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Transcript: The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 7/14/21

Guests: Debbie Stabenow, Shawn Thierry, Jasmine Crockett, Richard Blumenthal, Cecilia Kang, Sheera Frenkel, Bob Kerrey


Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow is interviewed. Texas State Representatives Shawn Thierry and Jasmine Crockett are interviewed. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is interviewed. Instead of blurbs from friends of the authors urging you to buy the book, the back cover of "An Ugly Truth, Inside Facebook`s Battle for Domination" includes only blurbs of a sort from the two subjects of the book -- Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. Former Senator Bob Kerrey takes us back to the time when senators refused to demonize senators on the other side of the aisle and what it will take to restore sanity to the Senate.



And as we discussed last night, the infrastructure bill is very much on track. That Democrats-only agreement in the Senate is now getting pretty much unanimous agreement among Democrats today. No one is putting down any red lines on the Democratic side saying, I can`t do that. So it looks like it`s moving.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: So you`re saying you stand by your assessment in our impromptu interview at this last night in which you said this is closer to the end than the beginning despite my skeptical eyebrow raise.

O`DONNELL: Well, not in, not in calendar terms, because technically, this is -- technically, it is one quarter of the way. If you say the Budget Committee passes the resolution, the full Senate then has to pass the resolution, the House has to do exactly the same thing. And then the resolution is just a promise in September, they will come back and do the so-called reconciliation which requires all of the committees involved to pass their bills within the committees, take it out to the Senate floor.

There`s a lot of weeks involved. There`s -- but the big deal, the huge deal is that Bernie Sanders got an agreement of all the Budget Committee members which really represents the whole Senate in that way. And now he has -- Bernie Sanders`s agreement now extends to Nancy Pelosi and as far as we can tell, every Democratic member of the House.

So that`s one of the things we were talking about last night. Is this just a small group in the Budget Committee that agrees? Or did they go outside the committee, make sure Nancy Pelosi is on board. Obviously, make sure Chuck Schumer is on board, the president is on board, and they obviously did that.

Nancy Pelosi wasn`t surprised, you know, last night --

MADDOW: Right.

O`DONNELL: -- to see what that agreement was. She was in line. Everybody was in line.

Bernie Sanders did a masterful job making sure everyone was in line before he brought this thing to a public spot.

MADDOW: Lawrence, you`re irreplaceable. You can never quit your job. You can never do anything else. None of us would understand any of this without your ability to explain it in the way that you do.

I honestly like -- I just -- I follow these things as well as anybody. I talk to everybody I know about what`s happening and where we are. Then I`m like, just wait until Lawrence tells me, because until you walk me through the way the calendar is going to work on this, I don`t -- I don`t get it. You make it make sense.

O`DONNELL: Yeah. It`s -- so the resolution, it`s like you and I resolve to do something. You know, oh, that`s great. They resolved to do it.

Now you have to do it. That`s the reconciliation part. You reconcile your resolution. They call it reconciliation because there`s a lot of bookkeeping involved. Making the numbers work.

But that agreement, I`ve never seen the agreement on a budget resolution in the Budget Committee by Democrats done this way, not make it all the way. They make it all the way.


O`DONNELL: Because you know at the outset, you know, Chairman Sanders knows, Bill Dauster knows, who`s an expert working on the Budget Committee staff, exactly what the road looks like ahead. It is like, you know, designing a rocket. You have to know exactly how much fuel at the beginning the whole thing is going to need to get there and make its way back to earth, the whole thing.

And, you know, Bernie Sanders knows this. The staff on the Budget Committee are experts at this. And so, when I watch them launch this thing, I expect it to go all the way.

MADDOW: I hereby resolve to continue listening to you explain this because you`re the only one who makes it make sense. Thank you, my friend.

O`DONNELL: It`s a lot easier than it sounds. I mean, hard to do, but easier to understand. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Well, the Biden infrastructure plan is not just on track. It is not just on track tonight. It really looks like it is on a winning track. And there are two tracks of the Biden infrastructure plan, the bipartisan track and the Democrats-only track.

And two weeks ago, President Biden successfully negotiated a bipartisan agreement on the bipartisan track with a bipartisan group of senators and, on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill which in and of itself would be the largest infrastructure bill Congress has ever considered until this week when President Biden and all the Democratic members of the Budget Committee agreed on another $3.5 trillion on a wider range of infrastructure spending, that is designed to pass with only Democratic votes in the United States Senate through budget reconciliation process which requires only 51 votes.


And that process begins in Senate Budget Committee, chaired masterfully so far in this process by Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders. As Rachel and I have discussed, those proved true today, Chairman Sanders obviously made sure the $3.5 trillion framework that he was designing in his committee would be acceptable not just to his committee but also senator Joe Manchin who is not a member of the committee but represents one side of the Democratic Party, and also to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and apparently the entire House of Representatives.

Bernie Sanders has hired that whole thing. There would be no point in Chairman Sanders getting the budget committee to agree to the shape of a bill that could not fast Senate and the House. Nancy Pelosi praised the bill that has been agreed to by the Democrats in the Senate Budget Committee, saying that it will make bold essential investments in our values as a nation.

Here`s what Senator Joe Manchin had to say about Bernie Sanders`s Budget Committee`s bill.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Well, I`m open to looking at everything they provided. They`ll have to provide all the information that`s going to be needed. They`ve worked hard. They should have a proposal.

The president is going to come today and explain. We`ll listen to that. We`ll look at the proposal, look at the priorities they have for our country and then look at how we`re going to pay for it. And if we have to have all the tax adjustments being made, is it going to be overly competitive?

CALDWELL: Does it have to be completely paid for?

MANCHIN: I think we should start paying for stuff.

CALDWELL: Everything? Is this a red line for you?

MANCHIN: There`s no red lines.


O`DONNELL: No red lines. That`s all you`re ever listening for. That`s all you want to know at this stage of legislation. Does anyone have a red line this legislation crosses and that person can`t support it. No redlines means Joe Manchin is on board with this bill.

Yes, he`s going to want to see the details, sure. They all want to see the details, but he is on board. Senator Manchin had previously indicated that he didn`t want this bill to go much above $2 trillion, while Bernie Sanders is insisting that it should be in the $6 trillion range. Now they`ve both compromised to get to this point. As of tonight, not a single Democrat has laid down a red line that will prevent this bill from passing.

Senator Sanders framed this bill`s place in history this way.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): I would say the most consequential piece of legislation being proposed since the Great Depression and FDR. It is complicated, it is difficult, but I believe it is what the American people want. And I hope very much that if we are successful, people will say that this is the moment where we restored faith in our government, that it can work for ordinary people. Not just the wealthy.


O`DONNELL: I find it easy to describe the process that we`re seeing here, but it is difficult to describe, the degree of legislative difficulty in what we are watching tonight and the precision required. We have never seen anything like this before. We`ve never seen a giant presidential program being enacted through two pieces of legislation at the same time on two different tracks, a bipartisan bill and a one-party bill.

President Joe Biden actually went up to the Senate today and attended the Democratic senators` policy lunch to lock down Democratic Senate support for the budget bill Bernie Sanders has brought up through the Senate. It is extremely rare for a president to attend one of the party`s weekly lunches in the Senate. Most presidents never did that.

For Joe Biden, it was a homecoming.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNTIED STATES: Hey, everybody. It`s my homecoming. Great to be home. Great to be back with my colleagues and I think we`ll get a lot done.

REPORTER: Mr. President, any concern that having two tracks here will disrupt the bipartisan agreement?

BIDEN: No. I think it`s the only way to get it done is with two tracks. Thank you.


O`DONNELL: Leading off our discussion tonight, Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan. She`s a member of the Senate Budget Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

Senator, you have been in the room with the Budget Committee working out this deal. You were also in the room with the president today when he came, I guess we can call it back to lunch with the Senate Democrats, as he did for 36 years.

First of all, tell us about being in the room with the Budget Committee members, with Mark Warner in a way representing the Manchin side of the Senate. Bernie Sanders, there is no one to the left in the Senate. And how difficult was to it come to this $3.5 trillion agreement?

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D-MI): Well, Lawrence, first of all, it`s really wonderful to be with you this evening and to hear your explanation of the budget resolution and reconciliation, you are really an expert on this, and I would say "amen" to the way you explained it.

You know, I have had the opportunity now to be on the Budget Committee since being in the Senate for 20 years and being a senior member of finance. I have to tell you, it was really meaningful and incredible to be in that room the last two nights, hour after hour, talking to colleagues about what they think is important and how to get consensus.

It wasn`t easy. I mean, you understand how all this works. We have very -- we have many things that we agree on and other things that we want to do that others may not do as a priority. And so, I agree with you.

I mean, Bernie Sanders was terrific. I mean, really, the best I`ve seen him as the leader of the Budget Committee, and I have to say that Senator Schumer who was pivotal in all of this, Senator Mark Warner, who really was representing the other end of the Budget Committee, and all of us. And we were working with the White House. We had folks in the room as well.

I mean, this was really listening and pushing, you know, back and forth with each other. But the bottom line was this, we really believe that it`s time American people know that someone`s got their back. And that the tax code should work for working people, not just the rich, not just the millionaires and billionaires.

You know, we believe that if you ask billionaires to pay something that`s not a tax increase, you know, more than zero. That`s not a tax increase.

I mean, we -- so, we came together on the biggest tax cut in history, tackling the climate crisis, which is the existential crisis of our time while creating tens of millions of jobs that we can do at the same time, and then making sure people know with all the costs they have in their life, that we are going to be able to bring the costs down -- from childcare to the cost prescription drugs, to Medicare paying for dental and hearing and vision.

And so, as we worked through what we care about, and the fact that it really all comes back to putting people first and having people understand that somebody sees them, hears them, cares about them and will fight for them. And it was those values that really draws us all together in the end.

O`DONNELL: What was it like to have President Biden back at the senators` lunch today? Was that a victory celebration or was that the president trying to make sure that he was solidifying support in the Democratic Senate?

STABENOW: I think probably a little of both. But I have to tell you, from the moment he walked in the room, I don`t know how long the standing ovation was but it was a long time. And people were cheering and, you know, just so -- they`re so proud of him. We`re all so proud of him.

And we trust him. We know his values are in the right place. His gut tells him the right thing to do in terms of really stepping out for working people. And again, the serious issues around climate and jobs and all the other issues.

And it was interesting. We -- he opened it up for questions. And instead of questions, almost everything was a "thank you" from somebody.

And, you know, in our caucus, we`re not shy about being tough, you know, on a president or an administration official coming into the caucus. And that`s not what happened. People were standing up one by one and saying thank you, Mr. President, for this. Thank you, Mr. President, for that.

And then he picked up the mic and walked around the room. And so, you know President Biden. I mean, he`s walking up to people. He knows what they`ve worked on for years. He`s worked with us. I came in 2001 and he was one of my mentors from the very beginning.

So he`s connecting with people. He`s talking to them in very personal terms. And he, as they say, owned the room. I mean, people were just so pleased that he was there and more importantly, very grateful that he`s our president.

O`DONNELL: Michigan Senator Debbie, I`ve been in there many times, but it feels like you just brought us all back into that room today. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.

And we`ll have more at the end of this hour about that kind of luncheon the president went to today. We`re going to have a very special reminiscence about one of those lunches of many years ago.


Coming up, what Senator Joe Manchin said today about passing voting rights legislation in the Senate. That`s next.



CALDWELL: Civil rights groups are asking for a carve-out for the filibuster for voting rights. Is that something that you could support?

MANCHIN: Well, the bottom line is we should be working -- we should be working together on basically legislation that protects people`s right to vote. That should be something that should be common sense. The people should have a right to vote. It should be secured and it should be accessible and it should fair.

CALDWELL: You gained any Republican support to your ideas?

MANCHIN: We`re getting some. We`re getting there.


O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Texas State Representatives Shawn Thierry and Jasmine Crockett. Both met with Senators Blumenthal and Senator Warren today.

Representative Thierry, we just heard Joe Manchin -- he was just asked something specific, can you support a carve-out for filibuster for voting rights?


And he did not say no, which is very important when you listen to every word that he has to say. He also didn`t say yes, it`s going to be your job to convince him to do that.

Some in your group have a meeting with Senator Manchin, will that be the most important meeting you have this week?

STATE REP. SHAWN THIERRY (D), TEXAS: Absolutely, it`s definitely our top priority. I`m very encouraged to hear that, Lawrence.

Thank you very much, first of all, for having me.

I would say this, he is right. We need support on all sides. What we`re urging from Senator Manchin is to take a stand and really understand what`s happening here, in Texas. Let`s be clear, the bills that we are facing right now in Texas, House Bill 3 and SB-1, are the greatest of voter suppression be seen in decades. We have -- the reason we`re calling this Jim Crow 2.0.

So, I can tell you personally, my grandmother was born in 1917 and she told me stories growing up about how she had to take literacy tests to vote in Conroe, Texas, how she was not allowed to stand next to it white people in line, she was intimidated by that.

This is what we`re looking at now. When you tell a person with the disability that you`re not going to allow mobile voting, when you tell hard working people who work the graveyard shift that they can`t vote after hours, that`s Jim Crow 2.0.

When you tell African-Americans they can`t vote after church and go in group for Souls to the Polls to celebrate our traditions, that`s Jim Crow 2.0.

So, that is what we`re asking Senator Manchin to take a stand and to come in and intervene, to stop what we are dealing with in Texas. This is what we are facing.

O`DONNELL: Representative Jasmine Crockett grew up in the neighboring state of Oklahoma. She worked in Texas for several years herself. So she has her own Texas experience, I guess.

But I`m sure that all the senators you are meeting with are picking up new information in these conversations. What`s the most important thing that you can tell is landing with the senators?

STATE REP. JASMINE CROCKETT (D), TEXAS: You know, first of all for having me and to continue to cover this very important issue. The most important thing that I think most of them didn`t realize was about the partisan poll watchers. We`ve got provisions in this bill that really emboldened and empower these partisan poll watchers in a very scary way. You combine that with the fact that we passed permitless carry in the state of Texas.

And so, now, I have this fear that a number of people like the Proud Boys or a number of people that were involved in the insurrection, because plenty of people from Texas decided to go and participate in the insurrection, then showing up at the polls in a threatening manner, intimidating manner, and saying that they are poll watchers, untrained poll watchers.

And there is nothing that says, hey, you`ve got to give me 50 feet, as the song says. The two have to back up. There is nothing that talks about how close that partisan poll watcher can be to this person. And we`ve heard these recordings of these groups that say, we`re going to have to go down there to where the fraud is occurring, talking about going into the urban centers and intimidating black and brown voters. That is a huge problem.

There was one iteration of this bill where they actually wanted to give them the power to record. We`re talking about getting rid of secrecy at the ballot if these guys are able to just kind of stand over you and do whatever they want to do. Those are issues that a lot of them did had no idea about that I think is really landing, because 24-hour voting with something we got because we had a millennial that was running the show.

And so, it was creative, it was new. And that`s not necessarily something that exists everywhere, but even when we talk to mention the last time, you know, those 32 states that have online voter registry registration. When it comes to Texas, they want to give us a hearing on an online registration bill. So you tell me that if they want to give us access or they`re literally doing everything that they can to diminish participation, or when they`re telling elected officials, you can`t send a ballot by mail application out, and if you send out a ballot by mail application to someone who is qualified to vote by mail, guess what`s going to happen, you`re going to be committing a crime and we`re going to lock you up. That is what we are talking about when we`re talking about voter suppression.

O`DONNELL: Texas State Representatives Shawn Thierry and Jasmine Crockett, thank you so much for joining our discussion tonight.

CROCKETT: Thank you for having us.

THIERRY: Thank you so much.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And joining our discussion now is Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Today, he met with the Texas delegation.

Senator, thank you very much for joining us.


You chaired a subcommittee here today on voting rights. What was the most important point that was made in your hearing today?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): Well, first, let me pay tribute to those brave and persevering Texas legislators who have come to Washington in an effort to persuade us to do the right thing and save democracy.

And as you know, Lawrence, the Voting Rights Act has been reauthorized five times since it was first passed in 1965, almost always overwhelmingly with bipartisan majority. The last time in 2006, 98 to 0, and then signed by then President Bush.

And so, I think one of the most telling points made today was how these voting rights are essential to our democracy and should be a matter of bipartisan agreement.

But, this hearing also illustrated the kind of threats and intimidation that are facing these legislators because a number of my Republican colleagues were so deeply partisan and ready to distort the implications of these voter suppression laws.

And remember, they are in 27 -- or 18 states, 27 laws, they`ve already resolved in closing 21,000 polling places in Shelby, they are having a massive effect on our democracy. And that`s the third point that was made in this hearing.

O`DONNELL: As you know, I mean, when you work in the Senate, you`re trying to listen to every word. It`s a little bit like courtroom. When someone like, say, Senator Manchin is asked if he`s willing to do a carve-out of the 60-vote threshold rule for voting rights, he was asked that question by Leigh Ann Caldwell, and he did not say no.

Am I wrong to be hopeful about that possibility as long as I hear Senator Manchin not answering definitively on that question?

BLUMENTHAL: I think you`re very right to be hopeful and, again, a little bit of history here. When I first came to Senate, ten years ago, I voted, it was one of my first votes, to abolish the filibuster. I was one of only 12 to say no more filibuster.

And what I have seen since then is one by one of my colleagues come around at the same point of view, we need to radically reform, or abolish, the filibuster. And the reason is quite simply, they`ve seen how it has been used and misused, and overused by Mitch McConnell and the Republicans for partisan ends.

And my hope is, and is the reason why I think your hope is well-founded, that Joe Manchin will see that they`re going to try to suppress the vote by using the filibuster, to stop the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and undo the really destructive effect of those Supreme Court decisions, Brnovich and Shelby, that have so undermined democracy. I`m hopeful, but only time will tell.

O`DONNELL: Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you for joining us tonight. We really appreciate it.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

Coming up, Sacha Baron Cohen gave a speech condemning Facebook a year before the Trump mob attacked the Capitol. We`ll hear some of that speech next and we`ll discuss the story about how Facebook contributed to Trumpism with the authors of the new book "An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook`s Battle for Domination".



O`DONNELL: Instead of blurbs from friends of the authors urging you to buy this book, the back cover of "An Ugly Truth, Inside Facebook`s Battle for Domination" includes only blurbs of a sort from the two subjects of the book -- Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg.

"I ask for forgiveness and I will work to do better," Mark Zuckerberg.

"We made mistakes and I own them and they are on me," Sheryl Sandberg.

"It was my mistake and I`m sorry," Mark Zuckerberg.

"We need to do better," Sheryl Sandberg.

"We need to do a better job," Mark Zuckerberg.

In the 2019 speech to the Anti-Defamation League, Sacha Baron Cohen eloquently condemned Facebook.


SACHA BARON COHEN, ACTOR AND ACTIVIST: On the Internet, everything can appear equally legitimate. Zuckerberg says that people should decide what is credible, not tech companies.

But at a time when two-thirds of millennials say that they haven`t even heard of Auschwitz, how are they supposed to know what`s credible? How are they supposed to know that the lie is a lie?

There is such a thing as objective truth. Facts do exist. When discussing the difficulty of removing content, Zuckerberg -- Mark Zuckerberg asked where do you draw the line?

Yes. Drawing the line can be difficult. But here`s what he`s really saying. Removing more of these lies and conspiracies is just too expensive. These are the richest companies in the world and they have the best engineers in the world. They could fix these problems if they wanted to.

The truth is, these companies won`t fundamentally change because their entire business model relies on generating more engagement. And nothing generates more engagement than lies, fear and outrage.


COHEN: Today, around the world demagogues appeal to our worst instincts. Conspiracy theories once confined to the fringe are going main stream. Hate crimes are surging as murderous attacks on religious and ethnic minorities.

All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of Internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history.

Zuckerberg speaks of welcoming a diversity of ideas. And last year he gave us an example. He said that he found posts denying the Holocaust deeply offensive, but he didn`t think Facebook should take them will down "because I think there are things that different people get wrong".

To quote Edward R. Murrow, one cannot accept that there are on every story, two equal and logical sides to an argument. We have, unfortunately, millions of pieces of evidence for the Holocaust. It is an historical fact. And denying it is not some random opinion. Those who deny the Holocaust aim to encourage another one.


O`DONNELL: The authors of "An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook`s Battle for Domination" will join us next.



O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang. They are both reporters for "The New York Times" and co-authors of "An Ugly Truth, Inside Facebook`s Battle for Domination".

Cecilia, let me begin with you. What did you learn in the research for this book about Facebook that surprised you the most?

CECILIA KANG, CO-AUTHOR, "AN UGLY TRUTH": You know, we thought that we knew just about everything there was to know about Facebook because we`ve been covering this company for so many years. So we were very surprised by a lot of our findings.

We interviewed more than 400 people for this book. Most of those people were actually employees of the company. And we found very importantly that there was a pattern that was really disturbing -- that of the company being warned, these top executives, of problems that were emerging from data privacy pieces to the spread of disinformation that led to genocide in Myanmar to Russian interference in the election to the spread of misinformation that led, for example, to the Capitol riots on January 6th.

Over and over the executives were warned that there are big problems that are emerging and over and over, they did not heed those warnings and they did not act.

O`DONNELL: And Sheera, Sacha Baron Cohen, we just heard him say that it is a matter of money. That Facebook simply doesn`t want to spend the money to clean up the place.

SHEERA FRENKEL, CO-AUTHOR, "AN UGLY TRUTH": You know, I`m not sure what it will take for Facebook to, in your words, clean up the place.

You have to remember, this is a $1 trillion company. And so if anyone has the money to do something, to really sort of, you know, social media company to create a model for how to police their own platforms, it`s Facebook.

I have to imagine that there just needs to be more will at the company to hire up the kinds of people they need in order to adequately moderate their own platform not just here in the United States but all over the world.

You know, I think one of our most compelling chapters was on Myanmar where we learned that, you know, despite 100 languages being spoken in that country, they had one Burmese-speaking moderator who was looking at all the content coming from that country.

O`DONNELL: And Cecilia, the what has Facebook, what has Facebook learned from January 6th if anything?

KANG: Well, we learned from January 6th that the organizing that was happening for the Capitol riot and insurrection that were happening in plain sight for many journalists, like my colleague Sheera, they were being warned by journalists that they`re seeing activity in the organization taking place.

They initially did not actually act out and try to publicize what they were seeing online, even though others were seeing what was happening and they tried to sort of deflect the severity of problems.

I think they must have learned because I think at this point people are very, very on to Facebook and they really try to highlight the problems on the network. I think they really said they have to act a little bit faster.

But they certainly did not in this case. And in this example, as well, executives were warned that organizing was taking place, that after the election -- right after the election, the Stop the Steal Movement actually originated on Facebook. The security team was trying to tell the top executives to act right away and they again did not act.

O`DONNELL: Sheera, do they care?

FRENKEL: You know, we`ve heard from people within the company that Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg do care. They are troubled by a lot of what happens on their platform. I just -- I have to wonder with all that caring, why don`t they change things?

Ultimately you know, Mark has been at the helm of that company since its founding. The circle around him has only grown closer. You would think having made mistake after mistake the way he was, he would have at some point have said well, maybe I`m not qualified to make all the decisions I`m making. Maybe I need to shake up the executives around me because we need different types of advice.

But instead of, as we document in this book, you know, whistleblowers are pushed out. People who disagree with him are pushed and the circle around him and Sheryl Sandberg has really just grown closer and closer.

O`DONNELL: And Cecilia, pushing people out is an indication that he believes he`s right. That anything that is labeled a mistake for him was a justifiable decision at the time no doubt.

KANG: Yes. I mean one thing that we really tried to show in this book is that there is a culture and there is a structure that is centered around Mark Zuckerberg.


KANG: And over the last four to five years, he`s only seized more control over the decision making from every decision from the former president`s Facebook posts, and whether the former president crossed some of its policy lines when it come to hate speech and the incitement of violence, to doctored videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It was Mark Zuckerberg in the end that was making these final calls.

And this is an individual who has really had one job which is to run Facebook. And he`s making incredible decisions and not a lot of life experience actually as what many people said in our reporting. And he`s making decisions for an incredibly important and powerful platform with more than three billion users across its three apps around the world.

O`DONNELL: Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang, their new book is "An Ugly Truth". Thank you both very much for joining our discussion tonight.

KANG: Thank you for having us, Lawrence.

FRENKEL: Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

And coming up, we`re going to be joined next by former Senator Bob Kerrey who will take us back to the time when senators refused to demonize senators on the other side of the aisle. And we`ll consider what it will take to restore sanity to the senate.

Warning: there will be a flash of video of me on the senate floor 25 years ago when I never had time to get a hair cut. That`s next.



O`DONNELL: Tomorrow marks the 25th anniversary of this network. As part of MSNBC`s 25th birthday, we are all writing essays that appear on

In my essay, I quote the famous line of my former boss, Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. "You`re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts."

To make the point about how far from reality the Republican Party has traveled in the last 25 years and to consider what it will take in the next 25 years to bring the Republican Party back to reality, the day MSNBC premiered 25 years ago, Republican Senate leader Bob Dole was getting crushed in the polls by Bill Clinton in the presidential campaign.

Senator Moynihan never suggested that his friend Bob Dole was creating his own facts, because the Dole campaign against President Bill Clinton was about differing opinions, not differing facts.

The Republican tactic of demonizing the other side had not yet taken hold in the Senate although Newt Gingrich had been using it in the House of Representatives for years at that point.

Little did we know at the time, that the Senate was mounting the last stand against the politics of demonization. Some Democrats wanted to try that tactic.

On August 11th, 1994, when the Clinton health care bill was being debated on the Senate floor with Finance Committee chairman Moynihan, as the floor manager of the bill and me with a front row seat on the Senate floor beside the chairman. We had one of those luncheon gatherings of Democratic senators like the one President Biden attended today.

The president never attended those luncheons then, but often sent high- ranking representatives from the White House. The Clinton White House official who joined us in the luncheon that day told us that the message of the day on the Senate floor should be demonize Dole.

Nothing about the policy in Bob Dole`s Republican health care bill that was competing with the Clinton health care bill on the Senate floor, just demonize Dole.

The White House was understandably frustrated that the Clinton Health Care bill was stuck in the predictably slow motion of the senate floor where it would a few weeks later eventually die.

From that frustration came the message of the day from the White House: demonize Dole. I knew there were no more than a couple of Democratic senators in that room who might be willing to do that. The rest of them fully respected Bob Dole, and many of them were proud to call him a friend.

The wounded combat veterans in the room shared that special bond with Bob Dole, who was severely wounded in World War II in combat in Italy. One of the combat veterans in the Democratic senators` lunch was Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, who lost a leg in Vietnam. He said nothing about the demonize Dole strategy in the room but as soon as the meeting was over, he walked on to the Senate floor and asked Chairman Moynihan for time to speak.

And when you hear what Senator Kerrey had to say that day, consider how far we`ve come, and how impossible it would be to apply these words to the current Republican leader of the senate.


FORMER SENATOR BOB KERREY (D-NE): I have read Senator Dole`s bill. I see principles in this bill that are similar to principles that I have as well.

And I believe that the distinguished senator from Kansas is first and foremost a patriot. He`s a patriot before he`s a Republican. I have seen him lay aside his party concerns for his concerns for this nation on many occasions. And I believe sincerely and genuinely that he`s prepared to do it again now.

And I intend to participate not only with the distinguished senator from Kansas but with other members of this body who see a problem in this country and are prepared -- urgently prepared to work to try to solve it. And I yield the floor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Senator from New York --

FORMER SENATOR DANIEL PATRICK MOYNIHAN (D-NY): Mr. President, may I just express my gratitude for those noble words from the gallant United States senator.

They have the capacity to change the course of this debate, and I hope they will do.


O`DONNELL: And joining us now is former Democratic senator of Nebraska Bob Kerrey. Senator Kerrey served in the United States Senate from 1988 to 2001.

And as you know, senator, there`s no applause in the senate. But what you got from Senator Moynihan there was the equivalent of a standing ovation at the time.


O`DONNELL: But I`m so struck by so much of what you had to say that day. And looking at it today, just that phrase, that Bob Dole is a patriot before he is a Republican. What happened to that? What happened to that concept in the United States Senate?

KERREY: Well, yes. I mean some of it has to do with the American people themselves. They`ve become far more polarized than in the 1990s. So some of it has to do with the earlier conversation you had about Facebook.

You really don`t get attention on social media unless you insult people. And a fair amount of it, you can lay at the doorstep of former president Trump. I mean he blew away the norms.

We set norms of behavior. And there`s no law or rules. There`s nobody going to enforce them and throw you in jail if you blow up the norms. And he reveled in it. He reveled in insulting people. He reveled in lying. He reveled in doing things that were different.

And a lot of his supporters said, at least he`s speaking his mind. Well, you know, that`s not normative behavior. We shouldn`t reward people who are violating what we consider to be decent, normative behavior in any civil conversation away from the United States Senate itself.

So I have to say, I give former president Trump a lot of credit for having destroyed those norms and made it a lot more likely that people say well, you know, he`s lying, why can`t I? He`s insulting people, why can`t I? He doesn`t worry about the truth? Why should I?

And it makes it really difficult for the congress to resolve conflicts over immigration, conflicts over trade, conflicts over -- you know, health care, difficult issues where, you know, if you`re going to try to get something done, you have to find middle ground.

You`ve got to have a Democrat who will defend the Republican on the right, and the Republican defends the Democrat from assault from the right.

But now, it`s just gotten much more difficult. And I think -- you know, I don`t think it`s a both sides problem. I think it`s a problem that`s been created first and foremost by former president Trump, and there`s way too few people that are learning to say, no, we`re not going to support somebody who`s lying about what happened in the election. Who continues to encourage people to engage in I would say really bad behavior, including not getting vaccinated.

O`DONNELL: I need you to explain one person to me and that is Mitch McConnell because when we working in the senate, I personally regarded Mitch McConnell as yes, one of the conservative members of the Republican Party but a perfectly reasonable representative of that side of the Republican Party, who we did business with in a normal way.

I would have said it was -- it would be -impossible for Mitch McConnell to go along with someone like Donald Trump. And I would have been very wrong.

KERREY: I can`t explain it to you. Lawrence, I don`t know. I`m with you. I mean he and I worked closely together when I was in the Senate. And it`s like watching a different human being.

He`s enormously competent, he knows how Senate operates. He knows how to get things done. But he`s become way too much of a toady for the former president.

O`DONNELL: One of the things that fascinates me about it, not just with Mitch McConnell, but with others, is the collapse of the male ego which I always thought was a very powerful force in the United States Senate. I mean when we were there, it didn`t matter what the president wanted. It mattered what the chairman of the various committees wanted.

They wouldn`t necessarily publicly break but it was very, very hard to get these people to kind of get in line. But with Trump, it looked effortless.

KERREY: Well, independent of Trump, by the way, Lawrence, I mean the power has been shifting away from the committees to the leadership office. And that`s because of the fund-raising committees, the DSCC, the RSCC, the -- these are four committees, two in the house, two in the senate, two Republicans, two Democratic committees. And you know, they`re raising money to oppose people that you`re working with.

So you`ve seen, when you and I had our hair longer than we should have back in the 1990s, you know, you didn`t -- if you wanted to have a tax bill, it had to go through the finance committee. Not anymore.

They`ll bring it straight to the floor. That`s not a partisan issue. Both Republicans and Democratic leaders have way too much power, and it`s made it more difficult.

O`DONNELL: And it`s also -- that`s also part of explaining why it was -- as easy as it was for Trump to get the entire Republican congress in line, because he really just needed to capture the leadership.

KERREY: Well, but Lawrence you`ve -- I have only like one or two famous statements that I`ve ever made in my life. one of them was telling Bill Clinton, an unusually good liar. As a consequence of him saying, I didn`t want to raise taxes, but Congress made me do it.


KERREY: You know, I mean you have to stand up and say look, we`re Article I of the constitution. We`re the Congress. And if the president of the United States is constantly lying, you have to break and say he`s lying. And they haven`t done it.

And it`s a real problem, it seems to me, because it creates permission for him to continue.

O`DONNELL: Former Senator Bob Kerrey, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

KERREY: You`re welcome.

O`DONNELL: We really appreciate your perspective. Thank you.

KERREY: Any time.

O`DONNELL: My friend Bob Kerrey gets tonight`s LAST WORD.