On this “Face the Nation” broadcast moderated by Major Garrett:
- Secretary of State Antony Blinken
- Nikki Haley — former U.N. ambassador
- Ryan Crocker — former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan
- Governor Larry Hogan — Republican of Maryland
- Dr. Scott Gottlieb — former FDA commissioner
Click here to browse full transcripts of “Face the Nation.”
MAJOR GARRETT: I’m Major Garrett in Washington. And this week on FACE THE NATION, the perilous evacuation of Americans from Afghanistan continues. The ensuing chaos puts the Biden administration on defense. The situation at the Kabul airport today is increasingly dire, as the United States struggles to get Americans and the thousands of Afghans who helped fight the Taliban for the last twenty years out safely. The Biden administration is working to ramp up evacuations, but it is facing a nine-day deadline to complete the mission.
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Any American who want to come home, we will get you home. Make no mistake, this evacuation mission is dangerous. I cannot promise what the final outcome will be.
MAJOR GARRETT: Taliban leaders are in Kabul, working to build a new government, as the criticism about the President’s handling of this crisis grows.
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: There will be plenty of time to criticize and second guess when this operation is over. But now, now, I am focused on getting this job done.
MAJOR GARRETT: We’ll get the latest from Secretary of State Antony Blinken. We’ll also hear from former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. And former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker. Plus, the crisis here at home as Tropical Storm Henri threatens the northeast coastline, the potential for inland storm surge and flooding is cause for great concern. And as more schools reopen this week and with cases, hospitalizations and the number of deaths continuing to surge, the Delta variant wave will undoubtedly get even worse. We will talk to Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan and former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb.
It’s all just ahead on FACE THE NATION.
Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. We begin with the storm threatening the East Coast. Henri has been downgraded to tropical storm status, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the threat is any less severe. CBS News meteorologist and climate specialist Jeff Berardelli is on Long Island in the Montauk area. Jeff, what are you seeing?
JEFF BERARDELLI (CBS News Meteorologist and Climate Specialist/@WeatherProf): Yeah. Major, this is the worst that it’s been. We’ve been seeing gusts fifty-five, sixty miles an hour. Up until this point it wasn’t that bad but things are getting worse. We’re in one of the outer bands. But the core of the storm has missed us to the northeast. Take a look behind me, pounding surf. We’ve seen swells ten to fifteen feet, and now we have this sideways rain running right towards us. The storm itself let’s take a look at the radar located near Block Island. This is headed northward towards the coast of Rhode Island and Connecticut, anywhere from Mystic to Narragansett where the worst is likely to be. And we’re going to see about five feet of storm surge as the storm makes its way on shore, couple that with a full Moon, and that makes it worse. Likely in the core wind gusts up to around eighty miles an hour, and that means we’re likely to see some power outages. So that’s some of the worst that we’re likely to see with this system as well as all the heavy rain that you can see.
MAJOR GARRETT: Jeff, for those in the path of this storm, how concerned should they be about the potential of flooding?
JEFF BERARDELLI: Yes, so this could be what this storm is remembered for. I mean, last night in New York City, the concert was canceled. Hundreds of miles away from the center of Henri, we had all that heavy rain. The reason why? Upper-level low across the Mid-Atlantic connected through a tropical connection to Henri, kind of funneling all that tropical moisture in, and so we had a little trough that set up and dumped heavy rain over the Jersey Shore and New York City to the tune of five to eight inches of rainfall. So we’re going to see this storm kind of slow down as it moves inland, dump heavy rain way away from the center. I think some places will end up with ten inches of rain and that means we’re going to see life-threatening flash flooding. So even though this isn’t a major hurricane, it’s having major impacts.
MAJOR GARRETT: Jeff Berardelli, thank you so much.
We want to go now to Kris Van Cleave. He is in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, as residents there brace for landfall. Kris, tell us what you’re seeing?
KRIS VAN CLEAVE (CBS News Congressional Correspondent/@krisvancleave): Major, we are in an area, there are people have been told to evacuate. We all really getting just the first taste of this storm. The concern here really is going to be the amount of rain and the wind. The utility here in Connecticut has warned up to sixty-nine percent of its costumers could be left without power. That’s nearly nine hundred thousand people. And they say to restore the power could take eight to twenty-one days. Think about that, three whole weeks. They’re going to get three to six inches of rain, but this follows threat which came through on Thursday and dumped another three to six inches of rain. So they’re worried about flooding, they’re worried about trees coming down, and in about a half hour, high tide which could lead to storm surge. So a lot of concern here along coastal Connecticut. Major.
MAJOR GARRETT: Heavy weather is coming. Kris Van Cleave, thanks so very much.
We turn now to the increasingly volatile situation in Afghanistan. CBS News foreign correspondent Holly Williams reports now from London.
HOLLY WILLIAMS: There is terror in Kabul as they clamor to escape the Islamic extremists who’ve seized control of Afghanistan at lightning speed. This man says he was a translator for the British military, and is seeking refuge with his wife and two-week-old baby, who he’s worried may not survive.
MAN: Maybe I lose my kid.
HOLLY WILLIAMS: And just imagine the despair that drives a mother or father to do this: passing their baby over razor wire to American soldiers.
HOLLY WILLIAMS: U.S. troops and their allies appear on edge, trying to calm a situation that’s lurched out of control. Some Afghans have been crushed to death, and some have been killed trying to cling to planes. For two decades, American troops have fought the Taliban. Nearly twenty-five hundred laid down their lives. Now as the U.S. beats a hasty retreat, they’re separated from the militants by simple barricades. And there are other enemies lurking in Afghanistan. A U.S. official told CBS News there are fears that ISIS could use the chaos to carry out an attack. At a press conference this week, a Taliban spokesman vowed the group would not seek revenge and promised to respect women’s rights within the framework of Islamic law.
(Zabihullah Mujahid speaking foreign language)
HOLLY WILLIAMS: Many Afghans simply don’t believe them. Like this woman, who says she used to play basketball for the national team.
WOMAN: I am so scared because I’m a girl. I– my life is danger.
HOLLY WILLIAMS: There are already reports of the Taliban going door to door, hunting for those who worked with foreigners and threatening execution.
MAJOR GARRETT: Holly Williams reporting from London.
CBS News foreign correspondent Roxana Saberi is in the region, and she filed this report from Doha.
ROXANA SABERI: At Al Udeid Air Base, thousands of evacuees have been flown in from Afghanistan over the past several days. The Pentagon says that U.S. troops have already airlifted around twenty-five thousand people out of the country. The facility here has been so overwhelmed by the influx, it hit capacity two days ago. And flights from Afghanistan had to be suspended for several hours. There are now reports that the U.S. government will compel commercial airlines to help ferry tens of thousands of evacuees. Several people have described for CBS News the conditions at Al Udeid. One was a man we met on the flight from Afghanistan last week, who said he was a former translator for the U.S. military. He said it was crowded, very hot, and with only one shower for thousands of men and women. Now, CBS News has learned the U.S. and Qatar are building extra space and installing more showers and toilets to accommodate the evacuees. They’re also trying to screen them faster and ease the crowding by flying them to countries like Germany and the U.S. We do get the impression that everyone here is trying their best. And despite the difficult conditions, evacuees are grateful for the help they’ve received. Many now face an uncertain future outside their homeland as refugees.
MAJOR GARRETT: Roxana Saberi reporting from Doha.
A new CBS News poll out this morning finds Americans are unhappy with the turn of events in Afghanistan and President Biden’s handling of the withdrawal and evacuation. Seventy-four percent of those surveyed say the removal of U.S. troops has either gone very badly or somewhat badly. Two-thirds say President Biden, to their minds, does not have a clear plan for evacuating U.S. citizens. Americans also fear wider repercussions. Six in ten say the threat of terrorism will now increase with the Taliban in control of Afghanistan. These negative assessments, however, have not shaken most Americans’ attitudes about leaving Afghanistan. They still support that, but they are critical of how it has all been handled. And this has hurt President Biden’s overall approval ratings. They have dropped eight points since last month. We go now to the State Department and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Mister Secretary, good morning to you, Sir.
ANTONY BLINKEN (U.S. Secretary of State/@SecBlinken): Morning, Major. Thanks for having me.
MAJOR GARRETT: In another venue this morning, your counterpart, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, said the United States has secured or is looking into, quote, unquote, “alternate methods” to move U.S. personnel from where they are to the Karzai International Airport. What does that mean? What specifically can you tell us about that?
ANTONY BLINKEN: Well, first, Major, we’ve gotten about eight thousand people out over the last twenty-four hours, and if you go back to– to July when this effort really started, we’ve gotten about thirty thousand people out between our military flights and the charters that we’ve organized to get out of– of Kabul and– and out of Afghanistan. But we’ve seen these wrenching scenes of people crowded at the gates, of people hurt, of people killed. It’s an incredibly volatile situation and we’re very focused on that. And here’s what we’re doing. First, we’re moving people out as quickly as we can from inside the airport and out of Afghanistan to alleviate crowding in the airport so we can get more people in from the outside and alleviate some of the crowding outside. But second, the most important, and this goes to– to Jake Sullivan’s point. We’re in direct contact with American citizens and others and we’re– we’re able to guide them– the best way to get to the airport, what to do when they get there. And that is the, I think, safest and most effective way to get people there, get them in and get them out. That’s what we’re focused on. One other point, we’ve also now have agreements with more than two dozen countries on four continents to help serve as transit points or other relocation points for– for people that we’re getting out of Afghanistan as we finish processing them, as we finish doing security checks. And that, too, I think, is going to alleviate some of the bottlenecks that we’ve seen in the system to enable this to flow even more quickly and more effectively.
MAJOR GARRETT: With your indulgence, Mister Secretary, can we get precise on this. When Jake Sullivan says alternate methods, does that mean the U.S. military is now getting outside of the perimeter of the airport and going to find Americans and bring them safely there?
ANTONY BLINKEN: The best way, the most effective way, the way I’m focused on to get folks in again is to be in direct contact with them and to help guide them and to give them instructions on where to go, when to go there. And then we can– we can bring them into the airport safely and effectively.
MAJOR GARRETT: So they are still effectively on their own getting to the airport?
ANTONY BLINKEN: Again, we found that the– the best way to do this is to be in direct touch with them. President, Secretary of Defense have been clear that we will do whatever it takes to get Americans home and– and out of harm’s way.
MAJOR GARRETT: Civilian commercial airliners are being added to the mix. Why? And what is that going to look like?
ANTONY BLINKEN: Yeah, so there’s a process by which we can ask civilian airliners to join in this effort not to bring people out of Kabul, but to bring them from these different staging points that we have arranged with, as I said, now nearly two dozen countries around the world, because once they’re there, they’ll spend some time there where we can finish processing them, where we can finish doing security and background checks, and then they move on to their ultimate destination. We need more planes in the mix to do that piece of it, to move them from these initial points of landing onto the places that they’ll ultimately resettle.
MAJOR GARRETT: How long will Karzai International Airport remain open under the security perimeter provided by the United States military?
ANTONY BLINKEN: Well, what we’re focused on is getting as many people out as fast as we can, as effectively and as safely as we can. It’s also important to note the Taliban has said that it intends to keep the– the airport open. It wants a functioning airport, and it has made commitments about the safe passage of people with no deadline attached to that. And we will hold the Taliban to that commitment.
MAJOR GARRETT: Do we have a deadline attached to it Mister Secretary? My question is essentially, will it stay open under the auspices of the U.S. military after August 31st?
ANTONY BLINKEN: And again, our focus is making sure every single day we’re getting as many people out as we can, as fast as we can. That is our focus.
MAJOR GARRETT: And under that umbrella Mister Secretary, of all the people that includes U.S. citizens, quite obviously. You have said and the President is committed to our Afghan allies, interpreters and the like. Does it also, that umbrella term, extend to those in NGOs who assisted the United States throughout the twenty-year campaign in Afghanistan?
ANTONY BLINKEN: Yeah, Major, a few things. Obviously, American citizens are our priority, as well as the people who worked directly for us. Allies and partners, we’re committed to them and to helping them get out. But, also, to your point, Afghans more broadly at risk. We’re focused on all of that. But our intense focus is making sure that we get our fellow Americans out if they want to leave.
MAJOR GARRETT: The President said that we have an agreement with the Taliban. Mister Secretary, that implies we are negotiating with them. Does that not confer upon them already legitimacy?
ANTONY BLINKEN: No, we have– we’ve had for a long time contact with the Taliban, both at a political level in Doha, going back– going back some years, as well as now on the ground in Kabul, a working relationship in order to de-conflict, in order to work through any problems with people getting to the airport. That’s been very important to making sure that we can actually advance our own interests in getting people out safely and effectively as possible. So that’s the nature of the relationship.
MAJOR GARRETT: And someone in our audience might listen to you, Mister Secretary, and say, oh, so we have to ask the Taliban for permission for American citizens to leave. True or not true?
ANTONY BLINKEN: They– they are in control of Kabul. That is the reality. That’s the reality that– that we have to deal with.
MAJOR GARRETT: How comfortable are you with that, Mister Secretary?
ANTONY BLINKEN: My– what– I’m what I’m focused on, what we’re all focused on is getting people out and making sure that we’re doing everything possible to do that. And in this case, it is, I think, a requirement of the job to be in contact with– with the Taliban, which controls Kabul. And, look, what we’ve seen, Major, is– is– is also pretty remarkable. Go back a week. The government fell. And, by the way, I was on the phone with– with President Karzai the day before when he was telling me his intent, as he put it, to fight to the death. Well, the next day he was gone. The military collapsed. And in the space of that week, our military went in, secured the airport, got our embassy to safety at the airport from the embassy compound, began this remarkable evacuation effort. And as I said, we had about eight thousand people out just in the last twenty-four hours. Since going back to the end of July it’s thirty thousand people. And that’s quite extraordinary. It doesn’t just happen. A tremendous amount of planning and effort went into that, including a lot of preplanning. And that’s what we’re focused on now, getting that mission done.
MAJOR GARRETT: Mister Secretary, you may have heard in our poll that sixty percent of those we talked to now fear there is more threat of terrorism in the United States because the Taliban is in control of Afghanistan. Are they wrong?
ANTONY BLINKEN: Remember, Major, we went to Afghanistan, indeed, for one reason, one major purpose and that was to get–
MAJOR GARRETT: Right, but right now they’re fearful. Are they wrong?
ANTONY BLINKEN: The threat of terrorism metastasized out of Afghanistan a long time ago. It is more acute in many other places around the world. And in Afghanistan itself, we were able to vastly diminish al Qaeda and any threat that it poses. If it reconstitutes, we’re putting in place measures over the horizon, as we say, to make sure we can see it and act on it. And, you know, we have terrorist threats, again, that are more acute in other places in the world. We don’t have military forces on the ground. Since 9/11, our capacity to deal with terrorism effectively in places where we don’t have boots on the ground has grown immensely. And we now are able to do things that we couldn’t do twenty years ago. If this threat reemerges in Afghanistan, we’ll deal with it.
MAJOR GARRETT: Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, we thank you for your time.
ANTONY BLINKEN: Thanks for having me.
MAJOR GARRETT: FACE THE NATION will be back in just one moment. Please stay with us.
MAJOR GARRETT: We are back with the first ambassador to the United Nations under President Trump, Nikki Haley. She is in Charleston, South Carolina. Madam Ambassador, good morning. I want to read to you something that you put on Twitter this week. “To have our generals say that they are depending on diplomacy with the Taliban is an unbelievable scenario. Negotiating with the Taliban is like dealing with the devil.” Madam Ambassador, the Biden administration says it’s not negotiating with the Taliban. Do you not believe that?
NIKKI HALEY (Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations/@NikkiHaley): I agree with you. They’re not negotiating with the Taliban. They’ve completely surrendered to the Taliban. They surrendered Bagram Air Force Base, which was a major NATO hub. They surrendered eighty-five billion dollars worth of equipment and weapons that we should have gotten out of there. They have surrendered the American people and actually withdrew our troops before they withdrew the American people. And they’ve abandoned our Afghan allies who kept people like my husband safe while they were overseas deploying. So, no, there was no negotiating. This was a complete and total surrender and an embarrassing failure.
MAJOR GARRETT: Do you believe, Madam Ambassador, that the Biden White House has to talk and negotiate, essentially, with the Taliban now just to ensure Americans safety as this evacuation continues?
NIKKI HALEY: I mean our American people they are our number one priority. Now, they have to do whatever it takes to get our Americans out. There is– you know, people like my husband, you ask any of our soldiers, any of our men and women, they would go in there in a second to get our Americans out. Now, it’s a matter of doing whatever it takes to make sure that we have them taken care of. This is an unbelievable scenario where literally the Taliban has our Americans held hostage. It’s a scary time. And we have to make sure that we are working with our allies who literally won’t trust us at this point and think we’ve lost our minds. We have to figure out a way to get our Americans out and to get our allies out.
MAJOR GARRETT: Someone you know well, former secretary of state in the Trump administration, Mike Pompeo, stood alongside one of the Taliban founders and helped negotiate this deal in which President Trump signed an agreement to have United States forces out earlier this year. Did that set in motion what we’re seeing now?
NIKKI HALEY: You know I think everybody’s wanting to go back and talk about Trump. The truth is under four years of Trump Afghanistan was safe. We made sure that we kept terrorism at bay and that we came from a strength of position. What’s happened in seven months of Biden is we’ve completely surrendered and we’ve humiliated ourselves in the eyes of the world. The thing is, there are times where you have to negotiate with the devil, but you negotiate with the devil from a point of strength. You don’t do it from a point of weakness. We literally have no leverage right now with the Taliban. All we’re going to see them do is they’re going to buy time and act like they’re going to be nice until August 31st, and then all of those women, all of those girls, everything is going to go back to the way it was. You’re going to have sex slaves. You’re going to have child marriages. You’re going to have kids that are girls– that are no longer allowed in school. You’re going to have our Americans, any that are there, will be in danger and all of our Afghan– Afghan allies will be killed if we don’t do something. This is serious. The Biden administration needs to go back and extend that August 31st deadline and make sure that the Taliban knows they’ve got to let people into the airport. We’ve got to get our Americans out. We’ve got to stay true to those Afghan allies that we made promises to. And we’ve got to make sure we do this in a very strong way going forward.
MAJOR GARRETT: Yes or no question. Should the United States government expand the perimeter around the airport?
NIKKI HALEY: I think right now we have to do whatever it takes to get to our Americans. What a lot of people don’t realize is the Americans we need to get out are not near Kabul. They’re actually on the outskirts out of there. The Afghan allies are out of there. They can’t even get through the checkpoints to get to the airport. So this is a time where we need to have a list of our Americans. We need to make contact with where they are and we’ve got to go get them if they can’t get to the airport. I can’t believe that Biden got it so wrong that he said that no Americans were having a hard time coming to the airport. He said al Qaeda was no longer in Afghanistan. He said our allies were fine with what he did. Either the people around Biden aren’t telling him the truth or he is not thinking in a normal way. I mean something is very wrong here. This is not about partisanship, Major. This is really about America and strength and making sure we get Americans out of there alive. I’m extremely concerned about the safety of our men and women in military. I’m concerned about the safety of our Americans that are still there. I’m concerned about the safety of our Afghan allies. You cannot trust the Taliban and you have to really deal with them in a way that they know that we’re going to hold them accountable and that we are coming at this from a moment of strength.
MAJOR GARRETT: Before we let you go, Madam Ambassador, do you understand it to be true that if President Trump had been re-elected, that he had an evacuation and withdrawal plan on paper that would look fundamentally different than the Biden administration?
NIKKI HALEY: Well, I think let’s be clear, the– the– President Trump very much wanted to see soldiers come out of Afghanistan, so it’s not about soldiers coming out. It’s not what you do. It’s how you do it. He would never have pulled our soldiers out without making sure Americans and all of our equipment and our weaponry was out beforehand. He would never have allowed the Taliban to take over Afghanistan without conditions. So anyone that wants to say this was already set in motion, it’s not what was going to happen. It was how it happened. And this happened in the most embarrassing, humiliating way that has– really angers soldiers like my husband and all those that– that sacrificed. It puts us in danger that you’ve got al Qaeda and the Taliban holding hands in the streets of– of Afghanistan now saying, “Death to America” and now America is much less safe.
MAJOR GARRETT: Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley under the Trump administration. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks so very much.
And we’ll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Please stay with us.
MAJOR GARRETT: We want you to know that if you’re not able to watch the full FACE THE NATION, you can set your DVR or we’re available on demand. Plus, you can watch us through our CBS or Paramount Plus app.
MAJOR GARRETT: We will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Please stay with us.
MAJOR GARRETT: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. For more on Afghanistan, we turn to Ryan Crocker, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. Mister Ambassador, good morning. Earlier this week, you said you had grave concerns about President Biden’s capacity to lead. What specifically did you mean by that?
RYAN CROCKER (Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan): What I meant by that, Major, is the way not only how his decision was made to withdraw, but then its execution, which has been so far catastrophic. You know we’ve got desperate people, American citizens, other Afghans we’ve helped, you name it, doing anything they can to– to get out of Kabul. And we will all remember that those horrible images of Afghans who had clung to a wheel well on a C17 dropping out of the sky to their deaths. So the execute– the decision and the execution and the execution, in particular, does not speak to competency.
MAJOR GARRETT: And when you talk about capacity, are you saying anything else outside of what you just articulated, meaning execution and decisions?
RYAN CROCKER: Well, Major, we’ve got to be– we’ve got to be fair here and– and a little bit honest with ourselves. President Biden didn’t create this whole scenario. President Trump did by engaging the Taliban in talks without the Afghan government in the room. That began a process of delegitimization of the state and its security forces. That was a huge contributing factor to where we are now. I mean that said, President Biden owns it. He– he– he’s taken ownership of the policy. He has taken ownership of the envoy who negotiated this thing. So lots of blame to go around here, but it doesn’t all fall on President Biden.
MAJOR GARRETT: You are deeply familiar with this region and many of the players. In the next week, Mister Ambassador, what are you most afraid of?
RYAN CROCKER: I am afraid that as the Taliban gains more control, as they settle in a bit more, they are going to go after all of those in Afghanistan who have spoken the truth, who have been in the media, who have represented the institutions of this young democracy and certainly those who have helped us directly like the interpreters. I’m very much afraid that this is going to get worse. The chaos may subside, but, as it does, I am terribly worried you’re going to see the Taliban start to methodically take care of those they consider their enemies. We will be in no position to help them.
MAJOR GARRETT: Mister Ambassador, as you’re probably well aware of, many members of Congress, senators and House office members are creating, if you will, satellite State Departments, trying to use whatever means they have, e-mail, cell phone calls to try to work on behalf of either constituents or those that they have come to know in Afghanistan to get them out. What does that say about the functionality of the current State Department?
RYAN CROCKER: Well, with respect to State Department personnel, I mean among my heroes are those state people out at the airport right now doing everything they can to make this process work faster and to work better. That said, there are capacity problems. Those on the front lines did not create those problems and are not in a position to fix them. But it’s just incredibly important that we concentrate now on getting those folks out. Look, right as we speak. I am involved in an effort to get a particularly prominent person out of that country before it’s too late. It’s kind of like the Dunkirk evacuation. So it’s, again, it’s– it’s a really rough time. It didn’t need to be this way. Look, Mike McCaul, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and I did a joint op-ed at the beginning of May when we said here’s what the administration needs to do if they’re going all the way out, which we opposed, you know, they– they’ve got to have a way to get intelligence capabilities offshore that are going to work and keep our nation safe. They’ve got to take care, obviously, of American citizens. They’ve got to take care of the interpreters. They have to take care of those women and girls who are particularly vulnerable. You know, we– we– we put all that out there again three and a half months ago. None of it was acted on.
MAJOR GARRETT: I’m going to give you three countries, China, Pakistan, Russia. Have the events of the last two weeks made America weaker vis-a-vis those three countries?
RYAN CROCKER: It has created a global crisis, quite frankly. It has emboldened violent Islamic radicals, and I think we’re all going to see the fallout of that, certainly in Pakistan. They championed the Taliban because they felt they had no choice. Well, the Taliban victory, the narrative of defeating the great– the great infidel empowers radicals in Pakistan that they’re going to have to deal with if they can. And that’s a country of two hundred and twenty million people with nuclear weapons. China has its Uyghur Muslim population in its west. They’re tuned in. They’re– they’re– they’re definitely looking at what happened in Afghanistan. And, of course, the Russians have their own Muslim populations in very violent places in the past, like Chechnya. So they might be doing a little bit of high fiving. But, boy, it’s not going to last because what is happening in Afghanistan isn’t going to stay in Afghanistan. This will be felt around the world.
MAJOR GARRETT: Ryan Crocker, former ambassador to Afghanistan on behalf of the United States government, coming to us from Spokane, Washington. We thank you, Sir, very much for your time and expertise.
We’ll be right back with the latest on the coronavirus pandemic.
MAJOR GARRETT: We turn now to the latest surge of COVID-19. The CDC says hospitalizations for people under the age of fifty with COVID-19 are now the highest level since the start of this pandemic, with the largest increases among people in their thirties and under eighteen. CBS News senior national correspondent Mark Strassmann has more from Atlanta.
MARK STRASSMANN (CBS News Senior National Correspondent): More than fifty pediatric patients with COVID, a new pandemic record at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. That anguish will get worse. Texas has low vaccination rates. A governor infected with COVID leading a feud against mandatory masking. And in Houston, K-through-twelve schools open tomorrow.
DR. JAMES VERSALOVIC (Texas Children’s Hospital): This powder keg or tinder box, however you want to phrase it, certainly could result in many more cases. And that means many more hospitalizations, many more children.
MARK STRASSMANN: This fourth wave of COVID patients get sicker quicker. Cases in American hospitals have ballooned, up more than two hundred forty percent in the last month.
WOMAN #1: This makes you feel like it is helpless.
MARK STRASSMANN: Nationwide, four of every five ICU beds are full. Nearly one-third of all adult ICU patients have the virus. The vast majority, unvaccinated. Oregon is overwhelmed. Fifteen hundred National Guard troops back up frontline workers, and COVID deaths are now up in forty-two states.
WOMAN #2: When they (INDISTINCT) hard and all of this is hard.
MARK STRASSMANN: More than one thousand COVID patients died on Friday alone, sorrow that nearly doubled in two weeks.
MAN: You are good.
MARK STRASSMANN: One counter-attack that’s also trending: mandatory vaccines to get into certain businesses, to keep your job. That now includes all nursing home employees by September 30th.
MARK STRASSMANN: The FDA is expected to give the Pfizer vaccine full approval this week. Doctors hope that will encourage reluctant people to roll up their sleeves. Major.
MAJOR GARRETT: Mark Strassmann, thank you.
We are joined now by Maryland Republican Governor Larry Hogan. Governor Hogan, it’s great to have you in studio.
GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN (R-Maryland/@GovLarryHogan): Good morning.
MAJOR GARRETT: I have a lot of COVID questions for you, but I want to get to Afghanistan real quick. Three questions there. What’s your appraisal of the Biden administration handling of the situation? How open is Maryland going to be to Afghan refugees? And what are you hearing, if anything, from State Department about how to do that?
GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Well, first of all, I think it’s an unmitigated disaster about the way we’ve handled the exit from Afghanistan, number one. Number two, we’re– I was the first governor in America to reach out and say we wanted to reach out and take more of these special immigrant visas for the folks that have been our allies that we’ve made a commitment to. We’ve got to stand by them. We’ve got to get our Americans out, and we’ve got to get those– those allies out of there as well. And we’re going to do everything we can to help do that. We have a discussion with the State Department tomorrow. We’ve already received some over the past week or two into our state and we’re going to try to get as many as we can.
MAJOR GARRETT: Is that information flow from state satisfactory to you?
GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: It’s– you know, the information is a little spotty. I think some of that is understandable. But, you know, we’d like to have a little more communication.
MAJOR GARRETT: All right. To coronavirus, you said two weeks ago the pandemic is currently under control in Maryland. Is that still true?
GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Well, it’s under control better than in most other states. We’re second lowest case rate and positivity rate in America. So, you know, we’ve got eighty percent of our population over eighteen that’s been vaccinated. That’s one of the best in the country which is helping us keep this Delta variant at bay. We’ve got ninety-four percent of our vulnerable population, sixty-five and over. So while it is an issue, we’re very concerned about the spread of the Delta va– variant all across the country and it has impacted us. Our numbers are going up, but they’re going up from a very low place. We’re still better off than a lot of people and we’re better able to handle the surge than many other places.
MAJOR GARRETT: Will mandates for masks or vaccines come to Maryland under your watch?
GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Well, we’ve– we’ve already taken some steps on mandating vaccines for particular groups of people. For– first of all, we started with state employees who were dealing in congregate settings, dealing with our– our nursing home retirement settings for veterans, in– in places like our– our corrections facilities. And then just last week, in conjunction with the Hospital Association and the Nursing Association, we’ve mandated vaccines for workers in those two facilities that are dealing with the most vulnerable people. We– we had a mask mandate for quite some time, which was lifted back on July 1st. But we’re still strongly recommending the vax– mask for anybody who’s unvaccinated. Right now, one hundred percent of our hospitalizations and deaths are unvaccinated people–
MAJOR GARRETT: But you will not reimpose that mask mandate?
GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Look, we make our decisions every day based on the best advice we can get from smart people like Doctor Scott Gottlieb is one of our advisors is on next. But right now, all of our advice is that we all just hold the course because we’re hope– we’re doing better than just– just about any other state.
MAJOR GARRETT: Some in our audience might know that you’re a cancer survivor as such if you had the booster shot.
GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Matter of fact, I did just this week, you know, strong advice of our– of our team of epidemiologists and my own oncologist. You know, the– the federal government said that people have immune– that are immune compromised, should get it. I had a cancer of the immune system, so I got it on Monday. I’m feeling great.
MAJOR GARRETT: Do you want Marylanders to get their booster shot as soon as possible or wait this eight-month interval?
GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: No, we can’t wait that long. And we’ve been pushing the federal government for three things. One, we’re pushing to get the final FDA approval, which I think is part of the reluctance on the part of a lot of people. Hopefully, that’s going to be coming this week. Two, we’re pushing to speed up that timeframe because we want to start. We’re already preparing in our state to start doing boosters for our nursing home residents and people that are in vulnerable populations. We want to get that final okay from the federal government and we want to push to get it approved for the younger kids that– that right now can’t get it.
MAJOR GARRETT: With that vaccine approval, full approval from the FDA, which is expected sometime in the coming weeks. Will that change any of your policy attitudes? Do you think it will change the mindset of Marylanders who still haven’t become vaccinated?
GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: You know, we actually did surveys, and the number one reason stated for reluctancy or hesitancy to get the vaccine was that it’s not approved. So I think that will help. It may enable us to take further actions that we haven’t been able to because of the lack of approval, like, for instance, moving forward on– on the booster shots on the third vaccine.
MAJOR GARRETT: Schools will reopen in Maryland in the coming days. Do you want those schools to conduct, as some public health officials have recommended, testing for every child once or twice a week?
GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Look, we have provided 1.2 billion dollars to our– our local schools just for that reason. The state has provided the resources to do testing of all of our kids. We also put money in, part of that money goes to filtration systems, HVAC systems to take care of– taking care of the air, stop the spread, slow the spread of the virus. And we’re pushing to get those kids approved so they can get their vaccine.
MAJOR GARRETT: And do you want those children to wear masks?
GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Right now we left it up to our local school systems. About two-thirds of them have already made that decision to wear masks. We think that that’s where it should be. The duly elected school boards make those decisions based on the facts on the ground in their particular area.
MAJOR GARRETT: Maryland likes its athletics. There will be football games, professional, college and high school. How should they be handling the virus?
GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Well, they’ve all been taking pretty good steps. So both the professional– we have two professional football teams, the Washington Football Team and the Baltimore Ravens, and they’ve got policies in place where they’re going to, you know, they’ve got masking inside the stadiums, outside is okay. They’re going to do some screening when you come in. And our– our colleges have been really strict. So the University of Maryland, the Terrapins, for example, I mean, they’ve got a– a requirement for vaccines. And I think somewhere ninety– ninety– over ninety percent of their student population has already been vaccinated.
MAJOR GARRETT: Governor, as I gather that you are unhappy with some of your local leaders in the distribution of federal funds dealing with evictions. Why are they not spending the money rapidly enough? And how are you leaning on them to accelerate that?
GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Well, I just got back yesterday from the Maryland Association of Counties convention where we bring all of our local leaders together. And I just stressed the point with them. We’ve provided about a hundred million dollars of state money and four hundred million dollars of federal money. We’ve– we provided assistance for people to help with rental assistance for I think–
MAJOR GARRETT: Well, what’s– what’s the holdup?
GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: The holdup is simply that they– it’s a bureaucratic kind of process. There are some federal hoops you have to jump through. It’s not as easy as just handing out the money, but we– we’re working through that with those locals to try to make sure they get it done faster.
MAJOR GARRETT: So where do you need help? Do you need help from the federal government or do you need them to accelerate the pace of this spending?
GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: We need a little bit of both. So we got all the money out immediately to the local. Some of it went directly to the largest jurisdictions, the smaller counties. We immediately got it out to them. They’ve got to do a better job of distributing it. But we’re also going to push at the federal level to say, hey, let’s ease up some of these requirements so we can get it done.
MAJOR GARRETT: For someone who’s facing eviction, this sounds like a nightmare. Are you as mad about this situation as they likely are?
GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: I’m pretty frustrated about it. And I let some of our local leaders know that yesterday. But, you know, the good news is that we’ve had fifteen straight months of job growth, one of the best economic recoveries in the nation, and we don’t have as big of an eviction problem as other states, but we– we do want to help the people that are struggling.
MAJOR GARRETT: A lot of topics. Governor Larry Hogan, Republican from Maryland, thanks so much for joining us.
GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: Thank you.
MAJOR GARRETT: I appreciate the time.
And we’ll be back in just a moment.
MAJOR GARRETT: We turn now to former FDA commissioner and Pfizer board member Doctor Scott Gottlieb. His book, “Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic” comes out next month. Doctor Gottlieb, good morning. Do we know in this country how many young people have COVID-19 Delta variant? And are we testing enough to get an accurate sense of that number? And how far off might we be?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D. (Former FDA Commissioner/@ScottGottliebMD): Yeah, we may be very far off. We don’t have an accurate sense of that number. Right now about 4.2 million kids have been diagnosed with COVID. But the presumption is that we’re– we’re diagnosing just a small fraction of the kids who are ultimately contracting the virus. Maybe as low as one in ten to one in twenty infections in kids is being turned over right now. So there’s been far more infection among children than what we’re diagnosing because most of the infection is asymptomatic or mild and mild disease that doesn’t necessarily present to a pediatrician for testing. And this is really a critical question because it gets to the heart of whether or not this new Delta variant is more pathogenic in children. We see rising numbers of hospitalizations and ICU admissions among kids. The question is is that because this is a more dangerous variant in children or are we just infecting a whole lot more kids? So we’re not really getting an accurate sense of the denominator. We’re only seeing the numerator of kids who are presenting with more severe disease. I suspect it’s the latter. I suspect that the number of kids who are getting into trouble with COVID hasn’t really changed with this Delta variant. The reason why we’re seeing rising hospitalizations and ICU admissions among kids is because we’re infecting a whole lot more kids with it.
MAJOR GARRETT: So doing that quick math, we could have ten million to twenty million cases right now if I– if I heard you correctly.
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Yeah, well, there’s fifty million school-aged children. We’ve diagnosed, a little over four million. About eight million have been vaccinated. So the question is how many kids overall have been exposed to this virus and developed some measure of immunity? It could be as high as twenty-five million or more when you start doing the math around that 4.2 million who have been– who are known to have been infected. We’re certainly diagnosing less than one in four cases. In the peak of the epidemic, in the winter, we were turning over probably about one in four cases in adults. We always knew the fraction of cases that were getting diagnosed in kids was less. We’re doing less routine screening in children. Children get milder disease on the whole. So they, again, they don’t present to their pediatricians for testing. But the ascertainment rate right now may be even lower with this Delta variant.
MAJOR GARRETT: So should school districts be testing on a regular basis when children return? And when you say regular, is that once a week, twice a week, more?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: It’s once a week or twice a week, and if you google “Test to Stay,” there’s now a movement and a lot of districts, North Dakota is doing and some other states as well, to use testing as a way to keep kids in the classroom. So when you identify a case, rather than quarantining the whole class or a large swath of the school, which is happening in a lot of states right now in the south, as the epidemic rages there. What some districts are doing is using testing where they’ll test the close contacts of kids immediately to make sure there’s not other asymptomatic cases that are going undiagnosed and then test them at some kind of interval, maybe at three days and five days to make sure that there’s not an outbreak being triggered in a school. So you can use testing to avoid broad quarantines. I think the combination of kids wearing masks in the classroom to avoid spreading the virus with testing can allow the school year to go on without these large quarantines that we’re seeing in some districts while keeping children safe.
MAJOR GARRETT: And on that question of quarantines, is that the proper policy response?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Well, again, I think a proper policy response might be to use testing more aggressively to try to identify infection to make sure you’re not having an outbreak in that setting, and also make sure you’re taking mitigation steps to avoid that as well, with masks, with proper ventilation, keeping kids in defined social pods. I think the combination of those two measures can create a safer environment, not a safe environment. Schools aren’t inherently safe, but they can be made more safe without putting in– putting large groups of students in quarantine. In one district in Hillsborough, Florida, right now, around Tampa, there’s been two thousand seven hundred kids have been diagnosed with COVID. About six percent of the kids in that district are in quarantine. You’re seeing that all across the south right now. It’s going to be very disruptive to the school year. And then once these districts, either do go to a hybrid model, or shut down, or put a lot of kids into quarantine, it becomes very hard to restart a normal school year. So you want to prevent that from happening while keeping kids safe? I think testing could be used as a very effective tool to do that, and some states are leaning hard into that.
MAJOR GARRETT: Are case rates beginning to peak in the south where the Delta variant has hit the hardest?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Yeah, that’s definitely the case. If you go to covidestim.org, run by the Harvard Chan School, which looks at whether the epidemics are expanding or contracting they’re showing across the south right now, the Rt, the rate of transmission, is below one, which means you have a contracting epidemic across the south. Now there’s still very hard weeks ahead because they’re still going to continue to crue– accrue more hospitalizations and there’s extreme pressure on those health care systems. But there is evidence that the epidemic is starting to slow and the day over day cases are starting to decline. And that’s showing up in the na– national trends. Now, Florida, which has been the epicenter of the epidemic in this country, if you look across different age categories in Florida, every age category shows a declining number of cases day over day, except for school age kids, kids ages six to nineteen. That’s the only category that’s still expanding and expanding very quickly, because what’s happening is they’re opening schools earlier in the south. Schools open earlier in the south against the backdrop of still a lot of prevalence. And the infection is getting into schools and it’s proving to be hard to control in schools. Delta is a very contagious variant. And so I think that this is a harbinger of the challenges that we’re going to face nationally. As schools reopen, the schools could become focal points of community transmission and can become environments that aren’t safe for children if we can’t control very large outbreaks from happening in those settings.
MAJOR GARRETT: Doctor, do you expect the Pfizer vaccine to be approved fully this week? And if so, what difference will that make?
SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Yes, you know, I’m on the board of Pfizer, there were reports that it’s going to be approved as early as tomorrow. I have no reason to believe that those reports aren’t accurate. I do believe that once the vaccine is fully approved, that’s going to give more impetus to some businesses, schools to mandate vaccination. They’ve been waiting for full approval. They– they feel they’ll be on stronger legal ground to mandate vaccination in that setting. I also think that there are certain consumers that have been waiting for this milestone, waiting for the full approval and an indication that the FDA is done evaluating the data set to give them more confidence about using the vaccine. So I would expect to see some uptick in vaccine utilization, either from voluntary vaccination by consumers who’ve been waiting for a full approval or from some businesses that now are going to move forward with vaccine mandates, although you’ve been seeing businesses doing that even in the absence of the full approval while the vaccine has been under an emergency use authorization.
MAJOR GARRETT: For your time and expertise, Doctor Scott Gottlieb, we thank you very much.
And we’ll be right back.
MAJOR GARRETT: That is it for us today. We thank you so much for watching. For FACE THE NATION, I’m Major Garrett.