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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 12/15/21

Guests: Eric Schmidt, Emily Bazelon


The January 6 Committee releases news text messages. Obama`s former top tech adviser, Eric Schmidt, weighs in on the problem with Mark Zuckerberg`s social media companies. James Carville discusses the Biden administration`s accomplishments.




Hi, Ari.

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

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

And we begin with Donald Trump and Republican allies in Congress exposed. This House investigation has explosive, intense and important new evidence as some discuss the mounting case for a crime by the former president.

The January 6 Committee has released these text messages. And they really show something that many people may have thought, but there`s a difference between thinking or drawing inferences and actually having the evidence.

It is the swirl of communications around former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. And it is engulfing more and more top Republicans. Tonight, new confirmation that Congressman Jim Jordan was one of them, his office confirming the message that you`re about to see was authentic -- quote -- "Vice President Pence, as president of the Senate, should call out all the electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all."

That`s the kind of thing they were texting about at a time when people were trying to stage a coup.

Now, Jordan basically says -- and this may sound familiar -- it`s not something he was endorsing. He was just forwarding it. Consider this the retweet defense in this era of coup by text, by PowerPoint, by communications online.

It`s going down in the D.M.s, if you will, but what`s going down may have been a crime. It`s a bombshell that further ties Mark Meadows into the problems he has as he was just hit with the contempt vote. And that means the Justice Department now will have to decide whether to indict Mr. Meadows as they did Mr. Bannon.

Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are the only Republicans who went along with the majority in the House, the majority being comprised of Democrats, to hold Meadows in contempt for defying the committee.

Meanwhile, Meadows` phone also shows more Republicans urging on aspects of what would have been sealing the election or potentially a forcible coup, Meadows and a member of Congress talking a day after the election.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): On November 4, a member of this body wrote to Meadows: "Here`s an aggressive strategy. One day after the election, why can`t the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and other Republican-controlled statehouses declare this as B.S., where conflicts in election not called that night, and just send their -- just send their own electors to vote and have it go to the SCOTUS?"


MELBER: That`s Congressman Raskin walking through some of the messages.

You can see they put the text up there. And this is often the case in government. This is why C-SPAN only takes you so far. That was just kind of the dry reading of the evidence. And we understand why people in government try to keep it very measured.

Let me tell you what that was, though. That was the seeds of the coup. They failed, but the coup efforts were coming from inside the government, not just the executive branch, where Trump tried and the military and others protested, but also from the Congress, this other co-equal branch.

And we`re seeing the outlines which, remember, in November, were not clear. These Republicans who were talking this way, they knew how bad it was.

They weren`t, most of them, publicly admitting then what their texts show, that they were in on parts of this, that they were looking for ways to overthrow the election, to say that, yes, obviously Biden won enough states, so he was going to be president, but they would put in fraudulent electors and try to create enough smoke or fire to see whether that could get them a Hail Mary before the Supreme Court, or some other method, which we know, for some, included violence.

Then, as time went on, it got worse, another member of Congress texting Meadows this was just days, three days, before the insurrection.


REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): In one text message to a lawmaker, Mr. Meadows wrote, "He" -- he presumably being President Trump -- quote -- "He thinks the legislatures have the power, but the V.P. has power too" -- end quote.

The power to do what? The power to reject the will of the voters. And days later, a violent mob tried to get Vice President Pence to do just that.


MELBER: Sometimes, my job is to explain news facts or the law. Let me just be very clear, because these are new texts. This matters. It`s about accountability.

What you just heard is one of the dumbest, most embarrassing legal theories about a democracy anyone could ever come up with, because -- again, I`m not going to treat it any more respectfully than it deserves -- -- duh. If you could cancel elections by the incumbent just saying, no, I win, you wouldn`t have to democracy.


So, shrouded in these texts and this talk and this idea of who has the legal power is something much dumber and much more authoritarian, whether the executive branch -- I don`t care if it`s through the president or the vice president nominally overseeing the Senate and procedure. It`s just whether the executive cancels elections and says, no, we win anyway.

And then it`s not an election, and then you have lost your democracy.

Meanwhile, another text message shows communications with then-President Trump while trying to get an illegal outcome in Georgia to make up votes and reverse the Biden victory there. A government official told Meadows: "Need to end this call. I don`t think it will be productive for much longer."

Again, those are fellow Republicans talking to each other. That`s their way of hitting the panic button, not productive, or, in this case, evidence that now is sitting before a criminal grand jury that`s also looking at Donald Trump in that state.

Then you have the FOX News hosts, who were actually more truthful in private than they are in public to their own viewers, which may speak to the respect they have for themselves, their jobs and their viewers.

Now, after silence, two the anchors busted by their own texts and evidence trying to push out some sort of response.


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: What`s really going on with Liz Cheney and the media, the diminutive media?

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: How about -- I want her text messages.

Liz, release yours. Let us look at your text messages.

INGRAHAM: I actually don`t -- I actually care to read any of their text messages, because they`re all so aggressively boring.

Both publicly and privately, I said what I believe, that the breach of the Capitol on January 6 was a terrible thing.

HANNITY: I said to Mark Meadows the exact same thing I was saying live on the radio at that time and on TV.


MELBER: That is misleading, at best. We have shown and people are familiar with how much both of those individuals have said the opposite in public of what they said in private.

As for Ms. Ingraham`s attempt at, I guess, some sort of sick high school burn, oh, her critics in government have boring texts, most people would prefer boring to coup support in public, while privately saying, this is terrible, let`s stop the violent insurrection and coup.

So, right now, you`re seeing the outlines of why so many people involved in this were actually afraid of this committee. Why, yes, there`s always an urge in life and certainly in politics and the media to move on to the next thing. You`re over it. You`re tired of it.

This probe is gathering new information. Whether it leads to accountability is a question for Congress and the public. But people know a lot more about who was doing bad things, things they now are on defense about, during the time when people were trying to end American democracy.

Let`s bring in our experts, NYU Law Professor Melissa Murray and "The New York Times Magazine"`s Emily Bazelon.

Emily, your thoughts on all the above?

EMILY BAZELON, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I mean, I think we -- it`s really important, as you keep emphasizing, that this is new evidence, new pieces of information that certainly would have played a role in the second attempt to impeach former President Trump, if these facts had been known at the time.

The most important part to me is the part that implicates Meadows, Trump`s close adviser at the time, and then, obviously, members of Congress, because you see this, in the moment, urgent concerned response to January 6, but also previously this set of assumptions that it`s possible to overturn an election by simply declaring the electors from a particular state somehow -- some disorder, some made-up idea that that`s not the legitimate election.

And then Vice President, former Vice President Pence can come in and just declare different results. The degree to which that notion was being talked about, bandied about, proposed by people serving in Congress, that seems to me to be quite striking and even shocking.

MELBER: Professor?

MELISSA MURRAY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I`m going to follow up on something that Emily said.

I mean, I think it seems like the earlier attacks show a coup in progress, a lot of support for this discredited John Eastman theory of discrediting and getting over on the voters by decertifying the election, but then it seems like they have this change of heart.

It`s almost like that show "Family Matters" from the `90s, when Jaleel White steps in as Urkel and says, "Did I do that?" Like, it went too far, and they`re actually alarmed by what has happened.

But, to me, what is the most shocking and surprising aspect of this is how they thought every branch of the federal government was in the bag for them, not just the executive, not just Congress, but also the Supreme Court.

That text that Jamie Raskin read talked about like we just have to get this out of Congress, and before the Supreme Court. And the obvious implication is that this court, newly constituted, with three Trump-appointed justices, will do the right thing for us.


MELBER: Well, Emily, honestly, the professor beat you to the Urkel reference tonight.

BAZELON: Yes, I know, what am I going to do about that. Melissa wins that battle.


BAZELON: I mean, just to continue with this line of thinking, the idea that there is such a partisan conception of who controls the government that it doesn`t matter who actually won, that these initial discredited reports of somehow these elections aren`t valid, even that the number of states that were in play, when you -- I think, at the time, one was thinking, OK, well, six states that Trump would need to somehow post- election flip.

They can`t really be serious about imagining that, in six states, the results are somehow illegitimate. But it sounds like they really were. And that just makes you think that this was just about taking the election for the Republican Party without real -- a real sense of what was at stake for American democracy.

MELBER: And, Professor, how do you teach constitutional law and these issues today when there is one party that has authoritarian support in its leadership on the record in private and now increasingly in public?

MURRAY: Yes, I have said before the best thing the Trump administration did -- and it`s unfortunate that this was the best thing -- was that it provided all of these incredible true-to-life, ripped-from-the headlines hypotheticals that law professors can give to their students.

I mean, we are watching in real time what is essentially a slow-moving constitutional crisis. And we`re seeing it over and over again in various iterations.

And, again, we have to think about how this plays out at every level of government. And we have a midterm election coming up in November of 2022, where control of the House of Representatives will certainly be at stake. And everyone understands that.

And one of the reasons why I think the Republicans are fighting so hard for the House is because they don`t want more of this to come out. And if the control of the House flips, this commission goes away.

MELBER: Yes. And this commission`s already digging up a lot.

I mean, Emily, we talk about the role of the lies and the propaganda, because that`s central to getting the people there. And that`s part of this. And so it`s not that all the crazy conspiracy theories need to add up to a fact-finder accord or the general public. But they do need to motivate some people.

And I think that underestimating that, not taking it seriously and literally, as the debate went during the Trump era, has clearly been proven to be a mistake.

We have also talked about unreliable or questionable messengers. Bill O`Reilly is certainly that. But he did say something that we want to quote about what has become of FOX News, which, again, in the face of a violent terror attack on the government itself of the United States, has been minimizing that at times siding directly with the insurrectionists, which is wild.

I want to show Mr. O`Reilly, who believes that that`s a change now that wouldn`t have happened previously. Take a look.


BILL O`REILLY, FORMER HOST, "THE O`REILLY FACTOR": I will tell you, FOX News is a different place than it was when I was there, all right?

I don`t know -- I don`t follow it that closely anymore. But when I was there, there was a discipline from management, that diminishing the Capitol riot could never have happened.


MELBER: Emily, there was a lot of talk about government rules and norms in the Trump era. But it seems, as a handmaiden to this, when the issue is propaganda and getting what is now, according to some polls, a majority of Republicans to believe the lie that Joe Biden didn`t win, when he did, it seems that these other spheres matter.

And some of the recklessness of the Internet combined by social media companies, which we have more on later tonight, and the complete breakdown of FOX News would seem to be relevant. Historians may look at that, too, as part of our authoritarian problem, or do you disagree, Emily?

BAZELON: No, I think they will consider it.

I mean, it`s always interesting to see when someone like Bill O`Reilly kind of gets off the train, which is what we`re seeing in that clip. You know, 60 percent of Republicans think that the election was stolen, and that certainly has to do with the message they have gotten from Republican leaders like the ones whose text messages we were reading from former President Trump, but also from the coverage on some right-wing media outlets.

There is a kind of loop that has been going on there. What really matters - - and Melissa`s already pointing at this -- is what happens going forward. There is still a small window for Congress to make election law more secure.

And that is especially important, given the moves we have seen some states make in the opposite direction, to give control of the mechanics of the election of who declares a winner to more partisan actors in Republican- dominated states.


And if that is something that Congress doesn`t take on, and then we have a kind of crisis in 2022, or, more likely, 2024, this is going to look like the window of an incredibly important missed opportunity.

MELBER: Yes, really important.

Emily and Melissa, thanks to both of you.

Let me tell everyone what we have coming up, because this is actually a special edition of THE BEAT, an update on how Biden`s spending is working. James Carville here to break down that and why they`re talking about a new timeline for the next round.

And what if the self-described Grim Reaper, well, what if he`s not all he`s cracked up to be? We have a look at that.

And then the fight for voting rights, Vice President Harris making some news, all that and a very special guest on technology and polarization.

Stay with us.


MELBER: Major news.

America is cutting child poverty. The rate has dropped by about 40 percent, many families climbing out of what was a deep hole, 12 million Americans out of poverty altogether. And children have benefited a lot. The numbers show kids who don`t grow up in poverty are doing better in school. They`re more likely to have graduations and go to college and they have better health.


None of this is an accident. Indeed, this is an important policy story as we wrap up the year. And Biden`s spending has been driving it. That included some direct payments to most American households with children through a child tax credit, an increase in government aid prompted by the pandemic, that "The Times" reports pushes the share of Americans in poverty to the lowest level on record.

Now, if that sounds like a good thing -- I mean, a lot of politicians say they want prosperity -- well, it turned out to be partisan. Biden did reach across the aisle, but not a single Republican voted for that. And now we see a clash, because the last checks of that program that I just told you is already doing so much, well, they go out today.

Some call it the child tax credit. Others look at it as an extension of what has been a stimmy era, Biden pushing stimulus spending, Republicans united against it.

And then you have one of the key Senate votes, Joe Manchin, a Democrat in a red state, which has stalled the overall Biden spending plan that`s left.

Now, Republicans, well, they want to lean on this and keep it that way. And they also have a new branding effort, saying that the Democrats` plan is a -- quote -- "toddler takeover," I guess because it has money for kids? Anyway, there is -- you can see there the sign. This is not a joke, "Democrats` toddler takeover."

Yes, this is America.

Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell pushing the branding.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Well, buckle up, parents. The Democrats have written their toddler takeover in ways that would turn families` finances literally upside down and make already expensive child care even costlier.


MELBER: Is this toddler talk scary? Is James Carville shaking in his boots right now?

I will find out in 60 seconds. He`s here live.


MELBER: We are back with James Carville, one of the most celebrated strategies in the Democratic Party. He does many things.

He`s also the co-host of the podcast "Politics War Room with Carville & Hunt."

And I see you with your beautiful tree there. Happy holidays, sir.


Well, thank you. Happy holidays to you, Ari. We like this time of year down here. And you all like it up there. And it`s a lot -- it`s a fun time of year.

MELBER: Hey, I`m not going to get into a Christmas competition with you.


MELBER: But, over at Rockefeller Center, we do have a bigger Christmas tree than you, James.

CARVILLE: Oh, well, yes. A cow pie is bigger than a diamond, but what the heck, OK?


MELBER: This is it, actually. This is a live shot.

Since James has inspired us, folks, this is a live shot with the beautiful ice rink and that Christmas tree. And you make a good counterpunch there.

Let`s get right to McConnell.


MELBER: I mentioned policy first, because policy matters. And, boy, have a lot of children been lifted out of poverty this year. I went through the numbers.

Now, today, McConnell says be careful of this toddler takeover. Your response?

CARVILLE: Well, I mean, I guess McConnell thinks what this country needs is more hungry child. I don`t.

I think this is -- I celebrate the rise of children out of poverty. I celebrate the wonderful year we have had in job creation this year. I celebrate the vaccine distributions, the therapeutics. There are many -- I celebrate the fact that we`re no longer in America`s longest war.

So we have some -- a lot of things to be thankful for over these holidays. And 2021 is an infinitely better year than 2020. And we don`t want to go back to Clorox. We don`t want to go back to tax breaks for stock buybacks. We don`t want to go back to all of the other nonsense that we had to go through.

And I think President Biden has preserved, he`s pushed forward, and we have got some real accomplishments behind us, and I think we have got some coming ahead of us. And we have got to remind people of that, and do it very forcefully and graphically.



And unlike some people in D.C., including some lawyers, you know what you speak that we like, James?

CARVILLE: What`s that?


MELBER: You speak English.


CARVILLE: I try as best I can.


MELBER: So, here`s the question.


MELBER: Here`s the question. In English, what did this Biden federal spending do for people this year?

CARVILLE: Ari, it lifted people out of poverty.

It helped create jobs. It gave people a sense. What it did, it gave hourly workers more power and more say over their lives than they have had at any time in recent memory. We have got to remember that.

We have people that feel confident enough in this economy that, if they have got a bad job or they`re being harassed on the job, they can quit and find another job. That is a major accomplishment. That is something to be celebrated.

That was something that did not happen a year ago, all right? And we should be thankful for these things. Of course we have got to worry about inflation. Of course we have got to worry about other issues around the world.

But when I look back on 2021, we have had some remarkably good things happen. And we need to tell people about it. We don`t need to keep it a secret.

And I think, when you frame this an issue, do you want to go forward in 2022 or do you really want to go back to how you were living in 2020, and I think that`s a choice people have to make.


CARVILLE: Remind people of what life was like a year ago. And it was quite worse than it is now.


CARVILLE: We have -- of course, we have got the Omicron variant.

I`m not sitting here being a Pollyanna. But I`m saying that this administration and this country has racked up some major accomplishments in the past year. And we have got to start taking credit for it and telling people about it, because they can feel it.


CARVILLE: And I guarantee you, these kids that go to bed with a full stomach, as opposed to being hungry, they may not be able to vote for you, but they appreciate it.

And when we`re going to really appreciate it is 10, 12 years from now, when they`re much better adjusted, and much more likely to get an education, much less likely to get into crime and all of the other nonsense that people are getting into these days.

MELBER: Yes. That is true.

CARVILLE: This is a major thing that explodes out from the present day.

MELBER: Well, we -- and we mentioned that because that matters. I don`t mention that as a left, right, them, our thing. That`s just society and what we learn about investment, what`s humanitarian...


MELBER: ... and, as we touched on, the long-term benefits of that.

Before I lose you, I would not have time with James Carville without making sure that people got to hear your take on FOX News tying themselves up in knots over what was -- and I don`t use this word every night on my show, because I try to be as measured as possible -- but over what were now busted lies, because they told on themselves, because the evidence caught them up on the insurrection.

Geraldo, interestingly, pushing on Hannity a little bit, saying, well, but remember even what you said that day, because now everybody knows. Take a look.


GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS: I beg you, Sean, to remember the frame of mind you were in when you wrote that text on January 6, and when Laura did.

Why doesn`t he say something? Why -- and you wanted. You saw...

HANNITY: OK. But the point is, he did.

RIVERA: You saw unfolding before your...

HANNITY: He did.

RIVERA: You saw unfolding before your very eyes an attack on democracy, an attack on the Constitution, an attack on the Capitol of the United States of America.

HANNITY: Let me give it to Dan.

But he did not call for that. And he said peacefully, and then he did do it.



MELBER: James, there you have it, one person who works for FOX putting the other on blast. Hey, everyone read your text.

And then Sean`s response, as you saw, was, let`s go to the other guest.

But what are we to make of this...

CARVILLE: Yes. Let`s give it to Dan.

MELBER: Go ahead.


MELBER: Yes. Let`s give it to Dan.

CARVILLE: It was a massive criminal act.

The people who penetrated that Capitol were criminals. The people that helped them penetrate the Capitol are criminals. You`re a lawyer. You know this. If I drive the getaway car or I case the place out, I`m just as guilty as the trigger man, all right? That`s the way the law operates.

And they are going to find that members of Congress were aiding and abetting this, that Trump was behind it, major people in the administration were behind it. And we have to remember this is a massive criminal attack. It just wasn`t an assault on the temple of democracy or whatever we say.

These were criminals in that building. And these were people on FOX who were aiding and abetting criminality. That`s not a good thing, not in a nation of laws.

And I hope they stay very, very aggressive and expose these criminals and the people that supported them, to the very extent they possibly can. And we`re going to find out a lot, a whole lot.

MELBER: There you have it.


CARVILLE: Strap in, people. Strap in.

MELBER: There you have it.

CARVILLE: Yes, sir.

MELBER: Strap in. James Carville said it. Strap in.

Again, thank you for joining us on more than one topic. And happy holidays, sir.


CARVILLE: Always happy to do it, Ari.

And remember that the getaway car driver, the guy that cased the joint is just as guilty as guilty as the people that went in the bank.


CARVILLE: And should never forget that. And that`s the law.

MELBER: Well, you`re right. I will just -- I will say it`s called felony murder for a reason. It means that, even if you didn`t do the strangling, if you committed the felony in the act, you can be held accountable.

And they were trying to murder democracy, very literally.

So, I appreciate your attention to that and your plainspokenness, as always, sir. Thank you, James.

CARVILLE: Thank you, sir. Yes, sir.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Coming up, we have a very special guest. Who does Obama turn to for tech insights? A man who took Google public. Eric Schmidt makes his debut on THE BEAT.

We`re going to get into politics, Facebook, where he`s been critical, Elon Musk, person of the year, and a lot more. That`s by the end of the hour.

Meanwhile, Ted Cruz, this time, it wasn`t Big Bird. It was just the facts owning him.

And, as mentioned, Vice President Harris making news. We have that too before the hour is up.

You`re watching THE BEAT.


MELBER: Republicans are pushing voter restrictions around the nation as the failed coup looks more like a training exercise, which is the framework for Vice President Harris today on voting rights.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it`s one of the most critical battles before us right now, is what we must do to protect the integrity of the right to vote.


We know we have got a fight on our hands. And what must we do? What is the fight for, not just against? What is it for? Well, two things. We have got to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. And we have got to pass the Freedom to Vote Act, because we need the tools to be able to fight against what these states are trying to do.


MELBER: Meanwhile, Ted Cruz has been pushing a debunked claim about voter fraud, which is false. And when there has been some recent voter fraud, it`s Republicans who`ve actually been caught.

The headline today, three people in Florida arrested for casting more than one ballot. You`re not allowed to do that, all three registered Republicans.

A Nevada Republican also claiming someone voted with his deceased wife`s ballot, but the person he was telling on was himself. Or, in Ohio, also deceased father`s signature on the ballot, but it was a Republican official who pushed that. In Pennsylvania, we saw the same trick. But, overall, although these cases are rare and make some Republicans look silly for vamping all this, actual voter fraud is rare.

The AP finds the rate in battleground states was 0.0018. So, politicians talk about protecting the vote, when often what they`re trying to do is use lies about fraud to justify the crackdowns, as we have shown, linked to an effort to prepare for another coup.

As James Carville would say, and I just learned this tonight, strap in and pay attention.

And when we come back, we have a lot more in the program, including Obama`s former top tech adviser weighing in on the problem with Mark Zuckerberg`s social media companies and "TIME"`s person of the year, Elon Musk. What he said is important about that green innovator and much more.

Eric Schmidt when we come back.




MELBER: Today, I am joined by a technologist entrepreneur and the CEO who took Google public, Eric Schmidt.

Thanks for being here.

ERIC SCHMIDT, FORMER CEO, GOOGLE: Thank you, Ari. I`m so happy to be part of the show.

MELBER: Right now, you`re very focused on artificial intelligence.

You have been called upon by the United States government, the Pentagon, among others, to figure out how to make this a good thing more than a danger.

I want to play for you just some of the people at the top of these fields talking about A.I. Take a listen.


WARREN BUFFETT, CHAIRMAN & CEO, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY: Punch a button at the start of every morning, and all the goods and services that we`re getting now would be turned out by robots.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It promises to create a vastly more productive and efficient economy. The way we think about A.I. is colored by popular culture and by science fiction.

JEFF BEZOS, FOUNDER, AMAZON: The idea that there`s going to be a general A.I. overlord that subjugates us or kills us all, I think is not something to worry about.

ELON MUSK, CEO, TESLA MOTORS: we have to figure out some way to ensure that the advent of digital superintelligence is one which is symbiotic with humanity.


MELBER: What are you most concerned about? And within what you can say, what are you telling the government and the Pentagon to get ahead of or to avoid?

SCHMIDT: From a national security perspective, A.I. will transform it fundamentally.

And there are all sorts of problems. We`re not ready for this revolution. And the revolution is at the scale of the age of reason. That`s how profound A.I. is going to be in our society.

MELBER: One of the larger concerns is that, if you mix this sort of self- perpetuating or self-improving system, its information or its processing, with some sort of vaguely stated creation, that it can then eventually just do things on its own.

How real is that, or how much of that is just from our movies?

SCHMIDT: Well, at the moment, is from movies. Today, the important thing about A.I. is it does not have its own volition. It still requires humans to tell it what to look for.

In other words, it doesn`t have its own independent creative judgment. It can`t say, I want to go study physics, or I want to go do art. It can be told to do physics and told to do art, but it can`t decide it on its own.

Many people think that we will cross that boundary. And at the point when a system can decide what it wants to work on, it`s a whole new ball game.

MELBER: Most of your background is in technology and the sort of initially start-up or early tech space. A lot of your peers are very proud of those results, and tend to be quite dismissive of government or public sector or other older models.

I`m curious your take on that. And, specifically, is there anything positive that you saw working through bureaucracies or with the Defense Department, as compared to the tech and business space? Or do you stay in that group that says, hey, it works a lot faster and better on the private sector side?

SCHMIDT: In my five years working for the Defense Department, I developed an extraordinary respect for what I view as real heroes of our nation.

I also developed an enormous distaste for the system that was erected around them, where they have very little freedom, they have very little opportunity to really drive things. The notion of innovation is sort of counter to the way their system was designed. And they`re stuck in it, because they`re not allowed to run the way we run.

They`re not allowed to run quickly. They`re not allowed to innovate. They`re not allowed to take risks. So if we want to sort of reform the way government works, we have to be willing to take the following risks. We have to be willing to put really competent people in charge and let them run and let them make mistakes.

If you make a mistake in a government, you get fired. If you do nothing, you don`t get fired.

MELBER: I mentioned Barack Obama. You actually interviewed him when he was a candidate before becoming president. Let`s take a quick look.


SCHMIDT: Senator, you`re here at Google. And I like to think of the presidency as a job interview. It`s also hard to get a job at Google.


OBAMA: Right.



OBAMA: Obviously, Google is a symbol of one sector of our economy that`s just been extraordinary, innovative, creative, and lucrative.


OBAMA: But there`s a whole `nother part of America that has been left behind.


MELBER: What did you learn about him? What do you think of his ongoing concern about a digital divide? And how does he stack on tech, compared to the two presidents who came after?

SCHMIDT: Well, I had the privilege of serving as a presidential science adviser under President Obama. So my biases should be very clear.

This -- that president, President Obama, understood the opportunity of essentially agility of technology. He understood what we`re doing at a level that was really extraordinary. And that`s just because he`s such a gifted man.

With especially the digital divide, I keep saying to my colleagues, you`re so good at building systems that do A, B, or C. Why don`t we build systems that actually lift people up? We tend to be the ones who are privileged. We tend to be the ones who got into the best schools or get the best opportunities. What about everyone else?

The president -- that is, President Obama -- cared a great deal about that.

MELBER: Google provides a lot of informational value around the world, including to a lot of people who may not have very much, if they can access it, and has done that in organizing a whole range of information over years.

Social media, which is very profitable and ubiquitous, seems to be a little more of an entertaining distraction. Do you think it provides the same value at this point in tech?

SCHMIDT: It may in the future. I`m not sure it does today.

The issue of social media is roughly the following. Social media have their -- these are businesses, and their job is to maximize shareholder return and revenue. And the best way to maximize revenue is to maximize engagement. And the best way to maximize engagement in social media is with outrage, literally outrage on the left or the right.

These systems naturally push you to the extremes. And they do so for engagement reasons, not because of some moral or social reason. That problem is an unsolved problem. And we need to address it. And we need to figure out a way so that these companies can be profitable companies without driving us insane.


SCHMIDT: And, furthermore, I will tell you that A.I. is going to make this much worse, because if I were sort of an evil founder type, which, hopefully, I`m not, what I would do is build a social network that knew so much about you by getting you to give me that information that I could target the information precisely to your personal biases, political beliefs, and literally duplicitous strategies.

And that would maximize my revenue, but it would terrify the world, because that`s not how human societies work.

MELBER: Yes, it`s fascinating and horrifying, as you lay it out.

I hope people understand what you`re saying and the expertise behind it. And, on Facebook, their vision of a more immersive virtual digital experience, whether that`s their Meta brand or some other type, looks to you as a probable future reality or unlikely?

SCHMIDT: I think it`s highly likely. And it`s usually not in the way that people like me describe it when you start.

But the important point is, will you stop spending your day looking around the room, and instead spend your day looking at a screen in a world where you and your friends are younger, smarter, more beautiful, more handsome, faster, and more -- and consumed?

And will there be drama that will be exciting to you and a narrative that causes you to spend more time there than in your real world? If we create a world that is so seductive that people stop doing the essential things we need for humans to do, which starts with having children and making families and all of that, that`s a pretty big change in our society.

But that technology is coming. We don`t understand -- let me say precisely. We did not understand when we started the social media activities the level of impact that it would have on governments and on people and, in particular, manipulating people against objectives of one person or another, through amplification, crisis, and so forth and so on.

We just didn`t understand it. I don`t want us to make the same mistake with A.I. I want us to have teams that are more than just computer scientists. I want ethicists. I want economists. I want biologists. I want all the people of civil society to work on, what are the right ethics for these systems?

So, one ethic is what we`re really trying to do is to educate the world. Another one is, we`re trying to entertain the world.


At the moment, what we`re doing, what they are doing collectively is, they`re busy confusing the world, because the incentives are not in alignment. The more money they make, the more they drive people crazy. We have got to get that fixed somehow.


Lightning round is something we ask people to do. It`s in a word or a sentence, although you can go longer if you need.

Bill Gates.

SCHMIDT: Brilliant.

MELBER: Steve Jobs.

SCHMIDT: Even more brilliant.

Of all of the people that I have worked with, Steve is the one that is the greatest sort of human achievement and loss of all because of his early death. The fact that he could invent, envision and see the world as such a young age is extraordinary. He`s missed every day.

MELBER: Mark Zuckerberg.

SCHMIDT: I worry with Mark that he learned the lessons from Bill Gates and others about the pursuit of his corporation, and he forgot some of these other principles. We will see.

MELBER: Elon Musk.

SCHMIDT: Maybe more brilliant than all of them combined.

If you look at what Elon did, he did everything right technologically, but he did one other thing, which is that he took enormous risks in a business that required billions of dollars of capital. And remember when Tesla was near bankruptcy, and now it`s an extraordinarily near-trillion-dollar corporation.

Very, very few people in my entire life have been able to combine that amount of risk tolerance, as well as technological brilliance. It`s very rare to have both.

MELBER: And, finally, a couple sentences.

The wildest thing about the super successful, widely believed to be intelligent person, Eric Schmidt, the wildest thing about you that people would be surprised by?

SCHMIDT: I go to Burning Man every year.

MELBER: Failure means?

SCHMIDT: In my world, failure means putting your pants on the next morning and start again.

MELBER: Success means?

SCHMIDT: More success.

People who are successful tend to create success around them. And they do so because of uniquely human aspects such as drive, charisma, and luck.

MELBER: And, finally, reaching the summit means?

SCHMIDT: There`s a point when you`re successful when you realize that you`re at the top. And I don`t mean the tippy-top.

I mean that the people that you`re with are also winners. It is incredibly satisfying when you are successful at the summit to realize that there`s other summits, and hanging out with the other summiteers is the most fun ever.


MELBER: You have been very generous with your time. You`re a busy person.

I think we have learned a lot. Eric Schmidt, thank you for joining me on the "Summit Series."

SCHMIDT: Thank you, Ari. And I look forward to seeing this and seeing you soon. Thanks again.

MELBER: Absolutely. Appreciate it.


MELBER: Our thanks to Eric Schmidt, the CEO who took Google Public.

His new book is "The Age of A.I.: And Our Human Future," Eric Schmidt, Henry Kissinger, Daniel Huttenlocher.

And while you just heard some of his warnings about democracy, his lessons from working for President Obama, this is part of our "Summit Series." So the full interview is also out on YouTube. Search "Schmidt Melber" or go to @THEBEATWITHARI, where we have posted it, and you can go watch all of it at your leisure.

We will be right back, tracking one more story, a huge barrier broken at the highest levels of the NYPD.



MELBER: Turning to some national news on crime and a barrier broken.

First, a new chief in town. Keechant Sewell is now on pace to become New York City`s first black woman police commissioner, the new mayor, Eric Adams, appointing her to helmet is still the country`s largest police department.


KEECHANT SEWELL, INCOMING NYPD COMMISSIONER: We are in a pivotal moment in New York, as our city faces the twin challenges of public safety and police accountability.

My shoes are laced up. I`m ready to get to work.


MELBER: It`s a new mayor and a new commissioner. And she will, first and foremost, face a major problem that`s hitting the entire country, many cities, including New York.

Homicides are now up 30 percent across the country over this past period. In 2021, homicides hit record annual highs in 12 different cities. We`re about two weeks out from the end of the year. Rochester has the highest number of homicides since `91, Philadelphia the highest since 1990, Portland, Oregon, considered a smaller town, the highest since `87, or down South in Austin, Texas, the highest since `84.

The facts show these murders are on the rise all over the place, a trend that is broader than any single policy. It represents a challenge for local government, whose first job is public safety.

Criminologists spend years studying this kind of data. But one thing that looms over the rising violence the last two years is a rare pandemic driving job loss, hunger and desperation. First responders and police don`t usually get to just quarantine or take time off, but data also shows many leaving their posts.

Police departments have resignations rising, up to about 18 percent, retirement 45 percent. And while not all crime can be correlated, it`s notable the rising violence comes amidst social challenges exacerbated in the pandemic, gun sales and drug use up.

This is one of those developments that can get obscured, but across this map, you see violence is up. Mass shootings, school shootings are part of it, as other crimes in big cities show tremendous strain.

In fact, "The New York Times" reported on this, with experts saying that the factors driving this rising homicide rate includes the pandemic, an alleged pullback by police in response to criticism, and a surge in firearm carrying.

Now, it may sound logical that U.S. murders would be linked to firearms, but that same article notes, in 2020, for example, there were more homicides linked to guns, 77 percent, than ever before. It`s something many Americans are living through right now.

And we wanted to update you tonight on those latest facts, and we will stay on the story.

Thanks for watching THE BEAT.