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Transcript: The ReidOut, 12/30/21

Guests: Adrienne Elrod, Tim Miller, Eugene Daniels, Alexander Vindman, Greg Jones


Closing the door on the tumultuous year; Looking back with gratitude to all the front-line workers & scientists who helped us battle COVID; 2021, a year of political and social upheaval; Looking back with gratitude to Olympians who raised awareness about mental health.



TIFFANY CROSS, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, everybody. I`m Tiffany Cross in tonight for Joy Reid.

We begin THE REIDOUT with look back at the journey that was this year. Now, it`s impossible to talk about 2021 without including the insurrection. It was an unprecedented attack on our government, fueled by people who no longer believe in facts.

But let`s keep it 100. This should not have been surprising. We`ve had countless warning signs of violent racism in America, and this was just the latest example of white supremacy rearing its ugly head, complete with a noose, gallows and countless confederate flags.

Now, while some have had a racial reckoning after George Floyd`s death in 2020, the insurrection was a glaring warning that a significant portion of our country is threatened by an America no longer powered by white dominance and one that takes accountability for our history. There it is, cue, the up-war over critical race theory, which is not taught anywhere, for the record. This is leading to a reality where white parents are trying to ban books about real American history that does not feed a fairy tale.

And while we did see some signs of justice this year with George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and Daunte Wright`s killers convicted, at the same time, Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two people, is being celebrated as the latest hero of the right wing extremists, including those serving in Congress.

His lionization is part of a larger vitriol we`re seeing in American politics. It`s gotten so bad that a father thought it was appropriate to tell President Biden on Christmas Eve to essentially go F himself. This was in front of his kid. That`s the family values party for you. It should come as no surprise that now he`s considering running for office.

We`ve become so divided that people are risking and losing their lives because they don`t trust science enough to get a vaccine, prolonging a pandemic where more than 480,000 people have died this year alone. But for those of us who do believe in science, this year wasn`t entirely awful. I mean, the vaccine did allow some of us to resume somewhat of our normal lives, with many of us seeing our family members in person for the first time in over a year. And, of course, there was a lot more focus on those moments than on the kids who still, still have not been reunited with their families after our government separated them.

That`s among the many stories that didn`t quite get the media attention they deserved. Like, for example, Jackson, Mississippi, still not having clean drinking water and the hundreds of mass shootings that we`re doing absolutely nothing about, or the climate change that fueled several natural disasters this year and will only get worse. Stick around. We`re going to talk about that later in the show.

Now, while Biden`s infrastructure bill does have some climate provisions, Joe Manchin`s opposition to Build Back Better might have -- might mean that we`ve lost our chance to tackle any meaningful action, especially with Republicans doing everything they can to suppress the vote and make sure Democrats no longer have a majority.

So, yes, my friends, it was a tough year, and it remained so even to the last days. But it would have been so much worse without the sacrifices of health care workers, teachers and many others, and those who took a moment to put on a mask. It was a year that taught us a lot about who we are and what awaits all of us.

As much as those anti-CRT people think otherwise, history does, in fact, matter, even our recent history.

Joining me now is Democratic Strategist Adrienne Elrod, Tim Miller, Writer- at-Large for The Bulwark and Eugene Daniels with the coldest afro in D.C, White House Correspondent for Politico. Thank you, my friends, for being here.

What a year, you guys. 2021 has been a lot for all of us. Adrienne, you`re the woman on the panel. I want to kick it off with you. What was your biggest takeaway for 2021?

ADRIENNE ELROD, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, Tiffany, first of all, it`s great to be with you. My biggest takeaway of 2021 is science works. Not that I didn`t know that before but if we ever needed proof that science works, it`s what happened this year. Thank God for the mRNA vaccination. Thank goodness for research and development that goes into creating multitudes of vaccinations.

You know, Tiffany, you may recall when COVID first came on the scene, we wondered if it was going to be two, three, four years until there was a vaccination. But, again, thanks to medical research and thanks to science, we got vaccinations much faster than we thought. And, of course, the Biden administration got this implemented and got shots in the arms of over 200 million Americans.


So, science works and, you know, we just got to keep harping that.

CROSS: You`ve declared -- you`ve opened a hornets` nest there, my friend, declaring science works when there are so many anti-science people out there, sadly. But you`re absolutely right, science works, and I wished more people believed in that.

Tim, what about you? What`s your biggest takeaway?

TIM MILLER, WRITER-AT-LARGE, THE BULWARK: Well, I just want to jump in on that, what Adrienne said. It was a miracle. It`s not just that science works, and this was a miracle drug that a lot of researchers, engineers have been working for years went into. It saved countless lives.

And so I wrote this morning for The Bulwark an article that said, 2021 not that bad. And I do think with all due respect to your intro here, there are, of course, a lot of bad things that happened in 2021 but, you know, we got rid of Donald Trump. That was pretty good. I think it was researchers and the free market and the scientists all working together to create this miracle drug, that was all pretty good. There were good verdicts this year. I think we can still have faith in a court system. You`re looking at the news yesterday with Maxwell. You go back to Chauvin earlier this year.

I think that Americans showed this year our willingness to be helpful and welcoming to Afghan refugees who came back. It`s been amazing, the selflessness in that and COVID. So, yes, there have been some jerks, no doubt, this year. But I think it`s appropriate to look back and think about some of the positive stuffs that happened as well.

CROSS: Yes. That`s a good point.

But, Eugene, you know, look, for every George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, there are so many other acts of injustice where there wasn`t a cell phone around. For all these court verdicts, there are hundreds of others that did not produce justice for a family, and obviously justice would be those people still being alive and well with their families. But, I`m curious your thoughts. What was your biggest takeaway from 2021?

EUGENE DANIELS, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think everything everyone said is right, but also in -- as a political reporter on the panel, you know, thinking about how different the parties have become, right, that`s been happening for years. But I think this year, the insurrection kind of cemented that, right?

The Republican Party as a party geared to the feelings and urges of one man who isn`t even in office right now is something we have never seen in American history. It`s led to a lot of issues that the Republican Party has dealt with in the party and has been doing outside of the party toward the Democrats and toward American people.

That`s something that I think that party is going to have to deal with for years to come. Whether they do that is one thing. And the Democratic Party kind of realizing that it`s one that needs to attract both a huge swath of voters and support the more types of folks in Congress, People from Bernie Manchin and Joe Manchin -- sorry, excuse me, Bernie Sanders and Joe Manchin, not related.

And that makes governing difficult. That makes what we`ve seen over this year. I`m watching for the first time in a long time how difficult it is to govern when there`s a party that is talking about policy and priding about policy as opposed to personalities. So, both of those things, I think, are my takeaways as we move forward into next year.

CROSS: Yes. I take your point. Tim, I want to kick it back to you because Eugene is saying, you know, this is something the party now has to reckon with. I take a bit of an issue with that because this has really been the only Republican Party I`ve known. I mean, they`re saying the quiet part out loud right now. But this didn`t begin with Trump. And even though Trump is gone from the party, Trumpism is alive and well and always has been.

Why do you think there are so many white supremacists and science deniers who always feel so at home in the Republican Party and that`s really expanding as we see what`s playing out now in our politics? What`s your take on that?

MILLER: Well, look, Tiffany, I think that, you know, certainly that there has been this strain in the Republican Party for a long time. I think Stuart Stevens wrote a good book about this called, It Was All a Lie. And I think it`s factual, right, to say that there`s nothing like sort of McCain platform in 2008 that was foreign immigration reform, get floor (ph) cap and trade to deal with the climate, right? I mean, you can have plenty complaints of the 2008 campaign John McCain ran, but that is very different than what you see in 2020. So, I think it`s true that it`s certainly gotten worse over the course of the past decade.

I think just looking at this year, the key points, to Eugene`s point is after January 6, if we all remember back to January 7th, I do think that there was this moment, a kind of moment of reckoning, where it was like, you know, even Mitch McConnell was like this is a little too far for me. Even John Cornyn, even Lindsey Graham thought things have gotten out of hand. And then I think at Fox, you even saw a change in tone for a day or two, maybe an hour or two.

But you thought for a moment that maybe there would be this sort of tack back, and the adults would come in and say we cannot be a revanchist party that plays into these extremists and conspiracists. You know, we have to have some responsibility and some prudence, to use an old George H.W. word, you know, within our conservatism.


And that lasted about a day or a week.

And I think that is the most telling thing about this year, is that we`ve all saw what the Republican Party was under Trump, but it really solidified, I think, what it`s going to be for the medium term right now because the politicians responded to what their voters wanted. And the voters looked at January 6th and they either said I`m okay with it on balance, or some of them said, I want more of that. And other politicians are going along with that.

CROSS: Yes. And I`d -- look, I take your point. I just -- I think the challenge for a lot of folks is the road that it took to get there. Donald Trump didn`t come out of the blue. There was so much that happened that paved the way for him. So, we`ll see. I mean, look, I really hope that there are some sensible Republicans to come out and rebuke this stuff.

Right now, it looks like it`s become the Party of Trump, and it`s really impacting all of our mental health, which brings me to my next point, mental health. I was really happy to see that this issue took such center stage in 2021. You guys remember when Naomi Osaka took that break for mental health. Simone Biles took that break in the Olympics when she was supposed to perform and said, you know, I need a moment.

Adrienne, how do you think this is going to impact us, or how do you think this did impact us in 2021? There is something about the mental health discussion being paired with what people call the great resignation. We called October striketober because workers were demanding better working conditions. You know, there is something about us being able to breathe and, you know, have a life. What do you think about that year and how we`ve dealt with those issues?

ELROD: Yes. Look, Tiffany, I`m glad you`re sort of drawing this correlation between what public figures like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka have done, you know, how they feel comfortable coming out there and talking about mental health and also how that sort of portends to workers in America who are demanding better wages, who are demanding better working conditions, and how that is more accepted. Not that it wasn`t accepted by people like us, you know, ten years ago, but when you look at how far we`ve come over the past decade, we certainly have a lot of work to do. But it`s become a far more acceptable discussion to have.

So, I applaud you know the people who are willing to speak out. Again, whether it`s the line worker who wants a better wage and who wants better working conditions, or whether it`s Simone Biles who says, you know what, I may be the best athlete in the world, the best at my craft and what I do, but I need a mental break from this, and I`m going to step back and let some of the other gymnasts take the lead here.

So, I think it`s great progress. We still have a lot of work to do. But the fact that we`re able to have these conversations in a public-facing manner, you know, is a step in the right direction. I think, you know, we`re going keep hearing more about people who are willing to come out and speak about mental health. And it`s going to have a continuous positive impact on society.

CROSS: Yes, I completely agree with you. Eugene, I know it`s kind of a generational divide sometimes because, you know, I`m a Gen Xer, millennial if anybody asks. But in real life, I`m Gen Xer, and I think the way that we view our work ethic is sometimes different from younger people. I mean, it`s really been younger people out on the frontlines saying, hey, I need a minute here, or, you know, prioritizing their mental health in a way that we just weren`t raised to do, quite frankly. What`s your take on it?

DANIELS: No, I think you`re right. I have two younger siblings. I`m here with them now at my parents` house. And the difference and the way that they`re saying, no, you don`t have to live that way, you don`t have to be exhausted all the time, you don`t have to put yourself last or your relationships last is really something that all of us can take to heart, right?

This entire year was a stark reminder, including last year, but especially this year, about how much collective -- how much -- if you can`t bring your full self, right, like whether you`re tired or whatever, how you talk to your family, whether or not you`re around them, how you bring them to work that actually matters. How you`re treated at work actually matters.

I think the pandemic forced us all to sit down and you talk than great resignation, but people aren`t going to work outside of being scared of COVID-19 is also because of like, well, you`re not paying me enough and I`m not enjoying it. And so that is something that young people have been at the forefront of for years.

CROSS: Yes, I agree. And a lot of people, you know, are trying to make that argument, like, oh, the unemployment checks are too much. That means the private sector has to pay people more. So, yes, it`s been a great year when it comes to at least recognizing the challenges of mental health.

But we have way too much to talk about. So, Adrienne, Tim and Eugene are sticking around, because up next on THE REIDOUT how everything that happened in 2021 will shape the political landscape in 2022 as we head into midterms.

Plus, what we`re learning about today`s phone call between President Biden and Vladimir Putin amid growing concern about the crisis in Ukraine. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman joins me.

Also, many will be forced to ring in the New Year without their champagne toast.


That`s right. Bubbly is in short supply, and the climate crisis is part of the reason.

And she became a sensation at the Biden inauguration. Now poet Amanda Gorman has a hopeful message for 2022. THE REIDOUT continues right after this.


CROSS: After a tumultuous year in 2021, 2022 will be an even busier one in politics. The Senate returns next week with a lot on its plate, especially two major parts on President Biden`s agenda. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised a vote on the Build Back Better Bill, despite filibuster- loving Joe Manchin`s opposition. He has also promised to take up voting rights in the first two weeks of the New Year, and signaled that he would force a change in Senate rules to overcome Republican obstruction. Yes. Democrats are also considering how to tackle immigration after an effort to include protections was cut from the Build Back Better Bill.


And while President Biden recently extended the student loan payment -- excuse me -- with the pandemic extending into a third year, advocates in some of our bank accounts want to see Congress make good on promises to cancel student loan debt in the new year.

Excuse me. I promise everyone this is not a COVID cough. It just went down the wrong pipe. Apologies.

All of this will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the looming midterm elections, with several high-stake governor`s races and control of Congress on the line.

Back with me are Adrienne Elrod, Tim Miller, Eugene Daniels.

You guys, I promise this is not a COVID cough. It`s just live TV, folks, and I inhaled the wrong way.

Anyway, thank you guys for being back and bearing with me through that challenging read. All right.

So, coming up -- Eugene, I want to ask you first, because there`s a lot happening in politics. I`m curious your take on, what is the political headline of 2022 that has yet to be written, my friend?

DANIELS: Yes, that`s a tough one. I hope one of my editors or me end up writing it.

And I think the thing is, is going to be, will the Democratic leaders really listen to their voters and listen to advocates within their party saying things like -- just like you said, getting rid of the filibuster or figuring out a way to carve out a voting rights exception in the filibuster to get voting rights done, and whether or not Joe Manchin -- or whether or not other Democrats actually accept what Joe Manchin is willing to give them on Build Back Better.

Those are the two things that are going to be able to get done, if Democrats want them to, right? That is a strong -- that is going to be -- depend on President Biden pushing Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema on the filibuster. Kyrsten Sinema, I think, right now is the staunchest advocate for the filibuster in the Democratic Party.

And then you have how much the members of Congress are going to finally get together and figure out what happens with Build Back Better. Those are the biggest things that are going to happen for the country for this year, right, whether or not the voting rights acts get done, because you have people starting to vote in the primaries coming up just in a few months.

And that thing, that`s going to be something really interesting folks to watch.

CROSS: We will see.

I don`t -- I don`t know if Democrats can hold the majority with the rampant voter suppression that we have seen. I mean, this is GOP-led voter suppression at the state level, which has always been something that has plagued democracy. So it`s kind of hard to imagine why they don`t adjust the rules to make sure that everybody has an access to the ballot.

Tim, what do you got? What do you think the political headline that we have yet to read will be? And maybe you will write the political headline. Who knows?


MILLER: Well, I just -- I will answer that question, but just really quickly, I want to push back on this.

I think that the Democrats` big concern coming up here shouldn`t -- isn`t really voter suppression, as much as it is Republicans going around the rules to literally try to cheat, as we saw in 2020. In 2024 -- the Republicans tried voter suppression in 2020 and it backfired.

What it did was, it led to an increased energy, an increased interest in voting. So this isn`t to say that it couldn`t succeed in a different time. But, right now, I think the more urgent threat that Democrats in Congress need to look to is how to prevent, in 2024, a redux of what we saw in 2020, which is a Republican House or Senate trying to overturn a legal and fair result in a state that the Democrats won.

As far as what the big headline, I think, for 2022 that hasn`t been written yet, I think that the Democrats are going to end up getting past a version of BBB that might hopefully be better politically. It might not be as good as -- on policy as every progressive activist wants, but something that is more tangible, more stripped down, whether it`s either the universal pre-K provision, whether it`s parental leave, the prescription drug costs provision on insulin.

A couple things like that, and paying for it with increased taxes, I think that they are going to -- on the wealthy. I think that they are going to get a deal on that. I think there`s a lot of pessimism about this right now, but I would look to the spring and think that there will be something that`s a little bit smaller, but easier to sell that the Democrats can pass in 2022.

CROSS: Tim, you are quite the optimist on the panel this evening.

And I don`t know if people will be excited...

MILLER: Why not? It`s New Year`s.

CROSS: I don`t know if as many people will be excited about a watered-down BBB, because you have to wonder, right, well, because when it gets back to the House, will the progressives vote for it? So we will see what. We will keep our eye on it.

Adrienne, what do you think? What`s the big political headline that awaits us in 2022?

ELROD: Well, I`m going to try to compete with Tim to be the most optimistic person on the panel tonight.

I think the headline that is going to be written in the very near future is Democrats passed historic once-in-a-generation legislation. I think that is going to be Build Back Better.


And, Tiffany, I completely agree with you. I mean, I wish we were looking at a $6 trillion bill, which is what progressives pushed and what many in the party embraced to start off with.

But even if we pass something in the $1.4 trillion range, we`re still looking at some very historic pieces and provisions of legislation that are going to have a dramatic impact on the lives of American families.

Hopefully, that will include a 10-year extension of the child tax credit. That`s still, of course, being debated. We will see what Senator Manchin comes down on that.

But some of these climate provisions are going to have dramatic impacts, expanded pre-K to every child in America, no matter of their socioeconomic or purely economic background, can get expanded child care -- I`m sorry -- pre-K access. Expanded child care access, so that parents can actually go back to work and not worry about who`s going to take care of their kid.

There`s a lot of great things in that legislation. I -- but I completely agree with you. I hope that we don`t let perfect be the enemy of the good and that this ends up getting passed. I wish we were looking at something bigger. But I think, ultimately, at the end of the day, whatever we pass is going to be historic, and it`s going to be something that we haven`t seen in -- passed in Congress in several decades.

And that`s going to be a big thing and a good thing for the American people.

CROSS: Yes, I agree with you. I feel like a lot of the coverage of this year was focused on how much this plan costs.

And I think that matters to maybe inside-the-Beltway people, but American people across this country are not interested in how much it costs.


CROSS: They have their own household debt to worry about.

They want to know what policy is going to impact their lives tomorrow. So, we will see what happens with Build Back Better. Should be quite an interesting thing.

I will tell you guys, I am worried a political headline might be about a more contagious, infectious, highly virulent variant coming along.

Despite my cough, I promise I am OK. But I think it`s just a really scary thing to navigate this virus, so knock on wood that will not happen.

Eugene, I have a very serious for question you that I`d like you to address. What role do you think Lil Nas X will play in the GOP`s culture wars of battles they like to invent? What`s your take?


DANIELS: I mean, Lil Nas X is one of those artists that comes around every once in a while that really does rile up conservatives, right?

And he hits at a couple of different things, right? He is gay, he`s black, and so those are places where they have huge issues dealing in -- within their own party how they interact with those two groups.

And I think that they will continue to harp on things like that, because one thing that`s been clear about Lil Nas X, for those that don`t -- have listened to his album, is that he`s going to continue to push the envelope.

And as we were talking about young people, he`s one of those perfect examples of young people who are just going to live their life. And if we don`t get on -- if us old people don`t get with it, then that`s too damn bad, right? That is something I think that has been really fascinating to watch this year.

CROSS: It is. It`s really interesting.

You know what would really make these conservative right-wing extremists lose their mind? If Lil Nas X teamed up with Cardi B and did a duet about voting rights...

DANIELS: I want that. I need that in my life.

CROSS: ... and equality.


CROSS: Exactly. Exactly.

Well, I am almost 100 percent certain that Cardi B and Lil Nas X are watching this show right now, because what else would they be doing at the end of the year?


CROSS: And maybe this will happen. We shall see. We shall see.

Tim, what do you think? I mean, I feel like, honestly, when the Cardi B song "WAP" dropped, I have to tell you, the Republicans knew that song better than I did. I mean, they are obsessed with her. Why do you think that is?

MILLER: I don`t want to act like I`m ducking the question. I don`t have an answer to that one.

I do say, if Lil Nas X is watching, he should definitely call me. My D.M.s are open.


MILLER: And I hate just to take us down a serious note, but while I`m here, I know Eugene also spent a lot of time in north of Denver, and then (INAUDIBLE) too.

There`s a horrible, raging fire right now going through my old neck of the woods in Denver. I know that I have got some friends who are up there, and Eugene does. So, I just want to give a shout-out to those folks and the firefighters who are out there trying to put that out while I had a chance on here and say that my thoughts are with all my people back in Denver and Boulder and that area.

CROSS: I`m so glad you did that, Tim. Thank you. Thank you so much.

And our thoughts are with those folks as well.

All right, I`m going to go down a gallon of water and suck on a throat lozenger.


CROSS: But my thanks to Adrienne Elrod, Tim Miller, and Eugene Daniels.

And don`t go anywhere, because up next on THE REIDOUT: President Biden holds a high-stakes call with Vladimir Putin amid escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Can he help keep those tensions from ramping up into a full-blown military conflict?

Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman joins me next.

We will be right back.



CROSS: OK, in a highly anticipated phone call today, President Joe Biden spoke to Russian leader Vladimir Putin. This 15-minute call, which notably came at Putin`s request, is their second conversation this month about the escalating tensions at the Ukrainian border, where Russia has amassed thousands of troops.

It`s a diplomatic and military standoff that`s now come to a crisis. But let`s be clear. This is a crisis entirely of Russia`s making. Just like his illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, Putin is threatening once again to withdraw -- to redraw the map of Europe.

He`s moving Russian troops to the border of Ukraine for months now, a completely unprovoked military buildup that clearly poses a threat to Ukraine`s sovereignty. Now, Putin is leveraging the crisis that he created to demand security guarantees from the West. Namely, he wants Ukraine barred from joining NATO and once NATO`s further expansion halted, among other things, all of which have already been rejected.


But, according to "The Washington Post," analysts warn that Putin`s demands could all just be a pretext for military action. Nevertheless, the U.S. is standing firm with its NATO allies against Putin`s belligerence, while trying to ease tensions through diplomacy.

According to the White House readout of today`s call, President Biden urged to de-escalate tensions with Ukraine and made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine.

Now, this comes after Russia has been ratcheting up tensions to an almost hysterical degree. Earlier this month, Russia`s deputy foreign minister likened the standoff to the Cuban Missile Crisis. Just last week, Putin launched a hypersonic cruise missile in a blatant attempt to intimidate the West. And in a press conference, he argued that Russia is actually entitled to Ukraine`s territory.

Just so you understand, that`s tantamount to Britain saying they`re entitled to America.

With me now is Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, former director for European affairs for the U.S. National Security Council and executive board member of the Renew Democracy Initiative.

Thank you so much for being with me tonight, Alex.

I have to say, again, this is a crisis that Vladimir Putin, it`s his own making. I mean, he introduced this crisis. Are Putin`s demands just a pretext of seizing more territory from Ukraine? What`s your take?

LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN (RET.), FORMER DIRECTOR FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: So, I think, ultimately, I think the discussions around European security and all these assurances that he`s looking to extract or guarantees that he`s looking to extract either bilaterally from the U.S. or NATO -- and NATO -- amount to maybe a bit of a sideshow.

Frankly, his major objective here is to regain control of Ukraine. It`s one of those things that -- a legacy of the collapse of the Soviet Union, in Putin`s own conception, the biggest tragedy in the 20th century, and he`s looking to reverse that.

He`s now gathered sufficient strength. He thought he successfully realized a failed state in Ukraine in 2014 when he snatched up 7 percent of the territory, millions of people isolated in the Russian-controlled territories. But that`s not enough.

It turns out that Ukraine has actually consolidated around a national identity, consolidated around this idea of integrating with Europe. And now he`s looking for an opportunity to do some more damage, to pull Ukraine back into Russia`s orbit, recognizing that, if he doesn`t act now, it`s only going to get harder.


And when Zelensky first started sounding the alarm on this, he said that there was a group of Russians and Ukrainians trying to stage a coup in Ukraine, which is interesting why Ukrainians would be a part of that.

What message that Biden need to send today? And do you think -- like, is it wise for Biden to kind of help Putin save face and offer him an off-ramp, or should he double down?

VINDMAN: You know, it`s -- there`s -- all these ideas of off-ramps and face-saving measures are appropriate.

I think, frankly, this -- the call today was a little bit puzzling. It came on relatively short notice, as far as we can tell from the public perspective, just on a day or so notice, right before the holidays. And the topic was Ukraine.

And this is in light of the fact that, within about a week or so, a little bit more than a week, the Russians and the U.S. are going to start significant consultations headed up by senior diplomats.

So this -- the reason for this call isn`t entirely clear. I mean, there`s an idea here that he`s just checking the block on continued diplomacy and building the case as to why he might need to -- Putin might need to go conduct his offensive in Ukraine. He`s exhausted all the opportunities, all the options with regard to diplomacy.

With regards to what President Biden needed to do, he just needed to lay down a significant message of decisive actions in response to Russian aggression, and also leave the door open for diplomacy.

But I fear that`s not going to be enough. I think that taking action after the Russians invade, conduct the largest offensive in Ukraine since World War II, that`s going to be trying to close the barn door after the cows have left.


VINDMAN: And I think that`s something -- we should be doing a lot more now with regards to sending a strong message of what could happen, maybe going so far -- frankly, I`m supportive of arming the Ukrainians to make it less palatable for the Russians to attack, and in so doing deterring what could end up being a catastrophe with unknown consequences.

CROSS: So, that`s interesting that you say arming the Ukrainians, because Zelensky, I mean, he`s a former actor and comedian, and I`m sure you well know.


No shade. America elected a reality TV star to his first job in government as president of the United States.

But, I mean, Zelensky, nonetheless, he is placing people from his old comedy troupe in like very senior positions, not people with a lot of foreign policy experience. By Putin basically threatening Ukraine, he`s kind of making the point that they do actually need NATO`s protection. And, I mean, is Zelensky in a position to defend Ukraine?

VINDMAN: Well, let`s say that Ukraine is in a far better position to defend itself now than it has been at any other point in recent history.

Over the past seven-and-a-half, actually closer to eight years, they have made significant improvements. But all that has done is close the gap somewhat between how far ahead the Russians were and started on the margins, at least, to affect the calculus of what kind of damage the Ukrainians could do as the Russians launch their offensive.

This is not going to look anything like we -- what we saw in 2014. This is going to be a combination of Syria, Ukraine, and things that we actually haven`t witnessed in decades. This will be a massive aerial bombardment, cruise missile strikes, and targeting what I think are morale targets, crushing the will of the Ukrainian population to resist Russian aggression.

So this is going to be a massive, massive -- this is shaping up right now to be a massive military offensive that is going to draw on European powers. The Lithuanians and Estonians already have agreed to arm the Ukrainians. I can`t imagine the Poles and the Romanians are going to be too far behind.

And we are going to be in this some way or another. So the best we could do now is really send a strong message that this is not what Russia wants, severe punishing sanctions, posture changes, more U.S. forces in Europe, and really arming the Ukrainians are part of the formula of success.

CROSS: That`s a very frightening picture you just painted, Alex.

Like, just really quickly, we`re out of time, but I`m just curious your thoughts. Is any of this relevant to what`s happening in the -- in our country domestically? Does Putin look at what`s happening here and is like, yes, America`s weak, which, of course, he had a hand in sowing a lot of discord in this country?

But looking at what we`re dealing with COVID, withdrawing from Afghanistan, looking at this confluence of things, does he say, now`s the time? Because, again, this is his doing, a crisis he created. He requested this phone call. Does he look at this through the lens of U.S. is weakening, now`s my time to strike?

VINDMAN: That`s exactly right.

He`s acting on both need, this need to keep Ukraine within his sphere of influence, prevent a successful Ukraine from materializing that threatens his own regime, and also the opportunity, the opportunity of a country, the U.S., having a coup attempt on January 6.

I fear that, if we had not had that episode, we would probably not be facing these kinds of situations, these kinds of challenges. That`s not causality, but a link there.

CROSS: Wow. Yes.

VINDMAN: And I think it`s also COVID. The Russians are actually having a hard time with COVID right now. And it`s only going to get worse.

Their Sputnik vaccine is not going to be nearly as effective as our technology -- our highly advanced vaccines. But there`s all sorts of weakness that he perceived here and in Europe...


VINDMAN: ... the scene between Europe -- Europeans and the U.S., and the leverage that he`s winning with regards to energy.


VINDMAN: So this is all kind of emboldening him to take action.

CROSS: Yes. And you`re right. Russia has their own problems. I mean, they have got slow-growing wages and a lot of opposition groups against Vladimir Putin. So we will definitely keep our eye on it.

Good job, by the way, your appearance on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." I caught it, one of my favorite shows.

So, thank you so much for joining us tonight, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.

VINDMAN: That was lots of fun.

CROSS: Yes, it was fun to watch.


CROSS: All right, thank you. Happy new year to you. And tell your wife I said hello.

All right, if you`re planning on popping the cork on some old bubbly tomorrow night, you should definitely stick around to hear about how the climate crisis is threatening that entire industry.

Stay with us.



CROSS: All right, everybody. I know we have about 28 hours until the ball drops, but, in the words of Beyonce, we like to party. Sorry for my singing. I can`t.

But I do want to cheer to the new year. And I imagine, like me, many of you will be popping a bottle of bub with your friends and family tomorrow. Sadly, some of you will be drinking alone because you`re in quarantine or you have to be on air Saturday morning like me.

Whatever the reason, I`m sorry. But, even worse, some of you could be popping a bottle of English sparkling wine. I know, the horror. But that`s for an entirely different, but equally disturbing reason. Extreme weather conditions are starting to push good wine out of traditional regions like France, Italy and California into places further north and south, like Norway, Oregon and the aforementioned England.

It`s the literal polarization of wine. Take, for example, France. Extreme weather has hammered the country, leaving its world-class wine and champagne regions hurting. A French government forecasts showed that the 2021 harvest was the smallest in at least 50 years.

Now, that`s a devastating blow to a country whose second largest export industry is actually wine. The threatening effects of the climate crisis on wine are having serious and life-changing consequences.

I`m joined now by Greg Jones, CEO of Abacela Winery. He`s also an atmospheric scientist and vinicultural climatologist.

I hope I said that correctly. Greg, you will correct me if I didn`t.


This is a really entry interesting story. I mean, it`s obviously disappointing for champagne lovers, but the bigger challenge is, of course, protecting Earth.

What`s the solution to all of this? And because it`s so serious, I`m just going to take a sip of the champagne while you tell us what can be done to preserve our precious cocktails.

GREG JONES, CEO, ABACELA WINERY: Well, first of all, thanks for having me on air today.

This is a really big issue. We have been noticing in agriculture in general, but in grape growing specifically, climates have been changing all over the world, and the rise of extreme events that have become more and more problematic, whether it be heat extremes and/or hail and/or heavy rain, have really caused some major challenges.

In 2021, in champaign, a combination of frost, hail, heavy rain, and quite a bit of mildew led to a very, very difficult vintage. There will be some people that just will not even produce whatsoever. There`s hope, though. There`s still, I think, plenty of wine out there for this coming year.

Champagne does something that is very similar to what OPEC does with oil and what maple syrup is done within Quebec. They do have supplies that they keep behind for delivery for a year like this.

But the challenge is, is that the supply chain may be more difficult than anything.

CROSS: The supply chain is certainly a challenge with a lot of industries.

In hearing you talk about this, I`m curious. If we cannot address this challenge with champagne, like, what is the responsibility of the consumer? Like, will prices start to go up significantly? Should people be buying champagne, buying more champagne? I understand the champagne committee is trying to decrease the carbon footprint of what`s happening in these regions.

For us at home watching, like, what should we be doing?

JONES: Well, I think the whole industry is trying to look at this as a broader issue.

The idea, number one, is to really look at packaging. How does shipping glass bottles all around the world impact our carbon footprint? So I think there`s going to be some major changes in packaging in the future.

But, as consumers, we just need to be aware of where our products are coming from. Can we buy more locally? Or can we buy more sustainably in terms of how that product has gotten to our doorstep?

CROSS: Great advice, especially as so many people will be popping bottles tomorrow night for New Year`s.

Because tomorrow night is New Year`s Eve, I`m just curious what you will be drinking tomorrow night when it`s time to bring in the new year.

JONES: Well, I have to admit that I do you have an Oregon sparkling wine on my menu for tomorrow night.

I think there`s some wonderful sparkling well wines made throughout wine regions in the United States. So, if you cannot, for whatever reason it is, find a champagne on the shelf at the marketplace, look for something else from maybe Upstate New York or Oregon or Washington.

There are some really good sparkling wines made by the producers out there.

CROSS: That`s really sound advice. And 2021 has been a challenging year. 2022 may be another challenging year. Please don`t take our wine and champagne away from us.

Thank you so much, Greg Jones. Cheers to you and happy new year.

And don`t go anywhere at home, because, up next, America`s youth poet laureate, Amanda Gorman, pens an extraordinary new poem to send us into the new year brimming with hope and inspiration.

We will be right back.



CROSS: All right, we entered 2021 weary from the first year of the pandemic.

Many of us naively hoped that a new year meant we could put the tough parts of 2020 behind us. But, for so many of you out there, 2021 was just as hard as the previous year. Trust me, I understand and I know. Whether you have gone through financial struggles or mental health challenges, the past two years have not been easy at all.

But the prophetic words of the young Amanda Gorman, a beautiful, unapologetic black woman, have been a beacon of hope, quite frankly. On Inauguration Day, Gorman inspired millions with her poem "The Hill We Climb."

Her poetry is a call to action. We have so much to process from 2021, and we have a lot ahead of us as a nation. We`re entering 2022 with strength, not naivete. We turn our gaze forward with passion and awakened optimism.

That is the powerful spirit that Gorman`s most recent poem, "New Day`s Lyric," evokes.

To quote Gorman: "We steadily vow that, no matter how we are weighed down, we must always pave a way forward."

Here is Gorman reading part of that poem this evening.


AMANDA GORMAN, FORMER NATIONAL YOUTH POET LAUREATE: Even if we never get back to normal, someday, we can venture beyond it, to leave the known and take the first steps.

So let us not return to what was normal, but reach toward what is next. What was cursed, we will cure. What was plagued, we will prove pure. Where we tend to argue, we will try to agree, those fortunes we forswore, now the future we foresee, where we weren`t aware, we`re now awake.

Those moments we missed are now these moments we make, the moments we meet, and our hearts, once all together beaten, now all together beat.


CROSS: Beautiful, indeed. And that`s tonight`s REIDOUT. Happy new year, everybody.

And don`t worry. Joy will be right back here on Monday after some well- deserved and much-needed time off.

And you can catch me on "THE CROSS CONNECTION" right here on MSNBC Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. And, together, we can welcome in the first day of 2022.

We have got a great show planned, so you don`t want to miss it.

I will be joined by Dr. Jason Johnson on set. And we have a couple of members of Congress joining us as well. We will have the new member of Congress from Ohio, Congresswoman Shontel Brown, as well as Congressman Adriano Espaillat out of New York.

So, we have got a jam-packed show. We will talk a lot about politics, but we will also do it for the culture, like we do every Saturday.

You don`t want to miss it. I will see you Saturday morning right here, MSNBC, 10:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, for "THE CROSS CONNECTION."

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.