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Transcript: The Beat with Ari Melber, November 27, 2020

Guests: Robert De Niro, Michael Hirschorn, Margaret Atwood, Bob Weir


The president will be having meltdowns upon meltdowns, according to his niece, who sees poetic justice in the lies and cheating now coming back to bite him. Robert De Niro has reopened his feud with Donald Trump and said the president has a screw loose following his election loss. Last days of Trump's reality T.V. presidency. Women voters key to Biden's victory. Grateful Dead's Bob Weir on the power of young voters in 2020.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Hello and welcome to a special edition of the beat. I'm Ari Melber. We're looking at the road ahead after an election featuring this historic and large victory by President-elect Joe Biden and equally historic refusal to ever even admit defeat by President Donald Trump.

He has pushed false claims of voter fraud. He's been filing these empty lawsuits that have led to defeat after defeat in court. And over the course of reporting out Donald Trump's slow-motion losses, we've been speaking with a range of insiders with unique insights into how he has been handling what is obviously a defeat, including what he may do next. That begins with a critic within his own family, Trump's niece, Mary Trump, who revealed her initial reaction to the result of what she thinks was going on inside her uncle's mind.


MARY TRUMP, DONALD TRUMP'S NIECE: But it wasn't a landslide. It wasn't a total repudiation of what has gone on the last four years, especially if you consider the Republican Party actually did fairly well. At least, you know, against expectation, gaining seats in the House and maybe hanging on to the Senate. Which fact by the way is going to enrage Donald even further, because he can no longer pretend that he did badly because the Republican Party dragged him down if anything, it's the opposite.

So, it's good news. We have pulled ourselves back from the brink of a potential autocracy. We now have the opportunity to do the very, very hard work this country needs to do. However, 72 days is a long time and given Donald's, what I imagined to be Donald's current state of mind and his recent actions and the actions of those closest to him and his enablers in the Senate. We could be in for a pretty rocky ride.

MELBER: You talk about his mind as he assesses this. On the day this news broke on Fox News, which we know he tends to watch. There were high-ranking republican speaking about him in childlike analysis of what it would take for him to get and absorb this. Take a look.


ARI FLEISCHER, THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The decent thing to do is let the President himself take the time he wants to absorb this, it is not easy, and it is extraordinarily close. So, if the president needs to take a few days, maybe even longer to absorb, ultimately accept. And I think he ultimately will accept the outcome of the people. You have to allow that to happen.



TRUMP: Why? You know, we had an election, we have the results of an election is allegedly an adult human being. I don't recall the same concessions being made to Hillary Clinton who actually won the popular vote. And apparently, it looks like the electoral college March it might be exactly the same. So, why does he get the benefit of taking a few days? It is disruptive to the transition, it is disruptive to the people -- the peaceful transfer of power.

It is disruptive to the incoming administration. And all it does is give him and his enablers more time to sow seeds of doubt. And people who are -- who maybe don't want to accept the results of this election. And, you know, the hypocrisy. I shouldn't be stunned by it anymore. But it is stunning.

MELBER: Yes. No, I appreciate you tell us how you -- how you'd see it. I did want to ask you about the sort of global reaction to this. There's many ways to measure it. But there's some headlines that are actually measurable where you see, there's a big anthem called F Donald Trump that's been out for a while. But it's now number one on iTunes. It's up, you know, seven times in sales over Biden.

It is basically a pre-Trump anthem that rolling stone puts it has become a post-Trump presidency hit. We saw it playing with people dancing around the country. And so, Mary, my question to you is, when you see this in American around the world, what do you think of this many people dancing to this song? F Donald Trump, your uncle?

TRUMP: I understand it entirely. You know, it's been an exhausting four years. I think a lot of people for the first time in a very long time are able to breathe a sigh of relief, and that includes our allies. You know, there's a reason that people across the world are as relieved as a lot of us here at home. There's a reason as I think Katty Kay pointed out, that Pfizer called President Biden and not Donald Trump, it's enough already.

We have dealt with the minute to minute crises and the temper tantrums and the threats and the cruelty and all of the other things that we've been dealing with for long enough. It's time for it's a stop and I think on Saturday when the election was called legitimately for President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris, people -- it finally sunk in. I think people finally understood that, you know, this nightmare is at least coming to an end.

And the only reason Donald wants to prolong it is because he knows if he can see it, he loses relevance.


MELBER: As we reflect on everything that's been happening, we can also tell you Donald Trump's fear of even just losing relevance was front and center. According to a Trump confidant who knows him oh, so well, his former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who shared with us his view on what Donald Trump has been coping with and what to expect from him next.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Donald Trump is acting like a crybaby, he's like a child that just got kicked out of the candy store. And he wants what's inside, but he can have it. And it was a fair election, the election is over. And let me just give you a little bit. And if you read the book, you'll see that there are stories that aren't that dissimilar to what he's doing now because he lost, he feels like a loser.

And that's the worst thing that Donald Trump can feel. So, what he'd rather do is burn the House down than to hand over the east of the House when it's taken over. And that's because he's fundamentally flawed as a human being. He doesn't have honor. You know, if you watch to see the way Clinton and Bush behave, it's because they have honor. If you look to see even the way Joe Biden is behaving right now, as it relates to Trump and this childish behavior of his there's an honor there, Donald Trump doesn't have honor. And that's the problem.

He will pretend to fight, because he has a game plan post the fight. As you said, it's the pack. It's a Trump media company. He is going to be a thorn in Joe Biden's side. Unless President-elect Biden puts a stop to it right here and right now, unless he does such a thing. Donald Trump is going to be a thorn in his side, 10 times worse, with his 70, 80, 90, 100 million followers, right? By building up the social media company, because this is what he needs to do.

He needs to keep his base rallied around him. He's going to save for the next 30 years that they stole the election from me on the rightful president. He's going to keep his MAGA army active and engaged in a constantly blow this dog whistle, and he's going to be a menace. And watch what so far everything that I said, 19, 20 months ago, I said for the House Oversight Committee, there will never be a peaceful transition of power.

And why was I able to predict that? Because I know the man. And I hope he's watching because I would say to him, Donald, leave, leave with grace leave with honor and dignity. But he won't do that because he's incapable. He's just fundamentally incapable. It's not his core.

I watched him on television. And he looks terrible. He's behaving terribly as all the sycophants around them. I mean, it's just a total disgrace. what he's doing. He's making a complete mockery of the presidency. And he's putting a stain on his presidency of, you know, of 2016. I don't understand what he's doing.

MELBER: You've been with him in rooms when he's plotted and battled, you've spoken out about that you've written some about it, which Trump did we see when as I was showing viewers a moment ago, the guy who was there at least Thursday, however wrong he was seemed to have some fight in him. And he has gotten a long ways by making people think there will always be one more gambit, one more fight, one more aggressive move.

Have you ever seen -- does it remind you of any time where he ends up like this? I mean, no fight today.

COHEN: You know, when Donald Trump loses, he becomes a baby. And that's basically where he's in right now. He's in complete shock mode. He first -- like everybody he has emotions too, even though pretend that he doesn't. First the anger and that what he was expressing was the anger. And now he's in shock mode. What's going happen to me, that's what's bothering him most -- to me as I now move forward, and all the litigation is going to start.

How do I go ahead and become the grifter in chief, as I'm now setting up this media company that I've been talking about since 2016 and 2015? So, yes, I've seen him in this mode before. It's not amin, but I've seen him on a presidential level.

MELBER: You mentioned the idea of a media or media political project. You were there. You were in very good graces with him in '16. Do you remember talk then, about that, and does that give you any insights into what he's up to now?

COHEN: So, the answer to that is yes. We, you know, we spoke about it. Not only did I speak about it, Jared Kushner was the one that really put it most in his mind when he said to Mr. Trump, that you have to understand that the power of does not lie anywhere, except for in the hands of the media. And he was, of course, referring to himself, the fact that he had owned a small paper called the observer that he, you know, that was really worthless.

But he would talk about how the power that it brought to him, that looking at now Rupert Murdoch, looking at Fox News, his whole goal is to basically replace Fox News. But he believes that with the hundred million followers that he has, that he will have a institution, he cannot show the world -- which is a loser in this case. So, what he will do is he will pretend that he's strong, that he's dealing with it, that he's fighting it. The whole purpose is in order to turn it's a money gram.


MELBER: Now, as it all sinks in we also want to share with you two other insiders if you watch the (INAUDIBLE) you may recognize them. They're our friends, Trump executive Barbara Res and Art of the Deal coauthor, Tony Schwartz discussing why they think Donald Trump will actually continue to try to vandalize the government in his last days in office.


BARBARA RES, FORMER EXECUTIVE V.P. OF TRUMP ORGANIZATION: You can't deal with the notion of being a loser is something that he couldn't even possibly conceive or believe. So, I don't think he believes that he's a loser quite yet. I think he's so angry that all the planets that he set out to make sure to guarantee him win. Like, for one thing, the voter suppression, which he had going all over the country with his Republicans, and the post office.

He's in shock that he didn't win. He -- I think he thought he was going to win. So, now, it's a matter of resting. And again, I'm not sure that he's convinced he didn't win, but based on his logic, it's a matter of resting now this this loss of as it were from the victory of Biden, and he'll do anything, he will do -- and Michael's absolutely right, for ourselves, he will burn down the House.

TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, THE HEART OF DEAL: We do have an autocrat in the White House right now. He's taken down any sign that he will play by the rules that he will be bound by convention, that the norms apply to him. And I don't expect that to happen from now until Inauguration Day. He is caught between delusion which is those periods when he actually believes that he didn't win, or he should have won, or people should agree that he won on the one hand and then rage on the other hand.

Just plain rage because most people at this moment are feeling depression. I'm sure that's what Hillary Clinton himself. I'm sure that's what Al Gore going all the way back to 2000. But Trump doesn't do depression, he won't go there. It's too weak, it's too vulnerable. So, where he goes is rage and blame. Donald Trump has treated the world as a simple binary place, right, wrong, good, bad, black, white.

And the world now, the complexity of the problems that we're facing is running so far out ahead of the complexity of thinking required to solve them and the emotional resilience required to solve them. So, this interdependent world that we live in, the challenge for us is to move from me, I think I've said this to you before, from me, which has been the preoccupation of too many Americans to weed.

Because whether we like it or not, we're going to rise or fall together. We're seeing that right now with the pandemics roaring back into the world. You can't just decide that you're not going to be the one to wear the mask or you're not going to social distance. If you're not aware of your impact on other people that doesn't mean you're not having that impact. So, to me, it's a shift in consciousness that we need. It's the capacity to see beyond ourselves and to recognize we're part of a bigger hole.


MELBER: We have a lot more coming up tonight to get you to the end of this year, including real insights. And now Trump's last days in office are playing out like yes, fittingly, the last episode of a canceled reality show. Also, legendary actor Robert De Niro weighing in on how Trump compares to some of his own iconic tough guy roles. And something I'm very excited about grateful that icon Bob Weir is here to talk music, politics, culture, and a whole lot more. That's all coming up on this special edition of THE BEAT.


MELBER: Welcome back. We're thrilled to be joined now by someone who literally needs no introduction, legendary actor, director and producer Robert De Niro to reflect on the loss of a president that he is strongly confronted. Robert, I want to get right to it. Let's take a look at your Straight Talk.


ROBERT DE NIRO, AMERICAN ACTOR: I'm going to say one thing. Trump. He is so blatantly stupid. This guy is -- should not be president, period. A lot -- him.

UNIDENTIFIIED MALE: OK. Well, you know, this is --

DE NIRO: Sorry.


DE NIRO: He's a punk. He's a dog. He's a pig. He has no idea of what his purpose in life is, as the President should be. He's a con artist. A mutt who doesn't know what he's talking about. Yes. But kind of a weird twisted President who thinks he's a gangster. Who's a -- not even a good gangster. He's at national disaster, talks how he wants to punch people in the face. Well, I'd like to punch him in the face.


MELBER: Robert De Niro joins us on THE BEAT. Your reaction to this election, sir?

DE NIRO: Well, I'm relieved. Very, very relieved. It's like -- as I keep saying it's like being in an abusive relationship. We don't know what's going on. Nobody knows. From one day to the next. I don't even think he knows what's going on. The bottom line is I'm very relieved that he's n-- that he's not. And we have a lot to it because there'll be other people like him in the future. Maybe not in my lifetime, but there was an article written in -- I think The Atlantic the other day about -- and this is something I always think about.

Somebody is going to come along because a lot smarter, more sensitive, more material and not so good and not so boorish. And we'll be able to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. And then we will have a serious -- more serious, deeper problem. And one that might, actually, that will get further than what Trump has done. And he's also set an example, unfortunately to other young people that this kind of thing can be done.

And that's why it's so important at this, you know, after he's out of office that he is held accountable. Thank God, we're out of this, we're going to be other things. But with Biden, we're going to get on a good -- he's going to bring us into calm waters. And, you know, everybody realize we just got to get out of this mess, move on and then we can deal with other things.

MELBER: Yes. And this is a -- I mean, this is a president who is -- he's not accused of as many things as some dictators, but he certainly closed the race by fighting democracy itself. Iwant to play a little bit of --

DE NIRO: Give him another four years. Give him another four years and he'll be go for a third term. And then he'll -- and he joked about President for life with (INAUDIBLE) and he'll go -- he'll do anything (INAUDIBLE)

MELBER: And he told people to vote twice and he told people -- yeah. He -- all of that. I want to show -- I want to show before we lose you, because you've been around the contrast of Obama and Biden. You've been celebrated by President Obama, so not to embarrass you. But we did want to take a quick look at that. Here it is.


UNIDENTIFIIED MALE: For over 50 years, Robert DeNiro, has delivered some of screens, most memorable performances. His work is legendary for his range and depth. Relentlessly committed to his craft. De Niro embodies his characters creating rich, nuanced portraits that reflect the heart of the human experience.


MELBER: What did that mean to you from President Obama and what if anything, are your thoughts on Joe Biden who was part of that administration and now President-elect?

DE NIRO: Well, I was honored, of course to be -- to be given that. Very honored. And I -- again, Obama was a president who was, you know, he might not have done all the things right. But you know, his intentions were right. You know, he was honorable, you know, he's honorable. He's going to play by the rules and do the right thing. And that's all you expect from a leader is to at least their intentions are noble, they might make mistakes.

And that I've always felt about him. And Biden will do the same, he will be with Kamala Harris, it's going to be -- it might even surprise us more that they'll do things that we didn't expect. And don't expect, but they could do it. And it would be a terrific four years, maybe longer.

MELBER: I want to -- before I lose you, play a little bit of some of your iconic scenes, let's take a look.


DE NIRO: -- around your friends and always keep in mind shut. He talking to me, talk to me. Listen to me very carefully. There three ways of doing things around here. The right way, the wrong way and the way that I do it. I grew up in a tough neighborhood. And we used to say you can get further with a kind word and a gun than you can with just the kind of work.


MELBER: What do we take from all the tough guys you've played in a country that celebrates toughness, but sometimes maybe gets carried away?

DE NIRO: I mean, I'm an actor. I do those four parts, I enjoy them. But I'd like to even think in those, some of -- all those parts is a certain dignity, somewhere buried in there that I don't think a person like Trump I know doesn't have. There's no center and so you have to have a center no matter who you are. If you -- it's just -- it's like somebody defying gravity. You can't then -- they'll never do. That's why we have rules. That's why we have laws.

That's why we have judges, that's why we have structure. If we don't have that we have nothing. And we have chaos. We have anarchy. We -- and we need someone who -- to lead us through in a kind of a father figure leeway or mother figure lee way to bring us through and show that they love us, care about us and they want our best. They are looking out for us. It's the total opposite with someone like him.

It confounds me how we ever got to be elected, but he did and things -- crazy things happen but we -- that's what we need in a -- in a leader, in any leader. And that's what we were going to get with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. She's tough, she's tougher, she'll do the things that maybe he wouldn't do or can't do. But I'm hoping that she will do them.

MELBER: Robert DeNiro, it's really fascinating to hear your take, especially given the way you've been a key figure, really, in the public realm dealing with whatever it is that Donald Trump is. And personally, I'm a journalist, but personally, I'm just such a huge fan. I really appreciate you coming on.

DE NIRO: And I say -- thank you. And I just want to say one more thing. I'm not like political, but I was so angry and so enraged and confounded that he would actually behave the way he did. And that people bought it.

MELBER: Right.

DE NIRO: I -- now I see many, many, many, many people in the country feel this way. I'm sad about other people who don't. They've accepted Him and would have voted for him and have voted for him. I don't know. I don't know why. But I -- that's all that it was from the very beginning just how --


DE NIRO: -- this way. That's all.

MELBER: Robert De Niro. Thank you so much, sir.

DE NIRO: Thank you.

MELBER: And coming up from the apprentice to the White House, how Donald Trump's final days in office actually echo his troubled career at the end of the days of reality T.V. And later we're going to talk politics with the author of the famed Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood.



JIMMY FALLON, AMERICAN COMEDIAN: President has gone from firing people on reality T.V. to denying the reality that he's fired.

JIMMY KIMMEL, AMERICAN TELEVISION HOST: We have a reality show hosts who will not accept reality.


MELBER: Yes, there's that word. The reality show has become a punch line. Donald Trump crashing into one narrative he cannot control at all. He is the loser of this election, not a pejorative statement, just a technical reality. And in Trump's T.V. terms, this is the ultimate ending, the Trump show canceled. In terms of media, Trump has been here before. The Apprentice first did begin, remember, with high ratings and that memorable fake executive persona.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My name is Donald Trump. I'm looking for the apprentice. How are we going? This is week two of your 13-week job interview. A lot of business has done on golf course. Trump National Golf Club. Good luck. Kevin, you're fired. Stacy, you're fired. Kishi, you're fired. Bill, you're hired.


MELBER (on camera): Who can forget? That was on Trump. Ponders his next moves out of the White House and possibly fusing other media or political programming into some kind of enduring force or money-making project or even, yes, potentially another run in 2024. There may be lessons in the limits for any show that runs too long like this. Trump's Apprentice, of course, made him famous enough to run for president.

But remember, by the end, the ratings crashed, and it was not even appealing to Trump's own fans and the gambits then to try to find new interest and got -- basically, they got more and more desperate as a de Lis cast of characters multiplied and bizarre challenges became normalized.


TRUMP: Your Harry Potter facts were not accurate, who did the research?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it's Slytherin and it's Hufflepuff and it's Ravenclaw.

TRUMP: Marilou, you remember, when you got fired, you think you have a better memory than Dennis Rodman?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not so scary, more like you're having fun.


MELBER (on camera): Almost unwatchable. By the end, The Apprentice was losing millions of viewers, it dropped a third of its original ratings in T.V. terms. It was what people were watching when the T.V. was left on, but no longer appointment viewing. But people tuning Trump out and voters and news reporters are also now in a more serious way, filtering out Trump and the lies, all of it less compelling than it was once viewed.


TRUMP: The Democrats, but in all cases, they're so one-sided. We were --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're watching President Trump speaking live from the White House. And we have to interrupt here because the President has made a number of false statements and --

TRUMP: Likewise, in Georgia, won by a lot, a lot with --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there, the President of the United States addressing the American people for the first time. There were a couple of statements that the President made. Do you have a fact check?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Here we are again, in the unusual position of not only interrupting the President of the United States, but correcting the President of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to fact check this in real time for you tonight, because that's not the case. We don't have any evidence of illegal votes in this country.


MELBER (on camera): Our next guest points out that some reality shows like Real Housewives do start out as big phenomenons as The Apprentice did. But over time, if they survive at all, it's by appealing to a narrower and more fanatic base that follows along with even ridiculous twists and turns, and no hope for new viewers. But Trump is the show but that only works if he can keep driving the show if he can get people, for example, even on his narrow side, to glom on to fanciful plot twists like a stolen election.

Now, we turn to that expert. As promised, this is the reality T.V. guru and innovator, Michael Hirschorn, he created the concept of celebrity reality T.V. at VH1 with hits like Flavor of Love, I Love the 80s and Celebrity Rehab, as he likes to say, You're welcome, America. He's now the CEO of Ish Entertainment, and a cultural analyst for the Atlantic. Thanks for coming back, sir.

MICHAEL HIRSCHORN, CEO OF ISH ENTERTAINMENT: Thanks for having me. Always a pleasure.

MELBER: As mentioned, we wrote this setup partly from speaking with you today, tell us what you mean by these different paths that shows take?

HIRSCHORN: Well, I think shows either completely run out of steam and get cancelled. Or if they're going to survive, they recognize that they have a small group of fans that they have to feed over and over and over again. And the problem, you know, is that by so feeding their base, if you will, the show becomes completely incomprehensible to people who are outside of the bubble. And that's what you see happening with Trump now, right? For a minute, he had the entire country in his thrall.

And what he said was culture. At this point, the culture that he's selling, is so arcane and internal and bizarre and meta that if you're not a regular watcher of FOX News, you're really going to have no idea what he's talking about.

MELBER: This also brings us as every -- as every conversation like this must, sooner or later, you know where I'm going, Michael. That brings us to the meatloaf subplot on The Apprentice, sorry. Take a look.


MEATLOAF: I bought those mother (BLEEP) sponges. Part of that paint is mine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meat, don't do it. Don't do it.

MEATLOAF: (BLEEP) you do not want to (BLEEP) with me. You look into my eyes. I am the last person in the (BLEEP) world you ever want to (BLEEP) with.


MELBER: People may forget that is how The Apprentice ended when people stopped watching it. Your final thoughts here. We have about 40 seconds.

HIRSCHORN: Well, today we're all Gary Busey, I think. We're completely insane. And yet we think we're the same ones. But I just want to quickly propose a spin off show. It's, you know, Rudy Giuliani, Don Jr., Jerry Falwell Jr., Matt Gaetz. You put them all in a house together, and they work through their psychosexual and substance issues together. I think that would do really well. I think Mark Burnett should produce that immediately for FOX.

MELBER: Well, I know you're joking. We're all open to working through anything that's out there. But you have a lot of insight of this in particular, the way the President thinks about it. And as ex-president, whether he's doing this programming how that relates to the actual political stakes, Michael Hirschorn, thank you very much. You're on THE BEAT.

Coming up, my interview with the author of The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood, we're going to get into the sequel to her epic novel. Her take on the Trump presidency and what it really requires to resist a totalitarian government from within. And Grateful Dead fans, we think you won't want to miss this. We have the one and only Bob Weir, tonight. Stay with us.


MELBER: President-elect Biden's victory over President Trump was propelled by the largest voting bloc in America, women, demonstrating political clout with a decisive role this year capping, of course, the tenure of four years of protests that began famously with that large women's march on Washington just after Trump's inauguration. For later protest, women turned to many symbols from the culture, the novel and the T.V. series. It's all grown out of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.

Many dressed up as the oppressed handmade figure to shine a spotlight on policies that happen today that they argue take women backwards into being historically second-class citizens.

MELBER (voiceover): Now, Atwood is following up with an award-winning sequel, The Testaments. We just caught up with her about her newly relevant take on oppressive government and the resistance against it.

MELBER (on camera): And I'm now joined by Margaret Atwood, author of over 60 works including The Testaments which expands on the universe of The Handmaid's Tale. Thank you for coming on THE BEAT.


MELBER: Very exciting time. Let's start with what do we learn from the new book?

ATWOOD: Well, I can't tell you everything, that would be dreadful spoiler, but we are skipping ahead in time, 16 years or so. We're seeing how Gilead might begin to crumble. Because we know from The Handmaid's Tale that it does, but we just weren't told how. So, how does a totalitarianism collapse? What ends it? And do we have three characters narrating it. We've got two young women and one older one who've we've -- whom we've seen only from the outside in The Handmaid's Tale, but now we get her interviews.

MELBER: As mentioned, The Handmaid's Tale has had huge impact, has influenced so many people. We'll get to that. But starting with your new book, one contrast is in The Handmaid's Tale, we are exposed immediately to this universe, and then we slowly come to understand it as readers, as you say, this comes in at a different point. And I wonder if you would read a little bit of how you explain what's happened. This is from the new book.

ATWOOD: OK. So, this person talking is Aunt Lydia, who has been co-opted to help build a structure that will control other women. And Chase says, did I hate the structure we were concocting? On some level, yes. It was a betrayal of everything we'd been taught in our former lives and of all that we'd achieved. Was I proud of what we managed to accomplish, despite the limitations? Also, on some level, yes. Things are never simple.

MELBER: Things are never simple. What is she proud of?

ATWOOD: Well, I'm -- people like this, in these kinds of regimes, quite frequently say it would have been worse, if not for me. Is that just an excuse? Are they excusing themselves? Are they telling the truth? That is really up to the reader to decide.

MELBER: Your work obviously, delves deeply into choice. How does power control choice?

ATWOOD: Exactly.

MELBER: How is gender a function of available choices?

ATWOOD: Exactly. Totalitarian regimes limit choice, like they limit it very stringently, to go along with us, or these are the alternatives. So, death, exiled, prisoned, or at a lower level, just not having any career or power.

MELBER: Why do states go back to that playbook?

ATWOOD: Well, they all have their reasons. What it comes down to is that they assert the right to control reproduction. And they assert their right over people's bodies. So --

MELBER: That goes to the very next thing I want to ask you about, which is you refer to different systems, which may or may not be strictly animated by sexism and misogyny. But then you have, of course, modern examples that that chiefly are.

ATWOOD: All total -- totalitarianisms, no matter what they say their aims, no matter what's on the flag, they all have in common the rollback of women's rights.

MELBER: And you show how people can be both limited in their choice or be victims and then turn into a part of the system, a part of perpetrating it. Are we supposed to be depressed when we see that?

ATWOOD: But they're also part of resisting it. People may behave according to circumstances, but they're also quite capable of compliance on the outside and resistance on the inside. And many people have them.

MELBER: Margaret Atwood, thank you so much for coming on THE BEAT.

ATWOOD: Thank you.

MELBER: Big fan. I told you this was a special show. And coming up, we get into something we think is truly special tonight. What a lot Long strange trip it's been. We're joined by Grateful Dead legend, Bob Weir, talking culture, music, and yes, some politics.


MELBER: And finally, tonight, I don't know if you've been waiting for it, but I have. What a long, strange trip it's been. Boy, is that a motto that applied this year. Well, we just caught up with the founding --

MELBER (voiceover): -- member of what we think is one of the greatest jam bands and rock and roll groups of all time. I'm talking about the legend, Bob Weir, talking music, culture and politics, as well as something that he cares deeply about long before this year, mobilizing voters to get involved and participate. He shared his passion and the ways that wisdom from the Grateful Dead might even apply right now.

MELBER (on camera): Joining me now is a legend, a founding member of the Grateful Dead, singer, songwriter, guitarist and important this week, a voting rights advocate on the Board of Headcount, a nonpartisan organization that bridges the power of music with democracy. It is my personal thrill really, truly to welcome Bob Weir to THE BEAT. Thanks for doing this.

BOB WEIR, FOUNDING MEMBER, GRATEFUL DEAD: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

MELBER: Well, I want to get to music. But I want to begin with where your heart is. You're doing this work with Headcount. Tell us about it, why it matters to you.

WEIR: I've been with Headcount for 10 to 12 years, but in that time, we've registered well over a million voters. But in this cycle alone, we've -- we registered nearly half of those, well over a third of a -- of the eligible voters in this -- in this election are, you know, are young by our standards. And they have the rest of their lives in front of them. And so, what they -- what gets decided in this election is going to make a big difference for them.

The decisions that government makes and the actions that it takes, you know, it's all important stuff as we've seen, for instance, with regard to the coronavirus that's going around right now. There's probably more that could have been done and should have been done and was not done. And whoever has a better idea on how to -- how to handle that deserves some real consideration, I think.

MELBER: I want to ask you, Bob, you know, politics can be seen as dividing people, culture, bridges, divides, it brings people together, we were looking here at artists using Grateful Dead style imagery here. And you can even download something from the Grateful Dead website, I read, to get, you know, to get people more engaged in voting. Nowadays, you got the Jerry Bears you see in all kinds of contexts. How do you feel about that? Because it's music, but it's deeper than that, right?

I mean, it's a -- it's a community, it's an experience. And did you ever think back in the 60s or 70s, this will be playing out as so relevant to so many people now?

WEIR: Well, I think that you can see a parallel, you can see a real connection between the fact that music brings people together. And the fact that we're all in this together, you know? Culture is also going to bring us all together for that matter, I think. One of the things on the ballot is kind of on the ballot is whether or not we're going to -- we're going to remain sort of divided as a nation or try to -- try to work ourselves together as a nation.

And I think -- I think as an example of, you know, the fact that music does bring us together, let's hold that in our, you know, in our heads and in our hearts and think of the rest of this whole culture that way and try to come together that way, as well. I'm not sure that that's real clear. But it's the best I can say right now.

MELBER: It's clear to me, and I think it's a theme that whether we take it at the highest level of altitude, like, you know, we can be in this together, or the specific examples. I think it resonates. Because we're so excited to have you on here. And we put together just a couple moments, classic moments with you and Jerry, I just want to play those for your reflection. Take a look.

WEIR: Let me see it.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looking at the two of you, I can't believe that you both started together because you look, forgive me.

WEIR: I'm older than him.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do you think you've stayed together that long?

GARCIA: I got the answer to that.


WEIR: Take it.

GARCIA: Sheer intense burning hatred and revenge.


MELBER (on camera): What are your reflections on the relationship personally, and creatively?

WEIR: Well, I'd say I missed -- I missed the last but not that much. Because he -- the guy comes to me in my dreams every now and again. And we get some -- we get some laughs in. And sometimes when I'm -- when I'm by myself, stuff comes up and I laugh. So, you know, I got the goofs from stuff. I remember stuff that happened to me today that, you know, I sort of tell my old pal about. And I can kind of feel some sort of -- some sort of resonance there.

MELBER: Before I let you go, we do sometimes lightning rounds, which are easy because I'll give you choices and maybe you'll pick them if you're willing. If you had to choose Skull and Roses or Dancing Bears?

WEIR: Skull and Roses for sure. I never -- there was all that fun in the Dancing Bears.

MELBER: Scarlet Begonias or Fire on the Mountain?

WEIR: Scarlet Begonias got more chord changes and more harmonic development and all that kind of stuff and that's kind of where my heart was.

MELBER: This is kind of a tough one but define Box of Rain.

WEIR: Box of Rain was, in my understanding, it was originally a Ball of Rain, and I don't know why it got changed because the Ball of Rain pretty much was a description of the -- it was right after we first started getting -- Hunter wrote that lyric right after we first started getting pictures from outer space of the planet.


WEIR: And, you know, it was a Ball of Blue -- Ball of, you know, Ball and Rain basically, because you could see all the rain clouds. And so, I think he originally wrote as a Ball of Rain, and then they turn into a Box of -- Box of Rain. And I'm not exactly sure how that happened.

MELBER: If you had to define this election, would it be a Hell of a Bucket or Dancing in the Streets?

WEIR: Or a little of both.

MELBER: Fair. And our last question, because I know your time is short. Everybody loves playing in the band. And you say, I don't trust nothing, but I know it'll come out right. Do you still have that optimism today, sir?

WEIR: Hell yes. You know, my entire life has been an exercise and fit.

MELBER: Amen. Bob Weir, thank you for what you're doing. And thanks for spending some time with us.

WEIR: My pleasure. Thanks for your kind attention.

MELBER: Thanks for joining us. I hope you and yours are doing well during these holidays. I just want to share a final note. You can always DVR THE BEAT right now on your remote. You press your cable homepage, search for Melber and just press DVR for this show. You might be catching us, for example, if you have time off and normally might be out of work or busy, depending on when the show airs. So, we encourage you to DVR us.

You can always see some of the types of people we had on tonight from Di Nero to Bob Weir, to all of our political and legal friends. Thanks for watching. That does it for us. You can always find THE BEAT weeknights at 6:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC. And I hope all of you enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend.



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