NBA suspends season TRANSCRIPTS: The Last Word W/ Lawrence O’Donnell
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
And I invite viewers to compare what they learn from Ron Klain in your last
45 minutes of discussion to what they`ve been hearing from Trump
administration officials, not the medical professionals but the actual
White House staff because that`s what Ron was in the Obama White House. He
was in a position of – without medical expertise, but with expertise about
how to make government work, how to make arms of the government work
together in a crisis like this and, of course, he did pick up a great deal
of expertise about this kind of situation and about the medical elements of
I haven`t heard anyone from the Kellyanne Conways to the Larry Kudlows to
these Trump appointees that have command of this subject that Ron has in
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Not only the lack of command but the overt
publicly – excuse me, politically convenient disinformation. Those people
you just cited, Kellyanne Conway and Larry Kudlow, both saying this is
contained, Kudlow saying almost airtight. You know, as the number of U.S.
cases started low and headed toward – over a thousand where it is now, the
overt disinformation from the president on down has been – is actually one
of serious challenges that we`ve got as a country in terms of how we`re
going to deal with this, and I don`t think anybody was under illusions they
handled this well. I`m not sure that any of us were cynical enough to
expect that they would handle it so overtly badly that they`d be one of the
problems we needed to fix along the way.
O`DONNELL: And, Rachel, the basketball theme that went throughout your
hour, it`s at least two weeks ago, maybe more that an official at one of
the really big basketball powers at the university systems in this country
said to me that he was very worried what this meant not just for college
basketball games with 20,000, 25,000 people watching them but what happens
if one student in there is then tested and found to be ill, what do you do
about the 25,000 people who are in that arena?
Clearly, the NBA has been thinking about it in this announcement tonight
that they are suspending, and it`s suspending. It`s not necessarily ending.
Perhaps they`re suspending for 30 days. Perhaps the NBA season will finish
in August this year. We don`t know.
But this is really the first really big decision about limiting large
groups of people in enclosed spaces.
MADDOW: And it feels like they hit it like slamming into a wall.
MADDOW: I mean, the NBA was not exactly, you know, engaging with this
possibility in a way that seemed particularly open-minded, but then you saw
a bunch of things happen in very quick secession. You saw Toni Fauci in
Congress today say overtly, if this – we don`t believe Americans should be
in large crowds and if that means NBA games should be played out audiences,
so be it.
We then saw in San Francisco, the mayor institute a ban on gathering of a
size that would exclude events like an arena full of people watching the
Golden State Warriors play games. We saw this start to happen in individual
locations and then in this Thunder game tonight in Oklahoma, it turns out a
player from the Utah Jazz is perceived to potentially be positive.
That apparently was a calamity at the Oklahoma Thunder stadium or arena
tonight in Oklahoma City when they instituted at first a 30-minute delay.
Nobody there knew what it was for. Then they announced the game would be
postponed and only after they announced the game would be postponed we
found out the answer was about a player from that visiting team.
And so, it`s – I mean, it feels like we`re sort of stumbling through this
but in the end, we`re coming to the same conclusion about cancelling large
O`DONNELL: And, Rachel, the idea of OK, the basketball games will be played
without the audience in the arena, there`s a real business to be done that
way. The television side of the business, there`s obviously still a very
viable business to be done without the ticket sales, unless, unless a
player contracts the virus, which is where we are now. I mean, the amount
of physical contact, you know, your hands can`t touch your face. Well, you
sure can`t play basketball with other people if that`s the case.
And so, all they needed was that one player and they just did what you
would do, thinking about that one player project that out how long has that
player been carrying this? How many other players in the NBA has he
actually literally touched in just, say, the last week?
MADDOW: And those calculations as Ron was saying, if we were in a regime in
which, like they are in South Korea, in which there was widespread testing,
in which not everybody was symptomatic getting tested but everybody that
was a traced contact of anybody who was known to have the virus was getting
tested, and there was just wide spread surveillance testing within the
population to ferret it out in places that we didn`t know about, then you`d
be having a completely different conversation about the sort of workplace
risk to NBA basketball players than you would in our country where it is a
mystery because the federal government, the Trump administration blew it
just absolutely blew it, when it came to us having tests.
And so, we`re the biggest industrialized nation in the world dealing with a
significant epidemic while flying blind, with no information you need to
take the first steps to make sure this is brought under control. It`s just
O`DONNELL: And, Rachel, there is one more thing before you go and this
developed during your hour, one of the breaking news elements of your hour.
And, by the way, the president`s ten minutes was a complete contradiction
of everything the president had said publicly about this prior to his ten
O`DONNELL: When he was telling people nothing to worry about. I think
America tonight has a symbol, couple of big symbols about what there is to
worry about with the NBA suspending because of one of the players. But then
that news that you broke during your hour, of Tom and Rita Hanks in
O`DONNELL: Tom Hanks tweeting out tonight, a very upbeat statement by Tom
Hanks about him, himself being infected with the coronavirus and his wife
Rita and, of course, Tom Hanks is going to put a very brave face on this,
which he has done and I hope all of the positive feeling that he conveys in
his text – in his tweet how this is going is true. I`m sure it is.
But that`s a real face now. Tom and Rita Hanks is a real thing, a real fact
for Americans to consider if it can happen to them, even though they are in
Australia, it can absolutely happen to anyone. I think that`s the reality
now through Tom Hanks that a lot of people might not have had without Tom
Hanks announcement about this.
MADDOW: And for that to be happening while Mr. Hanks and his wife are in
Australia, which is where they are diagnosed which is key to learning this,
that`s why they were able to get diagnosed because they were in Australia
and not here, who knows how they could get access to a test here.
But the president tonight issued a travel ban from Europe as the way he`s
going to try to address coronavirus in this country because he knows how to
do travel bans. I mean, how about Australia? That`s where Tom Hanks and his
wife appear to have it.
I mean, this dart board approach, this blind throwing darts that he`s doing
in terms of trying to make it seem like he`s got some sort of rational
response here, Schengen area countries from Europe will be restricted in
terms of travel from the United States starting on Friday and we`re
excluding the U.K. where the health minister tested positive, it`s just –
it`s random action at a time we need concerted smart science driven action.
O`DONNELL: Rachel, thank you for your hour of coverage. We all learned a
lot and we`re going to continue with it here.
MADDOW: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence
Committee will join us in this hour, later in the hour. We`ll get his
reaction to the relatively vague outline that President Trump announced
tonight to try to control the coronavirus.
And at the end of the hour tonight, we`re going to try to change the
subject. I`m not sure we will but David Plouffe is here. He managed
President Obama`s successful presidential campaign. I want him to referee a
disagreement that I have with our friends James Carville about where the
Democratic presidential race could go from here. James Carville says Bernie
Sanders should drop out. I say that he should not. David Plouffe will tell
us who is right at the end of the hour, but I can`t promise you that is
what we`ll be discussing at the end of this hour the way this news is
breaking tonight on the coronavirus.
We begin tonight, of course, with analysis of the president`s ten-minute
address to the nation tonight. The first action the president announced
tonight as Rachel mentioned is a ban on travel to the United States from
Europe with some unspecified exceptions and possibly some significant
Listen carefully to how the president described it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will be suspending all
travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules
will go into effect Friday at midnight. These restrictions will be adjusted
subject to conditions on the ground. There will be exceptions for Americans
who have undergone appropriate screenings and these prohibitions will not
only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo but various other
things as we get approval. Anything coming from Europe to the United States
is what we are discussing. These restrictions will also not apply to the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight, Laurie Garrett, Pulitzer
Prize-winning reporting covering global pandemics. She`s a former senior
fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
Dr. Leana Wen, emergency physician and the former health commissioner for
the city of Baltimore.
Richard Stengel is with us. He`s former under secretary of state in the
Obama administration and an MSNBC political analyst.
Laurie, let me start with you on this travel ban and how you interpret it.
LAURIE GARRETT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS FORMER SENIOR FELLOW ON GLOBAL
HEALTH: Ever since we heard about this virus, the way the president has
approached it is I live in a castle, I`m pulling up the drawbridge, and the
virus can`t swim. We`ve pulled up first the China drawbridge and then, you
know, some other drawbridges and now we`re pulling up Europe drawbridge but
we`re leaving down the South Korea drawbridge. We`re leaving down
drawbridges all over the rest and the U.K. apparently.
None of it makes any sense. Virus will – is already here and is probably
already extremely wide spread in the United States. There`s very good
indication that it was in Snohomish County, Washington state, by the 10th
of January and very likely it was spreading dramatically in Washington
state from there for weeks before we knew it.
Without surveillance testing, of course, we don`t really know where it is.
We don`t know how wide spread it is. The one place that has done contact
tracing, that classic instrument you say here is an infected individual,
let`s find everybody that person was in contact with and test them, that`s
been done one place so far in the United States, in New York looking at one
lawyer who we know is in infected and still hospitalized and identified 50
O`DONNELL: From one person?
GARRETT: One person.
So, what we have to ask ourselves is what are we really up against at this
time in the United States? And is the government taking it on on that scale
and the answer is no. I`ll tell you, Lawrence, this today is the day that I
had that feeling the last time I had it after more than 30 years, dealing
with epidemics, was in 1981 when I sat down with great epidemiologist named
Andrew Moss who showed me a preprint he hadn`t yet published and it
calculate that 50 percent of the gay men living in the Castro District were
already infected with this brand-new virus that didn`t have a name that we
now call HIV.
O`DONNELL: Rick Stengel, on the enforcement of this vague travel ban, what
do you see in that? I mean, for example, you can come here from the United
Kingdom. Does that mean a French citizen can simply cross the channel, fly
from Heathrow to here, that same French citizen couldn`t fly from Paris to
here? Do you see in this ban?
RICHARD STENGEL, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, it`s not very clear
and it`s not very rational. Like he didn`t say anything about American
citizens going back and forth and does kind of as Laurie mention, confirm
the world view there is us and them and the disease comes from elsewhere.
That`s of course false. The disease is here. It`s spreading probably more
than we know in part because we`re not testing and he didn`t talk about
testing at all.
If I can make one other point about your conversation with Rachel and what
we`ve been talking about closing NBA games and that, this is what
epidemiologist call flattening the curve. It`s the idea of preventing a
quick spread of the disease, which would over tax the hospital system and
trying to make it smoother, and the problem is, there aren`t enough beds
for people with spikes and that`s why this is a responsible thing to do. I
think these people need to know that.
O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to more of what the president said tonight about
the threat and what it means to people medically.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The vast majority of Americans, the risk is very, very low. Young
and healthy people can expect to recover fully and quickly if they should
get the virus. The highest risk is for elderly population with under lying
health conditions. The elderly population must be very, very careful, in
particular, we`re strongly advising nursing homes for the elderly suspend
In general, older Americans should also avoid non-essential travel and
crowded areas. Each of us has a role to play in defeating this virus. Wash
your hands. Clean often used surfaces. Cover your face and mouth if you
sneeze or cough, and most of all, if you are sick or not feeling well, stay
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Dr. Wen, your reaction to the president`s comments?
DR. LEANA WEN, FORMER PUBLIC HEALTH COMMISSIONER, CITY OF BALTIMORE: Well,
most of what he said is kind of true. Better than previous appearances, it
is true the elderly, those with chronic medical conditions are the most
medically vulnerable and should stay out of crowds and out of – not do
non-essential things, not do non-essential travel but it`s not true that
all of those people who are young and healthy who get the COVID-19 will
recover. I mean, 80 percent will do very well and the likelihood is they
will recover but some won`t get very sick and some will die.
The other thing, too, is even if you`re young and healthy and if you
recover, it doesn`t mean that it will be fine if you get the virus because
you are still at risk for transmitting the disease to other people. And I
think that`s what I found to be the most profoundly disturbing part that
was missing from the president`s speech tonight, which is the warning that
there is going to be significant disruption to everyday life. It`s not just
about banning those people from over there. It`s about real actions that we
have to be taking that are hard.
I mean, school closures. Not going to work. Not getting a paycheck. Having
events and conferences and all these things being cancelled, not going
outside. These are really hard social distancing steps that we have to take
but if we don`t take them, then we won`t be able to flatten the curve and a
lot of people in this country could die.
O`DONNELL: Laurie, I want to point out one thing not on the president`s
list. He says nothing about shaking hands when he`s telling people how they
should change behavior. This is within 24 hours of the vice president of
the United States standing in front of the American people saying he still
shakes hands but he said that only after having to admit that President
Trump still shakes hands and so Mike Pence didn`t want to get out of line
on the handshaking rule in the Trump White House.
And I am absolutely certain that the speechwriters there were not allowed
to put shaking hands in that teleprompter for him to read because of Mike
Pence and Donald Trump statements about that already.
GARRETT: Well, I don`t know about that but I know this. I wrote today
published in “Foreign Policy” that we should chance l the cancel the
elections. We have to cancel the rallies. We have to cancel all the –
O`DONNELL: You mean the campaigns. Not the election.
GARRETT: The campaigns, not the election. Sorry, I misspoke.
GARRETT: Thank you.
We have to cancel the baby kissing and the hugging. You know, if you think
about how many times a candidate hugs hands down the line –
O`DONNELL: And Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have already said they`ve
changed their behavior about this.
GARRETT: This is a vector. This is a vector, just as surely as a mosquito
is for malaria. And if you go down the line and shake 1,000 hands and one
of them has COVID and you may not get it but you then shake three hands
later and pass it on on down the line – well, you`ve just facilitated
spread of the disease.
I think we have to rethink how we`re going to do the campaigns. Rethink
even the voting process. We`re in that level of crisis in this country now.
O`DONNELL: Rick Stengel, your former job editor and chief of “Time
Magazine”, you certainly had a feel for popular culture and Tom Hanks, I
believe, I know you know Tom Hanks from that job and other things and I
believe he`s on the cover, possibly even more than once in “Time Magazine”.
STENGEL: At least once, I recall.
O`DONNELL: OK. So, judge for us what you think the impact of an American,
you know, Hollywood icon like Tom Hanks telling us tonight that he and Rita
Hanks are now suffering from this ailment. Tom Hanks is over 60 years old,
technically, very, very healthy man and Rita obviously very healthy, but
technically a higher risk than someone of a younger age.
What do you think the impact of that news – I have a feeling that is
probably for many, many people their first real jolt about what this means
GARRETT: Like Hudson moment.
STENGEL: Yes, it personalizes it for Americans but not just a person, a
person that represents these all American values and in fact, he
represented that in that tweet that he did which was jaunty and positive
and it`s like we`ll never get put down by something like this. I thought it
was a really admirable and heroic thing he did and I think it can calm a
lot of fears. It was just – it was a typical kind of Tom Hanks thing to
O`DONNELL: Dr. Wen, where do – where do you think we are going to be on
decisions for other businesses that collect large crowds in enclosed spaces
like the NBA, theaters, these kinds of things going forward?
WEN: There`s been a real shift in this last week and I hope that everyone,
every part of society will recognize that we have to do work differently.
We seen a lot of universities are changed their plans. A lot of companies
are cancelling non-essential travel and encouraging telework and I hope
everyone says, look, individual actions, however small they are, can make a
Not everyone can work from home and that`s understandable but for those who
can, let`s allow them to. Not every school should close because there are
downsides to schools closing, too. For example, kids may not be able to get
meals and there may be instances where this is not advisable. But for those
that can close, we should be doing that. We should not be having large
events and large rallies. It`s just not worth it.
We are – we have this very narrow window now to intervene and to flatten
the curve and to prevent a much worse escalation as has been seen in Italy.
Let`s use that window and let`s not look back and say, I wish I had done
that because we actually knew the evidence all along.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Leana Wen, Laurie Garrett, Rick Stengel, thank you all for
starting off our discussion tonight. We really appreciate it.
And when we come back, Chairman Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence
Committee will join us with his reaction to the president`s comments
tonight and the ban on travel from Europe to the United States. Congressman
Schiff will be our next guest.
O`DONNELL: We have breaking news from Washington from United States Senator
Maria Cantwell who represents the state of Washington. A member of her
staff tested positive for the coronavirus.
Senator Cantwell issued a statement tonight saying a staff member in
Senator Maria Cantwell`s office tested positive for COVID-19. The
individual has been in isolation since starting to have symptoms. On the
advice of the attending physician, the senator has closed her Washington
D.C. office. This week for deep cleaning and staff will be teleworking.
Senator Cantwell`s Seattle and Washington, D.C. offices will continue to
serve her constituents remotely. The individual who tested positive for
COVID-19 has had no known contact with the senator or other members of
Congress. Here is more of what President Trump said tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: To ensure that working Americans impacted by the virus can stay home
without fear of financial hardship, I will soon be taking emergency action
which is unprecedented to provide financial relief. This will be targeted
for workers who are ill, quarantined or caring for others due to
coronavirus. I will be asking Congress to take legislative action to extend
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of
California. He`s the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate
I want to begin with your reaction to this announcement by Senator Cantwell
that a member of her staff has tested positive for coronavirus. Senator
Cantwell has had no known contact with that staff member and, of course, we
all know that that`s possible because of the travel schedule of senators
and other reasons why that might be the case.
But your reaction to what Senator Cantwell is reporting tonight.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, certainly, our thoughts go out to that staff
member and we hope they have a quick recovery and hope that it wasn`t
transmitted to others on her staff or anywhere else on the Hill for that
But, Lawrence, it doesn`t really come as a surprise. We have a very public
job. Our job indeed is interacting with the public, but more broadly than
that, given the pace at which this virus is being transmitted, we have to
anticipate that every major workplace is going to be touched by this virus
and what really matters is how we prepare for that and how we try to
control and address and mitigate that.
And time is very precious. There are a lot of things I wish I heard in the
president`s speech today and some I heard that concerned me because when
you have a major health crisis like this incompetence kills. Incompetence
And the response thus far from administration has been unfortunately
plagued with incompetence and in particular, not getting those tests out
there quickly so we can see who is infected, where are they infected, what
steps could be taken to really mitigate the spread of this virus and we now
are in the position of trying to make up for lost time that we will never
O`DONNELL: Congressman, what is your reaction to what the president was
proposing legislatively tonight?
SCHIFF: Well, the snippet you showed about making sure workers can stay
home that get sick and still pay the bills, you know, frankly that was the
only thing or one of the few things that made sense to me in what the
president had to say and indeed the package we`ll take up tomorrow will
have a provision, among most important is for paid sick leave, so that
those that get ill but can`t afford not to be paid aren`t going to have to
go to work and risk infecting others.
But what I would have liked to have heard the President say is, this is a
serious public health crisis, I`m not going to sugarcoat it, but this is
something we can handle. First, I`m going to surge the test kits and we`re
going to make sure we find out where is this virus, how widespread is it,
and these are the resources I`m going to devote to make sure that these
tests are done quickly and widespread.
We`re going to make sure that we surge our health capacity. This is what
I`m going to do for the hospitals and the clinics, these are the resources
that we`re going to deploy, this is how we`re going to involve FEMA, we`re
going to set up at defense installations additional beds.
And here`s what we`re going to do for those people that are touched by
this. We`re going to make sure they can still pay the bills, we`re going to
make sure they get the best health care in the world, we`re going to make
sure that those that are on the edge of poverty have food on the table, and
we are also going to have to be serious about some major changes in our
lifestyle. But, we can do this, we can do this, and I`m going to ask you
all to make certain sacrifices in our social life to really contain the
worst of this virus.
That wasn`t the kind of thing we heard, not something that was uplifting
that gave us reason to believe we could deal with this rationally sensibly.
But instead, it was frankly a kind of a crazy quote, no more crazy than the
travel ban which applies to certain countries but not others. It applies to
countries where there`s less of a problem in Europe, but not where there`s
more of a problem elsewhere like in South Korea. And that kind of thing not
only doesn`t inspire confidence, it doesn`t lead to results.
O`DONNELL: Congressman, I want to go back to where we began with this
breaking news from Senator Cantwell about a member of her staff testing
positive for the virus. When we know how these steps are, I mean Senator
from Washington, she has a minimum of 40, 45 people on her staff probably
in the Washington office.
That we just got a report in the first segment we discussed tonight, where
the one person who`s infected in New York who has been traced directly
infected another 50 people.
I`m imagining the staff members having their lunch as you know in the
basement of the Dirksen building in that vast cafeteria there, I know all
of the interaction that those staff members have, the restaurants they go
to on Fridays after work.
And for someone who had been infected maybe for 10 days without knowing it,
the possibility of what we`re facing now in the Russell Senate Office
Building, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hart Senate Office Building and
not so far across the lawn over in the house office buildings, we could be
a week or two away from a situation there that we`ve never seen before.
SCHIFF: Well, that`s absolutely right. And indeed, they`re already any
number of House members that have self quarantined. And because there`s so
little testing, we don`t know how widespread this is on the Hill, let alone
anywhere else in the country.
But in terms of the continuation of governance and in a Congress where we
physically have to be present to vote, there are additional challenges and
difficulties. As you saw, we`ve already taken some steps in the Capitol to
minimize the spread on the Capitol, but we`re going to have to entertain a
I had discussions for example again with my staff today about teleworking.
Now, as the Chair of the Intelligence Committee, this poses a real
challenge, because if you`re going to be dealing with classified
information generally, unless you have a secure line and few people do, you
have to be in the Capitol.
So, we`re trying to navigate our way and there probably won`t be a one-
size-fits-all, but this is something that we were understanding would only
be a matter of time on the Hill. But I think people all over the country
have to understand is, it`s probably only a matter of time before it
affects their own workplace, and the changes they put in place now will
affect how well they can protect that workplace, and whether there is an
opportunity to keep their workplace free of the coronavirus.
O`DONNELL: Has there been any discussion about the possibility of not just
teleworking, but televoting members of Congress who may be quarantined and
many of them may be quarantined?
And based on this report from Senator Cantwell`s office, Senators who might
have to be quarantined, might there be a rules change in the House and the
Senate that would allow temporarily whatever the time takes for some
members to be able to vote from home?
SCHIFF: There are members that have introduced legislation along those
lines already. I can tell you, it`s gotten a very chilly reception on the
Hill from most of the members, because so much of the business really is
done in person and of necessity is very difficult to do remotely.
The voting is just one piece of it, but the negotiations over changes to
bills, over the legislative process itself, that is very difficult to
accomplish when you`re spread out throughout the country. And so, at the
moment, there`s not much impetus behind that, but things are changing so
fast, things that we thought were implausible, unlikely, extremist a week
ago now seem quite rational, and if anything, an under-reaction.
So where we will be down the road, if indeed there are substantial number
of members who have to quarantine themselves or their staff, who can say.
But I think at the moment, we have to do everything we can to try to
minimize the likelihood that that`s necessary.
O`DONNELL: Chairman Adam Schiff, stay safe and thank you very much for
joining us tonight, we really appreciate it.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, why Bernie Sanders says he`s been losing
to Joe Biden. He gave his own reading of that today in his statement that
he made to reporters in Vermont. John Heilemann will join us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And I want to thank Bernie Sanders
and his supporters for their tireless energy and their passion. We share a
common goal, and together, we`ll defeat Donald Trump.
We will defeat him together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Joe Biden last night after his big wins in Michigan,
Mississippi, Missouri and Idaho. The State of Washington is still too close
to call. More vote was counted earlier tonight, Joe Biden is now leading at
the moment by about 16,000 votes, with 78% of the vote counted.
Bernie Sanders won North Dakota last night and spoke briefly to reporters
in Burlington, Vermont today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT): Last night obviously was not a good night for
our campaign from a delegate point of view. While our campaign has won the
ideological debate, we are losing the debate over electability.
I cannot tell you how many people our campaign has spoken to, who have said
and I quote, “I like what your campaign stands for, I agree with what your
campaign stands for, but I`m going to vote for Joe Biden because I think
Joe is the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: As of tonight, Joe Biden has 838 delegates, Bernie Sanders has
691, according to NBC News, and 1991 delegates are the necessary number to
secure the nomination. The candidates will have their first one-on-one
debate Sunday night in Arizona, one of the four states that will hold
primaries next Tuesday.
In the face of the coronavirus outbreak, the Democratic Party has decided
to have no live audience in that room with the candidates and no spin room
after the debate, where the candidates or their representatives normally
gather for interviews with the media.
Bernie Sanders gave a preview of how he hopes to focus Sunday night`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: Joe, what are you going to do to end the absurdity of the United
States of America being the only major country on Earth where healthcare is
not a human right? Joe, how are you going to respond to the scientists who
tell us we have seven or eight years remaining to transform our energy
system, before irreparable harm takes place to this planet, because of the
ravages of climate change? And what are you going to do about the millions
of people who are struggling with outrageous levels of student debt?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, John Heilemann, National Affairs
Analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. He is also the co-host of show titled The
Circus and the Editor-in-Chief of the Recount.
John, kind of a stirring speech by Joe Biden last night in Philadelphia
with an audience not as big as he wanted, but you heard the cheering, you
heard all that. Bernie Sanders responds, having said nothing last night,
with basically just a meeting in front of reporters in Vermont, no invited
campaign supporters where he could have got gotten a lot in Vermont to do
It didn`t look like he was looking for a rousing campaign, let`s fight all
the way to the end moment today.
JOHN HEILEMANN, NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, NBC NEWS AND MSNBC: No, and a lot
of his supporters would like to see that happen. I think what by Bernie
Sanders can read the writing on the wall, he sees that giant delegate lead
that Joe Biden has as of last night bigger than people thought he could
have as of last night.
I mean the notion last night was that it was a chance that he would pick up
some delegates in Mississippi, net some delegates there. The Michigan would
be close, it was not close. This is a large delegate lead right here that,
if my math is right, that`s 147. You have landslides on the horizon,
Florida next week.
It`s likely that Biden will win all four of those states next week; the
demographics in Ohio and Illinois very similar to Michigan. Arizona might
be the closest battle because Bernie Sanders has been performing well among
Latinos. But it`s going to be a big night again for Joe Biden.
We got Georgia two weeks later, where Biden is again going to rack up
another bunch of net delegates. It`s not - the math is not there for Bernie
Sanders now, and I think what he`s now tried to do was orchestrate his way
O`DONNELL: And it might have sounded a little more confrontational in that
excerpt when he was saying Joe, Joe. It was–
HEILEMANN: It was not.
O`DONNELL: If you saw the whole ten minutes, he just said, listen I`m going
to ask Joe how about this, how about that, and he kept saying - he said it
at the beginning, he said at the end the most important thing is beating
Donald Trump in November. He didn`t say, and I will be the candidate who
And so, this debate is going to be very - it`s very hard to anticipate.
Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden both seem to be going in it as friends -
longtime friends who know that there has to be a nominee that emerges from
this who has strength to beat Donald Trump.
HEILEMANN: I don`t think Bernie Sanders is going to try to draw blood on
Sunday night. That doesn`t mean he`s not going to be tough, that he`s not
going to argue with Joe Biden over the many differences they have.
But, you could see him in a way those challenges today were in a way that
he was sort of - I read them as, I`m going to offer you a chance Joe Biden
to address these issues that matter a lot to my supporters.
In the end, you are going to need my people. I am the person who has the
power (ph) to end this race. Bernie Sanders can keep this race running for
another three months or bring it to a close when he wants to. He can`t
probably be the Democratic nominee under the circumstances, but he does
have the power to end the race and he does have the power to help those -
help Joe Biden gain the allegiance ultimately of those supporters in his
camp that Joe Biden will need to win a general election.
So, he`s kind of offering Biden a chance to prove himself to those voters.
And I thought it was really important, what you just said Lawrence, which
is that a guy who was looking to burn the party to the ground would not
have started and ended with the most important thing to do here is beat
Donald Trump. That`s someone who`s looking to ultimately find his way to
O`DONNELL: And he wouldn`t have done a quiet 10 minutes.
O`DONNELL: Set the Joe Biden comeback in historical context in Presidential
primaries, he`s down to fourth place, he`s fallen off the map, people were
saying it`s hopeless, he`s pulling in single digits all around the country,
and then comes South Carolina and the world changes. There`s never been a
comeback like this.
HEILEMANN: Unprecedented, absolutely unprecedented. To finish fourth at
Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire, to be broke, to have no operations on the
ground in the Super Tuesday states, to have no ads on the air in the Super
Tuesday states, to have really one state on which your entire campaign
rests, which is South Carolina after having had a fourth or fifth and a
Then to win that state overwhelmingly and then see the dominoes fall, the
various endorsements, and then to march through to the victory that he had
in Super Tuesday, there`s nothing been like it in our lifetimes in the
modern era of nominations in which you win or lose through primaries and
caucuses, not in smoke-filled rooms. Never anything like it before.
O`DONNELL: And now, we`re going forward into a campaign where we quite
literally don`t know what it will look like. Bernie Sanders campaign is the
big rally. Donald Trump`s campaign is the big rally. We`re probably not
going to see any more of those. We don`t know what`s coming.
John Heilemann, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And when we
come back, should Bernie Sanders drop out of the race now. James Carville
says yes, I say no. David Plouffe will referee, that`s next.
O`DONNELL: James Carville knows much more about Presidential campaigning
than I ever will. He has proved that to me many times, including on that
unforgettable Election Night in 2016 when Donald Trump won the Electoral
College. I was sitting beside James in a studio in this building for most
of that night.
And when we weren`t on camera, James was on the phone to his sources around
the country, in Florida, Virginia, the Midwest, and he would discover a
voting pattern in a County in Virginia and then turn to me and say, that
means we are going to lose Wisconsin. And sure enough, half an hour later,
Wisconsin went to Donald Trump.
I knew before anyone else because James Carville knew before anyone else.
And so, it is with no small amount of reluctance that I venture my complete
disagreement with something James Carville said on this network last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Let`s shut this puppy down and let`s
move on and worry about November. This thing is decided. There`s no reason
to keep it going, not even a day longer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: I believe that concept is conceptually flawed, because everyone
is already thinking about November. Every Biden voter and every Sanders
voter is voting for the candidate who they think will win in November.
In Spring training, baseball teams are thinking about the World Series and
I think it`s helpful to the eventual nominee to continue this campaign and
to continue to debate because it strengthens the campaign skills of the
Bernie Sanders is absolutely right that he is winning the youth vote in
this campaign. He`s winning 18 year olds, 20 year olds, 21 year olds who
are casting their very first votes for President of the United States in
And if you want those voters to return to the polls in November and return
to the polls two years from now for Congressional races and four years from
now for the next Presidential race, if you want those new voters to
continue to believe the effort is worth it, you have to be very careful of
what they experience when they suffer their first loss as voters.
If, as James Carville believes, Bernie Sanders is not going to be the
nominee, I think the Democratic Party should give Bernie Sanders and his
campaign staff and his voters as much time as they need to come to terms
with that reality, even if that means running the campaign all the way to
the New Jersey primary on June 2, and let every state cast their votes on
who they want as the Democratic nominee for President.
But, what do I know? I`ve never worked on a Presidential campaign. James
Carville might be right. And to referee this gentleman`s disagreement, we
have another member of that very rare group of Americans who have worked at
the highest level on successful Democratic Presidential campaigns.
David Plouffe is the former campaign manager and White House Senior Advisor
for President Barack Obama. His new book A Citizen`s Guide to Beating
Donald Trump is now on the New York Times bestseller list.
David, who`s right? Should Bernie stay in, take it to New Jersey, or is
DAVID PLOUFFE, FORMER BARACK OBAMA CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I`m not just going to
choose the mushy middle here, Lawrence.
PLOUFFE: But I`m not - I don`t think staying until June makes sense. But
listen, first of all, to fully unify, you want Bernie Sanders to get out on
his own time and schedule, right, because we need to unify. It`s not just
18-year-olds, Bernie Sanders is dominating with anybody under 45.
Secondly, I think if Joe Biden is going to be our nominee, I think we`d all
feel more comfortable with a very strong debate performance. So I think
Sunday is important. And I`d say, next Tuesday, Biden is going to grow his
delegate lead almost certainly to the point that it`s insurmountable.
So, I think that`s probably the appropriate time for the Sanders campaign
to think about that, because I`m in Wisconsin today. I was in Pennsylvania
the last two days. I`d much rather us begin the general election in those
two states than continue the primary, if it`s clear who`s going to win.
So I think staying in through Sunday makes sense, I think it`s actually an
opportunity for Biden. I also think the delegate picture will be even
clearer after Tuesday. So Bernie Sanders decide to suspend his campaign, I
think that`ll be even more rationale for that.
So, I`m not in they`ll go to June, but I`m okay for another seven days.
O`DONNELL: But if you have Joe Biden as your general election candidate,
for example, don`t you want to kind of keep a shield around him for a
little bit longer as long as you can? Meaning, the minute there`s one
candidate left here and there`s just that one candidate against Donald
Trump, the heat on that candidate increases dramatically. There`s a little
bit of a heat shield right now.
PLOUFFE: Well but, I`d say a couple things about that Lawrence, I
understand that. But first of all, particularly with the coronavirus
situation going on, I think it`s going to be very helpful for the party to
have one voice telling the American people how they would handle this as
I mean, this is so critically important. I know in 2008, when we went
through the financial crisis, that`s where people centered their attention
on Obama. Yes, Iraq was still important, yes health care, but can you
handle this crisis. So, I think having one person.
Secondly, we need to train a lot of fire at Trump and we need to train all
of it. Donald Trump, where I am today in Wisconsin, where I just was in
Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, he`s running a race right now and
we`ve got to take the race to him.
So, I think that`s a pretty defensive view, which is we need to shield
Biden. If he`s going to be our nominee, I think we need to have him
unshackled and we need to have him begin to run that general election
campaign against Donald Trump.
And again, I think having one voice out there saying this is what we need
to do that Trump`s not doing is so vitally important.
O`DONNELL: So, I think the agreement I`m hearing between us anyway is this
is Bernie`s decision, let Bernie make that decision on his timetable, and
certainly you don`t want the public impression that there was any kind of
pressure, any kind of forcing Bernie Sanders out of a campaign where he
earned his place.
PLOUFFE: Yes, I thought his remarks today were pretty clear. You just had a
previous discussion with John Heilemann about this. I mean he wasn`t like
we`re going to the mattresses. He was pretty clear that he`s trying to
orchestrate I think how this ends. So, I think we ought to give him some
time to do that.
Again, I think after next Tuesday`s primaries, particularly because you`ve
got Georgia the week after that, where Biden is only going to add to his
delegate lead, I think it`s just going to be pretty clear the lead`s
And then, I think we have to get at the business of unifying, which won`t
happen easily. We got to work at it, we got to listen to the Sanders
supporter. To your point, hopefully the Biden campaign, if he`s the
nominee, he hires a lot of the Sanders team, we listen to those organizers
on the ground, because they`ve shown the ability to attract youth support.
Now, we need to grow the turnout as well.
O`DONNELL: David, what happens to the Trump which lives on rallies, if many
states just make these large assemblies illegal or if there`s this general
recommendation which were pretty much on the verge of do not gather in
large groups like this, and Donald Trump, let`s say he continues to just
try to violate it and tries to gather 20,000 in arenas?
PLOUFFE: Well, he may try to do that. I think he`ll pay a big price for
that and it`s the wrong thing to do. Listen, there`s no doubt that that`s
one of his political weapons. But, their real warfare is the digital war,
the advertising on Hulu and Facebook and YouTube, and they`ll just
So, what was interesting to me, Lawrence, is I think Trump tried to have a
redo today to suggest that he was finally taking this seriously. But what`s
so striking to me is Presidents, what is demanded by the American people is
handle crisis, put us first, not yourself.
And he`s so nakedly narcissist that it is less our health, it is less even
the health of the economy he`s worried about, it is his own political
health. So actually I think if he`s not able out on the road, I worry about
that from a management standpoint, because it is going to make him really
upset like a chained animal. But listen, they`ve got plenty of money and
sophistication to do really smart online organizing and that`s the other
reason I think, once it`s clear who our nominee is, we got to start
fighting that frontal battle from a general election standpoint right away.
O`DONNELL: David Plouffe, I can`t tell you what an honor it is for me to
reach even a partial agreement with one of the wizards of Presidential
And for you to go along with my concept at all, I`m going to have to accept
it as a victory. David Plouffe, thank you very much for joining us tonight
and really, really appreciate it.
PLOUFFE: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR” with Brian Williams
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