Rep. Porters TRANSCRIPT: 4/29/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O. Donnell
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
We have Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer joining us tonight. She represents
the congregational district that includes Waterloo, Iowa. It includes the
meatpacking plant that – and more than one plant – that people were
discussing as you began your show tonight, especially Dr. Sharon Duclos who
was I think first video you showed tonight, where Dr. Duclos was crying
what she was going through with staff and people infected by the plants.
And so, your coverage is extraordinary and was tonight. We will supplement
it in our way by hearing from the congresswoman who actually represents
that district and what she might be able to do about this.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, “TRMS”: I have been following her on Twitter
and watching her public pronouncements about this as her district is
dealing with what is a real crisis. So, I`m super happy you booked her
tonight, Lawrence. I`m looking forward to seeing that, my friend.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right.
O`DONNELL: Well, American`s first public health official was George
Washington and he took on that role before the United States of America was
born. Two hundred forty-five years ago when George Washington was the
commander in chief of the Revolutionary Forces, fighting for independence
from the British crown, he issued an order, with an order, to prevent the
spread of infectious disease by his soldiers.
Quote: No person is to be allowed to go to the fresh water pond of fishing
or any other occasion as there may be a danger of introducing the smallpox
into the army.
General Washington said that on July 4th, 1775.
That order by George Washington appears in the first paragraph of Fintan
O`Toole`s latest writing about the coronavirus pandemic in the “New York
Review of Books”.
And if you like me crave a touch of the poet in current events writing,
then you most read Fintan O`Toole`s pieces that appear regularly in “The
Irish Times.” Fintan O`Toole splits his time between Ireland and the United
States, and so, he combines the detail of an insider with the perspective
of an outsider when he writes about Donald Trump`s, quote, narcissism,
mendacity bullying and malignant incompetence that have doomed Trump in his
confrontation with this epidemic. Fintan O`Toole will get tonight`s last
word from Dublin end of this hour.
We will also be joined tonight by Congresswoman Katie Porter who is
demanding accountability from the Trump White House on how the president is
using powers under the Defense Production Act.
We begin tonight with hope. And now that the United States has more than a
million reported cases of coronavirus and more than 60,000 deaths from
coronavirus, we need hope more than ever.
Hope does not compete with caution. Hope and caution can be two sides of
the same coin. In real life in our darkest hours, hope does not arrive like
a winning lottery ticket producing sudden full blown happy relief. Hope
arrives if it ever does as a tiny hole of light in the darkness that
surrounds us. And that is how it arrived today.
Dr. Anthony Fauci delivered a ray of hope today about a possible treatment
for coronavirus. Dr. Fauci wants us to continue taking all of our strictest
precautions against the coronavirus. Dr. Fauci doesn`t think anything he
said today should change any of that but what he said today might change
the treatment for coronavirus patients might make recovery slightly or
significantly easier for some coronavirus patients, and that is something
we should all hope proves true.
Dr. Fauci as the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious
Diseases has been sponsoring a trial of the antiviral drug remdesivir as a
treatment for coronavirus patients.
And here is how Dr. Fauci presented the preliminary findings this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS
DISEASES: The data shows that remdesivir has a clear cut, significant
positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery. This is really quite
important for a number of reasons and I`ll give you the data. It`s highly
If you look at the time to recovery being shorter in the remdesivir arm, it
was 11 days compared to 15 days. That`s a P value for the scientists who
are listening of 0.001. So that`s something that although a 31 percent
improvement doesn`t seem like a knockout 100 percent, it is a very
important proof of concept because what it is proven is that a drug can
block this virus and I`ll give you an example in a moment of why we think
looking forward, this is very optimistic.
The mortality rate trended towards being better in the sense of less deaths
in the remdesivir group, 8 percent versus 11 percent in the placebo group.
It has not yet reached statistical significance, but the data needs to be
The reason why we`re making the announcement now is something that I
believe people don`t fully appreciate. Whenever you have clear cut evidence
that a drug works, you have an ethical obligation to immediately let the
people who are in the placebo group know so they can have access and all
the other trials taking place now have a new standard of care.
So we would have normally waited several days until the data gets further,
dot the I and cross the T, but the data is not going to change. Some of the
numbers may change a little but the conclusion will not change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Dr. Fauci who was one of the heroes of the scientific battle
against HIV more than a generation ago said that the new findings reminded
him of the first breakthrough in the struggle to develop drugs for HIV.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAUCI: So, when I was looking at this data with our team the other night,
it was reminiscent of 34 years ago in 1986 when we were struggling for
drugs for HIV and we had nothing. And it was a lot of anecdotal reports
about things that maybe worked, maybe not and people took different kinds
of drugs, and we did the first randomized placebo trial with AZT, which
turned out to give an effect that was modest but that was not the end game
because building on that every year after, we did better and better. We had
better drugs of the same type and we had drugs against different targets.
This drug happens to be blocking an enzyme the virus uses. That`s an RNA
polymerase. There are a lot of others the virus uses that will be targets
for this. This will be the standard of care and in fact, when we look at
the other trials we`re doing, we were going to do trial with another
antiviral, actually, it isn`t an antiviral but an anti inflammatory, a
We`re going to now compare the combination of remdesivir with this so as
drugs come in, we`ll see if we can add on that. So, bottom line, you`re
going to be hearing more details about this. This will be submitted to a
peer-reviewed journal and peer-reviewed appropriately, but we think it`s
really opening the door to the fact we have the capability of treating and
I can guarantee you as more people, more companies, more investigators get
involved, it`s going to get better and better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And so, a new window of hope has opened. But if this drug does
become the standard of care, who will get this drug? We don`t really know
who needs such a drug because we don`t have the capacity yet to test every
possible coronavirus patient in this country.
Yesterday, Donald Trump said that the United States would soon be doing 5
million coronavirus tests a day. The only timetable he gave for that was
the word soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: I hear you saying you`re confident you can surpass 5 million
tests per day? Is that –
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, well, we`re going to be
there very soon. If you look at the numbers, it could be that we`re getting
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Hours before Donald Trump said that, the Trump administration
official in charge of testing told “Time Magazine” there is absolutely no
way on earth on this planet or any other planet we can do 20 million tests
a day or even 5 million tests a day.
A Harvard report entitled “Road Map to Pandemic Resilience” says, quote, we
need to deliver 5 million tests per day by early June to deliver a safe
social reopening. This number will need to increase over time ideally by
late July to 20 million a day to fully remobilize the economy. We
acknowledge that even this number may not be high enough to protect public
Dr. Jane Wilcox is a cardiologist at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago.
She`s currently working as a critical care doctor in a dedicated COVID ICU
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. JANE WILCOX, NORTHWESTERN MEDICINE CARDIOLOGIST: I was nervous and a
little anxious to be seeing a different disease process than I`d ever seen
before. I trained during H1N1 and while I remember the occasional sad case
of a young healthy person succumbing to this disease, I was not prepared to
enter into an entire unit and multiple units with droves of relatively
healthy patients who were now fighting for their life with COVID pneumonia.
And racial and ethnic disparities exist. I`ve seen that. Families use
parents, brothers, sisters, multiple family members in one family and it`s
really terrible. And I think this is a call to action to not only all of us
in the health care community but also as a society about how we`re going to
address this and the importance of prevention in all members of our
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight are Dr. William Schaffner.
He`s professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University
Medical Center. John Heilemann is also with us. He`s national affairs
analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. He`s co-host and executive producer of
Showtime`s “The Circus”, and editor-in-chief of “The Recount.”
Dr. Schaffner, what is your reaction to Dr. Fauci`s presentation on
DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: I`m smiling, Lawrence. We
need good news.
Now, long journeys begin with first steps but this was a firm first step.
It`s very exciting. We now know that there is at least one drug and maybe
there are others in the research pipeline that can act against this viral
infection. The data so far that have been released show as Tony said that
people can leave the hospital sooner and there`s a trend toward increasing
survival. That`s really very exciting.
Now, it`s not a magic bullet. It`s not a home run. The journey is still
long. We have further research to go. We don`t even know which COVID
infected patients benefit the most – very sick people or only moderately
sick people. We`ll wait to see as the data are further analyzed, but this
is a nice first step forward.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Schaffner, I was struck by in the presentation is the
notion of building blocks. The idea that – especially when he used that –
the research on HIV drug treatments and how you begin with something that
turns out to do a small part of the job or maybe it appears to do part of
the job and you discover it`s not really doing the job, but it is at least
a research building block that leads you to another building block and keep
assembling them and at some point, you could through this research and
through this product be building towards something that really does work.
SCHAFFNER: Absolutely, Lawrence. You said it very well. This is a
beginning and as Dr. Fauci said, now they`re doing trials adding other
drugs. That`s exactly what we did with HIV/AIDS.
We all remember those days. We lived through them. It looks as though now
perhaps we can assemble several drugs that would work separately and in
combination that give us a much better chance to increase survival and make
people better, faster.
We would love to have that happen. But they all take time. They all have to
have rigorous trials. We want to do this on a strong evidence base.
O`DONNELL: And, John Heilemann, Dr. Fauci showed once again today that the
value of credibility because he has such a very, very high credibility
rating with the public, he`s the person in that room today who has the
highest credibility rating of anyone and that is really – that really
matters and it`s the thing that Donald Trump can never bring to this
JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Right, and it`s the thing,
Lawrence, I mean, if you think of the could haves, would haves, should
haves in this performance by the president over the last four months, you
just think about what a resource politically speaking, obviously
scientifically Dr. Fauci is a huge resource as many members of the
coronavirus task force.
But just politically speaking, if Donald Trump had taken that opposite
road, had decided to lean more heavily on Dr. Fauci and did not allow his
ego to get in the way, did not constantly seek the ratings and spotlight
and the podium, just imagine what things would have been like for Donald
Trump politically if he invested much more in Dr. Fauci and come to this
point without the damage that has been wrought on his personal brand, on
his poll numbers, on his standing with the American public, which is really
in a very precarious position now politically.
O`DONNELL: And it is that credibility that allows Dr. Fauci to say things
that we could be pretty sure Donald Trump wants to stop him from saying or
firing him after he says it, and let`s listen to what Dr. Fauci said
yesterday about the possible second wave of the coronavirus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAUCI: As we get into next season, in my mind, it`s inevitable that we
will have a return of the virus or maybe it never even went away. When it
does, how we handle it will determine our fate. If by that time we have put
into place all of the countermeasures that you need to address this, we
should do reasonably well. If we don`t do that successfully, we could be in
for a bad fall and a bad winter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And, of course, when Dr. Fauci said things like that in the
presence of Donald Trump, Donald Trump immediately says he doesn`t think
so, he doesn`t think we`ll have a second wave, but Dr. Schaffner, using the
word “inevitable”, a scientist using the word “inevitable” is a very, very
strong choice of language. That`s what Dr. Fauci is saying about the second
SCHAFFNER: Well, that`s strong language indeed but it`s language that I
think virtually every infectious disease doctor and anyone in public health
would agree with. We`re going to have to endure with this coronavirus. It`s
not going to suddenly disappear.
So, we have to get better treatments as we`ve been talking about. We have
to maintain our social distancing and all of those interventions to try to
flatten the curve and keep it down and in the meantime, keep the research
going so that we can finally get a vaccine or vaccines that can be given to
essentially the world`s population in order to finally get ahead of this
O`DONNELL: Dr. William Schaffner, I`m glad we could get a smile out of you
about the news Dr. Fauci revealed. Thank you very much for joining us.
John Heilemann, thank you for starting us off tonight, really appreciate
And when we come back, freshman Congresswoman Katie Porter has dazzled us
with her investigative skills in congressional hearings, cross-examining
Trump administration officials and powerful CEOs. She now wants answers
about coronavirus testing and how President Trump is using his powers under
the Defense Production Act.
Congresswoman Katie Porter joins us next.
O`DONNELL: Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the creation of the
new House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis. She appointed House
Majority Whip James Clyburn as the committee chair and appointed six
Democratic members to the committee, including three shares of House
committees that already have jurisdictional interest in coronavirus
legislation that has already been passed.
Chairwoman Maxine Waters of the House Financial Services Committee,
Chairwoman Caroline Maloney of the House Oversight and Reform Committee,
Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez of the House Small Business Committee.
Other members include freshman Andy Kim who was a member of the Small
Business Committee, Jamie Raskin, who`s the chairman of the subcommittee of
the Oversight and Reform Committee, and Congressman Bill Foster, a
physicist who is a member of the Subcommittee of Investigation and
Oversight of Scientific Issues.
Republicans are allowed five members to serve in the minority in that
committee, but none have been appointed yet. Notably absent from this
committee is freshman Katie Porter who has demonstrated some of the best
investigative skills and cross-examination skills of business executives
and administration officials that we have ever seen in congressional
Congresswoman Porter has been demanding more accountability from the Trump
administration and this new committee will add to Congress`s ability to
obtain that accountability.
Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter of California.
And, Congresswoman Porter, it`s a very small committee, so I can see it`s
hard to have squeezed on to it without more seniority when you see all
those chairs who are on that committee, but it seems as though it`s going
to function in association with the Oversight Committee so you Oversight
Committee members will be having a lot of interaction with or benefit from
this select committee it seems.
REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Absolutely. There remains an obligation on every
member of Congress to do oversight and whether you`re on the Select
Committee, whether you`re on the Oversight Commission, or whether you`re
rank-and-file member, this pandemic is touching every aspect of our
society, our economy, and so, I anticipate being able to continue to do
oversight from my roles on both the Oversight Committee but also the
Financial Services Committee.
O`DONNELL: Now, you`re demanding from the Trump White House accountability
on how the president is using some presidential powers that actually don`t
have accountability built into them.
PORTER: Absolutely. So, the Defense Production Act, which was passed
during the Korean War, was designed to allow in times of an emergency to
allow the government to basically go to the front of the line with private
manufacturers and get goods that were needed to protect our national
So it`s an important tool. It`s never been used in a pandemic like this, to
be fair, but the president has provided no transparency, which about his
use of the Defense Production Act. Sometimes suggesting that he has made
use of it, sometimes suggesting that he didn`t need to because companies
were willing to do things on their own.
And the result has been it`s only added to the confusion about do we have
the supplies not only personal protective equipment and tests, but now also
concern about whether we have the pharmaceuticals that are going to be
needed, the active pharmaceutical ingredients needed to ultimately treat
this virus or to produce a vaccine.
O`DONNELL: And the president has not used the act to actually get more
testing into the pipeline.
Let`s listen to what the president said about testing and he actually had
said that he was going to get it up to 5 million and now he`s dropping even
that prediction. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, on testing yesterday, you said that we will very
soon be testing 5 million people.
TRUMP: Well, I don`t know where it came up.
REPORTER: You said that.
TRUMP: Yes. I`d like to refer to these two people because I don`t know
where it came up. Everyone kept saying you said there would be five. That
was a study that came out. Somebody came out with a study of 5 million
Do I think we will? I think we will but I never said it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman, we just showed the video earlier of him saying
exactly that, 5 million a day. He`s promised that yesterday.
PORTER: No, look, this back-and-forth, the lack of consistent information
is really the worst response that you could have to a public health crisis
where what we need to fight this virus besides science, besides investment
and government support for doing the research is consistent and clear
information. And so, to the extent that every day is sort of a choose your
own adventure from the president in terms of a press conference, it`s
really holding back the ability of states, counties, municipalities to make
plans to work together and to work with industries.
So, we`re calling on the president to make public – has he in fact made
any orders for personal protective equipment or other things using the
Defense Production Act? What has he ordered? Who has he ordered it from?
And when can we expect to receive those goods?
Without that transparency, it`s really impossible to have the Defense
Production Act be an effective tool in this kind of situation.
O`DONNELL: You teamed up, it was announced today, with Senator Elizabeth
Warren, to get information from Envision Healthcare who are in the process
apparently of cutting physicians` pay and benefits in the middle of this
Tell us what you see happening in that situation.
PORTER: Well, it`s very discouraging, Lawrence, to say the least when we
have frontline doctors, including emergency medicine doctors, who are
putting their lives on the line, along with nurses and other health care
providers only to have their jobs cut for a private equity firm who is
looking to boost its profits.
By definition, when you`re an equity firm and have an equity investment in
a company, you get profits in good times but you have to contribute equity
to help the company make it in bad times.
So, Senator Elizabeth Warren and I wrote a letter to some of the equity
firms that own Envision and we ask for answers and we got back a very
unsatisfactory response. So, we`ve written to them again.
You know, Congress is providing and taxpayers are providing tremendous
support for hospitals and health care to prevent exactly these kinds of
layoffs because we need these folks on the job ready to help as the
pandemic spreads or pops up in different local areas.
O`DONNELL: And you made the point today that this same company while
they`re trying to cut the benefits is pouring millions of dollars of dark
money into political ads.
PORTER: Absolutely. This is one of the major companies behind a group
that`s trying to persuade Americans that the health care reforms and
improvements that Congress is pursuing are wrong or misguided. So they have
millions and millions of dollars to spend, even during this pandemic, to
put up digital ads, to send out mail, to engage in dark money lobbying, but
they`re telling us they don`t have the ability to simply keep doctors on
the job. It`s wrong and it`s shameful and I`m going to call it out.
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Katie Porter, thank you very much for joining us
PORTER: Thank you for having me.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, we`ll be joined by another freshman
congresswoman Abby Finkenauer, who represents that district in Iowa, a
district that Donald Trump won in 2016, but where, tonight, workers in her
district are forced to choose between health and safety – possibly
choosing between their lives and working in the meatpacking plants that
Donald Trump is ordering to continue to operate even though they`ve shown
no ability to protect those workers from continuing outbreaks of
Will those workers really have to make the life and death decision to go to
work? That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDGAR FIELDS, PRESIDENT, RETAIL, WHOLESALE & DEPARTMENT STORE UNION SE
COUNCIL: How much is a life`s worth as opposed to beef, pork and chicken.
That is a decision that we have to make because that worker makes it every
day when they go to work.
They look at how much is my life`s worth today. I`m making $13- $14- $15 an
hour. Is it worth it? But yet still we have this administration that said
we have to keep it open. They have to go to work. Something`s unfair about
that entire situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Edgar Fields is President of the Retail,
Wholesale and Department Southeast Council. The region that he oversees
includes a Tyson chicken processing plant in Camilla, Georgia where four
employees have died from coronavirus.
The company has refused to say how many workers there have tested positive
for Covid-19. That plant closed for 48 hours but has now reopened. Another
Tyson facility in Waterloo, Iowa remains closed tonight after 180 workers
tested positive for coronavirus, one of those workers has died.
The Congresswoman who represents that congressional district in Iowa will
join us in a moment. That plant could be reopening soon after President
Trump signed an executive order last night requiring meat plants to stay
open. President Trump said that he had a conference call with owners of the
meat packing plants who were so thrilled with his executive order that they
were cheering. That`s Donald Trump`s report of the phone call.
The President did not speak to anyone whose life is at risk by working in
one of those plants. Joining our discussion now is Democratic Congresswoman
Abby Finkenauer who represents Iowa`s first congressional district.
Congresswoman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. What is
happening in your district? You have more than one plant there and what can
you do for the safety of workers in those plants?
REP. ABBY FINKENAUER (D-IA): Well, I`ll tell you, we are very concerned
about what we`re seeing across the state but very specifically that
Waterloo plant, Tyson`s and Waterloo where we now know 44 percent of the
workers have tested positive and they were not given the right protection,
the right mitigation efforts when this started getting bad.
And we continue to be concerned about what we`ve seen from Tyson`s you
know, I`ve had experience as a state rep. I remember they were one of the
leaders of gutting workers compensation in the state of Iowa and other
states and so they`re hard for me to trust on a good day for caring about
the health and safety of workers, let alone during a pandemic.
And we`ve got a lot of folks who are scared, who are worried and you know
about the health and safety, their livelihoods and I`m going to continue to
have their backs as their local leaders have as well. I just have to say
that you know that the Mayor, the Sherriff, the state representatives who
have heard their stories will continue to uplift them.
And it`s going to be up to the administration to decide whether they listen
or not but we`ll continue to have their backs.
O`DONNELL: One person they should listen to is Dr. Sharon Duclos who Rachel
Maddow showed some of what Dr. Duclos had to say at the beginning of her
hour. We`re just going to listen to about 30 seconds of what Dr. Duclos had
to say. She`s in Waterloo. She`s dealing with these patients. Let`s listen
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. SHARON DUCLOS, CO-MEDICAL DIRECTOR, PEOPLE COMMUNITY HEALTH CLINIC,
WATERLOO, IA: : I think about what would the person side of me who just
died from this, how would they advocate helping other people, not go
through what they just went through.
So that`s what I think about. So for the other businesses, churches,
restaurants, think about your community and think about your actions and
think about how you can best serve the greater good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman, how can you get more people running these plans
to pay attention to what Dr. Duclos just had to say?
FINKENAUER: Well, at the end of the day, we actually have to be listening
to the workers. It`s not talking to the CEOs and trusting that they`re
doing the right thing. It`s about making sure that these workers are kept
And here at the end of the day, you know they can say that - obviously with
the President using the Defense Production Act to open up these plants,
you`re not going to have a work force going back to these plants when 44
percent have tested positive and when they aren`t feeling safe because
there`s no enforceable safety standards.
And so I would say to these CEOs, listen to your workers and at the end of
the day, if you do not have those protections in place and they can say
they do, all day long. If the government does not actually have enforceable
regulations here with actual OSHA in these plants looking at what`s going
on and making sure that folks are feeling safe and actually have the right
protection then you`re not going to have folks coming back in the first
And so I would just again urge both Tyson`s but then also the president to
listen to workers, to listen to the folks who are on the ground, living it
every day, who are putting themselves and their family at risk. This is so
much against who we are a nation and Iowans to not be caring about our
neighbors here, who are - they`re the folks to work their tails off every
day in these plant who their kids go to school with kids in your
You know, they worship together. It is - it`s family in Iowa and we, I mean
heck my grandfather who worked in meat packing plants in Dubuque. That`s
just - it`s part of who we are here but you better treat people right
otherwise again, you`re not going to have a work force to begin with.
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer, thank you very much for joining
us. We really appreciate - appreciate hearing from you about this.
FINKENAUER: Thank you Lawrence. I appreciate it.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. And when we come back, how does the world see Donald
Trump tonight? How does America look from afar? Our next guest Fintan
O`Toole writes, “If the plague is a test, its ruling political nexus to
ensure that the United States would fail at a terrible cost in human lives.
In the process the idea of the United States is the world`s leading nation,
an idea that has shaped the past century has all but evaporated.”
O`DONNELL: “Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a
very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world. Love and hatred, fear
and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger but there is one emotion that
has never been directed toward the United States until now. Pity.”
Those are the words of Fintan O`Toole in a new Op-ed piece written in
Dublin for The Irish Times. Fintan O`Toole splits his time between Ireland
and the United States and that allows him to offer us the perspective of
the wires outside and the knowledgeable insider at the same time since no 2
is not writing about what the coronavirus has done to the United States and
what it has exposed to.
Perspective of the wise outsider and the knowledgeable insider at the same
time. Fintan O`Toole is now writing about what the coronavirus has done to
the United States and what it has exposed about this country`s pre-existing
Here is more of Fintan O`Toole`s Op-ed piece posted as audio on the Irish
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FINTAN O`TOOLE, COLUMNIST, THE IRISH TIMES: Trump has at least eight months
more in power. In his inaugural address in 2017, he evoked American carnage
and promise to make it stop. But now that the real carnage has arrived, he
is revelling in it. He is in his element.
As things get worse, he will pump more hatred and falsehood, more death-
wish defiance of reason and decency into the groundwater. If a new
administration succeeds him in 2021, it will have to clean up the toxic
dump he leaves behind. If he`s re-elected, toxicity will have become the
lifeblood of American politics. Either way, it will be a long time before
the rest of the world can imagine America being great again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: After this break Fintan O`Toole will join us from Dublin with
his view from across the pond.
O`DONNELL: If you crave current events writings, sprinkled with a touch of
the poet, you must read Fintan O`Toole whose latest piece in The Irish
Times says, “the world has loved, hated and envied the United States. Now
for the first time we pity it.”
Joining us now from Dublin is Fintan O`Toole, columnist for The Irish Times
and the author of `The Politics of Pain: Postwar England and the Rise of
Nationalism.` Fintan, I want to start with this point you make about pity.
Surely this is the first time you could find people in Ireland feeling pity
for the United States.
O`TOOLE: Yes, you know I`m in Dublin and there`s probably no country in the
world that has such awe for America, such love for America, such affection
and I do think people are genuinely feeling pity. You know people know that
most Americans didn`t vote for Donald Trump, don`t support Donald Trump.
And we`re all suffering in this crisis but we`re able to imagine what it
must feel like to be locked down in a room with a malignant narcissist as
your leader. You know we`ve seen before in human history, we`ve seen bad
leadership, we`ve seen a vacuum of leadership but I don`t think we`ve ever
seen anything in a crisis like this, that approximates a leader who has
been actively spreading a deadly virus, which is really what Trump has been
doing by his actions.
By the way, he`s been speaking out of both sides of his mouth at the same
time, coming up with quack cures, using this as an excuse to make enemies,
not the slightest empathy. You know, you look at leaders all over the
world, however bad they are, they at least feel they have to project some
kind of good authority and some kind of empathy at this moment of crisis.
And in the democratic world, I mean there are crazy people out there but in
the democratic world, you can only think of Bolsonaro in Brazil and Donald
Trump in the great United States of America who`s behaving in this way.
O`DONNELL: You make a point in your new piece in The New York Review of
Books that Trump is struggling with two contradictory impulses, paranoia
verses risk. Explain that.
O`TOOLE: Yes, you know, it`s an interesting question, isn`t it? Because you
might think well, actually Donald Trump could reasonably claim to have been
a kind of prophet of what we`re supposed to do in the coronavirus crisis.
You know he`s a germaphobe.
You know, he washes his hands all the time. He has been on a campaign to
stop people shaking hands. You know he hates coughing. He`s you know, he
has all these kind of things going for him and it`s an interesting
So why did he not get ahead of this? And said I`ve always told you. You
know, I was - I was the guy who - my instincts were right about all this
kind of stuff. And why couldn`t he do that? Well, of course he couldn`t do
it because he`s drawn between as you say these - these two different
One is - at least this is conservatism, right? This is - conservatism has
used these two things. It uses paranoia, fear, there`s danger out there,
you really should be afraid which you might think might suit Trump in a way
in this - in this crisis but the counterbalancing one of course is this
valorization of risk, you know, real men take risks.
And it`s - it`s to do with kind of rugged individualism, it`s to do with
certain kind of notions as to how the capitalist system works. It`s to do
with a certain kind of masculinity, isn`t it? It`s - it`s all this kind of
stuff about you know, only people who are afraid of the nanny state, only
people who don`t really understand freedom are not willing to take risks.
So he`s got these two things and - and you know he`s been pretty good at
dealing with them in in his own way up to this crisis but of course, in a
crisis like this what you get then is an appallingly mixed message where he
keeps encouraging the risks, keeps sending out the signals to people that
they should they should revolt against their state governments and have the
regulations that they`re putting down on the one side.
And on the other side feeling that well, he`s President after all and he
has to tell people that this is very serious so what you get is - is - is
frankly, frightening gibberish. You know, it`s - it`s a mix of messages
that in this context, just isn`t entertaining, isn`t funny, is actually
O`DONNELL: So in that message that Trump is giving out of real men take the
risk. That`s why we see no social distancing by Donald Trump at work in
Oval Office meetings or when he has these crowds of people on his briefing
stages with him, these business executives, he crowds the stage with.
And it explains Mike Pence not daring to wear a mask at the Mayo Clinic
yesterday cause real men don`t wear masks. That`s the real Trump message,
O`TOOLE: Yes, it is. You know I mean, if you think back, if you think
Trump`s business career of course, it`s all been about risk for other
people. Of course in his - in his view of the way capitalism works, risk is
always somebody else`s, right?
It`s the poor stiff who has to pick up the tab when one of Trump`s
businesses goes bust but also if you think of, if you go back, you know so
that kind of - those awful Howard Stern radio shows that Trump used to
always be on, you know, you get Trump kind of boasting in the middle of the
AIDS crisis actually, of having unprotected sex.
You know because that`s what real men do. It`s - it`s a sort of notion
somehow that - and of course it`s linked to an idea that we are special you
know. The rules that apply to other people don`t apply to people like me
because I`m different. I`m - and of course, even you`ve seen his press
conference. Trump keeps coming back to this thing.
You know I know stuff. I have this instincts for - for - I know all this.
Never mind the doctors. Never mind the scientists. I know stuff. I
understand this. Why? Because I`m a superior kind of being.
One of Trump`s favorite words, remember is loser, that he always uses it.
Anybody who doesn`t support Trump, doesn`t understand, doesn`t love Trump
is a loser and losers are destined to lose. When you apply that to the
mentality of leadership in a pandemic, it sort of implies well, actually
the people who are going to get this are not people like us, not the
superior people and therefore of course we wouldn`t wear masks, you know.
And - and it would be humiliating for somebody like me to put myself on the
same level as ordinary people who might have to take these precautions.
O`DONNELL: And that concept of loser is part of what renders Trump utterly
incompetent in every way in a public health crisis because of his belief
that the bad things happen to losers.
O`TOOLE: Yes, you know - and he`s - if you - if you go back to his books
and this is the thing he goes back to really that you know, it`s - it`s -
it`s destined in some way and the one thing you do not need in a pandemic
crisis, right? Is - is somebody who believes somehow that - that the virus
will pick people out on the basis of their worthiness, of their genetics or
their superiority or whatever else it is, you know.
The thing we know about this - this pandemic is that it doesn`t care. It
really doesn`t care about who you are. It cares about your vulnerability
and therefore it exposes the attitudes to vulnerable people. You know,
there`s - there`s - What`s really shocking watching this from the outside,
you know just the complete inability to even fake empathy you know.
Even to want to pretend to be feeling for the people who are dying, for the
bereaved, for the suffering that`s involved in this and I think that does
take us back to just this complete inability that a narcissist - a
narcissist has to feel what other people are feeling.
You know, there is a real sense that for Trump, the only thing that really
matters here is how this is going to affect his own election prospects and
he hasn`t even managed to want to hide that. You know, this is the way he`s
played it out and you know, it has an effect and there`s a reason why the
richest, most powerful country in the world has become the global epicenter
of this pandemic.
And it`s a shocking tragedy and it`s hard to overstate the degree of
personal responsibility that Trump has for this.
O`DONNELL: Fintan, quick word before you go about how safe are you feeling
in Dublin compared to the state of New Jersey where you usually spend your
time in the United States?
O`TOOLE: Like you know, it`s probably the first time in my life that I`ve -
I`ve - I`ve ever felt you know, God, I`d really love - I`d much prefer to
be in Dublin right now than New Jersey and that`s not you know - I have
fantastic friends in New Jersey and I hope they are all safe but you know,
Ireland locked down pretty fast.
I mean the Irish government banned St. Patrick`s Day. It did that in early
March you know. You know that was kind of sending out a message. This is
really serious, folks. We`re not - we`re not messing around with this. It`s
things that we take for granted, we just can`t do and by large, you know
overwhelmingly, the Irish have this kind of image of being kind of happy go
lucky and devil may care but actually people took it really seriously
because they got good messages from government.
There was good authority shown and it saves people`s lives and we`ve been
locked down for quite a long time ago and we`re going sort of crazy, the
economy, all that stuff you know it`s terrible. We know the cost of this
but we`re probably going to come out of the thing, able to say as a nation
that we saved as many lives as we could and the tragedy of United States is
that because of the dominant political force in the country, the United
States will not be able to say that.
O`DONNELL: Fintan O`Toole, I can`t mask my jealousy about you being safe in
Dublin. It sounds like one of the good places to be. Thank you very much
for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.
O`DONNELL: Fintan O`Toole gets tonight`s last word. The 11th hour with
Brian Williams starts now.
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Copyright 2020 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are
protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the