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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 10/26/21

Guests: Elizabeth Warren, Bill Kristol


An FDA panel gives the green light for the Pfizer vaccine for kids aged 5 to 11. Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks out on taxing the rich. The Virginia governor`s race heats up. Republican candidates emboldened by Donald Trump look for new ways to undercut the next election.



Hi, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hi, Nicolle. Thank you very much.

Welcome to THE BEAT, everyone. I am Ari Melber.

And we begin with breaking news, the FDA moving forward, its panel voted unanimously to recommend something that many parents have been eager for when it`s safe. They are giving the green light for kids aged 5 to 11 to have a small dose of the Pfizer vaccine.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This concludes the vote. Out of 18 voting number, 17 voted yes, and we had one abstain. Thank you.


MELBER: That`s Zoom life, which is part of pandemic life, but the headline could not be clearer. A major hurdle is now over, a potential turning point for the coronavirus pandemic and something so important to families and communities in any place where children are growing up.

Now this goes to the full FDA. The panel is a big deal. But then the FDA tends to issue its final ruling, which follows what here has been an overwhelmingly supportive panel decision. The CDC then has final sign-off.

To put it clearly though, if past precedent guides us, we expect this to follow the normal procedure, which leads to full approval. Then you can have shots in arms within weeks. Pfizer says the vaccine was about 91 percent effective at preventing symptomatic illness in kids in this age range.

Now, almost two million children in the age group have been infected with the virus. More than 8,000 had been hospitalized. And while the disease, the virus is known to be less dangerous to the young, nearly 100 also died of COVID-related complication. So it`s the eighth leading cause of death in that age group.

The White House says that they have bought enough pediatric doses to vaccinate 28 million kids, again, a sign that America is way ahead of other places when it comes to the wealth and speed in getting shots in arms once they`re approved.

And that`s not the only good news on COVID tonight, I have always told you, when we have good news, we love to share it on this story. Well, COVID now plummeting 57 percent since the start of September, strikingly, in all regions of the country, 57 percent of America fully vaccinated; 66 percent of Americans have had one dose.

Part of this is what the Biden administration said as they moved towards mandates, that pushing vaccines work. And we`re seeing that. Then you get to the death rate there, and it is down 11 percent in the last two weeks alone. That is good news on top of what has been bad news, because COVID is not over in America.

Over -- about, I should say, 1, 400 people die a day, about 1400 people still dying of COVID and COVID-related deaths.

This is all good news. Then there`s the piece of the pandemic that is basically getting in the way of this. It`s a story we have hit before, and we will hit it again, because it doesn`t matter if the people who tell the news or hear the news get exhausted. This is the news. And this is important.

And it is the misinformation campaign, a partisan campaign to prevent people from getting the facts to then make their own informed health care decisions. You have the harassment of people in the health care sector. It`s a long ways from those early months, where people were being cheered and there was gatherings, sometimes spontaneous, to thank the first responders.

That was back when there was no vaccine and they were obviously putting themselves at extra risk. But now you have doctors and nurses and first responders getting heckled. Now, under the law, people can say what they want, they can believe what they want. And, yes, they can protest about it. That includes a right to be wrong, as we have emphasized in our coverage.

It includes even a right in America, a free society, to believe things that are not true.

I say all that by way of introduction because then there are things that you don`t have the right to do, like to menace or to stalk or to incite violence and create conditions that reasonably and appreciably create the risk or the likelihood that other people will be hurt, attacked, or even the subject of potential hate crimes based on their own beliefs, scientific or otherwise.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is rape. They`re trying to rape our children with this poison.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s going to be traumatized because you put that mask on him and you don`t let him breathe through it. You`re traumatizing him.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s my choice. That`s my choice. You better respect my choice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no. You`re propagandized. You`re not being told the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Masking children is child abuse.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You mask your child, you`re a child abuser.


MELBER: Child abuse is both a misnomer. It`s a false statement. But it also comes from somewhere.

One of the most prominent people to put forward the idea that following CDC guidelines or masking kids in schools was -- quote -- "something to call to protective services" about was -- child protective services -- was a FOX anchor, Tucker Carlson.


Between FOX and Facebook, there`s a lot of misinformation that is getting a lot more attention than it would have been several decades ago. And that`s fueling vaccine hesitance, according to experts.

Meanwhile, of course, people who run these companies, Facebook, of course, doesn`t necessarily agree with everything is posted, but they have, according to the Biden administration, not been helpful in taking it down. And companies like FOX and Facebook have their own corporate safety protocols.

They follow rules that they let others undermine through their airwaves and online. Some of those safety protocols, by the way, go farther than even this government mandate. And a former FOX anchor on this subject is calling the network out.


ERIC BOLLING, FORMER FOX NEWS ANCHOR: FOX hosts rage against vaccine mandates, yet they work for a company that demands their employees get vaccinated or get tested.

Their broadcast is all about that. While their evening shows are anti- mandates, you turn on the daytime shows and see Neil Cavuto saying the exact opposite.


MELBER: That is just a quick look at what some called the FOX hypocrisy, also mentioning an anchor that got COVID and imploring viewers to get vaccinated.

It`s a clip that`s not getting much airtime, though, on that network, just like the fact-checks on Facebook seem to be buried under many of the fact- free disinformation campaigns.

So, again, it`s a portrait of good news tonight and things that are working, like both vaccines themselves, vaccine mandates and, according to the FDA, a likely vaccine for kids on the way, stacked up against forces that are trying to stop people from getting the facts about what is undeniably, from a scientific perspective, good news.

Let`s dig into it.

I`m joined by Dr. Natalie Azar from NYU Langone, also an MSNBC medical analyst for us, and Bill Kristol, editor at large with The Bulwark.

I started with the medical science, Doctor, and we will come to you on that. But our lead ended on the politics and the insanity on the far right.

And, Doctor, you`re too good for that.

For that, we go to my friend Bill Kristol. Bill and I, we do the politics.

Bill, I say it lightly, but, of course, the undertone is still serious consequences. What do you see here in what is a misinformation campaign to continue to try to stop something that the charts we just showed reveal is working, which is vaccines?


And Natalie does the sanity, and we do the -- I do the insanity.


KRISTOL: You do both, Ari?


MELBER: I do both. OK.

KRISTOL: So, look, I mean, I think I have two thoughts on the politics.

I think we have turned the corner pretty clearly, for now, at least, absent a third -- another variant, God forbid, but -- and the Biden administration needs, in my view, politically to take credit for this.

There are going to be a lot of public health people saying don`t declare victory a month or two from now. Obviously, the pandemic will become endemic. People will still get COVID. Nothing -- we still need to push to make sure everyone`s vaccinated and get boosters and so forth and behaves properly and appropriately.

But I do think it`s important, politically, for the Biden administration to say, we took over a very bad situation, and we -- they did do a pretty good job. I would have been more aggressive myself on the mandates. I think they didn`t do a very good job on the testing, on getting the instant rapid tests approved that are used in Europe, but they did a good job, and they should take credit for it.

And then they need to say what is true, in my opinion, that the other party, the Republican Party, with very few exceptions, and the opposition media has been utterly irresponsible. And they just need to say, we helped solve this pandemic. And we got no help from one of our two major parties and quite a lot of resistance and quite a lot of damage done by a party that is an anti-vaccination in large degree or at least a tolerant of anti- vaccination party.

And so I think the politics of this could play out well, but I think the administration, honestly, and Democrats have to be aggressive on this. And there will be a temptation to be gentlemanly, and not -- don`t push things too hard, and let`s get beyond it.

But I think, from a political point of view, it`s one of the most important things facing the nation, has been for the last year or two years. And there`s been a clear divergence between the two parties on it.

MELBER: Yes, that makes sense.

Doctor, I turn your attention back to an FDA panel approving this vaccine for children under 11. What does it mean? What should we expect? What do parents need to know if they are trying to learn and make decisions?


Well, it is certainly wonderful news for the millions of children who would be eligible for the vaccine because they have underlying medical conditions. In fact, 68 percent of the kids hospitalized with COVID-19 do have underlying medical conditions that place them at greater risk for complication.

The flip side of that is that a significant portion don`t have risk factors. So, even healthy children, of course, will be eligible. And parents -- the most important thing here, Ari, is that parents feel that they are making an informed decision for their children.

What was so interesting always to listen to the advisory committee have their deliberation is that although it was almost unanimous that they endorsed the authorization for the EUA, what was not necessarily implicit there is that they recommend blanket vaccination for every child in this age group.


One of the members who I`m sure we have had on our air, Dr. Paul Offit, who I just -- I love when he speaks, because I think everything he says really resonates so well, is that sometimes you have to make decisions when you don`t know everything, but you know enough.

And the concern here or the only sort of little asterisk I would put on this approval, or I should say authorization -- it`s not an approval or recommendation for authorization...


AZAR: ... is that, in terms of side effect profile, it obviously appears to be very, very well-tolerated.

But, remember, the trial group participants numbered in the thousands. And, sometimes, we don`t see these rarer side effects, like myocarditis, which was really the topic of today, was, really, are we concerned about this in this age group? We don`t start to see that until the vaccine rollout really happens and millions of kids are inoculated.

The great thing that the administration has done is really tried to prepare pediatricians offices and schools, as well as pharmacies and hospital systems, to be the ones to deploy the vaccination. We`re not going to see this at the Javits Center, for example.

Parents really need to have a conversation with their health care providers, so that they feel that their decision is informed and that they really understand that the FDA has come to the conclusion that the safety and efficacy profile and the benefit does outweigh any potential risk, although that risk is not precisely known at this time.

MELBER: That makes a lot of sense. I appreciate you walking us through it. It`s brand-new, and the risk profile and decisions are different, according to age. That much, we have learned.

And, Doctor, if you don`t mind me complimenting your analysis, it was also way better than a Facebook post written by a random person and/or foreign computer.

So, Bill, I still go to the experts over the other stuff, although, Bill, I hear from people all the time, yes, you said that on the news, but I read on Facebook whatever.

So that`s the spirit of my joke. I`m making fun of that.

Bill, I did want to get a headline. You talked about the politics in Florida, where you have one of the most MAGA anti-vaccine governors, and he`s now just getting drilled by his own papers. I mean, this is his own state, some of his own constituents, "Miami Herald" saying, Governor DeSantis there has really descended into what they call -- quote -- "anti- vax Crazyville."

"Just when you think he`s done enough to undermine our chances of exiting this pandemic," which they mentioned, tragically, has taken 60,000 lives in Florida -- some experts say it could have been less, could still be less than it might be on the trajectory of his policies. And they`re hitting him for this effort to recruit anti-vax police to his state, Bill.


No, DeSantis, who I knew a little many years ago in a very different political world, is not an unintelligent person. And he`s being a total demagogue. He himself, of course, got vaccinated. And when asked, he says, well, I urge people -- well, maybe he doesn`t quite urge, but he recommends to people that they follow the advice of physicians, which would normally mean to get vaccinated.

But he`s played footsie, to say the least, with anti-vax people, including not just good-faith kind of misled, the people who have really been demagogues on this, and stood by when people have had press conferences and spread lies, really incredible falsehoods about the vaccine, so fearmongering.

So that`s been very bad. And, again, I hope he`s held accountable. I hope the political -- the other party, the media can hold him accountable, the examples you suggested in the newspapers, but ultimately the other party. This is why we have a party -- two parties, right?

The other -- one party has to hold the other party accountable for things it`s done wrong. And I do hope we don`t memory hole all of this, because I think there`s real lessons to be learned about the -- whatever the slight - - some deficiencies maybe of the Biden administration or whatever and some deficiencies of...


KRISTOL: Scientists have made mistake. Doctors have made mistakes.

I mean, if you weigh the balance between the behavior of the two parties, in my opinion, on this very important issue, it is not a close call.

MELBER: Yes. Shout-out to learning lessons.

Doctor, I have got about a minute left.

When we hear that this could turn from a pandemic to an endemic, what does that mean?

AZAR: It basically means that, if you haven`t already, you`re very likely to come to encounter COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2, so you better want to have your armor in the form of a vaccination, than getting infected.

It -- in basic epidemiological terms, it becomes like influenza. It`s here to stay. Hopefully, no new variants that are more virulent, et cetera, et cetera, don`t emerge. But it`s something that we do need to learn to live with. So we will be getting vaccinations at various different time points that have yet to be determined.

MELBER: Understood. Clear. And thank you to Dr. Azar and to Bill Kristol. Appreciate both you kicking us off.

If you have been watching this broadcast, you may have seen something exciting in the corner of your screen. At least we think so. Senator Elizabeth Warren will be live on THE BEAT tonight.


And she`s making some big news that could actually be critical to the next step of the Biden agenda. So, that`s tonight on THE BEAT live.

And, later, Chai Komanduri is here on the Virginia governor`s race and whether Trumpism works at all without Trump. It`s "Chai Day."

And, later, there`s dramatic testimony from a swing state elections official about the threat from far right trolls. It`s our accountability watch. That`s also tonight.

Stay with us.


MELBER: A new sign Democrats may be reaching the final stages of talks on passing a huge chunk of the Biden agenda. There`s a key House vote scheduled for tomorrow.

Now, for a minute now, we have heard lawmakers struggling with how to pay for it. Indeed, there`s the whole debate about what`s in it. A lot of Democrats agree on some of these progressive priorities. And then there`s the question of what they can "afford" -- quote, unquote.

But let`s be clear. If you followed politics at all over the last presidential campaign, you may recall that some of this has already been worked on. There was a pretty popular progressive leader that had a plan for that. Senator Elizabeth Warren has been pushing very specifically a wealth tax for many years.

It is a popular idea, which tries to address a public fact. It`s something we talk about and you know about. Things have changed when you look at the distribution of wealth in America radically. The tax code has not caught up with it.

America`s ultra-ultra-ultra-rich make more than the same type of top category ever did before in American history.

And so the idea is to add a kind of a -- and I`m approximating -- but kind of a 2 cent tax on every dollar over $50 million, which would both address this wealth gap, the fact that the portrait of American wealth is fundamentally different now than it`s ever been, and also fund, according to progressive, some of these very priorities that Biden says he wants.


Indeed, if you recall, it was a key part of Warren`s run for president.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): I have proposed a 2 cent wealth tax. This is 2 cents on assets above $50 million.

It is time for a wealth tax in America.


WARREN: We need a wealth tax in America. It`s time.


WARREN: So, when you make it big, when you make it really big, when you make it top one-tenth of 1 percent big, pitch in 2 cents.


MELBER: There are a lot of indicators that this proved to be a popular idea. Popular is just a question of whether people support it, either in that Democratic electorate or in the country writ large.

Then there were critics -- and a lot of it is from inside the Beltway -- saying it was too far left of an idea. That`s different than whether it`s a good idea or popular, just kind of a general assertion.

And maybe that assertion wasn`t true, because we`re seeing the Senate Finance Committee, which I will tell you, is not a bastion of far left liberalism, looking at the plan in some form that would target essentially probably a few 100 of these very rich Americans, the top 0.0002 percent or so of the country.

And yet they have so much wealth that these 2 cents would add up. The tax could actually raise $500 billion in its first year alone, according to "The Washington Post." That is a wild number.

It tells you both that a lot of things could be fun. It also reminds you of just how much money these super-duper billionaires are sitting on. Billionaires launch themselves into space. Fine. They buy all kinds of fancy yachts. Fine. Some of their yachts have yachts. Fine.

The policy question isn`t about beating up on them or hating their wealth. It`s about whether their wealth has reached a point that it is undertaxed, and government and many economies have not adjusted to the way wealth works today, a wealth gap that`s also getting worse and causes a host of other civic problems.

Elon Musk is, by many counts, the world`s richest person with over $288 billion. That makes him as a human being, as one person, more wealthy than all of ExxonMobil. Should the tax code adjust to this new reality or should it stay mired in the past?

It may sound like a leading question because it is, because we`re going to get into it with someone who has been leading on the issue.

Senator Elizabeth Warren is our special guest when we`re back in 60 seconds.


MELBER: We`re back with Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat from Massachusetts, in the center of this fight over inequality, billionaires and whether corporations pay their fair share.

Thank you for being here.

WARREN: Thank you. I`m glad to be with you.

MELBER: Is a wealth tax fair? And how would it work?

WARREN: A wealth tax is a whole lot fairer than what we have right now.

So look at it this way. The problem in America right now with billionaires is that they don`t pay taxes the way everybody else does. So, we have somebody like Jeff Bezos, who claims that, even though he sits on a bazillion dollars` worth of work, he actually only made $83,000 last year. I`m not kidding.


And so he pays less in federal income taxes than the average Boston public school teacher. That is a system that is rigged. And the American people have had it up to here with that.

So, this is our chance. Here we are. We`re putting together a package to make investments in child care, in home and community-based care, in expanded medical care, and fighting against climate change. And we have a chance to say, Jeff Bezos, you and the other 700 billionaires are actually going to have to kick in some money on this.

I think it`s the right thing to do.

MELBER: And we mentioned briefly the history which everyone lived through.

You clearly have been a leader on this. Many will remember, President Obama tapped you to try to clean up some of the problems in the economy. You are now, of course, your own leader as a senator. But, boy, you caught a lot of heat, including within the Democratic Party, at the time. Let`s take a look.


ANDREW YANG, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A wealth tax makes a lot of sense in principle. The problem is that it`s been tried in Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, and all those countries ended up repealing it.

FMR. REP. BETO O`ROURKE (D-TX): Sometimes, I think that Senator Warren is more focused on being punitive or pitting some part of the country against the other.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): I appreciate Elizabeth`s work. But, again, the difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something that you can actually get done.


MELBER: Is the party moving closer to you now -- to your view, I mean -- and, if so, why?


And I think part of the reason is that what`s happened just in the last year of the pandemic, how billionaires have gotten so much richer, not because they worked harder, not because they made these really smart investments, but because they were sitting on lots and lots of marketable securities and owned a lot of businesses.

And they got richer while everybody else struggled. And I think we realized during this pandemic this is the time. We have got to be in this to help each other out. And that includes the billionaires.

So, all of this is about, the proposal that`s on the table right now -- remember, mine was just 2 cents. Let`s just do 2 cents on everybody`s well, 3 cents if you`re over a billion. It`s a little different right now. And this one focuses on growth.

So, you and I both know that since, gosh, early in the 20th century, America has taxed when your wealth gets bigger. Now, if it gets bigger because you dug a ditch, we said, we`re going to every year make you true up, and you have to pay the taxes for whatever you earned for digging ditches.

But if you got richer by sitting on a big pile of stock certificates, you don`t actually have to true up every year. You can just wait until you decide either to sell it or until you die.

The problem with that is that, over the past three decades, is that billionaires have actually taken that difference and totally distorted what they can do with it. So, now you have somebody like Jeff Bezos, one of the richest people in the world. He buys yachts, and he buys yachts for his yachts. He shoots himself into space. He does everything.

And yet he says, my income is only this tiny little bit, because he`s figured out how not to ever have to sell anything and trigger the taxes that he is accruing.

So, what this provision says is, you know what, you got to true up every year if you earn your wages by working, and you got to true up every year if you grow your wealth by investments. Seems fair to me. And it turns out it will produce literally hundreds of billions of dollars for us to be able to invest in kids, in our climate, in America.

MELBER: Yes, it`s interesting as well, when you put it that way, Senator, because there`s always a debate about the size of taxes. And that`s pretty endless, may never end.

But what your proposal, what you have led on really reminds people is, this isn`t a debate about higher taxes, per se. It`s a debate about people who are really powerful to -- and use their power to dodge taxes. And if you own the company and run the company, or you own the voting share stock, and you say, oh, I don`t want -- I don`t want to get the ditch -- as you put it, the ditch-digging payments, I want to use the other way to duck ever paying taxes, and you can do that when you run the company.

So it`s very interesting and important that way.

While I have you, I wanted to ask you about big tech as well...


MELBER: ... which is something you and I have discussed before. I want to show, just for an example, Facebook, their profits there $9 billion, their tax rate, corporate, 13 percent.


That dovetails, I think, partly with what you`re discussing in the economy. But I also wanted you to give us your updated views on holding them accountable. You were on THE BEAT once talking about a plan to break up big tech. We have covered that the Biden administration`s agencies are actually going a little harder on that than before. Some of the nominees seem a little stronger, at least more skeptical.

But what`s your view of what direction we`re going and what more should Congress and the federal government do, if anything, to hold big tech accountable right now?

WARREN: Look, the only way we`re going to hold them accountable is to break them up.

And I understand there are people who say, well, maybe we could regulate them a little better, and we could put more cops on the beat.

And, look, I`m not opposed to that. It`s just not enough to get the job done. We need to break them up. And the way we break them up is, we say -- it`s kind of like with the phone company. You know how you can call me and I can call you even if we don`t use the same telephone carriers? We need to be able to do the same thing with our social media, that I can call you, and you can call me.

And once we make that work and break them apart, now you have got 10 providers for those social media services, 50 providers for those social media services, and they`re competing for our business.

And that means I can pick one who says, you know what, I`m not going to be selling your information to somebody else. And the consequence of that is to make the market work better.

The second consequence is to deprive Facebook of the kind of enormous power that it now has. Think what it means that Facebook is scooping in information from every one of our exchanges, scooping it in, and using it for its own benefit, for advertising, for selling to third parties, shoot, for playing footsie with dictators around the world.

We need to break that up. I go back to Teddy Roosevelt, who said the reason you break up these big monopolies is partly for economic reasons, create competition, but it`s partly because they pose a real political risk to the survival of a democracy.

It is time to break up Facebook.

MELBER: Really interesting, especially coming from you at this juncture.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, thanks for making time for us tonight.

WARREN: You bet. It`s always good to be with you.

MELBER: Great. Appreciate it.

Still coming up on THE BEAT: this Virginia governor`s race, a test of MAGA, with Trump on the sidelines. Chai Komanduri back on THE BEAT next with his insights.

And later: Why are Republicans publicly talking about hiring mercenaries to hold onto power?



MELBER: One week from today, voters head to the polls to cast their ballots for the next governor of Virginia.

President Biden is campaigning there tonight to rally for the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe. It`s a reminder that this is, everyone agrees, the most important election since the big one of 2020. And it looks like a dead heat.

The Trump-backed Republican, Glenn Youngkin, is also very much in the mix here. And Virginia can go either way. It`s a test case in the Biden era for a lot of things, and a big test for MAGA Republicans and those trying to dance with Trumpism while potentially claiming to go their own way.

Youngkin has a private equity banker background, but he wants to project this image of a kind of more mainstream Republican. He has been hailed as in style, genial, a suburban dad who often opens meetings with prayer. And, according the AP`s coverage, which, of course, the campaign is happy with at this juncture, he is nothing like former President Donald Trump. At least, that`s what we`re told.

But that may be more about his hard candy shell than his caramel nougat center, if you will take a candy analogy, because, when you dig in, or when the shell melts, Youngkin seems to be flirting with the Trumpiest of tactics.


GLENN YOUNGKIN (R), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: We`re going to invest in our election process, so that Virginians trust it.

We just have to make sure the voter rolls are updated. I grew up in a world where you have an audit every year. In businesses, you have an audit. So let`s just audit the voting machines, publish it so everybody can see it.

We need to make sure that people trust these voting machines.


MELBER: Yes, I mean, and he`s not calling into question, but, boy, there are constant audits, and why don`t we do that?

So, is Youngkin a Trump trying to play Mitt Romney? Is he a wolf dressed in sheep`s clothing? Is he -- to return to the analogy, is he a -- well, like a caramella, that soft MAGA caramel waiting to burst out?

Well, someone that we rely on to really decode politics beyond the surface is Chai Komanduri. And he says Youngkin is proving that you can actually have a successful version of Trumpism without Trump as a political matter.

And it`s not just election fraud where we see this Trumpian echo. Look at an important story that started our broadcast tonight, the COVID vaccine.


YOUNGKIN: And Terry McAuliffe wants companies to fire their employees if they don`t get the vaccine.

I do believe the COVID vaccine is one that everyone should get. But we shouldn`t mandate it.

He wants employers to fire people who have not gotten the vaccine.

I got the vaccine. My family got the vaccine. I do believe it`s a personal decision.


MELBER: You can see him walking a line. If anything, it`s more sophisticated than when Trump tried to have it both ways, because, again, Trump also got the vaccine and so did Youngkin, but Youngkin saying he does oppose the mandate and these rules, but wants to have it both ways.

Now, it`s easy to focus on the attention-seeking types here, the Marjorie Taylor Greenes or the Dan Crenshaws. Many of them, though, are small characters. They certainly aren`t vying to run an entire state. Youngkin is a candidate to keep an eye on, because while he`s avoiding some of that shock value campaign style and talks like what the Associated Press called a moderate, it is not yet clear who he is, whether he would attack American democracy, and what`s on the inside of his candy bar.

Now to our deep-dive political conversation, which is always a special day here on THE BEAT. We call it "Chai Day."


The cartoon, the man, the myth, the legend, political strategist Chai Komanduri has worked on several presidential campaigns, including that of Barack Obama.

Welcome back, sir.


MELBER: I`m great. Good to have you.

So, who is this guy in Virginia? And what does it tell you about what Republicans think will work in places outside of deep MAGA country?

KOMANDURI: Well, normally, I tell people to pay attention to the substance of politicians, and not their style. Don`t get caught up in the style.

Look at what they`re actually saying, what they`re actually proposing. I would argue, for Glenn Youngkin, his style is actually more important than his substance. What he is doing is, he is using Donald Trump`s substance and he`s using Mitt Romney style.

And that combination, should it prove successful in Virginia, will have a huge impact for the GOP. It will be -- it will show that they have a winning formula that can be used in swing states and purple districts, where you can take Trumpism and package it in a Romney exterior in such a way that swing voters could be fooled by it.

And it presents a tremendous challenge, I think, to Democrats, who I don`t think are prepared for what this could mean. But it also presents a tremendous challenge, I think, for our democracy, because, if our democracy dies courtesy of Donald Trump, the executioner, the person who will be most responsible would be somebody like Glenn Youngkin.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, with her talk of space lasers, isn`t really going to convince anybody. Glenn Youngkin has the ability to convince millions of people that Trump`s crazy demands are actually reasonable, that they are things that you can go along with, that there`s nothing to fear here, even though there is a great deal of fear.

MELBER: Very important, especially when you put it like that. And, as mentioned, the AP and others are potentially buying the moderate line, or at least at least referencing it.

I don`t know if the old riddle, what`s the only thing Larry Kudlow will get off television for? You know the answer?


KOMANDURI: I do not know. What does Larry Kudlow get off TV for?

MELBER: To serve in the Trump administration.

He had a long career on television, including our sister network CNBC. I have been on air with him. But he did that for a long time. Then he was in the Trump administration. Now he`s back on TV.

And Larry, in that role -- keep in mind, what you`re about to see is him as a Trump -- as a Trump-affiliated person, among other things -- trying to press Youngkin on this, and you see the tension that really goes back to the point you`re making of, he doesn`t want to commit. He doesn`t -- he wants to walk the line. Take a look.


LARRY KUDLOW, FOX BUSINESS: He calls you Trumpkin. What do you say to that?

YOUNGKIN: Well, McAuliffe knows he can`t beat me. And so he wishes he was running against somebody else.

QUESTION: Do you want Trump to come campaign for you?

YOUNGKIN: So, I have been really clear all along. I`m campaigning down the stretch.

QUESTION: Do you want Trump to come campaign for you?

YOUNGKIN: I`m campaigning down the stretch myself.

QUESTION: It`s yes or no.

YOUNGKIN: This is what is happening.

QUESTION: It`s yes or no.

YOUNGKIN: I have answered your question three times now. I`m campaigning down the stretch.

QUESTION: OK. What do you say to...


MELBER: Did he answer the question?

KOMANDURI: No. And he never will, actually. That`s the whole point of his campaign is to duck and dodge that specific type of question.

I mean, Glenn Youngkin has been very successful playing footsie with these Trump extremists. And he has been able to keep them on board, while also making real inroads in Virginia, in polling terms, with swing voters, with people who voted for Joe Biden, with the idea that he is actually what we would call Republican classic. He`s a lot like Mitt Romney. He`s somebody who`s all about the economy, moving Virginia forward economically, cutting taxes and regulations, that sort of thing.

And Terry McAuliffe has been very aggressive, I think, in pushing the relationship between Trump and Youngkin. But, frankly, that`s felt like sort of shooting bullets at Dracula. It`s not necessarily the way to kill this monster. And it`s certainly not the stake through the heart that Democrats need for -- to be delivered for Youngkin to have to be fully defeated by next week.

MELBER: A rare Dracula reference, because we`re more accustomed to you doing "Star Wars."

We spoke about this in a previous Chai Day. And we now have a wider cut of "Star Wars" references for you and BEAT viewers` pleasure here, as we think about what are the best "Star Wars" analogies for politics. We made this for you, Chai. Take a look.



MARK HAMILL, ACTOR: All right, I will give it a try.

FRANK OZ, ACTOR: No, try not. Do or do not. There is no try.

CARRIE FISHER, ACTRESS: I would just as soon kiss a Wookiee.

HARRISON FORD, ACTOR: I can arrange that.


JAMES EARL JONES, ACTOR: I find your lack of faith disturbing.

HAMILL: I don`t believe it.

OZ: That is why you fail.


NATALIE PORTMAN, ACTRESS: So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause.


MELBER: Which moment speaks to you most in our current political moment?

KOMANDURI: Well, actually, none of those, I would say.

To put my Dracula analogy to "Star Wars," to use a "Star Wars" metaphor, it`s sort of like a phaser blast bouncing off of Darth Vader`s armor. If you have seen the movie "Rogue One," for example, very memorably, Darth Vader can just basically deflect any phaser blast his way with the skill of his lightsaber, also the ability of his armor.

For Glenn Youngkin, his vanilla style is like Darth Vader`s armor. It`s a cloak that basically shields perhaps a very ugly face underneath it.


That`s good. I mean, that`s really good. Who is his son, really, then? If Darth Vader, we know famous -- I don`t do any spoilers, but Darth Vader does have a son.

KOMANDURI: He does. It`s a good person, Luke Skywalker.

But I don`t cast any aspersions on Glenn Youngkin`s family. I`m sure he has a wonderful family. I`m sure his children are wonderful.

MELBER: No, I meant it more politically, not his actual family.


I guess like who would Glenn Youngkin`s son be? I don`t keep my eyes, I think, in 2022 on some of these candidates running in the Senate, people like, in Ohio, some like Josh Mandel, who`s running a very similar -- it`s like sort of Rob Portman is running, although he`s getting into very Trumpy sort of areas, et cetera.

I would sort of keep my eyes sort of on that...


MELBER: Using a playbook.


KOMANDURI: For example...


MELBER: We will keep trying to stump you on the politics and the movies.

But you rarely disappoint. Chai Komanduri, on Virginia and much more, thank you.

I want to tell everyone why you should stick around. It`s a simple answer, President Obama and Bruce Springsteen. That`s coming up, and a report on Republicans trying to steal the levers of power for the next election.

That`s coming up.



MELBER: More Republican candidates emboldened by Trump are looking for new ways to undercut the next election, the midterms.

The top Republican candidate for governor in Wisconsin saying that state Republicans should hire mercenaries and engage in ballot harvesting to help her win the race, according to local reporting. She says that Republicans should do that because, well, she says Democrats do it anyway.

She`s also calling for an audit of 2020.


REBECCA KLEEFISCH (R), WISCONSIN GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I have a deep concern about disenfranchised voters who are telling me that they`re worried about even bothering going in and casting a ballot because they don`t believe that we have had a full investigation of what went down in November of 2020.

So we do need to do a full audit in order to reassure people that they should continue to go and vote.


MELBER: Sow doubt in order to reassure people. It doesn`t make sense because it`s not supposed to.

A lot of this is reliving Trump`s loss as a means not only to appease him, but to normalize cheating in our politics, which is why we take it seriously.

Trump likes this stuff. He endorsed an Arizona candidate, Kari Lake, and then she said this afterward on Newsmax.


KARI LAKE (R), ARIZONA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Well, considering how much already at the time information we had about serious irregularities and problems with the election, I would not have certified it right then.


MELBER: She would have opposed certifying what her own voters and constituents did.

These races matter because, as we have been reporting, the next attempt to undercut or outright steal the election might focus on local officials, people that you might not have heard of.

Trump, of course, tried to send out his lawyers to fight the results. But it was all after the fact for the most part. It was, according to many, an ineffectual clown show. But the clowns may be getting a little more focused, trying to install candidates who are open to overturning results and doing it ahead of time, not embarrassing press conferences after the fact.

Today, Arizona`s secretary of state testifying about pressure and harassment she says she`s facing from far right trolls.


KATIE HOBBS (D), ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: I never expected that holding this office would result in far right trolls threatening my children, threatening my husband`s employment at a children`s hospital or calling my office saying I deserve to die.

But what concerns me more is the near constant harassment faced by the public servants who administer our elections. I fear that many more will reach a breaking point and decide that this line of public service is no longer worth it.


MELBER: Americans will have to stay on this issue if we want to keep our democracy.

Coming up, as promised, Obama, Springsteen and a revelation about how they became friends.



MELBER: Barack Obama`s been keeping busy.

Last weekend, he was campaigning for Democrats in New Jersey and Virginia, which votes a week from tonight. And he`s also spending some more time with a friend he developed, The Boss, Bruce Springsteen.

Indeed, Springsteen revealing that the former president had the idea for what they have been doing together that a lot of people say has been quite enjoyable and a change of pace from politics, their joint podcast and book, "Renegades."


BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, MUSICIAN: He called me, which, of course, he had the wrong number, because I said, how do you want to be referred to? And I would assume, Mr. President.


SPRINGSTEEN: But he said, "Call me Barack."

Then he asked how I wanted to be referred to.


SPRINGSTEEN: And I said, "Mr. Boss, please."



MELBER: Mr. Boss. You heard it there.

Now, Bruce has been political in his own way. And he`s been a big Obama supporter. But their friendship here is turning into something more recurring, obviously, more public and professional as well, as they align on their values.


SPRINGSTEEN: I think we`re going to be in a lot of trouble if you can`t find a way to engage a lot of people who feel disaffected.


You end up having on the one hand change happening very rapidly, too rapidly for a big portion of the population. For another portion of the population, it`s like, how long are we going to keep having to defer this dream?


MELBER: You could see they just -- they get along. It`s a mind meld. And who knew they would hit it off? Well, we have the answer.


OBAMA: The first time even the four us got together....


OBAMA: ... we come out afterwards, and Michelle says: "You need to spend more time with Bruce."

I said: "Well, why is that?"

She says: "He understands all his failings and flaws as a man. And you don`t seem to understand as well just exactly how messed up you are. So, you need to..."


QUESTION: How did you respond to that?

OBAMA: I said: "You`re right."


MELBER: "You`re right." That`s almost always the right answer.

And artists may be in touch with their flaws. That`s something we could all learn from them. So, shout-out to The Boss and the other boss, Michelle Obama.

That does it for us.

"THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" starts right now.