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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 8/16/21

Guests: Robin Wright, Gregory Meeks


President Biden delivers an address defending the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, as the Taliban seize control of the country. Congressman Gregory Meeks discusses the crisis in Afghanistan. An earthquake rocks Haiti.



Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you very much.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we begin with President Biden`s address to the nation over this unfolding security situation in Afghanistan.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I`ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces.

How many more lives, American lives, is it worth? How many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery?

I am president of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me.


MELBER: The president speaking starkly and clearly about this situation.

Here`s what we can tell you right now. It`s nightfall in Kabul. The Taliban has total control of the country. There also reports the Taliban is already performing military executions and reportedly going door to door searching for any people in the country who helped what they view as the American occupation.

The Pentagon says Hamid Karzai Airport is currently grounding all flights. Hundreds had swarmed the tarmac there in those dramatic and tragic images. We have seen the unbelievable picture of Afghans literally on the side -- you see this -- running with and clinging to a U.S. C-17 military plane, people desperate in any way to get near anything that might get them out of the country.

Seven died Monday in the chaos at the airport. The Pentagon says U.S. soldiers killed two individuals carrying firearms there. The U.S. has sent another 1,000 troops to Kabul simply to complete the evacuation and trying to ensure that U.S. personnel are safely evacuated.

In all, there will be 6,000 American troops in Afghanistan by the end of the week to deal with that deteriorating situation. Many Afghans are very clear about this. They fear for their lives right now. And this brutal regime of the Taliban, which is well-known -- it`s what so many wars were fought over -- is coming to power.

And there`s also concerns among women, who saw their rights effectively eliminated under the previous Taliban rule.

I want to get right to our experts right now. And we have some special guests.

Congressman Gregory Meeks is the powerful chairman of the House foreign affairs committee, having dealt with these issues for many years, things the president referred to, including the long-running clashes over how to get in and out of this conflict. And "The New Yorker"`s Robin Wright, an acclaimed author, an award-winning journalist. Her latest article, "Does the Great Retreat From Afghanistan Mark the End of the American Era?"

Mr. Chairman, I begin with you.

The president spoke very clearly to the nation. He did not really give an inch on the fact that he says that, while terrible, gruesome and tragic, these scenes that we`re seeing, he says, if anything, the last week ultimately reinforces why the United States should no longer be spending blood and treasure there.

Your reaction to the address today?

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D-NY): I think the president was absolutely correct.

Look, we spent close to a trillion dollars, trained over 300,000 people to be a security force, allegedly, so that they could fight on their own. And they just laid down. So, why -- I don`t see how the American people can continue with a surge, because that`s the only other thing that could be done is to surge to go back up to 10,000, 15,000, 20,000, 25,000 people, and be basically the security force for the Afghan people that aren`t fighting for themselves.

So it is time, after 20 years. But, remember, we went in to get Osama bin Laden and to make sure that the terrorists there would no longer organize the threat against us.

Now, we -- to fight against us. We were successful. We could have left that. But we thought that it would be good to try to make sure that we could change the tide for women and girls particularly. So we stayed there another 18 years, did all that we could. And if they don`t have the will to fight, because we can`t make them have the will to fight -- a lot of this time, they have moved so quickly without a shot being fired some places.


MEEKS: Nothing...


MELBER: To that point, sir, let`s play a little more from the president. He gave this address.

And Americans have lived through this. How many different presidents have we seen giving different addresses about this region? And building on the point you were just raising, he talked about how the deterioration and how quick it was is part of the security situation there. It was fast in part because it wasn`t much of a fight at this point, once the United States wasn`t on the ground.

Take a listen.


BIDEN: The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.


So what`s happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight.


MELBER: Mr. Chairman, why is that important -- some of that is documented and true -- our own reporters have been on that as well -- for Americans to understand?

Because the flip side is looking at images in a place that we as a country were, and people understandably feeling bad, wondering, is there anything more to be done?

MEEKS: Because, at some point, you got to fight for your country.

It can`t be someone from outside of your country fighting for your country. They want more for you than you want for yourself. At some point, you have got to say, enough is enough.

And I think we were at that point. I was at a meeting with President Ghani when he was in the United States. And the question was asked then, will they fight? And he said that they would.

But yet he was the first one to leave town without a shot being fired or anyone defending them.


MEEKS: He said he had to have a government that people could believe in. MELBER: Right, right. And he...

MEEKS: The images that I see are shocking and horrible, and it breaks my heart, as well as all of the men and women who -- especially the brave Americans, and Afghanis who stood by our side and put their lives on the line.

So now, it`s time for us to focus. And we do have to keep our commitment to them and get them out of there. And that`s what I hope we are focused on right now, to make sure that every single one of them gets out of there and into someplace safe.

But I tell you, as a member of the United States Congress and chair of this House Foreign Affairs Committee, I cannot advocate surging. I cannot advocate kicking it down the road for another five, 10 years.

MELBER: Right.

MEEKS: Because I don`t think that will make a difference either.

MELBER: Right.

And, as you say, the policy debate always comes back to that for United States` interventions abroad, which is, how many more people? Do you want to add more troops or not? If you don`t, then are you trying to leave?

Robin, I want to show you some of these pictures that have come out of Afghanistan, the freefall, the disaster, the humanitarian crisis, Afghans trying to board that commercial jet, climbing over each other. Obviously, anyone can understand the desperation of individuals, if you know anything about what it is to live under the Taliban.

Last night, hundreds boarding an air jet and swarming a cargo area. Again, in the area of phones and social media, these are just raw footage often from citizens and other individuals on the ground. People rushed the perimeter of the airport.There was chaos there. And the moments that the Taliban entered Kabul, you had people filling the streets. We could hear gunshots, according to our reports, fired in the air.

Taliban controls the situation. They control the streets. They`re already setting up checkpoints, posing for photos inside the presidential palace. The whereabouts, as mentioned, of President Ghani are unknown. He did leave. That`s been confirmed.

In a scene that many have pointed out does seem to echo the infamous fall of Saigon, you have the U.S. helicopters evacuating embassy personnel.

Robin, your perspective here.

ROBIN WRIGHT, "THE NEW YORKER": This is an epic defeat for the United States. This is arguably the most powerful country in the world that has succumbed to a ragtag militia that has only 60,000 members in a country the size of Texas. This is a humiliating defeat, and I think could serve as one of the bookends of the era of American power in the world.

The fact that we are scurrying out of Kabul that we are unable to orchestrate an orderly exit, the fact that there are so many, potentially tens of thousands of people who either are dual nationals or have worked for American institutions and non-government organizations, and that they may well be stranded because we don`t have the capacity to get them out, this is -- for whatever Joe Biden says, this is a moment, the real pivot in American history.

But he doesn`t take all the blame. The last four -- all four presidents since 9/11 share responsibility for some major miscalculations along the way, whether it was Obama and the surge, whether it was Trump making a deal with the Taliban before there was some kind of -- to exit before there was some kind of deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government about a political resolution, that there are so many times that we made mistakes.

And this is -- the tragedy is playing out before our eyes. And America`s longest war is not over. And it`s not just the next two weeks. It will linger with us, I think, for the foreseeable future.


We spent a trillion dollars, what the United -- what many Americans may see as the trillion-dollar throwaway. And there may be another $2 trillion required to just provide health care and disability payment to the veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq. And the peak year may not be until 2048.

That`s a very, very long war with a lot of costs that we have met not made.


And, Robin, you mentioned the recent history. The prior administration seemed to do things that suggested they could broker with the Taliban. And Donald Trump talked about getting out of foreign entanglements and certainly made some changes to foreign policy, but it would seem that it took President Biden to actually do the really hard thing, which is leave, which creates the vacuum that then has all the images and all the horror on it.

Do you think that the Trump administration`s approach here helped or hurt the ultimate U.S. security interests and goals?

WRIGHT: Well, I think it hurt terribly.

The fact that we were willing to selfishly do a deal for our own exit, without making sure that our investment of 20 years to try to stabilize Afghanistan or find -- find a way to broker a resolution between the two rival parties inside Afghanistan, is really shameful.

President Trump said all American troops would be out by May 1. Joe Biden extended that a bit. There weren`t many comfortable alternatives. The United States could have turned around and said, look, we`re going to keep a modest presence in Afghanistan, like we have in Iraq, to try to prop up the government, to provide the psychological support that might have held the Taliban at bay.

But I was in Afghanistan in March. And, by that point, the Taliban held half of the country. The last half has fallen very quickly, most of it just in the past week. So this is a military, intelligence and diplomatic disaster.

MELBER: Sober-eyed views here from people who know the issues well.

Robin Wright, Chairman Meeks, my thanks to both of you kicking us off.

I want to tell everyone we have another perspective on this from General McCaffrey about what`s going on, on the ground, about what this means to try to have a military security situation with other U.S. allies in peril over there.

Meanwhile, we will also look tonight at the crisis at home. Millions of people continue to choose not to get vaccinated for a range of reasons. I have a fact-check and a deep dive with information you need to know, especially if you`re talking to anyone in your life or community about this choice that affects us all.

That`s my special report next.



MELBER: COVID continues to surge across many parts of America, a major reversal from its drop early on, when the scientific breakthrough vaccines slashed the caseload, as you can see there.

People watched trucks carrying the doses as they left warehouses early in the morning. Health care workers got those first shots, showing how people who know most about medicine and those who saw COVID`s devastation up close were eager to get vaccinated.

Nurse Sandra Lindsay actually got the very first shot on live TV. There was a huge push to get everyone vaccinated.



GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s important for our fellow citizens to get vaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m getting my vaccine.

BILL RUSSELL, FORMER NBA PLAYER: I have to get my COVID shot. And this is one shot I won`t block.

FMR. GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R-CA): I just got my vaccine. And I recommend it to anyone and everyone.

DOLLY PARTON, MUSICIAN (singing): Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine. I`m begging of you, please don`t hesitate.


MELBER: And many, many people did not hesitate.

We know that 198 million Americans have now gotten at least one shot. And it`s working, because it prevents COVID transmission for most people, and it protects people who might get those rare COVID breakthrough cases. It still protects you from severe harm or death.

But there are many other people holding out on vaccination, which allows COVID to regroup and mutate. And you can see this recent spike on the right side of your screen. In the middle there, around February and March, is when we had the vaccine, and people were taking it and things were falling.

Now July and August show those days of vanishing COVID cases were temporary. About one out of five Americans now say they just don`t plan to get vaccinated.

A doctor specializing in this area told us how that group breaks down.


DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH: We have the vaccine-hesitant, the people who are actually really concerned yet about the safety of the vaccine.

And then we have the vaccine-hostile. These are the ones that believe that, in fact, the pandemic is a hoax, it`s not real, these vaccines are meant to hurt them somehow.


MELBER: That is a key distinction for our road ahead.

The vaccine-hostile are hard to move, while the vaccine-hesitant are movable. And they may be reacting to a whole range of material. When you ask them why they feel hesitant, you see about a fifth just don`t trust any vaccines. Another fifth worry about safety and FDA approval.

And then there`s a smaller group that think COVID wouldn`t hurt them much if they contracted it. And there`s another interesting finding in polling which offers some encouragement for medical experts and the Biden administration making this vaccine push. The vaccine has been largely available all year. And there are people who used to say they wouldn`t take it who ended up taking it.

There was a KFF poll from just last month that notes 21 percent of adults who were hesitant to get vaccinated in January are now actually vaccinated. So, even people who may sound anti can change their minds.

And that brings us to our special report right now. We`re going to report on and fact-check some of these factors driving vaccine hesitance, which matters so much to all of us.

And let me tell you, we`re going to do this journalistically and scientifically. We`re not here to malign people who happen to be hesitant. We`re not presuming there`s no valid reason to ever feel that way, just as, here on THE BEAT, you may have seen we recently heard from a special panel of people from vaccine-hesitant families who also went on to get vaccinated.

Now, a major cause for hesitance is, people say they don`t trust the speed of this vaccine, that it just came so fast, it`s suspicious, and they`re thus waiting on full FDA approval.

Well, let`s get into this. The first vaccine trials began in March. Here on THE BEAT, we actually heard from literally the first person in the U.S. to participate in the vaccine trial.



JENNIFER HALLER, FIRST VACCINE RECIPIENT: I went in this morning at 8:00 a.m. and got the first dose. There it is.

I know we feel so helpless. Like, what can we do? And I am so excited that there was actually something that I could do. And I did it. And I`m doing it. And I am so proud of myself and so thankful for the privilege that I have that allows me to do this.


MELBER: That was March 16 of last year.

The COVID vaccine was the fastest vaccine development in history, for two big reasons. One, medical science is far more advanced than it was decades ago. And, two, the underlying science has been developed far longer than just this past year-and-a-half. Indeed, lab work dating back 15 years for the associate mRNA technology came into play.

Now, some people say, OK, they know all that, but they want to wait to see how the vaccine goes, whether there are side effects. OK. Maybe you have had conversations like this with people.

Well, here`s a key fact-check. Some kind of waiting does have a medical basis, if you`re talking about, say, back in February. But medical experts say the idea of a waiting period no longer applies now. And here`s why. Side effects from vaccines nearly always occur within a couple weeks of a person being vaccinated.

So, if you know someone who says they`re waiting, you can relay that doctors say that kind of waiting period is over. It doesn`t mean that kind of concern is totally baseless. It just means it doesn`t apply anymore now because it`s been so long.

Indeed, even if you include all other shots and all possible side effects, the longest time before a side effect appeared for any type of vaccine shot has been six weeks. And we are way past that window for the hundreds of millions of people taking the shot.

So these are facts you can use if you`re talking to people.

As for the FDA approval part, Dr. Fauci says that`s also now likely a few weeks away.

So, the vaccine speed is not a medical strike against it. And the lessons from every vaccine ever -- and all we have to go on here is our lived experience as human beings on Earth -- shows we are past any anecdotal waiting period for any undiscovered side effects.

Now, there is another common belief here that I mentioned, especially among younger people, that they think they don`t need a shot because they don`t think COVID would make them very sick. That`s about 13 percent of this hesitant group.

Now, a measured way to tackle this view is to note it does have some scientific basis. We have all learned more about who COVID hits the hardest. So, a person can assess their general risk based on their age and their health and underlying conditions. So it`s true that an elderly person, say, with lung problems has higher risk than a really healthy young person. Kids aren`t even cleared for the vaccine yet.

But this is important. We`re talking about risk assessment here, which can be tricky. If you use that same logic, oh, I don`t think I will get that sick, you could say, well, you get in cars every day, and you`re unlikely to have a bad crash, so why bother with a seat belt, right? It`s technically true, but the point about risk here is similar.

And this is way bigger than COVID. Researchers call this low- probability/high-consequence events, low probability of the bad thing happening to you, but very high consequence if it does. Low odds you will crash into another car today, but if you did without a seat belt, you might really be likely to get paralyzed or die.

So if someone`s thinking along these lines as a type of logic, it`s not inaccurate to think about it that way. We don`t have to insist, oh, you`re totally wrong if you`re a young, healthy person going, I`m not sure I need this. It may be technically lower risk, but that`s not zero risk.

And, boy, we have many cases of people who were supposed to be low risk. They were not necessarily elderly. And then they got very sick or even, tragically, died.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead and get the vaccination, cause the COVID is for real.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I could do it all over again, I would get it, no doubt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish people would least reconsider or at least listen to what we went through.

QUESTION: If you could go back in time and get the vaccine before all this, would you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mm-hmm. I would have got the shots. But, no, I want to be hardheaded. I want to be the brave -- the brave momma. And look at me.


MELBER: Those are people who also thought in the moment they were low- risk.

And today`s COVID is worse than the COVID of 2019 and 2020. Now Delta accounts for more young people rushing into the hospital and reports where the intensive care units, ICUs, are filling up in areas with lagging vaccination rates.

There are less than 5 percent of beds left in Texas` ICUs and none left in Mississippi ICUs. COVID is dangerous. It`s lethal. It`s a bit like the beef Notorious B.I.G. used to rap about when he said beef is when your mom`s ain`t safe up in the streets. Beef is when I see you guaranteed to be in ICU.


Well, when COVID sees you, you can end up in ICU, maybe not at the same rate as Biggie`s beef, but that`s the point about risk. You don`t want to test these streets and risk ending up in the ICU.

For anyone who may be pondering the reference here, I`m not making light of this. I`m trying to get your attention. I`m trying to make sure people know and young people know, whether you`re watching this live on TV, or in a clip online, or on TikTok, this is serious. The new COVID can land you in the ICU or, God forbid, worse.

Now, another reason that some people don`t trust the vaccine because they don`t trust the U.S. government, or they don`t trust it to conduct fair, impartial research. People may look at the current head of the CDC, Dr. Walensky, and think about the CDC`s past, because past CDC leaders helped run the infamous Tuskegee experiments, where they lied to black men, promising them free health care that they didn`t get, and compromised their health by subjecting them to long-term, untreated syphilis, among other unethical malfeasance that the U.S. formally apologized for.


TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: President Clinton used the majesty of the White House as a backdrop and the power of his office as a pulpit to formally apologize today for a shocking and racist official act, federal doctors deliberately not treating black syphilis patients.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Tuskegee, Alabama, many of the victims` families watch via satellite.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were treated unfairly, to some extent, like guinea pigs.


MELBER: So, today, you have some Americans who say, with a history like that, they`re not giving the CDC the benefit of the doubt.

And like those other objections I mentioned, you can see a valid objection here, a real concern based on real history. But is there evidence that these vaccines provided to all Americans are another racist experiment? No, there is no current evidence of racial bias in the actual vaccine itself. Researchers conducted tests with a diverse pool of participants, trying to ensure its safety with all different types of groups.

And, by the way, we report on civil rights a lot around here. If you want to be tough on finding potential racial bias anywhere in this arena, well, we`re not finding it in the development of the vaccine and its safety. If anything, we`re finding wider institutional inequities that make it harder for people to get vaccinated, which is what would keep them safe regardless of race or class.

There are these pharmacy deserts in poorer areas, reports of white people snatching up appointments at clinics intended for outreach to black and Latino communities, as NPR noted in a piece about experts who actually think it`s time to stop blaming Tuskegee.

So, while the vaccine is the best way to stay out of the hospital, many hospitals have also documented differential treatment. Take the tragic case of a black doctor who blew the whistle on what she viewed as health care discrimination. She later died of COVID, just this last year.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At that time, I had only received two treatments of the remdesivir. He said: "Ah, you don`t need it. You`re not even short of breath."

I was crushed. He made me feel like I was a drug addict. And he knew I was a physician. I put forward and I maintain, if I was white, I wouldn`t have to go through that.

This is how black people get killed.


MELBER: This is important.

And some of this is hard to face. But we have to be precise and specific. That was a doctor warning people about systemic discrimination that might basically result in the denial of health care, or the denial of vaccines, as doctors have encouraged everyone to get the vaccine.

So, is there racism? Yes. Is there racism inside the vaccine? No, no evidence of that. If anything, the issue is making sure people get the information they need and the health care they need to make their own safe choices, which doctors say includes getting yourself vaccinated.

Now, what about all the other reasons for hesitance that aren`t valid at all? You heard me try to be measured and respectful that some of this. What about the stuff that`s going around peddled by these bad faith actors? Well, that`s a big part of this.

And we have a key fact-check, when we blow the whistle on some of these people, as we finish our special report in just 60 seconds.



MELBER: Welcome back to our special report.

After you go through the range of vaccine objections on speed, safety, equity, eventually, you run into people who oppose vaccines based on completely false premises. And this predates COVID or this Trump era.

One in five people who are dubious about the COVID vaccine say it`s not the COVID vaccine. It`s not just this vaccine. They don`t trust vaccines in general. And so-called anti-vaxxers draw heavily on a man known -- now known as a doctor who fooled the world who put out material falsely linking an MMR vaccine with autism, a so-called study that has been withdrawn over falsified data.

And apart from right-wingers undercutting vaccines today, which we will get to, public vaccines skeptics include liberal icon Robert Kennedy Jr. and so-called Hollywood liberals. And these conspiracy theories have consequences apart from COVID, measles making a separate comeback two decades after it was finally eliminated from the U.S.

As for COVID specifically, bad mouthing the vaccine has become a larger talking point on the right, especially after Joe Biden took over.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like a vaccination, in a weird way, is just generally kind of going against nature.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: The Cleveland Clinic said that, if you had COVID- 19, you don`t need any vaccine.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Since COVID, Bill Gates has gained extraordinary powers over what you can and cannot do to your own body. Bill Gates would like you to take the coronavirus vaccine.


MELBER: It`s actually ranged from ignorant misinformation to picking up on pretty ancient themes, that medical breakthroughs which make you safer are actually some dangerous elite plot, Tucker there flirting with viral lies about Bill Gates, that he would be using the vaccine to spy on people.

These things are so dumb and stale and uncreative, they were marked all the way back in the 1950s by classics like the film "Dr. Strangelove," which parodied a general worrying about sinister medical attacks on Americans` bodily fluids.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I can no longer sit back and allow communist infiltration, communist indoctrination, communist subversion, and the international communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.


MELBER: Our bodily fluids. The idea is, this is dumb, and that`s why it was a punchline.

And fact-checking these kinds of lies is straightforward. There`s nothing unnatural or unsafe about the COVID vaccine. Bill Gates did not control its development or insert any microchips.

I actually discussed some of these issues with him recently when he was on THE BEAT.

We do know where some of the conspiracy theory came from. Gates actually predicted something that`s begun to happen, governments using these so- called vaccine passports or paperwork to prove that people are vaccinated for safety.

Now, Gates said before there was a vaccine for COVID that people may use digital certificates to show testing or vaccination. This was in a discussion online at Reddit, which was deliberately turned into a lie by activists with a totally different agenda, who later admitted they twisted that quote, pushing the Gates conspiracy as a -- quote -- "biohack into the mainstream," to which I say, whatever.

Now, while many Web sites are interesting places to connect and chat or find entertainment and music, memes, let`s be clear, they have proven to be a very dangerous substitute for factual information or for visiting your doctor.

Indeed, for all the criticism of FOX News -- and we have done some of that -- studies now show people who rely on Facebook for their COVID information are even less likely to get vaccinated than Americans in general or than people who rely on FOX News for their COVID information.

That`s part of why President Biden accused Facebook of effectively killing people and the White House has been putting more heat on Internet companies to address misinformation that goes viral, which makes them money.

Now, here`s the thing about disinformation and why, if you`re watching this, you can use some of this when you talk to people, because we`re all in this together. Disinformation works when people think they`re getting information. It works the same way fraud works. People can pay top dollar for a fake Rolex because they think it`s a Rolex.

If they find out it`s not, it`s really, truly not a Rolex, well, then they treat it like the fugazi junk it is. And that`s as true with a fake Rolex, a fugazi, as it is with fake disinformation that can actually get you killed.



MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, ACTOR: It`s all a fugazi. You know what a fugazi is?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO, ACTOR: Fugazi. It`s a fake.

MCCONAUGHEY: Yes, fugazi, fugazi. It`s a whazy. It`s a woozie. It`s fairy dust. It doesn`t exist. It`s never landed. It is no matter. It`s not on the elemental chart. It`s not (EXPLETIVE DELETED) real. right?

Stay with me. We don`t create. We don`t build anything.



MELBER: No, they don`t build anything.

Those are just two lying brokers commiserating about selling made-up fugazi products to suckers who didn`t know any better.

And those kind of people are much more culpable than their informational fraud victims, just as the people pushing fugazi disinformation about COVID are more culpable than the people who get fooled by it, who get hurt by it, who might die from it.

We might want to have empathy for those people, because, right now, we really need facts, so people can make their own decisions based on truth, not lies.

And I think we need empathy, so people can converse about this without demeaning our fellow citizens who may be hesitant for any range of reasons.

The way out is through this together. And we do keep hearing from people who`ve learned more and changed some of their minds along the way, like those people from vaccine-hesitant families. We heard from them recently. That includes two women who lost one a daughter and another brother who were not vaccinated.

So, after all of this tonight, looking at the valid and less-than-valid objections, and thinking about avoiding the fugazi plots online and on Facebook that want to confuse you, so you don`t make good decisions, well, after all that on this tough topic, these individuals I mentioned get the last word.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s the most selfless thing that you can do.

MELBER: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you say you love yourself, get the vaccine.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do it for yourself. Do it for your family. Do it for your community.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do it for others. Do it for your children. Do it for your neighbors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you do not care about your own life, think about the future of the world. Think about the children. They deserve a fair chance of life.





BIDEN: I will not repeat the mistakes we`ve made in the past.

It is not what our troops, who have sacrificed so much over the past two decades, deserve.


MELBER: We have been tracking the situation Afghanistan.

We`re joined now by retired General Barry McCaffrey. He conducted a review of the war for the Pentagon in 2006 and concluded the Taliban was nowhere near defeated, that war at the time deteriorating, and has been a military analyst for us throughout.

Thank you for being here.


MELBER: Let`s start with the latest. Your views on the president`s address today.

MCCAFFREY: Look, I thought it was terrific, very sober-minded, pragmatic, objective.

It reminded us of the facts of the matter on the ground. It was an elective decision by Mr. Biden. And so the ensuing humanitarian disaster which will roll out before our eyes over the coming year is one that he will own historically.

But, again, I thought it was a legitimate political decision, largely supported by the American people. And he had very few options.

MELBER: Yes, the public is definitely behind him at this point. And there may be some gap that`s been discussed between the broad public and the narrators, whether that is the press, present company included, or what is sometimes called the national security establishment.

The general public, as you point out, felt at this juncture, after all of the blood and treasure in Afghanistan, it was past time to leave.

When the president says that the Afghan people themselves were not standing up and fighting on their own behalf, is that rhetoric, or do you view that as accurate and relevant to how we understand this stage of the conflict?

MCCAFFREY: Well, this is very painful, because we have had several million troops serving Iraq and Afghanistan. We have had 60,000 U.S. killed and wounded.

A lot of them are invested in what they were prepared to sacrifice their life for. But, look, if you back off it, in the last year, the disaster of the growing control of Taliban over the rural countryside, half of it, then two-thirds of the country, then the cities, in large part, the Afghan security forces were not defeated in battle.

They went over to the other side, or they walked away from their uniforms, handed their guns to the Taliban. These were negotiated outcomes in most of these different capitals. They had 10 Taliban taking the surrender of significant ANA and police forces.

So, unfortunately, we had a better message from the Taliban than the corrupt and incompetent Afghan government. And the army wouldn`t fight. We have seen this in the Iraqi army in Mosul; 800 ISIS fighters had two Iraqi divisions take to their heels.

So I think that a lot of the problem isn`t that the Afghans lack courage. They don`t. They`re some of the bravest people on the face of the Earth. But I think, in large part, particularly the security forces, they just said, hey, these people aren`t paying us. They`re leaving us isolated. And they walked away from it.

MELBER: Let`s take a listen to some of what the president has been saying recently about all this.


BIDEN: The likelihood there`s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.

We have trained and equipped a standing force of over 300,000 Afghan personnel today.

There`s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy of the United States from Afghanistan.

It is not at all comparable.

QUESTION: Don`t you bear some responsibility for the outcome if the Taliban ends up back in control and women end up losing the rights?

BIDEN: No, I don`t.


MELBER: Your thought about the line he is walking, because, on the one hand, the commander in chief is not supposed to go around -- I think this is a nonpartisan observation -- projecting weakness or the worst possible future outcome.


So I think that`s an aspect of sort of robust or optimistic leadership. On the other hand, even viewers who have not been following the ins and outs of Afghanistan closely would look at some of those recent comments and thought, could they have been put different?

MCCAFFREY: Oh, yes, look, be blunt, these were boneheaded errors.

You got to wonder what the national security staff was telling him that would allow him to make those kinds of predictions. I think it`s been obvious to most of us who followed the issue -- that means journalists, military people who served in Afghanistan -- that this thing was on the edge of crumbling.

And I think the last three presidents before Biden essentially got told, hey, if you pull us out, these people are going to come apart, and you will own the ensuing horrific video we will watch. So they stayed.

President Biden said, no, we`re going to cut the cord. We`re going to walk away from it.

I think it was a smart U.S. political decision, a tragedy for Afghanistan. It will outrage many of our veterans. But I don`t think it was going to be realistic. I hear people say we should have waited until the end of the fighting system. Nonsense.


MCCAFFREY: If we`d stayed beyond 31 August, we would have been back in the war. We would have had to reinforce and get enough, 10,000, 20,000 troops on the ground and protect ourselves.

Having said that, the Afghans were fighting the war, not us. So, again, it was an elective decision by the president of the United States.

MELBER: And, finally, General, what should the United States policy-makers take from this, if what was sometimes divided between -- and I say this deliberately oversimplified -- the good war in Afghanistan and the bad war in Iraq, turns out that both end with Americans looking at these scenes with, as you referenced at the beginning of our discussion, really widespread nonpartisan or bipartisan opposition to overlong overseas extended presence intervention?

What do we take from this at a foreign policy level? Because it does not seem like, in the modern era, we have found that those sort of -- quote, unquote -- "middle ground" to avoid these kind of long entanglements?

MCCAFFREY: Well, look, I always draw it back, we got to remember why we got into Afghanistan.

We went there because of 9/11. I was in and out of New York City with the ash hanging in the air from the aftermath of 3,000 American getting murdered by terrorists that started out of the sanctuary of Afghanistan.

So, getting in there to protect the American people post-9/11, and, indeed, staying to try and stand up some form of cohesive government wasn`t a bad idea. But we didn`t do it very well, even on minor points, like the so- called SIV special 18,000 interpreters.

That`s nonsense that we couldn`t have gotten them out over the last year or so. So I think the execution was flawed. But the import was a good one.

MELBER: Right.

MCCAFFREY: We`re trying to protect the American people.


MCCAFFREY: And the U.S. armed forces -- I had a comment I heard on air yesterday about the military adventure in Afghanistan.

What an outrage. Our armed forces went in there in the dark of night to protect the American people under four presidents and several secretaries of defense and with the support a Congress.

So, right now, inside the Beltway is the normal blame shifting, stabbing in the back going on.


MCCAFFREY: And I want them to remember the troops who were out there.


No, I appreciate that point, for sure. And I think people can get some experience and clarity from listening to you.

General McCaffrey, as always, thank you.

I`m going to fit in a break.

When we come back, we haven`t done a lot of politics tonight, but Joe Biden absolutely crushing Newt Gingrich. We will explain.



MELBER: As the U.S. turns attention to that turmoil abroad in Afghanistan and challenges at home with surging COVID, we have an update on a different and important challenge on the home front, as people struggle to get enough to eat.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You got a milk, Jayden?

I live paycheck to paycheck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were basically to the point where we were going to have to start going to our church and asking for food boxes.

QUESTION: You`re not eating?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m not. I`m really not eating.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I got -- my kids have to eat before me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They see you spending food stamps and they judge you for what you`re buying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone comes to a point in their life where they need help. And that`s my point in life where I`m at now.


MELBER: The pandemic testing many parts of American life, including our safety net, experts long stating that government food assistance is lacking, especially compared to many other countries.

Tonight, the Biden administration supersizing benefits by roughly 25 percent. And while, as we just heard there, some people make assumptions about who might need food assistance at one time or another, the fact is, this boost will impact one out of eight Americans, or 42 million people total.

President Biden using his authority to make the change without Congress. It comes as a combination of federal aid is driving the fastest decline in the U.S. poverty rate ever. That`s something.

Now, it was not that long ago that Republicans tried to troll and dog- whistle President Obama with the food stamps label.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: President Obama is the most effective food stamp president in American history.


MELBER: The supposed to dig there was that food stamps and assistance are somehow a bad thing. And the dog whistle is Gingrich implying that they would be benefits for minorities.

It`s an old trope with several holes, including the basic fact that, if you want to get into it, the largest group receiving food assistance in the United States are white Americans.

As for being a food stamp president, whatever that was supposed to mean, let`s be clear about the facts. President Biden is now doing that, and doing it more effectively than the last two presidents.


And just like his stimulus checks and some other recent federal spending lifting families out of poverty, being a food stamps president, if you will, is proving far more popular than the discredited attacks from a loser candidate on robust government spending during an economic and health crisis.


MELBER: Finally tonight, an update on the crisis in Haiti.

There was a massive earthquake this weekend. And the death toll now has risen to more than 1, 400 people, at least 6,000 injured, according to authorities and officials. Based on what we know, rescue teams continue the search for survivors, the quake destroying several towns.

It caused massive landslides. It left over a million-and-a-half people completely displaced. A tropical storm system also threatens to make conditions there even worse. A global effort is under way to try to help the people of Haiti. And it is an issue that deserves all of our attention.

And our thoughts and prayers, as they say, are with the people there. It is a tough situation.

We have covered a lot of news, from Afghanistan to COVID to that international update. So, thank you, as always, for spending time with us here on THE BEAT.


Hello, Joy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Ari. Thank you very much.

Thank you so much for mentioning Haiti. We`re going to have a live report from there coming up later in the show as well. It is such a tragic issue. They have been through so much.

MELBER: Absolutely.

REID: So, thank you for -- yes, thanks for that mention.

All right, have a wonderful evening.

MELBER: You too.

REID: Cheers, my friend. Appreciate you.