the fact that we're now somehow relying on the taliban to protect americans -- and the white house is denying what we know is happening on the ground which is americans are being beaten, prevented from getting to the gates of the airport, and they're probably being held hostage. >> ten years ago we had a poll that showed over 70% of americans thought that this was going to end without being able to leave a stable democracy in afghanistan. in some ways the american public foresaw this a decade again. the american public now who don't like what they see on the ground, 60% say this isn't worth it. that seems to be why there's no political support -- four presidents in a row have tried to get out because the public has not been with them. isn't that fundamentally why we're getting out? >> i actually look at it the other way, chuck. we need to have leaders who will tell the public what's necessary, who will help to
explain why, in fact, we need to have a presence on the ground in afghanistan. so when you've got three president in a row having said we have to get out -- >> even president bush was trying to find a way out. >> i think there's no question we have to maintain, need to maintain a presence on the ground. 3,500 forces, counterterrorist operations, counterintelligence operations. that allowed us to have the kind of assurance that the taliban would not, in fact, take over as they have done and create now a brand-new safe haven. again, it's not just the taliban. it's the haqqani network. it's al qaeda. you've got isis. the very groups, particularly al qaeda, that attacked us 20 years ago from bases in afghanistan, now back into a position where they can do the same again. >> it does seem as if president biden is going to pursue a strategy -- counterterrorism strategy that's similar to what both the obama and the trump administration started to do late there in how we go after enclaves in syria and enclaves in africa. is that possible in afghanistan?
>> right now, no. i mean, look. if you look at where we are today and you look at the damage this decision has done -- it's not just damage in afghanistan. it's damage globally for the united states. look at what the members of the british parliament have been saying about us over the course of the last week. look at what our nato allies are saying about us. the recommendations they're making, frankly, excluding us. we have to as a nation recognize evil in the world. when you see mothers standing outside the gates handing their babies off, that's because they know the taliban is evil. as americans, we have to say we must fight that and defend ourselves against future attacks. >> was nation building the step too far? i mean was that -- in some ways i understand you have to build some institutions if you want to create that stability, but it didn't work. it didn't work in vietnam, and it didn't work here. >> you have to build those institutions.
that's exactly the point. we have to be very specific. there's no question that there were mistakes, strategies pursued that id the on the work, strategies that didn't have the resources they needed. for the united states to be in a position where we need to ensure afghanistan is not a safe haven, that means we've got to provide the support necessary to continue to have the afghans bear the brunt of the fight. it means we've got to help to build the institutions that can withstand the al qaeda and taliban threat that continues. so this isn't about building a democracy that looks like the united states. it's about what can we do to maintain stability so we don't have further terrorist attacks from afghan soil. >> unfortunately i'm out of time. congresswoman liz cheney, love to get you back here and talk a little about that january 6th committee as well. >> look forward to it. thanks, chuck. great to be with you. when we come back, with covid cases and hospitalizations spiking among children, the battle over whether there should be mask mandates in schools. education secretary miguel cardona joins me next. in america according to j.d. power. number one in reliability, 16 times in a row.
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over 150,000. this is welcome back. covid cases remain on the rise in the united states with a seven-day average of new cases over 150,000. this is the highest weekly average we've had since the end of january. the increase is now accompanied by a spike among children and by a debate that comes with it over mask mandates in schools. republican governors of florida, texas and arizona have been actively fighting local mask mandates. many school districts in those states are now deciding to defy those governors' bans. in florida, governor ron desantis is threatening to cut school board salaries in the districts that voted for mask mandates. the u.s. department of education has said the school districts may use federal relief funds to replace that money. joining me is the secretary of education, miguel cardona, dr. cardona, welcome to "meet the press." i want to start with a little bit of a logistics question about this. you've said these federal funds that have already been made available can be used to do this. how does a broward county, florida, alachua county, florida, go about getting that money if their own governor,
usually the liaison between the states and the feds, is standing in the way? can they actually access this money? >> yes, and thank you for having me. first and foremost, across the counted we have children returning to school. we're excited about that, but we have to do everything in our power to keep them safe. i spoke to the superintendents of those two communities, and i let them know that we have their back and, yes, they can draw down on the funds that were promised to them so they can safely reopen schools. >> right. but how do they get that money? >> right. >> it's one thing to say you're going to do it, but again, if the state legislature and the state executive are now doing it, don't they control the purse strings here? >> not really. this was approved by congress. they do have access to federal funds that they can draw down at any moment to make sure schools are opening safely and that our students and staff have the confidence of returning to in-person learning. they do not have to get the green light from the governor to use these funds. they're made available to them. i called these superintendents
personally to let them know that. >> you have an opposite problem in the state of illinois. there are some local school districts that want to defy the state -- in this case, this is the state governor there, governor pritzker issuing a statewide mandate in schools, a mask mandate. is there something the department of education is going to do that defy these mandate orders? >> you know, we know what works best. the president made it very clear in his memorandum, we need to do everything in our power at the department of education to allow safe reopening of schools. what we're doing at the agency is working closely with states, with local districts and district leaders and our health experts to make sure the message is clear. we know what works. we shouldn't be putting students at risk. yes, we are involving ourselves in conversations with those leaders, those elected officials to make sure student safety is at the top of the list. >> this week you and president biden seemed to talk about the idea of using your office of civil rights as a way to investigate some of these cases
as cases of discrimination if students essentially can't protect themselves due to these bans on mask mandates. then what's the end game here? is this a denial of federal funds at the end of this process if it turns out you feel as if these districts essentially discriminated against kids that wanted to stay healthy? >> you know, at the end of the day, when we talk about withholding funds, those who suffer are the students. so we want to make sure we're communicating with them. as you noted, we are prepared to launch investigations with our office for civil rights to ensure all students have access to this fundamental right of education. it's sad we're talking about this now. we're going to use our office for civil rights to investigate any claims that come forward to make sure students' rights are kept. we're also going to ensure that the funds are available to those districts that are doing the right thing to make sure students come in safely. withholding funds doesn't usually work. if anything, it adds insult to injury to these students who are
trying to get into the classroom and to the parents who have told me repeatedly, i just want my children back in school. that's where they learn best. i've spoken to parents of students with disabilities, and i've spoken to students, to athletes in the last week and a half, two weeks in kansas and new york. they just want to go back to school safely. let's get politics out of the way. let the educational leaders and health experts make the decisions on how to keep students and staff safe. >> i want to put up statistics on our vaccination rates on different age groups. for adults, it's now over 62%. for those 16 to 17, 43%, for those 12 to 15, it's at 34%. so we've talked about the penalty side of funding. how about sort of borrowing from the old race for the top idea which is financial incentives to institutions that take federal dollars, whether in elementary schools, middle and high
schools, or on the higher education level. is there an incentive program you can create to get vaccine mandates in place? >> yes. you know, we have really been beating that drum a lot. i mean, we've been traveling across the country, talking to governors, both republican and democrats, who are working with us to set up pop-up vaccination clinics in high schools. i visited one in washington, d.c., recently. i visited one in kansas recently. we know what works and we're engaging educators to do this. let me remind everyone, we have in the american rescue plan $130 billion available to districts to set up these vaccine clinics, the testing clinics, to build confidence in our school reopening plans. we have the return-to-school roadmap that has step-by-step direction on how to get this done. it's all hands on deck. we do know vaccinations work. in the communities where vaccinations are higher, we're seeing more success.
unfortunately, in those places where they're using politics to block good practice, we're seeing hospitalizations through the roof for young children. that's unacceptable. we can control that. let's get our kids back in school where they belong. >> are you going to try to get a vaccine mandate on college campuses by saying, if you take federal funds, you've got to have a mandate on campus? >> the federal government's role is limited here. i support vaccine mandates on college campuses. i do support vaccine mandates in places where they're requiring staff and students to get it to go back. we don't have that authority, but i do support those efforts to keep students in school safely and prevent disruptions. >> dr. cardona, secretary of education, appreciate you coming on and sharing the administration's perspective on this. thank you. >> thank you. when we come back, the political fallout from the withdrawal of afghanistan. the panel is next.
welcome back. the panel is with us. nbc news chief washington correspondent andrea mitchell, leo shane, deputy editor of "the military times," stephen hayes, founder of "the dispatch" and helene cooper, pentagon correspondent for "the new york times." andrea, let me start with you. this isis threat, what jake sullivan said, he opened the door, if we need more troops, the president is open to that. that tells me it's a dangerous situation. >> a dangerous situation. i think you'll see after today's meeting they may be putting more troops in. you do have the terror threat. they can't do what the president said on friday, guarantee they'll get all americans out and our afghan allies. when you think of all the hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions of people, the
women, the children, as well as the human rights activists and others, the people who have been in education, in the orchestra, in other taliban-banned activities, they've got targets on their back. we're not even talking about getting them out. it seems to me the fundamental issue is closing bagram -- no matter what they say, closing bagram, because that broke the will, the air cover that the afghan defense force, criticizing the afghan defense force. leon panetta and others saying they lost 70,000 people. they were real fighters. once they saw bagram closed, why wouldn't you flip sides if the taliban were threatening to kill women and children. >> helene, it was the military that said close bagram first? that's what jake sullivan seemed
to indicate, they followed military advice on that decision. >> there's a lot of blame shifting going on at this point. president biden wanted the optic of the american military leaving afghanistan. when he announced in april that we were withdrawing, he was talking about the military. the military will say that you can't withdraw and stay at bagram. you're either going to withdraw or you stay. they had been pushing for us to stay for, as we know, 20 years now. so there's so many different layers of sort of finger-pointing that you see starting to go on at the moment. but the one thing that i feel like this whole conversation on afghanistan constantly doesn't reckon with is what some people in the military would call the original sin, and that is the decision that president biden made that withdrawing 3,500 troops from afghanistan, rejecting the advice of his
defense secretary and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff to leave 3,000 to 4,500 people there, was not going to lead to the insane chaos that we are seeing now. a lot of people at the pentagon believe that there's no way you would have gotten -- once you make that decision, how do you then avoid this? every other way that you look around, you take the diplomats out first, that triggers the fall of the government. you take out the sivs, that triggers the fall of the government. it's all a confidence thing. once you remove the military, people at the pentagon will tell you you're done for. >> bagram should have been the last place to be evacuated, right? >> it seems that way now. sending troops back into the kabul airport, trying to re-establish all this, it results in this chaotic environment. look, there's still a situation where this comes out well for the president because he is the one who withdrew because they did this. everything now is focused on the
evacuation effort and how bungled that appears. we're nine days away from this august 31st deadline. there's no way it gets less chaotic over the next nine days. it's going to get worse. >> as richard reported, it's a rush for the exit. >> that's the key point. what we're seeing right now, it's been catastrophic for the last week. it's striking to me when you talk to jake sullivan, when you listen to president biden, they are in effect saying, yeah, this went the way we thought it would go. extraordinary thing. look, president biden in his remarks on friday said three things that were demonstrably proven to be untrue. al qaeda is gone? from afghanistan? that's not true. we haven't been criticized by the allies? that's not true. americans will make it to the airport without being harassed? that's not true. i mean he seems to have lost touch with reality, and that's a huge problem. >> our allies are furious. here he went to brussels and
said america is back, i'm not donald trump, i'm not going to pull the rug out from under you as trump did in syria. yet they feel the rug was pulled out from under them. you hear criticism from the brits, from germany, from france. that is really hurting the american position overseas. the cables -- the dissent memo and these cables from the afghan employees at the state department we got in the last 24 hours are devastating. we have destroyed morale that he was rebuilding. i mean it is a real problem for america's leadership abroad. >> what i find so interesting about all of this, is for 20 years joe biden has believed he knew more about afghanistan and he was the only realistic skeptic in a room full of people who had pipe dreams. >> it was '09, biden, vice president biden. >> yes, when he was on the senate foreign relations committee. the very same thing. the first interview i had as a foreign policy reporter with joe biden was back in 2005 or something. i sat in his office, and he went through the joe biden, this is
the world according to joe biden. >> isn't that the problem, helene? >> that's exactly the problem. he came in and he was not going to listen. he believed the pentagon had rolled a successive number of administrations for 20 years and he was going to stand up to them. >> but then how are they unprepared for when april rolled around? when he announces the withdraw, it seems like there was no actual plan for what he had been planning for the whole time. how do they not have -- >> because they thought they could talk him out of it. you had joe dunford with the congressional panel in february saying you should not take out the 3,500. all of the military advice was that. and they thought -- lloyd austin did try to fight back. you know that. the fact is, he still is the joe biden of 2009 who is the only one in the national security team who didn't want the surge and bob gates criticized him in his book about it. he now says i knew better. >> david axelrod nailed this in friday's "new york times" when he said this, the way it's
ending -- this is david axelrod, longtime member of the obama/biden team -- at least thus far, it's more problematic and cuts against some of the core perceived strengths, competence, mastery of foreign policy, supreme empathy. it's as if his eagerness to end the war was overran the planning and execution. >> i think that's why this sticks. we should also note, this is a dangerous moment. you have people talking about the haqqani network. al qaeda-linked haqqanis taking security in kabul. it could get worse quickly. >> american public not seeing it or -- i know. we've got more. when we come back, the divided states of america. is there anything we all agree on? stay with us.
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welcome back. "data download" time. i want to dig in a little more in our poll to show how divided we are as a country. you'll see how polarized we are by party. the president's job approval rating, 49/48. we'll look at it by party. 88% of democrats approve, 88% of republicans disapprove. polarized result. guess what? it's the same almost across the board whether talking biden's handling of the economy, basically even split, 47/49. very much, partisan doesn't budge on this one, personal rating, 43/44. again, overly positive democrats, overly negative republicans.
going down the line, even the idea of a vaccine requirement splits along very polarized lines, 48% favor, 50% oppose. congressional preference, who do you want to control congress? very polarizing. one small group of voters that make the polls move. i want to show you who they are. hard core independents, less than 15% of our sample. they're the only people that seem to be moved by events. president biden's job approval, in april, independence, 61%. now 46. in economy dropped 15 points, covid, dropped 30 points. on congressional preference you saw a swing of 15 points. the point is, these are the only voters in america that are actually moved by public events, what's happening in the administration. this group of independents, that's who is going to decide who is in charge our politics. when we come back, how this political divide is keeping us from agreeing on whether kids should be masked in school. stay with us. ids should be masked in school stay with us you break it... we upgrade it.
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side effects may not appear for several weeks. high cholesterol and weight gain, and high blood sugar, which can lead to coma or death, may occur. movement dysfunction, sleepiness, and stomach issues are common side effects. and you can pay as little as $0 if eligible for your first 2 prescriptions. when bipolar i overwhelms, vraylar helps smooth the ups and downs. welcome back. so, what do americans care more about, covid or what we're seeing in afghanistan? i want to show you something, guys. we asked people to tell us what the number one issue was they want congress to focus on. here is the democratic cloud, the biggest response, having something to do with economy and jobs. number two, covid and the coronavirus. if i have a magnifying glass, you can't find afghanistan on here. that's among democrats. among republicans, number one is economy and jobs. number two is immigration and the border. again, you don't see anything having to do with afghanistan.
covid i circled up here on top, kind of small on that front. steve hayes, is what's happening on covid, it's a wet blanket on president biden right now. are some of these republican governors playing with fire down south? >> i think they could be because there's an intellectual inconsistency with the arguments they're making. republicans have long made the argument that the government that does best is the government closest to the people. now you have republicans saying, in effect, we're going to make decisions at the state level, to hell with the localities. i think that's a hard decision to make -- a hard decision to both enforce and a hard decision to defend when looking at this. part of the problem here is negative polarization. it's become part of the republican identity, i think, driven by president trump in his time at the white house, to be skeptical of covid, skeptical of the effects, skeptical of the treatments, skeptical of the vaccines. you've had president trump say i hope people go get vaccinated,
and he's getting booed for it which is extraordinary. it shows how this has taken momentum on its own. >> this polarization, leo, is impacting the military. good luck instituting this vaccine mandate, right? >> we'll see. the military has fallen in line in the past. we're supposed to get fda approval of one of the vaccines tomorrow. that will ease some of the transition here. look, there's still a lot of friction, still a lot of folks who don't trust it and don't want it. we are seeing some pockets of that. remains to be seen when the military actually pushes forward what it will be. v.a. has instituted most of the front line health workers who will have to get vaccines. i'm hearing from folks they'll quit before that they do that. we'll see if they do. >> what's startling in the poll numbers is the decline since april in the effectiveness, the job approval on handling covid for the president, which was a
high point for him and well done in the way they rolled out the vaccines. yes, they couldn't have anticipated delta and how bad it has been, but just how polarized the country is to reject vaccines. there are people in the south taking horse deworming medication, not the vaccines, but horse deworming medication for covid because they heard about it on another network from two prominent anchors, like hydroxychloroquine. how crazy do you have to be -- they're calling poison control because they're taking this crazy thing for covid and killing themselves or getting themselves sick, but they won't take what will actually prevent at least serious illness and hospitalization. >> you know, helene, andrea brought up the covid issue for president biden. this is where sort of how it connects to afghanistan, it gets to the competency issue, which is if you seek chaos here and all of a sudden, it's going to make people question, you've been giving reassurances over here. this is how the whole thing starts to collapse.
>> i think president biden -- he got very deserved credit for the vaccine rollout, but the idea -- i would disagree with the idea that he didn't see delta coming. he saw it coming. i think the white house saw it was in the uk. the delta variant kind of spread in many, many places before it got here, and we heard as early as april that this was something that was going to be the dominant strain in the united states. >> he mentioned in his declaration of independence remarks, he did mention delta. on one hand he's declaring independence, and on the one hand, oh, by the way, this might be a problem, but it wasn't really. >> this is still a lot of making policy on the fly. you could argue he has not taken some of the more dramatic steps that he could take in light of the delta variant and the surge there. again, you have these people on both sides of the aisle, a lot of them on the right who won't touch the vaccine --
>> i will just say in defense, who would have anticipated such a large cohort, 19 million americans unvaccinated? it really is spreading because of the unvaccinated. they're absolutely correct about that. it's just amazing. >> but aren't there things we can do to force people to get vaccines? what if you did a domestic flight -- people aren't catching covid on airlines, but that would certainly prod a lot of people. >> that becomes the question with the schools here at this point, which is do they have a mandate? does something come? does something force them to take a mandate. >> i will say this. a ton of politicians staring at something with 60% approval have been afraid to go down the mandate road, which is fascinating to me. that's all we have for today. thank you for watching. get vaccinated if you haven't gotten vaccinated.
we'll be back next week. if it's sunday, it's "meet the press". press" press". i think when this is over, the american people have a clear understanding of what we did, why i did it. but, look, that's their job. my job is to make judgments. my job is to make judgments no one else can or will make. i made them. i'm convinced i'm absolutely correct in deciding not to send more young men or women over for war, a war that is no longer warranted. >> with evacuations ramping up, president biden has acknowledged leaving afghanistan has been difficult and painful. but with thousands still