President Joe Biden is telling governors who are threatening to sue over vaccine mandate to "have at it". Idaho health officials are considering rationing care in some overburdened hospitals.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Chris, thank you, my friend.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this fine Friday night. I have to ask control room if you are getting a weird thing on my audio.
I`m getting kind of a double.
I`ve got a back-up audio thing behind me here I can turn off. Should do that?
You can hear me fine at home now? Okay. Good, let`s start that again remember ready to go?
Hey, it`s just live TV. What?
All right. Sorry about that awkward start. Thank you for being with us tonight. It`s nice to have you here on a Friday evening.
And, you know, I know the news has been really incredibly heavy lately. It has been unrelenting on so many fronts for quite some time now. Can I tell you, though, what story in today`s news both shocked me and made me happy? Just sort of need this today.
And I will caveat this by saying it is still terrible that we need this thing that I`m about to show you. The news context here is still just as weighty and terrible as everything else lately. But, still, look at this -- amid everything, at some very important level, this is good. Specifically, this is a good girl. A good girl named Cobra because -- because why not?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A dog looking for COVID-19, is it even possible?
REPORTER: Evidentially, it is, and now you can find them at Miami International Airport. Four dogs trained to detect COVID-19 as part of a pilot program.
This is Cobra, one of the dogs trained to detect the virus. Watch how she sits after she smells the inside of a mask that has deactivated virus in it. Then watch how she keeps walking when she smells the mask of someone who is not infected.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The dogs are 97 percent accurate. It`s the same as a PCR test. It`s a great thing.
REPORTER: Miami International Airport is the first in the nation to have the fogs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think in this particular airport, now we`re doing it with employees. But people will see the dogs and know that is another weapon that we`re using to fight this pandemic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s coverage from WTVJ in Miami.
One of the dogs is named Cobra. She`s a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois. The other dog is also a 7-year-old girl. She is a Dutch Shepherd. Her name is One Betta, as in I can do that one better.
If you work at the Miami airport, you have to go through a security check every day. When you come work, all airport employees do that, just like airline passengers have to get checked. Airline crew and personnel get checked when they clock into work as well, that includes having to go through the metal detector to check weapons and everything.
But in this new pilot program they are running at Miami airport, employees now slip their face mask on as they come in for their morning screening and start checking into work. They hold their face matching out in their hand for a second. So One Betta or Cobra can come by and give them a little sniff. If the dog then sits down that means the dog has detected the presence of active COVID-19 infection on your mask.
If the dog sits after smelling your face mask, you will be asked to do a rapid test, a rapid COVID test to in fact confirm you are infected.
Now, what itself astonishing is Florida International University which trained the dogs says their accuracy in positively identifying the virus in this way is the same or better than most lab tests. Their dogs are 96 to 98 percent accurate at this form of testing.
Want to know how it breaks down dog by dog? Of course, you do, One Betta, the Dutch Shepherd, her accuracy rate is 98.1 percent. Cobra, the Belgian Malinois here, she is 99.4 percent accurate as a COVID-19 test. The dog is.
And that is a published peer review double blind study. We`re familiar with dogs sniffing for drugs, dogs sniffing for explosives in a custom setting. Some dogs are trained to sniff out large amounts of paper currency that might be hidden at someone`s luggage, dogs can do amazing stuff.
These particular dogs before becoming COVID experts, they were agriculture detective dogs. Their specialty in customs was, I kid you not, sniffing out laurel wilt, which is apparently terrible for avocado trees. So it`s their job to sniff agricultural products and find out if anybody was accidentally bringing laurel wilt into the country.
But now, they`re off laurel wilt, the laurel wilt beat, leaving that to other pups. And these dogs are retrained to find COVID instead.
Here`s if provost at Florida University. He`s a chemistry professor. It`s where they train the dogs, explaining how it works. While he explains it, watch closely. Some of you might be doing the dishes and like doing something else and not actually watching, just listening while I`m talking.
Watch this, see if you can spot the important visual element here while he is talking?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNETH FURTON, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY PROVOST: When you get COVID-19, you produce volatile organic compounds called by chemists as VOCs. And those VOCs are what the dog detects.
REPORTER: Researchers at FIU trained the dogs to detect COVID-19 by using face masks from COVID patients.
FURTON: We basically use ultraviolet light to kill the virus. The odor is still there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, he goes on to explain that these dogs are so good as sniffing out COVID-19 infections, sniffing out the volatile organic compounds produced by someone infected. He goes on to explain that if you wanted to, you can actually train these dogs to key on one specific variant of the virus. Their noses are so sensitive, you can train them specifically to only sit down if they sniff the delta variant of the virus or the Mu variant of the virus, whatever. They can be that sensitive.
But this pilot project at the airport, though, they got the dogs trained as COVID-19 generalists. They will sniff any variant of COVID-19. Again they`re at 98, 99 percent accuracy. These COVID tests, Cobra and One Betta, 98, 99 percent accurate at correctly identifying an active COVID infection just from walking past and sniffing a person`s face mask in a screening line, which is what they are doing with employees who are going to Miami International Airport.
Now a couple of things to know here. Interestingly, you can see from these dogs, Cobra and One Betta are pure breed dogs of the kind you might typically expect to see in a working dog environment like this. These look like working dogs. But apparently, you don`t need it to be one of these fancy pure breed types of dogs to do this.
FIU, in fact, said this week in unveiling this project at Miami International Airport, that plenty of the dogs they have trained to do this have been happy and multi-breed or rescue pups, random dogs from the pound they`ve picked up appear just as good as sniffing out the virus.
But also can we go back to the chemistry professor guy explaining the volatile organic compounds and how they train the dogs. Do you see what I see here? Can we spend a little quality time staring at his tie? Look at his tie.
Yes, thank you. Thank you, universe. That is what I needed today. So there. Happy Friday.
We may have an apocalyptic mess on our hands in every other possible way, but as a civilization, we have now successfully retrained the avocado tree laurel wilt agricultural pets detectives into dogs who instead can tell you whether you need a rapid COVID test before you come into work. And when those K9 COVID testers get it right, what they do is they sit down and they get rewarded by getting to play with their rubber cong toys, and the chemistry professor who overseas the scientifically rigorous training they undergo, he wears their picture of their big 99 percent accurate noses on his tie up close. Boop.
Those are our new COVID tests. It`s Friday, forgive me. I needed this.
All right. Tonight, we are going to be talking about the commemoration plans, including the president`s plans to mark what tomorrow will be 20 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. We got much more on that ahead tonight in terms of what to expect tomorrow on the day of.
Today, before President Biden head out for those commemorations starting early tomorrow, today, he visited a middle school in Washington to talk about schools setting up vaccination sites on campus and other things the administration is trying to do, trying to put motion now to maximize the percentage of the U.S. population that has the vaccine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, we`re giving prizes to encourage children and families to get the shots. Look, their efforts are working. 65 percent of the children ages 12-to-17 here in D.C. have gotten at least one shot like Elijah. That`s incredible. That`s one of the highest rates in the nation for children between 12 and 17.
For students here in Brooklyn, once you all get vaccinated, you are invited to a special visit at the White House.
I`m going to get in trouble with the Secret Service and everybody else, I`m not sure how we will mechanically do it. But I assume the buses can get to you the White House, and if we can`t get you out in one room, we`ll be out in the Rose Garden or the back there, maybe let you fly the helicopters. I`m only joking about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We`ll let you all fly the helicopters. Ail you have to do is get vaccinated. The kids are like, I heard him say we can fly the helicopters. We`ll hold him to that.
President Biden in his remarks ran through the new things the administration is trying to do to basically reset and recommit the country to fighting COVID. Vaccine requirements for federal workers and federal contractors. Companies with 100 employees either need to require their employees to get vaccinated or commit to testing their unvaccinated employees on the job at least weekly.
New access to cheaper and widely available tests, more testing in schools, more vaccines available in schools, he ran through all of it. In the end as President Biden wrapped up, he wasn`t supposed to take questions at this event, but he did this question shouted out to him, anyway. He decided to answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Thank you, very much, everybody.
REPORTER: Mr. President, what is your message to Republicans who are calling your vaccine requirements an "overreach", who are threatening to challenge it in court?
BIDEN: Have at it. Look, I am so disappointed that -- particularly some Republican governors have been so cavalier with the help of these kids, so cavalier with the health of their communities. This is -- we`re playing for real here. This isn`t a game.
And I don`t want of any scientist out there in this field that doesn`t think it makes considerable sense to do the six things I`ve suggested. And -- but you know, let me conclude with this, I -- one of the lessons I hope our students can unlearn is that politics doesn`t have to be this way. Politics doesn`t have to be this way.
They`re going up in an environment where they see it`s like a war, like a bitter feud. If the Democrat says right, everybody says left. If they say left, they say right. I mean, it`s not who we are as a nation. It`s not how we beat every other crisis in our history. We got to come together.
I think the vast majority. Look at the polling data. The vast majority of the American people know we have to do these things. They`re hard but necessary. We`re going to get them done. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Hard but necessary. We`re going to get them done. As for these Republicans who say they`re going to sue you, who say have you overreach, he says, have at it.
The vaccine requirements just announced by President Biden are not out of the blue. They`re not the first ones we`ve had for COVID-19. We`ve already got experience with large employers starting to require vaccination. Among other things, what we have learned so far is that the requirements work. They succeed at their goal of getting more people to get the shot.
Last month, for example, the Pentagon announced that active duty military personnel would have to get vaccinated. That has been announced. So far, they haven`t hit a deadline. Already the portion of active duty personnel that got the shot has gone from 72 percent to 86 percent.
Seven weeks ago, the V.A. told front health line workers they had to get the shot. The number has gone from 77 percent up to 82 percent and still rising. Same deal at private sector employers. Like United Airlines, for example. Employees were told last month they`d have until October 25th to get vaccinated.
Well, it`s only September 10th. There is plenty of time before that dead line hits. Already since laying out that eventual requirement, the majority of American airlines workers, who weren`t vaccinated before that announcement have since become vaccinated.
We know it works. And we`ve had plenty of other requirements throughout our history that have also worked. But as the president indicated today, we also know Republican governors and Republican elected officials will sue and try to stop these new policies as if they`re totally novel and this is some brand-new idea. The United States Supreme Court has ruled multiple times, going back more than a century, it is not unconstitutional to require Americans to get a vaccine, even if a person doesn`t want to.
In the context of a serious public health threat, you can be required to be vaccinated. They ruled that way back in the 1905 in the context of a mandatory smallpox vaccine requirement in Massachusetts. They`ve ruled that way in 1922 in the context of vaccines being required of students if they want to attend school.
The Biden`s administration`s new rule that employees have to be vaccinated at all companies that have more than 100 employees, that rule will be enforced through OSHA. OSHA is a part of the Labor Department that was created by a law Richard Nixon signed in 1970 so we have an agency that regulates workplace conditions. As "The Times" notes today, quote, experts say the Biden administration appears to be on strong ground, because it`s relying on existing authority granted to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, granted to OSHA by the legislative branch and supported by decades of judicial rulings.
And you know what? You put those things together, right? Evidence, current evidence, that it works for the current pandemic. Lots of historical precedent. Not only for work, but for it being successfully and legally implemented in our country.
Clear uncontested Supreme Court precedent going back more than a century making it clear that this is absolutely constitutional policy. And on top of that, decades of judicial rulings all going the same way on these kinds of core questions. You line those things up, and that used to be the kind of thing that would make the person confident in how these mustering, chest pounding, promise lawsuits against the president`s policy would be struck down by the courts.
But part of what has been heavy in our news this year, part of what has felt unrelenting in our news this year is the radicalism of the Supreme Court right now, stacked with three Donald Trump appointees. He was president for one term and was impeached twice. But Republicans game the system to get him three appointees on the court which only has nine members total. Overall, the nine-member court is stacked with six Republican appointees, three appointed by Donald Trump.
And in a court like that, frankly, they have been delighted to throw out 50-year-old precedents, like say Roe versus Wade, just in order to get what they want.
With Republican-elect officials and the conservative media going bananas against what President Biden is stepping up to do on COVID, should we expect the stacked conservative courts to just join in the right wing chorus trying to stop these policies, to stop these policies that are trying to stop COVID? Or is the administration actually on firm ground here?
What should we expect as this fight starts?
Joining us now is Jamal Greene. He`s a constitutional law professor Columbia University.
Professor Greene, it`s a pleasure to have you with us tonight. Thanks for making time.
JAMAL GREENE, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Good to be here. Thank you.
MADDOW: First of all, let me ask you a basic approach here that by which I am looking at this is right. It seems to me as a non-lawyer and observer that both in terms of the implementation through OSHA and in terms of the broader question of whether or not there can be vaccine mandates in America, there does seem to be pretty solid precedent that this is within the government`s power. Is that the right way to look at it? Would it have to be a departure from sort of settled precedent for these measures by the current administration to be overthrown?
GREENE: Yeah. I think you`ve got it about right. I would add one important additional point, which is, you know, we keep talking about these as if they`re mandates, vaccine mandates, the language that people use when they attack it. But in this isn`t even a vaccine requirement, right? You get, the employer has to have a vaccination or they can provide for weekly testing. That`s the other option.
The law that was upheld in 1905 in Massachusetts the smallpox vaccination law, was one where there was a criminal fine associated with not getting vaccinated. It applied to individual, not to employers.
So the Supreme Court has already upheld a much more severe vaccination requirement than is at issue here, right? So based on current law, the idea that you have a right to avoid this kind of being put to this kind of choice is basically frivolous. As you say, who knows with the current Supreme Court, they can always change their minds, they`re on very solid ground here.
Now when it comes to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the OSHA enforcement, that`s a little bit closer because there haven`t been that many times when it`s been invoked in this kind of emergency way. But again, the statute is designed for the government to be able to regulate workplace safety. This seems to me to be quite clearly within the mandate of the agency.
MADDOW: If thing do proceed in the courts the way you are saying that broadly you expect, do you think that this would still proceed through the courts that there would be a temporary stay, there would be a temporary block on some of these policies the president is trying to implement while the courts consider them? Or is this the sort of thing where we expect the policies to be in effect, go into effect unless and until they`re ultimately struck down, unless the Supreme Court decides to veer off in a new direction?
GREENE: That`s anyone`s guess whether there may be a stay atom point. Courts are not supposed to issue stays when it`s not very likely that ultimately the friendship is going to succeed. If it looks like a family case, they`re not supposed to issue stays.
But we have seen many instances of trial courts of first instance issuing on stays and having those apply very bluntly. I expect those challenges these laws to try to file in friendly courts to try to encourage that to happen. So once you get into the kind of litigation game around this, you can easily see some temporary action and get into the Supreme Court quite quickly.
MADDOW: One of the other ways that the president is really expanding the number of people to whom -- from whom vaccination is expected or required as a provision of their job is by using Medicare and Medicaid funds. So, Medicare and Medicaid are federal funds that go to nursing homes, go to hospitals, they`re really big sources of federal funding. And he`s essentially tying strings to that funding saying nursing homes that get that funding, hospitals that get that as a requirement of getting it will need their entire staffs vaccinated.
Is that a controversial legal matter as well for the president? Is he likely to run up against problems there? We certainly cover here on the show the ways that Medicaid and Medicare has been used in the past have been way more controversial than that, including effectively forcing the desegregation of hospitals in the South in the 1960s. But in the modern setting, do you think that those things may have tripwires to the Biden administration now?
GREENE: I think any lawyer would be naive to say there are no trip wires here. For decades and decades, as you suggested, there were effectively no limits on the kind of conditions that the federal government can attach to spending programs, like Medicaid and Medicare. With the Affordable Care Act case, that all changed, about a decade ago.
And now I think any conditions that seem to be unusual or seem to be onerous might trigger on some courts to be skeptical. Now, these kind of requirements are, of course, very common sense in the context of healthcare, you want to make sure that health care workers are not infecting their patients. So this is entirely reasonable. That would be the kind of a test that would have been used in the past.
But as you`ve suggested, with the ways in which issues around this virus and pandemic have been politicized. It`s hard to know if a court might reach out and nip at the administration.
MADDOW: Jamal Greene, constitutional law professor at Columbia University.
Professor Greene, it`s a real pleasures to have you here. Thanks for your clarity, thanks for helping us to understand.
GREENE: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll have much more ahead tonight. Do stay with us.
MADDOW: In President Biden`s COVID speech yesterday, which has caused so much performative sturm und dranging on the right, one of a lesser noticed announcements in that speech was that he was going to double the number of federal surge teams, FEMA teams and active duty medical teams, active duty military personnel that are going out to relieve hospital staff in under vaccinated states, where the hospitals have been overwhelmed by COVID patients.
Earlier this week, we saw a 20-person active duty U.S. Navy medical team arrive in Ozark, Alabama, to help out a rural hospital in Dale County there.
Also this week, we saw an active duty U.S. army medical team arrive in Idaho to this overrun hospital in Coeur D`Alene area which has already had to convert conference rooms and classrooms into overflow COVID wards.
This week, of course, Idaho had to take the first time of its history of activating crisis standards of care. Crisis standard of care means that hospitals have an ethical and legal framework from the state to ration healthcare, because in north Idaho, they no longer have hospital capacity to treat everyone who needs treatment because of the number of very sick COVID patients swamping the hospitals. Officials in Idaho are warning that I are dangerously close to having to implement care for the entire state of Idaho. Idaho is in a real crisis right now.
How`s the state`s leadership is contending with this crisis. Interesting story there, it turns out. The largest health district in Idaho is the central -- it is called Central District Health. Idaho`s Central Health District encompasses all of Boise and Ada, Elmore and Valley counties. They sit right there in the center of the state. It has a seven-member health board that`s appointed by local county commissioners.
And this summer, as Idaho steamed towards this unprecedented collapse of their hospital systems, literally with active duty federal troops having to come into staff beds with hospital care officially being rationed because they are swamped with COVID patients, this summer in June, officials in the state`s largest health district, fired a 15-year veteran of that health force, a nationally recognized physician who had given mainstream COVID advice in line with federal guidelines, they fired him.
The person Idaho picked to replace him to join the biggest health port in the state in the middle of this crisis is this guy a pathologist who runs a local medical lab. He says we should call the CDC the ministry of truth, because they`re like the propaganda arm of the fictional totalitarian regime in the novel "1984". He says COVID vaccines must be, quote, stopped. He calls vaccines a, quote, poisonous attack on our population that needs to stop now. He has also advocated for the use of the horse deworming medication ivermectin, which the CDC, the FBI and drug`s own manufacturers pleaded to the public to stop using to treat or prevent COVID because it`s neither treats nor prevents COVID but very OD on it and make yourself very ill.
This is how the local NPR station in Boise headlined their article about this doctor`s appointment, the central health district, quote: Doctor up for Idaho health board spot calls COVID-19 vaccine needle rape, because he did, in fact, call it that.
He was officially approved to the Idaho health board this week. He had competition. An epidemiologist was up for the spot, an infectious disease specialist on spot. But they went for the guy who calls vaccines needle rape instead, as the state of Idaho approaches statewide crisis standards of care in hospital rationing because of the crush of COVID patients they are contending. There appears to be a mismatch in terms of the crisis that Idaho is facing and what its leadership on the ground is doing about it.
Joining us now is Idaho State Representative Ilana Rubel. Her district includes parts of Boise. That board has authority over all the health regulations in her district. I should tell you, she also serves as the Democratic leader and House minority leader for the Idaho legislature.
Leader Rubel, thank you so much for your time this evening. I appreciate you being here.
STATE REP. ILANA RUBEL (D), IDAHO: My pleasure.
MADDOW: So I have been following the news recently in Idaho and the real COVID crisis in Idaho through local news reports. Let me ask you if I got any of that wrong or if I got any of it twisted the wrong way around?
RUBEL: Unfortunately, you hit the nail on the head and I find it ironic that Dr. Cole is referring to 1984 because it feels very much like we are living in a dystopian novel out here. We have a dumping fire and our elected GOP leaders are dumping kerosene on it right now. They fired a man because he recommended masks and replaced it with a person who as you notes is dissuading people from getting vaccines at a time when our hospitals are exploding, is discouraging schools from requiring masks at that at time when our school age child infection rate doubled in more than a couple weeks of school. It really is a calamity that I see escalating.
MADDOW: Part of the reason we have been paying such attention to Idaho. Over course of the summer when things got bad in a number of states, particularly in the south, we started to see in Mississippi, for example, in Alabama, to lesser extent, places like Arkansas, we started to see a real crisis, field hospitals going back, federal teams property in, hospital and state wide health officials pleading with the public. Sometimes emotionally pleading, please, we are in crisis, we are not providing good care.
When we saw those states start to hit those crises, we seen low vaccine rates, lots of people were getting sick. Their hospitals were full. There was a real problem. And you started to see local politicians, their messaging get more in line in terms of people needing masks where there is a lot of transmission.
It almost feels like Idaho is financial the other way as crisis actually becomes a real problem on the ground, it feels like the state`s Republican leadership is becoming more radical and more sort of denialist about the problem. At least that`s how it looks from the outside.
RUBEL: Once again, are you dead on. Unfortunately, it is absolutely a crisis of the up vaccinated right now. Idaho is 49th in America in terms of the percentage of the population we have vaccinated. The folks in these ICU units are the unvaccinated. I`m if touch with the front line workers. Every single COVID patient in the ICU at that point was unvaccinated. Across the state 95 percent are unvaccinated. I think just about automatic deaths are.
But what we see remarkably, a five alarm crisis, our legislature is looking to come back into session in the off season. We wouldn`t normally come back until January.
But the speaker of the House sent a letter saying he is consider calling us back into session so that we can pass the ban on healthcare providers on hospitals requiring their staff to be vaccinated. So, remarkably they are looking at this crisis and the things that they think needs to be addressed is we need to reduce the number getting vaccinated and crack down on vaccine incentives.
So it really is something. It`s hard to imagine how you could look at these statistics, how you can look at these numbers and come to that conclusion. But they pierce to be where we`re headed. There is no interest in the GOP crowd right now of thinking how can we get more resource, help our healthcare providers? How can we encourage more people to get vaccinated?
The only thing they`re discussing is how can we crack down on hospitals and employers that want their employees to be vaccinated?
MADDOW: Wow. It`s putting gas pedal down to see how fast you can make the problem, how fast. It`s a remarkable situation.
Democratic leader of the Idaho state legislature, Ilana Rubel, thank you so much for your time tonight. As I said, we have been watching Idaho as much as we can from a national perspective, we love to have you back and keep watching. I`m hoping things turn around, particularly for your hospital staff.
RUBEL: Thank you so much.
MADDOW: All right. More to come here tonight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Just a few minutes ago, President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden arrived in New York City. They will be spending the night there in advance of tomorrow`s 20-area commemoration of the attacks on 9/11.
Tomorrow here on MSNBC, we will have all day coverage starting at 5:00 a.m. Eastern Time, including live coverage of events at the three sites of the attacks at Ground Zero, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The president and Mrs. Biden will visit all three of those sites tomorrow.
You know our friend Michael Beschloss, NBC`s presidential historian. You know him, even if you only know him from our show, you know he is a great friend of this show, just an invaluable resource to all of us at NBC and MSNBC and this show in particular. Tonight, he just launched something new, it`s called "Fireside History with Michael Beschloss." It`s a new series that he`s doing, that`s streaming on Peacock.
And the very first episode which just launched, takes us back to a specific part of history, how we got from the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago tomorrow to the invasion of Afghanistan less than one month later. I know you feel like you know this history. We all know it sort of in broad strokes. But Beschloss` new show delves into all this NBC News archival footage you haven`t seen before, to remind you of details that you will have forgotten.
Like for example do you remember what President George W. Bush was doing on the day before 9/11?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN (voice-over): Our story begins on September 10, 2001, when President George W. Bush used his fighting words for an altogether peaceful cause against a very different enemy.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: There`s too many of our kids in America who can`t read today, maybe not in this school. But around the nation, there`s just too many and now it`s time to wage war on illiteracy on the young and to whip this problem early.
BESCHLOSS: The next morning, President Bush continued his education tour in Florida where his brother Jeb was governor, it was September 11th, 2001.
BUSH: Ladies and gentlemen, this is a difficult moment for America. I, unfortunately, will be going back to Washington after my remarks. Secretary Rod Pace, the lieutenant governor will take the podium and discuss education.
I do want to thank the folks here at the Booker Elementary School for their hospitality. Today, we had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country.
BESCHLOSS: The morning after the September 11th attacks, President Bush met with his national security team in the cabinet room. He was already speaking in terms of war and battles and a determination to win.
BUSH: Deliberate and deadly attacks, which were carried out yesterday against our country were more than acts of terror. They were acts of war. The battle will take time and resolve but make no mistake about it. We will win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We will win. Pulling all this footage from the NBC News archives, from those few weeks between the 9/11 attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan let us see it and remember that passage of time.
Michael Beschloss in this new program raises a question that has been taboo for a very long time, which is did the United States, among other things, rush into war after 9/11? A war that as we now know would take us 20 years to extricate ourselves from?
Joining us now is NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss who I am pleased to say is a part of a show "Fireside History with Michael Beschloss". It premiered tonight, streaming on Peacock. You can catch it this weekend on the choice from MSNBC on Peacock.
Michael, congratulations on starting this series. What a powerful way to do it, and what a provocative way to start.
BESCHLOSS: Thank you, Rachel. I love seeing you and thank you so much for the kind words.
I`m trying to learn the way a little bit how you do it on this program. Can I never measure up, all I can do is try.
MADDOW: You are very kind. Don`t do anything that seems like what I do because you do it better, don`t scooch over to my side.
Well, let me ask you about the core question that you are getting at here. What do you think we should understand? What does a close inspection of that narrow window of time between September 11th, 2001 and October 7th 2001 when we invaded Afghanistan? What do you feel like we should remember and know and learn as a country from looking at that short window of time?
BESCHLOSS: Well, you wrote a wonderful book called "Drift" which I read very much. It said, among other things, I don`t want to tell you about your book, the people in the audience who haven`t read it should. And what it says that we`re society is prone to rushing into war. I think they may have happened in 2001. Not that we shouldn`t have retaliate against Afghanistan for harboring al Qaeda. Not that we shouldn`t have tried to wipe out the terrorist threat.
But this turned into a war that was two decades, trillions of dollars of American money that could have been spent on schools, on hospitals, and kids. It`s what Eisenhower once called a theft from people win spend on defense spend it on defense and it could be spent somewhere and trying to build a Greek democracy in Afghanistan that was never going to happen. What you say in your book, I totally agree with this, when you have a war that Americans do not understand and they don`t support, it never works out in the end.
We have two decades that accomplish certain things, but there was a mission that went way beyond what President Bush talked about to begin.
MADDOW: And that I mean, its not like I don`t remember living through the George W. Bush years and I have forgotten my own and other`s critiques of him in the way he approached politics be the terrorist attacks. But to hear him repeatedly talk about how we`re going to win, how this will be over. They may have started it. We will finish it. It will be done.
To see the contrast between that certainty and that black and white light switch approach he was talking about taking and what we live through for these 20 years since, we are just extricating ourselves from now, it`s revelatory.
And, you know, Michael, the other thing I feel like I was struck anew by in watching the way you put this footage together is all that you were able show how united the country was, how united Washington was after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. You got tape of hundreds of members of Congress, Democrat and Republican together, singing "God bless America" on the Capitol steps. The three-minute long bipartisan standing ovation President Bush got when he appeared before Congress a week after the attacks, that President Bush could only become president because of the contested hard fought election not all that long before, how much have we changed on those lines?
If God forbid another major attack on the United States, would we see these things?
BESCHLOSS: No, I don`t think we would. This is the problem because 20 years ago, you know, if you and I were talking, we would have said maybe there is some division in this country, but if there were a hostile attack on our territory that killed thousands of people, Americans would have rise up together. That was 2001. It wouldn`t happen now.
We have a lot of things that happened in the last 20 years, an amazing thing within a month of 9/11, Al Gore, you were talking about that contested election of 2000, many around Gore felt the election had been stolen from him in court. I think he was not exactly exempt from such feelings, himself, yet in the wake of 9/11, Al Gore gets up and says, these are his words, George Bush is my president. I support him. That would be impossible to see nowadays.
MADDOW: NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss, his new show is called "Fireside History with Michael Beschloss" -- it has the best thoughts in television to start. But it only gets better from there. You can catch it this weekend on the Choice from MSNBC streaming on Peacock.
Michael, thank you for doing this work. I cannot wait to see what else will you do with this series and thank you for helping us tonight.
BESCHLOSS: Thank you so much, Rachel. I deeply follow in your footsteps.
MADDOW: Well, you`re leading me in the font game for sure.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We`re heading into one of those weekends that itself is going to be a busy news weekend with 20-year commemorations of the 9/11 attacks tomorrow. Those will extend though the weekend.
Then next week it`s election day in the great state of California. Voters will head to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to recall California`s Governor Gavin Newsom. If you haven`t been following this election closely, if you`re wondering why Gavin Newsom is facing a recall, the answer is "California," because California in its infinite wisdom allows for the recall of a governor for no reason at all and at the drop of a hat.
California law allows you to hold a recall election for governor if you can manage to get enough signatures to equal 12 percent of the voting population from the last election for governor. You don`t need 12 percent of the voters in the state. You need 12 percent of the number of people who actually voted in the last election for governor. Which is not very many people in a state of 40 million, right?
It is very easy to force a recall election in California. So, why not? It`s how we got Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in California. It`s how Republicans are hoping to try to get another Republican in there now. There are a bazillion people running to replace Governor Newsom, almost all Republicans.
The anti-Newsom candidate with the most support is a right wing radio talk show host, who`s already making bogus claims of election fraud before the first election day votes have even cast. He`s already saying that if he doesn`t win, the election must be fraudulent. Why does that sound familiar?
In terms of what to expect on Tuesday, there hasn`t actually been a lot of polling on the race, but the polling that we do have suggests Governor Newsom might be on track to survive this thing. 538 has been compiling all the best polling so far in the race. You can see here over time, moving from left to right, just last month voters were pretty evenly split whether they wanted to keep or remove Governor Newsom, keep is blue, remove is red.
But since then, the keep Governor Newsom in office vote has opened up a nearly 15-point lead. But again, that is all going to come up very fast. We`ll have a very busy news weekend and early next week, Tuesday, we`ll have the big race.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: All right. Before we go, just a quick reminder that tomorrow morning, MSNBC will have special coverage to mark 20 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. Our coverage begins at 5:00 a.m. Eastern Time, live from ground zero in New York City. President Biden will attend a ceremony at the 9/11 memorial there tomorrow morning.
In the afternoon, President Biden is also expected to visit Shanksville, Pennsylvania and also the Pentagon. We`re going to bring you those visits as they happen, again with live special coverage all day long.
That`s going to do it for me, as of now, though. We`ll see you again here on Monday.
Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Jonathan Capehart is in for Lawrence tonight.
Good evening, Jonathan. Nice to see you.