IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Biden (D-DE) on defense over civil rights. TRANSCRIPT: 6/28/19, The Beat w/ Ari Melber.

Guests: Basil Smikel, Sally Kohn, Brittney Cooper, Julia Ioffe, MadeleineAlbright, Jess Morales Rocketto, Matt Welch, Daniel Franzese, MelissaEtheridge>

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: From Stanford University, former Mitt Romney Policy Director, thanks for coming in, you guys. Dan (ph), Jen (ph), Doug (ph), thank you for bailing me out today. Trust me. We`ll be back Monday with more MEET THE PRESS DAILY and if it`s Sunday on your local NBC station. We`re going to look at the fallout from the Democratic Presidential debates. Candidates` strategies from there. Among my guests will be two candidates who had good debate nights. Cory Booker and Julian Castro.

"THE BEAT" with Ari Melber starts right now.

Good evening Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Welcome back after your few busy week Chuck. Thank you.

TODD: Thank you Sir and glad to see you back in your set.

MELBER: Everybody was flying today. Congratulations on all the hard work and we`ll be watching this Sunday.

TODD: Thank you Sir. Thank you brother.

MELBER: We have a very special Friday show plan for you. Let me tell you why, number one, the fallout from last night`s debate and wait till you hear how many Americans actually watched plus what is it mean when all 10 Democrats endorse health care for undocumented immigrants, a shift in the party as the Supreme Court makes news today taking a new case on dreamers.

Important stuff. Also while many are knocking Donald Trump`s comments about election meddling today, we have a special report on the President making common rhetorical cause with putting over a "getting rid of journalists." Not normal and we`re scrutinizing and later in the hour, the one and only Melissa Etheridge is our special guest for a Fall Back Friday.

So I would argue we have a lot tonight. Well, we begin with the debate that you can now see what`s happening in America. We can clearly report that we are at the start of the Democrats 2020 race. Think about it like this. Before this week, most Americans had not heard from any of these democratic candidates for any extended amount of time and polls show that even most self-identified Democrats said they just were watching this race yet.

Well, that just changed. 20 Democrats marching on the stages this week and there were some you may have heard who criticized the D and C for letting these debates get sort of too large supposedly. Well, voters didn`t seem to mind because tonight we just got these figures and learn this was the most watched Democratic debate ever.

More than 18 million people watching, another 9 million streaming it. And they saw a party that`s clearly moving left on immigration healthcare and they saw new faces like Pete Buttigieg who was addressing a police shooting in his home town during the debate and they also saw new approaches with Marianne Williamson speaking the language of spirituality and love and how she thinks Dems should run against Trump.

And they saw new alternatives like Senator Warren blending a kind of a wonkish pragmatism with fiery economic liberalism. And then people also saw a civil rights clash that could echo long past last night.

Joe Biden found himself today defending his record after that Kamala Harris. He was speaking at an event with Jesse Jackson.


JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I heard and I listened to and I respect Senator Harris. But you know, we all know that 30 seconds to 60 seconds on the campaign debate exchange can`t do justice to a lifetime committed to civil rights.

I fought my heart out to ensure that civil rights and voting rights, equal rights aren`t forced everywhere. It`s a constitutional question to protect the civil rights of every single American and that`s always been my position.


MELBER: That is what Joe Biden looks like on defense. Here`s what Kamala Harris looks like setting the tone. Today, she was not explaining herself. She was doubling down on that debate moments sharing this picture captioned simply, "That little girl was me," teeing off this moment that many say defined this widely watched debate.


TODD: We`re going to get to you. Hang on. We`re going to get to you.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: On this stage I would like to speak on the issue of race. And I will say also that in this campaign, we have also heard and I`m going to now direct this to Vice President Biden. I do not believe you are racist and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground.

But I also believe and it is personal and I was actually very - it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country. And it was not only that but you also worked with them to oppose busing.

And you know there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public school and she was bussed to school every day. And that little girl was me.


MELBER: It was quite a moment. So what was Senator Harris doing? Well, first, she was defining her personal story as the embodiment of America`s progress on civil rights. That`s a delicate but ultimately accurate political project for her. It`s a style perfected by the last Democrat to occupy the Oval office, Barack Obama.

Second, she increased the stakes of Biden`s recent gap making it about more than just maybe poorly chosen words linking his apparent nostalgia for the democratic caucus` yester years to a tangible confrontation over civil rights remedies.

Harris arguing it`s one thing to talk about civil rights, another to act on the challenges of integration, education and bussing. And third, let`s be clear. Harris did what many deaf politicians do. She simplified and defined Biden into a corner, even at the cost of some policy nuance.

The civil rights and legal challenges with busing are not binary. Skepticism toward certain busing programs isn`t the same as skepticism toward all integration. That`s why civil rights leaders like former NAACP leader, Derrick Bell who is by the way, the first time black professor at Harvard Law ultimately concluded that mandatory desegregation and busing did not automatically benefits civil rights.

Writing that they can be advantageous, relevant or disadvantageous. That was in 1976. And that debate was roiling long before the Supreme Court narrowed how public schools are even legally allowed to use race to integrate in a 2007 decision which changes what you can do today and that didn`t come up yet last night.

Both Harris and Biden know all of that. They know everything I just said because they are skilled and experienced attorneys as well as politicians. And I think they know their positions may not be as far apart as they appear on the stage last night.

But they also appear to both recognise that Harris has the upper hand right now because with the without that nuance Harris is arguing that she is going after Joe Biden for something she views as very real. And that she stitched together several of his vulnerabilities, not only his record or his age or the age of his ideas but her argument that he has an apparent nostalgia for good old days that many in today`s Democratic Party would much rather leave behind.

Let`s get right to the big conversation. I`m joined by Brittney Cooper, Professor at Rutgers, political commentator activist, Sally Kohn and Basil Smike, the former director of the New York Democratic Party and a Democratic strategist. Thanks to all of you for being here.

Your view of what happened and whether that moment will last.

BRITTNEY COOPER, PROFESSORS, RUTGERS UNIVERISTY: It absolutely will last. Joe Biden deserved to be challenged. There are two issues here. One is the issue of how he takes care of and will take care of black voters and issues around race. We can get into the granular debates about the failures of integration and there have been many and whether busing was the most proper remedy for dealing with generations of African American children pushed out of public schools.

I think that`s a reasonable debate and I think that we don`t have to take Kamala Harris` endorsement of busing in her own life as the beacon of where we should go because that actually isn`t the point. What she was saying one of your policies have real world impacts on actual people and because if you had won your debate then I might not be standing on this stage.

And that`s something that white folks are going to have to reckon that the way in which they have been anodyne and that they have often been cowards on issues of civil rights, has real world impacts about who gets to lead the country today. What we needed Biden to do if he wants to really be in this fight is to say, I categorically condemn people who were anti- immigration - anti-integration.

I categorically condemn them and condemn the ways that they limited life chances for black students and also want to say that this was a policy debate, not actually debate about what kind of life chances I want you to have. He is terrible about getting the moral argument right and that makes him feel equivocal to the American voter in a way that it makes him not trustworthy.

BASIL SMIKEL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yes, listen, it was a powerful moment masterfully executed. You know, there are a lot of folks that you know sort of looking at it and say well, he was prepared and so on but the truth is that Kamala Harris was prepared. This was a specific strategic decision to go after him in this way.

It was it was done very, very well and what I`ve said is look, she has essentially taken his message, I can work with anyone because that`s essentially what he`s saying and twisting it. She took the years of experience that he`s had, she took all of the statue that he`s had within the party, embraced it and then in the same breath used it against him, that was incredible.

MELBER: Did she need busing to do that and how accurate was she in your view on the - on the civil rights content of the complex busing?

SMIKEL: Quite frankly, she could have used a lot of things. He has gone to subsequent since then and talked about his record--

MELBER: She could have but I`m asking you about the busing part.

SMIKEL: Well, look, I absolutely agree with what was said. I think there are a lot of people that cut busing very differently and thank you for using Derrick Bell. He`s actually an intellectual hero of mine.

MELBER: Derrick Bell is widely known as a G, a law school G.

SMIKEL: He is.

SALLY KOHN, AUTHOR, THE OPPOSITE OF HATE: He is my common law professor.

COOPER: I mean and you know, I mean and he left Harvard because they wouldn`t - African-Americans.

MELBER: So well, now since we`re getting into it, Derrick Bell is someone who is unassailable on this. He fought for women of color to get tenure at Harvard and when they wouldn`t do it, gave up his Harvard--

KOHN: Can we clarify that Biden - on the time period we`re talking about in his record, Biden said that desegregation is not the same thing as integration and he spoke out against integration and that was not one gaffe, that was not one statement that was an op-eds, that was in speeches so this really isn`t about busing, this is about busing as a remedy for integration.

MELBER: I`m going to moderate a little bit. To that point, Senator Harris though made it about busing and explicitly his position on busing. There`s many things we can debate and talk about.

COOPER: Yes but it was a symbol of his position on integration and on civil rights and whether we can trust that he`s going to govern in a way that benefits all Americans and I actually think Derrick Bell would have a problem with the idea that we should give him points.

We should give Biden points because of the - because of the debates and disagreements about busing.

MELBER: Let me be clear and then ill hand he mic. Let me be clear.

COOPER: Bell would absolutely be on the side of black women having access to education.

MELBER: Let me be clear then I`ll hand the mic back to you. I am not saying or reporting that Derrick Bell gives Biden any points, indeed the late Derrick Bell isn`t here to give anyone any points but I am pointing out that there was nuance at the time in the seventies even within the core and NAACP and impact litigation separate from whether this was oh my God, we should do court ordered busing in every city.

So having said that, it still remains the question you raised which is what - where does Biden stand for today`s Democratic Party.

COOPER: Well, also that Biden is often on the wrong side of history on major issues. He was on the wrong side of history with Anita Hill. He was on the wrong side of history with the Crime bill. He was on the wrong side of history with the Iraq war and the challenge is that what people are asking him to do is say, as a career politician, will you reckon with your record and be willing to say there are places where I screwed up and in this moment I would think in a more progressive and thoughtful way about how we educate African-American children.

He could say that and he keeps leaving opportunities on the table and making it about his ego.

SMIKEL: One - I`m sorry, this is the thing about having the record that he does when you have this long resume, you have to explain it to people that don`t know you and when you`re explaining you`re losing so that`s why it always seems like he`s just kind of back on his heels, over and over and over again.

At the end of the day, I actually don`t know whether or not he loses African-American support as a result of this, in and of itself but over time all of these little - not so little but all of these gaps, all of these moments where he could turn the message around and say you know what, this was where I was, but this is where I am because this is where we are today as America.

He hasn`t seemed to be able to make that pivot and over time, that`s the challenge that his campaign is going to have to address. Otherwise he`s going to - he`s going to lose all of the support.

MELBER: Oh, I think you both put it so well and the professor talks about the time machine part, right? That if it`s one incident that may be nuance but when you add them together over the decades, he would appear to have a bigger problem at least in today`s Democratic Party.

COOPER: Absolutely.

MELBER: Let me play a little bit of Joe Biden last night because the calendar that he`s interested in is post 2008, he`s not interested in the crime bill. The super predators, take a look.


BIDEN: To characterize my position across the board, I did not trace racist that is not true, number one. Number two, if we want to have this campaign litigated on who supports civil rights, whether I did or not, I`m happy to do that.

I was a public defender, I didn`t become a prosecutor.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Force in South Bend is now 6% black in a city that is 26% black. Why has that not improved over your two terms as a mayor?

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because I couldn`t get it done. My community is in anguish right now because of an officer involved--

BIDEN: The quickest fastest way to do is to build on Obamacare, to build on what we did. During the Obama Biden administration. I think it`s so underestimated what Barack Obama did. President Obama, I think did a heck of a job.


MELBER: We went through a couple of moments last night but the key one being name-checking Obama.

COOPER: Yes absolutely. He`s trying to run as the addendum to Obama. The challenge for all of that is that we have moved past the Obama years. Trump has reset the territory here. He actually - I think the real challenge for Biden is that he wasn`t expecting to have to contend with the Left leaning Democratic Party and he`s hoping that Americans will play the safe bet and he`s trying to argue that he`s the safe bet.

And this is why he deserves to be pushed. We want a President that is actually going to reinvigorate a progressive agenda and right now nothing about Biden is looking particularly progressive other than the fact that he was Obama`s Vice President.

KOHN: You know, I think that moment between Kamala Harris and Biden was important for this election because it ruptured this notion of electability, right? Going into this, the reason, we`ve talked to people why they like Biden, it`s not necessarily his policies, it`s not necessarily his baggage, not even his personality. We think he can win. Well, last night she sure seemed like the one who would be unruffled by a Trump.

She was collected and thoughtful and prosecutorial and powerful and he was sure ruffled. He got defensive, he was fumbling for his words in that moment which he should have been prepared for so I think in election, it really ruptures that and puts electability on the table.

Now the other reason that conversation was important is for the country and I think that what we want to see now, look, don`t get me wrong, Trump`s base, they are fine with the guy who says these horrific things and does these horrific things and never apologizes.

But thank God Democrats and I think the majority of Americans want to see people who grow and learn and change so it`s not that you can`t be forgiven for the Crime bill or for the racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, whatever you`ve got in your past.

But learn and grow and change, right? Transform, say this is how I learned, this is how I become better because we grow and change and improve as a people and hopefully as a country. And we`re not seeing that from Biden.

And I think that`s more consequential than this election. That`s a bad role model for where we need to be going as a nation.

SMIKEL: If we could jump out a little bit as well. Let`s go to Mayor Pete for a second. You know when he was asked about the representation of his Police Department, he has 26% African-American city and 6% African-American Police Department. He said, well, I couldn`t get it done in terms of increasing that.

You know and I left that in thinking to myself, but did you try? Because that is a massive disparity there. I think the overall - the point that I would make to sort of bring that together with Biden here is that you cannot come to this debates in the age in 2019 and be race neutral and get away with a lot of the rhetoric that you used before.

I`m good, I tried but I just couldn`t get it done. It`s just - the stakes are too high.

MELBER: Well, I will say in fairness if you were a small town mayor and you`re not getting the job done in your city obviously sometimes you just have to go off and run for President. I mean, that`s--

SMIKEL: That`s what - that`s what you do.

COOPER: That is the fundamental assumption of white make media that when I fail, I should fail up.

SMIKEL: And while we are on this topic of privilege--

KOHN: Beto.

SMIKEL: Exactly right. Because I will tell you all of the conversation about him and I said we can he ever live up to the expectations of him running - having run the Senate race and then being launched into this Presidential race and I kept saying well, why not Andrew Gillum, why not Stacey Abrams? And they look rather pressured right now by staying out because I actually think he did a lot of damage to himself and you get back to this question of maybe he should have actually run for Senate instead of running for President this year.

So it also again reinforces this point that we can`t just accept you and say, you`re going to get all the support, you speak a certain way and you carry yourself a certain way and so my God, we have to support, doesn`t work that way.

MELBER: Right and part of what you`re talking about is where the Democratic electorate is, is it feeling real chill and nice and laid back or is it feeling like there`s work to be done to and the right people have to be picked and it`s going to be a competitive primary. This was a fascinating and really deep conversation so my thanks to Brittney, Sally and Basil, appreciate it.

Up ahead Donald Trump says, let`s give it a journalist while he`s right stood by Putin, we`ll show you that. Also fresh off the debate is 2020 Dems at a migrant detention center and reactions to the debate that you have not seen yet, we don`t think including coverage from around the world.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the spin room where candidates come post- debate to redirect their failures or compound their successes.



MELBER: All eyes on Miami and tonight 50 years after - private edition of Fall Back Friday with Melissa Etheridge and Daniel Franzese. I`m Ari Melber, you`re watching THE BEAT on MSNBC.


MELBER: Here`s something else that happened today. The President of your country talking to the leader of Russia about that country meddling in our elections. Take a look.


REPORTER: Mr. President, will you tell Russia not to meddle in the 2020 election?

DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, of course I will. Don`t meddle in the election, President. Don`t meddle in the election.


MELBER: Don`t meddle in the election but this leads to another dynamic on display. Donald Trump has long said everything regarding this Russian meddling is basically fake news. But today he shares this joke with Putin about their dislike of the press. Watch this moment that`s caught on camera by Russian state media.

This was before the United States pool cameras were even rolling.


TRUMP: Fake news, great term, isn`t it? You don`t have that problem in Russia, we have that problem, you don`t have that problem.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT, RUSSIA: Yes, yes, we have, we have it too, it`s the same.


MELBER: Little camaraderie there. Reuters reporting that moments before the exchange, Trump joked with Putin about journalists and said, "You could get rid of them." Now, let`s be clear, the President may say he`s bonding or joking but for Putin this is no joke.

26 journalists mysteriously killed since Putin took office in 1999. So what are Americans to make of this. What does this mean? Julie Ioffe is a Russia expert. You may have seen her on our air, she`s correspondent with GQ.

How you doing?


MELBER: I`m great, I want to ask you all about this, it seems pretty unusual to say the least for a President to be joking with a leader whose credibly accused of this kind of mistreatment so you stay with me and we`ll have the combo in 30 seconds?

IOFFE: Sure.

MELBER: Okay, we`ll be back in 30.


MELBER: And I`m back with Julia Ioffe discussing the President joking around about getting rid of journalists. Julia, when you look at that moment, does it matter?

IOFFE: Oh, absolutely, and it matters because it`s not you know, it`s not a one off and I can`t say it`s a joke for our President. You know, he`s talked about the press - constantly talked about the American being the enemies of the people. He incites his fans and supporters to boo the press at his rallies.

He has stood by Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia despite his obvious connection to the murder of Saudi journalist, and oppositionist Jamal Khashoggi and I think you know, he has said this for example, about Kim Jong-un of North Korea that you know, when he speaks, his people sit up and listen.

I think he and his Ambassador said about Viktor Orban of Hungary that he - that Donald Trump would like to see an environment like this in the U.S. where the states weren`t fake news and anything remotely unfavorable about, writing or covering anything remotely unfavorable about Donald Trump.

But you know just giving him the kind of glowing coverage that Kim Jong-un gets, that Vladimir Putin gets, that MBS gets at home so I think he`s expressing a desire there and he knows he`s speaking to a guy who has accomplished this goal very brutally.

MELBER: Exactly. You mentioned the Saudis. Madeleine Albright of course former Secretary of State spoke out about that very point today, take a look.


MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I also think it`s absolutely essential for the President of United States to make clear to the leaders of Saudi Arabia that they cannot obviously go, murdering people but also just generally on human rights and I don`t understand again, how President Trump finds more solace in meeting with authoritarian leaders and making fun of and insulting our friends.


MELBER: Given your work, looking in other countries and foreign policies, walk us through what is the tension here because on the one hand, Donald Trump is less hawkish than other many leaders in both parties, certainly ran on that, certainly so far less military interventionist than say the Bush administration and yet on the flip side, there is this incredibly cold support for human rights abuse and murderous regimes.

IOFFE: Although I would - I would say that you know he his administration has certainly really ramped up tensions with Iran, sending more troops to the region but you know, let`s leave that aside for a second.

I think he just has an affinity for these strong men. I mean, Putin is also a special case because at this point he knows, he`s been briefed on the intelligence. Now we`ve all been briefed on the intelligence. He knows that Vladimir Putin helped him win the election, that Vladimir Putin has been gunning for him and more.

So of course he`s his fan but even without that I think he has shown an affinity for and a kind of camaraderie and understanding of people like Duterte of Philippines, Erdogan of Turkey, Orban of Hungary, Xi Jinping of China, Kim Jong-un of North Korea. These guys who rule with an iron fist, who never get criticized which our President also has a hard time with.

Who just you know, their wish - these leaders wishes are their underlings commands and their countries` commands and there`s no pesky Congress to get in the way and no court to get in the way. He - you know and these people also run their countries like a family business.

And I think he - they`re kind of the people he wants to be. They`re kind of aspirational friends I would say.

MELBER: Aspirational friends as you say, he`s showing us quite blatantly, publicly, it`s no secret that there is a thirst for as you put it this sort of family business graft and authoritarian impulses of these other places. People can make of that what they will. Julia Ioffe, a reporter who`s written a lot about this stuff, thank you.

IOFFE: You`re welcome.

MELBER: Appreciate it. Now we have a lot more on the show. 50 years after the Stonewall riots, musician Melissa Etheridge makes her big debut, a private edition of Fall back at the end of the hour but first, 2020 Democrats visiting this Migrant Detention Center for kids as Donald Trump faces allegations of abuse and a focus on all those immigration promises from the stage, last night. We`re going to get into all of that when we come back.


MELBER:  When debates work, they show where people stand.  Last night, Biden, Harris, and some other Democrats clearly stood in a different place than Obama or Clinton when it comes to how to deal with the problem or the challenge of the undocumented.

Take this moment that`s getting a lot of play as for a show of hands about giving health coverage to undocumented immigrants in the U.S., all ten candidates raise their hands agreeing to provide that kind of coverage.


PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Our country is healthier when everybody is healthier.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  You cannot let people who are sick no matter where they come from, no matter what their status go uncovered.

BUTTIGIEG:  They pay sales taxes, they pay property taxes.

BIDEN:  #They increase the life span of Social Security because they have a job, they`re paying Social Security tax.

BUTTIGIEG:  This is not about a handout, this is an insurance program.


MELBER:  I`m joined now by Jess Morales Rocketto, the Chair of the immigration rights group Families Belong Together, and the Editor-at-Large for the libertarian Reason Magazine Matt Welsh.  Nice to have you both here.



MELBER:  You would acknowledge that`s a shift for the Democratic Party.

ROCKETTO:   Big shift.

MELBER:  What does it mean?

ROCKETTO:  I mean, you know, it`s a big moment in this party that they were willing to all raise their hand.  Some of them, I think it went up a little slower than others but the fact that every single candidate on that stage who represent a spectrum of immigration ideas was ready to support undocumented immigrants is a testament to the organizing and to them listening to that.

MELBER:  And it`s very different as mentioned from the previous presidents.  It has become very common in politics to sort of say anything that you disagree with is immoral or evil.  That puts a lot of Democrats in a bind because this was the Obama position.  Maybe he was wrong, maybe you disagree with him, but is it evil?  Take a look at past Democratic presidents.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years and we must do more to stop it.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Do not send your children to the borders.  If they do make it they`ll get sent back.

Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws and I believe that they must be held accountable.


MELBER:  When President Obama was talking about accountability and we know this from the deportations and the ICE policy, he was not talking about health care for all.

WELCH:  Correct.  Ten years ago if you recall, he in a famous moment, he gave a speech to a joint session of Congress at which congressman -- backbencher Republicans shouted you lie.  What was that he lie about?  It was about whether ObamaCare affects -- is going to be given to illegal immigrant.  And Obama said no it`s not and they said you lie.  Now, we see ten Democrats are sticking this position.

This is a remarkable shift, right.  It goes hand in hand with a remarkable shift in American public opinion towards immigration.  In 2005, I think by sum total of like 63 to 38 or something like that.  Americans said immigrants are not a net positive in this country.  That has shifted by 50 percentage points.

Some of this is an anti-trump effect, some of it is just we`ve seen a lot of anti-immigration politics including heavily Mitt Romney in 2012.  So there`s an opportunity here for Democrats to be on the side of just broad public opinion.  Health care, ObamaCare, Medicare for all for illegal immigrants, I don`t know if that`s going to go there. `

I think there`s a large swath of the country saying -- who would say and who have consistently said in the past I`m not so sure about welfare benefits to illegal immigrants.

MELBER:  Is it a sustainable addition to the current immigration system or not in your view -- both of your views?

WELCH:  I mean, it`s not that -- illegal immigrants and immigrants writ large take less of social welfare benefits than native-born Americans on average, period, right.  So it`s not going to be the thing that tips us into some kind of bankruptcy.  There`s plenty of other things that are taking us there.

However, in an era where Democrats are not showing much a sense of any kind of limitations on what the government and what the welfare state can provide, I think it`s very risky politically and it`s very risky in terms of the long-term sustainability of the welfare state.

ROCKETTO:  What we`re talking about here is Medicare for all which is the extremely popular position especially in the Democratic primary and that really means for all.  Undocumented immigrants are contributors to our economy in more ways than one including leaving a surplus in what they pay in Social Security and taxes.

MELBER:  Well, you may -- you may believe that genuinely and a lot of people may think that`s a great idea.  It`s my job to say --

ROCKETTO:  Well, it`s genuinely true that they leave a surplus inside what --

MELBER:  No, no, I mean the part about Medicare for all, but it`s my job to say traditionally Medicare for all refers to domestic legal residents of the United States.  The notion that you were going to both patrol the border to prevent undocumented crossings but then if people make it there`s going to be benefits is a different -- that`s a different structure.

ROCKETTO:  When you`re talking about -- when you`re talking about DACA and TPS holders who have been here for 20, 30 years, why aren`t you giving them health care?  They deserve health care.

MELBER:  What about someone who`s been here one day?

ROCKETTO:  Totally.  But those people are still in detention because of Trump`s immigration policies.  So I --

MELBER:  No, and I get you -- hold on, hold on.  You just shifted though.

ROCKETTO:  And we`re talking about -- and we`re talking about them not getting foods so I don`t think --

MELBER:  You shifted.  I get you there and we`ve done a lot of reporting on the inhumanity of the detention policy.

ROCKETTO:  Of course.  Of course.

MELBER:  But the notion that the Democratic Party is just jumping into the position of you cross the border for a day, you get out, your undocumented, you get health care.  That`s different, no?

ROCKETTO:  Totally.  I would say on day two of an immigrant crossing over, I`m not sure that they`re like 100 percent coming up with their insurance card.  They`re still worried about eating, having a place to stay, they`re probably still in the shelter, and maybe sleeping on the church floor, so I don`t think that`s a concern that we need to have.

But not only that, it`s actually cheaper to provide them health care than it is to detain them in detention centers every single day.  So you know, actually this is fiscally responsible.

WELCH:  Republicans are going to be running against Democrats praying for them to go full socialist because they can rally the troops and they can rally independence.  This will be seen by Republicans and quite a few Independents as Democrats are not going to look in the -- in the face of reality and have huge government and say anything but more, please.

MELBER:  Does it matter in your view that it`s such a reversal of the Obama era or you see the politics years having completely shifted?

ROCKETTO:  I mean, in the Trump era, I think things are totally different.  President Obama was a pretty hard line on immigration for a Democrat so I think it`s good that we are moving towards having a more humane immigration policy because I think that`s what everybody wants is to treat people with dignity and respect.

MELBER:  I`m going to fit a break, but you know what I think is good?  We just had a full policy conversation growing out of the debate, perfectly civil, we loved that around here.

WELCH:  Happy to help.

MELBER:  Jess Morales Rocketto and Matt Welch, I appreciate both of you, very interesting.  And things are moving fast so we`re going to try to keep track of it.  Now coming up, this is something we want to show you we`ve been working on all day.  How the debates played not only right in the country, how a regular Americans in their local markets seeing it, but also around the world.

And then later as mentioned, legendary musician Melissa Etheridge is my first time guest on THE BEAT joining us for "FALLBACK FRIDAY" along with the actor and comedian Daniel Franzese, a very special Friday edition as we commemorate 50 years after Stonewall.


MELBER:  Sometimes ratings can reveal a lot more than which show is popular.  They can tell us something about the nation.  That`s the case for last night`s second Democratic debate.  It`s smashed records with 18 million viewers.  That makes it the most-watched Democratic primary debate ever.

So what does that mean?  Well, it tells us there`s unusually high civic interest in this 2020 race.  It doesn`t even count Americans who caught highlights on the internet or local news the way many people still get their information.  Now, here`s how it played in some local broadcasts that we scoured from around the country.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The candidates showed they had a target, a very specific one President Donald Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The biggest issue in 2020 for Democrats is a Republican.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The debate really went left in terms of ideology.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A lot of voters that I`ve talked to say they actually thought that Senator Elizabeth Warren really took home that win yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Andrew Yang not wearing a tie?  That got people going crazy.


MELBER:  Now, you may recall the DNC has already announced it won`t partner with Fox News for any debates in this cycle.  Over on Fox, they didn`t ignore the debate occurring.  Several on-air personalities used it to slam the Dems for just falling off the deep end.


TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL:  Whole thing was like a cartoon or an Evil One novel.

JASON CHAFFETZ, CONTRIBUTOR, FOX NEWS CHANNEL:  They were doing everything they could to take away your freedoms.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, FOX NEWS CHANNEL:  Moderates in the Democratic Party, well they`re extinct.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It is an invitation for more mass immigration into this country.


MELBER:  Always interesting to see how it plays everywhere.  Now, these debates also were very focused on the globe.  Candidates are talking about relations with Iran, Russia, NATO, the border crisis.  Well, tonight we can tell you the world was looking back.  These intramural squabbles drawing coverage in big newspapers in Mexico, Germany, and France, and a made-for- T.V. event that drew televised tributes abroad as well.

Here`s an Australian T.V. show Planet America that tackle the debates with a creative opening sequence.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Planet America`s fake news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What the hell is going on here?

JOHN BARRON, CO-HOST, PLANET AMERICA:  Hello and welcome to a special edition of Planet America I`m John Barron.


BARRON:  This week, 20 Democratic presidential hopefuls face off in the first pair of debates in Miami, Florida.  Well, the first debate was a fairly genteel affair.  The second one today though started off much feisty, even tasty at times.

LICCIARDELLO:  I always thought Kamala Harris is going to be strong -- the strong debater and she put her foot on the accelerator on.


MELBER:  So that`s conservative press, local press, world press, what else is there?  Of course, the internet.  And people have lots of fun with the visual meme-worthy moments.  Bernie Sanders hands just escalating so widely last night that Joe Biden was dodging them to protect his personal space, something people kept replaying.  Or the look on Bernie Sanders face when he was caught between the Kamala Harris Joe Biden clash.

Cory Booker appearing to give Beto O`Rourke that sarcastic side-eye when he started speaking Spanish.  Now, we did ask Booker`s campaign manager about that in Miami, he downplayed the moment.


ADDISU DEMISSIE, CAMPAIGN MANAGER, CORY BOOKER CAMPAIGN:  He was not annoyed by the Spanish.  You know, he was listening just like everybody else at the time.  And you saw later in the debate he actually spoke Spanish as well as did Secretary Castro.  I think it was just a moment of surprise that was caught on tape.

MELBER:  So it was not a side eye?  OK.

DEMISSIE:  I don`t think it was a side eye.


MELBER:  I don`t think it was a side eye.  And then there`s something the internet is very good at which is re-captioning a scene for satire.  You may remember the candidates raising their hands for that question about health care for immigrants.  We were just discussing it.  Here was a Twitter user named Jacob reimagining it as if it were the iconic scene from Mean Girls.  We`re going to bring that up.  Let`s see if we have it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  -- have ever felt personally victimized by Regina George.


MELBER:  We may have been missing the tweet but basically people were re- captioning the hands up to show the idea that that`s what everyone was doing.  Now, this is as you may know an unforgettable movie.  We had no idea that a Mean Girls meme would be lighting up the Internet but it fits perfectly with our next guest who`s actually one of the stars of Mean Girls along with the iconic rocker Melissa Etheridge who joins me next for "FALLBACK FRIDAY" when we come back.



MELBER:  We have a very special edition of "FALLBACK" tonight.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She doesn`t even go here.


MELBER:  That`s right.  This is a pride edition of "FALLBACK FRIDAY."  I`m joined by rock legend Melissa Etheridge, two-time Grammy winner, Billboard Top 100 hits that you know like I`m the Only One and Come to My Window.  She also won an Oscar for Best Original Song and the documentary An Inconvenient Truth.  She`s a trailblazing advocate for LGBTQ rights headlining the closing ceremony of World Pride right here in New York City.  And her new album is The Medicine Show.

But that`s not all I am thrilled to tell you we also have actor and comedian Daniel Franzese who of course played Damien in the iconic movie Mean Girls.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am beautiful in every single way.  Words can`t bring me down.  So don`t you bring me down today.


MELBER:  He also serves as an ambassador for the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and received acclaim for his portrayal of an HIV-positive character in the HBO series Looking and is currently traveling for his stand-up show, Yes You`re Amazing the tour.  I hope I said that in the ballpark.

DANIEL FRANZESE, ACTOR:  Yes, you`re amazing.

MELBER:  That was way better.

FRANZESE:  That`s pretty much close.

MELBER:  That was way better.

FRANZESE:  It`s more in the pocket.

MELBER:  This is a special edition of "FALLBACK."  Let`s get right to it.  Melissa Etheridge, who needs to fall back?

MELISSA ETHERIDGE, SINGER:  Oh you know who needs to fall back is Mr. Mike Huckabee.  Mike Huckabee has been saying you know, claiming all these transient -- everybody is -- this is not Mike Huckabee.  I know we`ve had trouble with Mike Huckabee before.  I was -- do you remember when Mike Huckabee had a television show.

MELBER:  Sure.


MELBER:  And it was a music show at times.

ETHERIDGE:  Music show.  He plays bass.  Well, he had me on the show.  And I was like yes, I`m there, totally.  Because I anytime I can cross the lines you know, anytime I can find myself in front of people that might not see me that can see -- oh here`s a gay person.  And you know what, yes, music is the same.

And Mike Huckabee said that to me at the time.  He goes, you know, we might not agree on our politics but music is universal.  It was a beautiful loving moment.  I want Mike Huckabee to remember that.  I want him to remember what he said.  He does not have to be part of the politics of division.  It`s not working for any of us.

We could say horrible things about him.  We don`t -- we do not need to.  We need to come together now.  It`s time to stop blaming each other.

MELBER:  I appreciate that.  I love that your "FALLBACK" is a little bit of a fall forward and inviting him maybe back to the way he totally was.

ETHERIDGE:  Yes, please.

MELBER:  Amen.  What about you?

FRANZESE:  I`m here to talk about the -- well, it`s Pride so the environmental impact of Glitter.

MELBER:  Hello.

FRANZESE:  It`s something people do not think about, but it`s true.  I worked with (INAUDIBLE) about -- to help remove the single-use plastic straws and you know, just thinking about things that we didn`t consider in the past, how maybe rice at a wedding wasn`t good for birds and now we switched to rose petals and things like that.

So now, here we are having to focus on glitter which is an impossible thing to remove from environments.  There`s all these festivals, there`s all these things that happen and the glitter gets everywhere and we can`t remove it from the Earth.

MELBER:  Now --

FRANZESE:  I know.  It seems silly --


FRANZESE:  -- but it makes you think.

MELBER:  I am thinking.

FRANZESE:  I got you thinking.

MELBER:  You got me thinking.  I`m torn, because I also love the environment but I love glitter.  And looking at you, I don`t know exactly what it is but if you don`t mind me commenting, it seems a little --

FRANZESE:  See, handle glitter responsibly is all I`m asking for.

ETHERIDGE:  Yes, how about some biodegradable glitter?

MELBER:  Anything else on your mind, Melissa, that might want to fall back?

ETHERIDGE:  Oh, let`s you know, let`s fall back on the transgender military ban.

MELBER:  The military ban that Trump has stayed on.

ETHERIDGE:  Yes.  I mean, why?  We moved way beyond that.  And if people want to -- if anyone wants to serve our country, if anyone wants to put their life on the line, let`s support that.  Our troops can handle it.  It`s just -- I think there`s some folks that don`t want to pay --

MELBER:  Do you remember where you were when you first heard that`s what President Trump wanted to do?

ETHERIDGE:  I don`t remember where I was, but I do remember when I met Trump at a gay wedding, so seriously, all of these gay bashing by people that just don`t --

MELBER:  I feel like the connective tissues in your stories tonight are about Trump, that when it`s right for the money or the media or other things.


MELBER:  They`re fine with everyone.  It`s like you`re saying they`re almost -- and this is a problem -- they`re almost pretending to appeal to more bigotry than they might live in their normal lives.

FRANZESE:  Completely.  If the big super PAC came from gay people, trust me, it would be way different out there.  It`s about money right now.

MELBER:  Before I  let either of you go, I want to talk a little about your work as well.  How do you feel about being so associated with this beloved character but as we just mentioned, you`re doing all these other stuff  I imagine a lot of people still come up to you for Mean Girls which is one of my favorite movies.

FRANZESE:  I lean into my character in Mean Girls because it mean a lot to a lot of people.  It was a visibility for an LGBTQ teen in a movie where he didn`t have to fear for his life during the movie.  He wasn`t pushed in a locker, had his head dumped in a - in a toilet.  And I got a fan letter around the tenth anniversary that said when I was in eighth grade, I was beat up for being chubby, and tortured for being a sissy.  But then when I was in ninth grade, the movie came out, and in the first day of school, the popular senior girls were you`re like Damian.  Come sit with us.

So it`s brought a lot of -- a lot of sanctuary for a lot of people, this movie, and this character being like pretty much the first LGBTQ teen and of size to be seen in something and not have to fear for his life.

MELBER:  What do you think about that?

ETHERIDGE:  I think representation is everything.  It`s a beautiful community.  people should get to know people that they feel uncomfortable with.  People should just stop judging and let`s move forward.

MELBER:  How would you apply any of that to the very successful career you`ve had in a period where obviously the acceptance or tolerance is I think it`s fair to say evolved over time.

ETHERIDGE:  Oh, much yes.  When I came out 26 years ago, it was very different.  What`s been beautiful is we haven`t been able to, like put it in a box and say, OK, this is gay and this is lesbian.  Because once you do that, then it becomes well, there is trans, and there`s this all this gender.

And the beautiful thing is I think the gay community is pushing our whole society and humanity into really saying, look, you can`t nail any of us down.  You can`t say this is right, this is wrong.  There`s things that make people uncomfortable.  There are things that people fear because they don`t know.  But just moving forward, just loving, just -- you know, if you`re going to judge someone, judge them on their character.

MELBER:  I love having you guys here for this special edition of "FALLBACK."  I appreciate you both making the time for it.

FRANZESE:  Thank you.  It`s a pleasure to meet you.

MELBER:  Absolutely.

ETHERIDGE:  All right, Ari.

FRANZESE:  And good to be around you, you legend.


MELBER:  Legends.  My thanks again to Melissa and Danny.  And love is a nice note for us to wrap up on.  We also want to tell you the update I mentioned earlier in the hour, but it does tell you something about civics in America right now, that we got the numbers just here late in the day.  18 million people made this the most watched debates never the Democratic Party history.

Obviously, MSNBC is proud to be a part of it.  Other channels will have their turn.  But tells you this race is well under way for 2020.

That does it for THE BEAT.  I`ll see you back here Monday Night at 6:00 p.m.  "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews starts now.