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Michelle Obama TRANSCRIPT: 8/6/20 The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: Angela Duckworth, Cori Bush, Pritesh Gandhi, Beto O`Rourke

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel. 

I`m glad you talked about the mask curve issue you just did because it`s so  easy. I`m sort of dumbfounded by the fact that the chart you are putting on  Maddow Blog, and the other charts we see about the effect of mask wearing  and social distancing -- never in the history of the world has there been  such an infection, and never in the history of the world has there been  such an easy way to flatten the curve and to prevent getting it, and yet we  have managed to politicize that. It`s a remarkable thing. 

So thank you for doing that and reminding us about the basics about how to  beat this thing. Rachel, you have a great evening. 

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thanks, Ali. Much appreciated. 

VELSHI: All right. We are doing something a little different tonight. We  normally start this show with one topic in the news. Today, we`re starting  kind of with all of it and why it`s making you feel the way you feel. 

We`re living in the middle of a pandemic under an incompetent  administration. People are not just worried about staying healthy, but also  have to pay rent or put food on the table. Protesters are demanding racial  justice. They`ve been met with unnecessary violence by police. 

Our politics are as divided as perhaps they`ve ever been. And if you`re  human this gets to you. And sometimes it helps to hear that others are  feeling the same way, especially when that someone is Michelle Obama. 

In the second episode of her new podcast, the former first lady opened up  about how this difficult moment is weighing on her. 


MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I`ve gone through  those emotional highs and lows that I think everybody feels where you just  don`t feel yourself. And spiritually, these are not -- they are not  fulfilling times spiritually. You know. So I know that I am dealing with  some form of low-grade depression, not just because of the quarantine, but  because of the racial strife and just seeing this administration, watching  the hypocrisy of it day in and day out is dispiriting. So I`ve had to kind  of give myself that, those days, those moments. 


VELSHI: It`s easy to understand how she feels because so many people are  struggling with the same issues. The United States is approaching a grim  milestone, 5 million coronavirus cases. We now have over 160,000 deaths. 

The United States is now averaging more than 1,000 deaths a day. That`s  equivalent to one person dying from the coronavirus every 80 seconds. And a  key model predicts the United States could see nearly 300,000 dead from the  virus by December the 1st. 

But data indicates about 70,000 of these lives would be saved if everyone  wore a mask. A precaution, Donald Trump and those who follow his lead still  refuse to do on a regular basis. 

Today, another 1.2 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment  benefits. This is the 20th straight week where more than a million people  have filed for jobless claims. Recent polling shows that 69 percent of  Americans believe the country is heading in the wrong direction. 

A new report from the Bloomberg Misery Index, that`s actually a real thing,  it tallies inflation and unemployment outlooks for 60 countries, reveals  that, quote, the United States is projected to see the worst reversal of  fortune this year in a ranking of global economic misery, underscoring just  how much havoc the pandemic has wrought.

America fell 25 spots from the number 50 spot to the number 25 spot. That  puts us behind countries like Russia and Mexico on the economic misery  ranking. 

And yet Donald Trump seems ton content to say it`ll all go away. He`s not  pushing Republicans to come to a deal with Democrats to extend enhanced  unemployment benefits and the moratorium on evictions. He`s blaming  problems in states on governors, pressuring states with spiking cases to  reopen their schools and spreading disinformation, actual disinformation  about the virus, including a claim about children that is so dangerous that  Facebook and Twitter both took it down. They hardly take anything down. 

And, today, he twice claimed without evidence that a vaccine will be ready  before Election Day -- only to be fact checked by Dr. Anthony Fauci. 


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS  DISEASES: We`re trying very hard to ultimately get a vaccine that might be  available by the end of the year or the beginning of 2021. But that`s many  months away. 


VELSHI: But it`s not just the pandemic that`s taking a toll on Americans. 

Michelle Obama also confided that the depression she`s feeling stems from  the civil unrest she continues to see every day. 


OBAMA: What we`re seeing in terms of the protests, the continued racial  unrest that has plagued this country since its birth, I have to say that  waking up to the news, waking up to how this administration has or has not  responded, waking up to yet another story of a black man or a black person  somehow being dehumanized or hurt or killed or falsely accused of  something, it is exhausting. And it has led to a weight that I haven`t felt  in my life in a while. 


VELSHI: It`s been over two months since the death of George Floyd sparked  massive protests across the country, demanding racial justice and an end to  police brutality. That was just after the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery in  Georgia and the police shooting of Breonna Taylor and the so-called no- knock warrant in Louisville, Kentucky. No arrests in that case. 

Since then we`ve watched police shoot Rayshard Brooks after he was found  sleeping in his car in a Wendy`s parking lot in Atlanta. And there have  been more videos from before and since. We`ve seen protesters met with tear  gas and rubber bullets for simply exercising their right to protest. And  scenes of racial injustice are still happening across this country like  this one in Colorado.


UNIDENTIFIED KID: I want my mother.



UNIDENTIFIED KID: Can I have my sister next to me?


VELSHI: Those are the cries of children after police in Colorado mistakenly  pulled over a black family, handcuffed them and held them at gunpoint  thinking the car was stolen. 

Rather than try to unite the country through all of this, Donald Trump has  stoked racial divisions in his campaign and painted Black Lives Matter  protesters as violent Marxist anarchists who burn down cities and must be  dominated by police. Donald Trump refuses to acknowledge systemic racism as  a problem. 

Even today, he repeated his wildly false claim that he has done more for  African Americans than any other president, including the nation`s first  black president, Barack Obama. We`re living in challenging times. Sometimes  it helps to hear someone voice that pain out loud. 

Michelle Obama is telling you that we will get through this together. 

Joining us now is Zerlina Maxwell, senior director of progressive  programming at Sirius XM radio and an MSNBC political analyst. She`s the  author of "The End of White Politics: How to Heal Our Liberal Divide." 

Also joining us, Angela Duckworth, professor of psychology at the  University of Pennsylvania and the CEO of the Character Lab. She`s the  author of a remarkable book that is uniquely relevant these days. It`s  called "Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance." 

Welcome to both of you. 

Let me start with you, Zerlina. It is kind of interesting because even  though we are in this job in which we talk about this all the time, I was  listening to Michelle Obama thinking, yeah, I kind of feel like that, too.  I`m not -- I`m not immune to it. None of us are. 

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, absolutely not, Ali. And I  think that one of the things on my radio show we talk about all the time  with grief counselors and trauma counselors is the idea that we`re  experiencing collectively as a nation an exorbitant amount of mass loss and  grief and trauma all at the same time. And this is an unprecedented moment  for a generation of Americans of all different ages and backgrounds. 

And so while everybody`s experience in this pandemic is not equal, everyone  has had some impact. Their life is fundamentally different than it was in  the before times. And additionally, I think when you`re experiencing this  type of trauma, I`ve experienced trauma in my life like so many other  people, and one of the moments where that`s the most resonant is when you  decide to move forward, that you can`t go back to the before and that  fundamentally you have to press forward and move forward to something  better. 

I think that`s what Michelle Obama was speaking to -- this idea that if you  feel discomfort in this moment or if you feel a little off, if you`re  having trouble sleeping, that is completely normal. Number one, because  we`re going through this mass trauma like I said, but also because we`re  being gaslit by a president who is essentially rudderless and incompetent  but is walking around and acting like everything is okay. And nothing is  okay. 

And so we as the American people need to stand up in November and take back  our country and move it towards that area of progress that I think we can  be proud of because what`s happening right now is not something that makes  me feel great because I want my fellow citizens to care about me the same  way that I care about them. 

VELSHI: One of the things that was interesting about the way Michelle Obama  framed this is that there is a piece of this that is political and societal  and we yearn for things to be back the right way up on that front. And we  look at the unrest and we look at the death. It looks wrong to us. The  world looks upside down. But some of it that Michelle Obama was talking  about is personal. 

And when you just said I`ve experienced trauma like so many people have, in  this moment, health trauma, the trauma of losing someone, the trauma of  sexual assault, the trauma of racism, to many Americans, I would argue most  Americans, some combination of those is personal, not political or  societal. 

MAXWELL: Well, I believe the personal is political, Ali. But I also believe  that those personal experiences can be brought to the floor. You know,  Representative Ayanna Pressley always talks about the people closest to the  pain needing to be the closest to the power. And I think this is a moment  where we can all agree with that statement. Because if we had people in  positions of power and authority to pass legislation that could help the  most vulnerable, you know, those people that are on food lines, those  people who are worried about eviction, those people who are worried about  being homeless with their children who are maybe going back to school but  in unsafe conditions clearly, and certainly the teachers and administrators  are also very anxious. 

So this is a moment in which I think we all are feeling it physically, and  I think that`s why we need to sort of look to those professionals that deal  with trauma and grief to help us individually move past this and beyond  this moment but also I think collectively as a country because this is  going to impact a generation to come. 

VELSHI: Professor Duckworth, one of the things that you have done to put  this into context for us gives me some hope, and that is you say that the  more you care, the more you despair. So if you`re feeling really bad about  this, it means you`re a functioning human. 

ANGELA DUCKWORTH, PSYCHOLOGY PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Yeah.  And I couldn`t agree more with Zerlina`s observations. I can`t imagine  anybody who is not struggling in some way. And one of my favorite quotes, I  think it`s often misattributed to Plato, but I love it anyway, is be kind  to all you meet for each is carrying their own heavy burden. And I do think  that having some feeling right now, negative feeling, you know, if you are  not -- if you`re not feeling something, I can`t imagine how it is that  you`re processing reality. 

But if we can go a little bit past that and say and I`m going to be  empathetic toward what you may be experiencing that I may not even know  about, I think it`s one step toward healing. 

VELSHI: Let me ask you about something you said to me the last time you  were on and I`m reminded that it was actually before the social justice  movement that we`re in the middle of right now. But you talked about seeing  what you can control. In a world that seems out of control, take stock of  what you can have control of and exercise your power over that. 

DUCKWORTH: Yeah. Well, I think that the research on depression, which the  former first lady mentioned, you know, a mild depression, I mean, one of  the things that will put us in a sad or depressive state is feeling  helpless, feeling like there is nothing we can do to change our futures,  and even though there are absolutely many things that we can`t do that  we`re increasingly angry about, frustrated about, despairing about, I do  think holding on to what you can do.

Let me just give you one very specific and I think optimistic example. So I  see young people these days, high school and college students, actually  many of them doing more than just going to social media and expressing  themselves. They`re actually doing something. There`s a non-profit  organization called Poll Hero. This is completely grassroots. High school  and college students thinking how can we change what`s going on? They`re  actually trying to figure out how to become workers at the polls in  November. Of course, they`re less vulnerable to the coronavirus. 

And I can see this happening partly because my teenage daughter is like on  these calls with these people, and like they`re not waiting around for us  dysfunctional adults to get our acts together. They`re doing it and because  they`re young, they`re a lot smarter than us. 

VELSHI: That`s a big deal, though. When you think about the things that are  in your control we often think about our lives, our family, our house, our  job. And sometimes even those things are not in control. But in fact you as  an American have control over something that is much larger. You have the  vote. 

DUCKWORTH: You have the vote. You have your time. You have your -- for some  people, you know, a dollar to give, two dollars to give, maybe more. 

I mean, if you really ask yourself is there nothing I can do, it can`t be  that there`s nothing you could do. There`s got to be something, even if  it`s small. I think that`s the way to get started. 

VELSHI: You know, you talk about during the war people planted victory  gardens or they thought they were working in a factory. There is some sense  of that today, some sense that we can collectively do something to get out  of this. 

So I appreciate the optimism that both of you have brought to a discussion  that`s tough. 

Zerlina, I think I`m going to see you this weekend. I think you`re going to  be my TV buddy. 


VELSHI: You`re in for "A.M. JOY" Saturday and Sunday, is that correct? 

MAXWELL: That is correct, Ali. 

VELSHI: That is amazing. I look forward to seeing you Saturday and Sunday  morning. 

And, Angela Duckworth, thank you for being with us. We will continue this  conversation. 

Angela Duckworth is a professor of psychology at the University of  Pennsylvania and she is the author of "Grit: The Power of Passion and  Perseverance." 

Zerlina is with Sirius XM Radio and she`ll be on with me -- not with me but  after me, 10:00 to noon on Saturday and Sunday. 

Coming up, are you ready to be inspired after that conversation? A single  mom started protesting with the Black Lives Matter movement in her Missouri  neighborhood after Michael Brown was killed by police. Then she ran for  office and she lost. 

Then she ran again. And in the meantime, she kept protesting and organizing  and running. And this week she won. And now, she`s poised to be the next  member of Congress for Missouri`s 1st congressional district. 

Cori Bush joins us to tell us how she channeled her anger over injustice  into action.


VELSHI: Now, the best advice for people who are dismayed over the state of  politics as you just heard is ultimately to vote and make sure other people  vote. But some people are channeling that feeling into action beyond  Election Day and are working to make sure that politicians in Washington or  wherever they are better reflect the true diversity of America. One of  those people is Cori Bush. She decided to run for office after leading  protests that followed the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson,  Missouri. 

Here`s part of my conversation with Cori Bush from when she was running for  Congress in 2018. 


CORI BUSH (D), MISSOURI CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: We need to have fighters.  We should have champions, people that are willing to lead the issues. 

It`s not okay anymore to vote decent. You have to stand up and fight. 


VELSHI: Cori Bush would not win that primary in 2018. But like any fighter,  she picked up and ran again. Now she`s one of the record-setting 130 black  women who are running for Congress this year. 

On Tuesday, she defeated a ten-term incumbent in Missouri`s first district  and is on her way to being the first woman of color to represent the state  in Congress. 


BUSH: It is historic that this year of all years we`re sending a black  working-class single mother -- 


BUSH: -- who`s been fighting for black lives from Ferguson all the way to  the halls of Congress! 



VELSHI: Joining us now is Cori Bush. She recently won the Democratic  primary for the first congressional district of Missouri which includes St.  Louis and Ferguson. 

Cori Bush, good to see you again. It has always been a pleasure to talk to  you. Congratulations. 

How are you feeling this week? 

BUSH: I`m feeling amazing, Ali. Thank you. 

VELSHI: I want to ask you because in that conversation you and I had two  years ago, you had complaints about some very basic things that was before  coronavirus, that was before the discussions about social inequality that  we have been going through, about wages and how people live. I just want to  play that back for our audience and tell -- have you tell us where you are  on those things today. 


BUSH: How do you get these ideas into that non-voter crowd when you  actually face built-in resistance? 

BUSH: So one thing about it is people that make $7, $8 an hour, they don`t  work less hard than people who make $30 an hour. And so, giving -- making  sure people have what they need to be able to support their families, pay  their bills and still have money left over to save should not be something  we have to beg for. 

We have -- we have companies that we know of that moved to $15 an hour  minimum wage -- $15 an hour wage and they`re prospering. They`re doing  well. 

When I think about it, so we can come up with money to be able to build  these tent cities and pay $800 a day per child to be able to house  thousands of children. We can come up with the money to do that. Millions  of dollars a day to have people in these detention camps, these detention  centers, but we can`t make sure that people that are working hard every  single day are able to take care of their families. 

I think that we can do better. 


VELSHI: Ms. Bush, that was the day after the election. The day after  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected and you weren`t. But those words seem  truer today. They don`t seem like a conversation that was two years ago. 

BUSH: Right. It`s still the same. It`s the same today. And the thing is  COVID-19, like put it right in our faces, like -- and let me tell you, I  feel vindication. It`s like I`ve been saying this for so long. And people  weren`t ready to hear it or they knew it but they didn`t want to accept it.  Now we see why that was necessary. 

VELSHI: And the conversation I just had with Zerlina Maxwell and Angela  Duckworth, we talked about Michelle Obama saying that she`s feeling a  little bit of a low-level depression that apparently a lot of Americans are  feeling. And Angela Duckworth talked about doing the things you can do,  about her teenage children going out and organizing to work at polls. 

You have two kids. You`re a single mother. When you get elected to  Congress, you`ll be I think the second single mother in Congress. These  struggles are real for you, but your way of dealing with injustice is to  run for office. 

BUSH: You know what, because somebody has to represent that voice. Let me  tell you. I won`t forget the way that it felt every single time I received  my paycheck and I looked at it and I knew I didn`t have anything left from  it. It was going all over to bills or the Monday before I would get paid  and I knew I was happy. On Friday I`m getting paid. But I knew I didn`t  have anything left over and I knew I still wasn`t able to put money to the  side for my student loans and put money -- you know, having money left over  to save in case something happened. 

And so, yeah, I went back to school. I tried to better myself, went into  nursing. But then there was still this fight. When do we stop struggling? 

So that`s why I`m running for office, because I don`t want other people to  go through what I`ve gone through. You know, this fight doesn`t have to be  this way. We should have -- we should be able to have a better quality of  life. I`m done surviving St. Louis. It`s time to live. 

VELSHI: How do you feel about the fact that we seem to -- that Republicans  in Congress today, in the Senate have said they`re worried about the debt,  another relief plan and what it will do to the debt. We seem to have  endless money for corporations, for loans, to keep interest rates low, to  do all of those things. But for poor working people who through no fault of  their own are out of work, facing possible eviction, facing foreclosure,  losing the $600 a week federal benefit, all of a sudden, folks are worried  about debt. 

BUSH: I know. I don`t understand it. You know, we`re talking about hard- working people, the same people that were the essential workers that showed  up when other people were staying at home -- the same people that put their  lives on the line, the same people. 

We lost people. You know, I have people that are close to me who contracted  COVID-19 as essential workers and then who had their bosses calling them  saying, are you done being sick yet? Can you come back to work? Because you  don`t have paid leave. You don`t have this time. We need you back at work. 

These are the people we don`t want to take care of? I know what that`s  like. I know that it`s such a hard way to live. And so that`s why I need to  be in Congress, to advocate for those people because those people are me.  Those people are the people next door to me in the community. 

VELSHI: We don`t have paid leave on a national basis in this country and we  don`t have universal health care, something that every other major  democracy needs. You made a point. You said maybe people weren`t ready to  hear it then. 

Do you think they`re more ready to hear it now? 

BUSH: Absolutely. When we see that over 150,000 people have died and so  many people, 30 million people right now don`t have enough food, that food  insecurity, you know, when you get hungry, let me tell you, I`ve been  hungry, when you get hungry and you don`t know where that next meal is  coming from, not only today but you don`t know where it`s coming from in a  week, you know, that changes things. 

And people are seeing right now with so many people being possibly -- 43  million people possible being evicted coming up soon, people are seeing  that now we have to do things differently. What about somebody who has been  evicted before, somebody who has been hungry before, somebody who can speak  about being low wage and uninsured. That`s me. I can speak about it and I  can push forward. 

This is the thing. Being somebody who has been there, I know all the holes  in the way that the system is built. And so I`m not -- I`m not willing to  shut up about it. You know, I`m going to fight for people who are like me. 

VELSHI: Cori Bush, good to see you again. I`m glad for that prescient  conversation you and I had two years ago, because like I said, it feels  like we might have had that conversation last week. Congratulations. I look  forward to many more conversations with you. 

Cori Bush is a congressional candidate for Missouri`s first district, St.  Louis and including Ferguson. If she wins, she will be the first black  woman to represent that state. 

Coming up, with the end of summer fast approaching, parents and teachers  are facing agonizing choices about school. But one doctor on the front  lines of coronavirus says we are not ready to return to full-time in-person  school. He joins us next. 


VELSHI: Across the country, the well-being and survival of thousands of  children, their families and their communities is on the line. Parents and  teachers now facing the decision on how to educate children who are not  immune to coronavirus, by the way, despite what Donald Trump says. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My sixth grader is so happy to hungry to see him, his  friends and his teachers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am not a teacher. I do not have that gift. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do not feel that it is developmentally appropriate  for their educational experience to be doing it remotely. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re not reinventing what it means to build  connections with students. We`re just simply translating that to an online  platform, which our students are more fluent in than we are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody should be required to be somewhere that they  don`t feel safe or productive. 


VELSHI: Schools that already opened in Mississippi, Indiana, Tennessee and  Georgia are reporting coronavirus cases, dozens are now in quarantine. A  new poll by "The Washington Post" found that only 16 percent of parents  agree with Donald Trump in wanting children to return to all in-person  class. 39 percent of parents want all online classes for their children and  44 percent want a mix of in-person and online classes. The poll also found  that 56 percent of parents say in-person classes are not safe.

Dr. Pritesh Gandhi is treating patients with coronavirus in Austin, Texas.  The seven-day average of new deaths from coronavirus in Texas has increased  by 41 percent over the last two weeks. Austin is in Travis County where  more than half of the coronavirus hospitalizations and cases are Hispanic  patients.

Dr. Gandhi wrote on Twitter, quote, "America is out of its mind thinking  that we are even remotely prepared for school this fall. We are definitely  not ready and if people say we are, it is either out of ignorance or  arrogance."

Joining us now Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, associate chief medical officer at a  community health center in East Austin, Texas.

Dr. Gandhi, I just want to be clear here. You have written extensively  about this. And you are clear that kids need school. We want kids to be in  school. Painting this as a conversation about people who would like to have  kids in school versus kids who -- those who don`t is silly.

We`d all like our kids to go to school. We`d like them not to get  coronavirus. We`d like them not to infect other kids and their family. We`d  like them not to die. But we would actually like to them to get the  socialization and education necessary from school.

DR. PRITESH GANDHI, ASSOCIATE CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, COMMUNITY HEALTH  CENTER -- AUSTIN, TEXAS: That`s exactly right. I mean, let`s get that out  of the way right now. Kids need to be in school. It is good for their  social, mental and developmental well-being. And the only reason that I`m  here right now talking to you and the only reason that physicians and  public health professionals around the country are talking about this issue  is that we fail our children by failing to take the necessary steps to  mitigate this pandemic. We have the solutions in front of us, we`re just  not taking them. 

VELSHI: Dr. Gandhi, you do talk though -- I was just having a conversation  with Cori Bush (ph) that you may have heard. Part of this is the way we`re  built. Part of this is that unlike any other developed nation, we don`t  have certain infrastructure in place. It`s part of why in Travis County,  you have so many cases of Hispanics getting coronavirus and dying. It`s why  Hidalgo County is in the trouble that it`s in. We have almost developing  country statistics in Hidalgo County in the most developed nation in the  world. 

DR. GANDHI: That`s exactly right. I mean look, it is a tale of two cities  here in Austin. When I go across town and work in east Austin, I work in a  facility where roughly about 80 percent of my patients are likely Spanish- speaking. And there are baseline inequities in health.

If you are a black or brown child in East Austin, you are probably three or  four more times likely to go to bed hungry. That poverty rate is equally as  high for black or brown children versus white children.

And so when you super impose on a pre-existing set of inequities COVID, a  pandemic without having the kind of institutional support for these  families, it is a disaster and we`re not taking the right steps. 

VELSHI: You pointed out that this is not beyond us in terms of science. We  can do a few things, including rapid testing at scale so we can contact  trace, funding schools to ensure that they have got health resources,  nurses, PPE and proper ventilation, requiring everyone to wear masks and to  social distance which we`re not doing across this country, and a national  plan to determine what happens when clusters of students, teachers or their  families start testing positive so we don`t have this let`s figure this out  as we go along idea. 

DR. GANDHI: Right. I mean look, this doesn`t have to be a conversation in  the abstract. We`re doing it now, right? The NBA has been unbelievably  successful at having no positive cases over the last few weeks with its  players, and they`re doing it as Coach Rivers said, I think, just two days  ago because they`re all made to wear masks, one. Two, they`re getting  tested every single day. And, three, they have an app that they sign into  every day that says what their temperature is and their vital signs.

And so if we can stand up that kind of system for the NBA, there is no  reason why we can`t stand up the same kind of system for school children  and teachers around the country. But I will tell you what the reason is. It  is because school children don`t have lobbyists. They don`t have money  behind them, and they don`t have advocates in Washington, D.C. who are  willing to fight for them and it is simply not enough. 

VELSHI: Dr. Gandhi, you had a couple problems in Texas. You have the  President who feeds disinformation out on a regular basis to the extent  that he even got Twitter and Facebook to get involved. They don`t get  involved as you know in anything.

And you have a governor in your state who seems to continue to push back  against the evidence and do the right thing to stop the spread of  coronavirus. 

DR. GANDHI: Yes. I mean I think it is hard for parents when you are looking  at disinformation coming from all levels, right? You are hearing one thing  from the President, one thing from the governor, one thing from your local  doctor. Who do you listen to, right?

In Texas, the percent positivity rate is roughly 17 percent. That is  unacceptably high and that number has increased over the past few days.

So when you look at the figures, 17 percent positivity rate, cases that are  well above 10 per 100,000 and insufficient funding to schools to retro fit  them for adequate ventilation, we`ve got a situation here where the  conditions are not right for a successful school reopening. 

VELSHI: Dr. Gandhi, good to see you. Thank you for the work that you are  doing in east Austin. Dr. Pritesh Gandhi is an associate chief medical  officer at a community health center in east Austin, Texas.

The school conversation is happening across the country right now. In order  to provide you with the best information possible, I`d like to know how you  are preparing your kid`s return to school. Send your stories, our photos,  your videos to my email address and I`m going to try  and get them on air this weekend on "VELSHI".

Coming up, Beto O`Rourke joins me from the battleground Texas or if you  prefer, toss-up Texas.

That`s right. NBC News` first battleground map has Texas as a toss up stake  with a T. We`re going to talk to the former congressman about coronavirus,  the economy and Donald Trump`s slipping grip on that state, next. 


VELSHI: We just heard from a Texas doctor on the front lines of fighting  coronavirus who says America is out of its mind if we think we`re ready to  reopen schools. "The Texas Tribune" reports that nearly 20 percent of all  coronavirus deaths in the state were reported in the last week.

In El Paso there have been over 15,000 reported cases of coronavirus and at  least 285 deaths. The El Paso city council just extended its disaster  declaration for another days which will delay the start of in-person school  at least until September 8th or possibly later if the city or the state  issue new guidance.

Joining us now is former Democratic congressman Beto O`Rourke from El Paso.  He`s the founder of Powered By People, a grass roots organization with the  goal of helping Democratic candidates get elected across Texas.

Now, I want to talk about elections and tossup states and all of that with  you. But really what I want to talk about is the coronavirus. You have been  raising the alarm for months in Texas about the dangers, about how things  are going wrong, about the Rio Grande Valley and everything you warned was  going to happen has happened. 

BETO O`ROURKE, FORMER DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMAN, TEXAS: You`re right. It was  totally preventable. And when the governor chose not to follow the science  and the facts and public health experts like Dr. Gandhi who you just had  on, he`s one of our heroes, the result was totally predictable.

And you now have 7,803 of my fellow Texans who have lost their lives to  this pandemic and who didn`t have to if the governor had shut down this  state earlier and kept it shut down until we had a contract tracing and  test testing regimen that we could aggressively follow to contain the  spread of this virus and until our positivity rate came down.

It is still at 17 percent right now. And as you just mentioned, he`s going  to open up the schools in Texas and in fact, by executive order, will not  allow local school districts, including those in the Rio Grande Valley to  delay their reopening even when they have uncontrolled spread and deaths so  bad they`re piling up the bodies in refrigerated trucks. That`s what`s  going on in Texas today. We reported 306 deaths.

And when you look at the entire United States, I think that the U.S. was a  little over 1,200 deaths. So we`re almost a quarter of the deaths reported  in the United States. And there is still no plan whatsoever to get this  under control and to save the lives of our fellow Texans.

One human face that I want to put on this. Daniel Morales, 39 years old. He  was a nurse working in different dialysis centers in El Paso. When COVID  hit and it hit hard in this community, he started treating COVID patients  in area hospitals.

He just succumbed to COVID-19. 39 years old, four children that he`s  leaving behind and he did not have to die. And more will die unless we  change course and change course now.

VAUSE: We have a social safety net in this country that is skewed. It`s  skewed against the poor. But in some cases, the way that manifests along  the Mexico-Texas border is that it skews against Hispanics. 

O`ROURKE: Absolutely. You look at El Paso, this is an 85 percent Mexican  American community. You get down in the Rio Grande Valley into Cameron,  Hidalgo, and Star counties. And I have talked to folks on the ground there  including elected leaders and hospital folks and nurses there.

Those communities are 90 percent to 95 percent Mexican American. Let`s be  honest about who is dying because of the inaction of our state government  and the ineptitude of our national government.

By and large, it is Black Americans, it`s Native Americans and it is  Latinos in this country and in the state of Texas. And so this is on the  hands -- this is the responsibility of, and we will hold accountable our  Governor Greg Abbott, our President Donald Trump who are responsible for  these deaths so far but still have the opportunity to get this right.

You know, follow the science and the facts and the truth and let`s shut  down some of these communities, especially the hardest hit, and have people  stay at home until we can get this contained and under control.

And by all means, do not reopen schools and put those kids and by extension  their parents and grandparents in harm`s way. The teachers, the support  staff, the bus drivers, the cafeteria workers -- all of whom undoubtedly  will be affected by this if you send people back into schools when the  positivity rate and the testing that we do have in Texas is still 17  percent. 

VELSHI: Yes. New York is at 1 percent, just to give people a comparison at  this point.

Let me ask you about your election or your attempt to get elected to  statewide office. You almost became the first Democrat elected to statewide  office in a long time in 2018. Now NBC has put Texas down as a toss-up  states. What happened? What do you do to take Texas into the Democratic  column? 

O`ROURKE: This is a reflection of what those of us who live in Texas have  been seeing and have been saying to the rest of the country. This is not a  red state. And it may not be a blue state. 

It historically has been a nonvoting state. And on the 55th anniversary of  the Voting Rights Act in one of the most voter suppressed states in the  union where the voter turnout was 50th in the country because black and  Latino Texans have been drawn out of their democracy.

The people are taking power back. WE are registering tens of thousands of  new voters. Our group Power by People is literally calling every likely  Democratic voter in this state, a state of 29 million people to make sure  that Democrats up and down the ballot, including Joe Biden have actionable  contact information for every likely voter.

We can`t have rallies. We can`t hold town halls. We can`t knock on doors,  but we can call and text those who will decide the most important election  of our lifetimes. 

And with 38 electoral college votes. Even if Donald Trump tries to steal  this election and create chaos and confusion, he`s already sending the  signals that he`s going to do this over mail-in balloting. If Texas comes  in on November 3rd for Joe Biden, the first time it will have for a  Democrat since 1976, then we can begin to start to turn a new chapter, turn  the page on Donald Trump and Trumpism and get after the big work that we  have to do in this country.

VELSHI: Beto O`Rourke, stay with us, please. I want to ask you about Donald  Trump`s new outlandish claim about the coronavirus vaccine and when it`s  going to be available. And I want to know how that`s going to work with  voters. We`ll be back in a moment. 


VELSHI: Today the President of the United States, without any supporting  evidence, claimed that a vaccine could be ready by Election Day. 


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a lot of vaccines  under study by the way. We look like we`re going to be really good on  vaccines and with therapeutics also. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what`s the earliest we could see that, a vaccine? 

TRUMP: Sooner than the end of the year. Could be much sooner. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sooner than November 3rd? 


TRUMP: Oh, I think in some cases, yes, possible before, but right around  that time. 


VELSHI: Later today at the White House, President Trump once again  reiterated that a vaccine could be available before the election without  any proof. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, a vaccine could be ready around  November 3rd. Are you optimistic that that will happen? And will that give  you a boost in the election? 

TRUMP: On the vaccine? 


TRUMP: I am. I`m optimistic that it will be probably around that date. I  believe we`ll have the vaccine before the end of the year certainly but  around that date, yes. I think so.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, will that give you a boost in the  election? Will that help you in the election.

TRUMP: It wouldn`t hurt. It wouldn`t hurt. But I`m doing it not for the  election. I want it fast because I want to save a lot of lives. 


VELSHI: So here`s the thing. For those of you who are thinking about voting  for someone else but because Donald Trump says there`s going to be a  vaccine by November 3rd, maybe you should vote for him. If he`s right, and  there`s going to be a vaccine, you`ll get it either way.

Donald Trump`s view of the coronavirus vaccine is really not something that  thinking people should depend upon. They can depend on guidance of experts,  like Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said this today. 


FAUCI: We`re trying very hard to ultimately get a vaccine that might be  available by the end of the year or the beginning of 2021. But that`s many  months away. 


VELSHI: Beto O`Rourke is back with us. Mr. O`Rourke, this is not high  science. We talk to epidemiologists, virologists, people who know things  about these clinical trials. They take a certain amount of time.

This is going to be the most popular vaccine in the history of the world.  Everybody is going to want it, which means we have to actually go through  proper tests to make sure it`s not detrimental to people.

There`s nobody who suggested we`re going to have a vaccine by the beginning  of November. Why does the President do this? This is disinformation? This  is lying. This isn`t misleading. This is straight-up lying, and it`s  damaging. 

O`ROURKE: It is. And I think the way that you are presenting this within  that context is the only way to report this. I sometimes wonder how you and  other journalists can do your job with a president who operates with this  level of mendacity.

Lying all the time about the most important things in our lives, like the  life or death of our family members, in a country that now has more than  160,000 of our fellow Americans dead, representing a quarter of the deaths  on Planet Earth right here in the wealthiest, most powerful, most medically  and scientifically advanced country that the world has never known. How  could this happen but for a monumental failure in leadership?

So you are right to be beyond dubious and skeptical and call that the lie  that it is and instead listen to Dr. Fauci, who by and large has been right  about this at every turn. And whenever he`s been wrong, he`s admitted it.  He`s corrected the record, and he`s been governed by the science and the  facts and the truth that we all deserve.

So look, let`s hope that this administration is as successful as they can  possibly be in helping to develop a vaccine. Lives literally depend on it.  But let`s not hold out hope that the President is telling the truth because  this would be the first time in his administration that he has told the  truth about something that`s important to this country.

The best thing that we can do now is to stay at home. And if you must  leave, wear a mask, wash your hands all the time, and stay more than six  feet away from any other human being that`s not in your household.

That needs to be the direction that we receive from the federal government,  from our state governments, and from our local government. 


O`ROURKE: And in states like mine where you have hundreds of people dying a  day, I think you need to lock down these communities again until you get  transmission under control. 

VELSHI: Congressman, I just want to talk to you about something that Joe  Biden said today about your hometown of El Paso. Let`s listen.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESUMPTIVE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: On Monday we  marked the one-year anniversary of the tragic mass shooting in El Paso,  where a gunman explicitly sought to target Latinos, and 23 beautiful lives  were stolen from us and their families.

I know what it`s like to lose a child, and I know what it`s like to lose a  wife. It is awful. It is starkly -- I shouldn`t get started -- 


VELSHI: Things move so quickly that that seems like so long ago. What a  tragic moment in our history. I wouldn`t mind your reflection on it,  please, sir. 

O`ROURKE: First of all, what you just showed makes the case for Joe Biden  as a leader of this country. At a time that we are so deeply divided, when  so many people are suffering and so many have lost a family member because  of this pandemic and our president`s inability to address it, we need  somebody who can bring us back together again, who can help to heal and who  understands pain and suffering at this level. And that uniquely is Joe  Biden.

And on the other hand, you need to know that the 23 people who were  murdered in this community, murdered because of the color of their skin,  their perceived ethnicity or immigration status, were murdered in large  part because of Donald Trump. Donald Trump, who called immigrants, Asian,  an infestation, animals and treated them as such sent a signal to this  killer that he should take them out and he did.

So we have a very clear choice before us in November. We better hope this  country comes down for Joe Biden. 

VELSHI: Beto O`Rourke, former presidential candidate and former Democratic  congressman from Texas, thank you for joining tonight.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD.