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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 10/15/21

Guests: Howard Dean, Karen Bass, Steven Van Zandt


Steven Van Zandt speaks out. One Republican governor tries to divert COVID money to mass incarceration. Labor strikes erupt nationwide. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis tries to make educators pay for following CDC guidelines. California Congresswoman Karen Bass discusses the political issues of the day and her run for Los Angeles mayor.



Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Have a great weekend. Thank you very much.

WALLACE: You too.

MELBER: Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.


President Biden is ending this week pushing his party to make a deal, take a win on that spending push, while Republicans trying to block the president in an effort that, as I`m about to show you right now -- and this is important -- an effort that goes beyond typical opposition politics.

It turns more on trying to cast Joe Biden as some kind of illegitimate leader, while the GOP agitates for Donald Trump`s return. Take the Republican fund-raising arm, the NRCC, not even trying to hide an extreme fealty to Trump that analysts are now labeling the entire GOP something of a cult because of things like this.

This is brand-new. Take a look, a fund-raising pitch that tells the party`s own Republican donors: "You`re a traitor. You abandoned Trump," and warns that if they don`t do the right thing, they will be branded a deserter, part of a broader push by the 2020 loser to assert his dominance in public and behind the scenes, as "The Washington Post" reports in a new accounting, including a bizarre rally this week where Trump told some Republicans, don`t even vote if the party doesn`t prioritize election integrity.

That`s just a label that Republicans are using to apply to basically any efforts that don`t help Republicans or their own separate efforts to attack voting rights and often anything that allows people to vote who might vote against Republicans.

Now, the context matters. Before November 2016, many elected Republicans were out there claiming that they were standing up to Donald Trump. You watch the news. We lived through this together. You may recall prominent names, from Reince Priebus to Lindsey Graham rebuking Trump`s impulses. Graham famously condemned Trump then as a race-baiting bigot.

After November 2020, other elected Republicans sought distance from Trump, Mitch McConnell leaking that he was open to impeachment and condemning Trump`s insurrection. And House GOP leaders sounded very different in those early January days. It might have seemed like some kind of shift, after the violence was unleashed on the Capitol itself.

But it turns out -- and we`re going to get into this right now -- it was another piece of clumsy positioning. Congressional Republicans have proven about as convincing in their public morality plays, where they first claim they`re against the insurrection and then go around apologizing for it and fanning its flames.

They`re about as convincing in those morality plays as Trump was convincing as the leader of a coup, which is to say, a lot of noise, very little efficacy.

We have more on this, but I want to bring in our experts right now.

Howard Dean, he used to run the Democratic Party. He ran for president. He`s also a doctor and a governor. And Juanita Tolliver, a Democratic strategist.

Not all of us have as many titles as Dr. Governor, Chairman Dean.

But, Juanita, we have time left. We can work on it over the course of our lives and careers.


MELBER: I will go to the governor first on how this fusing of the Republican Party into one leader relates to what Biden is pressing for on governance, which is still to get a lot of spending back out into the economy to help people during the pandemic recession.

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, I mean, what the Republicans -- this is a test for the Republicans, and there`s some actually fascinating data today.

The test is, do they have any integrity or backbone left? And the answer so far has been largely, no, they don`t. And the interesting thing today is, there was -- there has been an exit polling of the early voters in Virginia in Northern Virginia.

And the biggest issue on their minds is not COVID and it`s not the economy. It`s Trump. That is a really bad piece of news for Glenn Youngkin or whatever his name is, Trumpkin or whatever, because people are going to go out there and they`re going to vote on Trump. And people didn`t like Trump in 2000 -- in 2020, and they`re not going to like him any better now.

So it`s going to be a fascinating fall.

MELBER: Yes, I mean, I`m thinking about one of Trump`s fans who is also very controversial Juanita, Kanye, and there was the new Kanye and the old Kanye.

And he, because he has his -- he reacts to the criticism, he says, oh, people want the old Kanye. Well, people don`t want the new Trump or the old Trump, according to a lot of the data. He famously got fewer votes the first time, but we have this Electoral College. He got fewer votes the second time.

To Howard Dean`s point, there`s not a lot of political ballast here in any swing state or anywhere where you need to go towards 49, 50, 51 percent. And that goes to then him out there doing now what he did to Georgia, which was the new Trump post-loss saying, maybe don`t vote.

I want to give you the mic. But, first, we`re going to give it to Jimmy Kimmel talking about Trump playing himself. Take a look.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE": Meanwhile, the angry orange babies throwing another fit over the election he can`t admit he lost.


He wrote: "If we don`t solve the presidential election fraud of 2020, which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented, Republicans will not be voting in `22 or `24. It is the single most important thing."


KIMMEL: I know. I`m confused also, because it`s like, did Nancy Pelosi write this for him.


MELBER: Juanita?


If I`m a Democratic candidate across the country reading that, I`m like, I will take it, I guess. Like, that`s the worst thing that he can do for Republicans is to have the base that, let`s be real, the GOP has triggered themselves to Trump in order to access, right?

That is his only selling point. And every time he taunts the Republicans like this, he`s reminding them, I have you on a vise grip, and I`m going to squeeze whenever I need to make sure that you`re lying the way I want you to lie, to make sure that you`re perpetuating whatever I want you to perpetuate across the country.

And so when he does that, I feel like it fully tracks with the e-mails that we`re seeing from the NRCC, right? If the Republican establishment responds to threats, then why wouldn`t their voters in their donors, right? They have the same behavioral tendencies, apparently. And so that`s what Republicans are banking on.

When, let`s be real, Trump says that he`s saved the GOP, all I can think about is Republicans losing the House in 2018, Republicans losing the presidency, as well as the Senate in 2020, even though they refuse to accept those results. And the reality, all Trump has done for the Republican Party is drag them further into the pits of authoritarianism and white supremacy, which, frankly, has capped the very base that he keeps trying to hold over their head.

MELBER: Yes, I think that`s all very important, Juanita.

And we looked at some of the white supremacy in a special report this week on THE BEAT, and how that is just a further and further part of the American right`s public statements. And people can, of course, look at how that`s been true for perhaps a long time as an animating principle, but we have gone from dog whistles to it all out in the open.

The other word you used, Juanita, very, very wisely that I want to dig into right now with both of you is the authoritarian part, because, Governor, when we go back through world history, Orwell and others, they talk about how the triumph of lies and propaganda over truth is actually a key part, often a groundswell before authoritarianism can fully break through.

And so we put together -- I mentioned this at the top of the show. We put together something special new on THE BEAT, first time airing right now, that really reminds people that what Republicans are now saying in many ways about the insurrection is not only a lie, but it is very much an intentional lie, because they said other things immediately in the days after, which goes to their moral culpability, which goes to people needing to understand the truth, so that propaganda does not become equated with the truth.

So I know that was a big windup, but we put this together. I want to play it for viewers, and get your response to it, considering here Republicans and how they sounded. These are leaders of the party, not randos, right after the insurrection compared to now.


SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R-IA): That sort of insurrection is untenable.

And the president`s comments didn`t help the matter any. It made it worse.

I was born at night, but not last night. So if I didn`t accept the endorsement of a person that`s got 91 percent of the Republican voters in Iowa, I wouldn`t be too smart.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The president bears responsibility for Wednesday`s attack on Congress by mob rioters.

He didn`t see it. What he ended the call was saying, telling me he will put something out to make sure to stop this. And that`s what he did. He put a video out later.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): Whoever was responsible for doing this, they need to be held accountable.

Of course, I have been very clear from the beginning. If you look at a number of states, they didn`t follow their state-passed laws that governed the election for president.


MELBER: Governor Dean?

DEAN: Yes, I mean, this is gaslighting and nonsense.

Here`s the problem these guys have -- although they`re doing everything they can in Georgia and Arizona and places, Texas, to undermine the freedom to vote. But the -- we are -- still have a secret ballot this country.

People don`t like this kind of stuff. They`re being bullied by a bunch of old white guys who are long past their prime who just lie every day. That`s what they do for a living. And yes, sure, there are people who believe FOX News and the OAN and all that stuff. That is by far from the majority of average voters.

What this is doing is motivating Democrats and independent and moderate Republicans to go to the polls to vote against every single Republican. And that is what they`re doing. I think we`re in better shape now than we were a month-and-a-half ago because of the right-wing takeover of the Republican Party.

MELBER: Juanita?

TOLLIVER: I completely agree with Governor Dean in that regard, because look at the instance that we had in Virginia, where they`re saying the Pledge of Allegiance to a flag that was waved during the insurrection, right?


Like, expect Democrats to run that on a loop, because that`s going to turn off those moderate voters or those independent voters who might have been attracted to someone who`s seemed palatable, who wore a nice dress shirt, who didn`t put out the same type of vile frames as Trump, when, in reality, these are the same people he surrounds themselves with.

So Youngkin is absolutely in a worse position than he was before this week, knowing that Democrats are going to continue to beat that drum, tying the parallels, and running the footage back to voters over the next two-and-a- half weeks as they turn out to vote.

DEAN: Let me just add one thing very quickly.

The core key of this race is going to be moderate voters. But it`s also going to be young voters. Young voters intensely dislike Donald Trump. And they care about issues. They don`t particularly love the Democratic Party, because they don`t like institutions, but they despise the Republicans. And they will get out to vote because of all this -- these antics on the right.

MELBER: Juanita, what do you think about that? Because I understand what the governor is saying. I think the analysis of the electorate is right, but I`m not sure about the enthusiasm, because something we have also seen from younger voters is, with the kind of drama and trauma of Trump ending, plus the pandemic and everything else, a lot of people are less oriented towards politics and news right now.

And there`s various measurements for that. And in one sense, that may be because they`re not in an emergency crouch, which is a better civic sign. But, in another, I don`t know that it`s proven yet whether Democrats can turn people out without Trump as the anti-force on the ballot.

TOLLIVER: Well, I think Virginia is going to confirm that either way, Ari, because, look, again, thinking about the footage and what Trump has put out there literally endorsing Youngkin again at a rally where this flag was at the insurrection, right, like, doing that is, I think, going to have the impact to build momentum.

And let`s keep it real. Virginia Democrats are the GOTV queens, right? Like, they know how to run up the score, so that the commonwealth tends to swing Democratic and stay blue. And so I think this is the type of ammunition that they will need. I do agree that young people do pay attention to the issues. And, like you said, Ari, they are not in a crouch posture of trauma right now.

But the reality is the struggle that they`re experiencing, recognizing also the conversation that`s happening nationally about investments in jobs in their communities, is something that I think will absolutely be a winning message for Democrats, not only in Virginia, but also come, as we lead up to the midterms, and Democrats in Congress deliver even more.

MELBER: Yes, well, really interesting points all around.

I want to thank Juanita and Howard for kicking us off. Appreciate both of you.

I haven`t done a full setup yet to tell you about what`s coming up in the show. Let me tell you right now.

Florida`s MAGA governor is actually trying to make educators pay literally for following CDC guidelines to keep their kids safe. That`s a story that`s going to matter all school year.

Later, we also have Michael Beschloss, our historian friend, talking about what some are calling Striketober. Very recently, we heard maybe unions are on the decline. Well, now they`re back. We will explain. That`s a new story we haven`t had time to hit all week.

And before the week and the year and the -- well, the hour is over, Stevie Van Zandt. We`re going to get into a little thing called the E Street Band. We`re here live, along with our friend Harry Smith.

That`s later tonight. You`re watching THE BEAT.



MELBER: Florida`s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is not known for handling COVID well, and now he`s doubling down on a fight he picked, imposing millions of dollars in fines against people who are trying to keep children safe and follow CDC guidelines.

His administration executing this new rule that tries to fine businesses or state agencies if -- and this is all -- if they require employees to be vaccinated, maybe thinking, gosh, that`s consistent with a lot of what the CDC has said and also the business guidelines from the Biden administration.

But this is what he`s doing. And it`s $5,000 per violation, which can add up. Florida`s Health Department under his direction now pushing over $3 million in fines to a single county alone because they, under their own local rules, wanted to require employees to be vaccinated. DeSantis also following through on a threat to withhold payment from educators who require children to wear masks in the classroom.

Now, that includes a school board official in Brevard County. You may have heard about this. She made some headlines this week, recounting some of the horrific and possibly criminal -- the authorities are investigating -- possibly criminal threats leveled against both her and her family.


JENNIFER JENKINS, FLORIDA SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER: I don`t reject them standing outside my home. I reject them following me around in a car, following my car around. I reject them saying that they`re coming for me, there I need to beg for mercy.

They`re also going behind my home and brandishing their weapons to my neighbors, that they`re making false DCF claims against me to my daughter, that I have to take a DCF investigator to her playdate to go underneath her clothing and check for burn marks.

That`s what I`m against.


MELBER: Speaking out there at a public meeting in remarks that went viral.

Now, her school board is required to provide her salary, so that the state government can begin withholding her pay as long as the mask mandate is in effect.

Now, we ask the governor`s office, why withhold pay from a public official who is doing what she thinks her job requires, as well as combating these kinds of threats? In response, we are told the governor had a commitment to fight -- quote -- "federal overreach." So that is the defense. That`s one story in one state.

But this is an issue around the nation, even as there`s been good news where mandates are working, COVID generally in decline. But depending on where you go, these clashes continue.

Over in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott signing this executive order banning businesses from requiring their employees to be vaccinated. What happened to business freedom? Apparently, it`s not alive in Texas.

Now, Abbott is trying to, of course, pick a larger fight. He`s not just crushing down on his own constituents and his own small businesses or companies that would want to do whatever they want to do. In other words, if he didn`t have this anti-freedom rule, different companies would presumably decide what to do if they`re small enough. And if they were large enough, over 100, they would probably have to comply with President Biden`s vaccine mandate, which is set to go into effect.


So, in a way, you can interpret this as a Republican governor beating up on his own small businesses in his state to try to pick a larger fight with President Biden.

So, there`s a lot going on all over the place.

We have a very special guest to get into it. I bet you know her, the California Congresswoman Karen Bass -- when we`re back in 60 seconds.


MELBER: We`re back with California Congresswoman Karen Bass from the Judiciary Committee. She`s holding a rally tomorrow because she is running for the mayor of Los Angeles.

Thanks for being here.

REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): Thanks for having me on.

MELBER: Absolutely.

We will get into your run, which is newsworthy.

But the first thing I wanted to ask you about is these vaccine wars that we have seen. And I just went through some of them. What is important, in your view, at this point where there`s some progress, mandates working, COVID seeming to drop, and yet brand-new fights in some of these red states?

BASS: Well, I just think it is such a tragedy.

I mean, to say that children aren`t really affected, when we know how many children have been sick all around the country where they are attacking the mandates, and then to withhold funding.

So I`m hoping that, in some of those instances, the federal government could step in. I know the Biden administration has already stepped in on some of the school districts. But I also wonder whether or not the governor`s children, did he give them the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine? I mean, vaccines are nothing new.

They have made it seem as though this is something that is completely novel. Those vaccines, measles, mumps, rubella, several other ones, are mandated in order to enroll your children in school. There`s nothing different about this one.

MELBER: Yes, I think that makes a lot of sense and the scientific history you mentioned.

We have talked before, actually, many times on THE BEAT, with you and some of your colleagues about the urgent need for police reform. And I want to be clear, because, sometimes, the media narrative can be -- kind of lump things together.

You and your leaders in the House did pass the George Floyd Justice Act.

BASS: Thank you.

MELBER: Speaker Pelosi and you held your word on that.

And I know, as a -- your work, throughout your life, in CBC, you have done a lot of work on this. I want to be clear about that, so viewers understand what I`m asking.

But other Democrats, and, over on the Senate side, said they got to meet with Republicans, it`s going to take time, it`s going to be worth it. It`s the way to do it. And that was Republicans, including senators, some of the interest groups, some of the police unions, and then you have this headline after all this.

You have a breakdown in the talks. "Bipartisan police reform talks crumble" is how Politico put it. Others involved said it`s basically over now. Can you give us your view on what happened? Was it worth spending all that time negotiating with Republicans? And given that this is stalled in the Senate, but a lot of folks, including some Republicans, including a lot of business leaders -- we heard a lot of corporations talk about, well, black lives matter.

They wanted to say that, and they care about that, that summer. Is there more to be done here? And was it worth the time negotiating with Republicans, when the whole thing apparently dead-ended?

BASS: Well, the fact of the matter, as you know, in the Senate, we didn`t have a choice because of the filibuster. So I think that is the bigger question that we have to look at, because we don`t want the Biden agenda to stall just because of the filibuster.

So, we have to look at that. But what I do believe is, is that it would have been best if we had been able to negotiate a deal when there were hundreds of thousands of people on the street and momentum was going our way.

It was very easy to predict that momentum would change. Crime, as you know, fluctuate. It goes up. It goes down. And I think that the Republicans had success during the fall election when they tried to make it seem as though police reforms were actually contributing to an uptick in crime.


But I do have to say, Ari, that all of those protesters were very successful. In many states and many local governments, change did happen.

But I`m not going to give up. I`m going to continue to hope that we can get something passed in the Senate. And I appreciate you acknowledging that the House, we did our job. We did our job twice.


Well, and I say that as a journalist and someone who looks at legal issues. I don`t say that as a, oh, hey, everyone, isn`t Karen Bass great?


MELBER: It`s just happens to be the case. And bless you. I want to make sure that people understand that part, because we have been reporting on that.

And I also appreciate your point. Several states, at the state level have done reforms on training, on police video cameras, some, a few, not most, but some on police immunity, which is so big, as you and others have said.

BASS: Right.

MELBER: Now let`s turn to your bid for mayor.

Why now? Why you?


MELBER: And for those watching in Los Angeles, where you`re running, how would you make their lives better?

BASS: Well, first of all, what -- we have a crisis in Los Angeles. On any given night, there are 40,000 people who are unhoused, 40,000 people who are sleeping in tents and cars, et cetera.

And that has created a real emergency in our city. And it also has created and left people very angry. And, Ari, I am very frightened that that anger could turn very negative. After four years of the Trump administration and watching the way people turned on each other in Congress and around the country, I don`t want to see that happen in Los Angeles.

And I, frankly, believe that the reason why there`s so many people on the streets today is because of bad policies from the 1990s. And I don`t want to see those bad policies created, because there are some people that would just like the whole situation to go away.

And what that means is, is that they will not solve the problem. They will just move people to another side of town, typically, a side of town that is low-income, that can`t afford the lawyers to fight back.

And so the problem needs to be resolved. We need housing. We need the social safety net that was shredded in the `90s. And we need to come up with an emergency response, just like you would do after a hurricane or after an earthquake; 40,000 people sleeping under freeways, sleeping on the streets, that`s an emergency.

MELBER: Congresswoman Bass, thank you for the national and local views tonight.

And we will see what happens at your announcement. Thanks for your time.

BASS: Thank you.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Still ahead: Corporate profits have been spiking for many companies, labor strikes now erupting, some calling it Striketober. And there may be good news here for workers. It`s a rebuke to Reagan era orthodoxies.

And historian Michael Beschloss is going to give us the wider view.

Later, a backlash to Republicans diverting COVID aid to mass incarceration.

But, before we go, we always like to have fun, especially on Fridays.

This might be the best local news hit you will see, a correspondent showing everyone how it`s done while reporting on new lessons at a skate park.


VICTOR WILLIAMS, WDIV REPORTER: And so Mr. Premium is going to be out of here every single Monday and Wednesday skateboarding with everyone and trying his best to basically show them exactly what to do.

As far as Chandler Skatepark, they will be done in about the next 10 days or so.

Victor Williams, Local 4.




MELBER: Labor strikes erupting nationwide, a potentially seismic pandemic era shift.


PROTESTER: Our future is not for sale! Our future is not for sale! Our future is not for sale! Our future is not for sale!


MELBER: This isn`t business as usual, over 100,000 workers going on strike. This includes production crews in Hollywood, employees at hospitals, Kellogg factory workers advocating better wages because corporate sales have now surpassed $3 billion.

Or take an iconic American brand, John Deere. They had profits of $4.7 billion in just the first three-quarters of this pandemic year. Workers say they power that. And many workers who aren`t striking are straight up quitting by the millions. We`re seeing record numbers.

This is a complex story. But there are some themes, particularly because it`s not like every single worker is going to track every piece of data. People respond to their own situation. And yet the data tells a story.

In today`s "New York Times," Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman argues all of this shows Republicans were wrong to ever pin labor shifts on people getting benefits.

"What seems to be happening, instead," he writes, "is that the pandemic led many U.S. workers to rethink their lives and ask whether it was worth staying in the lousy jobs too many of them had, for America is a rich country that treats many of its workers remarkably badly."

He goes on: "Wages are often low. Adjusted for inflation, the typical male worker earned virtually no more in 2019 than his counterpart did 40 years earlier. Hours are long. America`s basically a no-vacation nation, offering far less time off than other advanced countries."

Now, in normal times, capitalism may require that a lot of American workers just have to take it. But, right now, these market shifts are helping some of them take back power, even challenging Reagan era orthodoxies that have lasted for a long time, claiming labor and unions are just not vital to the broader middle class.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, the unions didn`t build the middle class.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Liberal-leaning big labor unions hard competition in the work force and negatively impact our economy.

STUART VARNEY, FOX BUSINESS: Amazon workers plan a -- oh, this is outrageous. Amazon -- some Amazon workers plan a Prime Day strike.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I will curb the practice we have in this country of giving union bosses an unfair advantage in contracting.


MELBER: I`m joined now by presidential historian Michael Beschloss, host of "Fireside History" on Peacock`s The Choice.

Nice to see you this Friday.


MELBER: History moves on many different axes. We heard a lot about the decline of unions. And there was statistical evidence of that. Here, pandemic-related, something else seems to be afoot. What do you see?


BESCHLOSS: Well, working people -- and I define that broadly -- are renegotiating their relationship with corporations and management and ownership and the very powerful financial sector in this country.

And I would begin by saying American organized labor did build the American middle class. There`s no question of that. In the last 40 years, since the Reagan cut tax cut of 1981, power has flowed away from organized labor. You have had the financial sector growing, a much more aggressive negotiation of contracts between companies and labor unions and people in various sectors.

And the result has been that, as productivity went up, labor`s power was less and less. Until the 1990s labor had an ally in the Democratic Party. That egged in the 1990s, as Democrats began to go after a political money on Wall Street. Now it`s swinging back, which is the way it`s supposed to.

You look through history, Ari, in times of big economic change, one of the ways that working people get their rights and resources and money is strikes, especially at the end of wars, for instance.1919, there was a big steel strike for that. 1946, at the end of World War II, there was a big coal strike for not only better wages, but working conditions.

And then, of course, as you`re referring to, 1981, the strike by the air traffic controllers union, which led Ronald Reagan to fire 12,000 air traffic controllers, decertify the union. That was, in a way, the beginning of the war on organized labor in this country.

MELBER: Yes, and that was both theatrical, in a way, because Reagan made it big and leaned into it in a way that the right wanted, but also had longer-term consequences.

BESCHLOSS: That`s right.

MELBER: You mentioned that.

We were thinking about that today. Let`s take a quick look at the contrast between Reagan and the current president.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I must tell those who fail to report for duty this morning they are in violation of the law. And if they do not report for work within 48 hours, they have forfeited their jobs and will be terminated.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I intend to be the most pro union president, leading the most pro-union administration in American history.


MELBER: That`s the union side. And the pandemic side that we`re discussing is sort of not what anyone was thinking about as a first, second or third order of business.


MELBER: There are the stock pickers and types who say, oh, maybe you invest more in Amazon and Zoom or whatever. But you look at the hardship. Then you look at the rebound. Then you look at the politics.

But here we are, again, with the strikes this week as a fourth- or fifth- order concern. After all the hardship, at the aggregate level, one could make the argument that, for reasons unrelated directly to unions, it`s shifting in workers` favor.

Does that, in your view, as a matter of history fade when the pandemic fades, or is it more complicated than that?

BESCHLOSS: No, I think it`s not going to fade. And I think it`s a very good thing, because, with the pandemic, all of us have changed, I think, our attitudes about work and how much time you spend with your family, how much time you spend at home, how much you put up with at work if you have a job that you do not like or you hate.

We always hear about disruption. This pandemic lockdown has been one of the biggest disruptions in American history. And a lot of people -- I`m sure you would say that about the people you know, just as I would -- have very different ideas about those things from the ones they did just two years ago.


Well, that brings me to the other big question. And we always try to be precise and not overgeneralize about an entire country.


MELBER: But, boy, if you get out over to Italy or France, boy, you get the impression there`s more natural kind of cultural comfort with a long lunch and an early break and a lot of vacation.

Who hasn`t, if you`re lucky enough to get out there, been able to see some of that right and go, gosh, you go back home and think we do it really different, even controlling for so-called other variables?

Do you have any theory about why that is? I mean, your prototypical cartoonish French person might be saying it took a pandemic for you guys to realize that time off is nice?

BESCHLOSS: Well, and we may say that that was one of the things that did that and made a big economic change that you and I, if we were talking two years ago, could not have ever anticipated.

It`s one reason why history is so fascinating, because we sometimes think that there are just these overwhelming forces that are inevitable and then something like a pandemic happens and changes everything.

I think the other thing to look at is this. As you and I have talked about a lot, since 1981, inequality in this country has become horrible. The power of the working person vs. the power of the management the owner, the financial sector, has ebbed and ebbed and ebbed.


It would be wonderful if one result of this is going to be that the pendulum begins to swing the other way.

MELBER: Yes, it`s a great point to wrap it up on, Michael.

And you think about that going back to FDR, who we have discussed, and then the idea of the enmity of the bankers, and then you look at a financial class today. You can look at the version of it in "Succession" or you could look at the real-life version with the billionaires in space who pay, as we noted earlier this week, sometimes as little as 4 percent actual taxes.


MELBER: And you say, and what is the financial class doing? There`s some things they do that are necessary and efficient. And a lot of the rest of it is froth and rent-seeking and domination, because we have seen economies work without such a variegated financial class.

So, a bigger convo, but you have always...


MELBER: Go ahead.

BESCHLOSS: Yes, I`m just agreeing with you.

And the amount of national wealth that`s gone to finance in this country compared to 1981 is immense.


And if any bankers are watching, we welcome everyone watching THE BEAT. You could just send me...

BESCHLOSS: We love bankers.

MELBER: Send me any angry tweets at my Twitter and we will read some of them.

But, Michael, I want to thank you.

We mentioned FDR. And that fits us right into reminding people that your "Fireside History" is on The Choice from MSNBC exclusively on Peacock.

Now, we have a lot left tonight, including the legendary E Street Band member, "Sopranos" actor and also a very politically minded activist. Stevie Van Zandt is here live coming up.

But before we get to that -- that`s maybe a little bit of dessert at the end of the hour -- we`re going to go into which Republican governor is now trying to divert COVID money to mass incarceration.

Stay with us.



MELBER: An important story as we keep our eye on things happening around the country.

New heat on Alabama Republicans trying to divert COVID funds to mass incarceration. Critics accusing the governor of ignoring even her own previous warnings about this pandemic toll.


GOV. KAY IVEY (R-AL): Folks supposed to have common sense. But it`s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks.

It`s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.


MELBER: Republican Governor Ivey there. That was in the summer discussing the toll, the unvaccinated, the need to spend resources, money, whatever it took to try to get out of this thing, COVID surging. Officials reported more deaths and births for the first time in state history.

That`s one way to see just how tough it was in Alabama, but Ivey Now going along with a plan out of the legislature to move $400 million of federal COVID relief money to incarcerate people, which is not COVID relief.

Now DOJ suing Alabama over prison conditions. It also says building more prisons is not a silver bullet, although there are capacity issues. It also cites the factors of the culture, management deficiencies, corruption policies, training, and the fact that they have nonexistent investigations, meaning there`s no accountability when things do go wrong.

Democrats in Congress are now pushing Treasury to step in and say Alabama cannot seize this money and spend it on long-term prison construction.

We will keep you posted on the story.

Now, when we come back, it`s what many of us have been waiting for. From Bruce Springsteen`s consigliere to Tony Soprano`s, the legendary rocker and activist Stevie Van Zandt is here next.



MELBER: It`s Friday on THE BEAT, so you know it`s time to fall back.

And, tonight, we are in the president of royalty, Stevie Van Zandt, the musician, singer, songwriter, actor, of course, and, for many, a member of the legendary E Street Band, literally one of the greatest bands in the world -- we can say that -- performing alongside his longtime friend collaborator Bruce Springsteen, approaching six decades, even if it doesn`t look like it.

Van Zandt also fits into a lot of our news conversations because he has been an activist for a long time. In the `80s, he produced the anti- apartheid protest song "Sun City," featuring artists ranging from Run- D.M.C. to Bono to George Clinton, which also topped the charts. He`s a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.

But if you`re not into music, guess what? You might know him as Silvio Dante, the beloved character from "The Sopranos." He`s telling all now in a brand-new memoir, "Unrequited Infatuations," And as if that wasn`t enough, dayenu, as we say around here, we have another icon from NBC News, the one and only Harry Smith, beautiful background, beautiful flag, veteran newsman from CBS, where he spent over two decades interviewing everyone from President Obama to Borat himself.

We have got the footage there. It`s fun stuff.

I want to thank you both for the conversation. How you guys doing this Friday?





MELBER: Wow, you never know who`s going to say first in a segment like this.

Stevie, welcome, and congrats on the book.

VAN ZANDT: Thank you. Thank you. It`s an honor to be on the same show with Harry. It`s wonderful.

MELBER: People know Harry.

Right, Harry?


SMITH: No, no, listen, this is the thing people don`t know about Steven, is Ronald McDonald House on the Upper East Side, they call, he`s there in the drop of a hat. He`s one of the great volunteers there ever, ever, ever, ever. Never says no.

MELBER: Look at that. We didn`t even have that in the intro, Stevie.

Well, I love bringing you guys together. We`re talking -- "Sopranos" is in the news. Everything`s going on.

But let`s start with anything on your mind on your "Fallback" list.

VAN ZANDT: Start with me?



Yes, I got a lot, but let`s just do Manchin and Sinema need to fall back, because they will not be remembered as moderates, in spite of news anchors incorrectly calling them that every day. They will be remembered as traitors, traitors to their party, traitors to their constituents, traitors to their country.

They are the Benedict Arnold twins. And that`s how they should be referred to, because that`s how history will remember them.


MELBER: Look at that, showing -- that shows you`re really up on every nook and cranny in the Senate.

But I hear that from a lot of people. Particularly, I have heard I have heard the arguments for them, Manchin, saying, hey, he`s in a red state. He`s got to represent his constituents. And I have heard the arguments against. People say, they won`t even tell you what they`re for.

Harry, what`s on your list?

SMITH: I will tell you what, I was just listening to your union segment. And your anti-union folks, maybe it`s time they fall back.

I have spent a lot of time in this space and I know this isn`t on the script, but I`m just going to go with it anyway. Gallup does a poll every year about Americans, whether or not they approve of unions. It reached a high, a decades-new high at 68 percent just this last month. That`s the highest it`s been since 1965.

This thing that`s happening in America is -- it`s underreported by many of us, I think, in the media, but it`s a very, very real thing. And it`s just now what -- we`re really paying attention to it this week.


MELBER: Yes, it`s a great point.

And think about this. We try to get into a lot of different stories here. You know, there`s the big stories everyone`s talking about, but, locally and in many parts of the country, these strikes, as well as the mass migration out of some companies and what -- what some are calling these lousy jobs, speaks to American capitalism today.

Stevie, what else is on your mind or your list?

VAN ZANDT: Oh, my -- it`s mostly the way that news anchors just don`t use the language properly.

I mean, they are constantly referring to the judges that Trump and McConnell have installed as conservative. They`re not conservative, not by my Goldwater father`s definition. They`re religious extremists, which is not the original meaning of conservative. Conservative meant mind your own business, you know?

And that`s not what these judges are doing now. They`re not -- they`re violating separation of church and state.

MELBER: And you think the language, the way that sometimes an old phrase or an old sentence just keeps getting reused, actually kind of launders or normalizes stuff that`s actually changed or gotten really extreme?

VAN ZANDT: Yes. That`s right. That`s right.

I mean, they`re not conservative judges, but they are called that every day. Manchin and Sinema are not moderates, but they call that every day. We shouldn`t ever use the word abortion. It`s women`s equal rights. We should use women`s rights whenever we want to use the word abortion.

I mean, people act like Democrats love abortions. Nobody likes abortions. It`s something that it`s a necessity, and it`s a person`s right to do whatever they want to with their own body. And the truth is, if they really want to discourage abortion, then they should increase sex education, make condoms available everywhere, and encourage oral sex.


MELBER: Harry, you take it.

SMITH: Where you going with that one after that?

OK, I have got another subject, complete subject change, that I think Steven is going to appreciate. And that is, people over the last -- since the pandemic started, there was all this schadenfreude, New York`s going down the toilet, it`s all a mess there.

We`re back here. It`s amazing. I actually have -- in the last couple of weeks have seen men in suits walking down the street. And this past Wednesday night, we went to see the Terence Blanchard opera right across the street at the Metropolitan Opera.

There was not an empty seat. Everybody was vaxxed. Everyone had -- everyone was vaxxed. Everyone had masks on. And we all came floating out of the opera house on a new high, because we`d never seen anything as spectacular as seeing that.

And you know what? That`s in New York City. That`s what happens here.

MELBER: Amen to that. We see a lot -- that Broadway is back. You mentioned that show. A lot of other shows coming back.

And it`s an exciting time to reflect on what makes New York great, America great, wherever you might be.

With the single minute I have left, Stevie, what should people know about this book? I`m holding it up. People feel like they know you, from one way or another, from the performing, from "The Sopranos," but what will they learn about you or life in this book?

VAN ZANDT: Well, there`s some bigger themes than just a music book for music people.

It starts -- the first half of the book is that. Local kid makes good in rock `n` roll. But the second half gets a little bit more interesting. And it starts bigger themes, a search for identity, a search for purpose in life, search for spiritual enlightenment. And I think it`s a little bit more universal.

And I think people will hopefully find it useful and hopefully inspirational, I hope.


Harry, are you going to get it?

SMITH: And you know what?

Well, I`ll tell you what. I was on -- I was on The Boss` Web site today, and I saw that he and Steven were going to do a conversation together. And I thought of things that I would really, really want to listen to is these two together in concert -- in conversation, in concert. I mean, who would want to miss that?

MELBER: I love it.

I mean, one thing we have learned about The Boss is, apart from his family, the people he loves the most in the world are apparently Barack Obama and Stevie Van Zandt.

It`s decent company, sir.


VAN ZANDT: Yes, it`s going to be fun. That`s going to be a fun event coming up soon.

MELBER: All right.

Well, look, this is how we like to end the week. I want to thank Stevie, who`s obviously up on all the news, and Harry, who has been leading us through the news for decades, two icons.


MELBER: The book, "Unrequited Infatuations."

SMITH: Love you, Steven.

Love you, Ari.

MELBER: All right. Have a good weekend. Have a good weekend, gentlemen.

SMITH: Love your show. Fall back.

MELBER: Thank you.


MELBER: There it is. I don`t know if people can hear. Fall back.

And that`s what I`m going to do. My time`s up.