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Transcript: All In with Chris Hayes, 9/1/22

Guests: Maya Wiley, Elie Mystal


President Joe Biden gave a speech where he lay out his vision for how to safeguard, and defend American self-governance against its enemies. The theme of Biden`s speech is the continued battle for the soul of the nation, the central message for the President`s 2020 campaign.


MIKE MEMOLI, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But now, as President, he has come to grips and acknowledge the burden of governing at a time when there are still these threats to our democracy.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST (on camera): Mike Memoli, Biden -- a really knowledgeable Biden reporter for a very long time. Thank you very much. That is "THE REIDOUT" for tonight. We are just moments away from President Biden`s address to the nation. I`m going to hand it off to Chris Hayes for that. Chris?

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: (on camera): Thank you very much, Joy, I really appreciate it. We are, as Joy has indicated, just moments away from President Joe Biden`s primetime address to the nation about the threats our democracy. It`s taking place, as you heard there, as Mike Emily was reporting, just outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia right there. Of course, that building, that city, the birthplace of the American experiment has been a fitting setting for many presidential speeches throughout history. Abraham Lincoln in 1861 gave a speech there, to John Kennedy in 1962.

Now, we are told that the historical context in part inspired Biden to deliver this address at that venue on this evening, just 10 weeks -- less than 10 weeks from the midterm elections, as Mike just noted. Last month, the President met with a group of historians. Presidents do this from time to time. Understandable they want to get a little perspective.

And that crew of historians who met with the president in the White House warned him that America`s democracy is teetering. Just think for the first time in the history of this nation, a president disrupted the peaceful transfer of power. Nothing like it had happened since the cannons are fired Fort Sumter. That same individual who interrupted the peaceful transfer of power, who led to that bloodshed there, that want-to-be autocrat is now of course leading an extreme movement that threatens violence, that promises to overthrow the next election if that autocrat -- aspiring autocrat does not win.

Tonight, the President of the United States, Joseph R. Biden will lay out his vision for how to safeguard, defend American self-governance against its enemies. The theme of this speech will be the continued battle for the soul of the nation, the central message for the President`s 2020 campaign which he said he decided to launch in the wake of a shocking display by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia five years ago. Let`s hear from the President in just a moment.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans, please, if you have a seat, take it. I speak to you tonight from sacred ground in America: Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This is where America made its Declaration of Independence to the world more than two centuries ago with an idea, unique among nations, that in America, we`re all created equal.

This is where the United States Constitution was written and debated. This is where we set in motion the most extraordinary experiment of self- government the world has ever known with three simple words: "We, the People." "We, the People." These two documents and the ideas they embody, equality and democracy, are the rock upon which this nation is built. They are how we became the greatest nation on Earth. They are why, for more than two centuries, America has been a beacon to the world.

But as I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under assault. We do ourselves no favor to pretend otherwise. So tonight, I have come this place where it all began to speak as plainly as I can to the nation about the threats we face, about the power we have in our own hands to meet these threats, and about the incredible future that lies in front of us if only we choose it.


We must never forget: We, the people, are the true heirs of the American experiment that began more than two centuries ago. We, the people, have burning inside each of us the flame of liberty that was lit here at Independence Hall -- a flame that lit our way through abolition, the Civil War, Suffrage, the Great Depression, world wars, Civil Rights. That sacred flame still burns now in our time as we build an America that is more prosperous, free, and just.

That is the work of my presidency, a mission I believe in with my whole soul. But first, we must be honest with each other and with ourselves. Too much of what`s happening in our country today is not normal. Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.

Now, I want to be very clear, very clear up front, not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology. I know because I`ve been able to work with these mainstream Republicans. But there is no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans, and that is a threat to this country.

These are hard things. But I`m an American President, not the President of red America or blue America, but of all America. And I believe it is my duty -- my duty to level with you, to tell the truth no matter how difficult, no matter how painful. And here, in my view, is what is true. MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution. They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people.

They refuse to accept the results of a free election. And they`re working right now, as I speak, in state after state to give power to decide elections in America to partisans and cronies, empowering election deniers to undermine democracy itself. MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards -- backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love.

They promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country. They look at the mob that stormed the United States Capitol on January 6th brutally attacking law enforcement, not as insurrectionists who placed a dagger to the throat of our democracy, but they look at them as patriots. And they see their MAGA failure to stop a peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election as preparation for the 2022 and 2024 elections.

They tried everything last time to nullify the votes of 81 million people. This time, they`re determined to succeed in thwarting the will of the people. That`s why respected conservatives, like Federal Circuit Court Judge Michael Luttig, has called Trump and the extreme MAGA Republicans, quote, a "clear and present danger" to our democracy.

But while the threat to American democracy is real, I want to say as clearly as we can: We are not powerless in the face of these threats. We are not bystanders in this ongoing attack on democracy. There are far more Americans, far more Americans from every -- from every background and belief who reject the extreme MAGA ideology than those that accept it.


And, folks, it is within our power, it`s in our hands, yours and mine, to stop the assault on American democracy. I believe America is at an inflection point, one of those moments that determine the shape of everything that`s to come after. And now America must choose: to move forward or to move backwards, to build the future or obsess about the past, to be a nation of hope and unity and optimism, or a nation of fear, division, and of darkness?

MAGA Republicans have made their choice. They embrace anger. They thrive on chaos. They live not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies. But together, together, we can choose a different path. We can choose a better path forward, to the future, a future of possibility, a future to build and dream and hope.

And we`re on that path, moving ahead. I know this nation. I know you, the American people. I know your courage. I know your hearts. And I know our history. This is a nation that honors our Constitution. We do not reject it. This is a nation that believes in the rule of law. We do not repudiate it. This is a nation that respects free and fair elections. We honor the will of the people. We do not deny it.

And this is a nation that rejects violence as a political tool. We do not encourage violence. We are still an America that believes in honesty and decency and respect for others, patriotism, liberty, justice for all, hope, possibilities. We are still, at our core, a democracy. And yet history tells us that blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to engage in political violence is fatal to democracy.

For a long time, we`ve told ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed, but it`s not. We have to defend it, protect it, stand up for it -- each and every one of us. That`s why tonight I`m asking our nation to come together, unite behind the single purpose of defending our democracy regardless of your ideology.

We`re all called, by duty and conscience, to confront extremists who will put their own pursuit of power above all else. Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans: We must be stronger, more determined, and more committed to saving American democracy than MAGA Republicans are to -- to destroying American democracy.

We, the people, will not let anyone or anything tear us apart. Today, there are dangers around us we cannot allow to prevail. We hear -- you`ve heard it -- more and more talk about violence as an acceptable political tool in this country. It`s not. It can never be an acceptable tool. So, I want to say this plain and simple. There is no place for political violence in America, period, none, ever.

We saw law enforcement brutally attacked on January the 6th. We`ve seen election officials, poll workers -- many of them volunteers of both parties -- subjected to intimidation and death threats. And can you believe it? FBI agents just doing their job as directed, facing threats to their own lives from their own fellow citizens.

On top of that, there are public figures today, yesterday, and the day before predicting and all but calling for mass violence and rioting in the streets. This is inflammatory. It`s dangerous. It`s against the rule of law. And we, the people, must say: This is not who we are.

Ladies and gentlemen, we can`t be pro- insurrectionist and pro-American. They`re incompatible. We can`t allow violence to be normalized in this country. It`s wrong. We each have to reject political violence with all the moral clarity and conviction this nation can muster. Now. We can`t let the integrity of our elections be undermined, for that is a path to chaos.


Look, I know politics can be fierce and mean and nasty in America. I get it. I believe in the give-and-take of politics, in disagreement and debate and dissent. We`re a big, complicated country. But democracy endures only if we, the people, respect the guardrails of the republic. Only if we, the people, accept the results of free and fair elections. Only if we, the people, see politics not as total war but mediation of our differences.

Democracy cannot survive when one side believes there are only two outcomes to an election: either they win or they were cheated. And that`s where MAGA Republicans are today. They don`t understand what every patriotic American knows. You can`t love your country only when you win. It`s fundamental. American democracy only works only if we choose to respect the rule of law and the institutions that were set up in this chamber behind me, only if we respect our legitimate political differences.

I will not stand by and watch -- I will not -- the will of the American people be overturned by wild conspiracy theories and baseless, evidence- free claims of fraud. I will not stand by and watch elections in this country stolen by people who simply refuse to accept that they lost.

I will not stand by and watch the most fundamental freedom in this country -- the freedom to vote and have your vote counted -- and be taken from you and the American people. Look, as your President, I will defend our democracy with every fiber of my being, and I`m asking every American to join me.

Throughout our history, America has often made the greatest progress coming out of some of our darkest moments, like you`re hearing in that bullhorn. I believe we can and we must do that again, and we are. MAGA Republicans look at America and see carnage and darkness and despair. They spread fear and lies. Lies told for profit and power.

But I see a very different America, an America with an unlimited future, an America that is about to take off. I hope you see it as well. Just look around. I believed we could lift America from the depths of COVID, so we passed the largest economic recovery package since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And today, America`s economy is faster, stronger than any other advanced nation in the world. We have more to go.

I believed we could build a better America, so we passed the biggest infrastructure investment since President Dwight D. Eisenhower. And we`ve now embarked on a decade of rebuilding the nation`s roads, bridges, highways, ports, water systems, high-speed Internet, railroads.

I believed we could make America safer, so we passed the most significant gun safety law since President Clinton. I believed we could go from being the highest cost of prescriptions in the world to making prescription drugs and healthcare more affordable, so we passed the most significant healthcare reforms since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act.

And I believed we could create -- we could create a clean energy future and save the planet, so we passed the most important climate initiative ever, ever, ever. The cynics and the critics tell us nothing can get done, but they are wrong. There is not a single thing America cannot do -- not a single thing beyond our capacity if we do it together. It`s never easy. But we`re proving that in America, no matter how long the road, progress does come.


Look, I know the last year -- few years have been tough. But today, COVID no longer controls our lives. More Americans are working than ever. Businesses are growing. Our schools are open. Millions of Americans have been lifted out of poverty. Millions of veterans once exposed to toxic burn pits will now get what they deserve for their families and the compensation.

American manufacturing has come alive across the Heartland, and the future will be made in America. No matter what the white supremacists and the extremists say. I made a bet on you, the American people, and that bet is paying off. Proving that from darkness -- the darkness of Charlottesville, of COVID, of gun violence, of insurrection -- we can see the light. Light is now visible. Light that will guide us forward not only in words, but in actions -- actions for you, for your children, for your grandchildren, for America.

Even in this moment, with all the challenges we face, I give you my word as a Biden: I`ve never been more optimistic about America`s future. Not because of me, but because of who you are. We`re going to end cancer as we know it. Mark my words. We are going to create millions of new jobs in a clean energy economy. We`re going to think big. We`re going to make the 21st century another American century because the world needs us to.

That`s where we need to focus our energy, not in the past, not on divisive culture wars, not on the politics of grievance, but on a future we can build together. The MAGA Republicans believe that for them to succeed, everyone else has to fail. They believe America -- not like I believe about America. I believe America is big enough for all of us to succeed, and that is the nation we`re building: a nation where no one is left behind.

I ran for President because I believed we were in a battle for the soul of this nation. I still believe that to be true. I believe the soul is the breath, the life, and the essence of who we are. The soul is what makes us "us." The soul of America is defined by the sacred proposition that all are created equal in the image of God. That all are entitled to be treated with decency, dignity, and respect. That all deserve justice and a shot at lives of prosperity and consequence. And that democracy -- democracy must be defended, for democracy makes all these things possible.

Folks, and it`s up to us. Democracy begins and will be preserved in we, the people`s, habits of heart, in our character: optimism that is tested yet endures, courage that digs deep when we need it, empathy that fuels democracy, the willingness to see each other not as enemies but as fellow Americans.

Look, our democracy is imperfect. It always has been. Notwithstanding those folks you hear on the other side there. They`re entitled to be outrageous. This is a democracy. But history and common sense -- good manners is nothing they`ve ever suffered from. But history and common sense tell us that opportunity, liberty, and justice for all are most likely to come to pass in a democracy.

We have never fully realized the aspirations of our founding, but every generation has opened those doors a little wider to include more people who have been excluded before. My fellow Americans, America is an idea --the most powerful idea in the history of the world. And it beats in the hearts of the people of this country. It beats in all of our hearts. It unites America. It is the American creed.

The idea that America guarantees that everyone be treated with dignity. It gives hate no safe harbor. It installs in everyone the belief that no matter where you start in life, there`s nothing you can`t achieve. That`s who we are. That`s what we stand for. That`s what we believe. And that is precisely what we are doing: opening doors, creating new possibilities, focusing on the future. And we`re only just beginning.

Our task is to make our nation free and fair, just and strong, noble and whole. And this work is the work of democracy -- the work of this generation. It is the work of our time, for all time. We can`t afford to have -- leave anyone on the sidelines. We need everyone to do their part. So speak up. Speak out. Get engaged. Vote, vote, vote.


And if we all do our duty -- if we do our duty in 2022 and beyond, then ages still to come will say we -- all of us here -- we kept the faith. We preserved democracy. We heeded our worst -- we heeded not our worst instincts but our better angels. And we proved that, for all its imperfections, America is still the beacon to the world, an ideal to be realized, a promise to be kept. There is nothing more important, nothing more sacred, nothing more American. That`s our soul. That`s who we truly are. And that`s who must -- we must always be.

And I have no doubt, none, that this is who we will be and that we`ll come together as a nation. That we`ll secure our democracy. That for the next 200 years, we`ll have what we had the past 200 years: the greatest nation on the face of the Earth. We just need to remember who we are. We are the United States of America. The United States of America.

And may God protect our nation. And may God protect all those who stand watch over our democracy. God bless you all. Democracy. Thank you.


HAYES: The President concluding his speech in about 25 minutes. They`re really striking image, all of it really, the sort of scenery, of course, the American flag behind him, the red lights, the Marines standing guard, the heckler yelling from a bullhorn, the police sirens, although the President at one point, pointed a heckler and saying yes, that`s what democracy is all about. Of course, they have a right to go and yell into the street.

It was the most pointed language about the faction of American politics devoted to both the ex-president and his authoritarian vision of rule or rune that has been offered by Joe Biden in the time that he has been either a candidate or the president. He talked about the guardrails of the Constitution, about MAGA Republicans not believing in the Constitution that they had a vision that either they won or they were cheated, that for them to succeed, everyone else would have to fail.

He talked about a kind of coalition of those of goodwill coming together to unite to defend democracy and the soul of America. For some reaction, I want to turn to someone whose job was to monitor the nation`s national security, one among many jobs he`s held. Shortly after 9/11, of course, we created the new huge governmental agency to protect the homeland.

A strange coinage at the time, though, it`s endured, the Department of Homeland Security. And while DHS initially focused on external threats, of course, in the wake of 9/11, they are now dealing with the rise in domestic extremism. In fact, the president one point talking about political violence, specifically and threats coming from within the U.S., as President Biden just mentioned.

My next guests used to run that department as Secretary of Homeland Security under President Obama and Jeh Johnson joins me now. It`s good to have you here.


HAYES: You`ve known the president for a very long time. Obviously, you served in the cabinet of the Obama administration. What do you think of the speech?

JOHNSON: That speech which I will call a soul of the nation speech was vintage Joe Biden. You could tell he believes -- the core of his being he believes in what he said. I would not be surprised if that speech was his idea. I would not be surprised if he wrote much of it himself. I would not be surprised to find that it`s been sitting in his desk drawer for quite some time and he`s been waiting for the right moment to give it.

His poll numbers are up a little bit, so that pressure is off in the wake of Mar-a-Lago in the wake of the attack on the FBI field office. I believe President Biden felt he had an obligation to give that speech. I thought it was notable that he mentioned Donald Trump by name, something he rarely does.

HAYES: Off the bat.


JOHNSON: I thought it was notable that he called out MAGA Republicans for not telling the truth, for not respecting the constitution, for not respecting the rule of law, and for not respecting the will of the people. It was a very blunt and direct speech. And I also thought to myself, as you give a speech like that, you have to walk a narrow path, calling out the dangers to our democracy. Also being an optimist about the future, not sounding like you`re giving a so-called malaise speech, which Americans don`t want to hear.

They want to hear from their leader, an optimistic tone, but also a degree of honesty about the dangers we face. And I thought the President did a good job of walking that line.

HAYES: I want to hone in on something specific about political violence. And I know we have our producers going through to see if they can cut some tape. He was very straight on about political violence. Violence is an acceptable political tool has no place, no place in American life. He said this on the day that the ex-president, and I`m not even going to play the sound, but the ex-President talked about offering full pardons to individuals involved in the January 6 insurrection. I mean, and apologies. I mean, basically quite a contrast.

On this day, the ex-president saying these people who engaged in a violent insurrection on my behalf, should I be reelected, will receive apologies and full pardons.


HAYES: And this President looking to the camera and saying political violence of all kinds is condemnable.

JOHNSON: Chris, if I were in office today as Secretary of Homeland Security, it might be my number one concern, that buoying just below the surface is a very large degree of unrest and a temptation toward violence. There are polls out that suggest that large percentages of Americans are prepared to resort to violence if they feel that the election was stolen.

There are large percentages of Americans who ascribe to the QAnon theory. And so, this is brewing just below the surface. And with the attack on the FBI, with the rhetoric, this President, he feels an obligation that I think a president should feel to take on this issue, call out the violence, call out the attacks on the institutions of his government, something that the last president ran away from, frankly, in the opposite direction.

And so, I think our president tonight assumed the role that you should, in times like this, by being honest, calling out the potential for violence, deploring it, condemning it, and getting so many of us who are in the middle, to really begin to think hard about this issue and where we are going as a -- as a country.

But this is this is a problem that is -- the domestic unrest that flies just below the surface that can boil over at any moment, like it did just a couple of weeks ago, and certainly on January 6th, is something that we cannot look away from. We have to take on directly.

HAYES: Let me play that just portion of the speech that Joe Biden just delivered in the city of Philadelphia talking about domestic -- political violence. Take a watch.


BIDEN: This is a nation that rejects violence as a political tool. We do not encourage violence. We are still in America that believes in honesty and decency, and respect for others, patriotism, liberty, justice for all, hope, possibilities. We are still, at our core, a democracy. And yet history tells us that blind loyalty to a single leader and a willingness to engage in political violence is fatal to democracy.

For a long time, we`ve told ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed, but it`s not. We have to defend it, protect it, stand up for it -- each and every one of us. That`s why tonight I`m asking our nation to come together, unite behind the single purpose of defending our democracy regardless of your ideology.


HAYES: That last part there was the sort of rhetorical thrusts of speech was to sort of isolate this faction, this minority faction.


HAYES: I think we would all agree the minority faction in American life that wants to see them essentially ended democracy as we know it.

JOHNSON: It`s a large minority.

HAYES: A large binary, exactly. Which is a tricky thing, right, because when you`re communicating to the country is the president, when you`re talking about, in this case, I think probably tens of millions of people, right?


HAYES: Who hears your message what way? How do you think he walked that line?

JOHNSON: I think that his remarks were directed at those Americans who are independent, those Americans who are Republicans who are not so-called MAGA Republicans who are not prone to go down this rabbit hole, the corollary to that speech, in my view is to call out those public officials, those of us with a microphone and a public voice to be responsible in our rhetoric. People really do listen to their leaders and through our rhetoric. Those in office, those who are not in office, through our rhetoric, we have the ability to make unacceptable behavior acceptable, and for those who are deranged, violence and inevitable.


So, a corollary to that is the thought that public officials, public figures on TV, like yourself, who hold office have a responsibility to the reasonable in their rhetoric because you do make violence inevitable if you stir up this kind of hatred and suspicion.

HAYES: I think that`s very true. Jeh Johnson, i`s really wonderful to have you here, to watch that speech, and to react with us. I really appreciate you coming in.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

HAYES: We`re going to go back to Independence Hall in Philadelphia where NBC News White House Correspondent Mike Memoli watched the President deliver his speech on the threats facing the nation. Mike, tell us about the impetus. Jeh Johnson was just talking about this being very much of a vintage Biden speech and something he wanted to give, feel strongly about the impetus for tonight`s address.

MEMOLI: Well, Chris, I really thought this was a fascinating bit of presidential stagecraft and rhetoric in this most American of settings. The building where the founding documents of this country were written, Joe Biden, President Biden, talked about the America that he knows, and in a very, at one point, even almost explicit way try to separate what he said was the vast majority of the American people with a distinct minority, albeit a potent one, which is essentially un-American.

And for Joe Biden, as somebody I`ve covered a long time, and Chris, you know, that`s quite a statement. This is somebody who has, over the course of his career been criticized for his relationships with Republicans, and even with some Democrats whose views many consider to be objectionable. We remember the role that this played in the primary.

But as I was preparing for this speech, and talking to White House officials and others, I thought an interesting insight came from Jeff Nussbaum, who recently left the White House as a speechwriter, but was writing speeches for this president as far back as the 2008 campaign. He said, President Biden was not naA_ve. He knew that his election alone would not drive a stake into the heart of Trumpism. But he really, over the course of his two years in office almost, was increasingly dismayed by the fact that Republicans elected Republicans who are still very clearly under the thumb of Donald Trump.

And you heard the President for the second time in three days refer to his longtime friend from the Senate, Lindsey Graham. And as Biden put it tonight, predicting all perhaps even encouraging violence in the streets should the prosecution, for instance, of the former president, go ahead.

And so, what the president did tonight was very plainly as he said, beginning his speech, put that stark contrast before the American people but ended in that Joe Biden congenital optimist way with what he said is his optimism for the future of the country, building on the successes. And he laid them out the legislative wins over the course of his time in office, and then put the choice before voters saying they need to do our duty in the months ahead to preserve this democracy, Chris.

HAYES: Mike Memoli, thank you so much for that. I noted too -- it wasn`t by name, but the Lindsey Graham shout out was fascinating, given the history of those two -- those two men. Thank you, Mike.

Here at the table with me tonight, Maya Wiley, civil rights attorney, former Assistant U.S. Attorney, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition on civil rights organizations. Elie Mystal, justice correspondent for The Nation. It`s good to have you here.

The sort of wedge approach, right, that`s the key point here is like popular front coalition in defense of American democracy against its enemies who are a sizable but minority factions in American life. How effectively do you think he did that?

MAYA WILEY, CEO, LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE ON CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS: Well, I think he made the choice very stark and clear. He did two things, I think, in his speech which one was to say, I`m not talking about all Republicans, I`m talking about MAGA Republicans and making that distinction because what he was saying is those who oppose rights, those who oppose the rule of law, those who believe in the big lie that there`s election fraud and therefore want to win when they`ve lost and violently take over the country, is actually what we`re fighting against. And I think that is a recognition that there`s a majority of the country that understands that`s wrong and that`s bad.

And at the same time, I found it fascinating that while he made references to race, he made references to equality to the fight for abolition in part of that speech, that so much of the big lie was actually driven by white ethno nationalism, when we talking about white supremacy, we`re talking about what has driven the lie which is the fear of the fact that we are a plural democracy.


HAYES: He did use the term white supremacist once towards the end and did mention that which I`m -- `

ELIE MYSTAL, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: Yes, I don`t know who the it`s not all Republicans, just MAGA Republicans are for. Like, I`m sure that there are some white supremacists who will vote with white supremacists who don`t think they`re white supremacist, we`re happy that Biden didn`t call them a white supremacist, but like, it`s not for me.

What was for me, and you mentioned this already, but this is I think a really great bet where he says to the heckler, that dude, that man, that person on the other side is entitled to be outraged.

HAYES: Totally.

MYSTAL: And that to me, that is the difference between Biden and Trump. That is the difference between me and Ginni Thomas. That is the difference between Democrats and Republicans, because Republicans right now would have that heckler be beaten.

HAYES: Right.

MYSTAL: They would say that heckler --

HAYES: I don`t know all Republicans, but Donald Trump.

MYSTAL: Donald Trump would certainly --

HAYES: Certainly has a record for saying that.

MYSTAL: Right? And Lindsey Graham would be like, OK, boss. Like that`s how they are at this point, right? And so, when Biden says that heckler is entitled to be outrageous, how can you hear that, understand what he meant? You heard the whole time, he was -- that guy was yelling into the microphone. How can you hear Biden say that and not understand about the critical difference between both parties at this point?

HAYES: Yes, it was an interesting moment because it was a sort of democracy in action, right? Like, literally the definition of a free society is one which you can get a bullhorn yell at the President, like almost definitionally. Maya Wiley, Elie Mystal, stick around.

Coming up, after the sitting President warns the looming threat from his predecessor, presidential historian Michael Beschloss joins me next.


BIDEN: Democracy cannot survive when one side believes there are only two outcomes to an election. Either they win, or they were cheated. And that`s where the MAGA Republicans are today. They don`t understand what every patriotic American knows. You can`t love your country only when you win.





BIDEN: The soul of America is defined by the sacred proposition that all are created equal in the image of God, that all are entitled to be treated with decency, dignity, and respect, that all deserve justice in a shot at lives of prosperity and consequence, and that democracy, democracy must be defended for democracy makes all these things possible.


HAYES: President Joe Biden just delivered an argument on behalf of American democracy as we saw there. The speech in response to the acute threat Donald Trump and what he called MAGA Republicans continued to present to the future of the American experiment following his attempted coup and as they quite openly pledged to and plot another.

Biden was reportedly inspired by part -- in part by a recent closed door meeting with a group of historians warmed him the dangerous moment for the future of our democracy. According to The Washington Post, the group "painted the current moment as among the most perilous in modern history, democratic governance. Comparisons were made the years before the 1860 election when Abraham Lincoln warned that a house divided itself against itself cannot stand. In the lead up to the 1940 election when President FDR battled rising domestic sympathy for European fascism and resistance, the U.S. joining World War II."

Michael Beschloss is a presidential historian who was in that private meeting with President Biden, and he joins me now. You know, Michael, it struck me that much of the rhetoric there was familiar. It was in the sort of main corpus of the American creed right about, stay down the hill, but that the specific purpose that it was called towards, which is defending American democracy against his enemies was rather unique. And I wonder if you could think of a precedent here or an analogue in other presidential rhetoric?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yes, I can. And you know, you mentioned this meeting that historians had with President Biden a couple of weeks ago that I was there, but five outside people. And, by the way, just so this doesn`t seem too secretive and furtive, these seminars are ones that presidents have had at least back to George W. Bush -- George HW Bush, Bush 41. And I`ve been at most of them, with the exception of Donald Trump during the Trump years that did not ever go to the White House, by my own design.

And, you know, here`s the case. What we talked about was just as you just mentioned, Chris 1860. And someone who`s an historian, like you, you know all this. 1860, this country was in big jeopardy. It was splitting apart, House divided, slavery or non-slavery. And Lincoln cast the election of 1860 by saying, the House can`t stand half slavery and half free. We`ve got to choose.

1940 when Franklin Roosevelt was running for a third term, just as you just mentioned, Roosevelt didn`t say the paramount issue this year is the minimum wage, although that was pretty important, or you know, whether Texans get an oil depletion allowance or something like this. He said, look, these are all important. But what is really at stake at this moment is whether our children are going to get to live in an American democracy, especially with Hitler and the fascists looming in Europe and marching.


So, I said, and the other said, I`m happy to be transparent about it to President Biden in the Map Room, this is like 1860, this is like 1940. You know, you have to talk about the large issue in the room. And just as, as Lincoln gave the House Divided speech, just as Roosevelt gave a speech on the State of the Union about the four freedoms as you well know, 1941, here is the time when President Biden has chosen.

And by the way, we didn`t help him write this speech. I don`t give political advice, nor did any of the rest of us. And good thing it would be pretty sad because we`re not equipped to do that. But the point is that he realized that this is an historic moment. And what you -- what you heard, I think comes out of that.

HAYES: Yes, you know, it strikes me too, Michael. I wonder, just to follow up on that, the degree -- and Mike Memoli talked about this before, the trajectory of his understanding of where things are. I mean, I think there was some hope I think that he had. I didn`t have a ton of it that that part of American politics would sort of be vanquished and kind of smolder out, that the President might be sort of sideline that of course, now, there`s tremendous peril. We`re facing down the barrel of a constitutional crisis and, you know, Pennsylvania, Arizona, right? I mean, just right there like, frankly, in front of your face. And I do wonder how much that has caught him by surprise, or at least has forced him to reassess his priors?

BESCHLOSS: Well, I think he would have hoped that it didn`t happen. But I think all of us now see that this was just -- not just Trumpism. If Trump got off the stage tomorrow, and that may happen for all sorts of reasons, this movement will still be there that is against the rule of law and against free elections, and from my point of view, against public safety. Those are the elements of democracy.

And what Biden is basically saying is, there are two big movements in this country. One is mine, I want to defend this democracy. The other is a movement that is not in favor of those things necessarily. And you may lose them if you vote for them.

HAYES: Michael, I want you to stay with me? I want to also bring in Claire McCaskill, former Democratic senator from Missouri. Here at the table, Maya Wiley, and Elie Mystal. It`s great to have you both here. Let me play this bit, Claire, and I want to get your response to it because it`s there was a little bit of like, will he or won`t he talked about Donald Trump. It would -- it would be -- this is the sought seven which is Biden talking about the MAGA threat. Take a listen. This is at the near top of the speech.

In it, he talks about the present United States and the MAGA Republicans the threat they represent. And I think it`s a -- it`s an interesting line to kind of walk for any president. Of course, the sort of basket of deplorables kind of haunts all this -- all this rhetoric. So, take a listen to how he addressed it. I want to get your response on the backside. Go ahead.


BIDEN: Too much of what`s happening in our country today is not normal. Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic. Now, I want to be very clear, very clear up front, not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology. I know because I`ve been able to work with these mainstream Republicans. But there is no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans, and that is a threat to this country.


HAYES: What do you think about Claire?

CLAIRE MCCASKILL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it`s pretty clear to me, Chris, that they have made a decision that they want to isolate the 30 to 35 percent of Americans that are all-in with Donald Trump. It is not unusual to see in all of the polling across the board that about 25 percent of the Republican, self-identifying Republicans are not with Donald Trump. They don`t think he`s was a good president. They don`t want him to run again. And that is who Joe Biden is making a play for here.

If he solidifies the majority of independent voters in this country and peels off anywhere from 10 to 20 percent. of self-identified Republicans, the Democrats will have comfortable majorities not just in the Midterms, but they`ll stay in the White House in 2024. That`s what this speech was about. And I thought the most important contrast of the speech was what happened today.

At the beginning of the day, you had Donald Trump say he was going to pardon everyone who committed political violence against Capitol Police officers and desecrating the Capitol on January 6. At the end of the day, you had Joe Biden saying we have to reject that kind of violence. It has no place in this country. It was quite a contrast.


HAYES: Yes, it`s a good point. And on that -- you know, on the sort of electoral math here, right? Like, clearly that is what hangs over this. We`ve seen improve political standing among independents for the President. We`ve seen his approval rating, we see Democrats doing better, particularly in the (INAUDIBLE) and not just in polling, which I think all of us have been burned by enough times that are very skeptical.

I see people posting like, oh, so he`s up eight points in this August. I don`t know. But in special elections where actual people actually vote, we saw this and Alaska of all places. It`s a really surprising result. So, something`s clearly going on. I guess my question is, you know, this, this polling that NBC News did threats to democracy near the top of the list. That`s -- we`ve been covering, it has been surprising to me. Just how effective a political motivator Do you think it is?

WILEY: Look, I think it is critically important when people know it`s going to impact their daily lives. And that`s what political violence is. I mean, what January 6 represented was these boots on the ground, the foot soldiers that were showing up for Donald Trump in plan formation are the same people right now that there are Republican lawmaker called out in Arizona to be vigilantes in order to guard drop -- you know, ballot boxes. From what? That`s voter intimidation designed to make it scarier to do that.

That`s Gillespie, Texas where we have three elect county election folks actually quitting because of the threats of violence against them, just as we saw with Black women in Georgia. So, this is actually something that is real that people feel, and that is relevant to their daily lives, not just to some political rhetoric about democracy.

MYSTAL: Part of -- part of what I want to say is that, you know, welcome White people to what Black people have experienced in this country for 200 years, right? Because political -- Joe Biden said tonight that political violence is never the answer. Well, political violence has always been the answer from White supremacist when they don`t get their way.

If we go back to 1860, as Michael Beschloss just said, yes, Lincoln gave the great speech, a house divided, right? And then he put -- and then he won the election. And then white supremacist rejected that winning. They call themselves Democrats then. They call themselves MAGA Republicans now, but white supremacists rejected the results of a free and fair democratic election in 1860 and started a war.

So, I go back to Biden speech which was generally great to call -- to call these people out. But when he says he will not stand by and watch as elections are stolen, and watch as people`s voting rights are taken, well, he -- that what does he mean by that because those rights are being taken?

HAYES: Claire, what do you think about the prospects now for these midterms given everything that we`ve seen over the last -- over this summer, which I think is really been kind of head-snapping in some ways because it all -- the cake seem very baked, right? I mean, the structural factors, the history, the gas prices, all of it. We`re in a new terrain now. How do you see it right now?

MCCASKILL: I think -- I think it`s a jump ball. And I think anybody who is watching tonight needs to realize that there`s lots of people that need to volunteer. And there`s lots of people that need to try to find five or $10 to give to their favorite candidate. It is not a done deal.

I will say this. I talk to a lot of people in the state that is pretty darn red and women of America are on fire, about the Dobbs decision. And they are not going to take it sitting down. And I think you`re seeing that in many, many ways already. And it`s my guess that you`ll see it big time first Tuesday in November.

HAYES: One of the most striking moments in this -- it sort of dovetails perfectly, the President did talk about Dobbs today. Michigan Republicans on a basically ministerial canvass board today, blocking a million petitions for a state vote on abortion rights, blocking it. Not -- they don`t want -- I mean, talk about a tell, right?

Both -- I mean, here you have the both issues coming together, right, the democracy issue, which is these functionaries on a state board pre texturally blocking a million petitions in violation of what state law is, and at the same time, to Claire`s point, they don`t want it on the ballot. And you know what? They`re right to not wanting it on the ballot if you`re trying to get folks elected. Michael Beschloss, thank you so much for lending us your expertise this evening, as well as you Claire McCaskill, Maya Wiley, Elie Mystal here at the table. I appreciate you both being here.

That is ALL IN on this Thursday night. "ALEX WAGNER TONIGHT" starts right now. Good evening, Alex.

ALEX WAGNER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Great coverage as always.