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The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, Transcript 3/7/2016

Guests: Frank Rich, Isabel Wilkerson, Don Riegle

Show: THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL Date: March 7, 2016 Guest: Frank Rich, Isabel Wilkerson, Don Riegle

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That does it for us tonight, we will see you again tomorrow starting at 6:00 Eastern for the start of our primary night coverage.

Now, it`s time for the LAST WORD with Lawrence O`Donnell, good evening Lawrence.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Have you seen "Horace and Pete"?

MADDOW: Horace and Pete? No.

O`DONNELL: No? Well, it`s Louis C.K.`s newest show and --

MADDOW: No --

O`DONNELL: I can`t tell you about it because he doesn`t want me to tell you about it.

MADDOW: OK --

O`DONNELL: But you could watch it on his website. And now I`m going to explain to everyone out there why I`m not going to tell them about it.

MADDOW: OK, "Horace and Pete" --

O`DONNELL: Thank you --

MADDOW: "Horace and Pete", I`ve got to go do that --

O`DONNELL: All right --

MADDOW: Thanks --

O`DONNELL: Thanks Rachel.

MADDOW: Yes, thank you.

O`DONNELL: Well, Louis C.K. did something out of character this weekend. He talked about politics.

Well, actually, he wrote about it in an extraordinary e-mail about Donald Trump.

And as luck would have it, I will be joined by the perfect person, the person who lives at the intersection of politics and show business to discuss Louis C.K.`s reach into politics from show business.

Frank Rich will be my first guest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trump is now leading Ted Cruz by just 87 delegates.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We`re seeing a lot of supporters who had been with Donald Trump coming to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His performance on Saturday in those contests made it clear that he`s vulnerable, and vulnerability is not the look that Donald Trump wants to project.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just want you to just really do it tomorrow. Promise you`re going to go out, OK? Promise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republican contests coming up in Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho, and Hawaii.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No one, not even Donald Trump is on track right now to have 1,237 delegates.

TRUMP: This guy is a disaster, on top of which he`s a choker.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump has been calling on you to drop out.

(LAUGHTER)

RUBIO: Sure, of course he is. He`s running against me.

TRUMP: Little Marco Rubio. That guy, he couldn`t be elected dog catcher in Florida.

RUBIO: I think he`s an interesting show.

TRUMP: Raise your hand. I swear I`m going to vote for Donald Trump next week. I swear, right? Good.

RUBIO: A lot of the people that come out, come to watch the show, not necessarily to vote for him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The media is saying they haven`t seen anything like this, not since Germany in the 1930s.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: When I think of Louis C.K., I think genius. But I don`t say it. I don`t like to use that word for anyone in show business.

I don`t think the word that was invented for guys like this should be used for guys like this.

Scientists never get praised enough, and people in show business get praised way too much.

So let`s leave the word "genius" for men and women like Einstein and Louis will just have to be content with his rave reviews and gold statues and pots of money.

"Horace and Pete" is Louis` latest creative outburst. And it is a work of -- well, let`s see, I can`t use that word "genius."

So, I`m not going to say anything about "Horace and Pete" other than it`s a TV series only available on louisck.net.

And it has definitely secured Louis a spot on the shortlist of greatest TV writers of all time.

I`m not going to say anything about the music and who composed it, and I`m not going to say anything about the cast even though one of them is a dear friend of mine who I have worked with and who I`ve never seen do anything like this.

I`m not going to say anything about "Horace and Pete" because Louis has gone to great lengths to say nothing about it publicly.

He has done no publicity for the show, no talk shows, nothing. He just put it on his website and let us find it because he wants us to have that increasingly rare experience of watching something we know nothing about.

We never get to have that kind of pure audience experience anymore, one where we haven`t been influenced by ads or reviews or a wise guy comment online.

Because I`m a "Horace and Pete" watcher, I got an e-mail from Louis on Saturday announcing the latest episode was ready for viewing.

Thousands of us -- I don`t know, maybe millions of us have been getting these very welcome, very entertaining e-mails every Saturday recently.

This one had a very special P.S. about Donald Trump. Now, we invited Louis on the show as soon as I read that e-mail on Saturday.

But of course he refused because he`s not talking about any of this publicly. He is letting the e-mail speak for itself.

And so sorry, but it falls to me to read the essential excerpts of Louis` 1,400-word P.S., a 1,400-word P.S. about Donald Trump.

And I urge you all to read it in its entirety online at our website. Here it is. Where do we start here?

Here we go. "P.S. -- Please stop it with voting for Trump. It was funny for a little while, but the guy is Hitler.

He`s an insane bigot. He is dangerous. If you are a true conservative, don`t vote for Trump, he`s not one of you, he is one of him.

Everything you have heard him say that you liked, if you look hard enough you will see that he one day said the exact opposite.

He is playing you. If Trump is president, he`s not going to change, he`s not going to do anything for you.

He`s going to do everything for himself and leave you in the dust. If you liked when he said that torture works, then go look at where he took it back the next day.

He`s an f-ing liar. American democracy is broken enough that a guy like that could really screw things up.

That`s how Hitler got there. He was voted into power by a fatigued nation. Trump is not your best. He is the worst of all of us.

He`s a symptom to a real problem -- he`s a symptom with problem that is very real, but don`t vote for your own cancer, you`re better than that.

Trump has nothing to do with politics or ideology, he has to do with himself. And really, I don`t mean to insult anyone except Trump, I mean to insult him very much.

And really, I`m not saying he`s evil or a monster, in fact, I don`t think Hitler was.

The problem with saying that guys like that are monsters is that we don`t see them coming when they turn out to be human, which they all are, everyone is.

Trump is a messed-up guy with a hole in his heart that he tries to fill with money and attention.

He can never, ever have enough of either. And he`ll never stop trying. He`s sick. Which makes him really interesting.

And he pulls you toward him which somehow feels good or fascinatingly bad. He`s not a monster. He`s a sad man.

But all this makes him horribly dangerous if he becomes president. Give him another TV show, let him pay to put his name on buildings, but please stop voting for him."

I respectfully disagree with Louis on just one point. Please, don`t give Donald Trump another TV show.

Every day on Twitter and elsewhere, I see people blaming the news media for the Trump phenomenon.

Mostly blaming cable news networks for giving Donald Trump so much coverage and carrying his speeches live more frequently than any other candidate.

Now, I don`t have a great defense for that point other than to say that all of my coverage of the Trump candidacy has been critical of his positions for being unconstitutional or just plain wrong, which just about all of them are.

And I`m at least not guilty of having conducted any softball interviews that you might have seen with Donald Trump.

Because Donald Trump refuses to appear on this program. And he does that because he knows I wouldn`t waste any of my time on questions about polls or the race horse or how he`s going to do in the next state.

I wouldn`t ask him anything about his opponents. I would ask him about details of his recently released healthcare plan that no one has asked him about.

I would ask him about details of his tax plan that no one has asked him about. And I would not allow him to pretend that his proposed ban of Muslims entering the country is constitutional.

It isn`t. In other words, it would be exactly the kind of interview that Donald Trump just doesn`t do. And he knows that.

I think we have to widen the frame to explain how Trumpism has gotten this far. The more I`ve stared at it, the longer I`ve stared at that question, the more I`ve widened the frame.

I used to try to explain it just by looking at the evolution of our politics. Sarah Palin for vice president in 2008 is an obvious antecedent to Donald Trump as a Republican frontrunner eight years later.

We can find points on the political map like that that are explanatory. But our political culture is inextricable from the rest of our culture, our popular culture.

Candidate Trump has risen in a culture that brought you Honey Booboo; a show that encouraged audiences to chuckle at the worst kind of child rearing.

To watch a little girl getting no helpful preparation at all for how to advance in this world.

America was invited to laugh at that little girl and her mother, and America did. The people who run our networks did not grow up like that little girl.

Most of them had parents who looked over their shoulders while they were doing their homework and helped them to get where they are today.

And none of them have thought of returning that favor by creating a reality show where a mother who had to struggle to get through high school herself then becomes her own children`s best tutor and eventually over years ends up sending them off to college.

A show about excellence. Who would watch that? The ratings indicate -- the ratings that you have supplied by watching TV, the ratings indicate that no one would watch that.

Or not enough, not enough people to keep a show like that alive. And so popular culture gives us Snooki and the situation, not as cautionary tales, not as contemporary tragic figures who made the mistake of relentlessly ignoring their homework assignments in high school.

But as amusements, people to laugh at. Popular culture gives us so-called real housewives who prove they`re real by physically attacking each other at the off-screen urgings of their producers.

Who pretend it`s all worthy of your attention because it`s what they call reality.

And popular culture celebrates the biggest stars in the sad history of reality TV whose last name became famous, thanks to the double murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.

No one in that family has any talent or ability worth aiming a camera at. But America`s celebrity culture doesn`t care about that.

Celebrity is now easily achieved without any admirable talent or ability -- which of course brings us back to Donald Trump.

Who managed to stoke his fame by being the guy everyone hates in real life, but who they then think is fun to watch on a reality show.

The guy who fires people. That`s what reality TV does. It takes behavior that we should be ashamed of, embarrassed of, that we should condemn.

That we should hope our children never engage in and reality TV presents it as fun.

And so today, people go to Donald Trump rallies for the fun, the fun of watching Donald Trump do his lame impersonation of a dictator.

Exactly the kind of person the founding fathers despised. And when those people go home from the Trump rally, they see fictional presidents on TV who are murderers and election stealers, and all of this has been pumped into popular culture by Hollywood liberals.

And yes, most of them are liberals who control what we see on television. It was over 35 years ago that "Time Magazine" did a cover story about just how bad teachers could be in some of our public schools.

Now, we still have great teachers and great public schools in some places, but it is hard to argue that our public education system has not been struggling badly for over 50 years now.

Most of our voters now are products of those struggling public schools. All of the politicians and pundits who`ve been telling you how bad our public schools are for 50 years still try to tell you that those schools are producing the smartest voters in the world.

Donald Trump knows better. He credited his big win in Nevada to among others, his beloved poorly educated. That was his phrase.

Millions of our voters don`t have the basic skills for separating fact from fiction.

Millions of Trump supporters believe President Obama is a Muslim, 66 percent of them, in fact.

Millions of Trump supporters believe Donald Trump`s original political lie that Barack Obama is not a citizen of the United States.

The President produced his birth certificate, but that wasn`t good enough for people who don`t know what proof is.

If our public education system is as bad as its critics say it is, do we have any right to be surprised that it has produced voters who are susceptible to Donald Trump`s lies about Barack Obama`s birth or Donald Trump`s insistence that he will get Mexico to pay for a wall that he wants to build?

Is it a coincidence that the political party that wants to devote less resources to education now has a frontrunner for president with supporters he affectionately calls poorly educated?

It would be impossible for our educational system to slide into decline without our collective intelligence, our values, our popular culture sliding into decline with it.

It`d be impossible. Donald Trump needed all of us to play our parts in all of that for decades in order for him to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate.

A year ago, none of us knew we had slid this far into decline. So far that Donald Trump could be taken seriously as a presidential candidate.

Never mind be the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. But here we are. There is much more to be said about this but not by me.

I can`t wait to hear what Frank Rich sees when he looks through that wide frame of how Donald Trump got to here.

Frank Rich will join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The Republican candidates are getting very nasty with one another. It`s got to stop.

They`re playing right into Obama`s hands. We must defeat Obama. We don`t want him to use all of this stuff to win the election.

They`ve got to at least get along a little bit. Keep it civil. Keep it going.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Four short years ago -- joining us now, Frank Rich, writer-at- large for "New York Magazine" and executive producer of "Hbo`s" "Veep".

I just want to note your president in "Veep" has never murdered anyone as far as I know and --

FRANK RICH, WRITER-AT-LARGE, NEW YORK MAGAZINE & EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, VEEP: Not yet.

O`DONNELL: Not yet, OK, good, yes -- but that was -- I love that piece of video of Donald Trump four years ago saying, come on, you candidates are going to hand this to Obama.

If you follow his logic, then what he`s doing will be handing this to the Democratic nominee.

RICH: Exactly, will prove Louis C.K.`s point. He`ll say something like --

O`DONNELL: Yes --

RICH: This, something else next. He`s playing everybody and he doesn`t even remember, I`m sure that he said this. I`m sure he didn`t remember it two days later or one day later.

O`DONNELL: Yes. Are you having the same experience I have? That the longer I look at how did this Trump thing happen, the wider my frame get.

I start reaching back into our educational system -- start looking around the corners and the centers of our culture.

And it doesn`t feel like it`s just -- well, they went for Sarah Palin, therefore they now go for this guy.

There`s a lot more going on here.

RICH: Yes, well, first of all, a lot of people don`t vote and don`t care. And probably a lot of people who are watching Trump, it`s not like they`re going to vote for him or anyone else.

They`re completely disengaged from the system, and there`s -- you said that he`s entertainment of a sort.

So, yes, we`ve got a problem and that we don`t -- you know, it`s fascinating for you. Like the Republicans made a big issue of Benghazi.

I mean, completely failed. Now, maybe it failed on the merits. But also, do you think most people in America -- I hate to say this, know where Benghazi is and was even about. So, it cuts against every candidate.

But in the case of Trump, there is -- the cultural thing is huge. There`s no question about it.

And it`s more than a reality TV. It is -- just the whole idea of being mesmerized by television.

And indeed when I was watching you speak just a few minutes ago, there was a Howard Bill(ph)-like thing, like you know what I mean.

Likely you didn`t take out a gun --

O`DONNELL: Always like to stay one inch inside(ph) of that Howard(ph) --

RICH: Yes --

O`DONNELL: Bill(ph) thing --

RICH: You know what I mean, it isn`t -- but --

O`DONNELL: Oh, believe me --

RICH: Thirty years, forty years ago that movie won --

O`DONNELL: I have very weary Howard Bill(ph) feelings here from time to time to put it mildly this year.

I mean, this is a -- this is a maddening year to have to cover, and to try to use all of our customary tools, you know, in our customary language for covering this very strange thing that includes this absurd amount of line all over the place.

Including you know -- you know, these candidates saying I`m going to abolish the IRS.

That`s a naughty lie that Republican candidates have been using four years, it`s as crazy as I`m going to have the Mexicans pay for the wall.

RICH: Right, or as crazy as I`m going to revoke the Iran agreement the moment I`m inaugurated.

You can`t do it. So, it`s complete nonsense, but the fact is that truth in this reign as Stephen Colbert said, and no one seems to care, you`re right.

All the tools that we use as journalists or even politicians, conventional politicians use, fact-checking, logic, rationality, the constitution of the United States or what it actually says, it`s all out the window.

It doesn`t -- it just doesn`t really matter. And that`s why people have been continually shocked. You know, you called John McCain a coward, get away with it.

No one -- no one really cares.

O`DONNELL: Yes, Louis C.K. has a great passage in this full e-mail about Donald Trump talking about John McCain.

It`s really -- everyone should read that. You know, one of the things I hear when I talk to Trump voters, and this is the part that I don`t have a good answer for.

When I point out to them a Trump lie, very few of them fight with me on the idea that it`s a lie.

They just say they all lie, all politicians lie. There`s not a quick answer to that. And now, I think one of the big distinctions is they call things lies that I call things that turned out not to be true.

I mean, for example, if the Clinton administration comes along and promises you great prosperity from doing NAFTA, and then you feel that you saw jobs get lost to NAFTA.

That`s a prediction going wrong.

RICH: Right --

O`DONNELL: I don`t believe that they were consciously lying to you when they said that. But boy, it feels exactly the same as any other kind of lie.

RICH: It does. It feels like you`ve been let down or been --

O`DONNELL: Yes --

RICH: Misled. But the thing is everything doesn`t matter. To me, and I think you`d probably agree on the most interesting things is the evangelical support of Trump.

Which has been off the charts way beyond what anyone expected. He`s doing everything that religious people were supposed to be against.

He doesn`t know what the Bible is. He`s multiple marriages, he`s bragged about his sex life.

He`s vulgar -- all of it. And yet every politician does it. So, he`s our guy and so we don`t care anymore.

O`DONNELL: But you know, there`s something I love in that particular result because I`ve always suspected that the evangelical vote was actually up for grabs beyond just a single issue approach to them.

And -- but they`d never been given any alternative --

RICH: Right --

O`DONNELL: To that single issue approach. And so, I actually like seeing that these very religious people are not going to base their votes entirely on how religious you are.

RICH: Well, I think that -- look, there are some positive things about Trump in terms of how as a bull in China shop with this unguided missile he`s exposing often inadvertently and unwittingly --

O`DONNELL: Yes --

RICH: What`s wrong with the system. So he`s shown that evangelicals aren`t necessarily controlled by the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage.

He`s shown that advertising on -- political advertising doesn`t necessarily matter.

He`s shown that high-priced consultants and operatives and sort of focus tested -- focus group tested, the sound bites may in the end be irrelevant.

O`DONNELL: Frank, we`re going to leave it there for tonight, thank you very much for joining us --

RICH: Thank you --

O`DONNELL: I really appreciate it. Good to have you back on the East Coast. Coming up, Republican and Democratic candidates for president are struggling to talk about race.

Isabel Wilkerson will join us. And later, former Senator from Michigan has endorsed a Democratic candidate.

He did not join the rest of the Democratic power structure in Michigan on that one.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: That`s an ad that a Bloomberg campaign had ready to go if Michael Bloomberg had decided to run for president.

But the former New York City mayor announced just hours ago that he will not enter the 2016 presidential race as an independent after months of speculation about that.

And in an essay entitled "The Risk I will not Take". Mike Bloomberg says, "when I look at the data, it`s clear to me that if I entered the race I could not win.

I believe I could win a number of diverse states but not enough to win the 270 electoral college votes necessary to win the presidency."

A recent poll shows that when it comes to party affiliations, 61 percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning voters said they would not vote for Mike Bloomberg with 63 percent of Republicans declaring that same thing."

Up next, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson will join us to talk about how race has factored into this presidential campaign.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: When Bernie Sanders was a teenager, the biggest thing in music was Elvis Presley.

In 1969, when Bernie Sanders was 28, Elvis released a hit song entitled "In the Ghetto".

We can`t afford the fee to play that song for you right now, but maybe a few words will help you remember it.

It was written by Mac Davis. "As the snow flies on a cold and gray Chicago morning, a poor little baby child is born in the ghetto."

And in only seven quick verses after that that baby child grows up to be, in the words of the song, an angry young man who is by the end of the song lying dead in the street from a Chicago police bullet after stealing a car. It is a contender for the single grimmest song in the history of American popular music.

In 1965 professor Kenneth Clark published the landmark book "Dark Ghetto: Dilemmas of Social Power." Dr. Clark was one of the leading social scientists of the era and an expert witness in the Supreme Court case Brown versus the board of education, which desegregated our schools.

Bernie Sanders` use of language about social problems was formed in that period, in the 1960s, in his 20s. And it showed last night when he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I-VT) DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you`re white, you don`t know what it`s like to be living in a ghetto. You don`t know what it`s like to be poor. You don`t know what it`s like to be hassled when you walk down the street or when you get dragged out of a car.

And I believe that as a nation in the year 2016 we must be firm in making it clear, we will end institutional racism and reform a broken criminal justice system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Today Bernie Sanders tried to clarify that statement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: What I meant to say is when you talk about ghetto traditionally what you`re talking about is African-American communities. There`s nobody on this campaign. And occasionally you might want to write about it or mention it. Nobody on this campaign has talked about poverty, whether it is in the white community, the black community, the Latino community. More than I have.

What I meant by that is I think many white people are not aware of the kinds of pressures and the kind of police oppression that sometimes takes place within the African-American community. So you have in the African- American communities, you have police officers abusing people. And that is the point that I tried to make.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist and the author of the seminal work "The Warmth of Other Suns." Isabel Wilkerson is one of the people being honored this week as part of MSNBC`s week-long seven days of genius.

Isabel, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

ISABEL WILKERSON, AUTHOR " THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS": Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Your reaction to what we heard last night and today and just in general the way it seems campaigns are on the edge of their seats waiting to hear when someone uses a word that isn`t quite the right fit for a particular situation like this.

WILKERSON: Well, it shows that we`re still having some growing pains when it comes to dealing with this long-standing deeply rooted challenge of race in our country. I mean if you take the totality of what he said, he hit on so many points, you know, those code words, ghetto, poor, and then institutional racism.

You know, so all of that`s coming together in this moment in our history, this karmic moment where we are trying to deal with who are we as a country, who are we.

And you know, when you think about it, one of the things I wanted to really say about this is that, a lot of people focus on the use of a seeming older term, ghetto. But I think one of the issues that is of concern is the long- standing, you know, assumptions and stereotypes that still are with us today about poverty and African-Americans.

In other words, the conflating of African-Americans are poverty. And the idea that the majority of African-Americans are poor and maybe not working and that sort of thing, when in reality in spite of all of the odds and all of the obstacles only 26 percent, it`s hard to say 26 percent. But 26 percent of African-Americans are under the poverty line. And that means that 3/4 are actually working and struggling, doing whatever they can but are not poor.

And so to try to get past these stereotypes and to get toward the understanding of who we are as a country, who this group is and what they`ve done in spite of all of it would help us I think understand and have compassion for fellow Americans.

O`DONNELL: I remember when I got to college and started studying social science. I discovered, "Oh, I grew up in a ghetto." It was a ghetto where everybody had a job but everybody was Catholic, 95 percent were Irish. It might have been 1 percent Protestant. No Jews, no black people, nobody who wasn`t white.

Ghetto is a description of the similarity of culture, not necessarily socioeconomic status. It doesn`t have to be urban. It could -- and so forth. And yet it has -- it is this term, like people, especially people of Bernie`s age, kind of used interchangeably in a way with black community.

WILKERSON: And that does a disservice to all of us because it means that we don`t really truly understand who this group of people are and how do you address the true issues that they`re facing.

And one of the points about this is that, you know, when he also was speaking about institutional racism, to his credit. And when you think about it, it`s not poverty that`s the reason why, say, a Jonathan Farrel, this young man in North Carolina, was killed after he`d had -- shot by a police officer after he`d had this horrific car accident. It`s not the reason why John Crawford in Ohio was shot in a Walmart, you know, carrying merchandise, you know, a toy gun or a pellet gun in, you know, within Walmart. That had nothing to do with poverty. That had to do with the challenges of race in our country.

And that is the reason why I think people would love to hear more about these challenges that are actually life and death for African-Americans. It`s hard to believe that we are talking about these things in 2016, which is, you know, a 100 years ago is when the great migration began, which where people were fleeing the very things that we`re seeing now.

And so it`s very dispiriting to see that we are still dealing with this. And one other thing, the images that we`re seeing out of the last few weeks from the Trump campaign where you`re seeing, you know, protesters of many different races. But particularly striking are the ones in which women, young women have been pushed and you can see the looks on the faces .

O`DONNELL: Black women.

WILKERSON: . black women have been pushed, shoved. Epithets hurled at them. And some of the photographs are actually so reminiscent of pictures from, say, the Little Rock Nine when they were attempting to integrate central high school in Arkansas in the 1950s.

So you`re thinking how is it that we are still in 2016, these images particularly when we`ve had so much hope about the millennial generation.

O`DONNELL: And Donald Trump and his campaign are not even slightly troubled at the imagery of, you know, tough guys in their audience or in their security detail or even in one instance a secret service agent roughing people up and in particular roughing up black women and other black protesters in their all-white rallies, virtually all-white rallies.

WILKERSON: You`re absolutely right. I mean that`s where leadership comes in.

But I have to say that I think I`m as disturbed if not more disturbed from not just the rhetoric but also from the immediate triggering, the response, the immediate response from people who are alive today who, you know, we should be well past this, we have been here before, we`ve seen this movie before, and here it is playing out again and so how quickly and how easily these people`s passions in this manner can be invoked.

O`DONNELL: Especially we had the movie "Selma." it`s not even a two-year- old movie at this point. And you could be in a theater watching that and think, "Wow, you know, America unites against this." We know that this is bad and this kind of treatment of people is bad and that brave march across that bridge.

Well, we`re seeing people who are sharing the spirit of the people who tried to stop those marches. We`re seeing those people at Trump rallies.

WILKERSON: And that shows you that we have a long way to go in our country. It`s important to recognize. And when you`re thinking about history, people often -- a lot of us don`t even know the history. I hear from people all the time who`ve read my book and they just say I had no idea, I had no idea. The thing about it is .

O`DONNELL: Well, listen, that is original research. No one else has ever put down that story in that comprehensive form. It`s a stunning piece of work. So no, we had no idea about most of it.

WILKERSON: But now we can have an idea. And I think its incumbent upon all of us to know. We need to know our country`s history. We need to know how far we`ve come, how much farther we have yet to go so that we can actually address these issues because they have not been truly addressed before. We thought they had.

One thing I always say is that, you know, we change the laws but that doesn`t mean that we`ve changed the hearts. And I think that the heart is the last frontier for many people.

O`DONNELL: Isabel Wilkerson, thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

WILKERSON: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

This week is MSNBC`s "7 Days of Genius." You can go to msnbc.com and select the person who you think should be recognized this week.

Up next, a former United States senator born in Flint, Michigan has made his presidential endorsement. He will join us next.

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O`DONNELL: Both of Michigan`s Democratic senators, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, have endorsed Hillary Clinton as has Former Michigan Senator Carl Levin. But yesterday another former Democratic senator from Michigan, Don Riegle, went the other way.

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SEN. DON RIEGLE, (D) MICHIGAN: The most important fact about Bernie is that he is honest and trustworthy. He`s got the best chance to win in November. You worry about who`s going to be appointed to the Supreme Court. You`re worried about the possibility of Cruz or Trump being elected?

The person today who the American people and public opinion polls say they would vote for versus these candidates and who can beat all of these candidates, there`s only one. And it`s this guy right here.

O`DONNELL: Joining us now, former U.S. senator from Michigan and now Bernie Sanders supporter Don Riegle.

Senator, thank you very much for joining us tonight, I really appreciate it.

RIEGLE: Thank you, Lawrence. And thank you for the job you do. I see you all the time but it`s .

O`DONNELL: It`s good to see you, again senator.

RIEGLE: Yes.

O`DONNELL: And what I`m doing is as easy as it looks.

Senator, I have to tell you, I`m very surprised. I -- if someone asked me who`s Don Riegle going to back, I would have said he`s going to make the conventional choice in this situation, senator -- a former senator, he`s going to go with the former senator, he`s going to go with Hillary Clinton. I remember watching you in the senate working with Hillary Clinton, working very hard to get her health care plan through the senate finance committee, trying to get that passed. How did you make this decision? How did you come out this way?

RIEGLE: Well, you know, I served over the time, 28 years in the congress, seven different presidents. So you get to see different kinds of presidents and different kinds of presidential styles. But the whole political system has changed.

And you know that almost better than anybody else because when people say the political system is broken it really is quite broken. We`re not seeing much of anything happen out of the congress. We`re seeing gridlock in an extreme way. The two parties have sort of been breaking down over a period of time.

And special interest money has really come to dominate the entire system. And I think it`s -- it is corrupting. I made an analogy to being like the poison water in Flint that we`ve been dealing with, my home town.

If you have enough -- if you have too much special interest money going through the political system, all kinds of bad things happen and very few good things happen.

And that has to change. If we`re going to get new national priorities for our country, I think you`ve got to put the people back in charge. And that`s very, very difficult.

So when Bernie Sanders started out to do this a long time ago, and nobody knew who he was. He was from Vermont, 3 percent in the polls. But I think what he`s saying about the need for fundamental change and setting a new set of national priorities is correct.

And right now he`s the only one who`s really offering that that I can see. And one of the tests of it is that he`s been able to attract now -- I think they just reached the 5 million mark in individual citizens who`ve made contributions to his campaign.

Now, that`s really astonishing because it`s hard to get people, just average citizens to contribute to a campaign or to even volunteer for a campaign, but to have 5 million of them across the country, average contribution of $27, I mean, that is a cry for change. And it represents anxiety. It represents frustration. It represents idealism, wanting to make a fresh start.

And I think that`s needed. And right now he`s offering that and he`s the only one who really is in my opinion.

O`DONNELL: In your statement yesterday you reached back to NAFTA and how you .

RIEGLE: I did.

O`DONNELL: . and Bernie Sanders, Bernie in the house, you in the senate, opposed NAFTA.

RIEGLE: Seriously.

O`DONNELL: And so that still has resonance for you.

RIEGLE: Well, it does. And when my statement that I made in Flint, I put down all the numbers over all the years since NAFTA has been in place of our annual trade deficit with Mexico.

And I don`t know if you happened to see those numbers or have them at the top of your head. But we`ve just passed the 900 billion mark. 900 billion mark in trade deficit with Mexico since the beginning of NAFTA. We`re about to hit a trillion dollars.

The Ford motor company, as you may know, has just announced that it`s about to move another plant for Michigan down to Mexico.

Donald Trump`s made a big deal out of that by saying, you know, if he`s elected he`ll stop that. We`ve really been terribly devastated in Michigan and in the upper Midwest and increasingly across the country by jobs moving out of America, many to Mexico. That`s in exhibit A.

But the Clinton`s rammed that NAFTA in my opinion -- you were there. So you have your own view of that. But the pressure was very intense to accept that package, and it was based on promises that we would have a balance of trade, that we wouldn`t be this many years down the road and be upside down by a trillion dollars. But part of that money that`s gone is money we need to put new water pipes in Flint, other places around the country, help kids go to college, lots of other things.

O`DONNELL: Senator Don Riegle, thank you very much for joining us tonight on the eve of the Michigan primary. We really appreciate it.

RIEGLE: Thank you. I think tomorrow should be interesting.

O`DONNELL: OK, coming up, we have Joy Reid joining us next from Michigan.

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O`DONNELL: Michigan voters head to the polls tomorrow to cast their votes in that state`s primary election. MSNBC`s live coverage begins at 6:00 p.m. tomorrow.

Up next, MSNBC National Correspondent, Joy Reid joins us live from Detroit with a final update before voting starts tomorrow morning.

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DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The great state of Michigan. That`s a biggie tomorrow. You and Michigan, we have Hawaii and we have the greatest potato group in the world, Idaho. I love Idaho. I love Idaho. I told them, I just tweeted, I said, I love you potatoes. I hope you`re going to vote for me. I`ll protect you. Nobody`s going to take those potatoes away from Idaho.

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O`DONNELL: No wonder he lost Maine which is one of the country`s greatest potato producers. Tomorrow Republicans go to polls in Michigan, Mississippi, Hawaii and Idaho. While Democrats will hold primaries in Michigan and Mississippi, a new Monmouth poll of Michigan`s Republican primary shows Donald Trump leading Ted Cruz by 13 points there. The same poll shows Hillary Clinton leading Bernie Sanders in Michigan by 13 points.

And joining us now is Joy Reid, MSNBC national correspondent. She joins us tonight from Detroit.

Joy, Michigan is what I`m watching tomorrow night. There`s a bunch of things in play, though. What are you going to be focusing on?

JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, absolutely, Lawrence. So for the Republican side I think the thing to watch and that folks here are watching is John Kasich.

John Kasich is making a big push to try to put Michigan in his column, to try to catch up to Donald Trump, who does have a lead in the polls. John Kasich has been all over the state blanketing with his presence. His ads are up here as well.

So I would watch for that. But Donald Trump really does still have a lead here. This is a state that is sort of built for him, very blue collar. That blue collar white vote. It`s an open primary. And Donald Trump tends to do better in states where independents can cross over and vote on the GOP side.

Now, on the Democratic side this is also a state that in theory should be a prime target for Bernie Sanders because of course, you know, Detroit and all of the economic problems those same white blue-collar voters who fall on the more Liberal side or the Democratic side should be open to him. But he is pretty consistently behind Hillary Clinton.

And I think one of the things to watch for is whether that debate last night actually exacerbated what had already been a 10 to 17-point lead for Hillary Clinton because of that answer on not explicitly voting to move the funds for the auto bailout. That is actually been a big talk around local T.V. here, Lawrence. It`s all over the local news. That`s what people are talking about, is whether or not Bernie Sanders supported that auto bailout. That`s going to be a big factor here for him.

O`DONNELL: And Joy, in the coverage today in Michigan did they get that distinction, that Bernie Sanders voted for the auto bailout when it was a stand-alone bill. But then when they wrapped it inside another bill that he couldn`t stand he voted against it?

REID: I have to say, no. just watching -- no. and local news coverage that I was watching, you know, this morning and this afternoon, there really wasn`t that distinction. Really the answer that he gave was played back and the setups really were a lot simpler than that.

So I don`t think that the nuance really is necessarily registering with voters here. There just really is a sense that that was something people maybe forgot or didn`t know. So it came across as new information. It was a very skillful attack by Hillary Clinton because it hit on what seems to be new information to a lot of voters here.

And Bernie Sanders, rather than answering it directly the way you just did, he really went right back to his Wall Street talking points.

So I think he missed an opportunity to really explain it. Now, there`s a Washington Post piece that I tweeted out earlier today and other people are sharing it, that explains more of those nuances. But you and I both know, Lawrence, when it comes to voting, people don`t necessarily weed through the nuances. People just look at the top line. And the top line is whether or not he supported the bailout for Detroit, which is so important to voters, not just in Detroit but really in all of the other cities like, you know, Flint and other cities that are ancillary markets to Detroit.

So I think that`s going to be a big issue.

O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, try to get some sleep tonight. It`s going to be long night tomorrow night.

REID: OK, thank you Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you Joy.

Chris Hayes, is up next.

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