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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 11/19/21

Guests: Cynthia Alksne, Courtney Subramanian, Carol Leonnig, Donna Edwards, Bill Kristol, Jon Meacham


Kyle Rittenhouse acquitted on all charges. Biden response to Rittenhouse verdict. House Dems pass Biden`s social policy & climate bill. Biden`s social policy bill now head to Senate. CDC expands COVID booster eligibility. Dems celebrating "Build Back Better" House vote.


KENESHIA GRANT, HOWARD UNIVERSITY ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE: And so, they are very important for that reason. But in particular, it`s a wonderful time to be teaching at Howard University with the Vice President of the United States being a grad because those students can feel that energy and they can feel like they can do it too.

ZERLINA MAXWELL, SENIOR DIRECTOR, PROGRESSIVE PROGRAMMING FOR SIRIUSXM: I didn`t mean to shade Hampton University. I love Hampton University. But as Kamala D. Harris would say, the Vice President, the real HU is Howard University, so I had to say it at the top. Professor Keneshia Grant, thank you so much for joining us tonight on this historic night. Please stay safe.

That is tonight`s Last Word. You can catch me every weeknight at 6 p.m. Eastern on the Choice from MSNBC exclusively on Peacock. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Good evening once again, day 304 of the Biden administration. And tonight, Kyle Rittenhouse, the kid who brought an AR15 to a protest as one does apparently is no longer a defendant in a case that became a flashpoint over gun rights and vigilantism and self-defense in our country. After three and a half days of deliberations, a jury in Kenosha, Wisconsin found 18-year-old Rittenhouse not guilty of fatally shooting two men, injuring another during that protest with police conduct back in August of 2020. That unrest erupted after the police shooting of black Kenosha resident Jacob Blake. During the trial, Rittenhouse took the stand testified he was targeted and attacked in the midst of those protests and fired his AR15 in self-defense.

Late today the family of Anthony Huber, one of the two men killed by Rittenhouse issued this reaction to today`s verdict, "It sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street."

The President was also asked about the outcome of this case.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: Look, I stand by what the jury has concluded, the jury system works, and we have to abide by it.


WILLIAMS: Biden later urged Americans to avoid focusing on divisions over the case in a statement later that read in part, "While the verdict in Kenosha will leave many Americans feeling angry and concerned, myself included. I believe that what unites us is far greater than what divides us."

His focus on unity comes on the very day the House narrowly passed a key part of his plan to overhaul this country`s social safety net as well as climate and tax laws. Those are the Democrats celebrating, vote was 220 to 213. Not a single Republican cross the aisle to join them. That vote was supposed to take place last night but was delayed until this morning, when many more Americans were awake to see it because of a record breaking eight-and-a-half-hour speech from Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Today, the former president felt the need to weigh in praising McCarthy saying he did a "great job" holding off the vote to as he put it properly opposed communism.

The Build Back Better legislation now heads to the U.S. Senate where the majority leader has said he hopes to get it to the floor to a vote by Christmas. Tonight, one top House Democrats said he`s confident it`ll get the backing of each and every senator and the Democratic Party.


REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, (D) NEW YORK DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS CHAIRMAN: I do believe that all 50 of the senators are operating in good faith in terms of trying to land the plan. But what gives, I think many of us confidence in the House is that President Biden has given us his explicit commitment that what has been outlined in terms of the tremendous strides that we will be taking for the American people in the Build Back Better Act will get the support of 50 senators, and he will personally make sure that occurs.

WILLIAMS: Also, this evening, a long-awaited significant step forward on the vaccine booster front. The CDC has at long last signed off on approval of both the Pfizer and Moderna boosters for all adults in the United States that makes the booster available to 10s of millions of Americans at 80,000 locations in all just in time for the upcoming holidays travel and gatherings.

And with that, let us bring in our starting line on a Friday night, Courtney Subramanian, White House Correspondent for USA Today, Carol Leonnig, Pulitzer Prize-winning Investigative Reporter for The Washington Post, co-author with Phil Rucker of The New York Times bestseller, I Alone Can Fix It, and Cynthia Alksne, former Federal Prosecutor in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Good evening and welcome to you all.


And Cynthia given the news, given our lead story tonight, I`d like to begin with you by asking you why did this case result in an acquittal?

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It resulted in acquittal for a couple of reasons. And the most important ones, frankly, were the witnesses. One witness said, he approached the defendant, and he had a gun in his hand and pointed at him, one witness is reportedly went after Mr. Rittenhouse with a skateboard and another one supposedly grabbed his gun. That was enough that the prosecution could not overcome their burden of proof. And when you add two other important things. One is, there really wasn`t a good overarching theme in the case. I happen to personally have liked the closing statement. The problem is it disagreed with the opening statement. And that`s a big problem. And then when you throw in a very confusing set of jury instructions, what you have is a recipe for an acquittal. And that`s exactly what happened.

WILLIAMS: So, Cynthia, it`s one thing for us in the light of day to look at this case and say, as people do conversationally, what business did this kid have driving into that town with an AR15? It is quite another when you examine the visceral power of the American notion of self-defense?

ALKSNE: Right. Well, that`s the other jump street problem with this case is that it was perfectly legal for him to go in and take his AR15 to pretend like he was in a video game, was a junior police officer, and that creates a situation for violence. And when you couple that, once he`s there, and you couple that with what was happening in this site, you`re going to end up with dead people. And the problem is that the law is instead of seeing this disaster that occurred in Kenosha, and in pulling back so that people can`t go to rallies with AR15 when they`re teenagers, it`s going the exact opposite direction.

And so, my great fear is what`s going to happen in our country, is that there`s going to be more vigilantism because it was found to be acceptable in this case. There`ll be more vigilantism. And we`re going to have to have several tragedies before somebody comes to their senses and begins to pass some laws to curb this violent use of guns and availability of guns in the public square.

WILLIAMS: Indeed, I want to get to that very point in this segment.

Courtney, it`s great to have you back on the broadcast. The President`s initial response was so magnanimous, it was hardened up in the statement afterwards, it kind of puts a spotlight on the burden to get this right for history for posterity when you`re the president.

COURTNEY SUBRAMANIAN, USA TODAY WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That`s right. I was there on the South Lawn this afternoon when he first got off Marine One until the set initial statement and then reiterated it later on with that, that statement adding that, like many Americans, you know, he`s left feeling angry and concerned. But, you know, again, reiterating, the jury has spoken. And I think it`s important to remember that the President is an institutionalist. And as we`ve seen an erosion of public trust in American institutions. This is a president who understands just how fragile the democracy is right now. And a president who has reiterated the message that he wants to prove that democracy works through bipartisanship through strengthening institutions, and he wants to be that uniter and chief and turn the temperature down as he was elected to do.

But I would know that Vice President Kamala Harris struck a very different tone. She told one of my colleagues in Ohio today that she was disappointed in the verdict, and that the verdict speaks for itself that she`s worked, you know, she as a former prosecutor work to make criminal justice of the criminal justice system more fair, and equitable, and that it`s clear, it`s more -- there`s more to do. So that was a very different tone than we heard from Biden today.

WILLIAMS: So, Carol Leonnig, let me read you something from the New York Times that speaks to both of the points just made, "Republican politicians in search of attention and small donor campaign contributions tried tying themselves to Mr. Rittenhouse. Accounts associated with the Proud Boys on the chatting app Telegram were equally excited."

And so, Carol, you see how this meshes with the points Cynthia and Courtney were making and to Courtney`s point the President is indeed an institutionalist and as a man of a certain era in American politics he doesn`t think of a jury verdict this way. This is kind of advanced kind of fundraising combined with the new nihilism of the era we`re living in. In the meantime, this is a scary thought that groups are motivated by this verdict.


CAROL LEONNIG, THE WASHINGTON POST INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: You know, Brian, I`m so glad you asked that, because it`s sort of sweet and old fashioned for a president. And I`m not being partisan at all, I`m just referring to the historic sweep we`ve had in the last two decades, it`s sort of old fashioned for a president to not try to argue that a jury decision is illegitimate. Because he doesn`t believe in it politically. Obviously, he and his party are troubled by the idea of someone carrying an AR15, especially a teenager who wasn`t legally allowed to buy one but was given one by a friend into a protest where it creates a flammable situation.

I think it`s really interesting to, to remember what the importance of your question in relationship to the flashpoint that the Kyle Rittenhouse case was from the get-go and is still today. You know, conservatives tried to insist that this was a person carefully protecting us from Antifa in Kenosha, which was not true. And there were also progressives and liberals who tried to argue that this person was illegally transported across state lines by his mother with a weapon. And that also was not true. To argue that he was a white supremacist was not -- that evidence was not produced.

And today, tonight, Brian, as your show goes live, all sorts of organizations on the left and the right, are milking this case for what they can. But the conservative and white supremacist groups of which Kyle Rittenhouse was not a member, are certainly doing it with the most fervor. Because, you know, it shows that you know you can come armed to a situation that you don`t like, you can come armed and argue that was self-defense when you pulled that weapon. And it`s striking that I think of this often if a black teenager had done this in Kenosha, Wisconsin, how long would that have lasted before something more dramatic happened to that teenager?

And so, Cynthia coming off Carol`s last point and your last answer, how much do you personally worry that every young pretend or would be cop in this country with a weapon is going to see this as somewhat liberating if not entitling?

ALKSNE: I worry a lot about it. And I also worry on the other side, too. I mean, I worry that the gun toting love of Second Amendment lovers will show up at protests. And guess what, and then the people on the other side are going to go well, now they`re going to come with guns, I guess I have to too. That`s what worries me is that we`re just -- our politics is so divisive and is so angry, and that soon that`s going to manifest itself in more physical danger. And people more and more and more people are going to be hurt.

Now, that being said, and how depressing all that is, so I`m not just depressing. We do have two other civil rights cases that are going on in the country that are very important that look like, you know, there`s a real possibility for injustice and verdicts that we can all think, well, maybe our country`s moving forward, we have the Charlottesville case, and we have the death of Mr. Arbery in Georgia. And those cases are both going well. And I`m hoping they symbolize something for people that the justice system is improving over time. And that is something that, you know, everybody can unite behind and be proud of.

WILLIAMS: So, Courtney, it`s a lot we`ve kind of established here tonight our country is broken. We know our Congress is broken. And with that as the backdrop answer me this, how does the president`s bill get through the U.S. Senate to his desk for signature?

SUBRAMANIAN: Well, I think that`s still an open question, you know, big celebrations for the President and Democrats today. But, you know, you have to remember this is the first step of a very lengthy legislative process. This version of the bill will not be the final version, and probably will change considerably for a couple of reasons. One, they need all 50 Democrats in the Senate for this to pass through budget reconciliation and that includes senators Manchin and Sinema who have signaled they are not on board with every item in this bill.


And two, with total Republican opposition, the bill needs to be passed through budget reconciliation, which requires the Senate parliamentarian to make sure it complies with very strict rules of that process. So, it is going to be whittled down significantly before it goes back to the House for the House to pass it before it reaches Biden`s desk. And they want to do this all before Christmas, as you mentioned, Brian, which let`s also remember, December is going to already be a mad scramble, with the Congress contending with the government funding due to run out December 3, and likely the debt limit to run out December 15.

So, a lot to do. And I think the question will be -- the questions will be just how scaled back will this bill be? Will the senators, Senators Manchin and Sinema show up for the President, as the President believes that Senator Manchin will, and also can they get this done in time, because time is of the essence, this is sort of the last shot for Democrats to really push through their legislative -- the rest of their legislative agenda ahead of next year`s midterm election. So big time crunch ahead.

WILLIAMS: Indeed, as I always say, you do not want to be between a U.S. senator and any one of the Washington area airports with Christmas approaching, it`s a dangerous place to be.

So, Carol, because I know that Trump put out a statement in support of Mr. McCarthy after whatever that was for eight hours on the floor of the House, where would you put Trump`s hold on this Republican Party right about now?

LEONNIG: It remains almost as strong as it was, you know, in February and March. Kevin McCarthy, as has often been the case in the last several weeks, is speaking very dramatically to that audience of one. But also, as you and I have discussed many times, he is talking to the Trump voter, the voter he wants because he is banking on that voter bloc, helping him become the Speaker of the House after the 2022 midterms. And this is, you know, a loyalty speech and loyalty endurance speech, which is, you know, again, not to be partisan, but just to an analyze what`s happening in front of us. This is what Donald Trump demands, in order to deliver his voters in order to go out, stump and encourage that block to turn out for Kevin McCarthy and the candidates who will ultimately or potentially help him become the speaker. So, it`s a command performance, and he`s doing what he needs to do to win that power vote, because Donald Trump won`t be there for him unless he does so.

WILLIAMS: In this last hour of another long week, our thanks to Courtney Subramanian, to Carol Leonnig, to Cynthia Alksne, our starting line on a Friday night for starting us off.

Coming up for us, months in the making, this bill, we`ve been talking about a $2 trillion price tag, and just enough votes to pass the House now what, we`ll continue the questioning with our two political experts and game out the chances of the President`s massive social and climate spending bill.

And then later, after a week for the history books, we thought it would make sense to have a presidential historian here and on standby to take our questions put it all in perspective. And so, Jon Meacham is standing by to join us tonight, all of it, as the 11th Hour is just getting underway in view of the moon and the North Portico of the White House on a Friday night.




REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA HOUSE SPEAKER: This bill is monumental. It`s historic. It`s transformative. It`s bigger than anything we`ve ever done.


WILLIAMS: Democrats celebrating the House passing the President`s Build Back Better bill. But that`s about the extent of it because passing the House was the easy part. New York Times puts it like this, "The bill still has a long and difficult road ahead. Democratic leaders must coax it through the 50-50 Senate navigate a torturous budget process that is almost certain to reshape the measure, force it back to the House if it passes at all."

Back with us tonight, Donna Edwards, former Democratic Member of Congress, now a Washington Post Columnist and Bill Kristol, author, writer, thinker, political veteran of the Reagan and Bush Administration`s, editor-at-large over at the Bulwark. Good evening, and welcome to both of our friends.

Donna, I`d like to start with you. Is it a little too soon to celebrate Build Back Better?

DONNA EDWARDS, (D) MARYLAND, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well, I don`t I don`t think it`s too soon at all, I think it was quite a monumental task to get it through the House and negotiate it. And I also think there are a number of provisions that are in the House version that have already been kind of pre negotiated with the Senate. And so, I don`t take the Dem view that of if it passes at all, I do believe that a measure is going to be passed. It`ll be sent back to the House and then on to the President for his signature. And these are great things in this bill, things that Democrats across the country will be able to talk about and celebrate universal pre- K, childcare, tax credit, expansion of Medicaid, things that are in there that are going to deal with prescription drug prices. So, I think it`s a good celebration. There`s still another leg to go. But I`m pretty confident that it`s going to get passed by the House and the Senate.

WILLIAMS: Well, Congresswoman, let me check a follow up because you just listed all the aspects of it designed to make Americans lives better yet. I think you`ll join me in agreeing that if you and I were together tonight at the rink at 30 rock or the Mall in Washington or the Malibu Pier and stopped and asked 1000 people what`s in it we would get very few replies. So, what does that say about the job ahead?


EDWARDS: Well, it says that there`s a lot of work ahead, Brian. I mean, you know, one of the problems that Democrats have had is that there was so much talk and conversation about the price tag of the bill and very little talk about what`s in it.

I look at something for example, like universal pre-K, that actually can save families like $19,000, $20,000 a month in childcare. I mean, a year in childcare costs, because of universal pre-K. So, there`s going to be a lot. Democrats are going to have to do the lion`s share of the work. And, you know, from the president through members of Congress, really going back and giving real life examples of the ways, in which this bill is going to transform people`s lives. No more talk about the number, talk about what we can.

WILLIAMS: So, Bill Kristol, you heard the Congresswoman in no particular order, how much pressure is Schumer under, is Manchin under and is Sinema under?

BILL KRISTOL, THE BULWARK EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yeah, in no particular order, I don`t know. I mean, Schumer is under a lot of pressure to get it done. That`s pretty obvious. But Manchin and Sinema have their own calculations. And I got to say Manchin made objection. Economists can quarrel about this, all they want was this, throwing this much more money into the system, especially in the short term, it`s fully funded sort of over 10 years, but not over the first few years, will be inflationary. And those inflation numbers, I think, have really given him a talking point about being more careful about this.

And I do think if you just look at the polls and focus groups, to degree to which middle-class, working-class Americans are feeling the pinch of inflation, they might like all the things that many of them do, like many of the things that Donna discussed, and they may be worthwhile things. But explaining that these good things are coming down the pike, while people actually the standard of living month to month now has been depending on which numbers you begin, either you believe either not going up much or going down a bit because things just cost word. Maybe that`s temporary. It`s a big debate about that, maybe it`s -- maybe it`s a little longer lasting, though. Inflation really, parties get penalized for inflation political parties do, even if it`s a little unfair, if it happens on their watch, so I`d be pretty worried about that if I were at the Biden White House.

WILLIAMS: Indeed, Donna and Bill have agreed to stay with us. We`re going to fit in a break here.

And coming up when we come back and continue our conversation, we`re going to talk about the toxic mood in Donna`s old workplace, the House Chamber after this week`s censure vote for Paul Gosar and the eight-hour long speech from the Minority Leader which may, depending on your timezone, still be going on.




REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: I want to go back when we didn`t have inflation. I want to go back when the border was secure. I want to go back when I didn`t pay $4.50 for gas. You know, there could be members here who didn`t want to change their airline ticket, Madam Speaker, and already are in Puerto Rico. I can look anywhere I want, Mr. Speaker. You ever eaten one of these baby carrots, Allegion little secret, there`s no such thing. They`re just big carrots they chopped, and they charge you more when you buy them.

This evening showed there`s no matter the time, the day or the circumstances House Republicans will always fight for you, fight for your family and fight for a country.


WILLIAMS: Somewhere just south of Jimmy Stewart. Kevin McCarthy`s record long speech did nothing to derail Biden`s Build Back Better bill. But it did serve to highlight just how toxic the atmosphere presently is on Capitol Hill.

Thankfully still with us are Donna Edwards, and Bill Kristol.

Bill, for those who have compared McCarthy and baring and demeanor to a used car salesman, I was shocked to hear during one of the portions I listened to live last night that he, in fact, at one time have bought and sold used cars as a young man. So that was pleasing. Other than that, what did it accomplish it? It was seemingly an eight-and-a-half-hour non sequitur?

KRISTOL: Yeah, I don`t think it accomplished anything. I suppose we`re talking about that. And not about Paul Gosar, not about Donald Trump. So maybe it gets you to -- get us talk more about goofy behavior by the minority leader as opposed to reprehensible behavior by some of his colleagues whom he has defended and whom the entire Republican Party with the exception of Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger defended on the floor of the House earlier this week. I think that in that respect, you know, maybe McCarthy`s wise just to look, as I say, like a bit of a goofball and take our attention away from the more serious things that his party has done and is doing and is embracing.

WILLIAMS: Congresswoman, is it possible the censure vote against Gosar made the chamber even more toxic than it already was?

EDWARDS: Well, I think it was necessary. And if there`s any hope that Congress is going to get back to a point of more decorum of, you know, collegiality among, among members, trust among members, then the House had to take this action to censure Gosar whether it makes it more toxic, it`d be more toxic. I mean, we have members of Congress who, you know, but it was said, you know, words in support of an insurrection, for Pete`s sake, we`ve had members of Congress who refuse to hold President Trump or President accountable. So, I mean, all of these things really contributed to a toxic environment, but it was so necessary to hold Gosar accountable and to censure his behavior.

And it`s not like censures are issued every day. I mean, they`re very rare. But it was really appropriate in this moment, to begin to return some sense of normalcy back into the legislative process.

WILLIAMS: And Bill Kristol because as we always say we`re part of a national frog boiling experiment of, are you yet surprised to learn that three Republican members of the House have said some form of, well, Kyle Rittenhouse I bet might make a dandy congressional intern?


KRISTOL: I guess not surprised. And, of course, Trump has, you know, got out of his way to praise him. Trump praise McCarthy speech. I think that was the one of the things, when I should say praise Kevin McCarthy speech. Kevin McCarthy desperate to have -- keep Donald Trump onside. Probably, you know, he talked to him directly, but certainly may be an indication, that Trump will have this bill fought ferociously. And this is Kevin McCarthy`s idea of fighting it ferociously, didn`t someone float earlier this week, I think was the Trump could be speaker in the next House and the degree to which they are kowtow to Trump sort of preemptively and then after the fact when he wants something from the top to the bottom of this party elected members, they`re elected, Trumps the Augur elected, but he`s in charge and they`re not.

WILLIAMS: And Trump took another swing at McConnell today, Bill, but that relationship continues apace.

KRISTOL: Yeah, McConnell wants -- McConnell also for all the abuses taken from Trump and a tiny bit of pushing back. You know, we endorsed Herschel Walker, Walker just a couple of weeks ago, Trump`s endorsed candidate in Georgia whom McConnell had privately been saying a couple of months before, oh, my God, we can`t run him. So basically, it`s Trump`s party. And you know, McCarthy and McConnell manage the actor, subordinate themselves in different ways, but subordinate themselves they do.

WILLIAMS: Our thanks to our two friends, Donna Edwards, and Bill Kristol for joining us on a Friday night especially given the week we have all had.

Coming up for us after our next break, Pulitzer Prize-winning Presidential Historian Jon Meacham is here to recap a very busy week for this President and preview bumps in the road that might lie ahead like whether or not our democracy survives.




BIDEN: Today, we`re finally getting this done. America`s moving again, and your life is going to change for the better. And despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans, we can work together, we can deliver real results.

We`re at an inflection point in world history, things are changing, not just here across the world. And the question is, how do we respond to it?

Earlier this month, Pfizer announced that its anti-viral pill for people infected by COVID-19, I`m announcing today that we have purchased 10 million treatment courses. I`ll continue to take steps necessary to save lives. And in this pandemic.

Peanut butter and jelly were selected based on their temperament, appearance, and I suspect vaccination status. Instead of getting basic, these two turkeys are getting boosted.


WILLIAMS: Tonight, wraps up a critical week and yes, we`ve said it before for the Biden administration, as the second part of the President`s economic agenda moves on to the Senate.

Back with us for context on everything we`ve witnessed, including but not limited to the pardoning of those two turkeys, peanut butter and jelly, Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning Author, Presidential Historian and the Rogers Chair in the American presidency of Vanderbilt, who occasionally advises the current president on historical matters and major speeches.

Jon, before we get started, let me embarrass you by saying congratulations on the honor you received from the National Archives Foundation, though the word is out around town, the only guy you could get to preside over the Q&A was Beschloss. And I understand I can`t even say with a straight face, speaking of guys, we both love.

But anyway, congratulations, I missed a big night in the nation`s capital. So, Jon, here`s the question, what is the equivalent of this week in other presidencies that we have known and perhaps maybe not quite loved? Where is this moment in Biden`s term in office or perhaps first term in office?

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Right. Brian, I just want to say, having Michael and I on that stage was like the two old guys in the Muppet balcony. So, you would have fit right in, my friend.

WILLIAMS: Thank you very much. I didn`t know where you`re going. And I`m going to share it. Thank you.

MEACHAM: Let me offer a thought about how we how we talk about these things. You and I`ve talked about this a little bit before. I think that, given all the news we`ve seen, and we can use this week as a microcosm, one of the things we need to find a way to do is have our common political vernacular, be commensurate with the stakes and scope of the unfolding crisis we`re in. This is not 1986 when the President had a good week, he had a bad week, George Mitchell was mad at Bob Dole. And we`ll see you on the McLaughlin report, right?

This is not that a fundamental conversation that we had in this country, I believe, from 1933 to 2017, which was this figurative tension between FDR and Reagan, where LBJ was on one side with FDR and George W. Bush was over with Reagan, and you had Ford and Nixon and George HW Bush, in the middle. That conversation was broken by the 2016 election, it was interrupted.

President Biden is doing all he can to restore that kind of coherent conversation. Not that we`re all going to agree on everything, but that we can actually see politics as a mediation of differences, as opposed to an unrelenting total war. And I think that`s a -- it`s not quite a generational struggle, I hope, but it is a presidential term struggle. And so what I think we saw this week, with the passage of the bill, led by Speaker Pelosi, with the censure of the congressman who was tweeting, violence, posting violent threats about fellow members, and the President, as I recall, the McCarthy`s long speech, which is you`re just saying seem to be having an audience really have one at Mar-a-Lago, you take all of these things and what you see is we have a president who as you pointed out, I support and try to help when I can, and I consider him a friend. He`s trying to do something immensely important for all of us, which is preserve and protect the Constitution itself.


And that may sound overly grand and there may be center right folks who are rolling their eyes. But it has the virtue as Henry Kissinger used to say, of being true. This is a vital, vital moment. And I think that the passage of the -- these pieces of legislation have shown that the President and Speaker Pelosi and others know what they`re doing.

Sure, inflation`s bad. Sure, the polls, it`d be great if they were higher. But 11, 10 months ago, people stormed the Capitol. So, I think we just have to remind ourselves that the stakes are different than they have been in recent decades.

WILLIAMS: Well, let me be annoying and rewind you to the second to last point you made about inflation. Because as 40, once biographer, no one needs to remind you that the label out of touch is fatal politically, and a lot of Democrats fear that`s exactly what`s happening.

MEACHAM: It`s a great point, it`s totally fair. George H.W. Bush is a good example here. He`s a man who made long term decisions, the budget deal in 1990 that helped lead to the rise of Gingrich, which was part of the rise of what we`re dealing with now. The sign -- the President Bush signed the Americans Disabilities Act to change things fundamentally, you know, a wall fell in Berlin dictators, aggression did not stand. It was an immensely important four-year period.

But politically, in 1992, only 39% of the country wanted to rehire him. And that`s an inescapable fact. What you have to decide is, if you`re a president, and ideally, you want to do both, if your president is, are you working toward history? Are you working toward changing things for a generation? Or are you worried about a more short-term political benefit?

Now, as you and I know, every president ever wants to do both. But you can`t always do both? And will I think these polls are going to go back up, they won`t go up dramatically because of the polarized era we`re in. But if you ask me what the most important sign that we can get through this is, is the Joe Biden won 81 million votes and is President of the United States and has passed some really, really significant legislation with no help virtually except for the infrastructure bill from one of the two major political parties.

WILLIAMS: On that note, because we never get enough time with Jon Meacham, we`re going to take some more time with Jon Meacham, first I`m going to work in a break. Our conversation will continue on the other side.



WILLIAMS: We are back with presidential historian and author Jon Meacham. Jon, I`ve shared this theory with you before and I think you join part if not all, and that is that modern day political parties tend to fetishize certain subjects and events for the Republicans for the longest time it was Benghazi, the Democrats two impeachments, assuming, well, surely the American people will find the perfect phone call boldly illegal. And a lot of people fear we`re heading into that same dynamic with the 1.6 committee. Talks about the gulf between what you historians will write about 1/6, and how the Republicans will react in dismissing whatever the findings are of the committee?

MEACHAM: Absolutely. January 6 is arguably one of the most important days in the -- it`s not even arguable, it is one of the most important, strike the adverb. It`s one of the most important days in the history of the Republic, because it since 1812, no one had done this. The Confederacy didn`t get that far in `80 and during the Civil War. And in 1861, when there were threats to the electoral count. It didn`t happen. But it happened in 2021.

And so historically, it will be a breaching of the constitutional order. And you can argue about whether it was inspired by or incited by, I don`t think anybody can argue, but that it was inspired by the defeated president. Incitement we had an impeachment on that. And you can argue about that. But you`re right.

It also raises an interesting point that folks have talked about, which is, if Fox News had existed, would Richard Nixon have had to have resigned, right? So, there`s been this is almost a serialization of political events, right, that become infused with a kind of hyperbolic, predictable, drama. And particularly on the right, in this case, then you use Benghazi. It is seen as a vehicle for any ideology. And it kind of doesn`t matter what the facts are. And I think that, I know that January 6 will loom incredibly large in the American story, and we have to do everything we can to make sure it doesn`t happen again.

WILLIAMS: Man, who looms large in the history of this broadcast and in the hearts of his friends, Jon Meacham, our thanks, enjoy your weekend. Thank you for coming on, always great to have you.

And a quick note here, earlier this week, and on-screen graphic misidentified the lawyer for Steve Bannon. We said his name correctly, but his name was typed incorrectly on the screen. He is David Schoen, not Doug.

Now, having established that to the picture you`re looking at, we`ll take our final break and when we come back, we will tell you how history was made today.



WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, Joe Biden turned 79, exactly two minutes from now. And on his last day as a 78-year-old he had his annual physical at Walter Reed today, a five hour long physical. Bottom line, president`s Doctor pronounced him healthy and vigorous and, "fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency to include those as chief executive head of state and Commander in Chief." That saying something. He weighs 184 pounds most Americans would kill for his blood pressure which is 120 over 70. Everything checked out and has a few deficiencies that has actually helped to explain what we TV viewers have noticed about him of late. His frequent throat clearing, and occasional coughing is attributable to the very common ailment of acid reflux. His gait which has gotten stiffer of late his strides have grown shorter, that is attributable to his broken foot a year ago, age related stiffening of his spine it happens and peripheral neuropathy mild damage to the nerve endings in his feet common among folks with diabetes which he does not have.

The medications he`s on nicely mirror any one of our commercial breaks Crestor, Allegra, Eliquis and Pepcid. The biggest news story to emerge from the President`s physical today was the brief Presidency of Kamala Harris, because he had to be put under for a routine colonoscopy today. He transferred the power of the presidency to the Vice President for 85 minutes. And while yes, she was acting president and it was temporary and everybody knew it. It`s also very real. Had there been an attack foreign domestic terrorism cyber, the response would have been her call seated at the head of the table in the Situation Room in the basement of the White House.

On that note that is our broadcast for this Friday night and for this week with our thanks for being here with us. Have a great weekend unless you have other plans. On behalf of all our colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.