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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 8/16/21

Guests: Laura Jedeed, David Rothkopf, Joe Cirincione, Norm Ornstein, Jahana Hayes, Daniel Worthey


President Joe Biden stands by Afghanistan withdrawal. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seeks to advance bipartisan infrastructure bill, $3.5 trillion budget plan simultaneously. House Speaker 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. America`s diet has changed 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. "The New York Times" is reporting that the Biden administration will announce as early as next week that most Americans should get a booster shot of the coronavirus vaccine eight months after they completed their initial vaccination.



I`m afraid that`s the best we can do and silver linings tonight.


O`DONNELL: You are in Afghanistan in 2010. Our first guest tonight, Laura Jedeed, was deployed with the 82nd Airborne. She says, that she thought then, that this is how this was going to end. Whenever it ended, it was going to look something like this.

What was your feeling, when you are there? In literally the middle, 2010, right in the middle of it, about where we were, and where we were going to end up?

MADDOW: 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, he reminded everybody he was opposed to that. And with tens of thousands, 100,000 troops flooded back into Afghanistan.

The idea was, the concept was, one last push. We`ll 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 we can, and then they will stand alone. This is it. This is everything we can do.

And the idea was, the surge would happen. You can kind of set it and leave, and to see what happened. And of course, setting it left it set for another eight years before anything -- before, you know, after the surge ended, before the troops finally left. The argument was the same, the whole time, which is that, likely, even if the Americans do their best, almost infinite resources devotion to this, problem when the U.S. leaves, the likelihood that anything sustainable will be left in its wake, is very low. But will do our best.

I mean, I think, that`s revealing. Then all the serving Americans that I talked to that in 2010, told me some version of that. I think that President Biden believed that. And therefore did not believe that we should stay longer. And that we should have a large -- big new influx of resources.

That sort of pretext -- 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.

O`DONNELL: Yeah, this -- I have to say Rachel, as someone who watch the way we left Vietnam, there is zero surprise in this for me. Just absolutely zero. This is, there are no exit other than the clear victories in World War II.

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 are 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 are never going to have a war that does not have these elements.

MADDOW: 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 beachhead there. To get our allies evacuated, to get all the people associated with the U.S. military, U.S. agencies, U.S. media, everybody who helped us, everybody who wants to get out who we can get out, that can be done now. And that -- that -- you know, that`s not a parallel, with Vietnam if we make the most of the evacuation portal, that is just been forced open at cobbles airport.

The Taliban did not fight their way into Kabul. The Taliban is not fighting to stop these evacuations. They`re 6,000 troops that are going to be there within days, to get these evacuations going.

If they can happen, if that can be scaled massively, then a lot of the moral disgrace, and a lot of the human suffering that is preventable will be prevented. Some of it`s not preventable. But what we can, do we must do, and that`s not a problem that we need to have regret about and rue and wish we`d done. That`s actually a task for doing right now.

O`DONNELL: I completely agree. What we can do, we must do, and we will find out in the next few weeks, what -- or days, what we can do.

MADDOW: Yes, exactly.

O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Welcome back, Lawrence. Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Well, here is a measure and just one measure of the human 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 members, 1,144. Aid workers, 444. Journalists, 72.

The two released accurate numbers in that count are Taliban in other opposition fighters, at 51,190 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 are saying that we just did not kill enough people. They`re saying, we should stay longer, we should stay longer and kill as many people as it takes to control Afghanistan, and presumably control it forever.

Most Americans, we`re 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. Fifty-six percent 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 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.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I made a commitment to the American people, when I ran for president that I`d bring America`s military involvement in Afghanistan to an end. Well, it`s been hard and messy, and yes, far from perfect, I have honored that commitment. More importantly, I made a commitment to the brave men and women who served this nation that I wasn`t going to ask them to continue to risk their lives in a military action that should`ve ended long ago. Our leaders did that in Vietnam, when I got here is a young man. I will not do it in Afghanistan.


O`DONNELL: 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 graduated from Harvard College in 1955, where he was the editor of the school newspaper. Seven years later, in 1962, "The New York Times" sent David Halberstam to Vietnam as a war correspondent. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on Vietnam in 1964. In 1972, when the Vietnam War seems to be our first endless war and was still going on, David Halberstam wrote the best-selling book, "The Best and the Brightest, the first book I ever read about Vietnam.

David Halberstam told the story about how the best and the brightest minds in American foreign policy, and military strategy, made the worst mistakes in American history, a military 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 then became UPI`s Saigon bureau chief in Vietnam before joining "The New York Times" in 1864, 15 years after the final American helicopter left Vietnam, Neil Sheehan won the Pulitzer Prize, for his book, "A Bright Shining Lie", about America`s unwinnable war in Vietnam.

David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan did these crucial reporting on the ground in Vietnam, that began to tell Americans what`s really happening in Vietnam. And their writing is full of reportorial skill, but also the insight born of experience that has fermented into wisdom. David Halberstam died in 2007. Neil Sheehan died in January of this year.

If they could join us tonight, we would be so much the wiser, about what we are seeing, again, in Afghanistan now and how it mirrors the on winding of what Neil Sheehan called, "The Bright Shining Lie" about Vietnam.

General William Westmoreland, the American commander of forces in Vietnam, said, in 1967, quote: The Vietnamese, and we they`re allies, are involved in a total undertaking, a single all, pervading confrontation in which the fate of the people of 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 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 1967.

As anti-war protests rose, all over the country demanding an immediate withdrawal from Vietnam, more Americans and Vietnamese were being killed every month. In May of 1968 alone, in that one month, 2,414 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, an anti-war protests were larger and louder, demanding the immediate withdrawal from Vietnam, and in 1969, the president of the United States said this.


RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: For the future of peace, precipitate withdrawal would 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 and the war by immediately withdrawing all of our forces.


O`DONNELL: 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`ve won the Vietnam War, if we just stayed a little longer and killed more people -- exactly what you are hearing tonight, from people who are never going to find today, 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.


BIDEN: 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 for which to attack us again. We did that. We severely degraded al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We never gave up the hunt for some of bin Laden, and we got him. That was a decade ago.


O`DONNELL: There`s a pattern here.

When the United States leaves a foreign war that it cannot win, it`s always going to look messy. 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 up high, about fighting a war like Vietnam, for 18 years, or fighting to control Afghanistan, for 20 years.


BIDEN: So I`m left against 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 civil war? When Afghan troops will not? How many more lives, American lives, is it worth, how many endless rows of headstones at the national cemetery?

JOHN KERRY, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Someone has to die so that President Nixon won`t be, and these are his words, the first president to lose a war. 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?



O`DONNELL: Our first guest tonight, Laura Jedeed, served in the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan. In a brilliant, moving article about the collapse of Afghanistan`s governments and its military, Laura Jedeed wrote about her feelings on America`s final exit from Afghanistan, and told the story of an Afghan boy who worked in her military cafeteria, who everyone there called cowboy.

Cowboy was a good student. His family 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. 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 Cowboy 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 Jedeed, who served two tours in Afghanistan with the 82nd airborne.

David Rothkopf foreign affairs analyst and columnist for "The Daily Beast" and "USA Today". He hosted "The Deep State" radio podcast. And Joe Cirincione, a former staff member of the House Armed Services Committee and now, a distinguished fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

And, Laura Jedeed, I`ve read your piece about this and your feelings about this. And as I mentioned to Rachel, I also saw your writings indicating that in 2010 when you were in Afghanistan, this is the way you thought this would end.

LAURA JEDEED, AFGHANISTAN ARMY VETERAN: Yes, Lawrence. And I don`t think it was just me. Everyone there could see the writing on the wall at the time. My unit was sent over to train the Afghan national army and police.

And the 82nd airborne doesn`t know how to train people. They knew how to smash things and they`re good at it. And what we ended up doing was just doing all the work and saying that they`ve done it, and I know we weren`t the only unit doing it. And I just don`t think that we understood the country well enough to establish anything permanent.

O`DONNELL: And, Laura, you write that the choice at this point was stay forever or get out now. There was no third choice.

JEDEED: 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.

So, although it breaks my heart to see the images of Kabul airport and it breaks my heart to think of people like Cowboy, I still think this was the right thing to do and I`m glad that we`re out.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to and Biden said today about the pace of the evacuations and why the evacuation process didn`t start sooner.


BIDEN: I know there are concerns about why we did not 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 is because the Afghan government and its supporters discouraged us from organizing a mass exodus to avoid triggering, as they said, a crisis of confidence.


O`DONNELL: David Rothkopf, I want to give you a wide open space for your reaction to what the president said today and what we are seeing in this final exit of Afghanistan.

DAVID ROTHKOPF, FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think the president said what`s needed to be said, not exactly what the critics wanted maybe, I think they wanted him to own the problems of this week in a way that satisfied them somehow. But, you know, 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, you know, what we are 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 are the consequences of 20 years of bad decisions by three other U.S. presidents, by military leaders who spend 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. 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 are talking Rachel, she knew it. I wrote an article in 2010 that 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.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to what the president said about the Afghan troops willingness to fight.


BIDEN: Here`s what`s I believe, to my core. It`s wrong to order American troops to step up Afghanistan`s own armed forces would not.


O`DONNELL: Joe Cirincione, what we heard the president say today, about the Afghan government and its collapse, the Afghan military`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.

JOE CIRINCIONE, QUINCY INSITUTE FOR RESPONSIBLE STATECRAFT: Yeah. I am 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 was a mistake.

And 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 moment when we saw today, and over the past few days, a complete collapse of the government, the 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 having bribes being paid, by winning over the warlords of these provincial capitals.

And the reason they can do that is because the government that we spend so much money equipping and supporting was corrupt, incompetent, and hugely unpopular. No Afghan soldiers were going to die for this government, how could we ask American soldiers to die for this government?

O`DONNELL: Laura, when you are there, what was kind of the military literacy and its own history and the Vietnam example? Were members of the military using the Vietnam example to explain what they were going through in Afghanistan?

JEDEED: I think the Vietnam example was in everyone`s mind. You could see it happening again. It certainly wasn`t something that was talked about on any kind of officer or over side level. I just I don`t think the military learn the lessons of Vietnam. It`s not something we ever really talked about.

I would like to say, that I do think what Joe Biden said about the Afghan troops is a little bit unfair. The Afghans are some of toughest and most tenacious fighters on the planet. It`s just they didn`t want to fight for the government we gave them, which is what they did in Vietnam. We claimed we wanted to give them a choice and they could have any government they wanted as long it was the one we wanted for them. And we made the same mistake, and now, we`re seeing the same thing.

O`DONNELL: Laura Jedeed, David Rothkopf, Joseph Cirincione, thank you have three who know more about this subject than I do for starting as off tonight. I really appreciated.

CIRINCIONE: My pleasure.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

JEDEED: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, tonight, Nancy Pelosi has a new challenge to a Democratic immunity on infrastructure bills in the House of Representatives. That`s next.



O`DONNELL: House Speaker 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 before the Democrats bill, the bipartisan bill that was 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: 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 resolution."

Joining us now, congressional historian Norm Ornstein. He is an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Jonathan Alter is with us, columnist for "The Daily Beast", and an MSNBC political analyst.

And, 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?

NORM ORNSTEIN, CONGRESSIONAL HISTORIAN: 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 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`ve got to pay attention to us as well.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter, Norm makes it sound easy. He`s got a strategy, which is interesting -- I hadn`t thought of this -- which is, you know, pass 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 well then the Senate has to vote on it again and then send it back to the House. So she just added -- 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.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And the first way that she`s going to try is to have 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 sort of 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 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 which 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 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.

O`DONNELL: Norm Ornstein and Jonathan Alter, thank you for that update. We will be back at it. Thank you both very much for joining us.

ORNSTEIN: Exactly.

O`DONNELL: And 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.



O`DONNELL: America`s diet has changed 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, the Department of Agriculture announced an update to the Thrifty Food Plan which starting in October will permanently increase benefits an average of 25 percent for 42 million people, an average monthly 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 has never been adjusted for how people actually eat and how the American diet has changed over the last six decade.

"The New York Times" reports, "They allotted SNAP users 7 percent more calories -- 70 percent 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 Jahana Hayes of Connecticut. She`s chair of the subcommittee which has primary jurisdiction over food assistance benefits. Also with us, Daniel Worthey in Little Rock, Arkansas, who is a current recipient of food assistance benefits and now assists people in applying for those benefits.

And Daniel Worthey, let me begin with you since you`re actually living with this program every day. What does this change mean for you?

DANIEL WORTHEY, RECIPIENT OF FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAM: Oh, wow, it means -- it means a lot. For me personally it`s getting those extra items that my 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.

O`DONNELL: And Congresswoman Hayes, 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 healthy ways out of the grocery store. And yet until now nothing`s been done about it.

REP. JAHANA HAYES (D-CT): I am thrilled by this change. I wrote a letter about a week ago with Democrats on the committee to ask that Secretary Vilsack carefully consider the Thrifty Food Plan and really think about how families actually eat.

At the beginning of this pandemic, we saw how many families were food insecure and we did the 15 percent plus up. I didn`t know how we would be able to just survive or families would be able to survive taking that away when they were already living below the poverty level and not receiving the benefit that were necessary for a healthy diet.


HAYES: So I`m thrilled that that has been reevaluated and adjusted accordingly for the first time I think in almost 60 years.

O`DONNELL: Daniel Worthey, 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.

WORTHEY: Well, to be honest with you, I`m with a faith-based recovery center here in Little Rock called M18 Recovery. And what we do, as these guys go through the process we help them get on SNAP benefits. And so that`s something that I have done, jus helping guys get on these benefits.

And for now -- for me to be a co-recipient (ph) 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.

O`DONNELL: And Congresswoman Hayes, what other changes would you like to see in the program?

HAYES: Well, in addition to this permanent increase, which I`m very excited about, I would like to see the program moved to rolling benefits.

I`ve heard from many grocers and store owners about how difficult it is to just stock groceries at the beginning of the month and make sure that they have a supply. And I think that that would also remove some of the stigma of recipients only shopping at certain times of the month. So that`s something that I would like to see.

I`m just thrilled listening to Daniel speak. And I`ll just say to you that these programs are temporary. I myself was a SNAP recipient raising my children many years ago. And these are meant to stabilize families until you can stand on your own.

And 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.

O`DONNELL: And Daniel, what changes would you like to see in the program?

WORTHEY: 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 $130 a month. And so it`s very difficult to make that money stretch. Well, it`s impossible.

You`re looking at one visit to the grocery store. And so this increase is really just a blessing.

O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Jahana Hayes and Daniel Worthey, thank you both very much for joining us. Daniel thank you especially for your unique insight into how this program works. Really appreciate it.

WORTHEY: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: And coming up, we have breaking news about booster shots as the delta variant is raging across the United States. Laurie Garrett will join us with that breaking news next.



O`DONNELL: Breaking news, "The New York Times" is reporting that the Biden administration will announce as early as next week that most Americans should get a booster shot of the coronavirus vaccine eight months after they completed their initial 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 of the coronavirus. The last time the United States had 130,000 cases was on February 4th when it had 130,734 cases.

Here`s NIH director Francis Collins.


FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: This is going very steeply upward with no signs of having peaked out. So I will be surprised if we don`t cross 200,000 cases a day in the next couple of weeks.

And that`s heartbreaking considering we never thought we would be back in that space again. That was January/February -- that shouldn`t be August.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now Laurie Garrett, Pulitzer prize-winning science reporter covering global pandemics. She is an MSNBC science contributor.

Laurie, 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?

LAURIE GARRETT, MSNBC SCIENCE CONTRIBUTOR: Lawrence, what we know is that over time, successful immunization wanes somewhat. Not terribly. People are still able to muster strong immune responses but it is diminishing over time. And 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. Now it`s down to people over 50. And 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 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.


GARRETT: But I would also want to rush to say this. While we see the need 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.

O`DONNELL: Ok, and we have to insert a 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.

GARRETT: Second dose, yes. And as we go down the road, we`ll -- I`m sure -- hit a point, whether it will be a year from now or two years from now, who knows, but we will 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. But it`s likely to occur at some point down the road.

In that sense, it would be similar to needing a new flu shot periodically because your immune system no longer recognizes the form of influenza that`s now in circulation.

O`DONNELL: Yes. That`s what I was about to say, it sounded like -- that begins to like the flu shot process that we`ve all grown accustomed to which is annual.

GARRETT: You know, 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 are 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 6.5-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 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 just 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.

O`DONNELL: 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?

GARRETT: Well, it`s hard to speculate 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.

O`DONNELL: Laurie Garrett, thank you very much for joining us once again tonight. We always appreciate it.

GARRETT: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Tonight`s LAST WORD is next.



O`DONNELL: This is a story that will delight Dr. Kizzy Corbett, the developer of the Moderna vaccine. Only 44 percent of people in the state of Alabama are fully vaccinated. But in the town of Panola, Alabama 94 percent of people are vaccinated. And for people over 65, the vaccination rate is 100 percent -- 100 percent.

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? 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.


O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again.

Day 209 --