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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, December 18, 2020

Guests: Jeremy Bash, Rob Davidson, Jon Meacham, Baratunde Thurston


FDA authorized Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine. No public even for Trump as COVID-19 surges. Mike Pence gets COVID-19 vaccine on live TV. Russia suspected in massive cyberattack on U.S. States say Fed reduced next week's COVID vaccine shipments. President Donald Trump still trying to push on patriotic education, his intent to appoint members of a 1776 commission, the commission is a part of President Trump's defense against critical race theory and the 1619 Project.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 1,429 of the Trump administration, 33 days remain until the inauguration of Joe Biden as our 46th President.

And while our country faces dual and colossal threats from an uncontrolled pandemic and a massive, deep and systemic Russian computer hack, the president busied himself on social media today falsely claiming he won the election that he lost and retweeted a member of the anti-mask movement. The President hasn't been seen in public for a week.

Just under a quarter million confirmed cases of the virus were reported today. That's a new record for us. So far this week, over 15,000 of our fellow citizens have died, including another 2,856 souls just today.

Yet today did bring more good news on the vaccine front, a few hours ago Moderna became the second brand name vaccine to receive FDA emergency use authorization. Nearly 6 million doses of this vaccine will be distributed as soon as this weekend. First doses could be administered into arms on Monday.

Unlike Pfizer's vaccine, Moderna's does not need to be kept in ultra-cold temperatures. So it's easier to ship, easier to store, easier to get out to rural areas of our country. And that's critical. At the same time, we did get a reminder today from Dr. Fauci about just what we're up against.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: All of this is sort of bittersweet, because at the same time, as we're moving ahead with what will ultimately be the answer and the final solution to this, we're living through very, very difficult times. I mean, if you look at the number of new infections between two and 300,000, the other day, we had 3565 deaths in one day. So, we still are in a serious situation, which tells us that as we are proceeding with the rollout of the vaccine, we absolutely have to adhere to the public health measures that we're talking about all the time.


WILLIAMS: In Washington, the behavior of our elected representatives this week is almost not worth the time it takes to tell you about it. No relief bill for those suffering in the pandemic funding for our government was supposed to run out at midnight. So now they've voted to extend it until Sunday night so they can at least get their weekend in.

Then there's Trump's threatened veto of the already passed defense spending bill that The New York Times is reporting that bill actually does contain provisions that would help protect our country against the kind of Russian hack ongoing right now.

According to lawmakers, "Had those provisions been in place this year, the Trump administration might have had a better shot at detecting and stopping the breach more quickly."

The President's economic adviser Larry Kudlow was asked about the cyberattack on our country earlier today. As you listen to his response, please know, this is all we're getting from our White House.


LARRY KUDLOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP ECONOMIC ADVISER: I don't know the whole story and I don't know totally who's responsible. People are saying Russia. I don't know that could the other countries. I just don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are going to hear from the President on the government hack?

KUDLOW: I don't know.


WILLIAMS: Today, Axios was first to report that the Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller has ordered a halt to cooperation with the Biden transition team. Miller responded in a statement saying, "At no time has the Department cancelled or declined any interview after the mutually agreed upon holiday which begins tomorrow, we will continue with the transition and rescheduled meetings from today." But Biden's team immediately pushed back saying they never agreed to a holiday pause.

Meanwhile, today saw some high-ranking public officials get the COVID vaccine both House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader McConnell received their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine earlier today.

Vice President Mike Pence got his shot this morning on live television, more on that later.

President-elect Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden are set to receive their first doses on Monday. Yet, even though they should play a role as leaders in getting people protected from this virus, not all of our elected representatives are on board with the vaccine. Let's be real clear here. This is what the anti-vax movement looks like when it's all dressed up in a jacket and a tie. This man you're about to hear from his Republican Congressman Ken Buck from Colorado.


REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): I'm an American I have the freedom to decide if I'm going to take a vaccine or not. And in this case, I am not going to take the vaccine. I'm more concerned about the safety of the vaccine than I am the side effects of the disease.


WILLIAMS: So that's where we are this December of 2020. And with that, let's bring in our leadoff guests on this Friday night, Annie Karni, White House Reporter for The New York Times, A.B. Stoddard, a Veteran of Political Journalism, currently Associate Editor and Columnist over at Real Clear Politics. And Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at the CIA and Pentagon, Former Chief Counsel to the House Intel Committee.

Good evening, and welcome to you all. A.B., I'd like to begin with you. At some points this week, we were losing an American every 27 to 30 seconds. It is still as yet an uncontrolled pandemic. The Russians are apparently in the middle of a hack into our computer systems. Congress can't find their own backside with both hands on a flashlight. Where is the president and leader of his party?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, "REAL CLEAR POLITICS": While the President has made it so clear, Brian, that he's given up on the presidency, he does not answer questions. He does not have briefings. He does not -- he plays golf. And he tweets in a rage about this fake election fraud that he's trying to pull over on people he's raising money from, for his political pursuits in the future, even though as we all know him talked about for weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks, every single lawsuit that he and his allies abroad has failed. None of them have brought any evidence of fraud and or in most cases, allegations of fraud.

And so you see in his effort to halt the Pentagon briefings because Jeremy reportedly earlier said that this is a result of the fact that they learned that the Biden administration plan to halt the spending of money stolen from military construction projects for use for the wall. So it seems like a fit of pique. At the same time, he's potentially refusing to go to Georgia to campaign for the Republican incumbent senators in the January 5 runoff. So he's retaliating against everybody he can. He has given up on the coronavirus, and he's given up on the economic crises because he's not involved in the negotiations on Capitol Hill.

He refuses to acknowledge the Russia hack. We are not surprised because he doesn't acknowledge anything, or confront anything that the Russians do in any kind of adversarial fashion.

And he's actually surprisingly and most surreal, Brian, give it up on the vaccine. This is the one thing he could get take credit for on his way out the door. This will make history this is the one thing we're united and uplifted by as Americans across the board, across the country. And he by refusing to take the vaccine, educate people about the vaccine, promote the vaccine, except in a few tweets on Twitter about how it's great by not speaking to the people who support him. He's just really doing a great harm to vaccine confidence. And people like Ken Buck, a member of Congress, not taking the vaccine and letting his constituents know that he's not taking the vaccine.

WILLIAMS: And his staff and his family and all those who have to travel with him on airplanes and so on. Annie, A.B. is so right, the vaccine is the one place where the President could deservedly go out get ahead of it, take credit and become the drum major for Operation Warp Speed even though that itself is under charges tonight that it's more like operations, slow walk and a lot of states are out there screaming and yelling for the doses they thought they were promised. What is your reporting, Annie, on his just vacating the public space?

ANNIE KARNI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": He doesn't, in private and in public, he's not interested in the vaccine. People have talked to him recently say the conversations are completely about overturning the results of the election, furious at Mitch McConnell for finally congratulating Joe Biden and saying that the Electoral College have spoken. This is what he cares about. The vaccine is not what he's thinking about.

But in addition to that, he is aware I think that a large part of his political base, don't trust the vaccine. And he, while other members of his administration like Mike Pence wanted maximum publicity for this event that his staff asked the network's to carry him live getting the vaccine. Look at what the President did in response, he didn't retweet any clip of this moment that the vice president had today. He didn't acknowledge that this happened on his Twitter feed or in person. He did not -- he's not playing any role in the public health messaging on the vaccine. And partly that's just because that's not what he's thinking about and it doesn't affect him. Partly that's because he is aware that his political power stems from people who don't want to hear that message from him.

This is one place where a lot of people do wish his voice would be added to the chorus. He has been silent on the Russia hacking, the COVID Relief Bill, the vaccine. Republicans in Congress for a long time have taken the pose that less interference from the president when it comes to any bill is really better for them. So no one is, you know, itching for him to get more involved there. But when it comes to a public health message, I think a lot of people on the White House think that he could do some legacy furnishing for himself and send a good message to the country. And it's just not something that he's willing to do right now.

WILLIAMS: Jeremy Bash, let's talk about this Russian hack. First of all, I'm curious if you think Mitt Romney had it about right, that this is the equivalent of having learned that Russia was flying bombers undetected over the length and breadth of our country. In your opinion, do you think this is happening, in part, because they perceive a weakness in what Trump may or in this case, may not do in response?

JEREMY BASH, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, Brian, I think it's actually worse than the Romney analogy, because, of course, from Obama, you're at 40, 50,000 feet, it's only what you can observe. Here, these Russian hackers associated with Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, are literally inside our communications networks at all of our key federal agencies, according to these reports, and that means that they not only can watch, they can lane and wait, they can potentially open other backdoor, side doors to penetrate networks. They can -- they can stay there until they want to engage in not only broad espionage and collection, but potentially destruction, covert action and other disruption measures. So, this is a horrendous national security crisis. Of course, the President's nowhere to be found.

And just to answer your second question, I'm actually glad he's not doing anything about it, because I think anything, he would do about it, would be more deferential to the Russians. Garry Kasparov, the chess icon turned Kremlin critic, I think had a right. He said the way you know the Russians were behind this is because Donald Trump has said nothing about it. That's proof positive. That's what's going on here.

WILLIAMS: A.B. few people are as well sourced as you are among Washington Republicans and so I'm curious, on or about January 20th, 21st, right around there. I'm guessing a certain number in the Republican caucus are going to be Trump Republicans until the end of time. But do you expect some of what we used to call mainstream centrist Republicans to pretend that they were never Trump Republicans that they don't know what we're talking about?

STODDARD: Well, I wrote about this recently and the Bulwark, that I really think that Trump is going to destroy the party without even meaning to because the new litmus test is whether you're reality based, or you are on your down for the con, the election fraud lie.

And so everyone who gets in the way of that narrative now is on the outs and these supporters who believe President Trump and believe one American news network and Newsmax, which they see telling them all this stuff in sort of an official looking news broadcast, they are very angry and they want retribution, and they are harassing the family of Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia, and his daughters about one of their late boyfriends who just died in a car wreck in his early 20s. This is completely out of control, very, very potentially dangerous. That's why Gabriel Sterling, one of Brad Raffensperger, deputies in Georgia, elections official pleaded weeks ago with senators in his party and the president to please, please condemn these threats to election workers.

This problem facing Republicans after the January run offs on January 5, before Biden's inauguration is they have to choose if you're Ron Johnson, clearly you will forever say something terrible happened to President Trump and the election. Obviously Senator Rand Paul has chosen the same, but they're going to have to think hard about whether or not they say on January 20, that Joe Biden is president he won a free and fair election is a legitimate presidency, and Donald Trump has told his voters a lie.

Donald Trump is going to take this forward as the new threshold question. And you are -- you're either in or you're out and you cannot be in the middle. So, they have a few weeks left to make a very difficult choice, but you can see more and more who is going to -- who's going to stick with it. Anyone running for president in 2024 is going to go along with this. And it's just an incredible -- it's incredibly dangerous situation because not only are these threats escalating, but people are becoming radicalized about this. And he is not willing to back down and Mitch McConnell and leaders in the party like Kevin McCarthy, who's still fudging every single answer and dodging any accountability on this, are going to have to step up, or they're really going to run their party into the ground.

WILLIAMS: Wow, Annie Karni as we digest that and what it means for the future of a political party, you report it on this suspension of Pentagon briefings today, is there really, according to your reporting and effort to throw roadblocks in front of the incoming guys?

KARNI: Yes. And the Biden transition officials admitted as much in a conference call they did today with reporters. What was notable is that the stance of the Biden transition has sort of been, we don't want to escalate tensions with the Trump administration. We want to finish this transition process as smoothly as possible. They waited patiently for the ascertainment of the election then they said we're able to move forward.

But today, they had the transition team said, there was no mutually agreed upon pause in meetings with the defense -- with defense officials. In fact, we -- time is of the essence, and we're already behind. So they, on the record, accused the acting defense secretary of lying about the -- why he cancelled these meetings, which was a more aggressive stance than we used to seeing out of them. And they basically said, you know, they try and congratulate career officials who are doing their best to have a professional transition. But they said there are pockets of recalcitrants and the Defense Department is one of them. And that's a pretty big one of them.

And what we saw today with these cancelled meetings that were first reported by Axios is sort of the most aggressive effort to stop, to hinder this transition from going forward at probably one of the most important departments where it really needs to work.

WILLIAMS: And indeed, Jeremy Bash, having served at the seat of power in the defense and intelligence establishment, give us a reality check, how important are these briefings to getting folks in the loop knowing that moving day, January 20, January 21, tends to be about other things?

BASH: We'll look, the Biden team will know more on day one of the Trump team we'll know after year four, because the Biden team is highly experienced. That said, it is vitally important that the new team receive the latest information about all manner of things including the readiness and posture of our forces, including the status of certain -- status of forces agreements and places where our troops are, as well as issues like cyber security and what's happening on our Information Technology Network.

So, you know, the Secretary of Defense needs to step up here, it needs to push back on his own political staff who have been canceling these briefings and denying request for information. Apparently, the White House was so upset because an article in The Washington Post appeared that said that billions of dollars could be saved if we took money from Trump's wall and put it to things like readiness for our troops or cyber security or other higher priority items. And based on that the White House canceled these meetings. The Secretary Defense has to step up and say national security depends on an orderly and productive transfer of power.

WILLIAMS: Our starting three have given us a lot to think about tonight with our thanks, Annie Karni, A.B. Stoddard, Jeremy Bash, I appreciate you coming on. Have a good weekend. Thank you very much.

Coming up, then there were two, two vaccines coming to our rescue slowly, but they'll get here. Several states are reporting in fact they are not getting the doses they were promised. I'll talk to an emergency room physician on the front lines tonight.

And later a man who once had the most sensitive job in Donald Trump's White House now says Trump should at least consider declaring martial law. Oh, and he's already been rewarded with a presidential pardon because this is 2020. We will discuss with Jon Meacham and Baratunde Thurston as the 11th Hour just gets underway on this Friday night.



GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): I still cannot get a straight answer out of the Trump administration about why Michigan like many other states is receiving a fraction of the vaccines that we were slated to receive. The Feds are slow walking the process of getting the addresses to Pfizer for some reason I cannot get an answer to.


WILLIAMS: That says it all, doesn't it a governor in a mass during a pandemic begging for more doses of the vaccine in an important state. Michigan's not the only state asking why next week's shipments of coronavirus vaccine are being reduced.

Officials in Illinois and California and several other key states say they're getting about half the doses they were told to expect.

Pfizer, for their part says millions of doses are ready. They're sitting in their warehouses awaiting government shipping instructions.

Well, it's a good time to have back with us tonight, Dr. Rob Davidson. He's an E.R. Doc and Western Michigan Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Medicare.

And Doctor, I'm told you are still waiting for your vaccine. What's your best guest? And what's the reason you've been given? They don't get frontline easier than you as to why you don't have it yet.

DR. ROB DAVIDSON, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Well, there are a lot of people on the front lines and a lot of people deserving who are getting the vaccine. You know, I'm in a hospital system that has some facilities with the minus 70 freezers that can handle the Pfizer vaccine. Others like the hospital I work at don't have that capability. So, we're waiting on the Moderna vaccine.

But it's really unconscionable that Pfizer tells us, and Pfizer is about an hour and a half from where I am right now, their plant portage, that they have doses, millions of doses waiting and our governor is just begging the federal government to get them the addresses and to get those doses out. Getting this vaccine to this point is not a victory. It's only a victory when enough shots go in people's arms and we can start to develop immunity.

WILLIAMS: Indeed, well tell me this is it true that in your line of work, the Moderna vaccine is going to be really cheered because if you take where you are now and drive north into the rural areas, all the way up into the upper peninsula, the Moderna vaccine gives you more stability. It gives you more range. It gives you the ability to do rural medicine and injections at community centers, correct?

DAVIDSON: Yes, we are really at a point where this is now about logistics. It's really less about medicine. It's about communication and logistics. And the fact that you can store that in normal freezers transported more easily, absolutely makes this a game changer for places where I work, and yes, north of me in so many places in this country where people are fighting this pandemic every day.

WILLIAMS: Tell me about testing. Is it still an issue where you are?

DAVIDSON: It really is. And it really came, came out to me just yesterday working saw a patient who had to leave work, because he had symptoms came in to see me wasn't sick enough to be admitted to the hospital. And so, you know, he was discharged had a test done, but had to wait three or four days for the results to come back. And he expressed the level of frustration that he's got to miss work, you know, 15 percent or so are testing positive in our area, but 85 percent are testing negative. And if this person is negative, and he does miss three or four days of work right before Christmas, he told me back in the spring before we could test everybody with symptoms when we didn't have enough tests at all. He had to miss nine days of work because he had symptoms that were suggestive of coronavirus. And he's just begging. And I'm begging that we get an emphasis on rapid turnaround testing everywhere for everyone. So, people don't have to go through this.

WILLIAMS: Yes, it's been suggested there could have been a Marshall Plan across our country just for that. Doctor, do you have any doubt that what we're living in now is kind of a post-Thanksgiving spike and have you any doubt that come the second or third week of January we'll be talking about the Christmas spike?

DAVIDSON: Yes, I have no doubt that we are seeing across this country, certainly in my area, other areas like Southern California, obviously the hardest hit they've ever been. And the problem is, so many places are now sitting at or near capacity or just on the bubble of being ready to burst. And if you now want to throw on to that that moldering fire, you know, gasoline in the form of a spike post-Christmas, this is when the emergency departments start to become ice us for days on end. And we start operating in situations that are different than our usual and hopefully delivering the care to our patients that we expect to deliver at all times. So this is the time to beg our federal government everybody at every level to continue to tell people to wear masks to stay home, take this Christmas and be with your immediate family and your home and let us help you please do the work because this is the only way we get through these dark days.

WILLIAMS: Hopefully people hear you. And Doctor I know our viewers won't be able to thank you themselves for the work you do. So, I will appreciate you coming on again tonight and taking our questions as well, our guest tonight, Dr. Rob Davidson back on the broadcast.

Coming up for us, how far is Trump willing to go to try to keep his stuff in the white house after January 20?



GEN. MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: He could order the, within the swing states, if he wanted to, he could take military capabilities and he could place them in those states and basically rerun an election in each of those states. I mean, it's not unprecedented. I mean, these people out there talking about martial law, it's like it's something that we've never done. We've done, martial law has been instituted 64times.


WILLIAMS: A rather terrifying suggestion from Trump's recently pardoned former National Security Adviser in the effort to undermine what we know was a free and fair election. POLITICO had this reporting today and we quote, in the minds of some authoritarian leaning and conspiracy-minded Trump supporters, the Insurrection Act has become a needed step to prevent President-elect Joe Biden from assuming the presidency. Their evidence-deficient reasoning, Democrats illegally rigged the election and are attempting a coup, and Trump must send in the troops to undo this conspiracy.

With us to talk about all of it tonight, Baratunde Thurston, author, activist, comedian and former producer for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, he is these days host of the podcast, How to Citizen. And Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize winning author, presidential historian, professor on the American presidency at Vanderbilt University in his spare time, and an official Advisor to President-elect Joe Biden. Jon and his book, The Soul of America are the subject of what I can tell you is a superb new HBO documentary of the same name. Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

Jon, let's just take a moment, pause, to reflect on the fact that Mike Flynn wore the uniform of our nation and more than that had stars on both shoulders. OK, having pause to reflect on that, tell us about the Insurrection Act and what an attractive option martial law would be in several of the states that Trump lost.

JON MEACHAM, ROGERS CHAIR IN THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY, VANDERBILT UNIV.: It's like seven days in May, but both sides were trying to do the coup, right, of the uniform, this case, a retired uniform and the hardcore presidential side.

You know, this was and is the nightmare scenario of the last five years, that in fact, there would be a moment where the constitutional dam totally broke. I think that we are fortunate that it seems to be to this side of the national conversation, but the fact that it's even here is a startle, not startling, it is a stark reminder. I wish it were startling. It's a stark reminder of the burden that is ours a new which is as citizens to understand that you can disagree with people without resorting to disunion.

WILLIAMS: Baratunde, I know I'm guessing you would be equally psyched at the prospect of martial law.

BARATUNDE THURSTON, COMEDIAN: When you put it that way, Brian, no, still the answer is no. And thank you for having me. And it's good to be here with you, Mr. Meacham. I think Michael Flynn has an interesting character to carry this deviant message, the shortest serving National Security Advisor in U.S. history, clearly for good reason, convicted criminal who pled guilty, clearly because he did crimes.

And he's out here peddling a message that if it weren't so dangerous, would just be comical and pathetic. But it is dangerous. And what I find most remarkable is that this is coming from the party that calls itself the law in order party. They chanted it in 2016 and 2020, with equal vigor, and yet when a legal election happens, and it's legally certified by Democrats and Republican elected officials and appointees, when court cases are brought, and they are summarily dismissed up to about 60 times, I didn't know you could lose an election so many times in so many new and interesting ways, even by Republican appointed judges, including by this Supreme Court, the law and order crowd won't submit to the law.

So if you only submit to the law when you win, you're not submitting to law at all. And that's not a very American thing to do. And I think we need to keep reminding ourselves that one party is trying to take the ball and go home. And that ball is our social compact. It's our ability to self-govern, and we have to call it out every time.

WILLIAMS: Jon, first of all, what he just said, and second of all, what's the damage to just opening the door to this conversation? You'll note the retired general made his comments on "Newsmax", apparently, because "Fox News" is no longer to the right enough to be the right vehicle for such interviews.

MEACHAM: Yes, this is what and I think the word compact is really important here. You know, 1964, Richard Hofstadter wrote an essay, it was in Harper's called the Paranoid Style in American Politics. And it was about in that era, the John Birch society, going all the way back to the 1790s. There is this strain in American life where when you feel powerless, you believe that there has to be this large conspiracy that is arrayed against you.

It elevates your own drama, and it raises the stakes of every moment. When Hofstadter wrote that in 1964, he was still talking about something that was over here. The problem is now, it's right here. It's moved to the not quite the center, but it has moved decidedly into the major political, prevailing political conversation among conservatives, so called conservatives who are not, in any sense, conservative in the sense that either we would have recognized in the 18th and 19th and 20th centuries, and certainly the Reagan-Bush 43 kind of conservatives.

So we're just -- we're beyond that. And I think one of the big tasks facing people who are conservative, who do have deeply held conservative economic philosophies or conservative social issues, whatever it may be, the question you have to ask yourself right now is, do I hold these principles? And will I fight for them within a compact? Or am I going to submit to this cult of personality and risk the entire experiment. And too many of us, too many of us are willing, apparently to risk the entire experiment.

WILLIAMS: Both of these gentlemen have agreed to stick around, I'm going to sneak in an almost unrecognizable break. When we come back and resume our conversation, we'll talk about a time in our history when a vaccine went bad, but the people kept going and the people stayed strong. We'll talk about the lesson in this photo for the rest of us.


WILLIAMS: While adverse reactions to the coronavirus vaccine have so far been few and far between, our experience with the polio vaccine back in the 1950s reminds us that things can go wrong. Thousands of children were accidentally given a bad batch of the vaccine. It was under the Cutter brand name, five children died and yet Americans and the vaccine effort push through.

"The Washington Post" puts it this way, as scientists and politicians desperately search for medicines to slow the deadly coronavirus, a look back to the 1955 polio vaccine tragedy shows how hazardous such a search can be, especially under intense public pressure.

Still with us, our guest tonight, Baratunde Thurston and Jon Meacham. Jon in your super podcast hope through history that reminds me, both of our guests have podcasts I need to get me one at some point. One of the best episodes is about the Jonas Salk polio vaccine. This incident with the bad batch may well have been the birth, we didn't know what at the time, of the anti-vax movement, but talk about how different things were then, the fear that surrounded this illness and what a different country we were.

MEACHAM: Well, you know, from the first half of the 20th century, the most famous polio victim was of course, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who contracted the virus in August of 1921 at the height of his powers. He then, you know, we have this myth in our minds that no one knew Franklin Roosevelt was in a wheelchair, which is just not true. He was the leader of the March of Dimes. There used to be my old boss, Charlie Peters, our mutual friend, Brian, I used to say, you know, we used to remember the song, you know, we would go to a dance so they could walk, you know, these were these were fundraisers that were held.

It was a great example in American life of the private sector, leading public action, because it wasn't a huge government program that produced the polio vaccines. It was largely privately funded. But one of the few times Dwight Eisenhower ever cried in public was when he announced in 1955, that the vaccine would be available, and the ambient fear in the country. My friend Geoffrey Ward, the great biographer, suffered from polio, and remembers, you know, the terror of the face to every child, every family.

And understandably, of course, there's skepticism about everything in life, but science has proven to be better for us than worse, and here's hoping that faith can once again carry us through.

WILLIAMS: Geoffrey Ward I'm reminded as a viewer may very well be watching tonight, the author of among other works, "First Class Temperament", the towering biography of FDR. Baratunde, there is something called the 1776 commission. The President completed naming its members and advisors today. And it says here the commission is part of Trump's defense against critical race theory and the 1619 Project. Look out for that, directed by the New York Times Magazine, which revisits the country's history with a focus on slavery and Black Americans' contributions. Trump has said he hopes to counter lessons that he believes divide Americans on race and slavery and teach students to hate their own country.

Well, Baratunde, when you think about it, there's nothing about 1619 that can't be solved by 1776. And what better time than an uncontrolled pandemic to address this problem in American education I kid but you can do a better job on this than me.

THURSTON: Thank you for setting the context that way, Brian, and you're welcome on How to Citizen with Baratunde at any time before you get your own podcast, come on ours.

This President has an interesting choice of how he invests his time, what he does with his energy, what he's done with the power, we've temporarily granted him. And on his way out the door, he's not telling people to mask up or keep their distance or save their families or not swap air or celebrate his own vaccine, as your earlier guest says, he's doubling down on a tiny story of white supremacy, which I think unfortunately for us is the one that has allowed him to thrive.

Because only in this story of America could someone who failed as badly as Donald Trump rise to a position as high as Donald Trump. We don't need to fear the past. We need to own it and integrate it. We need to understand those lessons so that we do something better for ourselves now and for our future.

And what's so frustrating and painful about this doubling down on the narrow and the false history, the one that only has America for a few people is that it's limiting for all of us. We can actually be that great nation if we just let go of the fear of the shame of what some of the things that we've been a part of in the past. And this President is the exact wrong person to be big enough and brave enough and strong enough to see that as a source of power. He sees it instead as a source of fear.

WILLIAMS: So it turns out ladies and gentlemen, there's no need to fear the 1619 Project, our guest tonight, two men with big brains and big hearts who have the best words and by the way, create the best audio. You want to listen to two good podcasts its right there on your screen. Baratunde Thurston, Jon Meacham great pleasure to have you, have a good weekend unless you have other plans.

Coming up for us, a look at what millions are rushing around looking for a week before Christmas. Here's a hint, it involves a swab.


WILLIAMS: For all the American families like the Fauci's who are going to be celebrating Christmas without their adult children, there are millions of others who are going to take their chances while trying to be as careful as possible and so, millions of Americans are trying to get tested before hitting the road or the airport. Our report tonight on just how costly that can be from NBC News correspondent, Vicky Nguyen.


VICKY NGUYEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just days before the holidays, tonight long lines for COVID test in California. NBC News producers from coast to coast found wait times varied widely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today, it is a very long line.

NGUYEN (voice-over): At public testing sites, tests are free. In Florida?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But there's still about a half hour wait.

NGUYEN (voice-over): But in L.A.


NGUYEN (voice-over): No wait at this New Jersey Urgent Care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just come on in.

NGUYEN (voice-over): But in Dallas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a minimum of three hours right now.

NGUYEN (voice-over): In almost every region we found private testing centers offered tests without a wait, but it was costly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was cost $250.

NGUYEN (voice-over): Healthcare experts say that's because these centers are usually out of network or don't take insurance. One survey found that one in six out of network COVID test cost in excess of $400.

MATT EYLES, PRESIDENT OF AMERICA'S HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS: It's so important check with your health insurance provider. Make sure where you're getting tested is part of your insurance network.

NGUYEN (voice-over): Doctors warn against travel but say, if you do, a negative test doesn't mean let your guard down.

DR. RAHUL KHARE, INNOVATIVE EXPRESS CARE FOUNDER: Having a negative test, any negative test is not a free pass. Please wear your mask, please social distance.

NGUYEN (on camera): So which test should you get depends on how much time you have. PCR tests are the most accurate, but results can take days. Rapid tests will give you a result within minutes, but they may not be as accurate.


WILLIAMS: Our thanks to correspondent Vicky Nguyen for that report.

Another break for us, coming up, Mike Pence answers a question exactly no one had been asking. But we'll have it for you.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, this was a big day for both Mike Pence and the Space Force. Let's start with Mike Pence who started his day at the gun show getting his vaccine against the virus that he assured us was under control six months ago, baring his arms before a nation that hadn't asked to see them. Later and wearing his most serious Pence face, he celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Space Force where he announced the answer to a question no one had been asking.

And here it is, since we refer to those in other branches of the military as soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, coast guard, what would we call Space Forceans? Well, today Pence ended the fake suspense.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is my honor on behalf of the President of the United States to announce that Henceforth, the men and women of the United States Space Force will be known as Guardians.


WILLIAMS: Well, at that point, social media said that Mike Pence will take it from here. Along came the cursory reminders of Guardians of the Galaxy. And the reminder that Guardians are the authoritarian soldiers in Handmaid's Tale. So there's that.

And with that, let's talk for just a moment here about the Space Force. The tragedy is while their mission is serious business, in part because they are a Trump-Pence production, everything about it lends itself to comedy from the logo to the spin off series on Netflix. The truth about the Space Force is slightly less grandiose than the image that Mike Pence likes to put forward.

In many ways, it's a logo in search of a service branch, because its mission to defend us in space is something our Air Force has always done and continues to do. And in the Department of Defense with over 2 million people, it's really more of a boutique clothing label. The "L.A. Times" points out technically it's part of the Air Force, just as the Marine Corps is part of the Navy. Consisting of about 2,100 people as of November 1st, the Space Force commanded a budget of 40 million for its operations and maintenance in the fiscal year 2020.

They further point out there has been no progress on integrating the armies or Navy's space missions. Not to crush any dreams here but to the kids out there growing up with big dreams of becoming a Guardian someday. Let's just wait and see what the Biden administration plans to do with the Space Force. And until then kids, may have live within you.

That's our broadcast for this Friday night and for this week with our thanks for being here with us. On behalf of all the men and women at the networks of NBC News, good night, have a good weekend unless you have other flights.


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