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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 12/30/21

Guests: Belly, Barbara Boxer, Clive Davis, Michael Osterholm


COVID case records in the United States continue to be broken day after day. Senator Barbara Boxer discusses the Democratic agenda. Clive Davis speaks out. Republican efforts to cover up the facts of the insurrection are examined. Belly, a groundbreaking Palestinian-Canadian songwriter and producer, speaks out.



Hi, Ari.

And I should thank you. I`m early today, but I`m usually late, so thank you for all the extra seconds you loaned me.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Any time. I`m usually late as well, though, as just said, when the ball drops, that`s one thing they have to get right perfectly on time.

WALLACE: Exactly. Exactly.

MELBER: Good to see you, Nicolle.

WALLACE: Thanks, friend.

MELBER: Absolutely.

Welcome to THE BEAT. I am Ari Melber.

We come on the air with the country engulfed in this wave of the COVID pandemic. We are seeing case records being broken day after day.


There`s also rays of good news, the FDA now on track to allow boosters for 12-to-15-year-olds. That could begin as soon as Monday, and they can get it five months after the second shot. That is slightly faster than the original six-month allotted time.

It`s positive news amid record-breaking infections. The U.S. averages 300,000 cases a day now. The CDC has a new forecast that estimates 44,000 Americans could die within the next month, even in this less deadly version of a variant.

The context matters. The vaccinated and the boosted are less likely to be hospitalized and face almost no traditional risk of death, because the vaccines work. Now, the CDC says you`re 20 times more likely to die if you are unvaccinated. Medical experts do note that the Omicron variant, according to what we`re learning as we go, so far looks less severe.

And there are states, like Maryland, that are having record high hospitalization. They even have an emergency declaration there, New Jersey`s largest hospital system also bracing to break 2020 records, and 1,000 military medical experts have been deployed to try to deal with overcrowding in the ICUs.

With cases exploding, Dr. Fauci says more trips to the hospital will be a key indicator to watch.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Very often, you can`t just forget about the number of people who are infected, because that`s the forewarner of what might happen with hospitalization.

But, as you get further on, and you see less severity, clearly, hospitalization is the important thing.


MELBER: Against this backdrop, the CDC is defending the way that it has changed guidance for isolation time, cutting it in half for people with few symptoms.

Today, meanwhile, the president of the American Nurses Association saying this:


ERNEST GRANT, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN NURSES ASSOCIATION: We believe that the guidelines are premature. Given what is known about Omicron, it seems it tips more towards economic needs, as opposed to taking into consideration the health needs of nurses and other members of the health care team.


MELBER: Let`s get right to it.

We`re joined now by Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Welcome back. Happy holidays and happy new year to you.


MELBER: Absolutely. Thanks.

What is the picture that is emerging here of this Omicron variant and the outlook if things keep going this way?

OSTERHOLM: Well, we have to first admit we`re into a viral blizzard right now that`s impacting all 50 states roughly at the same time. Some areas are hit harder than others.

But, in the end, in the next six to eight weeks, we`re all going to see this large surge of cases. The big question, as you have laid out very nicely here, is, what will be the severity of that illness? Will we, in fact, see people dying at the same rate that we see them dying from Delta?

I don`t think so. But the bottom line is, we`re going to have so many more individuals infected with Omicron that we surely could have the same challenges to our health care system.

And let me just add one additional piece to that that really does set up for this perfect storm. And it also plays to your opening with regard to the nurses, is that it`s very likely that 20 or more percent of health care workers are going to get infected, even though they have been vaccinated, and they will be off.

At that point, we are already basically providing health care in this country by the skin of our teeth. And it`s going to be a real challenge to see the potential overlay of ill employees and sick people.


And against that backdrop, there`s the problems with testing. Again, this is a rich nation. Testing is part of the patchwork mitigation techniques we have seen. Indeed, the Biden mandate isn`t technically a full mandate for businesses. It`s a requirement to vax or test regularly. That becomes a bigger problem if, amidst these surges, you can`t get access to good testing.

Take a look at some of what we`re hearing from frustrated Americans.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels a little third country-ish. We should be doing a better job with this testing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quite confusing, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s way too many people, and there`s not enough testing. There`s not enough sites.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was looking for the home test, and I couldn`t find it anywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s been rough. It`s been rough. That`s -- for me. That`s why I`m here, because I couldn`t find an at-home test.


MELBER: Doctor, your thoughts?

OSTERHOLM: Well, one of the things we have to understand is that we haven`t done enough to get ourselves in a better place for testing.

But even though the rest of the world has been emphasizing testing, including Europe, they`re now in the soup too. It`s very difficult to find a test in the United Kingdom. And they were considered to be the best prepared in the world for being able to do testing.

This is what a surge like this does. On top of that, as you know, today, we have testing centers around the country, particularly on the East Coast, but they were shut down because so many of the workers were sick with Omicron.

And so the challenge we have right now is, again, our entire system of -- and all of our lives are going to be impacted by how many sick people are out, whether it`s at the grocery store, whether it`s at the hospital, whether it`s running your subways, whether it`s doing testing.


We haven`t have even talked about the people doing the test in the laboratory who are sick. So I think this is going to be an immense challenge for these next six to eight weeks.

MELBER: When you look at what we have learned from other countries, Dr. Fauci was citing the countries that got Omicron earliest as a slightly hopeful piece.

Again, there`s nothing that great about all of these problems, but, looking at it clinically, that there was a hope there that, if the South African model would hold the United States, you could be through the worst of this peak by early February.

What do you think of that kind of analysis? Does that hold? Or do you differ with the Fauci view on that?

OSTERHOLM: No, actually, I think that is right. I have been saying now for the last two weeks up to eight weeks from then.

So I think it is right at that same timeline. I think this is going to go up quickly, which actually is a problem. If you think about it, 1,000 cases presenting for medical care, but one a day for 1,000 days is no problem. If 1,000 people all present on the same day, you got a real problem.

And I think that`s the challenge we`re up against right now is, we`re going to see so many individuals presenting for care. Right now, we`re hearing of health care systems around the country that have sent out notices today that, unless it`s emergency care, don`t expect to be seen for the next several weeks, again, a combination of the number of people seeking care, plus the number of health care workers who are out sick.

So I think this is going to be the challenge. And -- but I do think it`s going to be over with, in the sense of the big peak, as Dr. Fauci said, in -- by early February.

MELBER: We ended the year 2020 really looking at the hope of the vaccine, obviously a change of leadership in Washington.

We end `21 now with this COVID case rate, as mentioned, just totally crushing any hope of progress there. What do you think we will be ending 2022 like?

OSTERHOLM: Well, I think, first of all, let`s put this into context.

I mean, we obviously are focused on the United States. We should be. But, really, if you look at every country in the world, including China right now, which has had one of the most draconian responses anyone could imagine to this, shutting down large metropolitan areas of 10 to 15 million people to control this, everybody in the world is being challenged by this virus.

We just took the virus too lightly. We didn`t understand what it could do. Now we`re where we`re at. And I actually think, though, that we actually have some light at the end of the tunnel.

Ari, there are enough people listening to this who do remember the early days of HIV/AIDS, when it was a death sentence. Today, it`s a long-term chronic disease because of drugs. I think that what we`re going to see with COVID down the road is going to be a situation where, in fact, we still want people to be vaccinated, we want to prevent as many infections as we can.

But imagine if we had medicines available, readily available, that people, with their first signs and symptoms of COVID, could take them and they don`t go on and become severely ill, whether immune-compromised or not.

I think that`s what we`re going to see in the next year. We`re going to see much more of a combined vaccine and drug model that I think could actually have tremendous impact on this pandemic in a way that right now it`s hard to imagine.

MELBER: Dr. Michael Osterholm, walking us through all of it here, kicking us off tonight, I appreciate it. Thank you.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

MELBER: We have a lot more of your program.

Thank you.

Coming up: Cruz is going to Cruz. You may remember his fight with the fictional character of Big Bird. Well, now he has an attack that has backfired. We will explain.

Also, top Democrats are saying it is time to turn to hardball for Biden in the new year. Senator Barbara Boxer is our special guest tonight. That`s coming up. She joins me live.

And, later, a special report that`s breaking down the facts of what actually happened on January 6, even as Tucker Carlson and others try to cover up the truth.

And then, by the end of the hour, a music visionary behind everyone from Springsteen to Aretha, the one and only Clive Davis on THE BEAT tonight.

So, stay with us.



MELBER: And we`re back with former U.S. Senator from California Democrat Barbara Boxer.

Thanks for being here. Happy holidays.

FMR. SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA): Back to you.

MELBER: In this business, we talk a lot about the things that are going wrong. And lord knows that`s important.

Something that is going right is, amidst all these problems, a type of economic rebound. A lot of the early data shows that the federal spending and what Biden was pushing was working. And it`s no secret that not everyone feels that way.

I want to read from "Washington Post" here. Dana Milbank says, basically, the American economy improved more in Biden`s first 12 months than any president in the past 50 years. Polling shows economic pessimism endures, largely, he says, because disinformation has prevailed.

You could also add to that list, Senator, that economics can be measured any number of ways. As long as we`re dealing with the top story tonight, the horrors of COVID people just aren`t going to be in a great mood. But what do you see there as the challenge for the Biden administration, if indeed the numbers are this good and this underappreciated?

BOXER: That is a good question.

And I think the answer is pretty straightforward with Joe Biden. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and deliver for the American people.

I was thinking, because I figured you might ask me a question like this. And I thought to myself, what if you went to a show on Broadway that everyone loved in the whole wide world, everyone loved it, it`s the greatest thing, and sitting in the middle of the show, you get a stomachache and start to get the stomach flu.

You feel sick. You come home. People say, how`d you like the show? It was lousy.

I mean, that`s what`s happening here. There`s this underlying terrible problem of COVID, and it doesn`t go away. Now, from what I hear -- and I listen to MSNBC all the time on this subject -- it may well go away. But we need to not be frustrated about these polls right now, it seems to me.

And the last point I would make here is this. I think the American people are fair. And if they look back to see what this president inherited, let`s just take a second to look at it, a country bitterly divided. He was handed a mess, a pandemic raging, an economy collapsing, our Capitol attacked.


This is Joe Biden`s inheritance, if you will, when he took over the presidency. Now we are moving forward at a rapid pace. And we haven`t even rolled out the infrastructure bill yet. Putting aside Build Back Better, this infrastructure bill is fantastic. I wrote a lot of them in my past history in the Senate. This is better than any I ever put together.


And you mentioned what this president`s dealing with. And, of course, he`s also governing and trying to stabilize things. And that`s sort of where Obama and Biden were different figures, bookend this wild Trump era, and you have governance again.

And governance is in some ways messy and in some ways dry and boring. It`s also what a lot of people said they wanted to get back to, given four years of the sort of rookie chaos, among other things, of Trumpism.

I think we have a photo here today of the president talking to Vladimir Putin. They gave us the readout, they call, on that. Senator, that`s the photograph courtesy of the White House of him on the phone.

The statement here like today was that he made clear the U.S. will respond decisively if Russia does further invasion of Ukraine and other pressures on stability in the region.

Because that`s news today from the White House there, I`m just curious what you think as well, as we take stock of the year, of the kind of regular president stuff that this President Biden is doing that is a contrast from four years of chaos.

BOXER: Yes, I mean, he takes these problems one at a time. He is very experienced.

I served on the Foreign Relations Committee for many years. And he was my chairman for many years. And he knows literally more than, seriously, the vast majority of people about what`s happening in the world.

And with Ukraine, he quite understands that Ukraine became independent from the USSR in 1991. That`s 30 years ago. Russia`s got to get over it. We know there are ethnic Russians in the Ukraine about -- and I shouldn`t say the Ukraine -- in Ukraine.

But the fact is, that`s true. That`s about 19 percent of the people. And that needs to be resolved. But you have got a lot of tools, when you`re Joe Biden, and you know you have got the strongest military in the world, you know you can help Ukraine, which we have been doing for many years, over $2 billion worth of help and training, and you know you have the soft power of diplomacy, and a lot of tools in the toolbox there, as well as sanctions.

So, this president, I feel that we in many ways are blessed to have him here at this time, even though his polls are bad. That`s just a patch.

MELBER: And then, finally, I`m curious.

We were speaking with David Plouffe yesterday from Obama`s team. And he`s very concerned that, if the Democrats lose the House, then you really will be on a track, a collision course for democracy itself, because he thinks that the Republican Party has basically embraced stealing elections and voter suppression as its organizing principle.

Your thoughts on that and the stakes for midterms that are around the corner really, less than a year away, with people fatigued for all the reasons mentioned?

BOXER: Yes, we have an election coming up.

The reapportionment doesn`t look as if it is as bad as we thought it would be, which is kind of a miracle. But, yes, we have one political party that has embraced voter suppression as their -- one of their main planks.

And so, at the end of the day, at the very end of the day, it`s about the American people deciding -- this isn`t a parliamentary system, but we now have one party that has veered so far to the right in so many ways. We have to have the people who were Republicans before really just drop that label and either become Democrats, if they can`t get themselves to do that, to become nonpartisan, independent voters.

And let them be the ones that decide these elections, because one party has gone bad on us. And it hurts my heart. I grew up with a very different party, and had a lot of mentors in Republican Party, on the environment, on women`s health, lots of things like that, all those years ago, yes.

MELBER: Yes. Yes, I hear you.

Well, Barbara Boxer, always good catching up with you. And, again, I wish you a happy new year.

BOXER: To you too.

MELBER: Thank you.

We have our shortest break in the show now, 60 seconds.


Coming up: Ted Cruz owning himself.

Also, we go inside the January 6 riot, the insurrection, and show you the facts that are increasingly becoming part of a Republican cover-up.

Accountability -- when we`re back in 60 seconds.


MELBER: As we end the year, we`re also approaching the one-year anniversary of the horrific insurrection. Investigations continue.

But we have a special report where we go through the video that shows what happened. We break down the key points that lead up to this insurrection, because there are people that don`t want you to see this, that are lying about those violent crimes even as they were caught on camera, attacking officers.

We look at these graphic and disturbing moments when the mob was crushing an officer.


MELBER: If we are ever going to face what was actually done inside this insurrection, we do have to face and examine this in all of its horrific detail.

Right at the outset, two minutes into this long video I mentioned, rioters initiate attacks on the police. They apparently spray mace at the officers. Other reports later found bear spray on the scene, which is actually more dangerous than the type of spray police are allowed to use.

Then you can see rioters seizing a police body shield. They pull it out into the crowd. That`s just minute two of this video. Four minutes in, the crowd presses forward into the barricade of police. Some are holding poles. They chant "USA" again. They yell, in order to coordinate these attacks, chanting "Use the shields" and "Make a wall," as they again advance criminally on the officers.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Use it. Use the shield. Use the shield.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Use the shield.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Use the shield. Use the shield.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold your shield!



MELBER: That`s just five minutes into this. Then they try to break through the line of the building, hitting officers with a pole and yelling for the mob to push.




MELBER: That continues. You see there in minute seven all of that beating and attacking.

By minute nine, two minutes later, you see officers able to partially pull some of those glass doors closed. The rioters then begin attacking with poles and shields, trying to pry those doors open again.

By 12 minutes into the video, people are spraying apparently mace at the officers, and there is more conspiring among group to break through with these chants of heave-ho.


UNIDENTIFIED RIOTERS: Heave-ho! Heave-ho! Heave-ho! Heave-ho!



MELBER: That is just some of the 20 minutes out of the six hours. That last escalation led to the now infamous crushing of the officer you saw earlier.

All of this, I want to be very clear with you tonight -- there is a lot going on, but this is the crux of it, this insurrection, this violence, four years-plus in the making.

All of this is under a tenth of what transpired during the insurrection, which is increasingly looking far more organized and more legally sinister than it might have to a passing observer on TV.

Those motivated, coordinated attackers were breaching multiple entries, while, throughout the whole time, many lawmakers were still inside these buildings, including Vice President Pence. And the rioters knew it.


UNIDENTIFIED RIOTERS: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!


MELBER: The goal, to seek through violence that which America, which voters rejected at the ballot box in our democracy.


UNIDENTIFIED RIOTERS: We want Trump! We want Trump! We want Trump! We want Trump!


MELBER: The mob rampaging.

They went after one of Donald Trump`s targets, occupying Speaker Pelosi`s office. At times, it was farcical because of the photos and the grandstanding, but it was also deadly serious, not only the deaths that day, but staffers were sheltered under desks in an adjacent room, we now know, Pelosi recounting this on "60 Minutes."


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The staff went under the table, barricaded the door, turned out the lights, and were silent in the dark.



PELOSI: Under the table for two-and-a-half hours.


During which time, they listened to the invaders banging on that door, as you can hear on a recording from one of the staffers` phones.



MELBER: Chilling.

The mob rioted. It got deeper into the building as it approached the speaker`s lobby, breaking the glass of a barricaded door, a woman apparently trying to climb through. That is when she was shot.

A warning: This is graphic.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s a gun! There`s a gun! There`s a gun!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s got a gun!






MELBER: That is just some of what we saw.

As we approach this one year anniversary, there are defenders of the big lie who are now lying to cover up the violent MAGA crimes of that day. So, it is important to see the facts of what happened, know the evidence.

Make up your own mind about what to do about it, and don`t let anyone take this terrible day and minimize it into something less than it was.



MELBER: Turning to some lighter political news, Cancun Cruz has done it again.

The Republican Texas senator ending 2021 with another round of really avoidable mocking. He began the year famously fleeing to Cancun while Texas was slammed with a terrible winter storm, one of the worst in its history. He basically abandoned constituents in his job at the time that, well, many needed him most.

Then he picked one of the oddest fights in modern politics, a fight with the fictional character of Big Bird over vaccine safety.

Now he tried to attack Democrats, but ended up in the soup himself. Cruz posted about a power-drunk authoritarian killjoy approach to COVID policy because of an ordinance about dancing.

Now, he thought he was responding to COVID restrictions that he attributed wrongly to Washington state. In fact, it was actually the W.A. government, as in W.A., Western Australia, not Washington state, not America, not U.S. Democrats.

Now, Cruz has been mocked endlessly for this, especially because he was the one picking the fight and making the big deal. And he has a whole staff. They could fact-check things.

Congressman Swalwell says: "Hey, Ted, W.A. is Western Australia, but cool tweet."

Someone else said: "Oh, he must be on vacation again." And there you see the Cancun Cruz fleeing vibes with, you know, a little down under kangaroo.

Another person took to Twitter to say that this has made Texas something of a national embarrassment.

And then Jim Carrey himself from "Dumb and Dumber" asked: "Is this Washington or Western Australia?"

Well, that`s the memes anyway, Jim Carrey always a good time, if you can weave that into politics.

So, is there a lesson here for Ted Cruz? Well, like all of us, you have to check things before you go posting and ranting online about them.

Now, coming up tonight, we have Michael Beschloss here, the historian, for a special conversation, but, first, a legend associated with so many icons, the one and only Clive Davis on THE BEAT next.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to thank BMG, J Records, of course, the whole team, Clive Davis.



DICK CLARK, ENTERTAINER: It`s my honor to tribute Clive Davis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Clive Davis, we welcome you as we induct you to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re talking the `60s, `70s, `80s, `90s, 2000s. He`s made the soundtrack for our lives.


MELBER: Iconic artists across many genres heralding the music mogul Clive Davis, a visionary who launched the careers of so many icons.

There`s no single person cited more across different genres and decades in music as an executive and producer than Davis.

It all began at Monterey Pop Festival back in 1967, when he was discovering and then signing Janis Joplin, which he tells me about in our interview.


CLIVE DAVIS, MUSIC PRODUCER: Everything there was in robes, and flowers were in your hair and their hair.

And here was I in khakis and a white tennis -- OK. I was not prepared to see new artists. I was certainly not prepared to see what was a musical revolution, not just social, not just cultural, but a music revelation, revolution.

And then this charismatic, throaty, rough, fabulous voice, electrifying Janis Joplin. And I will never forget it, as I`m telling you the story. The proverbial spine-tingling took place. It was really, without sounding melodramatic, an epiphany.


I was seeing an artist I had never experienced before. I had never signed an artist before. I was determining -- determined to sign Big Brother and the Holding Company and Janis Joplin. And I did.

MELBER: Davis, who`s now chief creative officer at Sony and a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, went on to sign icons like Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Jennifer Hudson, while always keeping kind of the marvel and intensity of a pure fan.

He recounts going to see Aretha Franklin when she was in her late 30s and wondering what else she could do in this very unfair business.

DAVIS: I will never forget when I was going to her house in Los Angeles, and we were going to meet for the first time, that I knew, more than any other artist that I have ever met, because she was already the queen of the soul, that everything that she would do would be history.

Everything that she did, sang would be meaningful to all the generations to come. I met her when she was nearing 40 and she, as all artists, are hungry to be on top, stay on top. One of the first questions was: "Do you think I could have hits once I reach 40 years old? I have not had any hits in the last two years of my career."

I said: "I believe you can. And the challenge to collaborate with you will be my mission, as much as any discovery of a brand-new artist. It`s a privilege."

MELBER: Aretha went on to earn her first gold record in seven years, Davis celebrating another hit.

And he sat for this interview I`m showing you as part of our "Summit Series," reflecting on insights from people at the summit of their fields.

Now, I was really keen to hear about Davis` his work with an artist that we have actually cited in several reports on THE BEAT, Gil Scott-Heron.




MELBER: The revolution will be live.

Gil Scott-Heron was years ahead of mainstream culture on everything from challenging corporate media to capitalism to racism. And in our discussion, Davis credits Heron, a singer and a poet of the `70s, as essentially the first rapper.

DAVIS: Gil Scott-Heron was the first rap artist I was ever involved with, biting, cutting-edge, dazzling in person.

Would not make the sacrifice to participate and broaden his musical appeal without -- it was synonymous with him that it would interfere with, really, that more cutting edge and biting, but so talented, and one of the earliest, greatest rappers ever.

MELBER: I love that idea of him as a -- as the foundation of rap because of the way he would do the spoken word poetry, and some of them rhymed. And some of it just was social commentary.

So, I love you thinking that way, because it`s -- at the edge of every genre, it blends into a new one.

Genre-bending, part of our conversation there.

Now, some of this may admittedly sound a little obvious, because it worked. And Clive Davis is buffeted by decades of success. What`s more striking is to see how many times he basically managed to stay at the top by trying new things, by bringing other people along.

So, at a time when many executives were opposing or just didn`t get new voices, whether that`s Joplin or Gil Scott-Heron, Davis kept his ears open.

That may be why he met with a then-unknown producer, Sean "Puffy" Combs, who played Davis` music from his new artist, The Notorious B.I.G., which led Davis to spend millions of dollars helping Diddy launch his successful Bad Boy record label.

DAVIS: You know, he was, I think, 21 at the time. He was an executive that had worked at Uptown Records. I mean, he was not famous. I mean, he had done one or two perhaps concert promoting events.

He came as a very young man and -- to the meeting. I only knew of his background characterized mainly by hip-hop music. I knew that the background of Puffy was much closer, vastly closer to the street than either I or, self-admittedly, L.A. and Babyface were.


And he said: "You have got to admit that, not me personally, but you have got to help me get top 40 to admit hip-hop."

And that was a tough order of the day. Most people never thought that rap would dominate top 40 or even be prominent in mainstream pop top 40. And -- but I bought into that vision.

We did cross over. We did get top 40. And we were the East Coast`s biggest record combination.


MELBER: That`s part of our "Summit Series."

You can watch the entire conversation on YouTube. Search "Melber and Clive Davis," and you can get the rest of our conversation.

When we come back tonight, Michael Beschloss is here next.



MELBER: Turning now to a special time on THE BEAT. It is time to fall back.

We have two great guests with us tonight. Belly is a groundbreaking Palestinian-Canadian songwriter and producer who`s written hit songs and collaborated with artists you know, like Beyonce and Future. He`s a Grammy and Oscar nominee, and is out with a new album called "See You Next Wednesday," featuring popular artists like Nas and The Weeknd.

And we are joined by presidential historian Michael Beschloss, the award- winning author of nine books and host of "Fireside History: on Peacock`s The Choice.

I happen to know both of you a little bit, and am psyched to have you here together.

How`s everybody doing?



BESCHLOSS: That`s a terrific room, Belly. Amazing.

MELBER: Yes, yes. Belly has been out here, huh?


MELBER: Doing big things.

BELLY: Hey, man, what can I say, man? I have been blessed. I have been blessed.


BELLY: Look where I`m at.

MELBER: Here we are.


BESCHLOSS: Hard work and talent.

MELBER: Hard work and talent and collaboration.

I mean, Belly, we will get into your music, but anyone who knows, your work with Beyonce, as well as your own album, your own work, shows that you could be the star and you can also be the collaborator, which is so important, creativity.

So thrilled to have you debut on THE BEAT. Michael`s a longtime MSNBC guests, so I`m going to let him lead.

Michael, what`s on your "Fallback" list?

BESCHLOSS: Well, I`m thinking about the fact that one that had better fall back is big oil companies.

We got new information this week. You and I and our viewers knew this already, but new evidence that big oil has for years been deceiving the public about how bad the climate crisis is.

And all I`d say is, if there are circles of hell in American society, probably one of the worst circles of how it should go -- should be used by a trusted corporation or a trusted leader or a trusted public figure of another sort who lies to the public in a way that hurts society.

This has really hurt society. And, as you know -- we have talked about this, Ari -- I have got two sons who are in their 20s. And when they were growing up, I said to them, one of the best things you can learn is which information you get on the Internet and from your teachers, from other people you can trust and which you should -- what you should distrust.

And I think that`s something that should really be taught in schools, and they really should have a name for that course, which they don`t.

MELBER: Yes, and, as you say, these companies have big power. They`re not always using it responsibly. And we`re at a time where it doesn`t always have to be oil. I mean, we have seen with Elon Musk...

BESCHLOSS: Right, absolutely.

MELBER: ... you can innovate towards other options.

Belly, we try to mix it up here. So we don`t do all serious things. But we hear from everybody. What`s on your "Fallback" list?

BELLY: Oh, man, my "Fallback" list got to be that crypto hamster. You know what I mean?

I think, when you got -- when you`re picking better than Warren Buffett. You know what I mean?

MELBER: Yes, honestly, I don`t know who to put the "Fallback" on. I might have to put it on Warren Buffett, because he got a hamster beating him. So, that`s really where I`m at.


MELBER: Warren Buffett, fall back, if you`re getting beat by someone who - - now, do you feel that the hamster, Belly -- Belly, do you think the hamster is randomly winning, or are they on to something somehow?

BELLY: I don`t know. They probably put a cheat code on his wheel.


BELLY: You know, he got the cheat codes for the picks. I don`t know what they`re doing, but that hamster is making money.

I`m about to follow everything he`s doing right now.

MELBER: Yes, I love that one.

But it`s a funny way to remind us of something real, Michael, which is, over the full span of the market history, there`s a lot of studies that suggest the people who say they`re good at picking stocks are no better than doing it randomly.

BESCHLOSS: Absolutely true.

And maybe we can get that hamster to run around on a wheel to create the power to generate power for MSNBC, so that our signal can go on or used in some way like that.

But, kidding aside, I vote for Warren Buffett, experience, expertise.


BESCHLOSS: I know both of those things are not in fashion these days. But we have got to choose leaders.

And I`d rather have a leader than the hamster.

MELBER: Well, I`d rather have a leader than a hamster is a sentence that may have never been uttered on the news. And that`s why we`re out here.


MELBER: Belly, before we lose you, I got to ask you, what have you learned here, coming out with this solo -- this solo project, "See You Next Wednesday," and how does it compare to, as mentioned, some of your work with all these collaborations?


BELLY: I think, with "See You Next Wednesday" -- great question, by the way.

I had stepped away from the game for so long that it was like -- kind of like me relearning how to walk, essentially, how to breathe. So it was a fun experience, man. It brought back that thing that was there right when I started, that challenge, and getting to work with the people I got to work with on this album, from Nas and The Weeknd, to some of the young guys like Uzi and Gunna.

It was just like -- it was like a dream come true for me, you know?


BELLY: As a songwriter and producer and just as an artist myself, as a collaborator, this album was my favorite project by far.


BELLY: "See You Next Wednesday."

MELBER: "See You Next Wednesday."


MELBER: That`s fantastic. Shout-out to all those folks, including Uzi.

Do you ever go shopping for diamonds and jewels with Uzi?

BELLY: No, no, no. No, I`m good, man.

I`m trying to do the Warren Buffett route or the hamster route, one...


MELBER: Yes, save it, instead of spending it, because Uzi likes the jewels really large. I mean, they got to be pricey.

BESCHLOSS: The hamster may be for rent.



BELLY: Yes, maybe. Hey, I`d rather spend my money on that.

MELBER: All right, so I think we went full circle, which is, we need more hamsters and less stock market guessing. We need natural power. And we need to be careful with how much bling we buy, because, sometimes, just investing it might be the better run.

BESCHLOSS: Absolutely.

MELBER: I want to thank Belly and Michael for a conversation I don`t think that happens anywhere else.

Thank you, guys.

BESCHLOSS: Loved it. Thank you.

BELLY: Peace, love.

MELBER: Peace and love and our thanks.

We got a lot of peace and love here in the vistas of New York.

And let me show you one more thing, some of the fun we`re having here at THE BEAT online.


MELBER: Oh, my God, what time is it?

SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": It`s time to do the interview, Ari. Put your phone is a moment. Come on, buddy.

JUANITA TOLLIVER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It`s a moment. It`s a mood. It`s a vibe.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s a desperate man.

MELBER: Michael and Ari. It`s like "Roger & Me."

JEFF GARLIN, ACTOR: Dig this. You ready?

MELBER: What do you got?

GARLIN: I`m at the Emmys. I`m waiting to hear if "Curb" wins or not.

MAYA WILEY, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: What we need most is not ideology. It`s evidence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Fish, and that`s Chips.

DR. RUTH WESTHEIMER, SEX THERAPIST: When are you going to call me?

MELBER: This week.





MELBER: We have fun, or we try to.

And, so, sometimes it`s that fun, lighter stuff or the personal stuff I shared recently with my parents over the holidays. We don`t always do it on the show. We do it online. So you can find me @AriMelber on Twitter, on Instagram, Facebook, or even @AriMelber on TikTok, where we have recently become more active, sharing stuff from the show, as well as personal stuff.

I will tell you, I recently put up something from the ski slopes. So, all of that is available online. TikTok is fun. You can also go to, type in your e-mail and join my free newsletter. Then I will e-mail you stuff directly. Or just keep it locked on MSNBC, if you`re not into the digital stuff.

Now, finally, tonight, we want to do something else. And this is important, what I want to share with you. We want to pull back the curtain a little bit, as we all mark the end of this year.

I can tell you, here at MSNBC, we work pretty hard to try to put on a solid newscast for you every week night. And we do that with a very talented, dedicated team.

You may not see most of these people on camera. I`m talking about the MSNBC producers, researchers, editors, artists, bookers, directors, sound engineers, camera operators, and many, many other talented journalistic colleagues who create this program.

So, as we end the year, please join me, Ari, in taking a moment for this thank you and a very heartfelt shout-out to all of our colleagues who create and put on the show.