At President Biden`s direction, the United States is launching Operation Allies Refuge to support relocation flights for interested and eligible Afghan nationals and their families who have supported the U.S. and our partners in Afghanistan and are in the pipeline to get special visas to come to the U.S. Springfield, Missouri hospitals see a surge of COVID-19 patients.
JASON DEPARLE, JOURNALIST: You`re not going to be -- I think you`ll be getting less of that because it`s a benefit that everybody`s going to get. You`re not going to be complaining, why did my neighbor get this and why did I not? That`s part of it. And part of it is some conservatives actually are for the benefit because they`re concerned about middle class and lower middle class families` ability to raise kids.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Right. Really a fascinating social experiment we`re about to embark on. Jason DeParle, one of the great reporters on this topic for decades now. Great as always. Thank you so much.
DEPARLE: Thank you, Chris.
HAYES: That is ALL IN on this Wednesday night.
"THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: G evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. Much appreciated.
Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
The letter is dated today. It went out today. It went out und err why the letterhead of the Oversight Committee in the House of Representatives and it is addressed to the CEO of Cyber Ninjas. A man named Doug Logan.
The Oversight Committee in Congress has now sent this letter. They sent it to a rented mailbox at a UPS store in Sarasota, Florida, because that`s the company`s official address. You make do with what you have. They`ve got to send it somewhere.
It starts, quote: Dear Mr. Logan, we`re writing to request information about Cyber Ninjas` participation in a, quote, "audit." They`ve put the word audit in quotes. An audit of nearly 2.1 million ballots cast in Arizona in the 2020 election. We are concerned about your company`s role in this highly unusual effort given Cyber Ninjas` apparent lack of experience in conducting election-related audits; reports the company engaged in sloppy and insecure audit practices that compromised the integrity of ballots and voting equipment and were questioned by the U.S. Justice Department; and evidence that you and other individuals funding the audit have sought to advance the big lie of debunked voter fraud allegations about the 2020 presidential election.
Americans` right to vote is protected by the Constitution. It is the cornerstone of our democratic system of government. The committee seeks to determine whether the privately funded audit conducted by your company in Arizona protects the right to vote or is instead an effort to promote baseless conspiracy theories, undermine confidence in America`s elections and reverse the results of a free and fair election for partisan gain.
What do you really mean?
The so-called "audit" in Arizona in which the Republicans in the state legislature hired this group Cyber Ninjas, which appears to be just this guy Doug, to do some kind of operation on the ballots and voting machines from the largest county in Arizona, it`s lived for months now at this intersection of clown show ridiculousness and actual consequential threat to American democracy because the whole thing is aimed at essentially undoing the presidential election result in a U.S. state and thereby undermining Americans` faith in the credibility and indeed the finality of our election results.
But now, based on this letter released by the Oversight Committee tonight sent to that UPS store in Florida we know this fake audit is the subject of a new congressional investigation. The Oversight Committee wants to know about all the weird stuff that Doug Logan has been doing to the Arizona ballots like shining ultraviolet light on them and searching for bamboo content in the ballots because of some conspiracy theory that fake ballots had been flown in from Asia and obviously Asian ballots would be made from bamboo.
Also they want to know about Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan and his own social media posts about the election, about it being rigged against Donald Trump and how Trump must have gotten 200,000 more votes in Arizona than was officially reported.
They want to know about the report Doug Logan wrote about the voting machine company Dominion, alleging that its machines rigged the election for Joe Biden on behalf of dead Hugo Chavez in Venezuela or maybe it was actually China, it`s kind of hard to follow.
The letter from the Oversight Committee concludes, quote: For all of these reasons, the committee requests that Cyber Ninjas produce the following documents by July 28th.
And they then include this comprehensive list of documents and communications they want. Cyber Ninjas` funding sources, its procedures for conducting this, whatever it is they`re doing in Arizona, documents and communications about the various conspiracy theories fueling their work, like they put it in there, bamboo-laced ballots smuggled in from Asian countries, watermarks placed on the ballot that are visible with UV lights.
Do you have any documentation about the bamboo thing? Do you have any documentation about why your magic watermarks only work with UV light when everybody else`s watermarks just work when you hold them up?
And, of course, part of the point of an investigation like this from the oversight committee in Congress is just to gather evidence, to investigate and report on what`s going down in Arizona so the American people can understand it.
If there are laws being broken in Arizona as the Justice Department hinted at in the letter they sent to the Arizona Senate Republicans earlier this year, well, if the committee finds evidence that laws are being broken they can make referrals to the Justice Department. But, of course, another goal of a congressional investigation is to determine whether there is congressional action that needs to be taken.
And the committee ends its letter tonight with this, quote: The committee is particularly concerned that your company`s actions could undermine the integrity of federal elections and interfere with Americans` constitutional right to cast their ballot freely and to have their votes counted without partisan interference. The committee intends to study the need for legislative reforms to ensure the right is protected before, during and after an election and that third parties do not interfere with this right.
Tell me more.
Of course, when it comes to protecting voting rights and the integrity of elections, you know, before, during, and after the election, there is already very substantive legislation pending in the Congress. The question is not what the legislation should be or whether it`s needed. Right now, frankly, the practical question is whether Democrats in the United States Senate are going to get it together to pass their voting rights legislation or not.
Republicans are not going to support it. Democrats could do it alone if they can get it together to do so.
President Biden gave that full-throated double-barreled speech yesterday on the need to act to protect voting rights, the need for the Senate to act to pass the For the People Act, to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
He didn`t make any mention of the thing that is standing in the way of Democrats passing those bills, which is the Senate filibuster rule, which has been used by Republicans to block progress on that and everything else even though they`re not in the majority in the Senate. Republicans have blocked the for the people act once already, using the filibuster. They will keep doing it as long as they can. Unless the Democrats in the Senate, all of them, agree to change the filibuster rules so you can`t use the filibuster on voting rights anymore. They could make that sort of a change. But until they do that, these voting rights bills are going nowhere.
President Biden did head up to Capitol Hill to meet with Democratic senators today. It`s not clear whether Biden`s big speech or his meeting with Democratic senators today translated into any, you know, sort of act of furtherance, any further discussion with them today about actually getting those bills passed according to at least one senator in the room. They didn`t talk about the filibuster rules at today`s meeting.
What they did seem to be working on and in fact celebrating today is this latest move toward actually getting a bill done on the issue of infrastructure. They`ve seen lots of headlines about this late last night and today. What does this mean in the grand scheme of things? How close is this latest apparent breakthrough to there being a real piece of legislation that actually gets passed, that ultimately ends up changing Americans` lives? That remains to be seen.
There have been a lot of what felt like breakthrough moments on infrastructure. We`re definitely still not there. But the Democrats have basically agreed on now a working bill that they agree on amongst themselves. And if they agree on it amongst themselves to the extent that that agreement encompasses all 50 Democratic U.S. senators, they may be able to pass that on their own without Republican votes at all.
So, I mean, potentially this could be it. But there`s still many hurdles and water features left in this particular steeplechase. And, of course, that`s separate from and in addition to the bipartisan infrastructure bill, much smaller bill that`s still being endlessly negotiated between some Republican senators and some Democratic senators in the Senate. We have yet to see if anything actually comes of those negotiations. I`m not holding my breath.
But the Democrats-only bill, they can use a budget technique to pass that with zero Republican votes in the Senate as long as all 50 Democratic senators can hang together. And they do have at least a framework agreement to do that to the tune of $3.5 trillion.
Progressives are pretty excited today about the top lines of this proposed bill. The deal that Democratic leadership announced late last night includes big changes, big policy advancements that would have a big material impact on millions of Americans` lives. Things like what`s called a clean energy standard that requires utilities to sharply increase the proportion of energy they generate that comes from things like solar and wind.
It would expand Medicare so that Medicare would start to cover dental and vision and hearing, which would be huge for the tens of millions of Americans on Medicare.
It would get health insurance to an additional 2 million Americans by expanding Medicaid even in Republican states that refuse to expand it themselves.
It would fund universal pre-K for all American kids and affordable child care coast to coast. It would provide two years of free community college to anybody who wanted it. Big stuff that would have a big impact on lots of American families.
And at the very moment this plan is coming together, what`s happening tomorrow is that millions of Americans who have kids are about to start getting checks or direct deposits in their bank account from the federal government. And this is part of the COVID relief bill that Democrats passed in March with zero Republican votes, zero Republican votes for this unified Republican opposition. Democrats were able to do it without any Republican support, and it`s now going to pay off literally for millions and millions of American families with children.
These are direct payments. It`s $250 per month per child, $300 per month per child if your kid is under the age of 6. And this is -- the first payments are due to start arriving in Americans` bank accounts tomorrow. But then it will go on for month after month.
An estimated 9 out of 10 children in the U.S. are eligible for these payments. Experts think the program could cut child poverty in America in half in one fell swoop.
Among 74 million kids in America, nearly 9 in 10 will qualify for this new monthly payment. Families who qualify have started receiving a letter explaining the payments and how they work. The letter is signed by President Biden, lest you forget who made these payments happen.
So again, those payments go out tomorrow. All of this stuff is in motion all at once with the Senate in session if stuff`s going to move it`s sort of got to move now. So it`s been very busy in Washington.
Also a very busy day at the White House today. Today, we got a big announcement from the White House that we have been waiting for for some time. It answers a lot of questions. It raises a lot of questions too.
President Biden, as you know, has promised to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by next month. Almost all of them are gone already. You`re also probably aware that there is the further issue beyond U.S. troops of U.S. allies in Afghanistan, thousands of Afghan citizens who worked as translators and interpreters for U.S. forces during the war. Translators and interpreters who are still in Afghanistan now and whose lives are at great risk, as U.S. forces leave.
They, of course, are targets for the Taliban specifically because they helped American forces. Those translators are eligible to get special visas that would allow them to start new lives in the United States, the country for which they sacrificed so much, the country that promised to keep them safe if they provided that help, and the country that now owes them the chance to start anew here, because of what they did for our soldiers.
That said, the U.S. immigration system being what it is, the process for getting all the way through that visa process can take a very, very long time. And even though the Biden administration has sped it up since they have been in office, still it`s time that those U.S. allies don`t have as the Taliban takes over more and more and more of Afghanistan, as the risk gets more and more grave and present.
In the past, the U.S. has successfully been able to help allies and refugees from previous wars by evacuating them out of their home countries and taking them to an interim location, a third location while waiting for approval to come to the United States. The U.S. territory of Guam, for instance, has a long history of operating as that kind of temporary home for people we need to evacuate for their own safety.
The current governor of Guam has said she is ready to open the doors there and do that same thing for these Afghan translators. She gave impassioned remarks on this show here just the other night explaining how the people of Guam stand ready and it`s the right thing to do for these people who helped our country.
We have been waiting for the White House and the military, the administration more broadly, to announce what the plan is to get these translators out because time is so short.
Today, we finally got a substantive announcement from the White House about that. This is from a senior White House official.
Quote: At President Biden`s direction, the United States is launching Operation Allies Refuge to support relocation flights for interested and eligible Afghan nationals and their families who have supported the U.S. and our partners in Afghanistan and are in the pipeline to get special visas to come to the U.S.
Flights out of Afghanistan for those allies who are already in the pipeline will begin the last week of this month, the last week of July. For operational security, we won`t have additional details on when flights will depart but we will meet President Biden`s commitment to begin flights this month.
The White House also announced the name of the person who is leading this effort at the State Department.
It`s Ambassador Tracey Jacobson. She`s a three-time chief of mission in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kosovo. She`s apparently leading an effort along with representatives from the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security to get this done.
So that`s also something. There`s a plan, there`s an official operation to get these translators to safety, there`s someone in charge of that plan who we`re allowed to know the name of.
And all of those details in the announcement give us more information than we had before but you know, there`s still a lot left out. And as they say, it`s understandable that some of these details are left out on purpose for operational security. But the basics still sort of loom as unanswered questions. Where are these translators going to go once they leave Afghanistan?
Earlier this month, "Reuters" reported the administration was considering sending these translators to three central Asian countries, so nearby to Afghanistan. They mentioned Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan. The fact that the person leading this effort at the state department is a former chief of mission in Tajikistan suggests that may in fact be the plan maybe.
A Pentagon spokesman said today at the press conference that the U.S. is also looking at -- that the U.S. is looking at using locations abroad. But when asked for clarification later, by a reporter who asked specifically whether the U.S. is considering any locations within the Continental United States to bring the translators, the Pentagon Spokesman Kirby said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: The possibility of U.S. military installations being used, is that being considered?
RET. REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT PRESS SECRETARY: I would say we`re looking at all options, Bob. All options are being considered. And that would include the potential for short-term use of CONUS base U.S. installations. But no final decision is made right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: All options are being considered, Bob. So they may be headed to another country. They may be headed to military installations in the Continental United States, some combination of the two. The question of U.S. territories like, for example, Guam still out there. In addition to the question of where they`re going, there`s the question of how they`ll get there.
The only flights out of Afghanistan right now are out of the capital city of Kabul, but Afghanistan is a big country and internal travel is not that easy.
This is interesting. Today, the Association of Wartime Allies, which has worked very hard on this issue to get the translators out, they put out a report that says nearly half of the U.S. allies, these Afghan translators and interpreters, nearly half of them who are still in Afghanistan right now live in areas outside of Kabul, which raises the question of how they get to Kabul to get on one of these flights. They could have to pass through Taliban-controlled checkpoints and Taliban-controlled areas in order to get there.
Is there also a plan for getting those allies to safety if that requires internal travel within Afghanistan to get to these military or otherwise U.S. air lift flights out of Kabul, is that going to happen? Are people who are not in Kabul expected to get themselves there on their own?
Also, who`s eligible for this? How many Afghan translators is this operation going to try and save?
The statement from the White House today is careful to point out this operation is focused on people who are already in the pipeline in terms of being approved to come to the U.S. For the past few weeks the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan was closed altogether because of a COVID outbreak, which means they haven`t been open for anyone in that country who wanted to apply for that visa.
The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan just announced this week as they were reopening the embassy just this week specifically for U.S. allies who want to apply for these special visas to get out and come to the U.S. will people who were only able to start applying this week and in the coming days be part of this operation? Like I said there`s a lot of questions still to be answered. And in terms of saving lives and doing what is our moral responsibility here, all of the devils are in all of the details.
Joining us now is somebody who`s been working on this issue and watching it very, very closely, Major Matt Zeller. He`s a U.S. Army veteran. He`s co- founder of the group No One Left Behind which advocates for bringing the Afghan interpreters safely to the U.S.
Major Zeller, it`s good to see you. Thank you for coming back on the show.
MATT ZELLER, U.S. ARMY VETERAN: Thanks for having me.
MADDOW: Let me just ask you to update me. Let me ask you if I missed anything, if I`ve summarized what we know as of today as you understand it.
ZELLER: You hit all the points very, very well. I would only add the following, which is why didn`t we do this before we withdrew our forces? We have made it so much harder on ourselves by trying to do it it now at the 11th hour.
You know, four months ago we had all of the assets in place to evacuate people in the areas you`re talking about. Last night, I was interviewing a gentleman for our podcast "Wartime Allies" by the name of Sharif.
We`d spoken with him in a previous episode. This gentleman has suffered everything. His mom, dad, and siblings have all been murdered by the Taliban at some point in the last decade. It`s now down to him and his wife and his kids. He`s fled from Kandahar to Kabul when he realized he had left all of his documents back in Kandahar.
Now, the reason he fled Kandahar is the Taliban two weeks ago murdered his dad at his doorstep and they just ran out of the house. So a couple of days ago he did the impossible. He flew back to Kandahar by bumming a ride on an Afghan military transport, which is the only flights flying in the country.
He gets into Kandahar, he gets back to his house, he gets his documents, he`s on a friend`s motorcycle yesterday trying to drive to the airport in Kandahar when the Afghan military gets attacked by the Taliban on the road that connects the airport to the city. The Afghan military gets overrun and killed.
The Taliban then turn on him. He flees on the motor bike. They shoot him off the motor bike. He gets injured. And he`s calling me from a friend`s house telling me that at this point his only option was to hide and disguise himself like a woman, hide in a burqa and hire a taxi and attempt to drive from Kandahar back to Kabul. Which you know, there`s got to be what, 30 Taliban checkpoints at this potent between Kandahar and Kabul.
This guy had been an interpreter for the SEALs, for the Army Special Forces, the most elite levels. He is absolutely a dead man if they catch him. And he has already had his visa denied once in the past because somewhere in his file, it says that he has some derogatory information that he`s never been allowed to see, you can`t contest, and he has no means of being able to effectively appeal his case.
So again, we have no idea, is this guy going to be put on a plane if he somehow makes it back to Kabul? Why didn`t we pull these people out at the time when we had the means to do it, Rachel? That`s the thing I keep asking myself about this.
MADDOW: Now that we are, or the U.S. government says that they are trying to do this, as you say, very late in the process with many fewer assets on the ground and with the danger that much more heightened with the passage of time, the way they talked about doing it today, what they said about the structure by which they`re trying to do it, how would you have them improve it? How would you, given that it`s happening now, even though you say it should have happened before, what else would you have them do that they didn`t announce today?
ZELLER: I would first off tell people where exactly are folks going, right? Why aren`t they first of all just bringing everybody to Guam is beyond me. I get there`s some concern that they don`t want to have nefarious people somehow end up in the United States and then we couldn`t deport them.
But you know, at the end of the Vietnam War, we didn`t screen anybody, we just put them on boats, put 130,000 people on boats and brought them to Guam because it seems back then we had at least some type of moral content and character that we`re lacking now. We have all the same legal authorities to do that which we did then now but we don`t seem to be wanting to exercise them.
The other thing I would be really concerned about is how are we going to communicate this message to the Afghans without inciting a panic? You know, the White House seems to keep saying that they don`t want to see something similar to Saigon. Okay. Well, how are you going to communicate that to Afghans? Because right now all you`ve done is incite panic.
Nobody knows where in the process they qualify. You`ve raised it so well. If you just applied for a visa this week, are you going to get on a plane or is it some point later?
Right now, I had an individual who wrote me from Helmand. I don`t even know if this person`s still alive at this point. But a couple weeks ago they wrote me and said, hey, I`ve been serving as an interpreter for 22 months. Currently the qualification to get a visa is 24 months. The U.S. Army just left the base I`m on. What am I supposed to do right now? I`m two months short. Does that person get on a plane even though we know he won`t qualify?
And by the way, that standard -- that time standard was written by Stephen Miller when he was one of the staffers for Jeff Sessions before Jeff Sessions left to become Trump`s first AG. It was one of his parting gifts on the way out of the Senate. He wrote it in 2015. And the deal that was made was that everyone had to agree to this larger time increase, only if they agreed to that would he allow more visas to be passed that year.
I would love to see the Congress get rid of that standard.
MADDOW: Major Matt Zeller, U.S. -- U.S. army veteran and co-founder of the group No One Left Behind -- Matt, obviously this is evolving and we`re still getting more information out of the administration as we can. I know that you as you say are not only following this closely but you`re in close touch with people who are directly affected. We`re going to have you back in coming days to keep talking about this as we learn more and as this process starts to hit the ground.
ZELLER: I can`t thank you enough for covering this.
Thank you so much. You`re saving lives by doing this.
MADDOW: Well, not at all. We`re just talking about what people like you are doing.
All right. We`ve got much more ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Here`s the headline in the "Kansas City Star" tonight: Springfield, facing overwhelmed hospitals, asks Missouri to fund alternative care site.
The county health director in Springfield, Missouri today convened a press conference along with officials from the hospitals there to ask for immediate help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATIE TOWNS, ACTING DIRECTOR, SPRINGFIELD-GREENE COUNTY, MO HEALTH DEPARTMENT: Two hundred and thirty-one patients are currently in the hospital being treated for COVID-19, which is the highest number we have seen. Cox Health and Mercy are projecting to see additional hospitalizations in the coming weeks based on the rate of spread. That along with the increase in severe illness and low vaccination rates will cause the need for beds to outpace hospitals` capacity in the coming days.
With that need in mind, we need help.
REPORTER: Would you say this is a crisis?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we`re not trying to create panic but it is a serious situation that we have in southwest Missouri.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The worry I think we all have is the ability to take the stress off of hospitals was that we had other hospitals in our state that had capacity. They`re filling up.
People keep asking is it a crisis. We deal in crisis every day. That`s a medium that we work in. So we manage crisis, we work in crisis.
This is particularly intense. We`ll manage it, but we are at our capacity right now and we`re adding staff and we`ll get stronger and better.
But I`m afraid this time in the curve, we`re behind. I don`t think we`ll catch up. So the consequences could be more dire. And that`s why the support from the governor, this request to the governor`s office, might help us.
We`ve got to move rapidly. It can`t be -- it can`t be weeks. It`s got to be days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is not footage from last year. That is tonight. Hospital and county health officials in Springfield, Missouri, tonight announcing hospitals in Springfield are full. The tide of COVID patients is still only increasing.
They are asking the state to come in and open an alternate care facilities, presumably some kind of emergency field hospital, in Springfield, Missouri, because the ICUs are full, the ventilators are maxed out, the staff is maxed out, the beds there are at capacity. Again, this is now.
We`ve been watching over the last couple of weeks as hospitals in southwest Missouri have been sounding this alarm announcing they were hitting new records, opening new COVID units, making public appeals for respiratory therapists to come from other parts of the country to come help in Springfield, Missouri. It`s just a bad combination there right now. This aggressively contagious delta variant finding very fertile territory in Missouri`s largely unvaccinated population. In southwest Missouri, no county has more than 35 percent of its population vaccinated.
And if you widen the lens a little bit beyond just Springfield, the situation actually looks a little rougher. Just outside Springfield, Missouri, to the Southeast is a small rural county called Howell County. There`s no good-size cities there. It`s a rural place, very white, very conservative.
As far as I can tell, that county made national news precisely once in the past 15 years. In 2008 when somebody put up a racist billboard of then presidential candidate Barack Obama wearing a turban.
That county, not surprisingly, very conservative, rural southern Missouri, and the Ozarks down near the Arkansas border. They`ve got particularly low rates of vaccination there. And in Howell County, they don`t have a lot of health infrastructure. It`s just not that big a place. And if you get really sick in Howell County, Missouri what they do is they send you to Springfield. It`s about an hour and a half, two hours away.
But again, in Springfield right now, they`re full. In Springfield they`re begging the state to set up some new pop-up emergency hospital and please, they need it within days, they can`t wait weeks, it needs to happen now.
And it`s one thing to see that desperation in the city of Springfield as their COVID numbers go through the roof. It`s another thing to realize that all the less populated counties and communities, the less resourced counties and communities in that whole part of the state, they were all counting on being able to send their folks to Springfield when the virus started ripping through those largely unvaccinated communities as well. What do you do if you`re in that situation?
A few days ago, a viewer from Missouri sent us a public plea that had just been posted on Facebook by Ozarks Health Care in Howell County, begging people in the county to be vaccinated but also showing understanding that people don`t want to do it, or at least that they`re worried about being seen doing it.
And so, in Howell County, Missouri, the big-hearted quick-thinking health authorities there have come up with something. They`re now offering discreet vaccine appointments. They`re making it possible basically for people to get vaccinated in secret. They posted on Facebook, quote, we know -- excuse me. We understand getting vaccinated is a personal choice. Choosing to get vaccinated has been put in a strange light. For some getting a vaccine may mean losing friendships.
But it is a choice that can impact so many lives other than your own. If you have questions about the vaccine, any questions, we are here to answer them. If you need to schedule your vaccine, we are here to help.
And then get this: if you are afraid of walking into a public area where you might be seen getting your vaccine, we will work to accommodate even more of a private setting for you to receive your vaccine.
Howell County, Missouri, that post has been shared by the local county health department. It is desperate in that part of the country right now. And if it means people need secret private vaccine appointments to get vaccinated with nobody knowing that`s what they`re doing, local health authorities will now do that for you.
But widen the aperture on this story sort of gets you to each new story here. Crisis in southwest Missouri in Springfield, where the hospitals are now being overrun, they`re at capacity with the numbers still spiking. Crisis in all of southern Missouri as the virus runs rampant there and there`s nowhere to ship patients in part because Springfield has no room at the inn.
Widen the aperture a little further, this is the headline in the "Kansas City Star" yesterday, vaccination rates in some Kansas City area counties lower than in hard-hit Springfield. So, yeah, southwest Missouri, Springfield`s in crisis, coping with this rabid delta variant that infects unvaccinated people so easily.
But ahead up the highway to Kansas City, Missouri, triple the size of Springfield and the city itself, the Kansas City Metro area has 2.1 million people, they`ve got vaccination rates in many parts of that metro area that are even lower than what they`ve got in Springfield, which is the city that is already overrun and begging for help, right? And hey, Kansas City, here comes delta, with a bead on that rich, densely populated target of mostly unvaccinated people.
And here we are with no mask rules, no social distancing requirements, everything wide open, no mitigation measures in place at all. Here comes delta, to a metro area with 2 million Americans in it.
That`s the dynamic at work right now. That`s why the newspapers in Missouri are so furious with the Republican governor in Missouri right now, right? Who`s not quite a COVID denier but close. He`s been busy blaming the hospitals in Springfield, for example, for them being overwhelmed.
Broader than that, though, it`s also a challenge for the Biden administration to try to move every community of every stripe toward every possible action that could increase vaccination rates and prevent the eminently preventable deaths of thousands more Americans.
You widen the lens on this and you start to see how this affects other places, right? Chicago, for example, so worried about what`s going on in southern Missouri that if you want to travel to Chicago from Missouri or Arkansas, and you are unvaccinated, the city of Chicago now says as of yesterday you must quarantine for ten days or have a negative COVID-19 test. Again, as a condition of your travel to Chicago.
But just keep widening the lens, right? If we`ve learned anything in this miserable pandemic it is that viral dynamics do not care about human labels and borders. Unless you suppress the virus everywhere, people are vulnerable anywhere. We recently stopped using geographic labels for different variants of the coronavirus, but the delta variant that is wreaking such havoc right now, it first emerged in India, right? With their raging wildfire of an outbreak.
And it may have been easy for Americans to see what was going on in India as a sort of sad far away foreign story. But now, that variant born in India is the one that is ripping through the Ozarks and southwest Missouri. And it`s not like West Plains, Missouri and Howell County is a big hub for international travel from India. It`s just that this is a global pandemic. It doesn`t go away anywhere until it goes away everywhere.
And the only way it goes away is by getting people the vaccine. And as this thing rips through more unvaccinated populations, it produces more and more deadly variants. That`s then spread to every corner of the globe.
If you widen the lens all the way out, throw it all the way open, it is clear that it is not just the sort of poetic pie in the sky notion that humanity needs to all pull together at times like this. It is self-interest for every community and every country. No matter how far away those other places might seem or whether or not we are friends, it is self-interest for every community and every country to suppress this thing everywhere, which means vaccines everywhere.
And here`s the thing, right? You widen the lens that far and the sort of new kind of despair takes hold, doesn`t it? It feels impossible. We can`t even get Missouri vaccinated. How are we supposed to get the rest of the world vaccinated?
It`s too big a job. What do we know about doing that anyway? I mean, look at the headlines right now about Africa, for example. They are just now, African nations are just now getting into their worst experience of the pandemic yet.
They didn`t have a terrible 2020 compared to us. But their 2021, terrible, 1.3 billion people on the continent of Africa. They are 1 percent vaccinated right now. That feels just too big a challenge, right? What can we do about that?
Even if we can get over the hurdle of understanding that we need to do that. How? How on earth?
What we`re going to talk about here on this show tonight is it turns out there is a surprising good news can-do answer to that. A huge, largely unheralded, American bipartisan success that lurks in our very recent past that offers us the best understanding of what we can do next.
It`s here to help. That story`s next.
MADDOW: In January 2003, it was time for the State of the Union Address. Republican President George W. Bush was in office and he was about to launch the disastrous war in Iraq. That was the State of the Union Address where he said that made-up thing about Saddam Hussein getting uranium from Africa, which was total horse hockey. But he said it. That`s what that speech is remembered for.
But this also happened that same night in that same speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: Today on the continent of Africa, nearly 30 million people have the AIDS virus, including 3 million children under the age of 15. There are whole countries in Africa where more than 1/3 of the adult population carries the infection. More than 4 million require immediate drug treatment.
Yet across that continent, only 50,000 AIDS victims, only 50,000 are receiving the medicine they need.
Tonight, I propose the emergency plan for AIDS relief, a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President George W. Bush, State of the Union 2003. He`s remembered for the Iraq war he set in motion in that same speech. He`s remembered for a lot of other really terrible things about his administration.
But that other thing he announced, that is something different, something it is worth learning about now and reminding ourselves about now, given of course the new pandemic that we`re in.
Journalist Emily Bass has written about this in her new book "To End a Plague." She says this, quote: With a scant handful of sentences, Bush launched the largest disease-specific foreign aid effort in the history of the country and the world. In the years to come, members of Congress would call the president`s plan the most effective foreign aid since the Marshall Plan, the legendary post-World War II effort to rebuild Europe.
The program known as PEPFAR, the president`s emergency plan for AIDS relief, would meet the goals that Bush set in the State of the Union ahead of schedule and go on hitting them or surpassing them across three presidencies and eight different congresses. PEPFAR is America`s most sustained and effective fight against a pandemic of the 21st century.
In "To End a Plague", Emily Bass chronicles in detail how this plan came to be, how activists forced the issue, how politicians of all different stripes decided they wanted to make it work, how good public policy people figured out how to do it in a workable way, how science advanced enough that it could be leveraged into this mammoth and successful effort to save literally millions of lives, to bring new HIV infection rates down in astonishing numbers in multiple countries, all thanks to America doing this incredibly unlikely thing, getting it together to get expensive new drugs to the far reaches of the world. Which was very unlikely at the time but we did it. And of course it`s exactly the unlikely and difficult thing we need to do now for the pandemic we`re in now.
Emily Bass writes, quote: Resilience in the face of flatlined funding and political headwinds, PEPFAR is America`s singular example of how to fight a long-term plague and win. She writes, quote: It`s conceivable to think of PEPFAR-ing other problems. To do so, though, America has to see it as a national asset, not a work of mercy but a source of self-preservation in a world where pandemic anywhere threatens us all.
Joining us now is Emily Bass, the author of this new, very, very helpful history which is called "To End a Plague: America`s Fight to Defeat AIDS in Africa."
Full disclosure, Emily`s also an old friend I haven`t seen in a gazillion years since we used to work on a little of this stuff together.
Emily, congratulations on this book. It`s really nice to see you.
EMILY BASS, AUTHOR, "TO END A PLAGUE": It`s really nice to see you too, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: Is it fair to look at America`s sort of ambitions and the need to act on COVID vaccines through the lens of what America was able to do in PEPFAR? Obviously they`re different pandemics with different dynamics, but is this sort of a map for how we can successfully do what seems so impossible?
BASS: A hundred percent, 100 percent. I mean, there are many differences but there are also crucial similarities.
And one of them is that you have PEPFAR with that clip you showed in this sort of head scratcher moment of a man about to plunge us into wars some of which are just ending now in terms of the withdrawal of U.S. troops, is a president who makes it a priority to put significant amounts of money toward a target-driven pandemic response. So there`s a target, you know, Bush says 2 million people need to get on treatment and I`m going to give $15 billion and we`re going to do it in five years and of course it happens in less time.
He does that because there`s an activist movement that impels the prices to be dropped. That activist movement is at work right now, 13 people were arrested today blocking traffic in order to fight for access to COVID vaccines. Some of those same people, lo, these many years ago were getting arrested because the prices of the drugs were too high. The AIDS drugs were too high.
Presidential leadership after this engagement, ambitious targets, a clear plan, and lots of funding -- we can do that and we haven`t yet done that for global COVID.
MADDOW: Does the structure that was set up to not only put PEPFAR in motion but to keep it in motion for as you say three presidencies, eight different congresses, the American public stopping paying attention to the problem for most of that, is that structure something that the COVID vaccine effort could be channeled through or is it a model that should be used to set up something parallel but separate?
BASS: So, there`s two things. One is that PEPFAR doesn`t have a head right now itself and the COVID pandemic has really set back HIV/AIDS as well, and PEPFAR is a flagship program that needs a help. So PEPFAR itself, the program that fights AIDS needs a head.
Does PEPFAR take on the broader pandemic response? I don`t think so, but it is absolutely helping these African countries which are undergoing such a disastrous and murderous and preventable surge.
But PEPFAR provides the blue print, right, for what we do need, which is an empowered head that can -- has a direct line to the president and that can coordinate whole range of agencies that do work. So this isn`t a program or entity that we want to see sitting in the USAID, one of our agencies, or CDC or the Department of Defense. You want to see it many place with an empowered head directly able to get to the president with the power to coordinate all these agencies.
That`s what PEPFAR did. These agencies don`t love working together, right? They really don`t. So you have a lot of money that brings everybody to the table and keeps them there.
MADDOW: Emily Bass, journalist, AIDS activist, the author of "To End a Plague: America`s Fight to Defeat AIDS in America", telling the history in detail of a -- as you say, what ought to be seen of as a national asset. Something we ought to be proud of and we ought to build on and we ought to celebrate a lot more than we do, especially at a time we need to be doing something quite like this again.
Emily Bass, it`s great to see you. Congratulations. Thanks.
BASS: Nice to see you, too. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: We`ve been talking tonight about what`s going wrong on COVID in some parts of the country and some reasons to be hopeful about what our country can do to fight the pandemic. Here`s some news today that`s more of the former, more on the "what`s going wrong" side of things.
Florida`s Governor Ron DeSantis is up for re-election next year. His reelection campaign just dropped what they`re describing as exclusive new merchandise. It includes a t-shirt that says "Don`t Fauci my Florida". Or if you prefer, a "don`t Fauci my Florida" beer cuzzi, which is hilarious. Yes, I`m sure we can all agree.
Here`s the thing, though. The governor of Florida is selling both of these while his state is currently experiencing nearly four times the national average of new coronavirus cases. Florida currently ranked second in the whole country in new daily cases. Their death rate is double the national average. They rank fourth nationally in COVID hospitalizations.
But hey, at least your beer will stay cold while you insult the very idea of infectious disease expertise. That will show `em.
Watch this state. Watch this state.
MADDOW: That is going to do it for us tonight. I`ll see you again this time tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.