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COVID-19 TRANSCRIPT: 5/25/20, The Last Word w/ Lawrence O'Donnell

Guests: David Frum, Laurie Garrett

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening. I`m Lawrence O`Donnell.

On this Memorial Day, we are likely to have 100,000 deaths in the United States from coronavirus, by midnight tonight. At this hour, the United States has 1,671,980 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 99,044 confirmed deaths from coronavirus.

And so, as we approach 100,000 deaths at this hour, Donald Trump began the day by tweeting, happy Memorial Day. That`s because Donald Trump doesn`t understand Memorial Day. He has no connection to Memorial Day. He doesn`t know that it began as Decoration Day in 1868, when we honored our war dead by decorating their graves at Arlington National Cemetery.

Memorial Day didn`t become an official federal holiday until 1971, but the tradition of decorating war graves never stopped. I did it when I was a little kid in Boston. My daughter did it, when she was a Girl Scout. And her group planted small American flags at a Los Angeles Veterans Cemetery in Westwood.

I called my mother from that cemetery, knowing that she would want to know what her granddaughter was doing there, was planting those flags. And when my mother thought about the people that she lost in World War II on that phone call, she cried as if it were yesterday.

Many of us have someone we think about on Memorial Day. Some veterans have many people they think about on Memorial Day. I think about my cousin Johnny. He was the biggest of all of us in every way. I idolized him when we went to West Point to watch him play football.

I`ll never forget his last visit to us in Boston, after he graduated from west point, and before he shipped out to Vietnam, where he had very big shoes to fill, because he was John T. Corley, Jr., and everyone knew his father was General John T. Corley, who was by then something of a legend in the army having won eight Silver Stars in combat.

But General Corley didn`t think of himself as a legend. He was the son of Irish immigrants, a Brooklyn boy who got lucky and found his way to West Point and stayed lucky through two wars, World War II and Korea. His son inherited his father`s bravery but not his luck. My cousin Johnny earned a Silver Star, in four months in Vietnam on September 8, 1968, the day that he was killed in action an his funeral at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, was the first military funeral I attended.

Tragedy has many faces but none quite like the general crying saluting his son`s coffin. And that`s what I think about, on Memorial Day. And so I never say happy Memorial Day.

Donald Trump can say it because no one in the Trump family has ever searched in the military. That is also why Donald Trump could say something like that this about John McCain.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He`s a war hero. Five and a half years --

TRUMP:  He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren`t captured.


O`DONNELL:  Donald Trump has no personal connection to what Memorial Day means. And he is trying to have no personal connection to what Memorial Day means in 2020, when we now have more dead from the coronavirus than we lost in the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined.

Joe Biden understands Memorial Day. Joe Biden left his Delaware home for the first time since the lockdown began, to lay a wreath at the Delaware memorial bridge veterans memorial park. And Joe Biden`s first appearance outside of his home, he and his wife Jill Biden followed the Delaware rule of wearing a mask.

And Donald Trump attended the traditional wreath laying ceremony today at Arlington National Cemetery, he did not wear a mask.

Ohio`s Republican Governor Mike DeWine this weekend said this about wearing masks.


GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R), OHIO:  This is not about politics. This is not about whether you`re a liberal or a conservative, left or right, Republican, Democrat. We wear the mask and it has been very clear, studies have shown, you wear the mask not to protect yourself so much as to protect others. And this is one time when we truly are all in this together.


O`DONNELL:  North Dakota`s Republican Governor Doug Burgum became emotional on Friday, when he pleaded with people not to divide themselves over wearing a mask.


GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R), NORTH DAKOTA:  If someone is wearing a mask, they`re not doing it to represent what political party they are in or what candidates they support, they might be doing it because they`ve got a 5- year-old child who`s been going through cancer treatments, they might have vulnerable adults in their life, who are currently have COVID and they`re fighting. If somebody wants to wear a mask, there should be no mask shaming.


O`DONNELL:  Dr. Najy Masri of Louisiana State University`s hospital has been keeping a video diary for us of life and death in New Orleans.


DR. NAJY MASRI, LSU DIRECTOR OF HOSPITALIST SERVICES, OCHSNER MEDICAL CNETER:  We`re about ten weeks into it here in Louisiana. Our first COVID- 19 case was March 9th. Two weeks after that, we had about 1,500 case, and 34 deaths.

That`s the point at which Governor Edwards implemented the initial stay-at- home order. Our latest numbers show over 37,000 coronavirus cases in the state, over 2,500 deaths. But a closer look at the numbers show that we`re trending in the right direction.

Hospitalizations are down 50 percent. Use of ventilators in our state is down 75 percent, compared to peak. But we need to know the success in our state, principles such as avoidance of large gatherings, maintenance of social distancing, and the continued use of face masks while in public.

Each day, we learn more and more about this virus. Every day, science gets us closer to an answer, answers such as a good antiviral. The latest data on remdesivir is extremely positive, a 30 percent quicker recovery, a 40 percent relative decrease in mortality.

More and more doctors are using the convalescent plasma from recovered patients. Many companies are in advanced trials, looking at vaccines, vaccines that can hopefully one day give us an effective true immunity.

This is what time can give us. This is why it`s so important to keep that curve flat. Science is going to get us to the other side. We just each need to do our part until we get there.


O`DONNELL:  Leading off our discussion tonight is, Dr. Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist and global health policy expert. He is an NBC News and MSNBC medical contributor.

And also joining us, Jonathan Alter, columnist for "The Daily Beast" and MSNBC political analyst.

Dr. Gupta I want to begin where Dr. Masri just left off. He was giving us a kind of a survey from his seat in the emergency room about what`s happening out there in America with the development of possible treatment, possible vaccine, down the road, and why we have to try to hold the curves down, between now and that end of the road where there might be a medical intervention that actually works here.

What is -- what is your sense of what we see out there tonight in terms of the way the curve seems to be trending in the right direction in the Northeast at least, as opposed to the rest of the country?

DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR:  Lawrence, thanks. Always good to be with you.

What I would say, just to amplify Dr. Masri`s points, the perspective of an intensive care unit, actively caring for patients here in Seattle is different from what you hear from our elected officials. There isn`t that much wiggle room in our ICUs here to extend the resources if more patients end up coming into our emergency rooms because we`re easing social distancing.

We don`t have multiple beds. We might have one crash bed as we call it. So, there isn`t that. There is a huge gap of us between those of us on the front lines and see the day to day realities, and what you`re hearing from President Trump, where all is well, from Governor Kemp down in Georgia. Let`s open up.

There is a huge gap. And I think the one thing -- so all of the things, remdesivir, I would actually say, we feel guarded optimism about remdesivir, I have multiple patients on that medication, in the ICU, and you know, and improved recovery by four days, you could potentially get out of the ICU a little quicker, but we don`t know if it actually saves lives, we don`t know if it actually beats out the virus, does it actually combat it, we don`t know that. There is still a lot of unknown.

And the vaccine, all of the optimism on Moderna`s vaccine, probably just cautious optimism at most at this point. It`s still very early. Only eight patients enrolled in the phase one study.

So, there`s a lot of unknown, which means we have to hold the line on masks. The fact of the matter here is that masks, universal masking protects those who can`t escape to the Hamptons or can`t go and do telework. It is really going to impact our front line workers, our grocery store clerks, our nurses, our respiratory therapists. Those who are, by the way, predominantly women, who are predominantly people of color. That`s who it is going to protect, so I don`t understand why masks has now become this cultural war, this trigger word for so many people.

These are basic things that we all need to hold the line on and build consensus on and if a president is not going to message on it, we need to.

O`DONNELL:  Jonathan Alter, there is a news media challenge in this now, now that we have varying degrees of compliance with the guidelines that have been issued, because the TV news cameras love to go to the spot where people are crowding and people are violating social distancing, but the truth of the matter is, the overwhelming majority of Americans are staying away from that, and the TV cameras seem to find every spot where it`s happening.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  I think that`s right. Because it`s turned into a kind of a culture war question, Lawrence, which is not healthy, for dealing with the real war, with COVID. So, you know, Trump has politicized the whole thing. He`s politicized masks, which is really kind of insane when you think about it, because it is his government that has issued guidelines saying that when people go out, they should use masks. Not all the time. But they should think about using masks, and social distancing.

And for him to send a very different message, crowd the churches, no mask, I`m not going to wear a mask, so I`m not going to model any behavior that you need, and to say that the media wants me to wear a mask, as if this is about owning the libs, owning the media, not about public health. And so, we have a situation where the president of the United States is now really acting in a way that`s contrary to public health.

Not only is he not doing what he should do in a positive way, developing a plan of action, making sure that we really do have the testing, and the supplies, and the protective gear that we need, which he fell down on the job, you know, months ago, we lost as many as 40,000 Americans as a result, but now, not only is he not doing what is necessary, he is actually doing things that are harming efforts to try to contain this disease.

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Gupta, I want to read a passage from the "Washington Post" about the kind of, the geography of the virus now. It says as the death toll nears 100,000, the disease caused by the virus has made a fundamental shift in who it touches, and where it reaches in America, according to a "Washington Post" analysis, of case data and interviews with public health professionals in several states.

The pandemic that first struck in major metropolises is now increasingly finding its front line in the country`s rural areas, counties with acres of farmland, cramped meat packing plants, and out of the way prisons and few hospital beds.

Dr. Gupta, how is that new geography of the disease affect the ability to respond to it?

GUPTA:  It challenges us, Lawrence, and fundamentally, it forces us to deal with the issues that we have been combating the last 20 years, much longer, since the Truman administration, which is durable equitable access to health care. The truth is, if you`re an ex-urban or rural county, you can`t get a test for COVID-19 unless you have somebody prescribe it or unless your employer says we`re going to do a drive-through. How many employers are doing that in the rural counties you mentioned, in eastern Tennessee, or in South Dakota? None. Because we just don`t have the infrastructure.

So this is where long-standing policies, inequities in health care access, that largely affect the indigent, that largely affect those people of color, women, on the front lines, are rearing their heads. And here is a quick fix if folks in the Senate are listening. To even access tele-health care, to get a test through tele-health, you still need a smart phone. You need to be able to look at your provider.

We should make tele-health accessible through just audio, through just simple picking up the phone, hey, doc, I need a test. And we should make that reimbursable. The Senate can act quickly on that. I know they`re considering that article, they should act now.

O`DONNELL:  Jonathan Alter, we have an extraordinary story from China about their capacity to respond to outbreaks, in Wuhan, for example.

The central Chinese city of Wuhan, according to "The Wall Street Journal", has said today it has collected coronavirus swab tests from more than nine million of its 11 million people, just over the past 10 days. Most of those nine million samples have already been processed, according to their records.

And so, Jonathan, that`s that second wave that they fear, in Wuhan, as soon as they had a handful of cases, they run out and do, right away, about ten million, nine million tests in ten days.

ALTER:  Look, the contrast between Donald Trump and his failed leadership and that and the rest of the world could not be more stark. And I hope that, you know, on this Memorial Day, we, as the lawyers say, we memorialize certain facts about the way this whole thing unfolded, and the testing failure that started in January, and February, you know, which we thought was going to be a temporary problem, because every expert knows that testing is the only way you can get on top of this thing.

That failure continues to this day. So while this president, you know, is playing golf and basically declaring mission accomplished, not only is COVID-19 not being controlled, but the mechanism for controlling it, testing, has not been put into place.

And I think people kind of are, some people are sort of assuming that this is, you know, such a big country, we can`t possibly do all these tests, China puts the lie to that. And I think our own history puts the lie to that. So in terms of getting people to do the contact tracing and the other testing that`s necessary, the antibody testing and COVID testing, we need a testing army.

And frankly, Roosevelt, when we were in crisis during the depression, he wanted 250,000 young Americans, mobilized, in a civilian conservation court, he did it almost overnight in three months. We could have gotten a testing army that was something we could have accomplished if we had the right kind of presidential leadership.

O`DONNELL:  Dr. Vin Gupta, Jonathan Alter, thank you very much for starting us off tonight.

And when we come back, we are just 162 days away from the presidential election. David Frum will join us with his new book about the Trump presidency which shows us what the Trump presidency has taught us about the strength and weaknesses of our institutions.

That`s next.


O`DONNELL:  In a series of tweets this morning, Donald Trump threatened to move August`s Republican National Convention out of North Carolina if the state`s Democratic Governor Roy Cooper could not guarantee quote, full, attendance in the arena in Charlotte.

"The Atlantic`s" David Frum writes in his new book, "Trumpocalpyse": Since his bankruptcies in the 1980s, Trump contrived schemes and scams to keep his creditors at bay for the next 24 hours. That`s how he has managed the coronavirus crisis each day. He devised some new fantasy in the hope of fulfilling his supporters -- of lulling his supporters and boosting financial indexes.

Joining us now, David Frum. He is the senior editor for "The Atlantic" and former speechwriter for George W. Bush.

David, thank you very much for joining us and congratulations on the new book. The title I just stumbled across is what?


O`DONNELL:  Yes, Trumpocalypse, I can say it. Trumpocalypse, I`m going to say it again, there we go.

OK. Go ahead, David. Sorry.

FRUM:  I hope you can because so much of the content of this book you and I have worked in draft form, live perform on this show over the past three years, and this has been a place, has been the test kitchen for many ideas that became this book.

So, I thank you and I`m very glad to be here tonight.

O`DONNELL:  Great.

So, this is -- this is classic Trump situation with the Republican convention. There`s probably no safe place in America. We know there is no safe place in America to assemble a full arena full of people, elbow to elbow, the way a political convention normally is. That will not be safe anywhere in the country this summer.

Do you think Donald Trump will find a state, Alabama, will find a place somewhere where he can make that happen and take all those public health risks in the same room?

FRUM:  Well, I`m guessing he pushes in that direction only to have it blow up in his face at the last minute. The reckoning really is here and for three years, people have wanted some master scheme, some brilliant plan. The apocalypse is here.

When I wrote the book, I was thinking the "Trumpocalypse" would probably take the form of recession because of the trade war, perhaps a shooting war with Iran. Instead, we got this neglected pandemic and this administration is careening toward electoral disaster and it`s going to take Republicans in the Senate, I anticipate (ph), with it.

And then the question we`re all going to face is, what then? Because what Donald Trump has shown and what we`ve talked about so often here in the evenings is there is an important minority in this country who is not reconciled to the basic rules of the democratic state and you`re not going to change their minds. We`ve asked that again and again. What does it take to change their minds? You`re not going to.

So, how do you safely govern a country around them? How do you change a country in such a way that their veto matters a lot less?

O`DONNELL:  And how do you do that, David?

FRUM:  Well, what you have to understand -- and this is the thing many people who watched the show understand very well, that the American system of government is built to treat some people more as more important political actors than other people. If people in California had to live for three minutes the way -- sorry, if people in Wyoming had to live for three minutes the people in California do, they would think they are very ill used.

How do you even it out so that Californian haves a few more rights than people in Wyoming can claim? And that means practical, feasible reforms. No fantasies like eliminating the Electoral College to even things out. I give a couple examples in the book.

One of them is Democrats are going to do well at the state level in 2020 and there`s going to be a census in 2020 and redistricting afterwards. So, I suggest that in states like North Carolina and Wisconsin where Democrats will have an advantage that are contestant states, Democrats produce two maps, a fair map and map that is what the Republicans did in 2010.

And then turn to Republicans in states like Georgia and Texas and say, we can do it your way or we can do a fairway. If you go fair, we`ll go fair. If you go hard, we`ll go hard.

And look, it`s crazy politicians write these maps, that`s really wrong, but if they do, we have to have something more like a national system for holding them together and we need a new voting rights act, as well, to correct the mistake the Supreme Court made in 2013 when it`s basically retired from the job of policing racial discrimination and voting.

O`DONNELL:  David, what are you expecting from Donald Trump as this presidential campaign wears on? He`s now trying to become the hero of conventions, probably knowing in his -- probably knowing it`s very unlikely they will have a convention in an indoor arena with people sitting and standing on top of each other but he wants some sense of hero wisdom about he tried to do that.

What other pointless quests will he submit the presidential campaign to?

FRUM:  Well, I`m guessing that six or seven months from today, this show and shows like it will be consumed with the question, is the president legally entitled to pardon himself? Because should he lose, as he probably will, he`s going to be looking for the exit, he`s going to be looking for an escape plan. He`ll have legal jeopardy gathering around him.

Vice President Biden made news on this program by saying Vice President Biden would not pardon former President Trump so if vice -- sorry, vice president, future President Biden does not do it, who will, Donald Trump must ask?

O`DONNELL:  David Frum, thank you very much for joining us. The new book is "Trumpocalypse," which I can say. It`s easier to just read it silently, though. We`re going to need you to hang around later in the program.

And when we come back, we`ll look at the latest polls in the race for president and we`ve been having struggles with Laurie Garrett`s camera but I believe, I believe Laurie Garrett will be joining us to answer your questions how you can stay safe as the states begin to reopen as we promised you show would be here and we think that`s going to work right after this break.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: This weekend, Joe Biden`s presidential campaign released this ad.


O`DONNELL: Last night, Joe Biden followed up that ad with this tweet: The presidency is about a lot more than tweeting from your golf cart. It requires taking on the ultimate responsibility for the biggest decisions in the world. Donald Trump simply wasn`t prepared for that. I promise you I will be.

And less than two hours after that Donald Trump, of course, took to Twitter to defend golfing Trump style as, quote, exercise, while attacking Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama.

Stuart Stevens who was 2012 top strategists in that presidential campaign wrote on Twitter: When you make political ads, half the fun is wondering if the other guy will be dumb enough to take the bait. Trump never disappoints. That dog chases every car.

A Quinnipiac national poll shows Joe Biden leading Donald Trump by 11 points.

Joining us now is Zerlina Maxwell, senior director of progressive programming at SiriusXM Radio and MSNBC political analyst. She is the author of the upcoming book, "The End of White Politics: How to Heal Our Liberal Divide."

Back with us, Jonathan Alter and David Frum.

Zerlina, the president spent the weekend in a golf cart after urging his followers to spend their Sunday mornings shoulder to shoulder in church. Donald Trump didn`t go anywhere near a church, of course, and this is apparently the way he`s going to play it. He`s going to social distance on golf course, while urging people to get together everywhere else.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the thing that`s interesting about the president`s strategy is his base of supporters is older voters, is white voters, are voters currently going through these hot spots that were the result of people going out the first few weeks of May without the appropriate PPE.

And I just -- I can`t think of an electoral strategy that involves actually killing your potential voters. I do not understand the strategy he`s doing. But I think that part of what is on display despite the fact that I`m baffled by the strategy in terms of the math of it, is that the president has always been a walking, talking national security threat from the beginning, from day one. I always felt that way. I`ve always gone to sleep at night fearful that he was going to tweet us into a nuclear war or some sort of conflict.

Now, we`re actually living my greatest fear. The thing that is bothering the most is that even in quarantine, we are still obsessed with his personality and I think what we -- we could be focused more on is not so much his personality traits when he`s lashing out at folks, but the sheer incompetence of the federal response and that there are real tangible things that you can point to and say 36,000 Americans would be alive today potentially if he had made better choices as president.

And so, I think that he`s just really worried. Maybe that`s why he stays on the golf course, because he doesn`t know what to do in this moment.

O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter, Zerlina mentions this issue about, you know, why would you put your own voters at risk as Donald Trump seems to be doing with his anti-public health pronouncements.

But that poll that we cited with the 11-point Biden lead also shows a 10- point lead for Joe Biden among seniors. So, there actually isn`t a group Donald Trump can point to in that poll and say, let`s make sure we take very good care of them at this point, anyway.

JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. The only constituency that he really still has a real advantage with are white men between the ages of 40 and 60. So, people aren`t quite old yet. Maybe they think that they`re invulnerable to COVID. They see this as kind of a cowboy state versus the nanny state.

There aren`t enough of them to win a presidential election and if he`s not careful, he could be in danger of getting blown out, because the, you know, the constituencies he got the last time are rapidly eroding. So, for instance, older white women who went with Trump, they didn`t like Hillary for whatever reason, they like Joe Biden. They think he`s a nice guy. And they are tired of Trump and want to change the channel on him.

So Trump now has a big problem with older white women and the real question for him is, how does he get support back? There are two things you have to do, not lose support if you`re behind, not lose more support but also figure outweighs to get back on track with various constituencies, and I don`t see the entrance ramp to that expressway for Donald Trump. I don`t know where he gets the votes.

So his only hope is to depress turnout on the other side. That`s why he`s threatening the Post Office, absentee ballots and it becomes a turnout election and Democrats have to understand this. It`s not about persuading more people to be against Trump. There are already enough of those people. Democrats just have to get turnout in gear.

O`DONNELL: David Frum, it`s so striking to see that very, very powerful Biden campaign ad made this weekend about things happening this weekend in the Trump presidency. There is such a rich archive that we would normally think of as relatively recent news that the Biden campaign hasn`t even touched for example, North Korea.

Zerlina mentioned the fear of Donald Trump kind of tweeting us into a nuclear exchange. I think we were all very nervous about the way Donald Trump was dealing with North Korea at the beginning then he fell in love publicly declared his love for Kim Jong-un who this weekend, Kim Jong-un reemerged at a meeting in North Korea, which was about strengthening North Korea`s nuclear capability.

The Biden campaign hasn`t even touched any of that yet. The Trump North Korea what happened to North Korea`s nukes, why is North Korea now reenergizing their nuclear approach?

DAVID FRUM, SENIOR EDITOR, THE FRUM: I think the Biden campaign is focused on one simple metric. The highest unemployment ever suffered by a president to be reelected was President Obama in 2012. At the end of the year 2012, unemployment was 7.8 percent. The second highest was Ronald Reagan in 1984. At the end of 1984, unemployment was 7.7 percent.

But in both cases, the job situation had improved in the 12 months before the election. It had improved moderately in 2012 which is why President Obama got moderately reelected and dramatically in the 12 months before 1984, which is why Ronald Reagan got dramatically reelected. There just isn`t that time for improvement before voting day 2020 and if there were time, the magnitude of the unemployment problem is so enormous, so mind boggling, so Great Depression-like that even if you were to bring millions of people into work in the next few months, there are 38 million or there were last week 38 million unemployed, and more by the end of this week.

And I think the Biden people are focused on that crushing economic weight and it`s impossible to imagine how President Trump gets past that.

O`DONNELL: Zerlina, it`s such a good point that the -- that this campaign now is the coronavirus and coronavirus unemployment campaign. It`s very, very hard to get the electorate`s attention on to anything else but if the Biden campaign ever does, there`s a massive amount of material for them to work with.

MAXWELL: Oh, yeah. Donald Trump was doing poorly as president before the pandemic. One of the things I don`t want us to walk away from this horrible moment in American history with is this idea that the pandemic is what destroyed Donald Trump`s presidency. Right before the New Year, we impeached this president and went to Christmas. He was indicted in the trial but not convicted, obviously and then we went to the New Year and we were worried about war with Iran.

I mean, I don`t think that this presidency has been particularly solid. I would like to have a little less anxiety but at this particular moment, this is the culmination of the president`s incompetence and it is on full display in the worst-case scenario.

So what I think going forward is Joe Biden needs -- I`m glad to see him outside modeling the mask wearing because it -- I think the mask wearing is more than just I`m a tough guy, you know, and I`m not going to wear a mask thing. I don`t think it`s so much that. I think it actually has to do with the fact that Donald Trump cannot admit when he is wrong and that is a quality that we need in a successful president. We need a president who is going to be deliberative and think about the decisions that they are making and how they`re impacting the American people.

And if something is wrong, you need to correct the record. You need to correct that. And so, I think that Joe Biden modeling mask wearing because that`s the only thing that is going to ensure that we do not have a second wave that is worse than the current wave because we`re not in the second wave yet.

My dad is a scientist and talks about the fact we can`t jump ahead and talk about the current upticks in certain parts of the country like in Alabama as if that`s part of a second wave because we`re very much still dealing with the initial impact of this virus.

O`DONNELL: Let`s take a look at something that Donald Trump said on April 10th, April 10th about the coronavirus and about the number of deaths that we are approaching tonight. Let`s listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`ll see what it ends up being but it looks like we`re headed to a number substantially below the 10,000, that would be the low mark.


O`DONNELL: Jonathan Alter, there`s going to be a Biden TV ad at some point that just rattles off every one of these Trump statements about the numbers when he said we had 15 cases and we were going to go to zero. He kept coming out with and attaching himself to specific numerical predictions like that that look pretty dark when you look at them tonight.

ALTER: Well, it`s just so stupid on his part. You know, anybody should know that you want to under-promise and over-deliver so that, you know, if he had said, look, we could have 300,000 deaths and then it comes in at 150, then he looks better.

What he`s trying to do is instead of, you know, dealing in an up front way with the situation as it is, he`s trying to turn it into another kind of statistic to normalize it so essentially say, look, we have a lot of deaths from auto accidents. He started with the flu. He wants to make it something like, you know, it`s just part of American life.

And so, it`s really up to all of the rest of us and the press to make sure that we memorialize, not normalize, that we actually put markers down. Now, these markers, this branding of the utter failure in February, March, April and now, May, it doesn`t happen by itself and this is part of the blocking and tackling of politics.

So I`m reminded of in my research for a book I wrote about Franklin Roosevelt, everybody knows about Hoovervilles that -- you know, Herbert Hoover`s -- the shanties in Central Park. They were called Hoovervilles. It was a very effective way of Roosevelt pushing Hoover out of office in 1932.

That didn`t just come up out of nowhere. That was the creation of the Democratic National Committee, and they threw a lot of things against the wall before Hoovervilles stuck. So, I think Biden is off to a good start with golf, but it has to be just one of the first of many, many attack lines because, you know, as you know better than anybody, Lawrence, politics ain`t bean bag. You got to stay on the offensive all the way from now until the election.

I guess one of my worries, a little bit about Biden is I want him to be a little more pugilistic. I want him to go after Trump a little harder and I think it will pay off for him if he does.

O`DONNELL: David Frum, when you look at the polling numbers, it`s hard to see what the Biden campaign is doing wrong.

FRUM: And it doesn`t matter what they would be doing wrong.

Years and years ago, I was tracking a senior politician in the company of a, kind of, loud mouth junior politician, and the junior politician was running against an incumbent. And the senior politician just kind of tell him to stop talking all the time. He said, you know, when you`re running against an incumbent, there are just two questions. Her record, as a woman in this case, and you`re not a kook. And his warning the junior politician in this case, he was sounding like a kook, but it`s the record.

This is going to be a referendum on the Trump presidency and we`re going to have somewhere in the vicinity of 20 million to 30 million people still out of work in November under the best, best circumstances. And so, the question for people around Biden and soon for all of us, is what is the future of the country going to be like? And this is the thing I worry about in the book, is it`s not like Trump voters are going to go away. It`s not like it`s going to be easy to change their minds about things.

So, how do you build a political system a third of the country is able to do less damage and how do you begin to renew the bonds of nation in a way that you begin to at least find some commonalities between the alienated 30 percent who are in less dynamic areas of the country and the majority that lives in the most dynamic areas of the country.

O`DONNELL: Zerlina Maxwell, Jonathan Alter, David Frum, thank you all for joining our discussion.

And coming up later in the hour, we have a very special last word tonight. You will hear someone sing who you have never heard sing at the end of this hour.

And coming up, many of the questions that you sent us about the coronavirus, about how to keep yourself safe and keep your family safe this summer, you`re going to get your answers. Laurie Garrett will join us. I`m told her camera is working. She will join us to answer your questions, next.


O`DONNELL: All 50 states have now started easing restrictions to allow some activities to occur, more activities and some businesses to reopen.

On Twitter, we asked for your questions about the medical and social impacts of the coronavirus and how that`s affecting you. And to get your answers, we are joined now for those answers by Laurie Garrett. She`s a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter covering global pandemics and she is the MSNBC -- and MSNBC science contributor.

Laurie, thank you very much for joining us. I`m glad we got your camera working. I wasn`t going to be able to answer these questions without you.

So, let`s -- let`s start with this first question from Delia. She says, do you have serious concerns after observing the activities this weekend that we could have a coronavirus second wave all over the country or some hot spots with uncontrolled spread?

LAURIE GARRETT, MSNBC SCIENCE CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I am concerned. I am seeing all kinds of images and frankly, I see behaviors right here in New York that make me very, very anxious. I`m worried that -- well, let me put it this way. I was in the Ebola epidemic, of course, in 2014 in West Africa and I attended church services in Liberia.

Ebola is a lot less contagious than this COVID virus, a lot less contagious. And yet, in Liberia, people went to church but understood, you entered one person, then another person, not a crowd going in. You sat 12 feet away from each other in the pews and you staggered in the pews. Everybody had sanitizer.

This is in Liberia. And I look at the images from this weekend all over the United States and I see behaviors that no one in Liberia would have been doing in the middle of an Ebola epidemic. To see crowds gathering, shaking hands, you know, high fiving each other, sharing drinks in a pool, hanging out in ways that just obviously put them at risk of acquiring an airborne virus from another person, a contact virus from another person.

It`s just appalling to me and it means that people really don`t understand that we are walking steak. You know, we are meat on wheels for a virus and they`re just -- COVID virus is looking for another happy hunting ground and we`re making it very easy for this virus.

O`DONNELL: Let`s go to the another question. This is a practical question.

I need to travel from Washington to Arizona in July for family medical urgency. I am planning on driving. Is it safe to stay at hotels for two nights along the way and then isolate in an Airbnb when I get there?

GARRETT: So a lot of companies are going to great lengths to demonstrate they have sanitized their facilities, they`ve made it possible for you to go through all the check in and the check out and everything without any physical contact with another human being. They`re trying very hard to convince you that they will make it very safe.

And without specifically going in and inspecting what each individual hotel is doing and what the nature is of the precautions that they`re taking, I can`t give you the kind of assurance on a specific level. What I would say generally is that it still is risky to travel. And it`s probably still best to avoid it, if possible.

You say you have a medical emergency that requires your travel, then I would say all right, but let`s be sure that you minimize all form of contact with strangers and that`s not just when you reach your hotel but across your travels, as you reach your destination, just tremendous caution.

O`DONNELL: Well, Laurie, you`ve kind of answered the next question in what you`ve just said but this question is worth asking because I get this from people all the time. It says, what precautions should people be taking in airports and on airplanes right now? Asking for a friend who intends to go on vacation with her extended family next month.

GARRETT: Well, depending on where you live and where you`re planning to fly to, a month might buy us a fair amount of additional safety. But that`s not necessarily an absolute and there certainly are parts of the country that are still just getting started in the first wave of this pandemic and there are certainly locations around the world where the pandemic is just starting to take off. Consider the situation for example in Brazil and Russia.

But let`s assume you`re staying inside the United States and going from one place to another where the epidemic is roughly the same stage. Then again, the airlines just like hotels are doing everything possible to convince you that they have sanitized, that they`ve changed the way they`re operating. They`re not going to jam you in shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh with strangers. We`ll see.

I should caution that Dr. Joseph fair, a good friend of mine and friend of MSNBC acquired infection of COVID, just recently got out of hospital after a long difficult bout with the disease, and he thinks he acquired it through his eyes on a flight and, of course, the fluids of your eyes can indeed absorb viruses and you can be infected through your eyes. So, doctors that treat COVID patients wear very tight goggles, so tight they need indents on their cheeks and so on at the end of a shift.

This is tough. I mean, I personally would not at this time get on an airplane.

O`DONNELL: Let`s do one more before we go to a break here. This is -- a question says, the social impact I find hard to grasp, will we ever be able to return to mass shared experiences like sporting events, movies, concerts, et cetera? Is this going to be similar to a post-9/11 where the world we knew was dramatically different?

GARRETT: I really appreciate this question because I`ve put eight years of work into a book called "I heard the sirens scream" that documented the way 9/11 changed the way we live in America and not just 9/11 but also the anthrax mailings that came on the heels of the 9/11 attacks. And I think we are going to go through far more profound change that will affect much more of our lives than did 9/11 -- 9/11 let`s remember really two places were hard hit and then fortunately, in Pennsylvania a relatively unpopulated location.

In this case, everywhere in the world is hit at the same time. Every human being on the planet is facing some degree of risk and threat simultaneously. When 9/11 happened, it urged a tremendous economic catastrophe but nothing compared to what we`re going through now and what we`re going to face.

And, of course, 9/11 and the anthrax attacks constituted basically three months of difficulty for direct threat for Americans, particularly in New York and Washington. This is only at its beginning and we will be experiencing rounds of infection and of threat and concern all over the world for at least another three years.

So I think that the level of change that we`re going to experience in everything, in how we view the arts, what is entertainment, what is going out for a meal, what constitutes necessary travel, essential travel? What constitutes OK, I can do it at home or OK, I can go to the office?

All of this is going to get completely reconsidered, rethought and frankly, whatever conclusions we reach by July will change by October and perhaps again by next April. And so, we must all have somehow the wherewithal within us to be resilient, to adapt to constant new information, new changes. Whatever are the absolutes you hear about this virus today and about the risks for today, you must be prepared for new understanding, deeper innovation, deeper science that gives you yet another, you know, permutation of concern, another way of viewing the problem.

And I would just add one other thing. I think that we all have to be careful not to be overly persuaded by what Wall Street wants. The virus is not Wall Street, and Wall Street is not the virus.

O`DONNELL: All right. We`re going to squeeze in a quick break here and, Laurie, when we come back, we`ll have more viewer questions for you but we`ll begin with my first question, which is why do you put a three year timeframe on the challenge that we`re currently facing in the way we are facing it. We`ll start with that when we come back after this break. We`ll be back with Laurie Garrett.


O`DONNELL: And we`re back with Laurie Garrett answering your questions about the coronavirus. Laurie Garrett is, of course, Pulitzer Prize Winning reporter who has - had covered global pandemics before.

Laurie, let me go back to something you said before the commercial break, which was you put a three year timeframe on what you described as this kind of challenging world we`re living in now before we get to the post coronavirus world, whatever that`s going to be. What is your - why do you have a three year timeframe on this?

LAURIE GARRETT, FORMER SENIOR FELLOW FOR GLOBAL HEALTH, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, Lawrence, three years is my best case scenario, not my worst case by any means. Three years is because it`s going to take much longer than most people think to come up with a safe, proven, viable vaccine, have mass production, really get it out there and deal with all the resistance against vaccination, deal with all the questions associated with decisions about who should have access to it, where the priority should be.

And keep in mind, if we went on the hyper speed timetable that the White House is now pushing, as one very dear friend of mine who`s one of the great vaccine experts on earth put it, "Oh rushing a vaccine to be distributed across America just before the election, what could go wrong?

And I mean that really is amazing that we`re going pell-mell speed with the leading candidates for rapid vaccine use being of a type never previously used, not only in human beings but in animals.

One is a MRNA based vaccine and another is a DNA based, both nucleic acids. And I`m told that the MRNA based vaccine has to be stored on dry ice, not just a cold chain, not just a refrigerator, dry ice because it`s so unstable.

I mean, we could be rushing into a real mess. Meanwhile, I think in reality, if we want true safety profiles, if FDA doesn`t get pressured by the White House to give the green light on something that is inadequately tested, both for its efficacy and it`s safety, then we could be out to this time next year, before really even thinking about vaccinating people outside of test subjects, and we would only begin to be receiving long term test results on our initial volunteers who went through phase three test trials.

O`DONNELL: Look, let`s go to another viewer question. This is from Sid. It says, given the importance of accurate reporting, can a different reporting mechanism be established more specifically keeping it in scientific circles, bypassing political players and use this data to help find answers and/or solutions to the fact that black people are impacted at three times the rate?

GARRETT: This is such an important question, Lawrence, because it goes to the heart of every single problem we have right now with this epidemic. It`s about trust. It`s about, do we trust the data, do we trust the policy decisions, do we trust the advice handed down by the President, by the CDC, by our Governor, by our Mayor, who do we trust?

And at the core of that is do we trust the numbers? Is somebody giving us at least the straight proof how many got hospitalized yesterday? How many have died? How many have recovered? What`s the rate of infection out there in my community? What percentage of my friends and neighbors might be carrying this virus? How dangerous is it to be around them if they are?

We need solid basis of trust in order for people to make the kinds of decisions that really matter. And in particular, when we see a racial divide, as we do quite acutely with COVID-19 right now, it`s Latinos, Native Americans and African Americans are all at higher risk of both infection and more importantly of death if infected.

And a lot of different theories have been put out, a lot of different ideas about why this is so, but we don`t have any real definitive solid scientific answers about why it`s so. There is just a lot of people leaping to their boiler plate issues in national politics.

I`ve consistently pointed out that one of the - well, really, the only factor that coincides 100% with likelihood to succumb to coronavirus is a history of improperly treated or untreated hypertension, high blood pressure, and if you have high blood pressure, you`re at great risk of a fatal outcome. Well, high blood pressure runs in precisely those three groups, African Americans, Native Americans and Latinos.

O`DONNELL: Laurie Garrett, thank you very much for joining us tonight. We have a stack of questions we haven`t gotten to; we`ll get to them in another hour on another night. Thank you very much, Laurie, we really appreciate it.

GARRETT: Next time we`ll do more.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. And when we come back, as we wonder when we will ever get to the other side of this coronavirus story, historian Jon Meacham will join us to consider why history gives us hope. Jon Meacham is next.


O`DONNELL: The Great Depression, World War II, the Polio epidemic, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the 1918 influenza pandemic; the American way of life was changed by each of those unprecedented events.

Pulitzer Prize winning author and Presidential historian, Jon Meacham is viewing the coronavirus pandemic through the lessons of these events and finding hope through examples of American political leadership, scientific ingenuity and resilience in his new podcast "Hope, Through History".

Joining us now is Pulitzer Prize winning historian and MSNBC contributor Jon Meacham. He is now the host of the podcast "Hope, Through History." And Jon, the title is so perfect "Hope, Through History". It`s something I attempt to do occasionally on this program.

I am glad that it is now finally a formal course that we can all take on our iPhones. Where do you begin in your lessons of "Hope, Through History" on this Memorial Day weekend as we approach 100,000 deaths from coronavirus?

JON MEACHAM, PODCAST HOST, "HOPE, THROUGH HISTORY": As bleak and difficult as this moment is, we`re - a lot of us are still here. We still believe in the promise of America, which is that the sentence that Thomas Jefferson wrote in June of 1776 on a desk made by an enslaved person, so you don`t have to look very hard for irony in American history do you, that all men were created equal, the country has always been strongest, and that we always come to the moments that we celebrate and commemorate when we more broadly apply the implications of that sentence.

So there is still an enormous legacy that is living and breathing that we have to defend and perpetuate. It is incredibly difficult, and my only argument is that it`s always been incredibly difficult. And if we look back nostalgically, we fall prey to a kind of narcissism, which is that somehow or other the problems of the past, the problems of Jamestown, the problems of the revolution, the problems of the 1790s - the first President who was threatened with impeachment was George Washington in 1795.

We are the beneficiaries of generation upon generation of sacrifice and resilience, and Memorial Day is obviously set aside for a particular kind of commemoration for the people who gave the last full measure of devotion.

But let`s not look back and think, you know what, they had it easier, our problems are uniquely oppressive. Because, it doesn`t do justice to what they fought for and what they fought against, and it creates a sense of narcissism on our problem - about our problems. And if we can`t look back and learn, what is the data set in history, what kind of social science is used except the past to figure out what we can do to move forward?

O`DONNELL: There is so much just in the FDR years, which I know you`ve written a book about. When you look at the great depression and Frank Roosevelt comes into office as the President who has to try to deal with this, and people really did not know what tools to use. He and others in the administration went to work trying to figure out what those tools were and how to do it. They were confronted with something that no other policymakers have been confronted with before.

MEACHAM: Right. The banks - all of the banks were closed, right? I mean there was a run on the banks. There was a bank holiday that FDR declared almost immediately. That was the first action the first 100 days. And it was a sense that we had to have what FDR had called a spirit of bold persistent experimentation.

If we try a method, but if it fails, admit it frankly and try something else. But above all, try something. That was the Roosevelt insight. But nobody knew if any of it was going to work. The line we all remember, right, is the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning fear that paralyzes our best efforts and converts advance into retreat.

Fascinating, isn`t it, that he used the word paralyze, because he himself had overcome paralysis. He thought he can help the country to do it. That`s the line we remember.

The line that got the biggest cheer on March 4, 1933 was when he said I might require wartime like executive powers as if we had been invaded by a foreign foe, and the crowd roared and Mrs. Roosevelt wrote in her diary that night that it chilled her to the bone because it felt as though the people might be ready for a dictator.

Beginning of the 1930s, democracy - democratic capitalism was very much in the dock. There was no guarantee that it was going to survive the decade. And Roosevelt basically by insisting that the American experiment was not going to end on his watch, very much the same way Winston Churchill nine years later would say British freedom is not going to end on my watch.

He called on what Lincoln called our better angels, our spirit of generosity, and enabled us to stagger through that decade. Let`s not be sentimental. We can`t be nostalgic and we shouldn`t be sentimental either.

The Great Depression lasted until the first - until the beginning of the Second World War. But he put the public sector, he put the government at the center of the fight and redefined the relationships between the individual and the state in a way that it shaped our politics ever since.

You can argue with the specifics of what he did, but fundamentally nobody really doubted that Frankly Roosevelt had the American experiment in mind and the endurance of that as his main goal.

O`DONNELL: Jon Meacham, thank you very much for joining us tonight. The podcast is "Hope, Through History," it`s on my phone. You should get it on yours. And Jon, join us whenever you can to give us some hope through history. We really appreciate it.

MEACHAM: Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you. And when we come back, a very special last word in song to commemorate this Memorial Day.


O`DONNELL: On this Memorial Day, "The Last Word" goes to Bob Kerrey, who was awarded the highest military decoration that exists, the Medal of Honor in 1970. Bob Kerrey was a Navy SEAL who lost a leg in Vietnam. He was elected Governor of Nebraska before he ran for the United States Senate and won in 1988.

On that election night, with five of his Navy SEAL teammates on the stage with him, Bob Kerrey ended his victory speech with a song that was written during the Vietnam War, looking back at the devastation of World War I through the eyes of an Australian soldier with a message for all of us about all wars.



When I was a young man I carried my pack And I lived the free life of a rover From the Murray`s green basin to the dusty outback I waltzed my Matilda all over

Then in 1915 my country said son It`s time to stop rambling `cause there`s work to be done So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun And they sent me away to the war

And the band played Waltzing Matilda As we sailed away from the quay And amidst all the tears and the shouts and the cheers We sailed off to Gallipoli

How well I remember that terrible day When the blood stained the sand and the water And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay We were butchered like lambs to the slaughter

Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well He showered us with bullets, and he rained us with shells And in five minutes flat he`d blown us all to hell Nearly chased us right back to Australia

And a band played Waltzing Matilda As we stopped to bury our slain And we buried ours and the Turks buried theirs Then it started all over again

For ten weary weeks we kept ourselves alive In that mad world of blood, death and fire. For ten weary weeks I kept myself alive While around me the corpses piled higher

Then a big Turkish shell knocked me ass over head And when I awoke in my hospital bed I saw what it had done, and I wished I was dead Never knew there were worse things than dying

And the band played Waltzing Matilda Around the green bush far and near To hump tent and pegs, a man needs both legs No more Waltzing Matilda for me

They collected the wounded, the legless, the maimed The poor wounded heroes of Suvla The legless, the armless, the blind, the insane And shipped us all back to Australia

And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay I looked down at where my legs used to be And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me To mourn and to grieve and to pity

And a band played Waltzing Matilda As they carried us down the gangway And nobody cheered, they just stood and stared And turned all their faces away

And now every April I sit on my porch And watch the parade pass before me I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march Reliving old dreams and lost glory

The old men march proudly all bent stiff and sore The tired old men from a forgotten war And the young people ask what are they marching for? And I ask myself the same question

And the band played Waltzing Matilda And the old men answer to the call Year by year their numbers get fewer Some day no one will march here at all

Waltzing Matilda, Waltzing Matilda Who`ll go Waltzing Matilda with me? And their ghosts can be heard As they pass by the billabong Who`ll go a`Waltzin` Matilda with me?

We`ll waltz tonight and work tomorrow. Thank you very much.



O`DONNELL: Bob Kerrey, who I`m very proud to call a friend, gets tonight`s last word. Ari Melber is up next.