COVID-19 TRANSCRIPT: 5/25/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. I`m Lawrence O`Donnell.
On this Memorial Day, we are likely to have 100,000 deaths in the United
States from coronavirus, by midnight tonight. At this hour, the United
States has 1,671,980 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 99,044 confirmed
deaths from coronavirus.
And so, as we approach 100,000 deaths at this hour, Donald Trump began the
day by tweeting, happy Memorial Day. That`s because Donald Trump doesn`t
understand Memorial Day. He has no connection to Memorial Day. He doesn`t
know that it began as Decoration Day in 1868, when we honored our war dead
by decorating their graves at Arlington National Cemetery.
Memorial Day didn`t become an official federal holiday until 1971, but the
tradition of decorating war graves never stopped. I did it when I was a
little kid in Boston. My daughter did it, when she was a Girl Scout. And
her group planted small American flags at a Los Angeles Veterans Cemetery
I called my mother from that cemetery, knowing that she would want to know
what her granddaughter was doing there, was planting those flags. And when
my mother thought about the people that she lost in World War II on that
phone call, she cried as if it were yesterday.
Many of us have someone we think about on Memorial Day. Some veterans have
many people they think about on Memorial Day. I think about my cousin
Johnny. He was the biggest of all of us in every way. I idolized him when
we went to West Point to watch him play football.
I`ll never forget his last visit to us in Boston, after he graduated from
west point, and before he shipped out to Vietnam, where he had very big
shoes to fill, because he was John T. Corley, Jr., and everyone knew his
father was General John T. Corley, who was by then something of a legend in
the army having won eight Silver Stars in combat.
But General Corley didn`t think of himself as a legend. He was the son of
Irish immigrants, a Brooklyn boy who got lucky and found his way to West
Point and stayed lucky through two wars, World War II and Korea. His son
inherited his father`s bravery but not his luck. My cousin Johnny earned a
Silver Star, in four months in Vietnam on September 8, 1968, the day that
he was killed in action an his funeral at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South
Carolina, was the first military funeral I attended.
Tragedy has many faces but none quite like the general crying saluting his
son`s coffin. And that`s what I think about, on Memorial Day. And so I
never say happy Memorial Day.
Donald Trump can say it because no one in the Trump family has ever
searched in the military. That is also why Donald Trump could say something
like that this about John McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He`s not a war hero.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s a war hero. Five and a half years –
TRUMP: He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people that
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Donald Trump has no personal connection to what Memorial Day
means. And he is trying to have no personal connection to what Memorial Day
means in 2020, when we now have more dead from the coronavirus than we lost
in the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined.
Joe Biden understands Memorial Day. Joe Biden left his Delaware home for
the first time since the lockdown began, to lay a wreath at the Delaware
memorial bridge veterans memorial park. And Joe Biden`s first appearance
outside of his home, he and his wife Jill Biden followed the Delaware rule
of wearing a mask.
And Donald Trump attended the traditional wreath laying ceremony today at
Arlington National Cemetery, he did not wear a mask.
Ohio`s Republican Governor Mike DeWine this weekend said this about wearing
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R), OHIO: This is not about politics. This is not about
whether you`re a liberal or a conservative, left or right, Republican,
Democrat. We wear the mask and it has been very clear, studies have shown,
you wear the mask not to protect yourself so much as to protect others. And
this is one time when we truly are all in this together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: North Dakota`s Republican Governor Doug Burgum became emotional
on Friday, when he pleaded with people not to divide themselves over
wearing a mask.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R), NORTH DAKOTA: If someone is wearing a mask, they`re
not doing it to represent what political party they are in or what
candidates they support, they might be doing it because they`ve got a 5-
year-old child who`s been going through cancer treatments, they might have
vulnerable adults in their life, who are currently have COVID and they`re
fighting. If somebody wants to wear a mask, there should be no mask
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Dr. Najy Masri of Louisiana State University`s hospital has
been keeping a video diary for us of life and death in New Orleans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. NAJY MASRI, LSU DIRECTOR OF HOSPITALIST SERVICES, OCHSNER MEDICAL
CNETER: We`re about ten weeks into it here in Louisiana. Our first COVID-
19 case was March 9th. Two weeks after that, we had about 1,500 case, and
That`s the point at which Governor Edwards implemented the initial stay-at-
home order. Our latest numbers show over 37,000 coronavirus cases in the
state, over 2,500 deaths. But a closer look at the numbers show that we`re
trending in the right direction.
Hospitalizations are down 50 percent. Use of ventilators in our state is
down 75 percent, compared to peak. But we need to know the success in our
state, principles such as avoidance of large gatherings, maintenance of
social distancing, and the continued use of face masks while in public.
Each day, we learn more and more about this virus. Every day, science gets
us closer to an answer, answers such as a good antiviral. The latest data
on remdesivir is extremely positive, a 30 percent quicker recovery, a 40
percent relative decrease in mortality.
More and more doctors are using the convalescent plasma from recovered
patients. Many companies are in advanced trials, looking at vaccines,
vaccines that can hopefully one day give us an effective true immunity.
This is what time can give us. This is why it`s so important to keep that
curve flat. Science is going to get us to the other side. We just each need
to do our part until we get there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight is, Dr. Vin Gupta, a
pulmonologist and global health policy expert. He is an NBC News and MSNBC
And also joining us, Jonathan Alter, columnist for “The Daily Beast” and
MSNBC political analyst.
Dr. Gupta I want to begin where Dr. Masri just left off. He was giving us a
kind of a survey from his seat in the emergency room about what`s happening
out there in America with the development of possible treatment, possible
vaccine, down the road, and why we have to try to hold the curves down,
between now and that end of the road where there might be a medical
intervention that actually works here.
What is – what is your sense of what we see out there tonight in terms of
the way the curve seems to be trending in the right direction in the
Northeast at least, as opposed to the rest of the country?
DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Lawrence, thanks. Always good to
be with you.
What I would say, just to amplify Dr. Masri`s points, the perspective of an
intensive care unit, actively caring for patients here in Seattle is
different from what you hear from our elected officials. There isn`t that
much wiggle room in our ICUs here to extend the resources if more patients
end up coming into our emergency rooms because we`re easing social
We don`t have multiple beds. We might have one crash bed as we call it. So,
there isn`t that. There is a huge gap of us between those of us on the
front lines and see the day to day realities, and what you`re hearing from
President Trump, where all is well, from Governor Kemp down in Georgia.
Let`s open up.
There is a huge gap. And I think the one thing – so all of the things,
remdesivir, I would actually say, we feel guarded optimism about
remdesivir, I have multiple patients on that medication, in the ICU, and
you know, and improved recovery by four days, you could potentially get out
of the ICU a little quicker, but we don`t know if it actually saves lives,
we don`t know if it actually beats out the virus, does it actually combat
it, we don`t know that. There is still a lot of unknown.
And the vaccine, all of the optimism on Moderna`s vaccine, probably just
cautious optimism at most at this point. It`s still very early. Only eight
patients enrolled in the phase one study.
So, there`s a lot of unknown, which means we have to hold the line on
masks. The fact of the matter here is that masks, universal masking
protects those who can`t escape to the Hamptons or can`t go and do
telework. It is really going to impact our front line workers, our grocery
store clerks, our nurses, our respiratory therapists. Those who are, by the
way, predominantly women, who are predominantly people of color. That`s who
it is going to protect, so I don`t understand why masks has now become this
cultural war, this trigger word for so many people.
These are basic things that we all need to hold the line on and build
consensus on and if a president is not going to message on it, we need to.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter, there is a news media challenge in this now,
now that we have varying degrees of compliance with the guidelines that
have been issued, because the TV news cameras love to go to the spot where
people are crowding and people are violating social distancing, but the
truth of the matter is, the overwhelming majority of Americans are staying
away from that, and the TV cameras seem to find every spot where it`s
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that`s right. Because
it`s turned into a kind of a culture war question, Lawrence, which is not
healthy, for dealing with the real war, with COVID. So, you know, Trump has
politicized the whole thing. He`s politicized masks, which is really kind
of insane when you think about it, because it is his government that has
issued guidelines saying that when people go out, they should use masks.
Not all the time. But they should think about using masks, and social
And for him to send a very different message, crowd the churches, no mask,
I`m not going to wear a mask, so I`m not going to model any behavior that
you need, and to say that the media wants me to wear a mask, as if this is
about owning the libs, owning the media, not about public health. And so,
we have a situation where the president of the United States is now really
acting in a way that`s contrary to public health.
Not only is he not doing what he should do in a positive way, developing a
plan of action, making sure that we really do have the testing, and the
supplies, and the protective gear that we need, which he fell down on the
job, you know, months ago, we lost as many as 40,000 Americans as a result,
but now, not only is he not doing what is necessary, he is actually doing
things that are harming efforts to try to contain this disease.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Gupta, I want to read a passage from the “Washington Post”
about the kind of, the geography of the virus now. It says as the death
toll nears 100,000, the disease caused by the virus has made a fundamental
shift in who it touches, and where it reaches in America, according to a
“Washington Post” analysis, of case data and interviews with public health
professionals in several states.
The pandemic that first struck in major metropolises is now increasingly
finding its front line in the country`s rural areas, counties with acres of
farmland, cramped meat packing plants, and out of the way prisons and few
Dr. Gupta, how is that new geography of the disease affect the ability to
respond to it?
GUPTA: It challenges us, Lawrence, and fundamentally, it forces us to deal
with the issues that we have been combating the last 20 years, much longer,
since the Truman administration, which is durable equitable access to
health care. The truth is, if you`re an ex-urban or rural county, you can`t
get a test for COVID-19 unless you have somebody prescribe it or unless
your employer says we`re going to do a drive-through. How many employers
are doing that in the rural counties you mentioned, in eastern Tennessee,
or in South Dakota? None. Because we just don`t have the infrastructure.
So this is where long-standing policies, inequities in health care access,
that largely affect the indigent, that largely affect those people of
color, women, on the front lines, are rearing their heads. And here is a
quick fix if folks in the Senate are listening. To even access tele-health
care, to get a test through tele-health, you still need a smart phone. You
need to be able to look at your provider.
We should make tele-health accessible through just audio, through just
simple picking up the phone, hey, doc, I need a test. And we should make
that reimbursable. The Senate can act quickly on that. I know they`re
considering that article, they should act now.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter, we have an extraordinary story from China about
their capacity to respond to outbreaks, in Wuhan, for example.
The central Chinese city of Wuhan, according to “The Wall Street Journal”,
has said today it has collected coronavirus swab tests from more than nine
million of its 11 million people, just over the past 10 days. Most of those
nine million samples have already been processed, according to their
And so, Jonathan, that`s that second wave that they fear, in Wuhan, as soon
as they had a handful of cases, they run out and do, right away, about ten
million, nine million tests in ten days.
ALTER: Look, the contrast between Donald Trump and his failed leadership
and that and the rest of the world could not be more stark. And I hope
that, you know, on this Memorial Day, we, as the lawyers say, we
memorialize certain facts about the way this whole thing unfolded, and the
testing failure that started in January, and February, you know, which we
thought was going to be a temporary problem, because every expert knows
that testing is the only way you can get on top of this thing.
That failure continues to this day. So while this president, you know, is
playing golf and basically declaring mission accomplished, not only is
COVID-19 not being controlled, but the mechanism for controlling it,
testing, has not been put into place.
And I think people kind of are, some people are sort of assuming that this
is, you know, such a big country, we can`t possibly do all these tests,
China puts the lie to that. And I think our own history puts the lie to
that. So in terms of getting people to do the contact tracing and the other
testing that`s necessary, the antibody testing and COVID testing, we need a
And frankly, Roosevelt, when we were in crisis during the depression, he
wanted 250,000 young Americans, mobilized, in a civilian conservation
court, he did it almost overnight in three months. We could have gotten a
testing army that was something we could have accomplished if we had the
right kind of presidential leadership.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Vin Gupta, Jonathan Alter, thank you very much for starting
us off tonight.
And when we come back, we are just 162 days away from the presidential
election. David Frum will join us with his new book about the Trump
presidency which shows us what the Trump presidency has taught us about the
strength and weaknesses of our institutions.
O`DONNELL: In a series of tweets this morning, Donald Trump threatened to
move August`s Republican National Convention out of North Carolina if the
state`s Democratic Governor Roy Cooper could not guarantee quote, full,
attendance in the arena in Charlotte.
“The Atlantic`s” David Frum writes in his new book, “Trumpocalpyse”: Since
his bankruptcies in the 1980s, Trump contrived schemes and scams to keep
his creditors at bay for the next 24 hours. That`s how he has managed the
coronavirus crisis each day. He devised some new fantasy in the hope of
fulfilling his supporters – of lulling his supporters and boosting
Joining us now, David Frum. He is the senior editor for “The Atlantic” and
former speechwriter for George W. Bush.
David, thank you very much for joining us and congratulations on the new
book. The title I just stumbled across is what?
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, “THE ATLANTIC”: “Trumpocalypse”.
O`DONNELL: Yes, Trumpocalypse, I can say it. Trumpocalypse, I`m going to
say it again, there we go.
OK. Go ahead, David. Sorry.
FRUM: I hope you can because so much of the content of this book you and I
have worked in draft form, live perform on this show over the past three
years, and this has been a place, has been the test kitchen for many ideas
that became this book.
So, I thank you and I`m very glad to be here tonight.
So, this is – this is classic Trump situation with the Republican
convention. There`s probably no safe place in America. We know there is no
safe place in America to assemble a full arena full of people, elbow to
elbow, the way a political convention normally is. That will not be safe
anywhere in the country this summer.
Do you think Donald Trump will find a state, Alabama, will find a place
somewhere where he can make that happen and take all those public health
risks in the same room?
FRUM: Well, I`m guessing he pushes in that direction only to have it blow
up in his face at the last minute. The reckoning really is here and for
three years, people have wanted some master scheme, some brilliant plan.
The apocalypse is here.
When I wrote the book, I was thinking the “Trumpocalypse” would probably
take the form of recession because of the trade war, perhaps a shooting war
with Iran. Instead, we got this neglected pandemic and this administration
is careening toward electoral disaster and it`s going to take Republicans
in the Senate, I anticipate (ph), with it.
And then the question we`re all going to face is, what then? Because what
Donald Trump has shown and what we`ve talked about so often here in the
evenings is there is an important minority in this country who is not
reconciled to the basic rules of the democratic state and you`re not going
to change their minds. We`ve asked that again and again. What does it take
to change their minds? You`re not going to.
So, how do you safely govern a country around them? How do you change a
country in such a way that their veto matters a lot less?
O`DONNELL: And how do you do that, David?
FRUM: Well, what you have to understand – and this is the thing many
people who watched the show understand very well, that the American system
of government is built to treat some people more as more important
political actors than other people. If people in California had to live for
three minutes the way – sorry, if people in Wyoming had to live for three
minutes the people in California do, they would think they are very ill
How do you even it out so that Californian haves a few more rights than
people in Wyoming can claim? And that means practical, feasible reforms. No
fantasies like eliminating the Electoral College to even things out. I give
a couple examples in the book.
One of them is Democrats are going to do well at the state level in 2020
and there`s going to be a census in 2020 and redistricting afterwards. So,
I suggest that in states like North Carolina and Wisconsin where Democrats
will have an advantage that are contestant states, Democrats produce two
maps, a fair map and map that is what the Republicans did in 2010.
And then turn to Republicans in states like Georgia and Texas and say, we
can do it your way or we can do a fairway. If you go fair, we`ll go fair.
If you go hard, we`ll go hard.
And look, it`s crazy politicians write these maps, that`s really wrong, but
if they do, we have to have something more like a national system for
holding them together and we need a new voting rights act, as well, to
correct the mistake the Supreme Court made in 2013 when it`s basically
retired from the job of policing racial discrimination and voting.
O`DONNELL: David, what are you expecting from Donald Trump as this
presidential campaign wears on? He`s now trying to become the hero of
conventions, probably knowing in his – probably knowing it`s very unlikely
they will have a convention in an indoor arena with people sitting and
standing on top of each other but he wants some sense of hero wisdom about
he tried to do that.
What other pointless quests will he submit the presidential campaign to?
FRUM: Well, I`m guessing that six or seven months from today, this show
and shows like it will be consumed with the question, is the president
legally entitled to pardon himself? Because should he lose, as he probably
will, he`s going to be looking for the exit, he`s going to be looking for
an escape plan. He`ll have legal jeopardy gathering around him.
Vice President Biden made news on this program by saying Vice President
Biden would not pardon former President Trump so if vice – sorry, vice
president, future President Biden does not do it, who will, Donald Trump
O`DONNELL: David Frum, thank you very much for joining us. The new book is
“Trumpocalypse,” which I can say. It`s easier to just read it silently,
though. We`re going to need you to hang around later in the program.
And when we come back, we`ll look at the latest polls in the race for
president and we`ve been having struggles with Laurie Garrett`s camera but
I believe, I believe Laurie Garrett will be joining us to answer your
questions how you can stay safe as the states begin to reopen as we
promised you show would be here and we think that`s going to work right
after this break.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: This weekend, Joe Biden`s presidential
campaign released this ad.
(JOE BIDEN`S CAMPAIGN AD)
O`DONNELL: Last night, Joe Biden followed up that ad with this tweet: The
presidency is about a lot more than tweeting from your golf cart. It
requires taking on the ultimate responsibility for the biggest decisions in
the world. Donald Trump simply wasn`t prepared for that. I promise you I
And less than two hours after that Donald Trump, of course, took to Twitter
to defend golfing Trump style as, quote, exercise, while attacking Joe
Biden and former President Barack Obama.
Stuart Stevens who was 2012 top strategists in that presidential campaign
wrote on Twitter: When you make political ads, half the fun is wondering if
the other guy will be dumb enough to take the bait. Trump never
disappoints. That dog chases every car.
A Quinnipiac national poll shows Joe Biden leading Donald Trump by 11
Joining us now is Zerlina Maxwell, senior director of progressive
programming at SiriusXM Radio and MSNBC political analyst. She is the
author of the upcoming book, “The End of White Politics: How to Heal Our
Back with us, Jonathan Alter and David Frum.
Zerlina, the president spent the weekend in a golf cart after urging his
followers to spend their Sunday mornings shoulder to shoulder in church.
Donald Trump didn`t go anywhere near a church, of course, and this is
apparently the way he`s going to play it. He`s going to social distance on
golf course, while urging people to get together everywhere else.
ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the thing that`s
interesting about the president`s strategy is his base of supporters is
older voters, is white voters, are voters currently going through these hot
spots that were the result of people going out the first few weeks of May
without the appropriate PPE.
And I just – I can`t think of an electoral strategy that involves actually
killing your potential voters. I do not understand the strategy he`s doing.
But I think that part of what is on display despite the fact that I`m
baffled by the strategy in terms of the math of it, is that the president
has always been a walking, talking national security threat from the
beginning, from day one. I always felt that way. I`ve always gone to sleep
at night fearful that he was going to tweet us into a nuclear war or some
sort of conflict.
Now, we`re actually living my greatest fear. The thing that is bothering
the most is that even in quarantine, we are still obsessed with his
personality and I think what we – we could be focused more on is not so
much his personality traits when he`s lashing out at folks, but the sheer
incompetence of the federal response and that there are real tangible
things that you can point to and say 36,000 Americans would be alive today
potentially if he had made better choices as president.
And so, I think that he`s just really worried. Maybe that`s why he stays on
the golf course, because he doesn`t know what to do in this moment.
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter, Zerlina mentions this issue about, you know, why
would you put your own voters at risk as Donald Trump seems to be doing
with his anti-public health pronouncements.
But that poll that we cited with the 11-point Biden lead also shows a 10-
point lead for Joe Biden among seniors. So, there actually isn`t a group
Donald Trump can point to in that poll and say, let`s make sure we take
very good care of them at this point, anyway.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. The only constituency that
he really still has a real advantage with are white men between the ages of
40 and 60. So, people aren`t quite old yet. Maybe they think that they`re
invulnerable to COVID. They see this as kind of a cowboy state versus the
There aren`t enough of them to win a presidential election and if he`s not
careful, he could be in danger of getting blown out, because the, you know,
the constituencies he got the last time are rapidly eroding. So, for
instance, older white women who went with Trump, they didn`t like Hillary
for whatever reason, they like Joe Biden. They think he`s a nice guy. And
they are tired of Trump and want to change the channel on him.
So Trump now has a big problem with older white women and the real question
for him is, how does he get support back? There are two things you have to
do, not lose support if you`re behind, not lose more support but also
figure outweighs to get back on track with various constituencies, and I
don`t see the entrance ramp to that expressway for Donald Trump. I don`t
know where he gets the votes.
So his only hope is to depress turnout on the other side. That`s why he`s
threatening the Post Office, absentee ballots and it becomes a turnout
election and Democrats have to understand this. It`s not about persuading
more people to be against Trump. There are already enough of those people.
Democrats just have to get turnout in gear.
O`DONNELL: David Frum, it`s so striking to see that very, very powerful
Biden campaign ad made this weekend about things happening this weekend in
the Trump presidency. There is such a rich archive that we would normally
think of as relatively recent news that the Biden campaign hasn`t even
touched for example, North Korea.
Zerlina mentioned the fear of Donald Trump kind of tweeting us into a
nuclear exchange. I think we were all very nervous about the way Donald
Trump was dealing with North Korea at the beginning then he fell in love
publicly declared his love for Kim Jong-un who this weekend, Kim Jong-un
reemerged at a meeting in North Korea, which was about strengthening North
Korea`s nuclear capability.
The Biden campaign hasn`t even touched any of that yet. The Trump North
Korea what happened to North Korea`s nukes, why is North Korea now
reenergizing their nuclear approach?
DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE FRUM: I think the Biden campaign is focused
on one simple metric. The highest unemployment ever suffered by a president
to be reelected was President Obama in 2012. At the end of the year 2012,
unemployment was 7.8 percent. The second highest was Ronald Reagan in 1984.
At the end of 1984, unemployment was 7.7 percent.
But in both cases, the job situation had improved in the 12 months before
the election. It had improved moderately in 2012 which is why President
Obama got moderately reelected and dramatically in the 12 months before
1984, which is why Ronald Reagan got dramatically reelected. There just
isn`t that time for improvement before voting day 2020 and if there were
time, the magnitude of the unemployment problem is so enormous, so mind
boggling, so Great Depression-like that even if you were to bring millions
of people into work in the next few months, there are 38 million or there
were last week 38 million unemployed, and more by the end of this week.
And I think the Biden people are focused on that crushing economic weight
and it`s impossible to imagine how President Trump gets past that.
O`DONNELL: Zerlina, it`s such a good point that the – that this campaign
now is the coronavirus and coronavirus unemployment campaign. It`s very,
very hard to get the electorate`s attention on to anything else but if the
Biden campaign ever does, there`s a massive amount of material for them to
MAXWELL: Oh, yeah. Donald Trump was doing poorly as president before the
pandemic. One of the things I don`t want us to walk away from this horrible
moment in American history with is this idea that the pandemic is what
destroyed Donald Trump`s presidency. Right before the New Year, we
impeached this president and went to Christmas. He was indicted in the
trial but not convicted, obviously and then we went to the New Year and we
were worried about war with Iran.
I mean, I don`t think that this presidency has been particularly solid. I
would like to have a little less anxiety but at this particular moment,
this is the culmination of the president`s incompetence and it is on full
display in the worst-case scenario.
So what I think going forward is Joe Biden needs – I`m glad to see him
outside modeling the mask wearing because it – I think the mask wearing is
more than just I`m a tough guy, you know, and I`m not going to wear a mask
thing. I don`t think it`s so much that. I think it actually has to do with
the fact that Donald Trump cannot admit when he is wrong and that is a
quality that we need in a successful president. We need a president who is
going to be deliberative and think about the decisions that they are making
and how they`re impacting the American people.
And if something is wrong, you need to correct the record. You need to
correct that. And so, I think that Joe Biden modeling mask wearing because
that`s the only thing that is going to ensure that we do not have a second
wave that is worse than the current wave because we`re not in the second
My dad is a scientist and talks about the fact we can`t jump ahead and talk
about the current upticks in certain parts of the country like in Alabama
as if that`s part of a second wave because we`re very much still dealing
with the initial impact of this virus.
O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at something that Donald Trump said on April
10th, April 10th about the coronavirus and about the number of deaths that
we are approaching tonight. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`ll see what it ends up
being but it looks like we`re headed to a number substantially below the
10,000, that would be the low mark.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter, there`s going to be a Biden TV ad at some point
that just rattles off every one of these Trump statements about the numbers
when he said we had 15 cases and we were going to go to zero. He kept
coming out with and attaching himself to specific numerical predictions
like that that look pretty dark when you look at them tonight.
ALTER: Well, it`s just so stupid on his part. You know, anybody should know
that you want to under-promise and over-deliver so that, you know, if he
had said, look, we could have 300,000 deaths and then it comes in at 150,
then he looks better.
What he`s trying to do is instead of, you know, dealing in an up front way
with the situation as it is, he`s trying to turn it into another kind of
statistic to normalize it so essentially say, look, we have a lot of deaths
from auto accidents. He started with the flu. He wants to make it something
like, you know, it`s just part of American life.
And so, it`s really up to all of the rest of us and the press to make sure
that we memorialize, not normalize, that we actually put markers down. Now,
these markers, this branding of the utter failure in February, March, April
and now, May, it doesn`t happen by itself and this is part of the blocking
and tackling of politics.
So I`m reminded of in my research for a book I wrote about Franklin
Roosevelt, everybody knows about Hoovervilles that – you know, Herbert
Hoover`s – the shanties in Central Park. They were called Hoovervilles. It
was a very effective way of Roosevelt pushing Hoover out of office in 1932.
That didn`t just come up out of nowhere. That was the creation of the
Democratic National Committee, and they threw a lot of things against the
wall before Hoovervilles stuck. So, I think Biden is off to a good start
with golf, but it has to be just one of the first of many, many attack
lines because, you know, as you know better than anybody, Lawrence,
politics ain`t bean bag. You got to stay on the offensive all the way from
now until the election.
I guess one of my worries, a little bit about Biden is I want him to be a
little more pugilistic. I want him to go after Trump a little harder and I
think it will pay off for him if he does.
O`DONNELL: David Frum, when you look at the polling numbers, it`s hard to
see what the Biden campaign is doing wrong.
FRUM: And it doesn`t matter what they would be doing wrong.
Years and years ago, I was tracking a senior politician in the company of
a, kind of, loud mouth junior politician, and the junior politician was
running against an incumbent. And the senior politician just kind of tell
him to stop talking all the time. He said, you know, when you`re running
against an incumbent, there are just two questions. Her record, as a woman
in this case, and you`re not a kook. And his warning the junior politician
in this case, he was sounding like a kook, but it`s the record.
This is going to be a referendum on the Trump presidency and we`re going to
have somewhere in the vicinity of 20 million to 30 million people still out
of work in November under the best, best circumstances. And so, the
question for people around Biden and soon for all of us, is what is the
future of the country going to be like? And this is the thing I worry about
in the book, is it`s not like Trump voters are going to go away. It`s not
like it`s going to be easy to change their minds about things.
So, how do you build a political system a third of the country is able to
do less damage and how do you begin to renew the bonds of nation in a way
that you begin to at least find some commonalities between the alienated 30
percent who are in less dynamic areas of the country and the majority that
lives in the most dynamic areas of the country.
O`DONNELL: Zerlina Maxwell, Jonathan Alter, David Frum, thank you all for
joining our discussion.
And coming up later in the hour, we have a very special last word tonight.
You will hear someone sing who you have never heard sing at the end of this
And coming up, many of the questions that you sent us about the
coronavirus, about how to keep yourself safe and keep your family safe this
summer, you`re going to get your answers. Laurie Garrett will join us. I`m
told her camera is working. She will join us to answer your questions,
O`DONNELL: All 50 states have now started easing restrictions to allow some
activities to occur, more activities and some businesses to reopen.
On Twitter, we asked for your questions about the medical and social
impacts of the coronavirus and how that`s affecting you. And to get your
answers, we are joined now for those answers by Laurie Garrett. She`s a
Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter covering global pandemics and she is the
MSNBC – and MSNBC science contributor.
Laurie, thank you very much for joining us. I`m glad we got your camera
working. I wasn`t going to be able to answer these questions without you.
So, let`s – let`s start with this first question from Delia. She says, do
you have serious concerns after observing the activities this weekend that
we could have a coronavirus second wave all over the country or some hot
spots with uncontrolled spread?
LAURIE GARRETT, MSNBC SCIENCE CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I am concerned. I am seeing
all kinds of images and frankly, I see behaviors right here in New York
that make me very, very anxious. I`m worried that – well, let me put it
this way. I was in the Ebola epidemic, of course, in 2014 in West Africa
and I attended church services in Liberia.
Ebola is a lot less contagious than this COVID virus, a lot less
contagious. And yet, in Liberia, people went to church but understood, you
entered one person, then another person, not a crowd going in. You sat 12
feet away from each other in the pews and you staggered in the pews.
Everybody had sanitizer.
This is in Liberia. And I look at the images from this weekend all over the
United States and I see behaviors that no one in Liberia would have been
doing in the middle of an Ebola epidemic. To see crowds gathering, shaking
hands, you know, high fiving each other, sharing drinks in a pool, hanging
out in ways that just obviously put them at risk of acquiring an airborne
virus from another person, a contact virus from another person.
It`s just appalling to me and it means that people really don`t understand
that we are walking steak. You know, we are meat on wheels for a virus and
they`re just – COVID virus is looking for another happy hunting ground and
we`re making it very easy for this virus.
O`DONNELL: Let`s go to the another question. This is a practical question.
I need to travel from Washington to Arizona in July for family medical
urgency. I am planning on driving. Is it safe to stay at hotels for two
nights along the way and then isolate in an Airbnb when I get there?
GARRETT: So a lot of companies are going to great lengths to demonstrate
they have sanitized their facilities, they`ve made it possible for you to
go through all the check in and the check out and everything without any
physical contact with another human being. They`re trying very hard to
convince you that they will make it very safe.
And without specifically going in and inspecting what each individual hotel
is doing and what the nature is of the precautions that they`re taking, I
can`t give you the kind of assurance on a specific level. What I would say
generally is that it still is risky to travel. And it`s probably still best
to avoid it, if possible.
You say you have a medical emergency that requires your travel, then I
would say all right, but let`s be sure that you minimize all form of
contact with strangers and that`s not just when you reach your hotel but
across your travels, as you reach your destination, just tremendous
O`DONNELL: Well, Laurie, you`ve kind of answered the next question in what
you`ve just said but this question is worth asking because I get this from
people all the time. It says, what precautions should people be taking in
airports and on airplanes right now? Asking for a friend who intends to go
on vacation with her extended family next month.
GARRETT: Well, depending on where you live and where you`re planning to fly
to, a month might buy us a fair amount of additional safety. But that`s not
necessarily an absolute and there certainly are parts of the country that
are still just getting started in the first wave of this pandemic and there
are certainly locations around the world where the pandemic is just
starting to take off. Consider the situation for example in Brazil and
But let`s assume you`re staying inside the United States and going from one
place to another where the epidemic is roughly the same stage. Then again,
the airlines just like hotels are doing everything possible to convince you
that they have sanitized, that they`ve changed the way they`re operating.
They`re not going to jam you in shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh with
strangers. We`ll see.
I should caution that Dr. Joseph fair, a good friend of mine and friend of
MSNBC acquired infection of COVID, just recently got out of hospital after
a long difficult bout with the disease, and he thinks he acquired it
through his eyes on a flight and, of course, the fluids of your eyes can
indeed absorb viruses and you can be infected through your eyes. So,
doctors that treat COVID patients wear very tight goggles, so tight they
need indents on their cheeks and so on at the end of a shift.
This is tough. I mean, I personally would not at this time get on an
O`DONNELL: Let`s do one more before we go to a break here. This is – a
question says, the social impact I find hard to grasp, will we ever be able
to return to mass shared experiences like sporting events, movies,
concerts, et cetera? Is this going to be similar to a post-9/11 where the
world we knew was dramatically different?
GARRETT: I really appreciate this question because I`ve put eight years of
work into a book called “I heard the sirens scream” that documented the way
9/11 changed the way we live in America and not just 9/11 but also the
anthrax mailings that came on the heels of the 9/11 attacks. And I think we
are going to go through far more profound change that will affect much more
of our lives than did 9/11 – 9/11 let`s remember really two places were
hard hit and then fortunately, in Pennsylvania a relatively unpopulated
In this case, everywhere in the world is hit at the same time. Every human
being on the planet is facing some degree of risk and threat
simultaneously. When 9/11 happened, it urged a tremendous economic
catastrophe but nothing compared to what we`re going through now and what
we`re going to face.
And, of course, 9/11 and the anthrax attacks constituted basically three
months of difficulty for direct threat for Americans, particularly in New
York and Washington. This is only at its beginning and we will be
experiencing rounds of infection and of threat and concern all over the
world for at least another three years.
So I think that the level of change that we`re going to experience in
everything, in how we view the arts, what is entertainment, what is going
out for a meal, what constitutes necessary travel, essential travel? What
constitutes OK, I can do it at home or OK, I can go to the office?
All of this is going to get completely reconsidered, rethought and frankly,
whatever conclusions we reach by July will change by October and perhaps
again by next April. And so, we must all have somehow the wherewithal
within us to be resilient, to adapt to constant new information, new
changes. Whatever are the absolutes you hear about this virus today and
about the risks for today, you must be prepared for new understanding,
deeper innovation, deeper science that gives you yet another, you know,
permutation of concern, another way of viewing the problem.
And I would just add one other thing. I think that we all have to be
careful not to be overly persuaded by what Wall Street wants. The virus is
not Wall Street, and Wall Street is not the virus.
O`DONNELL: All right. We`re going to squeeze in a quick break here and,
Laurie, when we come back, we`ll have more viewer questions for you but
we`ll begin with my first question, which is why do you put a three year
timeframe on the challenge that we`re currently facing in the way we are
facing it. We`ll start with that when we come back after this break. We`ll
be back with Laurie Garrett.
O`DONNELL: And we`re back with Laurie Garrett answering your questions
about the coronavirus. Laurie Garrett is, of course, Pulitzer Prize Winning
reporter who has - had covered global pandemics before.
Laurie, let me go back to something you said before the commercial break,
which was you put a three year timeframe on what you described as this kind
of challenging world we`re living in now before we get to the post
coronavirus world, whatever that`s going to be. What is your - why do you
have a three year timeframe on this?
LAURIE GARRETT, FORMER SENIOR FELLOW FOR GLOBAL HEALTH, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN
RELATIONS: Well, Lawrence, three years is my best case scenario, not my
worst case by any means. Three years is because it`s going to take much
longer than most people think to come up with a safe, proven, viable
vaccine, have mass production, really get it out there and deal with all
the resistance against vaccination, deal with all the questions associated
with decisions about who should have access to it, where the priority
And keep in mind, if we went on the hyper speed timetable that the White
House is now pushing, as one very dear friend of mine who`s one of the
great vaccine experts on earth put it, “Oh rushing a vaccine to be
distributed across America just before the election, what could go wrong?
And I mean that really is amazing that we`re going pell-mell speed with the
leading candidates for rapid vaccine use being of a type never previously
used, not only in human beings but in animals.
One is a MRNA based vaccine and another is a DNA based, both nucleic acids.
And I`m told that the MRNA based vaccine has to be stored on dry ice, not
just a cold chain, not just a refrigerator, dry ice because it`s so
I mean, we could be rushing into a real mess. Meanwhile, I think in
reality, if we want true safety profiles, if FDA doesn`t get pressured by
the White House to give the green light on something that is inadequately
tested, both for its efficacy and it`s safety, then we could be out to this
time next year, before really even thinking about vaccinating people
outside of test subjects, and we would only begin to be receiving long term
test results on our initial volunteers who went through phase three test
O`DONNELL: Look, let`s go to another viewer question. This is from Sid. It
says, given the importance of accurate reporting, can a different reporting
mechanism be established more specifically keeping it in scientific
circles, bypassing political players and use this data to help find answers
and/or solutions to the fact that black people are impacted at three times
GARRETT: This is such an important question, Lawrence, because it goes to
the heart of every single problem we have right now with this epidemic.
It`s about trust. It`s about, do we trust the data, do we trust the policy
decisions, do we trust the advice handed down by the President, by the CDC,
by our Governor, by our Mayor, who do we trust?
And at the core of that is do we trust the numbers? Is somebody giving us
at least the straight proof how many got hospitalized yesterday? How many
have died? How many have recovered? What`s the rate of infection out there
in my community? What percentage of my friends and neighbors might be
carrying this virus? How dangerous is it to be around them if they are?
We need solid basis of trust in order for people to make the kinds of
decisions that really matter. And in particular, when we see a racial
divide, as we do quite acutely with COVID-19 right now, it`s Latinos,
Native Americans and African Americans are all at higher risk of both
infection and more importantly of death if infected.
And a lot of different theories have been put out, a lot of different ideas
about why this is so, but we don`t have any real definitive solid
scientific answers about why it`s so. There is just a lot of people leaping
to their boiler plate issues in national politics.
I`ve consistently pointed out that one of the - well, really, the only
factor that coincides 100% with likelihood to succumb to coronavirus is a
history of improperly treated or untreated hypertension, high blood
pressure, and if you have high blood pressure, you`re at great risk of a
fatal outcome. Well, high blood pressure runs in precisely those three
groups, African Americans, Native Americans and Latinos.
O`DONNELL: Laurie Garrett, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We
have a stack of questions we haven`t gotten to; we`ll get to them in
another hour on another night. Thank you very much, Laurie, we really
GARRETT: Next time we`ll do more.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. And when we come back, as we wonder when we will ever
get to the other side of this coronavirus story, historian Jon Meacham will
join us to consider why history gives us hope. Jon Meacham is next.
O`DONNELL: The Great Depression, World War II, the Polio epidemic, the
Cuban Missile Crisis, the 1918 influenza pandemic; the American way of life
was changed by each of those unprecedented events.
Pulitzer Prize winning author and Presidential historian, Jon Meacham is
viewing the coronavirus pandemic through the lessons of these events and
finding hope through examples of American political leadership, scientific
ingenuity and resilience in his new podcast “Hope, Through History”.
Joining us now is Pulitzer Prize winning historian and MSNBC contributor
Jon Meacham. He is now the host of the podcast “Hope, Through History.” And
Jon, the title is so perfect “Hope, Through History”. It`s something I
attempt to do occasionally on this program.
I am glad that it is now finally a formal course that we can all take on
our iPhones. Where do you begin in your lessons of “Hope, Through History”
on this Memorial Day weekend as we approach 100,000 deaths from
JON MEACHAM, PODCAST HOST, “HOPE, THROUGH HISTORY”: As bleak and difficult
as this moment is, we`re - a lot of us are still here. We still believe in
the promise of America, which is that the sentence that Thomas Jefferson
wrote in June of 1776 on a desk made by an enslaved person, so you don`t
have to look very hard for irony in American history do you, that all men
were created equal, the country has always been strongest, and that we
always come to the moments that we celebrate and commemorate when we more
broadly apply the implications of that sentence.
So there is still an enormous legacy that is living and breathing that we
have to defend and perpetuate. It is incredibly difficult, and my only
argument is that it`s always been incredibly difficult. And if we look back
nostalgically, we fall prey to a kind of narcissism, which is that somehow
or other the problems of the past, the problems of Jamestown, the problems
of the revolution, the problems of the 1790s - the first President who was
threatened with impeachment was George Washington in 1795.
We are the beneficiaries of generation upon generation of sacrifice and
resilience, and Memorial Day is obviously set aside for a particular kind
of commemoration for the people who gave the last full measure of devotion.
But let`s not look back and think, you know what, they had it easier, our
problems are uniquely oppressive. Because, it doesn`t do justice to what
they fought for and what they fought against, and it creates a sense of
narcissism on our problem - about our problems. And if we can`t look back
and learn, what is the data set in history, what kind of social science is
used except the past to figure out what we can do to move forward?
O`DONNELL: There is so much just in the FDR years, which I know you`ve
written a book about. When you look at the great depression and Frank
Roosevelt comes into office as the President who has to try to deal with
this, and people really did not know what tools to use. He and others in
the administration went to work trying to figure out what those tools were
and how to do it. They were confronted with something that no other
policymakers have been confronted with before.
MEACHAM: Right. The banks - all of the banks were closed, right? I mean
there was a run on the banks. There was a bank holiday that FDR declared
almost immediately. That was the first action the first 100 days. And it
was a sense that we had to have what FDR had called a spirit of bold
If we try a method, but if it fails, admit it frankly and try something
else. But above all, try something. That was the Roosevelt insight. But
nobody knew if any of it was going to work. The line we all remember,
right, is the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless,
unreasoning fear that paralyzes our best efforts and converts advance into
Fascinating, isn`t it, that he used the word paralyze, because he himself
had overcome paralysis. He thought he can help the country to do it. That`s
the line we remember.
The line that got the biggest cheer on March 4, 1933 was when he said I
might require wartime like executive powers as if we had been invaded by a
foreign foe, and the crowd roared and Mrs. Roosevelt wrote in her diary
that night that it chilled her to the bone because it felt as though the
people might be ready for a dictator.
Beginning of the 1930s, democracy - democratic capitalism was very much in
the dock. There was no guarantee that it was going to survive the decade.
And Roosevelt basically by insisting that the American experiment was not
going to end on his watch, very much the same way Winston Churchill nine
years later would say British freedom is not going to end on my watch.
He called on what Lincoln called our better angels, our spirit of
generosity, and enabled us to stagger through that decade. Let`s not be
sentimental. We can`t be nostalgic and we shouldn`t be sentimental either.
The Great Depression lasted until the first - until the beginning of the
Second World War. But he put the public sector, he put the government at
the center of the fight and redefined the relationships between the
individual and the state in a way that it shaped our politics ever since.
You can argue with the specifics of what he did, but fundamentally nobody
really doubted that Frankly Roosevelt had the American experiment in mind
and the endurance of that as his main goal.
O`DONNELL: Jon Meacham, thank you very much for joining us tonight. The
podcast is “Hope, Through History,” it`s on my phone. You should get it on
yours. And Jon, join us whenever you can to give us some hope through
history. We really appreciate it.
MEACHAM: Thanks, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. And when we come back, a very special last word in
song to commemorate this Memorial Day.
O`DONNELL: On this Memorial Day, “The Last Word” goes to Bob Kerrey, who
was awarded the highest military decoration that exists, the Medal of Honor
in 1970. Bob Kerrey was a Navy SEAL who lost a leg in Vietnam. He was
elected Governor of Nebraska before he ran for the United States Senate and
won in 1988.
On that election night, with five of his Navy SEAL teammates on the stage
with him, Bob Kerrey ended his victory speech with a song that was written
during the Vietnam War, looking back at the devastation of World War I
through the eyes of an Australian soldier with a message for all of us
about all wars.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB KERREY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEBRASKA: It does goes like this.
When I was a young man I carried my pack
And I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murray`s green basin to the dusty outback
I waltzed my Matilda all over
Then in 1915 my country said son
It`s time to stop rambling `cause there`s work to be done
So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun
And they sent me away to the war
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we sailed away from the quay
And amidst all the tears and the shouts and the cheers
We sailed off to Gallipoli
How well I remember that terrible day
When the blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs to the slaughter
Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well
He showered us with bullets, and he rained us with shells
And in five minutes flat he`d blown us all to hell
Nearly chased us right back to Australia
And a band played Waltzing Matilda
As we stopped to bury our slain
And we buried ours and the Turks buried theirs
Then it started all over again
For ten weary weeks we kept ourselves alive
In that mad world of blood, death and fire.
For ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
While around me the corpses piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me ass over head
And when I awoke in my hospital bed
I saw what it had done, and I wished I was dead
Never knew there were worse things than dying
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
Around the green bush far and near
To hump tent and pegs, a man needs both legs
No more Waltzing Matilda for me
They collected the wounded, the legless, the maimed
The poor wounded heroes of Suvla
The legless, the armless, the blind, the insane
And shipped us all back to Australia
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked down at where my legs used to be
And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me
To mourn and to grieve and to pity
And a band played Waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway
And nobody cheered, they just stood and stared
And turned all their faces away
And now every April I sit on my porch
And watch the parade pass before me
I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reliving old dreams and lost glory
The old men march proudly all bent stiff and sore
The tired old men from a forgotten war
And the young people ask what are they marching for?
And I ask myself the same question
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
And the old men answer to the call
Year by year their numbers get fewer
Some day no one will march here at all
Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda
Who`ll go Waltzing Matilda with me?
And their ghosts can be heard
As they pass by the billabong
Who`ll go a`Waltzin` Matilda with me?
We`ll waltz tonight and work tomorrow. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Bob Kerrey, who I`m very proud to call a friend, gets tonight`s
last word. Ari Melber is up next.
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 content.>
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