LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel.
We have Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer joining us tonight. She represents the congregational district that includes Waterloo, Iowa. It includes the meatpacking plant that -- and more than one plant -- that people were discussing as you began your show tonight, especially Dr. Sharon Duclos who was I think first video you showed tonight, where Dr. Duclos was crying what she was going through with staff and people infected by the plants.
And so, your coverage is extraordinary and was tonight. We will supplement it in our way by hearing from the congresswoman who actually represents that district and what she might be able to do about this.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "TRMS": I have been following her on Twitter and watching her public pronouncements about this as her district is dealing with what is a real crisis. So, I`m super happy you booked her tonight, Lawrence. I`m looking forward to seeing that, my friend.
O`DONNELL: Thank you, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right.
O`DONNELL: Well, American`s first public health official was George Washington and he took on that role before the United States of America was born. Two hundred forty-five years ago when George Washington was the commander in chief of the Revolutionary Forces, fighting for independence from the British crown, he issued an order, with an order, to prevent the spread of infectious disease by his soldiers.
Quote: No person is to be allowed to go to the fresh water pond of fishing or any other occasion as there may be a danger of introducing the smallpox into the army.
General Washington said that on July 4th, 1775.
That order by George Washington appears in the first paragraph of Fintan O`Toole`s latest writing about the coronavirus pandemic in the "New York Review of Books".
And if you like me crave a touch of the poet in current events writing, then you most read Fintan O`Toole`s pieces that appear regularly in "The Irish Times." Fintan O`Toole splits his time between Ireland and the United States, and so, he combines the detail of an insider with the perspective of an outsider when he writes about Donald Trump`s, quote, narcissism, mendacity bullying and malignant incompetence that have doomed Trump in his confrontation with this epidemic. Fintan O`Toole will get tonight`s last word from Dublin end of this hour.
We will also be joined tonight by Congresswoman Katie Porter who is demanding accountability from the Trump White House on how the president is using powers under the Defense Production Act.
We begin tonight with hope. And now that the United States has more than a million reported cases of coronavirus and more than 60,000 deaths from coronavirus, we need hope more than ever.
Hope does not compete with caution. Hope and caution can be two sides of the same coin. In real life in our darkest hours, hope does not arrive like a winning lottery ticket producing sudden full blown happy relief. Hope arrives if it ever does as a tiny hole of light in the darkness that surrounds us. And that is how it arrived today.
Dr. Anthony Fauci delivered a ray of hope today about a possible treatment for coronavirus. Dr. Fauci wants us to continue taking all of our strictest precautions against the coronavirus. Dr. Fauci doesn`t think anything he said today should change any of that but what he said today might change the treatment for coronavirus patients might make recovery slightly or significantly easier for some coronavirus patients, and that is something we should all hope proves true.
Dr. Fauci as the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has been sponsoring a trial of the antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for coronavirus patients.
And here is how Dr. Fauci presented the preliminary findings this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The data shows that remdesivir has a clear cut, significant positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery. This is really quite important for a number of reasons and I`ll give you the data. It`s highly significant.
If you look at the time to recovery being shorter in the remdesivir arm, it was 11 days compared to 15 days. That`s a P value for the scientists who are listening of 0.001. So that`s something that although a 31 percent improvement doesn`t seem like a knockout 100 percent, it is a very important proof of concept because what it is proven is that a drug can block this virus and I`ll give you an example in a moment of why we think looking forward, this is very optimistic.
The mortality rate trended towards being better in the sense of less deaths in the remdesivir group, 8 percent versus 11 percent in the placebo group. It has not yet reached statistical significance, but the data needs to be further analyzed.
The reason why we`re making the announcement now is something that I believe people don`t fully appreciate. Whenever you have clear cut evidence that a drug works, you have an ethical obligation to immediately let the people who are in the placebo group know so they can have access and all the other trials taking place now have a new standard of care.
So we would have normally waited several days until the data gets further, dot the I and cross the T, but the data is not going to change. Some of the numbers may change a little but the conclusion will not change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Dr. Fauci who was one of the heroes of the scientific battle against HIV more than a generation ago said that the new findings reminded him of the first breakthrough in the struggle to develop drugs for HIV.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAUCI: So, when I was looking at this data with our team the other night, it was reminiscent of 34 years ago in 1986 when we were struggling for drugs for HIV and we had nothing. And it was a lot of anecdotal reports about things that maybe worked, maybe not and people took different kinds of drugs, and we did the first randomized placebo trial with AZT, which turned out to give an effect that was modest but that was not the end game because building on that every year after, we did better and better. We had better drugs of the same type and we had drugs against different targets.
This drug happens to be blocking an enzyme the virus uses. That`s an RNA polymerase. There are a lot of others the virus uses that will be targets for this. This will be the standard of care and in fact, when we look at the other trials we`re doing, we were going to do trial with another antiviral, actually, it isn`t an antiviral but an anti inflammatory, a monoclonal antibody.
We`re going to now compare the combination of remdesivir with this so as drugs come in, we`ll see if we can add on that. So, bottom line, you`re going to be hearing more details about this. This will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal and peer-reviewed appropriately, but we think it`s really opening the door to the fact we have the capability of treating and I can guarantee you as more people, more companies, more investigators get involved, it`s going to get better and better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And so, a new window of hope has opened. But if this drug does become the standard of care, who will get this drug? We don`t really know who needs such a drug because we don`t have the capacity yet to test every possible coronavirus patient in this country.
Yesterday, Donald Trump said that the United States would soon be doing 5 million coronavirus tests a day. The only timetable he gave for that was the word soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: I hear you saying you`re confident you can surpass 5 million tests per day? Is that --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, well, we`re going to be there very soon. If you look at the numbers, it could be that we`re getting very close.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Hours before Donald Trump said that, the Trump administration official in charge of testing told "Time Magazine" there is absolutely no way on earth on this planet or any other planet we can do 20 million tests a day or even 5 million tests a day.
A Harvard report entitled "Road Map to Pandemic Resilience" says, quote, we need to deliver 5 million tests per day by early June to deliver a safe social reopening. This number will need to increase over time ideally by late July to 20 million a day to fully remobilize the economy. We acknowledge that even this number may not be high enough to protect public health.
Dr. Jane Wilcox is a cardiologist at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. She`s currently working as a critical care doctor in a dedicated COVID ICU at Northwestern.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. JANE WILCOX, NORTHWESTERN MEDICINE CARDIOLOGIST: I was nervous and a little anxious to be seeing a different disease process than I`d ever seen before. I trained during H1N1 and while I remember the occasional sad case of a young healthy person succumbing to this disease, I was not prepared to enter into an entire unit and multiple units with droves of relatively healthy patients who were now fighting for their life with COVID pneumonia.
And racial and ethnic disparities exist. I`ve seen that. Families use parents, brothers, sisters, multiple family members in one family and it`s really terrible. And I think this is a call to action to not only all of us in the health care community but also as a society about how we`re going to address this and the importance of prevention in all members of our society.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight are Dr. William Schaffner. He`s professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. John Heilemann is also with us. He`s national affairs analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. He`s co-host and executive producer of Showtime`s "The Circus", and editor-in-chief of "The Recount."
Dr. Schaffner, what is your reaction to Dr. Fauci`s presentation on remdesivir today?
DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: I`m smiling, Lawrence. We need good news.
Now, long journeys begin with first steps but this was a firm first step. It`s very exciting. We now know that there is at least one drug and maybe there are others in the research pipeline that can act against this viral infection. The data so far that have been released show as Tony said that people can leave the hospital sooner and there`s a trend toward increasing survival. That`s really very exciting.
Now, it`s not a magic bullet. It`s not a home run. The journey is still long. We have further research to go. We don`t even know which COVID infected patients benefit the most -- very sick people or only moderately sick people. We`ll wait to see as the data are further analyzed, but this is a nice first step forward.
O`DONNELL: Dr. Schaffner, I was struck by in the presentation is the notion of building blocks. The idea that -- especially when he used that -- the research on HIV drug treatments and how you begin with something that turns out to do a small part of the job or maybe it appears to do part of the job and you discover it`s not really doing the job, but it is at least a research building block that leads you to another building block and keep assembling them and at some point, you could through this research and through this product be building towards something that really does work.
SCHAFFNER: Absolutely, Lawrence. You said it very well. This is a beginning and as Dr. Fauci said, now they`re doing trials adding other drugs. That`s exactly what we did with HIV/AIDS.
We all remember those days. We lived through them. It looks as though now perhaps we can assemble several drugs that would work separately and in combination that give us a much better chance to increase survival and make people better, faster.
We would love to have that happen. But they all take time. They all have to have rigorous trials. We want to do this on a strong evidence base.
O`DONNELL: And, John Heilemann, Dr. Fauci showed once again today that the value of credibility because he has such a very, very high credibility rating with the public, he`s the person in that room today who has the highest credibility rating of anyone and that is really -- that really matters and it`s the thing that Donald Trump can never bring to this discussion.
JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Right, and it`s the thing, Lawrence, I mean, if you think of the could haves, would haves, should haves in this performance by the president over the last four months, you just think about what a resource politically speaking, obviously scientifically Dr. Fauci is a huge resource as many members of the coronavirus task force.
But just politically speaking, if Donald Trump had taken that opposite road, had decided to lean more heavily on Dr. Fauci and did not allow his ego to get in the way, did not constantly seek the ratings and spotlight and the podium, just imagine what things would have been like for Donald Trump politically if he invested much more in Dr. Fauci and come to this point without the damage that has been wrought on his personal brand, on his poll numbers, on his standing with the American public, which is really in a very precarious position now politically.
O`DONNELL: And it is that credibility that allows Dr. Fauci to say things that we could be pretty sure Donald Trump wants to stop him from saying or firing him after he says it, and let`s listen to what Dr. Fauci said yesterday about the possible second wave of the coronavirus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAUCI: As we get into next season, in my mind, it`s inevitable that we will have a return of the virus or maybe it never even went away. When it does, how we handle it will determine our fate. If by that time we have put into place all of the countermeasures that you need to address this, we should do reasonably well. If we don`t do that successfully, we could be in for a bad fall and a bad winter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: And, of course, when Dr. Fauci said things like that in the presence of Donald Trump, Donald Trump immediately says he doesn`t think so, he doesn`t think we`ll have a second wave, but Dr. Schaffner, using the word "inevitable", a scientist using the word "inevitable" is a very, very strong choice of language. That`s what Dr. Fauci is saying about the second wave.
SCHAFFNER: Well, that`s strong language indeed but it`s language that I think virtually every infectious disease doctor and anyone in public health would agree with. We`re going to have to endure with this coronavirus. It`s not going to suddenly disappear.
So, we have to get better treatments as we`ve been talking about. We have to maintain our social distancing and all of those interventions to try to flatten the curve and keep it down and in the meantime, keep the research going so that we can finally get a vaccine or vaccines that can be given to essentially the world`s population in order to finally get ahead of this virus.
O`DONNELL: Dr. William Schaffner, I`m glad we could get a smile out of you about the news Dr. Fauci revealed. Thank you very much for joining us.
John Heilemann, thank you for starting us off tonight, really appreciate it.
And when we come back, freshman Congresswoman Katie Porter has dazzled us with her investigative skills in congressional hearings, cross-examining Trump administration officials and powerful CEOs. She now wants answers about coronavirus testing and how President Trump is using his powers under the Defense Production Act.
Congresswoman Katie Porter joins us next.
O`DONNELL: Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the creation of the new House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis. She appointed House Majority Whip James Clyburn as the committee chair and appointed six Democratic members to the committee, including three shares of House committees that already have jurisdictional interest in coronavirus legislation that has already been passed.
Chairwoman Maxine Waters of the House Financial Services Committee, Chairwoman Caroline Maloney of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez of the House Small Business Committee.
Other members include freshman Andy Kim who was a member of the Small Business Committee, Jamie Raskin, who`s the chairman of the subcommittee of the Oversight and Reform Committee, and Congressman Bill Foster, a physicist who is a member of the Subcommittee of Investigation and Oversight of Scientific Issues.
Republicans are allowed five members to serve in the minority in that committee, but none have been appointed yet. Notably absent from this committee is freshman Katie Porter who has demonstrated some of the best investigative skills and cross-examination skills of business executives and administration officials that we have ever seen in congressional hearings.
Congresswoman Porter has been demanding more accountability from the Trump administration and this new committee will add to Congress`s ability to obtain that accountability.
Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter of California.
And, Congresswoman Porter, it`s a very small committee, so I can see it`s hard to have squeezed on to it without more seniority when you see all those chairs who are on that committee, but it seems as though it`s going to function in association with the Oversight Committee so you Oversight Committee members will be having a lot of interaction with or benefit from this select committee it seems.
REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): Absolutely. There remains an obligation on every member of Congress to do oversight and whether you`re on the Select Committee, whether you`re on the Oversight Commission, or whether you`re rank-and-file member, this pandemic is touching every aspect of our society, our economy, and so, I anticipate being able to continue to do oversight from my roles on both the Oversight Committee but also the Financial Services Committee.
O`DONNELL: Now, you`re demanding from the Trump White House accountability on how the president is using some presidential powers that actually don`t have accountability built into them.
PORTER: Absolutely. So, the Defense Production Act, which was passed during the Korean War, was designed to allow in times of an emergency to allow the government to basically go to the front of the line with private manufacturers and get goods that were needed to protect our national security.
So it`s an important tool. It`s never been used in a pandemic like this, to be fair, but the president has provided no transparency, which about his use of the Defense Production Act. Sometimes suggesting that he has made use of it, sometimes suggesting that he didn`t need to because companies were willing to do things on their own.
And the result has been it`s only added to the confusion about do we have the supplies not only personal protective equipment and tests, but now also concern about whether we have the pharmaceuticals that are going to be needed, the active pharmaceutical ingredients needed to ultimately treat this virus or to produce a vaccine.
O`DONNELL: And the president has not used the act to actually get more testing into the pipeline.
Let`s listen to what the president said about testing and he actually had said that he was going to get it up to 5 million and now he`s dropping even that prediction. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Mr. President, on testing yesterday, you said that we will very soon be testing 5 million people.
TRUMP: Well, I don`t know where it came up.
REPORTER: You said that.
TRUMP: Yes. I`d like to refer to these two people because I don`t know where it came up. Everyone kept saying you said there would be five. That was a study that came out. Somebody came out with a study of 5 million people.
Do I think we will? I think we will but I never said it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman, we just showed the video earlier of him saying exactly that, 5 million a day. He`s promised that yesterday.
PORTER: No, look, this back-and-forth, the lack of consistent information is really the worst response that you could have to a public health crisis where what we need to fight this virus besides science, besides investment and government support for doing the research is consistent and clear information. And so, to the extent that every day is sort of a choose your own adventure from the president in terms of a press conference, it`s really holding back the ability of states, counties, municipalities to make plans to work together and to work with industries.
So, we`re calling on the president to make public -- has he in fact made any orders for personal protective equipment or other things using the Defense Production Act? What has he ordered? Who has he ordered it from? And when can we expect to receive those goods?
Without that transparency, it`s really impossible to have the Defense Production Act be an effective tool in this kind of situation.
O`DONNELL: You teamed up, it was announced today, with Senator Elizabeth Warren, to get information from Envision Healthcare who are in the process apparently of cutting physicians` pay and benefits in the middle of this pandemic.
Tell us what you see happening in that situation.
PORTER: Well, it`s very discouraging, Lawrence, to say the least when we have frontline doctors, including emergency medicine doctors, who are putting their lives on the line, along with nurses and other health care providers only to have their jobs cut for a private equity firm who is looking to boost its profits.
By definition, when you`re an equity firm and have an equity investment in a company, you get profits in good times but you have to contribute equity to help the company make it in bad times.
So, Senator Elizabeth Warren and I wrote a letter to some of the equity firms that own Envision and we ask for answers and we got back a very unsatisfactory response. So, we`ve written to them again.
You know, Congress is providing and taxpayers are providing tremendous support for hospitals and health care to prevent exactly these kinds of layoffs because we need these folks on the job ready to help as the pandemic spreads or pops up in different local areas.
O`DONNELL: And you made the point today that this same company while they`re trying to cut the benefits is pouring millions of dollars of dark money into political ads.
PORTER: Absolutely. This is one of the major companies behind a group that`s trying to persuade Americans that the health care reforms and improvements that Congress is pursuing are wrong or misguided. So they have millions and millions of dollars to spend, even during this pandemic, to put up digital ads, to send out mail, to engage in dark money lobbying, but they`re telling us they don`t have the ability to simply keep doctors on the job. It`s wrong and it`s shameful and I`m going to call it out.
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Katie Porter, thank you very much for joining us tonight.
PORTER: Thank you for having me.
O`DONNELL: And when we come back, we`ll be joined by another freshman congresswoman Abby Finkenauer, who represents that district in Iowa, a district that Donald Trump won in 2016, but where, tonight, workers in her district are forced to choose between health and safety -- possibly choosing between their lives and working in the meatpacking plants that Donald Trump is ordering to continue to operate even though they`ve shown no ability to protect those workers from continuing outbreaks of coronavirus.
Will those workers really have to make the life and death decision to go to work? That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDGAR FIELDS, PRESIDENT, RETAIL, WHOLESALE & DEPARTMENT STORE UNION SE COUNCIL: How much is a life`s worth as opposed to beef, pork and chicken. That is a decision that we have to make because that worker makes it every day when they go to work.
They look at how much is my life`s worth today. I`m making $13- $14- $15 an hour. Is it worth it? But yet still we have this administration that said we have to keep it open. They have to go to work. Something`s unfair about that entire situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Edgar Fields is President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Southeast Council. The region that he oversees includes a Tyson chicken processing plant in Camilla, Georgia where four employees have died from coronavirus.
The company has refused to say how many workers there have tested positive for Covid-19. That plant closed for 48 hours but has now reopened. Another Tyson facility in Waterloo, Iowa remains closed tonight after 180 workers tested positive for coronavirus, one of those workers has died.
The Congresswoman who represents that congressional district in Iowa will join us in a moment. That plant could be reopening soon after President Trump signed an executive order last night requiring meat plants to stay open. President Trump said that he had a conference call with owners of the meat packing plants who were so thrilled with his executive order that they were cheering. That`s Donald Trump`s report of the phone call.
The President did not speak to anyone whose life is at risk by working in one of those plants. Joining our discussion now is Democratic Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer who represents Iowa`s first congressional district.
Congresswoman, thank you very much for joining us tonight. What is happening in your district? You have more than one plant there and what can you do for the safety of workers in those plants?
REP. ABBY FINKENAUER (D-IA): Well, I`ll tell you, we are very concerned about what we`re seeing across the state but very specifically that Waterloo plant, Tyson`s and Waterloo where we now know 44 percent of the workers have tested positive and they were not given the right protection, the right mitigation efforts when this started getting bad.
And we continue to be concerned about what we`ve seen from Tyson`s you know, I`ve had experience as a state rep. I remember they were one of the leaders of gutting workers compensation in the state of Iowa and other states and so they`re hard for me to trust on a good day for caring about the health and safety of workers, let alone during a pandemic.
And we`ve got a lot of folks who are scared, who are worried and you know about the health and safety, their livelihoods and I`m going to continue to have their backs as their local leaders have as well. I just have to say that you know that the Mayor, the Sherriff, the state representatives who have heard their stories will continue to uplift them.
And it`s going to be up to the administration to decide whether they listen or not but we`ll continue to have their backs.
O`DONNELL: One person they should listen to is Dr. Sharon Duclos who Rachel Maddow showed some of what Dr. Duclos had to say at the beginning of her hour. We`re just going to listen to about 30 seconds of what Dr. Duclos had to say. She`s in Waterloo. She`s dealing with these patients. Let`s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. SHARON DUCLOS, CO-MEDICAL DIRECTOR, PEOPLE COMMUNITY HEALTH CLINIC, WATERLOO, IA: : I think about what would the person side of me who just died from this, how would they advocate helping other people, not go through what they just went through.
So that`s what I think about. So for the other businesses, churches, restaurants, think about your community and think about your actions and think about how you can best serve the greater good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman, how can you get more people running these plans to pay attention to what Dr. Duclos just had to say?
FINKENAUER: Well, at the end of the day, we actually have to be listening to the workers. It`s not talking to the CEOs and trusting that they`re doing the right thing. It`s about making sure that these workers are kept safe.
And here at the end of the day, you know they can say that - obviously with the President using the Defense Production Act to open up these plants, you`re not going to have a work force going back to these plants when 44 percent have tested positive and when they aren`t feeling safe because there`s no enforceable safety standards.
And so I would say to these CEOs, listen to your workers and at the end of the day, if you do not have those protections in place and they can say they do, all day long. If the government does not actually have enforceable regulations here with actual OSHA in these plants looking at what`s going on and making sure that folks are feeling safe and actually have the right protection then you`re not going to have folks coming back in the first place.
And so I would just again urge both Tyson`s but then also the president to listen to workers, to listen to the folks who are on the ground, living it every day, who are putting themselves and their family at risk. This is so much against who we are a nation and Iowans to not be caring about our neighbors here, who are - they`re the folks to work their tails off every day in these plant who their kids go to school with kids in your neighborhood.
You know, they worship together. It is - it`s family in Iowa and we, I mean heck my grandfather who worked in meat packing plants in Dubuque. That`s just - it`s part of who we are here but you better treat people right otherwise again, you`re not going to have a work force to begin with.
O`DONNELL: Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer, thank you very much for joining us. We really appreciate - appreciate hearing from you about this.
FINKENAUER: Thank you Lawrence. I appreciate it.
O`DONNELL: Thank you. And when we come back, how does the world see Donald Trump tonight? How does America look from afar? Our next guest Fintan O`Toole writes, "If the plague is a test, its ruling political nexus to ensure that the United States would fail at a terrible cost in human lives. In the process the idea of the United States is the world`s leading nation, an idea that has shaped the past century has all but evaporated."
O`DONNELL: "Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world. Love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger but there is one emotion that has never been directed toward the United States until now. Pity."
Those are the words of Fintan O`Toole in a new Op-ed piece written in Dublin for The Irish Times. Fintan O`Toole splits his time between Ireland and the United States and that allows him to offer us the perspective of the wires outside and the knowledgeable insider at the same time since no 2 is not writing about what the coronavirus has done to the United States and what it has exposed to.
Perspective of the wise outsider and the knowledgeable insider at the same time. Fintan O`Toole is now writing about what the coronavirus has done to the United States and what it has exposed about this country`s pre-existing conditions.
Here is more of Fintan O`Toole`s Op-ed piece posted as audio on the Irish Times website.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FINTAN O`TOOLE, COLUMNIST, THE IRISH TIMES: Trump has at least eight months more in power. In his inaugural address in 2017, he evoked American carnage and promise to make it stop. But now that the real carnage has arrived, he is revelling in it. He is in his element.
As things get worse, he will pump more hatred and falsehood, more death- wish defiance of reason and decency into the groundwater. If a new administration succeeds him in 2021, it will have to clean up the toxic dump he leaves behind. If he`s re-elected, toxicity will have become the lifeblood of American politics. Either way, it will be a long time before the rest of the world can imagine America being great again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: After this break Fintan O`Toole will join us from Dublin with his view from across the pond.
O`DONNELL: If you crave current events writings, sprinkled with a touch of the poet, you must read Fintan O`Toole whose latest piece in The Irish Times says, "the world has loved, hated and envied the United States. Now for the first time we pity it."
Joining us now from Dublin is Fintan O`Toole, columnist for The Irish Times and the author of `The Politics of Pain: Postwar England and the Rise of Nationalism.` Fintan, I want to start with this point you make about pity. Surely this is the first time you could find people in Ireland feeling pity for the United States.
O`TOOLE: Yes, you know I`m in Dublin and there`s probably no country in the world that has such awe for America, such love for America, such affection and I do think people are genuinely feeling pity. You know people know that most Americans didn`t vote for Donald Trump, don`t support Donald Trump.
And we`re all suffering in this crisis but we`re able to imagine what it must feel like to be locked down in a room with a malignant narcissist as your leader. You know we`ve seen before in human history, we`ve seen bad leadership, we`ve seen a vacuum of leadership but I don`t think we`ve ever seen anything in a crisis like this, that approximates a leader who has been actively spreading a deadly virus, which is really what Trump has been doing by his actions.
By the way, he`s been speaking out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, coming up with quack cures, using this as an excuse to make enemies, not the slightest empathy. You know, you look at leaders all over the world, however bad they are, they at least feel they have to project some kind of good authority and some kind of empathy at this moment of crisis.
And in the democratic world, I mean there are crazy people out there but in the democratic world, you can only think of Bolsonaro in Brazil and Donald Trump in the great United States of America who`s behaving in this way.
O`DONNELL: You make a point in your new piece in The New York Review of Books that Trump is struggling with two contradictory impulses, paranoia verses risk. Explain that.
O`TOOLE: Yes, you know, it`s an interesting question, isn`t it? Because you might think well, actually Donald Trump could reasonably claim to have been a kind of prophet of what we`re supposed to do in the coronavirus crisis. You know he`s a germaphobe.
You know, he washes his hands all the time. He has been on a campaign to stop people shaking hands. You know he hates coughing. He`s you know, he has all these kind of things going for him and it`s an interesting question.
So why did he not get ahead of this? And said I`ve always told you. You know, I was - I was the guy who - my instincts were right about all this kind of stuff. And why couldn`t he do that? Well, of course he couldn`t do it because he`s drawn between as you say these - these two different forces.
One is - at least this is conservatism, right? This is - conservatism has used these two things. It uses paranoia, fear, there`s danger out there, you really should be afraid which you might think might suit Trump in a way in this - in this crisis but the counterbalancing one of course is this valorization of risk, you know, real men take risks.
And it`s - it`s to do with kind of rugged individualism, it`s to do with certain kind of notions as to how the capitalist system works. It`s to do with a certain kind of masculinity, isn`t it? It`s - it`s all this kind of stuff about you know, only people who are afraid of the nanny state, only people who don`t really understand freedom are not willing to take risks.
So he`s got these two things and - and you know he`s been pretty good at dealing with them in in his own way up to this crisis but of course, in a crisis like this what you get then is an appallingly mixed message where he keeps encouraging the risks, keeps sending out the signals to people that they should they should revolt against their state governments and have the regulations that they`re putting down on the one side.
And on the other side feeling that well, he`s President after all and he has to tell people that this is very serious so what you get is - is - is frankly, frightening gibberish. You know, it`s - it`s a mix of messages that in this context, just isn`t entertaining, isn`t funny, is actually deadly.
O`DONNELL: So in that message that Trump is giving out of real men take the risk. That`s why we see no social distancing by Donald Trump at work in Oval Office meetings or when he has these crowds of people on his briefing stages with him, these business executives, he crowds the stage with.
And it explains Mike Pence not daring to wear a mask at the Mayo Clinic yesterday cause real men don`t wear masks. That`s the real Trump message, isn`t it?
O`TOOLE: Yes, it is. You know I mean, if you think back, if you think Trump`s business career of course, it`s all been about risk for other people. Of course in his - in his view of the way capitalism works, risk is always somebody else`s, right?
It`s the poor stiff who has to pick up the tab when one of Trump`s businesses goes bust but also if you think of, if you go back, you know so that kind of - those awful Howard Stern radio shows that Trump used to always be on, you know, you get Trump kind of boasting in the middle of the AIDS crisis actually, of having unprotected sex.
You know because that`s what real men do. It`s - it`s a sort of notion somehow that - and of course it`s linked to an idea that we are special you know. The rules that apply to other people don`t apply to people like me because I`m different. I`m - and of course, even you`ve seen his press conference. Trump keeps coming back to this thing.
You know I know stuff. I have this instincts for - for - I know all this. Never mind the doctors. Never mind the scientists. I know stuff. I understand this. Why? Because I`m a superior kind of being.
One of Trump`s favorite words, remember is loser, that he always uses it. Anybody who doesn`t support Trump, doesn`t understand, doesn`t love Trump is a loser and losers are destined to lose. When you apply that to the mentality of leadership in a pandemic, it sort of implies well, actually the people who are going to get this are not people like us, not the superior people and therefore of course we wouldn`t wear masks, you know.
And - and it would be humiliating for somebody like me to put myself on the same level as ordinary people who might have to take these precautions.
O`DONNELL: And that concept of loser is part of what renders Trump utterly incompetent in every way in a public health crisis because of his belief that the bad things happen to losers.
O`TOOLE: Yes, you know - and he`s - if you - if you go back to his books and this is the thing he goes back to really that you know, it`s - it`s - it`s destined in some way and the one thing you do not need in a pandemic crisis, right? Is - is somebody who believes somehow that - that the virus will pick people out on the basis of their worthiness, of their genetics or their superiority or whatever else it is, you know.
The thing we know about this - this pandemic is that it doesn`t care. It really doesn`t care about who you are. It cares about your vulnerability and therefore it exposes the attitudes to vulnerable people. You know, there`s - there`s - What`s really shocking watching this from the outside, you know just the complete inability to even fake empathy you know.
Even to want to pretend to be feeling for the people who are dying, for the bereaved, for the suffering that`s involved in this and I think that does take us back to just this complete inability that a narcissist - a narcissist has to feel what other people are feeling.
You know, there is a real sense that for Trump, the only thing that really matters here is how this is going to affect his own election prospects and he hasn`t even managed to want to hide that. You know, this is the way he`s played it out and you know, it has an effect and there`s a reason why the richest, most powerful country in the world has become the global epicenter of this pandemic.
And it`s a shocking tragedy and it`s hard to overstate the degree of personal responsibility that Trump has for this.
O`DONNELL: Fintan, quick word before you go about how safe are you feeling in Dublin compared to the state of New Jersey where you usually spend your time in the United States?
O`TOOLE: Like you know, it`s probably the first time in my life that I`ve - I`ve - I`ve ever felt you know, God, I`d really love - I`d much prefer to be in Dublin right now than New Jersey and that`s not you know - I have fantastic friends in New Jersey and I hope they are all safe but you know, Ireland locked down pretty fast.
I mean the Irish government banned St. Patrick`s Day. It did that in early March you know. You know that was kind of sending out a message. This is really serious, folks. We`re not - we`re not messing around with this. It`s things that we take for granted, we just can`t do and by large, you know overwhelmingly, the Irish have this kind of image of being kind of happy go lucky and devil may care but actually people took it really seriously because they got good messages from government.
There was good authority shown and it saves people`s lives and we`ve been locked down for quite a long time ago and we`re going sort of crazy, the economy, all that stuff you know it`s terrible. We know the cost of this but we`re probably going to come out of the thing, able to say as a nation that we saved as many lives as we could and the tragedy of United States is that because of the dominant political force in the country, the United States will not be able to say that.
O`DONNELL: Fintan O`Toole, I can`t mask my jealousy about you being safe in Dublin. It sounds like one of the good places to be. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.
O`DONNELL: Fintan O`Toole gets tonight`s last word. The 11th hour with Brian Williams starts now.