Fire damages Notre Dame Cathedral. TRANSCRIPT: 4/15/19. The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell.

Doug Stern, James Martin, Meredith Cohen, Ryan Goodman, Ron Klain

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Rachel.


And that really was an extraordinary interview.  I want to get your

reaction to the discussion you started which is a discussion I believe we

have never seen before in presidential campaign history about the challenge

of coming out and what that – what was your reaction to Pete Buttigieg`s

explanation to you about why it was so much slower a process for him than

it was for you. 


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”:  It`s weird because he`s sitting right

here.  But I`ll tell you that – I`ll give you my response as if that`s not



You know, I think that there is a conversation that happens among gay

people that is different than a conversation that happens among straight

people when it comes to people coming out.  It`s not about homophobia. 

It`s that gay people, for straight people, gay people have nothing

interesting going on in terms of their sexual orientation until they come

out.  And then the act of coming out is a notable thing. 


If you`re, you know, if you`re pro gay rights and supportive of your gay

brothers and sisters that`s seen as a positive thing.  And that`s the first

time you think about it.  Among gay people, what we live before we come out

is a time of being closeted, and being closeted is an active thing.  It`s

not an absence of something else that straight people can`t notice. 


And I don`t exactly know.  I`m sure there`s ways in which I`m being

politically incorrect by bringing this up, particularly with the

presidential candidate.  But for somebody who put his marriage at the

center of his campaign and talks so much what that means in terms of his

hope for the country and evolving values, I do think it`s interesting to

try to define what is otherwise seen as negative space. 


I mean, for me coming out was an inability to live as a closeted person. 

He lived as a closeted person for a longer period of time.  Everybody`s

path to getting there is different.  I wanted to talk to him about how he

got there. 


So, I don`t know if that was the wrong thing to ask but it was my burning

question about that element of his campaign. 


O`DONNELL:  And I think that`s what you have to ask.  You know, it`s so

interesting because we do – you and I do this very differently.  All I

care about is policy, presidential policy, when you`re in the Oval Office,

what will you sign, what you veto. 



And you find out much more about the person than I do.  I`m relying on you

to do that.  It`s kind of why I`m working in another space.  It`s one of

the reasons I work in another space with them. 


And I think the fact that you were trying to get inside what that

experience is, what that formative experience is lives in a long

traditional of candidate interviews in which in a variety of ways people

are trying to get inside the experience of that person and what it was like

growing up in a certain way or what it was like in military service in



And that issue, that what is inside this person is something that

presidential campaign interviewers have been pursuing for decades. 


MADDOW:  Well, yes.  I wouldn`t put your money on me as like the humanity

are here.  I`m not the person great with the personal questions.  It`s not

usually my thing. 


But I do feel like if you`re going to go the distance in a presidential

campaign , if you`re going to get anywhere near the nomination, you are

going to be and you ought to be subject to multiple full body MRIs.  And

that includes your soul, and that includes your evolution, and that

includes the places in which you`ve faced dark times and made hard

decisions and come out the other side with a story to tell. 


And so, some of that is policy and some of that is values and some is how

you`ve chosen to live.  So, I mean, I think with all of these guys

particularly there`s going to be 500,000 of them running in the Democratic

campaign, we`ll have to figure out how to ask all of them everything all

the time. 


O`DONNELL:  OK.  So, final question for you. 




O`DONNELL:  I don`t know if it`s quick.


Was it difficult for you to decide whether to ask that question? 


MADDOW:  Yes.  In part because I felt like I have to – I had to preface it

with here`s the thing about me which I`m allergic to.  So, that made it

hard to ask.  But I also learned a bunch about him so I think it was worth



O`DONNELL:  Rachel, it really was worth it.  We really appreciate it. 


MADDOW:  Thanks, Lawrence.


O`DONNELL:  Thank you, Rachel. 


Well, we have much to cover now in this hour.  The Mueller report we now

know, the redacted version of the Mueller report will be released on

Thursday.  That`s the breaking news from the Justice Department this

morning.  We have known that since this morning. 


We also have campaign news to cover tonight, Rachel`s extraordinary

interview.  Bernie Sanders appearing on Fox News.  Bernie Sanders releasing

his tax returns today. 


Kamala Harris releasing 15 years of tax returns this weekend.  Much to

cover in the presidential campaign.


And then of course, there is the tragedy in Paris today.  At the end of

this hour, I`m going to take some personal time at the end of this hour to

talk about what is at stake in the rebuilding of the Notre Dame Cathedral. 

The president of France vowed to rebuild today. 


We will consider what was lost today and we will do that through the eyes

of Kenneth Clark.  Kenneth Clark was the most esteemed art historian of the

20th century.  He produced and narrated a series on the BBC and a book that

came out at the same time in 1969 entitled “Civilization,” nothing less

than the history of civilization.  And the place where Kenneth Clark stood

to speak the first words of the story of human civilization was in front of

Notre Dame Cathedral.  We will hear those words from Kenneth Clark at the

end of this hour, and consider what we lost today and what we have to

achieve in the rebuilding. 


Notre Dame Cathedral was open to tourist visitors today from 10:00 a.m.

until 6:30 p.m.  That was the official schedule. 


About 15 minutes after the closing time as the final tourists were being

ushered out of the cathedral, and as the worker who have been refurbishing

the cathedral were mostly out of the building, the first plumes of smoke

were seen rising from the roof of the cathedral, the catastrophe that

followed happened fast. 


Suddenly, during lunch hour here on East Coast, we were all seeing images

of the flames pushing through the roof of the 800-year-old cathedral.  At

7:07 p.m. Paris time, “Reuters” reported the first sight of flames and for

the next agonizing hour it seemed nothing could slow down those flames. 

Hundreds of firefighters converged on the scene. 


When the flames reached the spire on the top of the cathedral, the blaze

quickly raced to the top of that spire and then we watched disoriented, not

knowing why the fire couldn`t be contained, not knowing what would happen





UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I`m not sure what that means for the monumental towers

but I can see the back of them. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, my goodness.  There it is falling. 


Michael, so you know, we are looking – oh, my gosh – at video right now. 

The images.  Wow.  Wow. 


That is just like a dagger to the heart of Paris to see that happen.  It`s

just – that`s remarkable. 




O`DONNELL:  And the world went speechless.  An hour after the fire started,

the spire fell, and minutes after that, at 8:00 p.m., Paris time, the

entire roof collapsed.  After that total collapse of what was left of that

– we were not sure what would be left of the cathedral, anything seemed





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Liz, I`m going to interrupt you with a sobering bit

of news.  The French Interior Ministry, an official from the French

Interior Ministry now says firefighters may not be able to save the





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This is from a ministry official, firefighters may

not be able to save the Notre Dame Cathedral.  It`s hard to even process

that even as we`re watching it, it`s hard to process. 






O`DONNELL:  French President Emmanuel Macron arrived at the scene and

tweeted this statement: Notre Dame is aflame.  Great emotion for the whole

nation.  Our thoughts go to all Catholics.  And to the French people, like

all of my fellow citizens I am sad to see there part of us burn tonight.


The fire continued to spread while some first responders tried to salvage

priceless works of art from inside.  Parisians came together and prayed.




O`DONNELL:  Finally, at 10:55:00 p.m., Paris time, the police chief

announced that the cathedral`s main structure including the two bell towers

that frame the entryway have been saved.  French officials say that no one

was killed in the fire.  But say one firefighter was seriously injured. 


These photographs show the altar of the cathedral has President Macron

surveyed the damage. 


President Macron then vowed to rebuild. 




EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator):  Notre Dame of

Paris is our history, our literature, our imagination.  It`s a place where

our big historical moments, plagues, wars, liberation.  It is at the very

heart of our lives.  With pride, I tell you tonight that we will rebuild

this cathedral all together. 




O`DONNELL:  Joining us now is NBC News foreign correspondent Matt Bradley

from Paris. 


Matt, the latest from Paris. 



in this incident but this is still a city in mourning as you mentioned,

we`ve been standing here for a couple hours.  There were just ordinary

Parisians lining the sidewalks, lining the River Seine, singing hymns. 


And really, one of the things that`s been standing out every time one of

the fire engines goes by, the crowd erupts in applause.  And for people

here, they`re the ones who stood between the massive destruction that has

already been inflicted on this cathedral and total destruction and really

that was on precipice of that.  As you mentioned, the interior minister

warning earlier this evening they might not be able to save this cathedral. 


But as you can see behind me, the cathedral is still structurally

relatively sound.  And so, they`re able to rebuild.  That`s a real feeling

of hope that`s pervading everything here in Paris because this is central

not just to Catholics, it`s central to all of French culture. 


You know, it`s interesting when the road signs outside of Paris when they

measured the distance to Paris, this is ground zero.  This plaza in front

of the Notre Dame Cathedral is the point at which they measure all

distances to Paris.  So, it`s central to everybody here whether you`re

religious or not – Lawrence. 


O`DONNELL:  Matt Bradley, thank you very much for joining us live from

Paris.  We appreciate it. 


We`re joined now by Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor-at-

large of “American Magazine”, a leading publication of Catholic ideas. 


Also joining us is Doug Stern, who`s a Cincinnati firefighter for 23 years. 


Meredith Cohen as well.  She`s a UCLA professor of medieval art and

architecture.  She`s an expert on Notre Dame Cathedral.


And, Father Martin, I want to start with you.  I know you spent a great

deal of time just across the street here in St. Patrick`s Cathedral.  We

just heard the phrase ground zero used for where the cathedral is in French

maps.  But we also heard that phrase here in New York City.  We see that

spire falling and there feels like an emotional echo when we see something

falling in flames like that after what we saw here on 9/11. 


JAMES MARTIN, JESUIT PRIEST:  Well, I felt the same way.  When I saw the

spire collapse, I was immediately transported back to 9/11.  I was here in

New York City and watching some of the buildings come down and just how

devastating that was. 


I would imagine this is kind of like 9/11 for France, certainly for the

church in France.  It`s a sort of multivalent symbol.  It`s a symbol of

Catholic France.  It`s a symbol of France itself.  In many ways, it`s a

symbol of European Catholicism, too.  I can`t think of another church

outside of St. Peter`s that is that iconic. 


O`DONNELL:  And great work done by the first responders making sure there

were no fatalities which, of course, is the incalculable difference between

this and 9/11. 


Doug Stern, you`re with the International Association of Firefighters.  It

is in fact an international association.  You fought fires for 23 years in



We were all wondering, we don`t have your expertise and wondering as we

watched this why isn`t the fire being put out?  If we can see the fire, why

can`t we get the needed water on it, why can`t we get what it needs to

stop?  What was it that made this so difficult to contain and finally stop? 


DOUG STERN, FORMER FIREFIGHTER:  There already several reasons, Lawrence. 

One is just the volume of fire first of all.  By the time the firefighters

got there, in a building that size of that age, the fire had a pretty good

head start. 


The second reason was they prioritized what they could do.  And I really

think a lot of the reason that that cathedral is still standing this

evening is because the firefighters took the appropriate measures, they got

ahead of the fire and they stopped it before it could get farther.  Had

they not taken that approach, it`s entirely possible that they could have

lost those bell towers as the fire progressed through the entire building. 


O`DONNELL:  Let`s listen to something that former New York Fire

Commissioner Thomas Van Essen told Brian Williams this afternoon during our

live coverage. 





lumber yards in the eaves and the outside roof is misleading because it`s

stone or copper.  The inside ceiling, you think it`s plaster.  But in

between is a tremendous amount of lumber if it gets going, you know, you`re

going to having a real tough time putting it out. 


And that`s what they ran noon today.  They didn`t get it out fast enough. 




O`DONNELL:  And, Professor Cohen, he was actually talking about his own

experience crawling around the eaves of St. Patrick`s Cathedral here in

Manhattan and he was supposing that it was something similar inside Notre




timber truss roof, part of which dates back to the 13th century when it was

first finished, much of which also was 19th century.  Nevertheless, it`s a

huge loss to lose that. 


O`DONNELL:  And Professor, what do you make of the promise to rebuild and

what can be rebuilt? 


COHEN:  Well, I think the first thing that will need to be done is they`ll

need to survey the state of the stonewalls because they will have been

damaged by the heat of the fire.  So, they`ll have to you know assess the

damage, the walls, the possible stained glass and then question, you know,

what to rebuild and how. 


And then the question is about the spire.  What`s lost is lost.  You can`t

rebuild the past.  So you can make effective you know, reproduction of the

past or you can make something new.  But you can`t reproduce what`s been



O`DONNELL:  Father Martin, when you saw those images of the altar of the

cathedral, what was your feeling when you saw that? 


MARTIN:  After the fire had been put out or sort of tamped down that

there`s a great cymbal symbol of hope there.  You know, Easter season is

coming.  The message of Easter is that suffering is never the last word and

that there`s always hope.  So, I was very hopeful. 


I think the fact they were able to save so much of it is a blessing. 


O`DONNELL:  And, Professor Cohen, we can think of is as a church, a

cathedral and also as a museum.  If you look at it from a museum

perspective, what has been lost? 


COHEN:  Well, the spire is an important emblem of 19th century restoration

of gothic revivalism in a way and of the preservation of the medieval past

of Paris and France.  That`s certainly been lost. 


We are really fortunate that the main structure hasn`t been lost.  Some of

the oldest things but nevertheless the roof, 13th century timber truss and

the spire are gone and cannot be replaced. 


I`m not sure that the glass been gone.  It looks like some of the vaults

have been destroyed.  So, that`s 13th century, 12th and 13th century know-

how that we`ve lost permanently. 


O`DONNELL:  Doug Stern, what has to be established within that structure

before any real rebuilding working even begin to take place? 


STERN:  I think the first thing they have to do is look at the exterior

walls and make sure it`s safe to enter the building so there`s no further

chance of a collapse rather.  The one thing I will say is going into that

structure when it was on fire to save the heirlooms and artifacts they were

able to save really speaks volumes about what those firefighters were able

to do. 


If you look at some of the damage, there`s no doubt while they were in

there trying to save everything they could, there was debris falling from

the top of the roof all the way down to the floor they were at.  The fact

that there was only one firefighter injured really speaks volumes to the

dedication and the fact that they did what they had to do in a safe manner. 

But they saved quite a bit as they were doing it. 


O`DONNELL:  Really heroic work. 


Doug Stern, Father James Martin, and, Professor Meredith Cohen, thank you

all for starting us off tonight on this tragic subject.  We really

appreciate it. 


And when we come back, we now know the William Barr edited redacted version

of the Mueller report will be publicly released on Thursday.  But, today,

Congress actually has been continuing its investigative methods of

President Trump in the form of subpoenas to a bank and an accounting firm

that have done business with the president.  That`s coming up next. 


And in presidential campaign news, we just saw Rachel`s extraordinary

interview with presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.  We will talk more

about that later in this hour. 


And at the end of the hour, a special last word about what was lost today

and what is at stake in the rebuilding of Notre Dame Cathedral. 






O`DONNELL:  We`re now three days away from the release of Attorney General

William Barr`s redacted version of the Mueller report.  And tonight, “The

New York Times” has breaking news related to the investigation. 


“The New York Times” is reporting, quote: Congressional investigators on

Monday issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and numerous other banks seeking

information about President Trump`s finances and the lender`s business

dealings with Russian, according to several people with knowledge of the



The redacted version of the Mueller report now scheduled to be released on

Thursday should have you much to say or at least something to say about

that.  We`re not sure about how much of that will be redacted. 


The congressional subpoenas issued today were from the House Intelligence

Committee and House Financial Services Committee.  Also tonight, “Politico”

reports tonight the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Elijah

Cummings, has issued a subpoena to the accounting firm of Mazars USA for

ten years of President Trump`s financial records.  A Justice Department

spokesperson confirmed to NBC News today that a redacted version of Robert

Mueller`s report will be released on Thursday.


And in a surprising revelation today, we learned that back on March 27th,

the bipartisan leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic

Chairman Adam Schiff and Republican Devin Nunes sent a letter to the

Justice Department saying that Robert Mueller must brief the Intelligence

Committee on his investigation.  The letter says special counsel Mueller

and senior members of his office as well as other relevant senior officials

from the department, bureau and intelligence community must also brief the

full committee on the investigation`s scope and areas of inquiry, its

findings and the intelligence and counter intelligence information gathered

in the course of and related to the investigation. 


Joining our discussion now, NYU law professor Ryan Goodman.  He served as a

counsel in the Defense Department in the Obama administration.  And he has

been studying William Barr`s earlier years of service in the Justice

Department that include controversies involving William Barr`s inaccurate

summaries of Justice Department material.  That Congress was then pursuing. 

Ryan Goodman is co-editor in chief of the forum 


Also with us, Ron Klain, he was a senior aide to Vice President Joe Biden

and to President Obama.  He was a former chief counsel to the Senate

Judiciary Committee and he was chief of staff to Attorney General Janet

Reno.  So, he knows the workings of the attorney general`s office. 


And, Ryan Goodman, I want to start with you.  You have been reporting

extensively on William Barr`s previous history in the Justice Department,

Republican administration.  That involved a very similar situation in which

he was issuing a summary version of what later turned out to be something

very different from the summary. 


What does that tell us then about what we might expect in the difference

between what has been the William Barr summary of the Mueller report and

the next chapter, the redacted William Barr version of the Mueller report. 


RYAN GOODMAN, PROFESSOR, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW:  That`s right.  So there`s a

remarkable episode that is very similar to today.  1989, William Barr had

actually issued or written an opinion for the Justice Department highly

controversy.  It looked like it paved the way for the United States to

forcibly abduct the leader of Panama.  So Congress wanted the full opinion

and Barr said, no, you can`t have the full opinion but I`ll give you a

summary of its principal conclusions, which is the same language he used

for the Mueller report.  That he`ll give a summary of the principal



It ends up that he gives a 13-page report and then only three years later

do we actually find the full opinion and it turns out that he did not give

Congress the principal conclusions.  He left some major conclusions out. 


So, it – the final conclusion that I draw from that episode is that it was

kind of an act of duplicity towards Congress and so, how much we can trust

him today to not repeat that kind of behavior is up in the air.  I think

it`s a concern. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes, and, Ron Klain, I was thinking as I was reading Ryan`s

reporting on this, in the ends, by the way, we get to see the that complete

William Barr memo only when there`s a change of administrations and only

when the Clinton administration comes in and only when actually Janet Reno

moves into the Justice Department. 


And so that may be.  We may be a year and a half away from seeing the full

Mueller report or from Congress seeing the full report because it might

take a new president and new attorney general to release it. 



might.  I think there are two things we know for sure.  One is sooner or

later the full Mueller report will see the light of day. 


I think the truth always comes out that way.  And it may take a change of

administrations.  It may take a very long time but I think sooner or later

we`ll see the light of day. 


For the time being, the Trump administration has built a stonewall around

the Mueller report.  That wall is not built by brick, it`s bar by bar. 

They put Bill Barr in as attorney general for this purpose, they got rid of

Sessions as attorney general.  So, the president could put in Bill Barr. 


Bill Barr wrote a memo saying is Trump couldn`t possibly be guilty of

obstruction.  He wrote this short memo, who knows if it`s a accurate memo

that allowed Trump to claim exoneration in all capitals and exclamation

points and then he went before Congress last week and advance this had

crazy spying theory. 


So, you know, Barr has been the instrument of the Trump stonewall.  We`re

going to see how much of that gets cracked on Thursday.  Sooner or later,

the whole thing will fall apart. 


O`DONNELL:  Ryan Goodman, there`s been a lot of the emphasis on the memo

that William Barr wrote during the Trump presidency about the Mueller

investigation.  But what you`re reporting indicates to me is that a solidly

researched William Barr background by the Trump White House would have

revealed hey, this guy is really good at redacting and this guy is really

good at mischaracterizing summaries of reports that we`re hoping people

don`t get to see, in other words, he`s got the skill set you might need

when it comes time to the release of some form of the Mueller report. 


GOODMAN:  I think he practiced this at a very high art form.  It`s pretty

incredible what he was able to do back then and I think another element in

this is, would William Barr tarnish his record, tarnish his reputation and

the answer is yes.  He did that when he was in the George W. Bush

administration, George H.W. Bush administration, and he is willing to pay

the price when the full report came out years later so they also knew they

kind of had their man in a certain sense of he would be willing to do that

kind of work once again to protect the White House. 


O`DONNELL:  Yes, and Ron Klain, that – the point Ryan just made is a

really big point.  You and I know many, many people working in government

who would never take a position that they knew at some point in the future

or some years later even when a new administration comes in would be

revealed to be basically fraudulent. 


I mean, most people we know I think who served in government would not do

that.  So if you can find someone who`s already done it, I mean, and that`s

what you`re looking for, that`s pretty unusual. 


KLAIN:  It is unusual, Lawrence.  And look, I mean, I think as amazing as

it is to say this, Jeff Sessions, very conservative, someone who I

criticized a lot as attorney general, you know, held the line against

Donald Trump and refused to unrecuse in the Russia investigation and turned

the thing over to Rod Rosenstein to manage. 


And so, you know, he wasn`t willing to corrupt himself in this way for

President Trump.  We have to see ultimately what the truth holds out for

Bill Barr.  But right now, it looks like this is someone willing to make

these changes, produce this memo first of all a few weeks ago to provide

Trump the exoneration victory lap and then we`re going to see how much

redaction was done and how indicative the redaction is. 


I mean, there`s a lot of focus on the amount of redaction we`re going to

see on Thursday.  But, really, just a few words can make all the

difference.  So, until we see the full Mueller report, we really won`t know

what Robert Mueller found about what happened in the 2016 campaign and then

what Donald Trump did to obstruct justice in the investigation of that



O`DONNELL:  Well, we all know what we`re going to be doing all day Thursday

and what we`re going to be talking about at this hour on Thursday night. 

Ron Klain, Ryan Goodman, thank you for both for joining us tonight.  Really

appreciate it.


GOODMAN:  Thank you.


O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, a look at the extraordinary moment

tonight in Rachel`s interview of Pete Buttigieg, something we have never

seen in an interview of a presidential candidate before.




O`DONNELL:  Something happened tonight in the presidential campaign that

we`ve never seen before, never happened before in presidential campaign

history.  Just happened in the last hour.


I hope most of you saw it.  We`re going to talk about it, an openly gay

presidential candidate being asked by an openly gay T.V. interviewer about

the differences in their deeply personal experiences of coming out.





outset that this is an awkward question.  I was a Rhodes scholar too.  I

went up in 1995, you went up a decade later.  So I was the first openly gay

American Rhodes scholar.


And I got there and I had come out in college.  So I applied for the Rhodes

scholarship as an openly gay person.  It definitely came up in the

selection process.  When I got there, I learned that I was the first

American that has ever been out.




MADDOW:  But that was a decade before you.  And you went through college

and then the Rhodes scholarship process and getting the Rhodes scholarship

and going to work for McKenzie and joining the Navy and deploying to

Afghanistan and coming home and running for mayor in your hometown and

getting elected before you came out at the age of 33.




MADDOW:  And I bring this up and I acknowledge it`s a difficult question

not because it`s bad that you didn`t come out until you were 33 but I think

it would have killed me to be closeted for that long.  I just think about

what it takes as a human being to know something and to have to bifurcate

your public life.


And for you to have had all of those difficult transitions and experiences

and to be aiming as high as you were all of that time and not coming out

until your early 30s, I just wonder if that was hurtful to you.  If it hurt

you to do it.


BUTTIGIEG:  It was hard.  It was really hard.


MADDOW:  Coming out is hard but being in the closet is harder.


BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.  No, that`s what I mean.  I mean it was and it wasn`t. 

First of all, it took me plenty of time to come out to myself.  So I did

not the way you did or the way my husband did figure out at such an early

age.  I probably should have.


I mean there are certainly plenty of indications by the time I was 15-

years-old.  I could point back and be like yes, this kid`s gay.  But I

guess I just really needed to not be.


And there`s this war that breaks out I think inside a lot of people when

they realize that they might be something they`re afraid of.  And it took

me a very long time to resolve that.




O`DONNELL:  I hope you saw the full interview.  It will be available



And after a break, Aisha Moodie-Mills will join us to discuss that historic

moment in a campaign interview history and other campaign developments of

the day.






BUTTIGIEG:  It was hard.  It was really hard.


MADDOW:  Coming out is hard but being in the closet is harder.


BUTTIGIEG:  Yes.  No, that`s what I mean.  I mean it was and it wasn`t. 

First of all, it took me plenty of time to come out to myself.  So I did

not the way you did or the way my husband did figure out at such an early





O`DONNELL:  Joining our discussion, Democrat Strategist and Fellow at the

Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics, Aisha Moodie-Mills.


So this was an exchange we`ve never seen in the presidential campaign

interviewing.  I talked to Rachel about it beginning of the hour.  She said

it was difficult for her to bring up.  She also said there will be people

who think she should not have brought it up.  What is your reaction to this



AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  I actually appreciated the fact

that she brought it up.  So as an out lesbian myself – and funny, the

first time I met Mayor Pete, I was the present CEO of the LGBTQ Victory

Fund where he just did his big speech that`s being publicized.  So shout

out to all of my Victory Fund folks.


And at that time, he had actually just come out.  And so I got to talk to

him about that.  Look, let me tell you coming out is the most personal and

fretful for many people experiences that we will ever encounter.  So no one

can cast judgment on the process around it.


I do appreciate the fact that she brought it up to try to get a sense of

how authentic is he.  Was he just trying to – was he in the closet because

he was ambitious or was he really grappling with something.  And I think

the way that he responded and shared intimately and personally that I had a

bit of fear, I didn`t quite know who I was, I think that all of us could

probably relate to growing up and then realizing at some point that maybe

we`re not exactly who we had thought we were going to be and trying to

reconcile that is challenging.


So imagine that when it comes to your sexuality when it`s about you

realizing that you`re in love with and attracted to the type of person that

you might not have expected.  It`s a lot.  It`s a lot.


So I appreciate Rachel asking it.  I think it was very much in bounds to

have that conversation and for her to also share.  And then I think that

Mayor Pete really handled it well and I appreciate the fact that he was

very authentic in his response.


O`DONNELL:  Yes.  I was watching the interview and there was a lot of

familiar ground in it.  If you`ve listened to him speak a lot and there

were a lot of areas where he was doing variations of things he`s said



But this was clearly something that he, obviously, didn`t know it was

coming.  Rachel even felt you could tell she was a little awkward bringing

it up.  But it was, as she put it, her burning question.  Can you

understand that as someone who is so publicly identifying as a gay

candidate and a gay man married to a man that this would provoke a set of

questions, this would inspire a set of questions that might not otherwise

be asked?


MOODIE-MILLS:  Oh, for sure.  I mean for sure.  From both the LGBTQ

community, as well as not LGBTQ people.  I think –


O`DONNELL:  Let me just put this in parenthesis.  It would never have

occurred to me to ask that question, right?  It wasn`t my burning question. 

It was Rachel`s burning question because, of course, she had been through

that experience and that`s what makes it an important question for people.


MOODIE-MILLS:  For sure.


O`DONNELL:  To have been through that experience.


MOODIE-MILLS:  For sure.  We want to know people and connect with them and

their deepest selves in order to trust them.  And I think that that`s what

she was getting at.


I mean we really do, at least for me personally, I want to know about the

people and their integrity and what they believe in and their values and

how they`ve come to have the values that they have through their life



I talk about identity politics often.  I talk about the politics of race,

and gender, and sexuality.  And it`s not simply because it`s buzz words or

it`s about like constituencies and “bases for the Democratic Party”.  But

because I believe that the best leaders are the leaders who show up in the

way that they see the world through an authentic lens that is ultimately

about their lived experience.


And to the extent that he`s leaning into that, Rachel`s pulling that out of

him to other candidates in the field, they are going to be called into

question who are you, why do you believe what you believe and what`s your

personal story around that.  So I thought that it was great that we got

some of that personal story.


O`DONNELL:  Yes.  All of my questions are policy because I have known so

many politicians and I know how much – how many walls of guard they have

up around them.  I don`t even attempt to penetrate them.  I don`t care what

you are as a human being because I don`t think I can find that out on T.V. 

I don`t think I have the tools.


But what I felt I saw in that moment was Rachel reaching in there and

finding something for us and that you know, Pete Buttigieg then delivered

that we wouldn`t have found in any other interview.


MOODIE-MILLS:  And I talked to him afterwards too.


O`DONNELL:  Oh, you did?


MOODIE-MILLS:  I did and he was surprised.  Not shocked and taken aback so

much as I said hey, you did a great job.  And he was like, “Yes, that was

surprising.  What did you think?”  And I said I thought that it was

wonderful and elegant and charismatic and clearly, I would imagine a bit

cathartic too.  A bit cathartic because when you spend your life –


O`DONNELL:  And what did he say?


MOODIE-MILLS:  And he just kind of like nodded.  But he`s been in this

journey since I think it was 2005 of coming out.  And there is a relief

that happens when you can show up as who you are.


My own personal story, I didn`t come out until I was in my probably late

20s I would say.  And so from a professional context, I ended up coming out

on the front page of “The Washington Post,” my wife and I.


O`DONNELL:  If you`re going to do it.


MOODIE-MILLS:  We might as well bust out.  But all of my colleagues, they

looked at me and they are like, “Oh my God, I had no idea.  Now, I

understand you. Now, I know you and now I feel more connected to you.”  And

my relationships actually strengthened.


And there`s something that`s really cathartic about that, something really

warm and a connection that happens.


O`DONNELL:  I`ve been on that side of it where a friend has come out to me

and we just became much closer because of it.  And I realized in that

moment that at some level, there was some part of me that was feeling lied

to over a period of time, the previous couple of years and then suddenly,

that was all lifted.


So you`ve heard and seen Pete Buttigieg more than most of us.  You`ve seen

his confidence.  What did you make of his confidence in handling that

moment with Rachel?  Did it seem like he was still holding that confident

position that he always holds?


MOODIE-MILLS:  I mean look, I think that he is a very, very, very smart

man, clearly.  He also has a lot of passion and a lot of conviction.  And

he knows what he believes in and he knows what he wants and he knows what

he wants to do for America.  That completely comes across in all facets of

his conversation.


So when he was talking about policy ideas, when he was talking about being

a bit of a disruptor, and how he was going to challenge the status quo, I

thought that everything that he talked about he had a lot of conviction and

confidence in because these are things that he has really studied, really

put his positions together over time and analyzed.


And so it seems to me that he`s not someone that`s a little nervous off the

cuff because he is a very, very, very thoughtful and calculated candidate.


O`DONNELL:  So “The New York Times” reporting today that he has been

deliberately avoiding policy specifics and is trying to set a narrative and

a story about himself first.  Is that what you expected him to do as a

campaigner, and do you expect since you`ve known him so well to hear the

kind of Elizabeth Warren level policy specifics that we`ve been getting

from her?


MOODIE-MILLS:  So the beauty of where he is right now I think his campaign

would say is that he`s still introducing himself to all of us, right.  So

no one knew who Mayor Pete was and now he`s just shown up.


So surely there`s an introduction process that has to happen.  Now,

unfortunately, most of the other candidates have a record so we already

know who they are.  So they`re in the process of being critiqued where he`s

still in the process of saying hello.


I do believe though that when the summer comes and he gets on the stage and

there`s real substantive policy conversations happening, he`s going to have

to account for that and talk about what he`s done, what he will do.  But

right now, he`s going on an introduction tour, right?  And that is playing

to his favor, but I don`t think – I think the honeymoon at some point will

be over.


O`DONNELL:  Aisha Moodie-Mills, we really needed you here tonight.


MOODIE-MILLS:  Thank you, sir.  Appreciate it.


O`DONNELL:  Thank you very much for being here when we needed you.


And when we come back, what we saw today in Paris and what it tells us

about civilization.




O`DONNELL:  Civilization is hard, perhaps impossible to define which makes

the history of civilization the most complex story anyone could try to

tell.  The esteemed British Art Historian Lord Kenneth Clark gave us his

version of the history of civilization in a book in a 1969 “BBC” series

entitled “Civilization”.


Kenneth Clark added the subtitle “a personal view” so that no one would

take his enthralling television lectures as the definitive story of

civilization.  Lord Clark relied on a principle first enunciated by the

artist and art critic John Ruskin in Ruskin`s “The History of Venice”

published in 1884.


Ruskin wrote Great nations write their autobiographies in three

manuscripts, the book of their deeds, the book of their words, and the book

of their art.  Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the

two others.  But of the three, the only trustworthy one is the last.


Kenneth Clark`s 20th Century variation on Ruskin`s point was “If I had to

say which was telling the truth about society a speech by a minister of

housing or the actual buildings put up in his time, I should believe the



One of the buildings Lord Clark believed and loved was the Notre Dame

Cathedral in Paris.  After this break, a last word about Notre Dame

Cathedral and Civilization.




O`DONNELL:  In his 1969 “BBC” series “Civilisation”, which came to the

United States a year later on “PBS”, the 20th Century`s leading Art

Historian, Lord Kenneth Clark, offered this definition of civilization at

the beginning of the first episode.




KENNETH CLARK, ART HISTORIAN:  What is civilization?  I don`t know.  I

can`t define it in abstract terms yet, but I think I can recognize it when

I see it and I`m looking at it now.




O`DONNELL:  And we all looked at it today.  The world looked at it today

and tears fell for Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and around the world.  It

is the first time in human history that people all over the world at the

same time could watch and did watch an 800-year-old building burning.


Notre Dame is more than twice as old as the Taj Mahal, another indelible

landmark in the history of civilization.  Today`s loss felt like so much

more than the loss of an old familiar building to fire because it is a loss

to civilization itself.


If you are one of the lucky millions of people who have visited Notre Dame

Cathedral, you now know that you were among the last to see it as we knew

it.  No visitors again will ever see what you saw.


But today, France`s President Emmanuel Macron promised to rebuild Notre

Dame Cathedral.  The French will rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral. 

Civilization will rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral.


And your grandchildren will see something as important as you did if they

get the chance to visit Paris.  They will see in a rebuilt Notre Dame

Cathedral civilization`s perseverance.  They will see civilization`s

strength.  And they will see something you might never see.


They will see the old parts of Notre Dame Cathedral that survived the great

fire of 2019.  And then they will see the new parts, the parts you might

never see.  And when they leave the rebuilt Cathedral, they will know this

truth, civilization cannot be built and left to stand to be stared at by

tourist and studied by scholars.  Civilization must be built and then

rebuilt and then rebuilt.








O`DONNELL:  After the mourning for what the world lost today, we will

rebuild.  The world will contribute to the rebuilding of Notre Dame



And the new Notre Dame Cathedral will be a new chapter in our never ending

story of civilization.  That`s “Tonight`s Last Word.”  “The 11th Hour” with

Brian Williams starts now.




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