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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 3/11/2021

Guest: James Carville, Mike Murphy�


Texas Attorney General sues communities refusing to lift mask mandates. Merrick Garland sworn in as U.S. Attorney General. Garland pledges to run an independent DOJ. DOJ is prosecuting hundreds of Capitol riot cases. Trump`s former Acting Defense Secretary says Trump was responsible for Capitol riot. Joe Biden delivers first primetime speech as president.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: That is Tonight`s Last Word. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams it starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again, day 51 of the Biden administration, the one year anniversary of the night when the pandemic actually felt real for millions of us. Hours ago, and his first primetime address as president, Joe Biden charted the way forward for a nation battered thus far by this year long fight to tame the coronavirus.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I need every American to do their part. We do this together. By July the fourth there`s a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day on July 4 with your loved ones is the goal.


WILLIAMS: He also announced new measures to ensure every American who wants a vaccine can get one.


BIDEN: I will direct all states, tribes, and territories to make all adults people 18 and over eligible to be vaccinated no later than May one. When every adult is eligible and May, we will launch with our partners, new tools to make it easier for you to find the vaccine and where to get the shot. Including a new website that will help you first find the place to get vaccinated and the one nearest you. No more searching day and night for an appointment for you and your loved ones.


WILLIAMS: As we mentioned tonight, speech on the second floor of the White House comes one year to the day since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak, a pandemic.

Here at home you may recall the NBA suspended its season until further notice. Tom Hanks announced that he and his wife Rita Wilson had tested positive. Also, exactly one year ago the former president spoke to the nation from the Oval Office.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The vast majority of Americans the risk is very, very low.


WILLIAMS: In the grueling 12 months since we became the world leader and confirmed cases, now nearing 30 million. We also lead the world in deaths well over half a million souls have been lost thus far.

The Trump White House deliberately downplayed the virus in the midst of political fights over how to contain it. Shutting down the country led to an unimaginable economic toll. Millions were thrown out of work. This afternoon one day ahead of schedule, Biden signed the nearly $2 trillion rescue plan that Congress passed just yesterday. The White House says Americans should start seeing their 14 $100 relief checks within these next few days.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: People can expect to start seeing direct deposits, hit their bank accounts as early as this weekend.


WILLIAMS: And starting Monday, the President and Vice President start a cross country messaging toward a preview the relief that Americans can expect from this. The Democrats did this alone, not a single Republican voted for it in the House or the Senate. Today their leader in the Senate talk to his story his argument that this kind of help is just not needed.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Every indicator has suggested our economy is poised to come roaring back. None of these trends began on January 20. President Biden and his Democratic government inherited a tide that had already begun to turn toward decisive victory. Senate Republicans led the bipartisan CARES Act that got our country through the last year.


WILLIAMS: A new NPR/Marist Poll shows 62 percent of Americans surveyed say they approve of how Joe Biden is handling the pandemic. Yet even as the president asks Americans for their help and containing the virus. The Attorney General out in Texas, Ken Paxton, is making good on his threat to sue the city of Austin and Travis County officials more broadly, to force them to get rid of their local mask mandates.

Texas yesterday rolled back nearly all of their restrictions, including statewide mask orders. Meantime, back in Washington, the U.S. finally has a new Attorney General Merrick Garland, who was denied a Supreme Court seat by Senate Republicans famously was sworn in by the vice president today and he assured Justice Department employees the days of being pressured to attack the President`s enemies and protect the President`s allies are over.


MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The only way we can succeed and retain the trust of the American people is to adhere to the norms that have become part of the DNA of every Justice Department employee, that there not be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans. One rule for friends and another for foes, one rule for the powerful and another for the powerless.


WILLIAMS: The work ahead of the new man is vast, the Justice Department is now prosecuting hundreds of cases stemming from the Capitol riot. And Donald Trump`s former acting Pentagon Chief is speaking out about that day. In an interview with Vice News, Ex-Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller pins the blame for that attack squarely on his former boss.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think the President was responsible for what happened on the sixth?

CHRISTOPHER MILLER, FORMER ACTING UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I don`t know. But it seems cause and effect. Yeah. The question is, would anybody has marched on the Capitol and overrun the Capitol without the President`s speech. I think it`s pretty much definitive that wouldn`t have happened. So, yes.


WILLIAMS: With that, let`s bring in our leadoff guests on this Thursday night, Jonathan Lemire, White House Reporter for The Associated Press, who was in the room for tonight speech by the president, Susan Page, Veteran Journalist, best-selling author, USA Today Washington Bureau Chief and Eugene Davis is back with us, White House Correspondent for Politico and co-author of each day`s edition of the POLITICO Playbook.

Good evening, and welcome to you all. Mr. Lemire, since proximity has privileges since you were indeed in the room when it happened. And since you get at the Associated Press, especially to write the first draft of history, talk about his approach tonight, and his physicality, leaning forward, changing the volume tone, tenor of his voice and delivery, did it meet the moment in more than just the room where you witnessed it?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": Brian, the President`s goal tonight was to do two things, to blend a mix of remembrance and mourning those who have been lost in this year and acknowledge how American society has changed norms of day to day life completely rewritten. And I will say there`s no American politician who speaks better on the topic of grief than Joe Biden because of, sadly, his own personal experience with that subject. But he wanted to mix that sense of remembrance and grief, with a note of hope, delivering good news in terms of timetables about vaccine distribution, and when American society could perhaps return to normal, at least somewhat targeting now, the very patriotic July 4.

It`s interesting, as you mentioned, his demeanor in there where we were at the press pool, the print press pool just off to his right in the East Room. He was almost hard to hear, because he was so soft spoken at times. Wait, he was really directly trying to connect with the viewer at home. And I do believe him that the moment. This was perhaps not quite as powerful as a speech as the one he delivered a few weeks ago when he marked the 5,000`s death, the American death from this coronavirus pandemic. But tonight met the moment and he did what he needed to say he was able to both acknowledge the loss, but wanting to sort of turn the page to off to say, so indeed, that a better days were ahead that America would find the light again at the end of the tunnel. And he was able to tout a legislative victory that he says can get the country there.

WILLIAMS: Susan, new president who happens to be an old Washington hand, as they say did not have the benefit of a cooperative transition or much of a transition at all, 50 days in manages to pass this signature on paper, national address already in the books. How would you sum this up in terms of modern era presidential achievements?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "USA TODAY": I think he`s -- Joe Biden is proven to be perhaps the most surefooted new president in memory. Maybe that shouldn`t be a surprise. He spent eight years as vice president being able to see how things work at the White House close up. But I think you have to say that he`s had a remarkable first 50 days, kind of a slow start on some of his cabinet appointments and confirmations that`s moved ahead, including with the Attorney General.

And on the issue on which his presidency will be judged, which is getting control of this pandemic and dealing with its economic consequences. He has taken just a giant step forward with the passage of this big legislation.

Interesting to me, though, that in his tone -- his tone tonight was fireside chat, like it was very conversational. He did not tick through all the details of this legislation that he signed today, although that will follow in your days. He tried to strike a tone, begin a conversation with Americans that reassure them that this terrible year we`ve all lived through, is just about to come to an end.

WILLIAMS: Indeed, Susan, tomorrow night is the anniversary of the first ever fireside chat with the banks failing all around them. FDR took to the radio airwaves to reassure a rattled nation. So, we have that going for us.

Hey, Eugene, you saw McConnell`s straight face, as he said, literally, things were getting better before Biden. We don`t need this kind of help sprinkled across the land. We talk about the foot race in terms of getting the vaccine out before the variance. I have a different question for you about a foot race. Biden getting his story out there before the Republicans get to spin this bill.

EUGENE DANIELS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "POLITICO": No, that`s 100 percent. That is such an important part of this, how Biden and Harris so that you showed that graphic about how they`re hitting the road, the kinds of things that they`re going to say. What was interesting about tonight is it didn`t feel that was a part, tonight was a part of that selling right. He was like Jonathan and Susan said, this was not about the bill, that wasn`t about policy he was talking about loss, he was talking about moving forward. But now they are hitting the road. They have to sell this to the American people. And the thing that they have going for them is that not one Republican signed on to it.

And so, Republicans have for weeks not found a great way to counteract this. This bill, as it was going through the House, went to the Senate, back to the House now on his desk, they have been talking more about Mr. Potato Head. They`ve been focusing on cultural wars, talking about immigration, talking about things that have nothing to do with that. So, they`re not in a great place to actually get their story out there.

So, Biden has his chance he had it today. And you really couldn`t write this in a better way, right? He promised a $1.9 trillion bill. That`s exactly what he signed. It passes the day before the anniversary of the pandemic. And he signs it on the day of the anniversary and then is able to give this speech and so you couldn`t have written it better for him. And I think, you know, I`ve been talking to people in the White House and they know that they have a huge job to do to make sure that the American people know what this bill means for them and what`s coming next.

WILLIAMS: Jonathan, Eugene raises a great point, not a single Republican vote, mind you in the House or the Senate. Republicans have spent the past week or so on Mr./Mrs. Potato Head on pregnant women in the military, the skewering of Meghan Markle, Dr. Seuss, is this kind of thing sustaining, is this the brand?

LEMIRE: Well, right now it`s all the Republicans have. And I`ve talked to a number of Republican strategists and lawmakers in recent days who expressed frustration how, first of all, how popular Joe Biden is right as poor ratings sitting well north of 50 percent. And how popular this bill was, even though no GOP lawmakers went for it, lots of Republican voters back then, the White House is not shy about pointing that out, looking at polling.

Tomorrow, the White House even though the bill was signed today by President Biden in the Oval Office, they`re still going to have a bit of a victory celebration tomorrow in the Rose Garden, and no Republicans will be there because this was not a bipartisan bill, despite White House efforts. And now the White House is going to use this bill, one that Americans want to suggest that, hey, Republicans are out of touch all that data, they`re not looking for you. They`re not trying to vote for checks in your pockets, that $1400 but rather, they`ve tried to just inflame the culture wars.

Now, the one piece of optimism for Republicans is this, they feel like the trainer heads a little more friendly for them, that the COVID relief bill was broadly popular, but other things that by the ministration wants to do a little less so perhaps an infrastructure jobs, climate change bill, something on immigration, something on voting rights, that Biden agenda is ambitious. Republicans think they`ll be able to score more points there. But we`ll see. The Biden white house right now. They`re convinced they had momentum, they`re going on the road next week, they`re going to sell this and they believe they can use this victory to springboard them to more.

WILLIAMS: Susan, here`s a big picture question and I want to quote our mutual acquaintance E.J. Dionne over at the Washington Post. "The willingness of Democrats to speed through a program of this size reflects the final shrugging off of Reagan era constraints the shift away from top down supply side economics could not be more dramatic."

So Susan, if he`s right, and you get to judge that what is this the start of them?

PAGE: You know, the end of these Reagan era constraints, the end of the need that Bill Clinton felt the need to negotiate some third way between Democrats and Republicans taking a much more conservative stance and many Democrats were taking at the time. This is a very liberal bill. This has big expansion of the safety net. It doesn`t include just COVID relief, as Republicans were fond of pointing out. It includes this big expansion of the child tax credit. It expands the subsidies for the Affordable Care Act. This is a huge expansion of the role of federal government. And at a time that Americans, really definitely Democrats, but a lot of Republicans are eager for this to happen.

You didn`t hear a lot of pushback, that the government shouldn`t have a role and doing all these things. I think this crisis has really created a sentiment that this is something that only the federal government can do and that the federal government should do. We are really seeing I think a significant shift in where the center of the American electorate is when it comes to the role of the federal government.

WILLIAMS: OK, Eugene, so if that`s correct, and Biden has pulled out the giant United States of America, American Express Card, this does have a big price tag, and guess what Biden wants more. There`s also the minor matter of rebuilding our country, I drove across town in post-apocalyptic Midtown Manhattan today, and was kicking myself because I forgot to bring a spare axle. Where are we going to pay for all of that?

DANIELS: Yeah, I think, you know, that is what they`re talking about now, where they`re likely to start talking about this infrastructure bill. And what you hear from Biden folks is that they`re not as focused on the deficit. And what they also remind us is that, you know, as Republicans find religion again, on the deficit, not to let that keep us, you know, to keep that in mind, that it over the Trump years, that was not something that Republicans, that was a huge part of what they were doing, and it still isn`t. And so now, they`re coming back to that that big fight is going to matter. Because, you know, they you -- this bill was basically the easiest bill that they`re going to get done. Those a little bit of drama at the end of the Senate with Joe Manchin, but now they`re going to need 60 votes, they can`t go through reconciliation. And so now the tug of war on those that price tag, on infrastructure, on voting rights, on all of these different things that Jonathan was saying, have this really ambitious agenda.

And as they`ve kind of expanded the minds of people on what they think the government should be doing. And that includes Republicans. You know, this is the third check people have gotten. And we were not thinking that people were getting -- you know, I covered Andrew Yang and the 2020 primary. And it`s really interesting to see now that that is a part of the mainstream of not just the Democratic Party, but the government that we have in this country. And as people get used to certain things in this country, they don`t want -- they want them to keep coming. And that is a mindset change that Biden and Republicans are going to have to deal with moving forward.

WILLIAMS: We appreciate our big three on a big night, Eugene Daniels, Susan Page, Jonathan Lemire, greatly appreciate you guys starting us off.

Coming up for us, after a year of fear and sorrow and staggering loss, there is hope. One of our favorite doctors from the American study that was hit hardest and first by the full force of COVID standing by to talk to us.

And later, putting Biden`s accomplishment as we talked about with Susan just 50 days into this presidency, into political perspective, two veterans of the politics trade from each side of the aisle standing by to join us with some thoughts on that matter as the 11th Hour he is just getting underway on this Thursday night.



NICHOLAS BRIDEAU, HARBORVIEW MEDICAL CENTER REGISTERED NURSE: I feel like we put a lot more bodies in body bags this past year that I`ve probably ever have in my career. And you didn`t think you`d ever get used to something like that. But after a while you show up and you realize like, oh, that`s routine.


WILLIAMS: That gentleman is an R.N. in Seattle. That devastating account is from one of the many heroic healthcare workers who battled this virus tirelessly in Seattle, the nation`s first hotspot. One year later, that city now has the lowest death rate of the 20 largest metropolitan areas in the country.

The New York Times puts it this way, if the rest of the U.S. had kept pace with Seattle, the nation could have avoided more than 300,000 Coronavirus deaths.

We are happy to have back with us again tonight Dr. Vin Gupta, Critical Care Pulmonologist in Seattle who specializes in these types of illnesses. He`s also on the faculty at the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Doctor, it`s great to have you we should say at the outset that especially those of us who follow Barry McCaffrey on social media. Seattle has its problems, though not for tonight`s conversation, let`s talk medicine and their reaction. What did they as a city? What did you as a medical community do right?

DR. VIN GUPTA, MSNBC MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Brian. Well, you know, there`s a lot of credit that I need to pass on to our leaders. But there was number one, clear crisis communication, putting public health experts, our leaders in public health statewide at the local level, at the forefront credit to Governor Inslee, and to Mayor Durkan for having the humility to listen to the public health experts and to listen to them to actually enact public policy, public health policy that was evidence base and then a whole of society approach.

This is not just the public sector. This is the private sector. This is companies like Microsoft, Amazon, others saying yes, we need to act in unison to make sure that our employees are working from home immediately. It`s early action whole of society, clear communication, evidence based approach, having the right communicators upfront that`s why Seattle flatten the curve and did so well.

WILLIAMS: We heard from our former presidents today in the form of a public service announcement all but the former president who got his vaccination in private was no cameras present will listen to them discuss on the other side.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: We`ve less enough people and we`ve suffered enough damage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In order to get rid of this pandemic, it`s important for our fellow citizens to get vaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m getting vaccinated because we want this pandemic to end as soon as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, we urge you to get vaccinated when it`s available to you.


WILLIAMS: Doctor, for me, that`s what we need to hear from our former presidents. Again, the outlier is the immediate past president, do you share their optimism and that part of the Biden speech tonight? Do you share this view that if we do everything right, we can act a little more independent of the virus as we celebrate Independence Day?

GUPTA: Well, Brian, to your first question, the answer is I do absolutely think that public trust matters, and leadership matters, communication matters. And so, I like you, I love the -- that add from the former presidents, the message that they`re sending.

I think your team has actually on hand a chart that I was hoping that we could show here of what we expect to happen. This is from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. And I want to draw your viewers` attention to that pink line at the very top. That`s what happens if we listen and if our country follows the path of say, Governor -- what Governor Abbott is doing in Texas, but if we do that countrywide, that`s the pandemic still raging through the end of June into July.

The other green lines are if we do what President Biden has messaged on tonight, that is continue to buckle down for the next few months, while we await vaccination so we can get done with this and resume normal life. I`m optimistic we will do that. But let caution to the wind here. There`s a potential that we if we can we follow the wrong track, that we may not be out of this. So again, messaging matters, leadership matters. I`m cautiously optimistic, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Well, I`ve never hoped so much that a graphic is wrong. But as you point out, that is the worst-case line that we need to avoid.

Hey, our mutual friend and my longtime colleague, Katy Tur, seven months pregnant, got the vaccine today. She shared video of it on social media, shared word that she have received the vaccine on social media. Obviously, this is a judgment that she and her husband arrived at. What is the latest, best advice to pregnant women in this country?

GUPTA: Well, I`ll say to all my colleagues in obstetrics and gynecology since I`m a pulmonologist and first of all, congratulations to Katy on that, wise decision by Katy per our colleagues in obstetrics and gynecology. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say absolutely, if you`re pregnant, if you`re lactating, go ahead and get that vaccine because we`d rather have you get the vaccine then deal with the risks of being unvaccinated, potentially getting exposed to this virus while pregnant. We`re worried about that combination. So, get the vaccine. Katy, job well done. That was the right thing to do, and our leading experts in that field and obstetricians, obstetrics and gynecology say that exact same thing.

WILLIAMS: OK, we`re happy for her and her team at home, Teddy and Tony, Dr. Vin Gupta, we can`t thank you enough for guiding us through the perils of this last year We`ve both witnessed, can`t thank you enough for the work you`ve done for all your patients. We will be forever grateful. Thank you for coming on again tonight and taking our questions. Dr. Vin Gupta from Seattle tonight.

Coming up for us, tonight`s message from the President help is on the way. And now Biden is on his way to tell Americans, give them a preview of what`s coming. And now by the way comes the hard part.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The coming weeks and months, I`ll be traveling along with the First Lady, the Vice President the second gentlemen, members of my Cabinet to speak directly to you to tell you the truth about how the American rescue plan meets the moment and if it fails in any paid I will acknowledge that it failed, but it will not.


WILLIAMS: On Tuesday for starters, the president travels to Pennsylvania to talk about the relief that is on the way. Politico puts it this way, Biden now begins a political tightrope walk that bedeviled his two immediate democratic predecessors selling recovery in a time when not everyone experiences its full force.

James Carville told Politico the following. There`s a question about, when do you tout your accomplishments because if you say the country is coming back and people don`t feel it, they get mad at you.

Back with us tonight the aforementioned James Carville, veteran democratic strategist who rose to national fame with the Clinton presidential effort, his co-host of the politics War Room podcast and Mike Murphy, veteran Republican strategist, co-director of the Center for the Political Future at the University of Southern California, also co-host of the Hacks on Tap podcast.

So, Mr. Carville, it is true, looked at one way this is Rooseveltian looked at another way it`s Johnsonian. On one hand, it is a huge achievement. On the other we have this ongoing pandemic. How does Joe Biden handle it on the road?

JAMES CARVILLE, VETERAN DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I mean, first of all, what they did was the biggest thing of this country since 1932. I mean, it`s just -- I mean, they placed a big bet. And if it works fine. And the problem is that libertarian and political argument, if you say things are getting better, and people don`t think they are they actually get mad at you. And it`s just it`s a very delicate Kabuki after go through to take credit for what you`re doing. At the same time acknowledge, you know, that they say there`s so much more to do.

But I thought his remarks tonight what would what tempered (ph) and effective, but there`s a lot of football after play here. I promise you. We were very early in this. There`s a lot more that`s going to get done.

WILLIAMS: Do you agree with this theory that he`s got to get out and tell the story or the prequel will be told for him by the republicans if he doesn`t?

CARVILLE: Well, I think he`s got to get out. I mean, the idea in this country that you have to just go around the country and barnstorm, I mean I think he`s getting his message out tonight, you know, from the Oval Office. I think his temperament is spot on.

But man, listen, this is a big deal. I mean what making a big bet here and this largest expansion that we`ve had since the Great Depression and Republicans they seem just like a duck just got a kid on the head, it confused, Fox don`t know what to say. The Senate Republicans just mumbling and groaning and it really kind of odd that they had a pretty good election.

This was this was not a huge election for the Democrats. And they just brined with it right now. And, you know, the Republicans have vowed damned Dr. Seuss lamb somewhere and they don`t have their foot again, I`m sure that they`ll get it but right now, this has been all Democrats all the time.

WILLIAMS: Well, when in doubt, I suppose they could go after women in the military. Oh, wait, they already thought of that. Hey, Mike, I want to play for you a bit of Nancy Pelosi talking about this one sided all Democratic, zero Republican vote we`ll discuss on the other side.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA) HOUSE SPEAKER: It`s remarkable legislation. Unfortunately, Republicans, as I say, you know, don`t know when take the dough. You see already some of them claiming, oh, this is a good thing, or that`s a good thing, but they couldn`t give it a vote anyway enough of them.


WILLIAMS: Vote no. And take the dough. Mike, we already gave Roger Wicker, the HSTPA (ph) award last night for tweeting in defense of the support for the restaurant industry right after he voted no. Rick Scott, Senator from Florida tonight is saying those localities that consented back should just refuse the money just approved for them.

So they`re trying to stay on brand. Do you think will detect any no voters regret as this money gets sprinkled around the country?

MIKE MURPHY, VETERAN REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, I`m not sure. Let me just say quickly, I give the president Heim marks for the speech tonight. I thought he was very presidential, which is the thing Donald Trump can never pull off and very reassuring. And I think they had to kind of frame things up. But James is right. It`s a big risk because they own it now. But I thought it was smart to kind of point the bow on the water.

Now as far as the Republicans, they`ve kind of turned internal, the great civil war of green eggs and ham, but they`re going to come around. I don`t think you`ll see a lot of people flipping to your question.

You know, the Dems have run their favorite play here, which is taken something where people agree, something big needs to be done. I think all Americans agree because the COVID crisis is tremendous. It needs resources, but then they opened up the checkbook. So, they`re going to now own $2 trillion of spending and, you know, that gets lost a lot, but this will be litigated later against how much it worked and how much was overkill.

Even Democrats like Larry Summers and, and Steve Rattner, one of their top economic thinkers said, you know, this could be a little too big. I mean, we`ve spent over 4 trillion, which in adjusted dollars is the same as the cost of the U.S. government of World War II. So, it is a big move.

And I think right now, there`s not a lot of room for the Republicans to do anything but sit and watch and be worried about the size and scope of it. Was that overkill? Will we have inflation next year which good if it happens, economist argue could have a big political benefit for them in some of those suburban house needs. They need -- the Republicans need they take back control the House.

So the politics isn`t going to happen for right now. I mean, excuse me for a while. Right now people on the Democratic side are leading the parade and I think the Republicans are kind of distracted and don`t really know what to do about it other than hope there may be there`s evidence of waste and overkill here that pays off and economic problems next year. That`s about all they`ve got.

WILLIAMS: Both of these gentlemen have agreed to stand up parade rest while we sneak in a commercial break. Coming up for us Republicans are busy rebranding themselves as the voter suppression party. Tough job but somebody`s got to do it. That`s what we`ll talk about when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Washington Post is out with a stunning new analysis on what hundreds of proposed voting restrictions nationwide could mean for Americans. They report it this way multiple scholars and historians said the proposed restrictions would amount to the most dramatic curtailment of ballot access since the late 19th century when southern states effectively reverse the 15th Amendment`s prohibition on denying the vote based on race by enacting poll taxes, literacy tests and other restrictions that disenfranchise virtually all black men.

The Brennan Center says there are over 250 bills under consideration in 43 of our states that would make it harder for our fellow citizens to vote.

Still with us, James Carville and Mike Murphy. And Mike, I`m going to quote Yahoo News for the other side of this argument. Some Republicans believe making it harder to vote will actually backfire at a time when the GOP base is becoming more diverse and dependent on working class voters.

So, Mike, number one, what they just said. And number two, the Republicans are leaning into voter suppression. And when they get there, they`re given it a big hug and we can all see and hear it in all but seven of our states.

MURPHY: Well, yes, so this is a complicated one. I agree if Yahoo News, it`s an incredibly stupid act. There`s Georgia bill they passed down there. And the lower House is an insult to democracy. But there`s a bill in California that some cement heads have introduced in the assembly, it`s going nowhere.

So, introducing legislation to changing laws is a long journey. And this is one of these things where I fear a bad thing going to happen in twos. You`ve got chucklehead Trumpy Republicans putting out really stupid legislation again, most of it doomed, but it`s designed because they can`t win under the demographics.

They fear to curb and make it harder put up more headwinds for people being able to vote that`s horrible, to be opposed, but the Democrats have reacted with a very big, very aggressive bill to federalize elections.

And I worry if we pass something like that, which is a big progressive overreach on a purely partisan basis, because that only divide us more I`d rather see a smaller bill that protects people`s right to ease the absentee balloting make voter registration easy, maybe not automatic all the time, but easier and take a look at registering and form there`s some good stuff in that bill.

But if it`s too big and too partisan one I don`t think it can pass the Senate. And two, I don`t think that makes it better. So, this is going to be --

WILLIAMS: And James --

MURPHY: -- raised two extremes I worry about.

WILLIAMS: Sorry, Mike. James as a southern Democrat, I really want to get you on the record because Mike brings up a whole bunch of things and ancillarily he brings up the filibuster, but also H.R 1, which a lot of people fear will make good the enemy of the victim of grades, and also what`s going on in your neighboring states?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, the Republicans can`t stop confessing now like the criminal if they just keep talking to symptoms. I got Arizona said, well, we can`t win (INAUDIBLE). Trump said essentially the same thing.

And remember, given felons, convicted felons right to vote passed in Florida over 60 percent in 2018. So dance a fundamental sense of fairness in this country that goes beyond the Democratic Party. That`s pretty clear. In terms of House Bill 1, the Constitution gives the Congress of a considerable amount of power and dictating how federal elections are won.

So, you know, it is aspirational, but it might be necessary. You chopped people from voting. And the consequences of that are going to be pretty severe in a state like Georgia as a southern Democrat, and I`ve said this before, down here, black folks have the right to vote means a lot to them. It`s something that we take for granted. You know, down here, people don`t and there`s going to be real anger if they start Kirpan voting rights.

So if I think it`s a much better voting issue for Democrats than most people do, because there is a bit -- if a convicted felon six to seven people far think convicted felon and vote they certainly think the waitress at the Waffle House can vote.

And I think --

WILLIAMS: And James, what`s going to happen in Georgia if you do away with -- what`s going to happen to Georgia if you do away with souls to the polls, if you if you start demanding ID, if you make illegal the giving out of free snacks and water to folks in line to vote on a hot day.

CARVILLE: I mean, yes, you got to tell people because most people what you just said, most people (inaudible) that they say you can`t water in a voting line. In Georgia when still hot, you know, whatever shows to the polls. The Republican Party as the party of religion, you so you saying that people go to church on Sunday, and they have service and they take them in a wrench in the poll? What`s more American than going to church and voting? You`re doing both at the same time? How can you be any more American than that?

And yet they`re trying to restrict that. I don`t understand. They want people to go to church and want people to have religion. And I think we just got to be better now message in and point out how ludicrous is this. And appeal to people`s basic sense of fairness.

Now, not every Republican is like that, but that a lot of moderates say, look, we`ve got to let people vote, let us vote and let`s tee this thing up and see who wins at the end of the day. And I think this is a much, much better political issue than most people do.

WILLIAMS: At least they`re upfront about it. They got that going for. One of our favorite duo`s Gentlemen, thank you both. Thanks for coming on and taking our questions. We always appreciate it.

Coming up for us. The toll this year has taken on those entrusted to keep us well and care for us all.


WILLIAMS: That was the sound in New York City. Remember that in the early days of the pandemic grateful Americans in the nation`s population centers would lean out their windows to cheer on the weary health care workers, first responders. One year in it`s quieter out there. No cheering anymore really though. We all celebrate the fact that hospitalizations are down. Well, tonight NBC News correspondent Gabe Gutierrez reminds us what this has done to those in the medical profession.


GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The front lines were grueling.

JOEY TRAYWICK, ST. VINCENT HEALTHCARE REGISTERED NURSE: I`m broken. I`m broken. And my colleagues are broken.

DR. LAURA IAVIOLI, EMERGENCY MEDICINE EXPERT: Nobody is going to be the same after this.

GUTIERREZ: At Elmhurst Hospital in New York, Dr. Laura Iavioli and her colleagues received 400 COVID patients a day nearly a year ago.

IAVIOLI: We looked around and said we can`t fit another patient in this emergency department. There were ambulances lined up down the street.

GUTIERREZ: What happened here in Queens, a diverse community disproportionately ravaged by the virus would be a sign of things to come across the country. PPE and staffing shortages stretched healthcare workers to their limits.

DR. ERIC WEI, NYC HEALTH AND HOSPITALS SR. VP. AND CHIEF QUALITY OFFICER: The cracks in the foundation of the US healthcare system turn into valleys the size of the Grand Canyon.

GUTIERREZ: Now people flocking to many of the ones overwhelm hospitals for vaccines.

Also emerging the monumental task of helping healthcare workers deal with their trauma. The new COVID relief bill sets aside $40 million for their mental health.

At Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, which we first visited in November.

DR. CLARA ZAMORANO, ABBOTT NORTHWESTERN HOSPITAL: I think it`s only going to get worse.

GUTIERREZ: The scars linger for Dr. Clara Zamorano.

ZAMORANO: Now, every time I come into work, my son cries for as I`m leaving, it`s multiple hugs, more hugs. Just this anxiety about me coming to work. They think I`m going to get sick.

GUTIERREZ: Dr. Chris Kapsner (ph) works in the ER. COVID took both of his parents in December, three days apart.

(on camera): How has this year changed you?

DR. CHRIS KAPSNER (ph), ER DOCTOR: It`s been tough on multiple levels, but there`s resilience.

We`ll go from there, OK?

GUTIERREZ: He should know. Gabe Gutierrez, NBC News, Minneapolis.


WILLIAMS: And coming up for us the power of the American presidency when the American people are uneasy and hanging on every word.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight is about the president who tonight spoke directly to the American people, not to his base as his predecessor used to, but to the American people because we are all in this together. And as we`ve learned this virus doesn`t care who your candidate was or what color hat you wear.

He spoke tonight about the surge of vaccines on the way. He spoke of a brighter day coming. He talked to us as a people trying to live our lives in America doing the best we can in a pandemic. And he referred to specific dates.

Now, that`s always risky when you`re in a leadership role, though less so when you`ve done the work. He mentioned May 1 the date after which all American adults will be entitled to a vaccine. Talked about July 4th when he hopes will be able to celebrate our independence in the company of others.

It reminded us of an afternoon in March of last year. Back then, our president was a virus denier. Sure enough our country was well on our way to number one in the world in all the worst ways. Number one in coronavirus cases, number one in deaths among all the countries of the world.

In March of last year, the president threw out a date when he thought things could be back to normal. He didn`t consult any of his experts least of home any of the members of the Mike Pence Coronavirus Task Force. Instead, he tossed it out during an interview on Fox News without any concern for the consequences, because it was about him after all.


TRUMP: I think Easter Sunday and you`ll have packed churches all over a country. I think it would be a beautiful time. And it`s just about the timeline that I think is right. It gives us more chance to work on what we`re doing. And I`m not sure that`s going to be the day, but I would love to aim it right at Easter Sunday. So, we`re open for church service and services generally, on Easter Sunday. That would be a beautiful thing.


WILLIAMS: That was for his base, for his brand most Americans knew better. He said that on March 24 back when the death toll was 753. We were in the grips have a full-on health crisis, which as of tonight, minutes ago has killed over 533,000 Americans.

That is our broadcast for this Thursday night. Thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all my colleagues at the networks of NBC News, good night.