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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, August 20, 2020

Guests: Julian Castro, Tammy Baldwin, Claire McCaskill, Steve Schmidt.

Summary

The fourth and final night of the Democratic National Convention brought presidential nominee Joe Biden's acceptance speech, a host of remarks from more party officials and musical performances by John Legend, Common and The Chicks. In broad remarks, Biden presented his vision for uniting America to move the country forward from "constant chaos and crisis." Joe Biden accepts Democratic presidential nomination, with a call for optimism at a time of fear.

Transcript

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We have a great purpose as a nation to open the doors of opportunity to all Americans, to save our democracy, to be a light to the world once again. And finally, to live up to and make real the words written in the sacred documents that founded this nation that all men and women are created equal. Endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

You know, my Dad was an honorable, decent man. He got knocked down a few times pretty hard, but always got up. He worked hard and built a great middle-class life for our family. He used to say, "Joey, I don't expect the government to solve my problems, but I expect it to understand them."

And then he would say: "Joey, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It's about your dignity. It's about respect. It's about your place in your community. It's about looking your kids in the eye and say, honey, it's going to be OK and mean it."

I've never forgotten those lessons. That's why my economic plan is all about jobs, dignity, respect, and community. Together, we can, and we will, rebuild our economy. And when we do, we'll not only build it back, we'll build it back better.

With modern roads, bridges, highways, broadband, ports and airports as a new foundation for economic growth, with pipes that transport clean water to every community, with 5 million new manufacturing and technology jobs so the future is made in America. With a health care system that lowers premiums, deductibles, and drug prices by building on the Affordable Care Act he's trying to rip away.

With an education system that trains our people for the best jobs of the 21st century, there's not a single thing American workers can't do. And we're cost, doesn't prevent young people from going to college and student debt doesn't crush them when they get out of the childcare and eldercare system, that makes it possible for parents to go to work and for the elderly to stay in their homes, with dignity, with an immigration system that powers our economy reflects our values. And with newly empowered labor unions, they're the ones that built the middle class.

With equal pay for women, with rising wages, you can raise a child on a family on. And yes, we're going to do more than praise our essential workers. We're finally going to pay them, pay them. We can, and we will deal with climate change. It's not only a crisis. It's an enormous opportunity, an opportunity for America to lead the world in clean energy and create millions of new, good paying jobs in the process.

And we can pay for these investments by ending loopholes, unnecessary loopholes, and the president's $1.3 trillion tax giveaway to the wealthiest 1% and the biggest, most profitable corporations, some of which do not pay any tax at all because we don't need a tax code that rewards wealth more than it rewards work. I'm not looking to punish anyone far from it, but as long past time, the wealthiest people and the biggest corporations in this country paid their fair share.

And for our seniors, social security is a sacred obligation. A sacred promise made they paid for. The current president is threatening to break that promise. He's proposing to eliminate a tax that pays for almost half the social security without any way of making up for that loss revenue resulting in cuts. I will not let that happen.

If I'm your president, we're going to protect social security and Medicare. You have my word. One most powerful voices we hear in the country today is from our young people. They're speaking to the inequity and injustice. It has grown up in America, economic injustice, racial injustice, environmental injustice. I hear their voices. If you listen, you can hear them too.

And whether it's an existential threat posed by climate change, the daily fear of being gunned down in school or the inability to get started, your first job will be the work of the next president to restore the promise of America to everyone. And I'm not going to have to do it alone because I'll have a great vice president at my side, Senator Kamala Harris. She's a powerful voice for this nation. Her story is the American story. She knows about all the obstacles thrown in the way of so many in our country, women, black women, black Americans, South Asian Americans, immigrants, the left out in the left behind, but she's overcome every obstacle she's ever faced.

No one's been tougher on the big banks and on the gun lobby. No one has been tougher in calling out the current administration for its extremism, its failure to follow the law, its failure to simply tell the truth.

Kamala and I both draw from our families. That's where we get our strength. For Kamala's Doug and their families. For me, it's Jill and ours. I've said many times, no man deserves one great love in his life. Let alone two. But I've known too. After losing my first wife in that car accident, Jill came into my life and she put our family back together. She's an educator, a mom, a military mom and unstoppable force as she puts her mind to it, just get out of the way she's going to get it done. She was a great second lady and I know she'll make a great first lady for this nation. She loves this country so much. And I'll always have the strength that can only come from family, Hunter, Ashley, all our grandchildren, my brothers, my sister, they give me courage. They lift me up.

While he's no longer with us, Beau inspires me every day. Beau served our nation in uniform. A year in Iraq and decorated Iraqi war veteran, so I take very personally and the profound responsibility of serving as commander-in-chief, I'll be a president. We'll stand with our allies and friends and make it clear to our adversaries, the days of cozying up to dictators is over under President Biden America will not turn a blind eye to Russia bounties on the heads of American soldiers, nor will I put up with foreign interference and our most sacred democratic exercise voting.

And I'll always stand for our values of human rights and dignity. I'll work in common purpose for more secure, peaceful and prosperous world. History, history has thrust one more urgent task on us. Will we be the generation that finally wipes out the stain of racism from our national character? I believe we're up to it. I believe we're ready.

Just a week ago, yesterday was the third anniversary of the events in Charlottesville. Close your eyes. Remember what you saw on television. Remember seeing those neo-Nazis and Klansmen and white supremacists coming out of fields with lighted torches, veins, bulging spewing, the same anti-semitic bile heard across Europe in the thirties.

Remember the violent clash that ensued between those spreading hate. And those are the curries to stand against it. Remember what the president said when asked, he said there were quote very fine people on both sides. It was a wake up call for us as a country, and for me a call to action. At that moment, I knew I'd have to run because my father taught us that silence was complicity and I can never remain silent or complicit.

At the time, I said, we're in the battle for the soul of this nation. And we are. You know, one of the most important conversations I've had this entire campaign is with someone who is too young to vote.

I met with six-year old Gianna Floyd, a day before her Daddy George Floyd was laid to rest. She is incredibly brave little girl. I'll never forget it. When I leaned down to speak with her, she looked into my eyes and said, "Daddy, changed the world. Daddy, changed the world."

Her words burrowed deep into my heart. Maybe George Floyd's murder was the breaking point. Maybe John Lewis' passing the inspiration. However it has come to be, however it's happened, America is ready to in John's words, to lay down, "the heavy burdens of hate at last" and to do the hard work of rooting out our systemic racism.

You know, America's history tells us that it has been in our darkest moments that we've made our greatest progress, that we've found the light. In this dark moment, I believe we are poised to make great progress again that we can find the light once more.

You know, many people have heard me say this, but I've always believed you can define America in one word, possibilities. To defining feature America everything is possible that in America, everyone, and I mean, everyone should be given an opportunity to go as far as their dreams and God given ability will take them. We can never lose that. In times as challenging as these, I believe there's only one way forward as united America, a united America. United in our pursuit of a more perfect union, united in our dreams of a better future for us and for our children, united in our determination to make the coming years bright, are you ready? I believe we are. This is a great nation. We're a good and decent people. For Lord's sake, this is the United States of America. And there there's never been anything we've been able to accomplish when we've done it together.

The Irish poet, Seamus Heaney once wrote "History, says don't hope on this side of the grave, but then once in a lifetime, the longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up and hope and history rhyme." This is our moment to make hope and history rhyme with passion and purpose. Let us begin you and I together. One nation under God, united in our love for America, united in our love for each other. For love is more powerful than hate. Hope is more powerful than fear and light is more powerful and dark.

This is our moment. This is our mission. May history be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness began here tonight as love and hope and light join in the battle for the soul of the nation. And this is a battle we will win and we'll do it together. I promise you. Thank you. And may God bless you. And may God protect our troops. Good night.

(MUSIC)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Even given the surreal electronic distant environment of a pandemic Joe Biden needed to stick the landing. And I imagine that most reviews with perhaps one notable exception will agree that he did.

After a half century in politics, Joe Biden now gets all being electronically to claim his prize, his party's nomination. He now goes on to lead the way the Democratic National Convention is now history.

Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris will have the final 10 weeks of this campaign to make their case to voters and keep the pressure on Donald Trump.

In the midst of this pandemic, that is the central issue in this campaign. Make no mistake, the pandemic that has left hearts heavy across our country in this summer of the year 2020.

What we're about to see now are fireworks displays and various cities starting with the Biden family and the Harris is out back behind the chase center in Wilmington, Delaware.

Again, not the party the Democrats expected in Milwaukee, but this is not the year anyone in this country expected. No one foresaw the need to wash groceries when we entered the house. It's all on brand and in keeping with 2020. So we'll live this will watch this and it's a great time having just seen what we've seen to bring in our friends Rachel Maddow, Nicole Wallace, Joy Reid. They remain in our New York studios.

Rachel, your thoughts on Joe Biden's speech these past four nights and this final night as a whole as we walk them out the door.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I got to say, I'm watched -- I'm loving watching these visuals too, Brian. Thank you for explaining what it is that we are looking at here. We've been seeing some kind of like drive in basically. This is driving big screen viewers watching in Wilmington. I think that's happened in a few places around the country. That itself is kind of cool. Now we're going to see them walk out of the venue and see fireworks.

I have seen a lot of Joe Biden speeches in my life. He was elected to the Senate the year I was born. And he's been in national politics for a good chunk of my life in this part of his business. I've never seen a Joe Biden speech anywhere near as good as that. And If the Trump campaign is going to try to market, a caricature of Joe Biden as a man who can't speak and can't string a sentence together, they're going to have to do it against a sort of up a very steep hill, created by the number of Americans who just saw that speech. It was beautifully done.

And I will tell you that the thing that was very moving to me and that I felt like I finally exhaled after I heard it was when he addressed the 174,000 plus American families who've had a family member killed by COVID. Nobody's been talking to them about, you know, that's -- it's not just 174,000 lives lost. It's 274,000 families. And for him to turn to that was great. I liked it.

NICOLE WALLACE, MSBBC HOST: Brian, I think that he changed the dynamics of this race. I mean, when he said, well, I will be a Democratic candidate. I will be an American president. He now is the challenger to incumbent is running as the guy on the side of the whole country, and it makes, it cheapens, it deprives Donald Trump of his shtick. His thing is my people, my generals, my people, my people, my base, us against them. I think Joe Biden took that from him tonight. Because Joe Biden said, I am running as a proud Democratic candidate. He, I think, hit a lot of the right notes on policy. He spoke to this moment, all of our pain, all of our crises.

But he said I will govern for all of you. It doesn't matter from which corner you came from or who you voted for as President. I will leave all of you. I don't know that you've ever had a challenger take away the America piece from a president. But I believe Joe Biden did that tonight.

MADDOW: Well, he also specifically because Trump can't rebut it.

WALLACE: Right.

MADDOW: Trump can't credibly say --

WALLACE: Trump doesn't leave it.

MADDOW: He doesn't, right.

WALLACE: Trump doesn't believe -- I mean, here's the reason Trump can't rebut it. Trump doesn't believe it. Now I believe some will Bill Stepien, his new campaign manager, Chris Christie, you might call him and tell him he should. He won't, because he doesn't believe that he is the president of everyone.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: And at this point, he kind of believes he's the president of QAnon and it's a problem, right? What Donald Trump has done is set up Joe Biden for this. I think we found out tonight why Donald Trump feared him so much. I just saw this night. I think the whole presentation of it I think was directed directly at white working class voters, which is what he's not supposed to be able to win.

I think that Joe Biden, he learned a very smart lesson from South Carolina. There was a temptation for a moment that after South Carolina, Joe Biden would develop the theory that he is the candidate that can deliver black voters, because that's what happened in South Carolina. But he's clearly learned that he brought on a running mate who can expand his coalition and energize the Obama coalition but that his superpower is who he is. He is a white working class voter. He is the thing that Donald Trump pretended to be in 2016, the regular Joe.

He's literally called Joey, throughout all of these videos by his family members. He's Joey. He's a guy you know. He is a white working class voter.

And he came right for Donald Trump's base tonight. And he's not theoretically supposed to be able to win it. But I'm not so sure that he can't draw even a smidgen of it. He doesn't need a lot of it. He needs a small number of a percentage of firemen. And, you know, guys who, as they say, shower after work instead of before work, he just needs a tiny percentage of those to flip side. And he is relentless in being determined that he can.

Now, maybe you can, right? There's a whole political science sort of argument that those voters are no longer available to any Democrats. But if there's one Democrat on Earth, if they're available to, they're available to the guy who says I'm an American president. I wrote that down too, where he said something Obama said. We're not a collection of red states and blue states. We're one country I'm going to govern for everyone.

He talked about the dignity of work. A job is not just about work, it's about dignity. It's being able to look your kid in the face and say it's going to be OK. Well, that sounds a lot like a white working class voter motivating argument that will also work with college educated white voters who are sick and tired of the division and the anger.

He literally laid out a case for why he could be an American president that anyone who's exhausted by the current situation can run to and feel comfortable and not be nervous about and not feel weird about. He is a regular Joe and that's what he needed to be tonight. And I think he did an excellent job.

WALLACE: Brian, sorry, he's also got us back in our cars as you can say.

WILLIAMS: Yes, I was just going to say to my friends, they're in the studio and our friends watching. And this is, admittedly the intersection of politics and television. Please note there's your handshake.

MADDOW: Yes, there's the ticket.

WILLIAMS: The handshake that -- That's the ticket both wearing masks on brand for 2020. This is a parking lot in Wilmington, Delaware. But please note that throughout this crisis, sometimes with little thanks to our government, the public has figured out public health. The producers of this event had to go first. It's the Republicans who get last licks this year. So they had to figure all this out. They had to figure out zoom. They had to figure out the roll call of states. And they have gone and figured out fireworks over a parking lot in Wilmington, Delaware, and outdoor stage and drive up celebration with people at a distance in their cars honking their horns. And I got to tell you this, this works.

WALLACE: Yes.

MADDOW: This is -- I mean, we're used to seeing balloons drop from nets and a ceiling. This is better.

WALLACE: Yes, it's charming.

MADDOW: This is better than that and getting them outside is a responsible and be this kind of feels like this ought to be the way they do it.

REID: Yes. There's a lot about conventions I think that's going to change permanently.

MADDOW: Yes.

REID: Right. I can't imagine going back inside some sort of stale arena like this is the way to do it.

MADDOW: Also, we have to have Braden Harrington speak at every convention from here on out.

REID: Yes.

MADDOW: A 13 year old kid from New Hampshire, who spoke about his stutter and his interactions with Biden. I like had to lay down on the floor --

(CROSSTALK)

MADDOW: I like I had to physically accommodate the racking songs in my body listening and being so inspired by that kid, Braden. I mean, I know these things are programmed in a way that are meant to move us but oh god.

REID: But you know what, it also set up Biden's for success because, you know, he also has a stutter.

MADDOW: Yes.

REID: And so as he was speaking, I'm kind of holding my breath for him because I know he also stutters. And after he got through the entire speech and he did it so well, you kind of -- you felt a pride in him being able to do it that way you felt for a little Braden. And so I think having that little touch was the art.

MADDOW: And having it real close right before his --

WALLACE: And Brian, I think it's fair to say that Donald Trump probably said more mean things on Twitter tonight than any oppo research person could find Joe Biden have said in his whole life. And I think that, you know, every person that was featured over the last four nights, were not -- they weren't people Joe Biden ran into in the context of knowing he would be here tonight. This is party's nominee.

His life, the life he's lived was on display this week. And when you're Joe Biden's age and you find yourself on the spot this night, you can't go back and airbrush anything.

REID: Yes.

WALLACE: What was revealed to the country is what it is. And it is diametrically opposed. It is on another freaking universe from what is on the menu in the other category. And again, I don't know what people will choose. I didn't think they would choose the last guy last time. But this presentation of this man who lost his wife and his daughter, and then later when he when he had it all lost his adult son, this is who he is. And we are a country right now that is wracked with the pain of 171,000 worlds blown up, people that were alive five months ago, they are now gone because of this pandemic. And it did not have to be that way. We didn't have to be the country with 171,000 worlds blown up on Donald Trump's watch, but we are.

REID: Yes.

MADDOW: And when he said just plainly, we will never have our livestock -- I'm sorry, Brian, I'll just -- I'm just going to punctuate this and when he said we will never have our lives back until we deal with this virus, right? Like why can't somebody from the top say that more plainly, like all of the fights that we're having about schools, and all the fights we're having about testing and who's to blame and -- it we, in terms of accommodate, in terms of reopening, in terms of the way we live, and the futures that we're offering to our families right now, it is all about getting the virus under control, and then we can do what know.

REID: (Inaudible) to accept it.

MADDOW: And for Biden to say it's so clearly in a short direct sentence --

REID: Absolutely.

MADDOW: -- that's fits on a freaking bumper sticker. It's just feels like, exhale. I'm sorry, Brian --

REID: To say, I'm going to do it. I will get this under control.

MADDOW: We will get under control.

REID: Yes.

WILLIAMS: No, Rachel, forgive me. I was just going to ask Nicole who has worked in the other team's locker room if you had to sit down and produce and let's guess that all weekend long they will be making changes to the next convention.

We learned tonight Mitch McConnell won't be speaking at the Republican convention. He has travel plans in Kentucky where he happens to be running for reelection. What do you do? What do you run on? Who do you feature?

WALLACE: Well, the Republican Party especially Republicans in Congress, are still you know, zombies marching in lockstep. I'm sure you can try it out every one of them that kept their mouth shut when he wrapped both arms around -- QAnon or Q-non.

REID: QAnon.

WALLACE: Whatever the conspiracy this week. He repelled a couple of them but not many, and they're the same zombie Republicans that marched in lockstep after Charlottesville and after Access Hollywood, they're still with him, Brian.

So you can trot out the same Republicans that have looked the other way or said nothing when Jim Mattis rebuked him after Lafayette Square, when General Milley rebuked him for his role in participation. There will be bodies there. But what am I going to say? I mean, well, what is the case for Donald Trump? This is the best we can do America 171,000 people dead from COVID, 5 million infections and they're still in some places an eight day turnaround for tests. But let's go back to school anyway.

What is the case? Economy annihilated? Not because of the pandemic, but because of Donald Trump's response to the pandemic. And what are they going to say about the other guy after what they've just seen? Because they can't say he's hiding in his basement? And if he was, maybe Trump should try it. I mean, if you saw that speech tonight, I don't know what the case is that you make for Trump and against this ticket.

WILLIAMS: Way to pretend you don't know how to pronounce QAnon.

WALLACE: It was in my prompter for the first time in my life yesterday. And I said, "Q-non." I made it this far in the Trump presidency without it being written in the teleprompter and it looks like "Q-non."

REID: Yes.

WALLACE: But it is Que-A-non. And it's in Congress. It's about to be in Congress. I mean, they're going to be like maybe a dozen of them.

MADDOW: This all makes me what "Q-non" in an agenda (ph).

WILLIAMS: I knew we were headed there. The minute those words left my lips, I knew we --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: None of us should be able to pronounce Q-non. We should even be talking about Q-non in 1128 on the last day that democratic meant to be, where we are because Donald Trump likes that they like him. That's where we are.

WILLIAMS: It should be Friday and it's not. But our thanks --

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: We've lost Rachel. We've lost Rachel. Our thanks to our friends, Rachel, Joy, Nicole for being with us tonight. We'll get to see each other all next week for the next convention go round.

REID: It will be weirder. That's the thing it will be weirder.

MADDOW: Will be something.

WILLIAMS: Yes, probably. Back to our special two hour edition of the 11th Hour with thanks to our friends tonight, what happens to be day 1,309 of the Trump administration, 75 days to go until the Presidential Election. This was the fourth and final night indeed of the Democratic National Convention.

Another Trump associate, in other news, as they like to say as run afoul of the law, and the Justice Department. That would be Steve Bannon now facing fraud charges in connection with a fund-raising scheme to build Trump's border wall. More on that story ahead.

Also, one of them stood on the debate stage with both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The other considered for VP serves in the Senate with Kamala Harris and was one of tonight's speakers. Julian Castro, Tammy Baldwin will join us next live. And then later, analysis from three of our very best, Lawrence O'Donnell, Claire McCaskill, Steve Schmidt also standing by as our special two hour edition of "The 11th Hour" night four of the Democratic Convention is just getting under way on this Thursday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN (D-WI): Here in Wisconsin our state motto is just one word -- forward. This November let's move forward and never look back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: A critical swing state in 2020 unexpectedly helped propel Donald Trump to his election victory in 2016, and they had sure hoped to host the now completed Democratic Convention, what that it would be. Joining us now, Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin and Julian Castro, former U.S. secretary of housing and urban development, former democratic presidential candidate himself.

Senator, I'd like to begin with you as someone who has casually followed your career, I'm not sure I saw as much fire before tonight as I did when you spoke tonight. Talk about the urgency, talk about the passion you feel and tell me who wins Wisconsin.

BALDWIN: Well, first of all, you know, I think Vice President Biden met the moment tonight, and part of that was the understanding of the urgency of this moment, these multiple crises that didn't have to be that way. And I think that while we were disappointed to not have the convention in Milwaukee live, it's clear that he does understand the gravity and the seriousness of the moment because you couldn't safely convene 50,000 people in the city of Milwaukee.

But in terms of how Wisconsin is looking at this, we're in August. The pandemic was introduced into this nation in January, and things in my state are getting worse, not better. Things in multiple states are getting worse, not better. And it is because of the utter failure of this president. And so tonight when Joe Biden articulates his plans of how we defeat the coronavirus, the contrast could not be more stark.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Secretary, have these past four nights did what y saw tonight ease the fears you voiced about the past four days, ease any fears you voiced about a slide in Latino support for the Democratic Party, for the ticket? Did you approve of what you saw when they came down to making the case?

JULIAN CASTRO, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, of course. I mean, first of all, Joe Biden knocked it out of the park tonight. As Senator Baldwin said very well, folks right now are looking for a real leader, someone who they believe is going to put them and their families ahead of their own interests. And Joe Biden, you know, tonight reminded me of working with him and going to Wilmington, Delaware on Veterans Day in 2016 to mark the end of veteran homelessness there, which the Obama/Biden administration had worked very hard to achieve in different communities throughout the country.

And what I saw then and what I saw tonight is a warmth and a compass for people and that he has his priorities right. Americans want somebody who has his priorities right. And he addressed the pandemic, the economy, the leadership that we need in the Oval Office and the administration.

On top of that, the others were great as well. Senator Harris is going to be a dynamic running mate that I think the more people get to know her, the more they're to love her. But she's going to be a tremendous asset to the picket. So I feel good. Democrats did a great job. We can be very proud.

WILLIAMS: Senator, on behalf of your home state which had hoped to play host, you get the last word. A simple prediction. Will you return to the senate as part of a democratic majority?

BALDWIN: Not only will we achieve that goal, but I do believe that Wisconsin will go blue in the presidential race. So we're working really hard to achieve that goal.

WILLIAMS: Our viewers heard it here first, two prominent politicians have been kind enough to wait us out while we waited for the fireworks to conclude. Senator, Mr. Secretary, thank you both very much.

Coming up for us after our first break here, the DNC says its mission was to set up this nominee, this ticket in the strongest possible position to reclaim the White House. We will ask Claire McCaskill, Lawrence O'Donnell, Steve Schmidt for starters if they wish to declare mission accomplished when we come back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE BUTTIGIEG, FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Just over 10 years ago I joined the military where firing me because of who I am wasn't just possible, it was policy. Now in 2020, it is unlawful in America to fire someone because of who they are or who they love. The very ring on my finger, a wedding we celebrated here where I'm standing reflects how this country can change.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Something to point out, a man for whom speaking was a challenge for much of his life as was documented tonight. Tonight decided to use a whisper at one point and full-on belloing at another to get through various parts of this speech, the various moods of his remarks tonight.

Let's talk about it with our friend and experts. Former democratic senator from the great state of Missouri, Claire McCaskill, Steve Schmidt, veteran political strategist who led the McCain '08 campaign effort, has since left the Republican Party was among the founders in fact of the Lincoln Project, dedicated to the defeat of the incumbent president along with Trumpism while they're at it, and our own Lawrence O'Donnell, host of the 10:00 p.m. Eastern hour on this network.

Senator McCaskill, let's begin with the fact that the Democrats had to build an airplane in flight. They had to go first. They had to figure all of this stuff out. Let me hear your impressions of this night, this ticket going forward.

CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO) FMR. U.S. SENATOR: Well, first let me say I was nervous. This seemed like a very tall order. I think they did a really good job of getting the stories out in front of the American people, the story of who the Biden family is. As the former first lady said the other night, someone whose lives we can recognize.

And I think they did a terrific job. I mean, was it awkward at moments? Were the transitions a little clunky? Yes, but I think it reinforced the idea that this is a party that's taking this pandemic seriously and we're not going to fool around and risk people's health like the guy in the Oval Office is willing to do, just to have the frenzy of the crowd around him.

WILLIAMS: Lawrence, let's talk about optics because you have lived most of your life at this weird intersection between politics and media. They gave us this final shot tonight outside the Chase Center with an outdoor stage in a parking lot with a fireworks display going off. You had the ticket. There are significant others up on stage.

Please note, they even asked the people driving up and parking in the cars to turn their flashers on to give it an extra sparkle for the television pictures, the live pictures of this event. It gave it kind of a summer drive-in atmosphere in the midst of this pandemic. What did you make of the final scene and the final night?

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC HOST, "THE LAST WORD": It's called thinking of everything, Brian, with limited resources. Think about the staff, campaign staff, the Democratic National Committee staff, Harris campaign staff, Biden campaign staff, who all had to put this back together and figure out we're not going to have a balloon drop. Let's start with what we're not going to have, the thing we know how to do and that big, you know, crowd that will come out on the big stage. That's not going to happen now. What can we do?

And you get down to the details eventually with the smart staff in that room with somebody saying let's have all the cars have their flashers going. That's when you get lucky. If that meeting runs long enough, you will come up with enough things that make this feel right for this moment and that also captures the reality of the way America is living tonight. It's a way of showing America what we cannot do tonight by showing us what we can do. It has to be cars, it has to be distanced cars. It was really a remarkable thing to accomplish under these incredibly limiting circumstances.

WILLIAMS: Steve Schmidt, as a guy, disaffected Republican, who has now devoted his life to the defeat of the incumbent president, tell me about the Joe Biden you got to see and got to know through television tonight.

STEVE SCHMIDT, FMR. REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think with no hyperbole that this might be the most important political speech that I've heard in my 49 years. And I say that as somebody who's worked at the highest level of American politics, worked at the highest level of two presidential campaigns. We won one, we lost one.

I can't, though, think of a more high stakes speech at a more critical moment. We're in the middle of one of the great crises this country has ever faced. We have nearly 200,000 dead Americans, we'll certainly cross that number by the time we vote on election day in November. We have a wrecked economy. We have a million shattered dreams. We have chaos as the kids are getting ready to go back to school. We have a president who lacks the moral, the mental, the intellectual skills to be able to do the job.

And what we saw tonight was a man who embraced the light, who spoke against the darkness. And in the end what the American people got to see is the fundamental choice laid out. And the choice is as simple as this -- it is between a good man and a very bad man. It's between a decent man and an indecent man, between a moral man and an amoral man. Between a global statesman who is respected around the world and an international laughing stock and a clown. It's between somebody who is fidelis to the American constitution, to democracy and somebody who has an inliberal and autocratic disposition and personality.

And so the vice president tonight laid it out. And I think it was so powerful when he said what has not been said but has been needed saying for so long, which is that, hey, I understand that not everyone's going to vote for me but I'm going to work as hard as the American president for the people who supported me, as I will for the people who supported me.

What he was saying in that moment is we're all in it together. And the President of the United States is not the chief of a warring faction of the country that's at war with the other half of the country. We saw decency tonight. We saw empathy tonight. We saw dignity. We saw the possibility of American renewal and restoration laid out in the greatest speech that Joe Biden has delivered in his long public career, but also one of the most important political speeches framing the most fundamentally important choice this country has faced in an election since we voted in November of 1864 and decided in that election whether we would remain a United States, whether the union would endure or not.

WILLIAMS: Claire McCaskill, those were powerful words from our friend and colleague Mr. Schmitt. Was Joe Biden so good as to take away the mocking devices this president has used and I guess will continue to use for four nights at their convention?

MCCASKILL: Yes. Well, Donald Trump is a small man. He's going to still continue to try to mock but I think that America saw tonight the passion that Joe Biden has. I particularly appreciated the passion he brought to the subject of coddling dictators and standing for our values internationally and restoring -- you know, the notion that the president's not going after Russia after putting bounties on our soldiers. He really delivered that.

And you could tell he wasn't reading the words. He was feeling them. And I think it's going to be very hard for Trump to minimize after the speech tonight and I might add, I just got to get this in here, Braden, heart be still for Braden.

That young man -- it reminded me of Trump mocking the person with disabilities. And I hope that, you know, we run the side by side at some point of Trump mocking the personality with disabilities and compare and contrast that with Joe Biden finding a young man who had the same disability he had, helping him, lifting him up, making him feel better about himself, and then putting him on a national stage and that young man had such courage tonight. That maybe was indirectly the most important moment of the night because it contrasts these two guys that want to lead our country. And it really comes out very well for Joe Biden in that comparison.

WILLIAMS: Lawrence, corporations use the antisymmetric term of affinity groups. And what that means is tonight, stutters across our country, their parents and loved ones, everyone who has ever loved and known a stutterer have an affinity with that young man. If the Democrats did their job communications wise with this nominee, among other things, talk about your experience, the fact that politics, if done right at the end of the day, is just about people.

O'DONNELL: Well, everything you're saying in this convention and everything you saw tonight comes naturally from who Joe Biden is. The stutterer story is a real story. It was nothing contrived in this. This is the way he's always been.

You know, I see a lot of people tonight and I take this judgment that this could be Joe Biden's best speech of his career. It's very hard for me to say that. I sat on the Senate floor for years, hearing Joe Biden extemporaneously rush on to the floor and do 10 minutes that would just be extraordinary.

And so it's very, very hard for me to say what's the best speech Joe Biden has given. This is the most important one, on that Steve is absolutely right, because there is so much at stake in this. Joe Biden said democracy is on the ballot.

That's something that's never been said in a speech like this. He argued that decency is on the ballot. But to consider that democracy is on the ballot, that we might lose democracy, which is what Barack Obama was saying, we might lose democracy in this country if Donald Trump has his way with the postal service, if Vladimir Putin has his way with what he wants to do in this election.

And so the stakes are extraordinary for Joe Biden to step up to, but I have so many times over so many years seen Joe Biden step up like this so there was nothing surprising for me in seeing how clearly and strongly he stepped up tonight because I've seen him do it so many times for sure. Lower stakes in the past for sure. But his ability to get up there and do what he did tonight didn't surprise me in the least.

WILLIAMS: Steve Schmidt, this is why I saved the last 60 seconds for you. Is this going to be a test of our -- how much we are victims of a frog-boiling experiment, the fact that our former president and vice president have looked into a camera in the last 48 hours to tell us nothing short of our democracy is at stake right now. Words you have spoken on this broadcast and others.

SCHMIDT: We have two great crises apart from Donald Trump in the oval office, Brian, I think. And the first one we have a crisis of truth. And Barack Obama and Joe Biden told the country the truth. And the truth is that our institutions and our democracy are a lot more fragile than we all ever thought they would be, looking at a tax on it all, and Donald Trump over this last 3 1/2 years. We've seen violence loosed against the American people, exercising their First Amendment rights in front of the White House, we've seen the nonstop lying, the meanness, the cruelty, all of it.

But we also have a crisis of courage inside country. And I just want to say something about that young man, what was so remarkable about it. I've never said this, you know, before publicly, but I had a speech impediment when I was a kid and it's just -- it's so uplifting for me personally to be able to see the vice president's courage and decency and goodness.

But what that young man did tonight is he put on a clinic of courage and guts for the country. And I thought it was great. And you look at these supine, collaborating senators like Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz who sold out every principle that they loudly proclaimed over all of these years in service to Donald Trump, just for the American people after this long and difficult season to see such courage manifested and from such a young American. It gives you hope. And I think that's what Joe Biden did tonight. He gave the country hope that better days are upon us if we make the right decision in November.

WILLIAMS: I will not attempt to add to the words of Steve Schmitt, Claire McCaskill, Lawrence O'Donnell, thank you all for adding so much to our average post event tonight.

Coming up for us, much more of our special coverage of this final night, night four, of the Democratic National Convention top of the hour when we continue.

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