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tv   The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell  MSNBC  August 16, 2021 7:00pm-8:00pm PDT

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now it's time for "the last word" with lawrence o'donnell. lawrence is back. >> i'm afraid that's the best we can do on silver linings tonight. our friend was deployed with the 82nd airborne and she said she thought this was how it was going to end, whenever it ended, it was going to feel like this. what was your feeling when you
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were there, literally right in the middle of it about where we were and where we were going to end up? >> the reason that i went back there at that time was because it was the obama surge, right, which president biden was opposed to, which he said in his speech today, reminded everybody he was opposed to that and with hundreds of thousands of troops flooded back into afghanistan, the concept was one last push will give them the best chance to be able to stand up a sustainable government military and internal security force. we will do the best that they can and then they will stand alone. this is everything we can do. and the idea was that the surge would happen, you kind of set it and leave. and to see what happened. of course setting it left it set for another eight years before anything -- after the surge ended, before the troops finally left. the argument was the same the whole time, which is that, you
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know, likely even if america does almost infinite resource devotion to this problem, when the u.s. leaves, the likelihood that anything sustainable would be left in its wake, that is something what we want, it's very low but we'll do our best. that's what it felt like then. all the serving americans who i talked to then in 2010 told me some version of that. i this i that president biden believed that and, therefore, didn't believe that we should stay longer and that we should have a large, big, new influx of resources. that sort of hypothesis has been put to the test and i think it's hard to argue that the people who felt that way back then were right. >> yeah. i have to say, rachel, as someone who watched the way we left vietnam, there's zero surprise in this for me. just absolutely zero. this is -- there's no exit other
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than the clear victories in world war ii and other than those victories, there's no exit of a war that you haven't won that isn't utterly messy that involves abandoning people who were on your side. i feel if people don't like, if they're revolted in any way by what they're seeing in afghanistan tonight, it's because they're revolted by the horrors of war, as they should be, and we're never going to have a war that doesn't have these elements. >> there is more to be done right now, though. i mean, having 6,000 u.s. troops back there for a specific purpose right now to secure that airport, as my previous guest was saying, to have a beach head there, to get our allies evacuated, to get all people associated with the u.s. military, u.s. agency, u.s. media, everybody who helped us who wants to get out who we can get out, that can be done now.
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that's not a parallel with vietnam, if we make the most of the evacuation portal that has just been forced open at kabul's airport. the taliban did not fight their way into kabul. there are 6,000 troops that there will be there to get these evacuations going. if that can happen and can be scaled massively, a lot of the moral disgrace and human suffering that is preventable will be prevented but what we can do we must do. that's not a problem that we have to have regret about and wish we had done. that's a task for doing right now. >> i agree. what we can do we must do. we will find out in the next days what we can do. >> yes, exactly. >> thank you, rachel. >> well, here is a measure and just one measure of the human
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cost of america's 20 years of war in afghanistan and this is expressed only in lives lost, not lives ruined, not physical injuries, not any of the other horrors of war, just the death count, the brutal death count. afghan national military and police, 66,000. taliban and other opposition fighters, 51,191. afghan civilians, 47,245. that, of course, is just an estimate. u.s. contractors, 3,846. american military 2,448. allied service members including from nato member states, 1,144. aid workers 444, journalists 72. the two least accurate numbers in that count probably are taliban and other opposition
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fighters at 51,191 and afghan civilians at 47,245. the number of civilian deaths could be much larger. tonight there are some american commentators on the war in afghanistan who were saying we just didn't kill enough people. they were saying we should stay longer and kill as many people as it takes to control afghanistan and presumably control it forever. most americans were not yet born the first time the united states lost a foreign war and fled that country leaving behind thousands of people who helped the united states try to win a war that was always impossible to win. 56% of americans were not yet born 46 years ago when we saw the last helicopter leaving the american embassy in south vietnam as north vietnam's
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forces were taking over the entire country, which is now called vietnam and is a tourist attraction for americans. today president biden recalled the madness of the american involvement in the vietnam war, which was america's longest war before the war in afghanistan went on to set the record at 20 years. >> i made a commitment to the american people when i ran for president that i would bring america's military involvement in afghanistan to an end. while it's been hard and messy and, yes, far from perfect, i've honored that commitment. more importantly, i made a commitment to the brave men and women who serve this nation that i wasn't going to ask them to continue to risk their lives in a military action that should have ended long ago. our leaders did that in vietnam when i got here as a young man. i will not do it in afghanistan.
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>> if you're not old enough to remember watching our final exit from vietnam on tv, then what you are watching in afghanistan tonight is new to you. two people who i really would love to talk to about afghanistan tonight are no longer with us, david halberstam. "the new york times" sent david to vietnam for a war correspondent, he won the pulitzer prize for his reporting in 1964 and in 1972 when the vietnam war seemed to be our first endless war and was still going on, he wrote the best selling book "the best and the brightest" i ever read about vietnam. he told the story about how the best minds in military strategy made the worst mistakes in american history of military
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strategy and diplomacy, leading to the pointless deaths of 58,000 americans, along with literally millions of vietnamese and cambodian casualties. cornelius sheehan, as his name appears on his 1958 harvard diploma enlisted in the army after college, graduation for three years and became bureau chief in vietnam before joining "the new york times" in 1954, 15 years after the final american helicopter left vietnam, he won the pulitzer prize for his bike "a bright shining line" about america's unwinnable war in vietnam. david halberstam, they did the
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writing that was cemented into wisdom. if they could join us tonight, we would be so much the wiser about what we are seeing again in afghanistan now and hour it mirrors the unwinding of what neal sheehan called the bright shining lie about vietnam. general william westmoreland said "the vietnamese and we their allies are involved in a total undertakings are a single all evading confrontation in which the fate of the people in vietnam as well as the reputation and the very honor of our country are at stake. at one in the same time we must fight the enemy, protect the people and help them build a nation in the pattern of their
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choice." i was in high school when general westmoreland said that and i knew that that was completely impossible. it was easier to be smarter than the commander of our forces in vietnam if you were in high school in 1967. as anti-war protests grew, more americans and vietnamese were being killed every month. in may of 1968 alone, 2,214 american soldiers were killed in vietnam. that one-month total in vietnam is close to the total of the 20 years of american military killed in afghanistan. as the vietnam war raged on, anti-war protests grew larger and louder, demanding the immediate american withdrawal from vietnam and in 1959 the president of the united states
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said this: >> for the future of peace, precipitous withdrawal with be a disaster of immense magnitude. ultimately this would cost more lives. it would not bring peace. it would bring more war. for these reasons, i rejected the recommendation that i should end the war by immediately withdrawing all of our forces. >> and so americans took six more years after that speech to leave vietnam and in those six years another 20,000 or so american soldiers were killed and hundreds of thousands of vietnamese and cambodians were killed and then we left. and then the republican administration that extended the vietnam war for six pointless years before giving up kept claiming that they could have won the vietnam war if we just stayed a little longer and killed more people. exactly what you are hearing
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tonight from people who were never going to find the day when it was time to leave afghanistan. i never thought the american government and the american military would make the mistake of vietnam again. then came 9/11 and america's massive military overreaction, which pretended vietnam never happened. >> we went to afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear goals, get those who attacked us on september 11th, 2001 and make sure al qaeda could not use afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again. we did that. we severely degraded al qaeda and afghanistan. we never gave up the hunt for osama bin laden and we got him. that was a decade ago. >> there's a pattern here. when the united states leaves a foreign war that it cannot win, it's always going to look messy.
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there are always going to be dramatic scenes of the final american aircraft trying to escape the war zone. there are always going to be people who helped the american war effort who are left behind. there will never be a good, safe day for that final evacuation that can leave everyone holding their heads high about fighting a war like vietnam for 18 years or fighting to control afghanistan for 20 years. >> that's why i'm left again to ask of those who argue that we should stay how many more generations of america's daughters and sons would you have me send to fight afghanistan's civil war when afghan troops will not? how many more lives, american lives, is it worth? how many endless rows of headstones at arlington national cemetery? >> someone has to die so that president nixon won't be, and
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these are his words, the first president to lose a war. and we are asking americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in vietnam? how do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? >> our first guest tonight served in the 82nd airborne division in afghanistan. in a brilliant and moving article, she wrote about her feelings on america's final exit and told a story of an afghan boy who worked in her military cafeteria who everyone this called cowboy. cowboy was a good student. his student, who all worked on base was incredibly proud of him. he wanted to go to college in america, but there weren't colleges that took afghans, the education system was too weak.
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no program to help kids like him. i looked. i wonder if he's dead now for serving us food and dreaming of something different. if cowboy is dead, then he died a long time ago and if cowboys is dead, it's our fault for going there in the first place, giving his family the option of trusting us when we are the least trustworthy people on the planet." and leading off our discussion tonight, laura, who served two tours in afghanistan, david, columnist for "usa today" and host of deep state radio podcast and, laura, i've read your piece and your feelings about this. i also saw your writings indicating that in 2010 when you
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were in afghanistan, this is the way you thought this would end. >> yes, lawrence. and i don't think it was just me. everyone there could see the writing on the wall. they don't know how to train people, they knew how to smash things. we ended up doing all the work and i just don't think that we understood the country well enough to establish anything permanent. >> and, laura, you write that the choice at this point was stay forever or get out now. there was no third choice. >> that's correct. i mean, this was always going to happen, the only question was when. the best time for this to happen would have been many years ago but the second best time is now. though it breaks my heart to see
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the images of kabul airport and images of people like cowboy, i still think it's the right thing to do and i'm glad that we're out. >> let's listen to what president biden said today and the pace of the evacuation and why the process didn't start sooner. >> i know there were concerns about why we didn't begin evacuating afghan civilians sooner. part of the answer is some of the afghans did not want to leave earlier, still hopeful for their country. and part of it because the afghan government wanted to avoid triggering a crisis of confidence. >> i want to give officer wide open space for your reaction to what the president said today and what we're seeing in this final exit of afghanistan. >> well, i think the president said what needed to be said.
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it may not be exactly what his critics wanted to hear because i think they wanted him to own the problems of this week in a way that, you know, satisfied them somehow. but i think he did that. he explained why things had gone amiss. the afghan government folded, the afghan military folded. they were not there to slow the taliban. the taliban accelerated their process. but what we're seeing right now, the horrific images that we are seeing in kabul, they're not the consequence of a decision that was made in the past several weeks or the past several months. they're the consequences of 20 years of bad decisions by three other u.s. presidents, by military leaders who spent a lot of time trying to cover their reputations, by misleading about what was possible, and joe biden is the first president out of the last four to say no more.
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he knew. he knew in 2009 when the obama administration did their afghan review that it was time to go. laura knew it in 2010, you were talking to rachel, she knew it. i wrote an article in 2010 and said this was a failure and yet here we are 11 years later and nobody until joe biden had the courage to say enough, no more lives, no more spending, this is an afghan civil war, they're going to have to resolve it for themselves. >> let's listen to one more thing the president said about the afghan troops' willingness to fight. >> here's what i believe to my core. it is wrong to order american troops to step up when afghanistan's own armed forces would not.
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>> joseph government, what we heard the president said today about the afghan government's collapse is a pretty reasonably accurate description of exactly what happened in saigon with the south vietnam's government and south vietnam's military when the americans left the military collapsed, the government collapsed, it was over. >> i'm so glad you played john kerry's quote because i was thinking about it all day today. how do you ask a soldier to be the last person to die for a mistake? and the afghan war a mistake. the president got it exactly right. the initial narrowly focused mission was the correct one, we accomplished that but everything after that has been a failure, a massive strategic blunder, one that has cost us tremendously. how can you ask americans to continue to sacrifice for this blunder when we saw today and over the past few days a
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complete collapse of the government, a complete collapse of the military. this was not a taliban military victory. this was a political victory. they took kabul without firing a shot. they swept into these cities by having discussions, by paying bribes, by winning over the warlords of these provincial capitals and the reason they could do that is because the government we spent so much equ was corrupt and examine-- incompetent. no afghan soldiers were going to die for this government. how could we ask american soldiers to die for this government. >> were members of this military using the vietnam example to explain what they were going through in afghanistan? >> i think the vietnam example
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was in everyone's mind. you could see it happening again. but it certainly wasn't something that was talked about. any kind of officer or oversight level, i just don't think that the military ever really learned the lessons of vietnam. it was not something that we ever really talked about. i would like to say i do think what joe biden said about the afghan troops is a little bit unfair. the afghans are some of the most toughest, tenacious fighters on the planet. they didn't want to fight for the government we gave them. which is what we did in vietnam, we made the same mistake and now we're seeing the same thing. >> laura, david, joseph, thank you all three who know much more about this subject than i do for starting us off tonight. really appreciate it. >> our pleasure. >> thank you. >> coming up, tonight nancy pelosi has a new challenge to
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learn more at today. speaker of the house nancy pelosi can afford to lose only three democratic votes in the house on the democrats-only piece of the biden infrastructure legislation, and now nine moderate democrats have signed a letter that reads like an ultimatum saying they will not vote for the budget resolution that begins the legislative process for the democrats-only bill unless they get to vote for the bipartisan bill that first -- before that democrats-only bill, the bipartisan bill passed in the senate last week with the support of all the democrats and 19 republicans, including mitch mcconnell. speaker pelosi replied to the ultimatum with a letter to all house democrats saying, quote,
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our goal is to pass the budget resolution the week of august 23rd so that we may pass democrats' build back better agenda via reconciliation as soon as possible. i have requested that the rules committee explore the possibility of a rule that advances both the budget resolution and the bipartisan infrastructure package. this will put us on a path to advance the infrastructure bill and the reconciliation bill. let us proceed united." the nine house democrats responded in statement saying, quote, while we appreciate the forward procedural movement on the bipartisan infrastructure agreement, our view remains consistent: we should vote first on the bipartisan infrastructure framework without delay and then move to immediate consideration of the budget
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resolution." >> norm, you have studied these legislative paths many times over the years. is nancy pelosi facing a speed bump or a roadblock in the house and when you read her statement and the statement by the nine democrats, how do you solve that puzzle putting those words together? >> it's a speed bump. it's a big speed bump. we've had some of those where you really have to slow down to get over them. i trust pelosi to be able to find a way past this. now, one way she may have to deal with it is to take up first that infrastructure bill but, remember, there's controversy over at least one element of that bill, which is the bitcoin and other such currencies provision for regulation. one thing that she could do is pass or bring up this infrastructure bill, not exactly the same as the one that passed in the senate so that it doesn't move that quickly to the president's desk and then bring
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up immediately the budget resolution. or she could simply find a path forward by placating in some other fashion these nine moderates who i think in part are just saying, wait a minute, it isn't just the squad. you got to pay attention to us as well. >> jonathan, norm makes it sound easy. he's got a strategy, which is interesting, i hadn't thought of this, which is past the senate bipartisan bill just altering one line in it basically, one provision in it. what that means, as we all know of course, is that the senate has to vote on it again and then send it back to the house. so she's given the nine what they technically want in a vote but she's also slowed down that bipartisan process so that it could come after the democrats' only bill. there's a few different ways to do this, i guess. >> yeah, and the first way that she's going to try is to have
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one rule for both bills. you know, every bill that goes to the floor of the house of representatives has to go through the rules committee and they set the rules of the road for the debate on the house floor, and she's trying to fuse these two bills under one rule. the thing you have to understand about nancy pelosi is she is one of the great speakers of the house in american history. she is a real boss, tremendously formidable legislator. and have i a lot of confidence in her ability to finesse this particular problem. she's got 96 members to her left, nine members to her right. this is a situation where she has faced before on other bills with lower stakes but nonetheless, this is the kind of problem that she's familiar with and i'm pretty sure she's going to figure out a way to victory. one of the key things of all of
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this year, of 2021, the key political fact and i would argue surprises is the level of discipline within the democratic party. and remember, this is not about the senate. this is not about republicans. this is about democrats coming together and they have done so repeatedly this year and i think they will again. >> norm and jonathan, thank you for that update. we will be back at it. thank you both very much for joining us. coming up, president biden is ordering the largest increase in the value of food stamps in history simply by basing food stamp benefits on a healthier diet for americans. that's next. gillette proglide. five blades and a pivoting flexball designed to get virtually every hair on the first stroke. so you're ready for the day with a fresh face for a fresh start.
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. america's diet has changed
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substantially since 1962, especially america's healthy food choices, but the food stamp program has never kept up with the changes in the american diet until now. today there was an update to the thrifty food plan which starting in october will permanently increase benefits an average of 25% for 42 million people, an average month live increase for $36 for food purchases. that's the largest increase ever in the history of the supplemental nutrition assistance program. the thrifty food plan is a formula that determines the monthly cost to provide a nutritious meal for a budget conscious family. since it was developed in 1962, the plan has been adjusted but only for inflation. it's never been adjusted for people actually eat and how the
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american diet has changed over the last six decade. they allowed snap users 7% more calories based on weight gains and new exercise recommendations and they incorporated new dietary standards adding more seafood such as canned tuna and more red and orange vegetables. joining us now is democratic congresswoman joanna hayes and also with us, daniel worthy in little rock, arkansas, a current recipient of food assistance benefits and now assists people in applying for those benefits. daniel, will the me begin with you since you're living with this program every day. what does this change mean for you? >> oh, wow, it means a lot. for me personally it's getting those extra items that my
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daughter really enjoys. she enjoys fruit and she enjoys, you know, certain snacks that kids like. but, you know, with the money that i'm getting now, i'm not able to afford that stuff. >> and, i've heard talk in the congress for decades recognizing what daniel was going through before this change is coming, which is that the healthier diet generally costs more. the cheapest ways out of the grocery store were the least healthiest ways out of the grocery store and yet until now nothing's been done about it. >> i am thrilled by this change. i wrote a letter that the democrats carefully consider the thrifty food plan and really think about how families actually eat.
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we saw how many families were food insecure and we did the 15% plus up. i didn't know how families would be able to survive take taking that away when they were already living below the poverty left. i am thrilled that has been reevaluated and adjusted accordingly for the first time in almost 60 years. >> daniel, what was it like the first time you went through a grocery store knowing you were going to be using food stamps when it came to checkout and trying to budget when what you were throwing in the cart for what you were going to be able to afford at checkout in. >> well, to be honest with you, i'm with a recovery center here in little rock and what we do, we hope the guys in the process get on snap benefits. that's something i have done,
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helping guys get on benefits. now to be a recipient myself, it's a little humbling. i guess being humble is a good thing. but going through the line and everything, being able to get these things that my daughter needs and i need, it's very beneficial. >> congresswoman hayes, what other changes would you like to see in the program? >> in addition to this permanent increase, which i'm very excited about, i'd like to see a rolling benefit. i've heard from many grocers to just stock groceries at the beginning of the month and make sure they have supply. that would also remove some of the stigma of recipients only shopping at tern times of the month. that's something i would like to
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see. i'm thrilled listening to daniel speak. i'll just say to you that these programs are temporary. i myself was a snap recipient raising my children many years ago. these are meant to stabilize families until you can stand on your own. i'm just happy that you don't have to worry about your daughter having healthy meals. you know, it's not just the snacks, it's those basic nutritional needs that she's going to need to do well in school, to learn, to thrive. so i'm just so happy that this committee that we were able to do this, this is a congressionally mandated program, it is our responsibility to reevaluate it and look at it and make sure that we are meeting the needs of the modern day family. >> and, daniel, what changes would you like to see in the program? >> well, like she's talking about, just an increase would be amazing. right now as a single parent with a child, i'm getting like
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$130 a month. and so it's very difficult to make that money stretch. it's impossible. you're looking at one visit to the grocery store. so this increase is really just a blessing. >> congresswoman jahana hayes and daniel worthey, thank you very much for joining us and for your unique insight into this program. >> thank you. >> coming up, we have breaking news about booster shots as the delta variant is raging across the united states. that breaking news is next. that breaking news is next neuriva plus fuels six key indicators of brain performance. more brain performance? yes, please! neuriva. think bigger.
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vaccination. the decision comes as the united states is experiencing its biggest coronavirus surge in the last six months due to the highly contagious delta variant of the virus. yesterday the united states reported 130,808 cases. the last time it had 130,000 cases was on february 4th. here's nih director frances collins. >> this is going very steeply upward with no signs of having piqued out. i would be surprised if we don't cross 200,000 cases in a day in the next couple of weeks and that's heart breaking considering we never thought we'd be back in that space again. that was january/february. that shouldn't be august. joining us is an msnbc
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science contributor. lori, what do we know about this recommendation that will be coming, apparently, according to the "new york times," that we all get a third shot, a booster shot? >> lawrence, what we know is over time, successful immunization wanes somewhat. not terribly. people are still able to muster strong immune responses but it is diminishing overtime so there is much consideration to having a third booster. now, israel is already rolling out third boosters. they first did it for people over 65 and now it's down to people over 50. it looks like their goal is to eventually have all israelis triple dosed. and that's because they've seen that the delta variant in particular seems to be able to infect people who have been double dose vaccinated and then a substantial amount of time has
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elapsed since they had their second dose. this is, you know, an ongoing effort to figure out what's the best strategy for protecting people, but i would also want to rush to say this -- while we see the probably, for a third dose, particularly beginning with senior citizens and people who are immunocompromised, people need to understand that even with the two doses, they are protected. even if they get infected and have some very mild illness, you look across the hospitals today at these huge numbers, this gigantic surge in hospitalization, in icu admissions and, sadly, beginning to see in deaths. and it's almost all unvaccinated people. so vaccination, even with the two doses, is indeed protecting people from the most severe outcomes of infection. >> okay, we have to insert a
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quick footnote in here for people who got the johnson & johnson vaccine which is a one-dose vaccine. the booster shot for them would be their second dose, presumably. >> second dose, yeah. and as we go down the road, we'll -- i'm sure -- hit a point, where we will have a burden of variant strains mutated that perhaps are somewhat capable of evading the immune response and so you'll have to have a very specific targeted booster that elicits a response against those new variants. that hasn't happened yet. but there is a great deal of -- let's just say -- ample discussion. it's likely to occur somewhat down the road. it would be similar to needing a new flu shot periodically because your immune system no longer recognizes the form of
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influenza that's in circulation. >> that begins to sound like the flu shot process that we've all grown accustomed to which is annual. >> the thing, lawrence, that i cannot underscore strongly enough is, you know, long before we get to the point of having vaccines for small children, adequate supply of vaccines for the world, and third-dose vaccines for us in the united states, we're in a huge surge in the united states right now. and we have a huge percentage of the population that's not taking advantage of this fantastic weapon to protect them from this terrible disease. and so we've seen a 6 1/2 fold increase in the amount of daily reported disease since july 1. it's a very short time span. if you look at some of the projections, we're talking about
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perhaps 12,000-plus more deaths among americans over the next 19 days. a very short time span. so while, yes, there's a lot of conversation about a third dose to tackle this disease, you know, it's unconscionable that people aren't taking advantage of one dose, much less two. and this is just putting everybody at risk and especially, of course, the unvaccinated themselves. >> the way the virus circulates and especially its exploitation of unvaccinated people, can it be said that one of the things that's driving our need for a third shot, for a booster shot, is the amount of unvaccinated people we have? if we had gotten to virtually universal coverage of that -- the first round of vaccine, would we be talking about a booster shot tonight? >> well, it's hard to speculate
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exactly. but, obviously, if we had massive levels of immunization of our population and it had already happened by now, we would be in a very different situation. the united states is a breeding ground for new forms of virus. because we have a substantial percentage of our population that is not vaccinated and what this really means, rather than thinking of it as, oh, those people that aren't vaccinated, which leads to a lot of animosity, tension, you know, exacerbating difficulties in our society, think of it this way, there's a lot of virus out there. virus needs homes. homes are human bodies. there's a lot of human bodies unprotected, a lot of virus circulating around. it means that it has lots of opportunity to mutate, spread and put everybody at risk. >> laura garrett, thank you very much for joining us once again tonight. we always appreciate it. >> thank you.
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♪♪ this is a story that will delight the developer of the moderna vaccine. only 44% of people in the state of alabama are fully vaccinated. but in the town of panola, alabama, 94% of people are vaccinated. and for people over 65, the vaccination rate is 100%. 100%. how did that happen? a retired office administrator, dorothy oliver, along with a friend launched their own person-to-person crusade to convince people to get the vaccine. how did dorothy oliver do it?
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i will ask her tomorrow night when she joins us here at "the last word," along with two filmmakers who lived in the area and captured her efforts in the panola project, a new documentary. the 11th hour with brian williams" starts now. ♪♪ good evening, day 209 of the biden administration. we want to begin at the top of the broadcast with breaking news from just minutes ago, about vaccine booster shots. "new york times" and "washington post" are both on the board with reports that the white house has decided most americans should get a booster shot eight months after they've completed their initial vaccination and could begin offering the extra shots as early as mid-september to all who want or need them. we have a doctor standing by to talk about this


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