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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, 8/20/21

Guests: Josh Marshall, Rochelle Walensky, Chris Sullivan, Paul Krugman


Paul Krugman, columnist for "The New York Times," discusses the media response to the Afghanistan withdrawal. What is Matt Gaetz`s plan to get Donald Trump back in government by the midterms? Actor Chris Sullivan speaks out. President Biden speaks out on the Afghanistan withdrawal. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky discusses booster shots and COVID misinformation.



Hi, Ari. Happy Friday.


Hi, Nicolle. Thanks so much.

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

We begin with coverage here on the Afghanistan exit. The evacuations continue. President Biden today pushing back at critics, a story, a part of this in Washington that we have been covering and discussing with Nicolle Wallace.

This may be Biden`s most forceful defense yet of the policy.

Flights out of the country resumed today after what the Pentagon says was basically a six- or seven-hour pause. White House officials think they do now have most Americans out of the country.

And here is that context, because, basically, the Biden administration is arguing that they are doing exactly what they intended to do, that they knew it would be tough, and that a lot of the critics or haters are essentially out of line, especially Republicans who had been going along with a Trump Taliban exit for years as a plan.

They say the focus will be the evacuations because there is a hard-fought effort here to protect some people, but leaving, no matter what, is still, they say, the right thing to do.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What interests do we have in Afghanistan at this point with al Qaeda gone? We went to Afghanistan for the express purpose of getting rid of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, as well as, as well as getting Osama bin Laden.

And we did. What is the national interests of the United States in that circumstance? We went and did the mission. You have known my position for a long, long time. It`s time to end this war.


MELBER: End this war.

We use words a lot in the news. We are all here talking to each other endlessly. It`s part of human culture. But in that very simple statement about ending the war, this president is reminding Americans as something that, outside of military families and a few other folks professionally involved, that can get so lost when we send so many others to fight the wars, which is this continued to be a hot war, a multidecade war in that region backed by American blood and treasure.

And so, when the president says it`s time to end this war, he is very simply, with words, reminding people that it was still a war, even if no one else was willing to actually end it.

Now, we reported some of this on THE BEAT this week, that polls show that the majority of Americans, even after those bruising, terrible and tragic images came through this week, think that Joe Biden is still right, that the war was unwinnable, that it`s time to leave.

I want to quote from a critic and influential progressive, Josh Marshall, who tracks this stuff closely, but often breaks with the media when he says the media is missing the point, writing that much of the chaos that we`re seeing actually demonstrates the larger reality that the American mission had run its course long ago, that whatever is going on in Washington with the media or certain national security elites, the general public looked at this as a thing that should have been over.

And it was actually by some and by the Trump administration a fear of actually doing it and facing the reckoning that had prevented American presidents from really getting out, even as the public got it.

Now, this is a fast-developing situation. No one is here to predict the future. There are still many valid questions about how this was run, whether it was run well, whether it can be improved. That`s why there`s work that`s done on an emergency or immediate basis. And then there`s investigations and oversight.

That`s why you have congressional hearings about a whole range of topics. Certainly, this is an important one.

President Biden responding to new reports from a State Department cable that was allegedly trying to give a greater heads-up about this back in July that warned of a Taliban takeover, saying, yes, they wrote that, and that`s been written before, and there are many different data points, warnings and possibilities through the intelligence and diplomatic process.

At the same time, a new focus on the Trump administration, as mentioned, because his own top advisers say that Donald Trump did not help things, Trump`s former national security adviser discussing their often clumsy effort at a peace deal with the Taliban.


H.R. MCMASTER, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Our secretary of state signed a surrender agreement to the Taliban. This collapse goes back to the capitulation agreement of 2020.

I mean, the Taliban didn`t defeat us. We defeated ourselves.


MELBER: "We defeated ourselves."

That also may sound like rhetoric, defeated ourselves, but let`s be very clear about what those words mean. That`s someone who was sympathetic enough to Donald Trump to go put his military record on the line and work for him and who is now putting the word out at this crucial time, this week telling everyone, Donald Trump succumbed and was defeated.


And, as bullies often do, the way that Donald Trump succumbed, to him, what was only important, to stay out of the light. He made the deal with the Taliban, but left it for somebody else to clean up and own the withdrawal.

Now, President Biden argues the truth is this was past time, the focus on getting it done now and addressing, as you saw in a somewhat more defiant president here in those remarks I just showed you, getting it done while making sure to tell Washington he`s got this.

I`m joined now by Michelle Goldberg, a columnist with "The New York Times," and the aforementioned Josh Marshall. He is the founder of Talking Points Memo. And his piece this week is "The Fall of Kabul: Washington and the Guys at the Fancy Magazines."

Welcome to both of you.



MELBER: Josh, you`re quoted in the lead tonight, not because you happen to be here, but because some of what you pointed out happens to be pretty clear evidence of where this thing went awry in Washington for years, and the kind of catchup that some are having to do.

The narrators do seem a little out of touch with where the public is. I think that`s a factual statement. And perhaps a more analytical one, they seem eager to show that they`re going to hit Biden over this week, while he`s trying to remind everyone that this isn`t about a week, it`s about years.

Walk us through your thinking that we quoted.

MARSHALL: Well, look, no one makes anybody be president. It`s a tough job. There`s a lot of criticism, and Joe Biden can deal with that.

I think what we`re seeing here is that this is basically a failed mission. And, often, you have -- people have bad investments. They have bad relationships. In both cases, people sometimes stay in them, double down on a bad investment, stay in a bad relationship, because coming to grips with the fact that it is not working is really, really tough.

And it`s often messy, and it`s painful, and it feels terrible. And what has happened here is, the reason we have been in Afghanistan for 20 years and didn`t leave in 2002 or at least 2003 or something like that is precisely, that this was going to end in something like this.

The fact that it only took 11 days shows just how much of an illusion, the whole -- the Afghan government, the Afghan army was. And what you`re seeing is that a lot of people still don`t want to grab that Kryptonite. And, yes, it`s messy, and it`s ugly, and it`s bad.

And what you`re seeing is, now, look, there`s lots of things that the Biden administration could have done differently, could have processed visas more in advance, stuff like that. But there`s this deflection, saying, well, sure, I don`t think we should stay there, but you could have -- it needed to be done more cleanly, less messiness, less chaos.

And the reality is, it was always going to be this way. And people are trying to have it both ways.

MELBER: Michelle?

GOLDBERG: I mean, look, I think we do have to separate the -- I agree with Josh that there`s some bad faith criticism, but I do think you have to separate criticism of the way this went down from criticism of the broader strategy.

I mean, the fact is, there is no excuse that they only created this P-2 visa program for Afghans who worked for not the government, but for NGOs or U.S. aid programs or Afghan media, they created that just a couple of weeks ago, right?

People had been trying to bang the drum about the backlash -- I mean -- sorry -- the backlog of SIV visas, the visas for translators and people who worked for the government -- worked directly for the American government. People had been trying to bang the drum on that for months.

And some of that, you can attribute to Trump, right? Under Trump, these programs kind of ground to a halt. But it was the responsibility of the Biden administration to make this move much quicker. And it was the responsibility -- their responsibility to have a plan in place if this all fell apart much more expeditiously than people expected it to.

On the other hand, I do agree with Josh that there are some criticisms that are really criticisms of the war ending. You hear some people saying, well, look, the Taliban have all of our military equipment now. There was no -- if we had taken all of our military equipment, that would have been just sort of an abject surrender, right?

Then we would have had to admit what we now know, which was that this was all a house of cards and basically kind of negotiate turning over the government to the Taliban, because other -- if we had taken our military equipment, we would have been saying this government, this army has no chance.


So I do think there are a lot of people who said they wanted to end the war, get out of Afghanistan, but they didn`t necessarily want to admit that we had lost the war.

MARSHALL: I think, honestly...


MELBER: Right. I think that`s a -- go ahead.

MARSHALL: I think it goes past that. It`s not just the military equipment.

If you are ending a military mission, in advance of removing your troops, you evacuate everybody who has ever worked for you because you know they will be endangered by the new regime, you are signing the death warrant of the current government. That is just a fact.

And as we know now, that government was not going to last.

MELBER: Yes, let me jump in -- just jump in on this -- I`m going to...


MELBER: Yes, let me jump in on just the reporting on this, because I think what Michelle is saying is perfectly true. There are NGO and human rights experts who say that didn`t go well.

I think what Josh is saying is also backed by the foreign policy challenge, which is to say, it`s true, but Ghani and others in Afghanistan were pleading with the U.S. not to do things that would signal they were about to leave, that to leave and pull people, materials, the rest is to signal, we`re going and we obviously know that the current extant government can`t handle the Taliban.

And so that was the tension there. I think it`s a fair question. And I will let Josh pick back up. I just wanted to make that distinction.

I guess the question, Michelle, is raising, Josh, is, was there a better way to execute that or not? And the question I would add to that, since I`m here anchoring, would be, how much effort is that worth right now, when the larger shift, what seems to me the 80, 90 percent chunk of the issue this week is, this is the president and the administration that finally got the United States out? Nobody else could do it.

Donald Trump talked a lot of smack, to the point that McMaster says he was succumbing to the Taliban, but it took somebody leaving.

I`m going to go Josh 45 seconds, Michelle final 45, and then I got to go to break.

MARSHALL: I think that`s unquestionably the case.

He`s the one who did it. Donald Trump talked a lot. But I don`t really blame this on Donald Trump. I don`t -- I think that is kind of a -- missing the point. It is absolutely the case that they could have gotten a lot of paperwork processed in advance. There`s -- the point is not that the Biden administration did everything perfectly.

It`s that you are fooling yourself if you think there is a way that you are going to cleanly bring everyone out in advance without toppling the government. It is -- my point is, this is baked in to the folly of our mission there. And people are not reckoning with that.

Should they have process visas more in advance? Absolutely. Absolutely. And did -- did Donald Trump shut things down? He shouldn`t have. Biden`s been president for seven months. Should -- yes, they should have done that.

But, again, I think people are missing this larger point. An end like this is how military occupations end. That`s the reality. And if we want to accept what has happened over the last 20 years, and the fact that we have let it go on year after year, we should accept that what we did made something like this inevitable.



GOLDBERG: Well, look, I think that part of the reason why it hasn`t ended until now is because no president wanted to deal with the sort of images that we have seen in the last few days.

And so I think that you can both criticize Biden for the execution and kind of applaud his bravery in being able to be the one to suck it up and do it and take the -- take the hit. We will see how big the hit actually is. But it`s certainly -- there`s certainly a huge backlash in at least foreign capitals and elite foreign policy circles.

And he is the one who was willing to do it, I think, because he has felt very strongly for a long time that this mission was not just a lost cause, but was a sort of open wound.


MARSHALL: Absolutely.

MELBER: All important points.

Michelle Goldberg, Josh Marshall on the end of a tough week, but important stuff, thanks to both of you.

The COVID crisis, meanwhile, is exploding. There`s new pressure on Governor DeSantis.

And we have a very special guest tonight, here, the CDC director, Rochelle Walensky. We`re going to get into boosters, the Biden administration`s efforts here, as well as misinformation, including on FOX News. That`s tonight on THE BEAT.

Later, legal heat on a top Trump Org executive, and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman live on THE BEAT tonight.

Stay with us.



MELBER: It was a big deal when New York prosecutors indicted the entire Trump Organization. Now that process moves forward. There are hearings.

We`re getting some clues over fights over subpoenas and a push to still try to get a witness to flip on Donald Trump. "The Wall Street Journal" has new reporting on this secret proceeding -- this was last week, but we`re learning about it more recently -- where Trump lawyers are trying to oppose subpoenas that they say cover just a very broad swathe of financial documents.

Prosecutors focusing on one executive, Matthew Calamari. You may remember the name. He`s not exactly the biggest fish in the Trump ocean, if you will. But he did have a very awkward "Apprentice" moment that then went viral again when he got caught up in this recent probe.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Another man who has done a great job for me is Matthew Calamari, my chief operating officer.

MATTHEW CALAMARI, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Donald, you know I don`t care for Jen very much. Got to be honest with you, because, wow -- because -- wow, I`m not doing too good.

TRUMP: People think this stuff is easy, right, Regis? It`s not so easy.


MELBER: Fact-check, often true.

And shout-out to Mr. Calamari. He didn`t look like he wanted to be in that moment any longer. And that`s OK.

The larger issue here really is not all about him. It`s about whether he was working at a company that made it kind of a modus operandi to hide funds from the government, to cheat on taxes with all of this creative accounting. And he may or may not, because this is still being investigated, be another person the receiving end of that process.


"The Journal" reporting prosecutors looking at cars, apartments and other goodies that went to Calamari and his son, who`s also working in this Trump orbit.

And that included an apartment at Trump Park Avenue, a Mercedes that was leased through the company though, and a different apartment at Trump Park East right by Central Park. In New York, that is very prime real estate.

Now, the question legally here is not whether these people deserved this stuff, but whether this company was using this stuff to cheat on taxes. And, by the way, that would mean you pay more taxes if they pay less.

These are fringe benefits. Now, some of them already lead to criminal charges for others, including the chief financial officer, Weisselberg. He was, as you may recall, indicted for tax fraud, for a 15-year scheme of this kind of phony books, and for hiding money from the government.

Weisselberg has, by all accounts, not cooperate with the DA. And now there are signs that they may be turning to Calamari, with prosecutors holding talks with a lawyer for him in a bid to determine whether his cooperation would be helpful.

It`s an interesting clue. Calamari is one of these Trump insiders and one of the few non-family members who was both privy to company secrets, according to the reporting, and in, allegedly, on this scheme. So his loyalty may also be tested.

Now, the next public court hearing in this case that we know about is next month, and that will be with Weisselberg and Trump Org attorneys. So, what we`re seeing here when you take it all together is a case that may have fallen out of public view because there haven`t been public new developments, but signs that prosecutors are still looking for someone to open the books and spill the beans.

Now, we have our shortest break in the hour. This is just 60 seconds.

Coming up, we have Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman.

But, first, the CDC director is here tonight next.


MELBER: And joining us now is CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

COVID cases rising, ICUs near capacity in some places, and the president announcing those booster shots that start in the fall, so plenty to get into.

Thank you for being here.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Thanks so much for having me.

MELBER: Let`s start with these announced booster shots.

Do you advise that people think of this as a kind of optional insurance or a real necessity going forward?


So, we`re planning a cross-government approach to plan for boosters. What we`re seeing now is that there is waning in the effectiveness of vaccines against mild disease. But we`re planning ahead because we are worried that we might see waning of effectiveness against severe disease in the weeks and months ahead.

And so we are following the science carefully, while we listen to what the FDA and CDC`s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices say. But if we start to do -- if we do start to see that waning, the continued waning against disease, and -- but certainly against severe disease, we would absolutely recommend that people get a booster.

MELBER: Some experts, as you just, I believe, referred to, say that it`s early and it`s a process, but that the data is inconclusive.

What do you say to people who think, well, if the data is still inconclusive, why is the CDC going forward and seeming to, as you just did, suggests boosters are a go?

WALENSKY: So, we`re talking with our international colleagues who are several weeks ahead of us both in terms of Delta, but also in terms of vaccine.

And they`re starting to see concerning evidence of worsening of severe disease in those who are having breakthrough cases. We certainly want to be ready. We want to be ahead of this virus. We don`t want to see those severe cases. And so we will act accordingly to make sure we are absolutely ahead of this virus.

MELBER: As for the interplay between the CDC and the White House, I want to read from Bloomberg, which talks about the booster review being delayed by CDC.

It says: "Typically, the FDA and CDC would give their thumbs-up before the White House would consider announcing such a plan. The administration`s decision to push forward without such approval has raised concerns among public health officials."


Did you decline to specifically approve this plan before President Biden announced it?

WALENSKY: We have 170 million people in this country who were looking at evidence as we were publishing it that demonstrated some waning immunity for mild disease.

And we knew those 170 million people would start to be concerned when they read the reports that we were putting out. It would be irresponsible for us to not be planning for this. And that is exactly what we are doing. We are not getting ahead of the FDA. We are not getting ahead of the CDC`s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

We are planning ahead, so that we are prepared when they make the recommendations.

MELBER: Did you approve it in advance of the president`s announcement?

WALENSKY: We were absolutely in discussion.

MELBER: Discussion.

I mean, I guess what I`m curious, and I understand it`s a complex process, but is there some daylight there with the White House, where, the question being, were they in a rush to announce this, even if they thought, for good reason, good idea, and the CDC was sort of pulled along, I guess, is what I`m curious about?

WALENSKY: You know, we were the ones that were putting forward the evidence that demonstrated this waning immunity. And this was an all-of- government and all-of-HHS discussion and plan to move forward.

I think, with 170 million Americans knowing that they were seeing waning immunity in their vaccine, we have over 140,000 cases of Delta daily in this country now, that, really, we needed to take the responsible action to plan ahead.

MELBER: Turning to the vaccine push, which health experts say is so vital, we have seen in the polling and the data that two of the big reasons that people at this point are still holding out or saying they`re not getting vaccinated yet is that, number one, they are concerned the vaccine itself will hurt them in some way, and, number two, they feel that they may be young and healthy enough that, if they did get COVID, it wouldn`t be that bad, so maybe they don`t need to get a vaccine.

What is your response to both of those views that we`re hearing from some people?

WALENSKY: My job is to get accurate information out to the medical -- to the American people.

What we do know is that the people who are getting COVID now, the vast majority of them who are in the hospital with severe disease, the vast majority of people who are dying -- and we had over 1,000 yesterday, pass away from COVID -- the vast majority are people who are unvaccinated.

We also know that we have extraordinary safety systems watching the safety of these vaccines. We are looking at the risk/benefit very, very carefully. And we`re monitoring it in real time. And the risk of getting COVID far outweighs any safety concerns from the vaccine itself.

MELBER: Yes, I wanted to give you a chance to address that. It`s a public health issue. You`re sort of the person there running the CDC giving that kind of counsel. And it`s an ongoing issue, as we know, for so many people.

I also want to ask you about the data and tracking. In a perfect world, maybe we would track everything. But now that we`re learning more about the persistence of some breakthrough cases, still relatively rare, the CDC doesn`t actually formally track them, reportedly, until they get to the hospitalization rate.

In an ideal world, given what you know now, would it be better if the United States could track breakthrough cases more thoroughly?

WALENSKY: We are tracking breakthrough cases actually very thoroughly.

So, we can track them when they come into the hospital and when they are -- certainly when they`re hospitalized. Importantly, though, we`re doing what is a better epidemiologic view of this. And that is the data that we published this week.

So we`re following tens of thousands of people across the country. In some of our cohorts, we`re actually doing weekly asymptomatic screening. And that`s a really better way to understand how well our vaccines are working and how they`re working against asymptomatic disease, as well as mildly symptomatic disease, because we were not capturing the number of people who are getting the breakthrough infections by just people calling us and reporting them in.

MELBER: So, just briefly, to put a button that, are you saying that, when people say, oh, the CDC isn`t really tracking this, you basically disagree with that? Your view is that you`re tracking it in a manner that makes sense?

WALENSKY: We are tracking it extraordinarily carefully.

The MMWR just this week looked at 10 million vaccinated people in New York there and over 4,000 health care workers that we will be publishing about next week. So, we are tracking this really, really carefully, both on the numerator, who is being vaccinated, as well as the whole of population and how many people -- how many tests we`re doing.

And that`s a better epidemiologic way to track it.

MELBER: Copy. Good to get your view and perspective on that.

Something else I want to ask you about is almost -- if I`m being honest, it`s almost beneath you, in the sense that there are things like this misinformation or this misinterpretation that sometimes is in bad faith. And yet it is part of what people are hearing from sources they rely on.


So I just want to briefly play some of Sean Hannity`s interpretation of the fact that, sometimes, people who have vaccinations also still get some form of COVID.

I just want to be clear with viewers I`m not playing it because it`s reliable, but rather to give you the chance on the record, of CDC, to address it.

But given the breakthrough cases, this is what Sean Hannity says.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Now that we -- the science shows the vaccine will not necessarily protect you. It`s not protecting many people.


MELBER: Your response?

WALENSKY: My job is to give accurate information to the American people.

Here`s the accurate information. The vast majority of people in this country who are getting infected with COVID, who are showing up in the hospital with COVID, and now who are dying with COVID are people who have not received this vaccine.

Over 85 million people in this country are eligible for a vaccine and are not receiving and have not yet received it. And my job is to give you the important information that you need, so that you will want the vaccine, because, if you have the information, I believe you will.

MELBER: So, if somebody says that or repeats that, because this is how things go around, if they say, well, I heard the vaccine does not -- quote, unquote -- "protect you," the CDC`s view of that belief or claim is that it`s false?

WALENSKY: I believe that to be false.

In fact, I would say, even if you happen to be one of the breakthrough cases, your case would be far milder than if you didn`t have a vaccine.


The final question I have for you -- and I know your time is scarce -- there are people who are frustrated or critical, and they look at the entire environment, and they say, if it`s been a year-and-a-half-plus, and safety measures have been tried, the vaccine has been pushed, and even other countries -- take the U.S. debates out of it -- are seeing a Delta resurgence after some progress, they say maybe a lot of this stuff just isn`t working.

Maybe they tried stringent and it`s time to move on. I`m sure you`re familiar with, given the work you do, with that view out there. And I think we can empathize with people who are frustrated, who`ve been through a lot, and schools closed, and working from home, and child care.

What is your response, though, to that view, when people say that? That`s my final question, Doctor.

WALENSKY: I`m sympathetic to the view because I`m living it myself.

I too am frustrated. I think we`re all frustrated. We`re all living this in our own personal lives, as well as the work that we`re doing.

What I can say is, we know how to unite against this virus. We know that, if we take the proper mitigation strategies, if we get people vaccinated, that we can defeat a common foe.

Places that are having the hardest time right now, have not united against this virus are places that are less vaccinated, less mask-wearing, less prevention-focused.

And so if we all actually have that common force to unite against this virus, I absolutely believe we can tackle it.

MELBER: Understood, and a thought for, I think, everyone to reflect on here at the end of another long week.

CDC Director and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, thank you so much for giving us some of your time today.

WALENSKY: Thanks so much for having me.

MELBER: Undeniably a big guest.

And, coming up, Nobel Prize recipient Paul Krugman is here on the cost of war, the Biden spending push and much more, another big guest.

And, later, we get into embattled Congressman Matt Gaetz. He has a big plan for what the House could do to put Donald Trump back in power within a year.




SETH MEYERS, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS": As the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan, right-wing pundits and politicians are engaging in cynical finger-pointing. And the media is giving airtime to some of the key architects of the disastrous war on terror.

For two decades, Washington elites have lied about Afghanistan and refused to take on the inevitable political fallout of withdrawing, even though it`s the right thing to do, and supported by a majority of Americans in poll after poll.


MELBER: No punchline, just some facts.

That brings us to someone else who deals in facts. Paul Krugman is the Nobel Prize-winning economist, a longtime columnist for "The New York Times," and a thinker and author who has bucked conventional wisdom as well.

You were very critical of many aspects of, for example, George Bush`s foreign policy when that was less popular opinion, by using evidence and your analysis. And here we are going through the reckoning.

So, first, thank you for being here.

And second, your thoughts on what we can learn as a society at a time where, as Seth Meyers put it without a punch line, we have a president doing a thing that seems to be valid, that is supported by the public, and that is just getting crushed all week by certain elites.

PAUL KRUGMAN, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, yes, I mean, this is -- I never wanted to be weighing in on this sort of thing. But I had to when we were headed for an obviously false pretenses war in Iraq.

And all I can say now is that there we`re once again in this weird situation where, apparently, you`re only considered to be serious on Afghanistan if you have been wrong about it for the past 20 years.

And that`s lots of unpleasant (AUDIO GAP) how we got into the Iraq War. So, no, I mean, this -- we -- people can comment on the details and how -- whether this could have been managed more smoothly.

But I saw your earlier -- Josh Marshall, as he was saying, that wars like this don`t end well. It was unsustainable. It was going to be bad. And the point is to move on and talk about all of the really urgent things we really need to be doing as a nation, which do not involve military force, but do involve investment.

MELBER: Right, which goes to spending priorities.


MELBER: And, as you say, and as Josh and others have pointed out, yes, there`s going to be a certain amount of vacuum and chaos when you have to run out from that kind of military action.

You mentioned other priorities. What`s on your mind?

KRUGMAN: Well, we have a -- we have this situation now where we are right on the edge of finally doing something to seriously invest in the country`s future of infrastructure, but also a lot of investments in people, investment in children.


And we need to get this -- we will need to do it in one bill that`s bipartisan, sort of, and the other that is going to be Democrats only. And it`s absolutely -- all of this stuff that`s been dominating our screens, fair enough, it`s quite something.

But the -- where America is 10 years from now is going to depend much more on whether we actually do pass a major investment program than whatever is happening and whatever recently happened at Kabul.

And there are some -- there are a few moderate Democrats who are basically trying to sabotage their own party on this. And they need to be brought in line. This thing needs to pass. If we don`t spend those several trillion dollars on our own future, then we won`t have very much of a future.

MELBER: Strongly put by someone who knows the economics of it.

Your new piece is quite striking, Professor, because it says what I believe some people feel, but what is, I suppose, still a little bit controversial. But you write about the quiet rage of the responsible -- quote -- "Getting vaccinated and wearing a mask in public spaces are not personal choices. The irresponsible minority is depriving the rest of us life, liberty" -- there`s that buzzword liberty -- "and the pursuit of happiness."

What do you mean by that? And what do you think is important that we do as a civic body politic, when so many people say their liberty includes their right to take actions that likely will infect others?

KRUGMAN: Well, I mean, that`s crazy, of course, to be saying that.

And we need, so far as possible, to get people -- we have made the vaccines free. Masking is not actually a major inconvenience, but we need to start having -- where possible -- I know we`re not going to have a national order that everybody gets vaccinated. There would actually be a pretty good case for that. But it`s not going to happen.

But to say that everybody who deals with senior citizens and retirement communities, as the administration is doing, but a much wider range of activities, to say that people must -- who are particularly prone to infect others, if they aren`t vaccinated, should get vaccinated.

And we need to tell red state governors to get out of the way. If businesses, if a restaurant owner wants to say prove that you`re vaccinated or you can`t eat here, surely, conservatives, who are supposed to believe in freedom of business to make its own decisions, should be allowing that to happen.

If a local school district wants to protect kids with masks, it`s just insane to have governors saying, no, you can`t.

So, we -- the fact of the matter is that we have seen -- I used -- in the column, I used Lollapalooza. Chicago had this huge raucous music festival, but with rules, entry requirements. You had to prove vaccination or be masked. They had -- or -- sorry -- a negative COVID test -- indoor masking.

And you know what? It was not a disaster. So we could be getting, not entirely life pre-COVID. But the -- we have the means, we have the knowledge to already be out of this.


KRUGMAN: And it`s a few people, it`s a minority of the population and some very cynical politicians who are keeping us from getting there.

MELBER: Yes, fair.

KRUGMAN: And so, yes, you are hurting the rest of us.

MELBER: Yes, you make fair points.


MELBER: Go ahead.

KRUGMAN: And, yes, I mean, this is -- it`s hard to imagine.

If -- we don`t think that it`s OK for people to drive drunk because it`s personal choice. We don`t think that it`s OK for people to smoke...

MELBER: Right.

KRUGMAN: ... in a room with other people because it`s a personal choice.

Why should we think that failing to take basic precautions, easy precautions against this disease are personal choices?

MELBER: Right. Yes.

All fair. And you bring up Lollapalooza. Now I`m wondering, what was Professor Krugman`s favorite act in Lollapalooza?

KRUGMAN: Oh, I actually didn`t -- I haven`t gone. I still -- actually, personally I miss -- I haven`t been to a live concert in the -- since all this started.

November 2019 was the last live concert I went to. So...


MELBER: What was the last act you saw?


MELBER: No, just tell us the last -- what was it?


KRUGMAN: A small band called Reina del Cid. It`s an L.A.-based duo. And they`re...



KRUGMAN: ... music venues in New York City.


MELBER: Hey, it`s Friday.

Now I`m running over on time.

But it`s Friday, Professor. We always like learning what you`re up to, so shout-out to that band in L.A. And thank you for joining us, sir.

KRUGMAN: Take care.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

When we come back: Matt Gaetz has a plan to get Donald Trump back in government by the midterms. We will explain.



MELBER: MAGA Congressman Matt Gaetz is bringing his bizarro world tour out to another stop, traveling with QAnon Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Des Moines, Iowa, is where they were. Gaetz facing a very real DOJ probe regarding sex trafficking. But here`s what he`s telling the crowds. Take a look.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I got an idea. If we retake the House of Representatives, Donald Trump for speaker of the House.


GAETZ: Can you just imagine Nancy Pelosi having to hand that gavel to Donald J. Trump?

She didn`t like when that January 6 guy was sitting in her chair in her office. She is sure not going to like seeing Donald Trump sitting in her chair.


MELBER: That`s what Matt Gaetz is selling out there.

Does it even work like this? Fact-check, true. The House, when they have a majority, can name just about anyone, including a non-member of Congress, to be speaker.

Gaetz is telling people in that crowd he can make Trump speaker to get them to turn out. What he hasn`t maybe calculated is whether that gets a whole lot of other people to turn out in the midterms as well.


Now, coming up, we have made it to Friday, and we have some very special guests, including Joan Walsh, when we come back.


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

We have two special guests tonight, Chris Sullivan from the NBC hit drama "This Is Us." You know it well. He plays Toby Damon. He`s up for a second Emmy for that role, and also known for film acting, including "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2."

And we`re joined by Joan Walsh, national affairs correspondent for "The Nation," former editor in chief of "Salon," and the author of "What`s the Matter with White People?" She`s also a producer of the 2020 documentary "The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts The Tonight Show" on Peacock.

Chris and Joan, thanks for being here. How you guys doing?


CHRIS SULLIVAN, ACTOR: Doing very, very well.

MELBER: Great.

There`s no better way to end a week, in my view. It`s been quite a week.


But, Joan, where do you go? What`s on your "Fallback" list?

WALSH: Well, I love "Fallback Friday," so I don`t want you to make me fall back.

So I can`t ask Chris, what`s going on with Toby and Kate?


WALSH: That would be wrong?

MELBER: You can.

SULLIVAN: It`s funny. It`s the same thing for me. Same thing on my list...


SULLIVAN: ... people asking me about what is going to happen with Toby and Kate.

WALSH: I know. You are going to get me kicked off.

Anyway, I want to go with Greg Abbott. I want him to fall back. I want him to fall back from getting his extra booster shot, getting whatever he`s gotten, monoclonal antibodies. God bless him. I wish him well. I don`t want him to get sick.

But I just think the idea that this clown, who has stopped local people from passing the laws and doing the things that they need to keep their people healthy, has now gotten first in line for these other things. And he still got COVID.

So, fall back, please, Greg.

MELBER: Fall back. Fair. And we`re seeing a lot of heat on Republican governors here.

As you say, wish everybody health and safety, but definitely some tension there.

Chris, what`s on your list, sir?

SULLIVAN: I would like everybody to fall back on other people`s personal hygiene.


SULLIVAN: Been following this story with Ashton and Mila.

And it feels to me like there`s plenty to be to be worried about in the world, and that outrage has become a bit of a hobby and addiction for people. And why don`t we just -- why don`t we let people bathe the way they want to bathe?


MELBER: Yes, first of all, let people bathe. You have a gift with words. I think that`s a fair statement. I don`t know who can oppose that.

SULLIVAN: Let them bathe!


MELBER: But, Chris, I`m going to...


MELBER: But, Chris, I`m going to -- I`m going to ask you what we call the follow-up in journalism, because you obviously are around some of this.

It`s great when we when we take some inspiration from people because of their work or their art. Obviously, they`re on stage, they`re on camera. And yet then there becomes this thing of using them as a stand-in for other topics. And it`s like, I`m sure people gossiped since the dawn of time, but it`s now amplified in a way where, do you feel like using public people or celebrities to then judge other people`s parenting doesn`t seem that fair or wise?

SULLIVAN: I`m familiar with the term. An excellent follow-up question, Ari. Excellent follow-up question.


SULLIVAN: The idea of -- everyone is entitled to their opinion, and everyone is entitled to express it wherever they want and however they want.

But to hold celebrities accountable across all boards when it comes to, I don`t know what, being an example, for God`s sake, don`t let us be an example. We still have opinions. We still have platforms to voice them. But just because we have them doesn`t mean that anybody else needs to fall in line and hold it as gospel.


Joan, what do you think?

WALSH: I agree. I mean, I only care about people`s hygiene if they`re close to me.

So, Chris, if you`re on a set with a person, you hope that they have showered well. That`s all I would say. That`s -- I think that`s the...



WALSH: That`s the only thing that matters.

SULLIVAN: As long as it`s not interfering -- yes, exactly. As long as it`s not interfering with the people around you, and you`re not a public health risk....

WALSH: Right.

SULLIVAN: ... do what thou wilt.

WALSH: Exactly.


SULLIVAN: I mean, for instance, Mandy Moore smells like chocolate chip cookies.

This is breaking news.

WALSH: I thought so.

SULLIVAN: I don`t know if you knew this. Excellent hygiene.

WALSH: I basically imputed it. Excellent hygiene.

SULLIVAN: Yes. Milo has a wonderful built-up musk that smells of leather and gasoline.


SULLIVAN: And no one seems to mind.

So, to each his own.

WALSH: Really great points.

MELBER: You know, I didn`t know the week was going to end like this. I didn`t know it would end like this, Joan and Chris. And yet here we are.

WALSH: No one did. We didn`t either.


SULLIVAN: No one did.


SULLIVAN: Neither did I. Neither did I.


MELBER: I want to thank -- this was Chris Sullivan`s maiden voyage.

Clearly, Joan appreciates you, as we do. So, I`d love to get you both back here.

Shout-out to bathing. And also shout-out to, as we say, minding your business for those who just want to let parents be parents.

Thanks to both of you for joining us tonight.

SULLIVAN: Thanks for having me.

WALSH: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Absolutely. Appreciate you guys.

I`m going to turn it over to "THE REIDOUT WITH JOY REID" right now.