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US. Food banks struggle TRANSCRIPT: 5/6/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O. Donnell

Guests: Harvey Fineberg, Ezra Klein, Ron Klain; Dara Kass; Beto O`Rourke

  RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  She was treated yesterday afternoon at Johns Hopkins for a gallstone problem that resulted in an infection.

Well tonight we can report that Justice Ginsburg is out of the hospital.  Supreme Court just releasing this, quote, "Justice Ginsburg has been discharged from the hospital.  She`s doing well and glad to be home.  The Justice will return to the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland for follow-up -- outpatient visits over the next few weeks to eventually remove the gallstone, non-surgically."

Justice Ginsburg is 87-years-young.  She has survived pancreatic cancer, and lung cancer.  Despite her hospital visit yesterday and today, she participated in the Court`s teleconference oral arguments every single day this week, perfect attendance.  God bless her.  Seriously, God bless and keep her.  Please.

That does it for us tonight.  We will see again tomorrow.

Now it`s time for "The Last Word with Lawrence O`Donnell." Good evening Lawrence.


She`s -- she`s just playing with us now, right.  I mean -- this going to the hospital, hearing the case while at the hospital, doing things that I couldn`t have done 20 years ago.

MADDOW:  Yes.  Serious.  I mean and let`s be honest, she could bench-press either one of us.

O`DONNELL:  Oh, I`ve lost sound from Rachel.  Does Rachel have sound from me?



O`DONNELL:  I hear your laugh.  All I wanted to hear was there laugh.  That was great.  Thank you, Rachel.

I lost a little bit of Rachel sound there but I got the laugh.  That`s all that matters.

Well, how long did you have to wait, to get the food that you ate today? Did you have it delivered to your home? Do you have to wait in line at the grocery store? How long did you have to wait? Did you have trouble paying for the food that you ate today?

In Beto O`Rourke`s hometown of El Paso, the daily lines for food banks are two and three miles long.  That`s how long you have to wait for food in this country now, and some places have seen longer lines than that.  Beto O`Rourke will join us later in this hour.

Ezra Klein, will also be joining us later in this hour.

And we will end the hour tonight with some very special words of wisdom from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Nobel Laureate in Literature who wrote, "One Hundred Years of Solitude," and "Love in the Time of Cholera." His son, the film director, Rodrigo Garcia, shared some of that wisdom in a beautifully written piece, in the New York Times, it`s one of the two most important things I`ve read today, I will bring you that at the end of the hour, along with the other most important thing that I`ve read today which was written by 25-year-old (Chase Beach) who sees something now on her neighborhood walks, that most if not all of us have been missing.  And it is very important.

And if you stick around to the end of the show, you`re going to learn something profound as I did today when I read (Chase)`s writing.

No president has flip-flopped more than Donald Trump.  Beginning with, "Mexico will pay for the wall," To years of flip-flopping that has left the most self-contradictory president in history constantly trying to spin his own spin during the coronavirus pandemic.

He has gone from predicting zero deaths from coronavirus in the United States, to a hundred thousand deaths in the United States.  And after 24 hours of watching how badly his decision to end the White House Coronavirus Task Force played on television, which is the only thing that counts for Donald Trump, today Donald Trump`s said this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  I think we could wind down sooner but I had no idea how popular the Task Force is until actually yesterday, when I started talking about winding it down..


O`DONNELL:  He`s like the president of a failing TV network that cancels a show and then hears some protests from the audience and decides to renew the show.

For Donald Trump the Coronavirus Task Force has always been about the TV show that he was able to produce for a couple of hours every day in the White House press briefing room, and Donald Trump canceled the TV show when the worst possible thing that could have happened on that TV show happened.  And Donald Trump said the stupidest thing, anyone in America has been caught saying about the coronavirus.

And those are the words, that will mark Donald Trump`s place in history, the words that got that TV show canceled.

Donald Trump`s name will be forever matched with those words indelibly etched in America`s memory, the way we remember Abraham Lincoln, saying, "A house divided against itself cannot stand," and Franklin Delano Roosevelt saying, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, " and John Fitzgerald Kennedy saying, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." And I just recited all of those quotes from memory.

But no one will be able to -- recite the famous Trump quote, from memory, because incoherence is too difficult for the mind to reproduce word for word but when kids taking the SAT a hundred years from now, come upon this quote, they will have no trouble identifying the president who said it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that by injection, inside or almost a cleaning because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it`d be interesting to check that so that you don`t to have to use medical doctors but it sounds -- it sounds interesting to me so we`ll see.  But the whole concept of the light, the way it goes in one minute, that`s -- that`s pretty powerful.


O`DONNELL:  Yes.  That`s pretty powerful.

You know, how it feels to be in a foreign country where you don`t speak the language and no one speaks your language.  That`s the way Donald Trump`s feels everyday, all day, all the time.

Donald Trump knows that whenever he`s talking about anything other than golf and the leading modeling agencies in New York City in the 1980s, he has no idea what he`s talking about.

And since Donald Trump is firmly opposed to doing any work that could replace his ignorance with knowledge, he knows that that could happen again, in the White House briefing room.  That`s why he canceled the show.

And because we all criticized him last night for canceling the show, today he`s saying something else.  No one knows what`s going to happen next with the Coronavirus Task Force, least of all Donald Trump because he is at the mercy of his moods.  He does not control his moods so the Task Force might continue as a TV show.  It might not continue as a TV show.  It might continue as a disorganized group of people who collect information about the pandemic and share some of it with the public.

We don`t know.  And Donald Trump`s doesn`t know because Donald Trump`s doesn`t know what his mood is going to be tomorrow or the next day or the next day.

That`s why we will continue to bring you healthcare professionals and policy experts to share with you the latest best information about the pandemic every night.  You cannot expect the White House to do that for you.  They won`t.

A troubling new report in "The New York Times," indicates that coronavirus could pose a danger to children in a way not previously recognized.  Reporting on the experience in a Long Island hospital for children, "The Time" says, "In the past two days alone, the Hospital, Cohen Children`s Medical Center has admitted five critically ill patients, ages 4 to 12 with an unusual sickness that appears to be somehow linked to COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

In total about 25 similarly ill children have been admitted there in recent -- weeks with symptoms ranging from reddened tongues to enlarge coronary arteries.  No solid data yet exists about how many children in the United States have fallen ill with what doctors are calling Pediatric Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome.

"This is really only a disease that has been clear for two weeks now so there is so much we`re trying to learn about this," the Chief of Pediatric Critical Care, at Cohen Children`s, Dr. James Schneider said in an interview on Tuesday.

Nathaniel Lasch (ph) has produced two important -- paragraphs for "The New York Times," that depict what the coronavirus curve looks like in America.

First there is this curve showing the coronavirus for the entire United States which appears to be at a plateau that might be headed down but that`s mostly because the numbers are going down in the epicenter of New York.

Here is what the curve looks like in the rest of the United States, with New York removed from the calculation.  Just removing New York City, changes that curve.  The national trend is still increasing in cases of coronavirus.

Michael Osterholm has joined us on this program many times.  He is the Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University Of Minnesota.  Michael Osterholm describes what those graphs mean, this way.

"It`s not a leveling off.  It`s a painful handoff."

New York is handing off the problem to the rest of the country as New York`s numbers continue to go down.

The United States now has 1,234,677 reported diagnosed cases of coronavirus.  And the United States now has 73,863 officially reported deaths from coronavirus.

Pete Sussey (ph) is a Critical Care nurse at the Cook County Health in Chicago.


PETE SUSSEY (ph), CRITICAL CARE NURSE, COOK COUNTY HEALTH, CHICAGO:  I keep coming back because the patients need us.

But the biggest thing is the patients who need us, you know, to also stay healthy for them because if we get sick who`s going to be here for you.

The biggest concern for the public is you know, reopening our cities and getting stuff moving which will be great for all of us, including me.  I want to -- I want to go.  I want to be able to go out to dinner and do something.

But unfortunately we can`t right now.  We really have to get this virus under control to prevent it from spreading out even further than what it has.


O`DONNELL:  Leading off our discussion tonight is Ron Klain, a former senior aide to President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.  He served as the Ebola Czar during the Obama administration, and his co-host of the Podcast, "Epidemic."

Also with is Dr. Dara Kass.  She`s an associate professor of Emergency Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center.  She`s the Medical Contributor for Yahoo! News.

And Ron let me just start with you on the White House Coronavirus Task Force.  Do you -- is there any way to guess whether it is still working?  Whether it will ever make a public appearance again? Who will be allowed to speak? What will -- what they will not be allowed to say and what they will be allowed to say?

RON KLAIN, FORMER SENIOR AIDE PRESIDENT OBAMA & VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN & FORMER EBOLA CZAR:  Well, Lawrence, the problem is, it`s never really worked.  It`s been more reality show than reality and that`s why we`re in the mess we`re in.

Look, the virus is a disease but the response is a policy response.  And that response has been wholly inadequate in the United States.  It`s why we lead the world in cases, it`s why we lead the world in deaths.  That`s why we`re 5 percent of the world`s population but a third of the world`s cases.  And that failure, the White House Task Force is what drives this.

Now President Trump focused on this as a TV show and the TV show at one point had good ratings and now it`s producing some bad episodes.  And so as a TV producer he`s struggling what to do.  But as president he should be focused on he fix this response; we get testing; we get our healthcare workers protected; we bend the curve down; and we continue to practice social distancing.

And by focusing on the TV elements of it, is just another distraction from the hard work that isn`t getting done.

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Kass, I want to begin tonight with this new reporting about how coronavirus might be affecting children.  Have you seen any of these cases or have they been reported to you in your practice in New York?

DR. DARA KASS, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR,  EMERGENCY MEDICINE AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER & MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR, YAHOO! NEWS:  Yes.  So these cases are being seen in New York and at the hospital I work at.  Friends of mine who work in the Pediatric ER and in the Pediatric Hospital have been seeing them as well.

What we know is that actually it mirrors similar symptoms to what we`ve seen in adults although we really don`t know very much about it, which I think highlights the larger picture which is that we don`t know a lot about what this virus is doing to anybody.

We don`t know what its long-term effects are, if this is actually something that happens after you recover from the virus and not part of the active infection, then that look -- like shows us how much more we need to stay home and learn more about this virus before we just declare that we`ve you know, mission accomplished.  Which seems to be the messaging coming out of (the whole administration).

O`DONNELL:  So Doctor, what do we say to parents now? They were worried enough, they`re worried enough about their own health and I think parents had kind of a right based on public information to be relatively relaxed about the kids, especially elementary school-age kids.  This story says, we really have to pay attention when kids that age have any kind of symptoms.

KASS:  So I think that this story and this reporting really needs to be put into context, which it`s still very, very rare to see these syndromes at all in children.  It`s much more common for a child with a fever, and an abdominal pain, it`s like an appendicitis.  But both of these conditions whether -- inflammatory condition or appendicitis should be evaluated by your doctor or in an ER.

One of the things we`re reminding people is that our Emergency Department are open.  And we are ready willing and able to take care of all the patients that need us, not just those with coronavirus.  So if you`re concerned about your child, call your pediatrician, call a telemedicine visit or just go to the ER.

O`DONNELL:  Doctor, Quickly, how long has that been the case? It`s -- it`s funny to hear you say that our emergency rooms are open and they are open to anyone who has a complaint, you don`t have to come in with coronavirus.  I`m not sure when New York City crossed that line where you could say that?

KASS:  So I think that that happened, I would say about a week or two ago.  We said the patients, we know you stayed home to help us take care of the coronavirus patients but we do want the patients that need to be in the ER coming in and the best way to figure that out is if you call your doctor or even do a telemedicine visit, we will tell you to go to the ER if you need to be there.

The most important thing is that we continue to walk with (two guns) to take care of the patients with coronavirus and those that are having the other syndromes and symptoms that have been staying away from the ER before this.

O`DONNELL:  Ron Klain, I want to talk about those graphs that "The New York Times" produced where you show the picture with New York City, and if you take New York City out, and the country looks like it`s in much more trouble than it does with those declining numbers from New York City.  That seems to me to be what you might expect in the behavior of a pandemic like this?

KLAIN:  Yes.  And I think -- I`ve said several times on your show Lawrence.  I think that we have this image from early on in the epidemic that the curve of this disease would be some kind of parabola, like a figure you saw in high school geometry that went up smoothly and came down smoothly.

And the history of epidemics is very different than that.  They go up quickly but they come down very slowly.  They`re steep on the rise, and then flat on the decline.

And that`s what we`re seeing.  Even in New York where they are making progress and the number of cases are down, it`s still more flat than down.  And in the rest of the country it is still going up, and that`s I think the most important point here Lawrence.

I understand that this is gone on for a long time in people`s minds but we`re in the craziest circumstance you can imagine which is not only -- not only we`re reopening as in many places as the disease is getting worst.  I mean the laxed White House guidelines that we should see, 14 days of decline in a jurisdiction before it reopened, we have places reopening where the disease is going up, not down, let alone down for 14 days.

And that means that line that is still going up on that chart, it`s going to continue to go up in more and more places.

O`DONNELL:  Ron, are you surprised that no one involved with the White House Coronavirus Task Force has come out and said, these places are violating our guidelines by reopening?

KLAIN:  Yes.  Lawrence, I think it`s stunning.  I mean Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx, stood in the White House briefing room on April the 16th and said the first step before reopening, should be 14 days of decline in jurisdiction.

Now I didn`t think that was strong enough.  But let`s state that standard as it is.  To allow places to reopen, and not to really vigorously stomp your feet about it, where that low standard isn`t even met, seems like something the White House should be on top of.

Instead Lawrence, of course, the president is cheering on places opening in contravention of his own White House`s policy.  I mean that`s a level of disconnect.  I think it`s just impossible to understand.

O`DONNELL:  And Ron, with my experience inside government, tell me if it would work this way on a -- in a situation like this.  I assumed the experts asked for four weeks, and the politicians gave them two weeks in the guidelines; that that guideline, two-week was a compromise to begin with?

I don`t know, could -- Ron, can you -- oh, Ron, I guess we`ve lost Ron`s connection.

So I`m going to have to leave it there.

Dr. Dara Kass, Ron Klain, thank you both for starting us off tonight.

And when we come back, Beto O`Rourke will join us.  Texas is setting records for the number of cars in line, at Texas food banks.  Beto O`Rourke says there`s a better way to feed the millions of people who cannot afford to pay for food in this country now.  Beto O`Rourke joins us next.


O`DONNELL:  It is very hard to prioritize needs in a crisis like this pandemic.  If you had to choose tonight, between getting enough food to feed your family, or getting tested for coronavirus, what would you choose?

It`s an impossible choice of course, that no one should ever have to make but it is also a choice that we have to make, in the way we report on this pandemic.  We have a medical crisis.  We have an employment crisis.  We have a rent crisis.  We have a food crisis.  And others all happening at the same time, and we have spent more time talking about the medical crisis than all of the other aspects of this crisis combined.  Which might be the right balance.

But if your problem tonight is you`re hungry and your family is hungry, and you cannot afford food, then there is nothing more important than that.  The food crisis needs a voice.  It needs someone who can get our attention and keep our attention.  Someone who can make that crisis real, so people who aren`t -- experiencing it every day, to people who are just worried about their own health and safety.

El Paso`s former Congressman Beto O`Rourke, has watched the lines at the food banks in El Paso`s stretch two to three miles long.  He knows the people in those lines.  And he`s here to speak for them.  Joining us now is, Beto O`Rourke, former Democratic Congressman representing El Paso, Texas.  He`s now the Founder of Powered by the People, a political group dedicated to supporting Texas Democrats in the 2020 election.

Beto O`Rourke thank you very, very much for joining us tonight.  Tell us what you`re seeing in those lines; those are lines unlike anything we`ve seen before?

BETO O`ROURKE, FORMER DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMAN REPRESENTING EL PASO, TEXAS & FOUNDER, "POWERED BY THE PEOPLE:"  Lawrence, it`s -- it`s absolutely heartbreaking.  The lines in El Paso, which is where I live, stretch two to three miles long, every single day.  And in those lines are people who have never before needed food assistance or been food insecure.

In those lines are the newly unemployed but also in those lines I often see nurses in scrubs, who`ve just gotten off work, perhaps their wife or their husband has lost their job in this economic contraction, and on one salary alone they can no longer feed themselves.

I see people in beat-up trucks.  I see people in nice cars.  This economic downturn and food insecurity seemingly has spared almost no one.

The CEO of the food bank in El Paso was talking to a cashier at Walgreens, where the starting pay is 10 bucks an hour and told her that she ran the food bank, and the cashier almost broke down in tears saying, "You mean there`s a place I can go to for food?"

I read a report today, nearly one out of every five moms in this country who has young children, report that their kids are not getting enough to eat.  That is three times the level that we saw in 2008, in the worst of that recession and crisis.  So these are food insecurities and demand for food that we haven`t seen in this country since perhaps the Great Depression.

O`DONNELL:  How do you -- you could come on this program anytime you want to talk about anything you want, any aspect of this pandemic, any aspect of it that you want.  How do you choose this? And how do you get people to focus on this problem when their home with their doors closed just worried about their own health and safety even though they have enough to eat and they`ve so many other issues that are coming at them in this?

If this was happening alone as a phenomenon in this country, it would be getting all of our attention.  But how do you get the attention that he needs?

O`ROURKE:  I think you said it really well in introducing this segment.  I mean if you -- if you don`t have enough food in your system than the health concerns that you have amidst this pandemic; your job concerns you have with this historic economic contraction, your ability to provide for yourself and your family, to make sure that they`re healthy to go out and find another job down the road, all of that is compromised if you cannot put enough calories in your system to survive.

But most alarming of all are those little kids that mothers across America are telling us, are not getting food that they need.  That is going to stunt their development, their growth, their potential, their opportunities down the road, and by extension, it will stunt our growth and our opportunities as a country.

You know, I was seeing this crisis develop in El Paso and across Texas, and then Matt Russell, who is a farmer in Iowa, and Bob Leonard who is a reporter who covers rural communities throughout that state, reached out to me and they told me that, farmers are plowing their produce back into the field.  Dairy farmers are dumping milk instead of getting it out.

And you have these lines where people are waiting hours long to get help.  And they hit upon this wonderful idea, what if you just expanded the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, or Food Stamps, and make sure that more people could go to a grocery store, which is already figure out the logistics of getting food from the farms, to the warehouse, to the store, and into people`s shopping carts, and into their homes, into their stomachs, instead of making people wait in these humiliatingly long lines, and putting all this pressure on food banks who are seeing extraordinary demand.

In El Paso, demand has increased 400 percent at the food bank in this community.  They just were not built for this.  And a charity alone won`t solve the problem.

So a SNAP program that now costs us, the American taxpayer, $60 billion to expand that to make sure that everyone who is unemployed is now eligible.  To expand it to include the undocumented immigrants, who as you know, Lawrence, are by and large the ones who are picking our food in the fields, to make sure that we can put dinner on the table for our families.

To expand it for the length of the economic downturn, and not just the healthcare crisis, is morally the right thing to do.  It`s in our own self interest.  And we the wealthiest, the most powerful country on the face of the Planet, can afford to do so.

O`DONNELL:  Well, how do you do it in a -- in a Washington where the president and the Republican Senate is more worried about getting cruise ships back on the ocean, than feeding people in Texas?

O`ROURKE:  We`re really going to need members of Congress and by extension their constituents, regardless of party affiliation or geography, to demand that we do the right thing.

An interesting fact that Matt and Bob brought to my attention, the largest beneficiaries of SNAP or Food Stamps are those who live in rural communities.  And we often know that that`s correlated with Republican representation.

So this is something that should appeal to all of us, regardless of partisanship or any other division, geographic or otherwise, to do the right thing.

And while we are rightfully trying to get money to small businesses, trying to get cash assistance to our fellow Americans, in some instances bailing out very large corporations, this country has the resources to help those who are in need and who cannot feed themselves.

And another really important point, Lawrence, if we expand this to allow people to use SNAP in restaurants, we help that mom and pop restaurants stay afloat, pay their employees, contribute to the local economy. This is a win-win across the board for everyone. 

O`DONNELL:  And, of course, the Food Stamp Program was born in bipartisan compromise. Bob Dole getting together with most -- one of the most liberal members of the Senate, George McGovern, both from farm states. They located the program in the Agriculture Department because they knew it would be good for farmers. If they could just get a bit of that spirit back. You could get at least some of this done. 

Beto O`Rourke, thank you very, very much for joining us tonight, and thank you for bringing our attention, keeping our attention on this problem. Really appreciate it. 

O`ROURKE:  Thank you. 

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, Dr. Harvey Fineberg will join us. 

He was watching last night when Laurie Garrett got a lot of attention on this program by talking about the difference between tactics and strategy in fighting the coronavirus. Dr. Harvey Fineberg, former Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health joins us next. 


O`DONNELL:  Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Laurie Garrett got a lot of attention on this program last night when she made the very important distinction between tactics and strategy. 


LAURIE GARRETT, PULITZER PRIZE WINNING JOURNALIST:  All the arguments that discussions the debates that we hear across America whether it`s angrily storming your state capitol to protest lockdowns or its demands for test, test, test, test, test, these are all just tactics. 

They`re not what is your long term strategy? What is your strategic goal? And we don`t have a national strategic goal. 


O`DONNELL:  Laurie Garrett wants to tell us that the only strategic goal that matters is getting rid of coronavirus, which she said ultimately needs an effective vaccine that is affordable worldwide. 

Joining our discussion now, Dr. Harvey Fineberg. He is the former President of the National Academy of Medicine. He is the Chair of the National Academy`s Standing Committees on Emerging Infectious Diseases, which is advising the White House. 

Dr. Feinberg, I want to read something you wrote in "The New England Journal of Medicine" on April 23rd, which reads like an echo of what I was hearing from Laurie Garrett last night. 

You said, "The aim is not to flatten the curve. The goal is to crush the curve. Rather than stumble through a series of starts and stops and half measures on both the health and economic fronts, we should forge a strategy to defeat the coronavirus and open the way to economic revival." 

Dr. Fineberg, what would that strategy look like? 

DR. HARVEY FINEBERG, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF MEDICINE:  The first point in strategy is to establish a unified command structure. 

Lawrence, we have not had a hierarchy of control and management of this pandemic with a strategic aim, as you said, of crushing the curve, of eliminating the virus. 

If we had that, we would then need to have sufficient intelligence about the enemy, about the virus and that means an adequate number of tests deployed strategically to give us the intelligence that we need to fight the virus most effectively. 

Even today, with all the improvements, we still do not have the number or types of tests deployed around the country to give us that intelligence that we need. 

Third, we have to have an adequate capacity to follow up and manage isolating the cases that have the virus, isolating the people who have been exposed in a quarantine situation so they do not contract and send the virus to others, and contact tracing, which gives us the capacity to identify those who are at risk. 

If we do these things while we intensify the search for effective treatments, and ultimately a vaccine that is safe and effective, we have a strategy that has the winning potential. 

We need to play offense. We cannot constantly simply be reacting to what the virus is doing at one point in time or another. 

O`DONNELL:  Doctor, well, you just framed it in, basically in war terms, and you said we need to have intelligence about the enemy, and that that is the point of testing. The most basic point of testing is getting that intelligence about the enemy. 

That to me is the most persuasive phrasing and conceptual framework I`ve heard yet for testing`s role in this battle. 

FINEBERG:  Testing has multiple functions, Lawrence. Yes, you need to identify individuals who are infected or who could be infected. 

But you also need what`s called surveillance in the community to identify the number of cases, the distribution of cases where risk is increasing, where it may be diminishing, so you know how to deploy your resources most efficiently to curtail the spread. 

The whole game here is to stop the spread of this infection from one person to another, and that`s where you start with that intelligence about the virus. 

We know that through testing. 

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Harvey Fineberg, thank you very much for joining us once again. We need your guidance in these times and we appreciate your joining us. We really do. Thank you. 

FINEBERG:  My pleasure. 

O`DONNELL:  And when we come back, Ezra Klein will join us. He wants to discuss the tactics and strategy we need to be using to deal with an economy that is racing past recession toward depression, and they aren`t the tactics or strategy that the White House is talking about. 


O`DONNELL:  Ezra Klein tweeted something today that caught my eye and that I immediately retweeted, "We could phase out of lockdown safely if the Federal government had done the work on testing and tracing. We could phase out of lockdown safely if the Federal government had done the work on testing and tracing. We could phase out on the lockdown ..." 

It`s the kind of thing that you could write a lot more about it, but you really don`t have to write a lot more about it. That pretty much tells the story. 

Dr. Tom Frieden, the former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appeared before a House Subcommittee today to share his plan for controlling the spread of coronavirus and responsibly, very gradually reopening some economic activity. 


DR. TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION:  We`re conditioned to think in terms of dichotomies, A versus B. But in this case, open versus closed is not a dichotomy. It`s more accurate to think of a dimmer switch or a dimmer dial than an on/off switch with gradations to avoid undue risk. 

Another false dichotomy is between public health and economic security. In fact, the very best way to get our economy back is to control the virus and economic stability is critically important to the public`s health. 


O`DONNELL:  Joining our discussion now, Ezra Klein. He is the co-founder of Vox, host of the podcast "The Ezra Klein Show" and author of the recently released book, "Why We Are Polarized." 

And Ezra, this is one of those moments that reminds me of that slogan they had up on the wall in the Clinton presidential campaign in 1992, it`s the economy, stupid. 

They just wanted -- to them, every issue came back to the economy, and it seems to me that no matter which way we want to look at this, we`re always coming back to the virus. I mean, even the discussion we just had with Beto O`Rourke, long term, the best way to get those people fed is to get this virus crushed, so that they can get back to work, so that they can be able to afford foods, so that they can get out of the line to the food bank. 

And in every single economic discussion about what`s going on here, if it`s realistic, comes back to how do you crush the virus? 

EZRA KLEIN, COFOUNDER, VOX:  We have made this so much harder by being so bad at it. I can`t stress that enough. But this was always going to be hard, but it didn`t need to be this complicated. 

And the way it wouldn`t have been this complicated is if at the beginning, when, we, the people made this tremendous sacrifice, economic, social, personal, to go into lockdown, the Federal government had had an actual plan with timeframes on it, which they followed, in which they actually got the country ready for what was going to come on the other side. 

There are two words to talk about strategy here, I think are really important when thinking about this. Security and predictability. 

You want on the one hand security in health and you want it in the economy, and for a while, those are going to require unusual things from us. 

In the economic dimension, there`s going to have to be a tremendous amount of government support of the economy, of wages, in particular, to say nothing of businesses themselves, in order to allow people to do what they need to do in order to be secure from the virus. 

But the other thing you need is predictability, and that is particularly true in the economy, right? We need to say, six months from now, we will be doing X. Here`s where we expect to be and that`s also true in what we`re doing with the virus. 

People are not going to lock down forever if they don`t believe that time is being used well and they don`t see what`s coming on the other end of it. 

The word quarantine comes from Italian word for 40 because it was 40 days originally, when we were doing this many, many, many, many years ago. 

The Federal government completely has failed to execute a plan. And so what they`ve been in is an incredibly costly holding pattern that they are -- that they are now no longer willing to pay the cost of. 

It is the most profound and far-reaching failure of political leadership probably in our lifetime. 

O`DONNELL:  Yes, I want to go back to a tweet that you did in April, end of the month, April 29th. You said, "Donald Trump does not want to be in charge of any of this. He wants to play President on TV. He doesn`t want responsibility for governance, in time of crisis. And in every way he can, he is refusing to do that job and lashing out at those who asked him to do it." 

And Ezra, that`s what we`re seeing in the point you just made about the guidelines being announced of, you know, we want to close things down. We want people to socially distance, the White House guidelines. 

But after issuing the guidelines, they had no strategy whatsoever on how to achieve something beneficial during that time period. It`s like the guidelines came out and they just sat there and hoped. 

KLEIN:  Guidelines are not a plan, and also the President never followed the guidelines. I mean, to this moment, he is not following the guidelines. He is routinely contradicting them. The whole thing is wild. 

But think about a hypothetical here. Imagine this was the Obama administration. Imagine it was the Hillary Clinton administration. You remember as I do, Lawrence, just a couple of weeks ago in, I think we now call Stimulus 3.5, that it was described as a concession to Democrats. 

There was $25 billion and a mandate to have a national testing strategy. Can you imagine a Clinton administration on this? How desperate they would be for the money to do testing? How many bullet points their testing strategy would have? 

A normal Federal government -- and by the way, not just a Democratic one. If Governor DeWine was President, if Mitt Romney were President, if Marco Rubio were President, they would be desperate to have a plan here, the financing for a plan, and a structure for a plan and to be carrying it out so that when they ran for reelection this year, they could say, we saved the country from this. 

But Donald Trump, the reason it was a Democratic concession, which it actually was, was Donald Trump does not want to have responsibility for testing. He has wanted from the beginning to put this entire thing on states and cities, which do not have the resources, the power, the coordination capacity to solve the problems in the testing supply chain, not to mention to get the innovation we need to get the sort of 20, 25, 35 million tests a day that we will ultimately need to open up safely in the absence of a vaccine. 

He has never wanted this. He wants to be the head of state. He enjoys doing these press conferences, which is why he keeps doing them despite the fact that they`ve often been bad for him. 

And now his people are finally pulling him off of it, but he has never wanted to do the hard work of daily governance, the grind of the meetings, the actual pushing of it, and we are all suffering for it. 

O`DONNELL:  Ezra Klein, thank you very much for joining us tonight. I really appreciate it. 

KLEIN:  Thank you. 

O`DONNELL:  Thank you. When we come back, I`d like to leave you with some wisdom and beauty and that means I`m going to be quoting other people. We`ll be right back. 


O`DONNELL:  The two most important things that I read today were written by friends of mine, with whom I always have light and easy conversations that never get to the depth displayed in their writing. 

The first is from the brilliant filmmaker, Rodrigo Garcia, who I`ve had the honor of working with. He has published a piece in "The New York Times" entitled "A letter to my father, Gabriel Garcia Marquez." 

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Nobel laureate and literature and author of "One Hundred Years of Solitude," and "Love in the Time of Cholera." Gabriel Garcia Marquez died six years ago. 

And in the letter, Rodrigo wonders what his father would have had to say about our worlds being gripped in a pandemic. "You said once that what haunts us about epidemics is that they remind us of personal fate, despite precautions, medical care, age or wealth. Anyone can draw the unlucky number." 

Rodrigo Garcia speaks for me, and I`m sure many of you when he writes, "I`m still in a fog. It seems for now that I`ll have to wait for the Masters present and future to metabolize the shared experience. I look forward to that day, a song, a poem, a movie, or a novel will finally point me in the general direction of where my thoughts and feelings about this whole thing are buried." 

"When I get there, I`m sure I`ll still have to do some of the digging myself." 

The other piece of writing I want to leave you with is by 25-year-old Chace Beech. There`s a picture of Chace back in the days when I met her with her father Steve, who is as kind and capable and dependable as you could ever hope for in a friend and neighbor. 

Like many 25-year-olds, Chace is riding up the pandemic at home with her parents, sleeping in her childhood bedroom. But Chace got a head start. Chace writes, "I got the call from my mom two years ago, Daddy is in the ICU, she said. He has a brain tumor.

Chace didn`t have to think about what to do. She immediately flew home to Los Angeles from New York City and never looked back. She gave up her promising job where she was getting a promotion after promotion and devoted herself to taking care of her father. 

Now Chace is not the only one of her friends who is worried about her parents` health. Many other 25-year-olds whose parents have aged into the higher risk group for coronavirus have a new worry tonight that they didn`t have at their last New Year`s Eve party. 

Chace Beech says that her friends` new worries about their parents` health has made her feel not quite so alone on what she calls this "island of parental anxiety." 

Since the quarantine began in Los Angeles, Chace`s life and her father`s life haven`t changed too much. They take the same walk every day with Chace pushing Steve`s wheelchair, but Chace sees something on her neighborhood walks that I`ve totally missed. 

Something beautiful, something profound. 

"When neighbors see us coming, they make an effort to swing well away, even more than the suggested six feet. This gesture, the way our neighbors step away is a small example of this puzzling reality we`re all facing. In order to stay safe, we must stay away. We stay away in order to remain in a way, together." 

"If we are afraid enough of one another, or for one another, we may be able to save each other. Love and fear, distance and solidarity have never been more obviously conjoined." 

Chace Beech, that`s tonight`s LAST WORD. Good night, Chace. Good night, Steve. 

"The 11th hour" with Brian Williams starts now.