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Transcript: The ReidOut, 2/17/2021

Guest: Symone Sanders, Chris Lu, Charlie Sykes, Dana Milbank, Steve Adler, Vann Newkirk, Marc Elias


Biden says he`s tired of talking about Trump, wants to focus on the American people. Vice President Harris ignores Trump, focuses on pandemic response. Biden administration is on track to exceed vaccination goal. Biden says, we should have enough vaccines for the entire U.S. by June. Biden says, we need to go big on COVID relief. Polls show Biden getting high marks on first month in office. Vice President Harris deflects questions on safety of teachers going back to school before they`re vaccinated. CDC issues new guidance on reopening schools safely. Trump repeatedly made COVID-19 promises he couldn`t keep. President Joe Biden will be shipping generators, diesel fuel and water to communication facilities and hospitals in Texas to help with the current crisis. Dozens of Republican-led states are trying to impose draconian new voting restrictions in the wake of Trump`s defeat.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: In the short term, everyone looking at the emergency response. In the long term, those discussions of policy also important.

I`ll see you tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. You can always find me online @arimelber on social media. And "THE REIDOUT" with Joy Reid starts now.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, everybody. We begin THE REIDOUT tonight with the big kabloom. Today in New Jersey, Trump Plaza, the last remnant of Donald Trump`s failed casino empire, literally imploded. Trump`s Jersey Casinos had been an embarrassing financial failure, marked by multiple bankruptcies. Not to do a joke here about how you`ve got to be a really crappy businessman to fail at casinos in Atlantic City. But, you know, let`s not attack a retiree.

Trump ultimately lost his casinos. This one was acquired out of bankruptcy by a real billionaire, Carl Icahn. It had been sitting empty for seven years, becoming an eyesore and safety hazard, until it was finally demolished at 9:07 A.M. by virtue of dynamite, kabloom.

And now this one small corner of America can finally move on from Trump. The mayor, Marty Small, called it a truly great day in Atlantic City. The truly great day comes as President Biden made clear last night that he too is eager to move on from Trump.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I`m tired of talking about Donald Trump. I don`t want to talk about him anymore.

For four years, all that`s been in the news is Trump. The next four years, I want to make sure all the news is the American people. I`m tired of talking about Trump.


REID: Good applause line. Likewise, in her first network interview with the TODAY SHOW this morning, Vice President Kamala Harris wouldn`t take the orange-tinted bait.


SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, MSNBC HOST: Do you think that President Trump should be criminally charged?

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, right now, Savannah, I`m focused on what we need to do to get relief to American families, and that is my highest priority. It`s our administration`s highest priority. It`s our job. It`s a job we were elected to do. And that`s my focus.

GUHTRIE: But you`re a former prosecutor, so I`ve got to ask you, is that a strong case against the president, a criminal case that Mitch McConnell had raised as a possibility?

HARRIS: I haven`t reviewed the case through the lens of being a prosecutor. I`m reviewing the case of COVID in America through the lens of being the vice president of America.


REID: No, too shy. To V.P. Harris` point an average of 1.7 million vaccine doses per day are now being administered, according to the White House`s coronavirus coordinator. That is up from less than million a day before Biden took office. At this rate, the administration will easily overshoot their initial goal of administering 100 million doses in their first 100 days.

So the president set a new goal last night promising that by July there would be enough vaccine doses available for every American.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: When is every American who wants it going to be able to get a vaccine?

BIDEN: By the end of July this year. We have -- we came into office. There was only 50 million doses that are available. We have now -- by the end of July, we`ll have over 600 million doses, enough to vaccinate every single American.


REID (voice over): President Biden also set the ambitious goal of safely reopening schools through the eighth grade by the end of his first 100 days. But the administration`s first big test is whether their sweeping $1.9 trillion COVID relief package can get through Congress and land on the president`s desk before current benefits expire on March 4th.

And in the sharpest contrast with his predecessor, President Biden spoke compassionately and convincingly on the need to go big.


BIDEN: Now is the time we should be spending. Now is the time to go big.

You have over 10 million people unemployed. We need unemployment insurance. We need to make sure that, you know, you have 40 percent of the children in America talk about food shortages. 60 percent of it -- did you ever think you would see a day in Milwaukee, you would see in the last six months, people lining up in their automobiles for an hour, for as far as you could see to get a bag of food? What -- I mean, this is the United States of America for God`s sake. We can`t deal with that?


REID: Biden`s empathy and straight talk may help explain why his approval rating stands at 62 percent in the latest political morning consult poll. That`s ten points better than Trump`s highest approval rating during his entire single term, which peaked at 52 percent in that same morning consult poll, but never managed to even struggle up to 50 percent, ever, in the gold standard Gallup poll.

I`m joined now by Symone Sanders, Senior Adviser and Chief Spokesperson for Vice President Kamala Harris. And, Symone, it`s always great to see you.

Let`s start with this vaccine goal, getting everyone available a vaccine by July. That is very ambitious. How much is that goal going to be tempered by sort of the unknowns? We`ve now seen Texas buried in a snowstorm. They don`t even have power. That`s got to set back those numbers there. You know, is there wiggle room built into that or is that a minimum that the administration thinks they can achieve?

SYMONE SANDERS, SENIOR ADVISOR AND CHIEF SPOKEPERSON FOR VP HARRIS: Well, thanks for having me tonight, Joy. First of all, it`s always great to see you. I would say, and the president spoke to this last night and it`s something that we`re going to continue to reiterate, that that is our goal and it`s a goal that we believe we will be able to meet. But to be clear, having a vaccine available to every American that wants one is not the same thing as getting vaccines into arms. We will have enough for everyone to get the vaccine, but the question you ask is specifically about vaccinations.

And that is where our COVID response team is working with governors and mayors across the country to get that done. That is where you`ve seen the administration`s working with governors and states to institute these mass vaccination sites. These federally funded community vaccination centers. And we`ve stood up two in California and Oakland and L.A. three in Texas, actually, Arlington, Texas, Dallas, and Houston, two in New York State, Brooklyn and Queens, and more are coming online.

The way to get vaccinations into arms is to make the vaccine more accessible, which is why just this week, the administration has added an additional 2 million doses going to pharmacies across the country, like your Walgreens or your CVSs. And the administration is partnering with community, has a new program that the CDC and HRSA, all of these acronyms, but these are the really important folks out there, the scientists doing this work, and has made it available for one million doses to be available to community health centers.

So these are various ways that the administration is working to ensure that these vaccinations are going get into arms.

REID: Let`s talk about schools. Because, you know, the big issue for schools is that teachers want to feel safe going in. Teachers unions are looking out for their members and saying, look, if teachers will going to take a risk of getting sick and dying, we don`t want to send them back in en masse. The administration is now said they want schools open five days a week, not one day a week. A lot of parents will be very happy about that, especially communities of color where school is also nutrition, it`s also really important to have in-person learning.

Your boss, Kamala Harris, was on the TODAY SHOW this morning and she was asked about whether teachers need to be vaccinated before that can happen. I want you take a look at that.


GUHTRIE: Can you reassure teachers who are listening right now that it is safe for them to go back to school even if they are not vaccinated?

HARRIS: Teachers should be a priority.

22 states, I believe, have prioritized teachers in terms of vaccinations --

GUHTRIE: But if they`re not vaccinated, is it safe for them?

HARRIS: Well, I think that we have to decide if we can put in place safe measures. This is why it`s so important we pass the American rescue plan.

GUHTRIE: I don`t want to beat it to death, but I know there are teachers listening and the CDC has said they don`t have to be vaccinated to go back to school. Of course, it`s the priority --

HARRIS: We think they should be a priority. We think they should be a priority.


REID: Just to get to the finer point of it that Savannah was trying to get to, does the administration -- is the administration open to mandating in some way through the Department of Education, saying that in order to reopen schools, teachers should have the same kind of access to early vaccination that, like, essential workers, that medical workers are getting? Should teachers -- should it be a mandate from the administration that teachers get access to the vaccine?

SANDERS: So, Joy, this is a very important and a very different and distinct question that you`re asking. And the answer is that, one, we are going to let the science lead us, and, two, that that is not something the administration can do. For folks out there and listening at home, it is up to the states to decide who exactly is getting the vaccine and how people are prioritized.

The president and vice president have been clear. They believe that teachers should be prioritized in states to get the vaccines, just like frontline workers. And they also agree with the CDC guidance that that is not a requirement for schools for schools to get open. I want to remind folks, the schools are open right now in places all over this country. And, actually, more schools are open right now and have opened since the president and vice president have -- were sworn into office than at this time during the pandemic last year -- or pardon me, since the height of the pandemic last year. That`s the important point.

So progress is being made. And the way that we get schools open and operating safely is to make sure that they have the mitigation measures. The CDC has noted that vaccination of teachers is one of those mitigation measures along with social distancing, masking, ventilation in schools. And the bottom line is that schools need these resources, which is why it is very important, as the vice president said this morning, that we pass the American rescue plan.

The American rescue plan has a lot. It has money to get vaccinations into arms, it has money for resources for schools, really, relief that families need with those direct payments and those direct checks. So that`s why we`re urging Congress that we need to get this done.

REID: Symone Sanders, thank you for answering that. That is a question that I think a lot of people have had. So, I really appreciate you being here tonight. Go get warm. I appreciate it you. Thank you.

And I`m joined now by Yamiche Alcindor White House Correspondent for PBS NewsHour, and Chris Lu, former White House Cabinet Secretary in the Obama Administration.

Yamiche, you know there`s been this whole back and forth about the administration`s like specific policy on schools. And I`m glad that actually Symone did answer that really specifically. She said, that`s not in our power, right? We don`t have the power to force, you know, this request that a lot of teachers unions have that teachers get vaccinated, like frontline workers, that`s up to the states. That`s like a specific answer that a lot of people needed. Just talk about the measuring difference that we`re seeing now on COVID. Do you feel it`s a marked difference or do you feel like these questions are still hanging out there?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it`s clear that the Biden administration, if we`re comparing them to their predecessors, that they are answering questions and being, it seems, more forthcoming and more transparent about what they`re doing. They also have said over and over again they`re going to let the science lead.

The question still hanging in the air, though, is how do we reopen schools safely and how does the CDC`s guidelines really dovetail with what the president and vice president are saying, in fact. There are a lot of teachers out there that are very worried about going back into schools without being vaccinated.

Now, it`s true, the Biden administration is saying, that`s up to the states. But let`s remember this is still the federal government. So there are advocates, there are teachers unions, there are people who are wondering, can the Biden administration do something to give these states a sort of carrot so that they will then be influenced and they will want to make sure that they prioritize teachers. Not simply saying, we recommend it, but also saying, here are some dollars, here are some other sort of things that can happen.

The other thing that`s really confusing is that the CDC guidelines, as of today, 75 percent of the schools that they would say are in red zones, the schools that would not be able to reopen because of community spread, 75 percent of schools and children are in those zones. That`s a big question, because there are experts who are saying, the science says that community spread is not tied to what`s going on in schools.

So there are a lot of frustrated people who are looking at these guidelines and saying, this administration had said that it`s letting the science lead, but here is a case where the science isn`t exactly lining up with what the Biden administration is saying.

All of that is to say, that you can feel at least and you can think that the Biden administration says that they`re doing their best to marry these two things, but there`s still, Joy, frankly, a lot of confusion and a lot of fearful people in communities that are really not exactly sure what to do.

REID: Yes, and the confusion -- and that`s a fair point. And, you know, Chris, let`s talk about this. Because there`s a thing in politics that in my mind is should be pretty simple, underpromise and overdeliver, right, promise something you know you can way clear. And so they did that with the 100 million doses. They said, we`re going to do 100 million, but they must have known in their head, had a benchmark that they really could do what they`re saying they`re going to do now, which is have like 300 million at least doses available. So they`re going to clear that.

I want to contrast that with the way the previous president overpromised and then ultimately underdelivered. Take a listen. This is cut two from our producers.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It`s going to disappear. One day, it`s like a miracle, it will disappear.

Calm. You have to be calm. It will go away.

We`re prepared and we`re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm.

Its looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away. I hope that`s true.

I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.

We`re rounding the turn we`re rounding the corner. It`s going away.

We think it`s going to have a very good ending for us, so that I can assure you.


REID: Chris, that obviously did not work because he was actually not planning to do anything and then nothing happened and we are where we are. But did that leave the Biden administration in such a hole that now even when they`re delivering -- they are over delivering on the 100 million doses. That is just an actual fact. But if they`re not sort of perfect, if they`re not hitting every mark and answering every question, does the failure of the previous administration kind of leave them at a bit of a deficit?

CHRIS LU, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE CABINET SECRETARY: Yes, and the deficit right now, Joy, is a deficit of trust in government. So let`s contrast what you just showed to what we saw last night, which is a president relying on facts and science, setting very clear goals about vaccinations and school re-openings, but also tempering expectations. There was no boasting, there was no declaration of victory, there was no touting of unproven cures.

But beyond that, and just trying to level to the American people, it`s doing the hard work, which is not dramatic, but the hard work of making government work more effectively, and that`s functionally what has to happen. It`s about using the Defense Production Act to get more PPEs, more testing, to ramp up the vaccination manufacturing process, to get this out to people. It`s putting out the guidance on CDC with reopening of schools. And as importantly, my old department, the Department of Labor, is putting out standards for workplaces, as well.

And, look, none of this is the theatrics that we saw, and it`s hard. And you`re right, and I give the Biden administration credit. They put out 100 million goal. And, you know, when people said, you know what, that might not be half enough, they`ve now ramped it up to a million and a half. And now they have said 600 million by the end of July.

And they put out these clear, audacious goals and they`re challenging their staff to hit these goals and they`re going to be measured by it. And I think that`s -- look, that`s a better way to approach it, because that`s certainly what the American people want. They want competence and they want experience.

REID: Yes, and they want a check in the mail. Because, you know, their next big test is that if they can clear they`re of making sure that the Joe Manchins and Kyrsten Sinemas don`t stand in the way and people actually get that physical check in the mail, I think that`s another benchmark. As you know again, underpromise, overdeliver and send checks. It really works in politics.

Yamiche Alcindor, Chris Lu, thank you very much, I really appreciate you both.

And up next on THE REIDOUT, the Republican Party that Rush Limbaugh helped create and Trump inherited, it`s a party that exists not to govern but to lead insurrections, to lie, and to troll Democrats.

Plus, in a Texas town ripped by snow and cold and no electricity, a mayor tells his freezing constituents, quote, the city and county along with the power providers owe you nothing. Only the strong will survive and the weak will perish. That kind of governance is in keeping with the fine tradition of the Republican Party.

And as bad as that is, believe it or not, it`s not the absolute worst thing about the crisis in Texas. And that is coming up, as THE REIDOUT continues.


REID: Rush Limbaugh died today at the age of 70 from complications of lung cancer.

And I would argue that he is among the three people in recent American history who had the most influence in building the modern Republican Party, none of whom are named Reagan or Bush.

This is a party that was built by right-wing media, by Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch and Rush Limbaugh. They influenced the way Republicanism and conservatism sound and the way it attacks its opponents and what generations of self-described conservatives think.

One of Limbaugh`s crusades during the 2008 primaries was called Operation Chaos, an obsession on his part to change the way Republicans do politics by urging his listeners to vote en masse for -- in their states for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in Democratic primaries to keep the perceived weaker candidate and the one who represented the feminists he had so villainized for years as feminazis in the race.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The success or the definition of the success of Operation Chaos is just that. Is there chaos?

The original purpose of this before the Texas and Ohio primaries was to make sure that Obama got bloodied up politically.

I want Hillary to stay in this, Laura. This is too good a soap opera. We need Barack Obama bloodied up politically. And it`s obvious that the Republicans are not going to do it and don`t have the stomach for it.

The point of this has been to extend it exactly as it has been extended, to have these people go at each other`s throats. Obama has now been bloodied up. He`s no longer this messianic candidate. She already has half the country that hates her, according to disapproval numbers.

So, we have succeeded here even beyond our wildest objectives.


REID: You hear that?

Well, the campaign didn`t succeed. Barack Obama did get the nomination, and a lot of people wrote it all off as a failure at the time.

But Operation Chaos had contributed to the polarization of American politics, and, more importantly, the idea of injecting chaos and sexism, manipulation, racism, and dirty tricks directly into the artery of the Republican Party, bloodying people up, rather than faking compassionate conservatism, and trying to get crossover votes.

That ultimately would become the defining feature of Republican politics. Rush ultimately got his way.

Rush Limbaugh reached millions of listeners via his golden microphone, with his shows airing in small stations out in rural America that even FOX News couldn`t reach, hardening rural white listeners and weaponizing white male grievance.

It was the perfect inheritance for a president who would take Rush-style politics right to the White House, and ultimately pin a Presidential Medal of Freedom on one of the GOP`s real architects.

Joining me now is Dana Milbank of "The Washington Post" and Charlie Sykes, longtime conservative talk radio host and editor at large of The Bulwark.

I`m so glad that you guys are here today. You guys are -- were booked on the perfect day to talk about this, because, Charlie, you used to be in talk radio. I used to be in talk radio.

I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh, just because you want to listen to the people who are the best at the craft, right? So, I would listen to him. I would listen to his show.

And what I heard was a guy who took white Americans out there in the hinterlands and fed them a narrative of: You`re the victim. No, no, no, you`re the victim. Don`t feel like there`s any privileges coming to you. You`re the victim. The brown people, the black people, the women, the feminazis, they`re taking it from you, they`re taking things from you.

And it kept people so hyped, hyper and amped up, that he then was able to turn that into politics. And he said, the Republicans don`t have the stomach for it. But he did. Ultimately, do you -- do you agree with me that he and Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes ultimately built the current Republican Party?

CHARLIE SYKES, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE BULWARK: Oh, absolutely. There`s no question about it.

You can`t overstate Rush Limbaugh`s role in basically building up the entertainment wing of the GOP to be absolutely dominant. So, I mean, it`s a little bit painful talking about it on the day that he dies, but I have been working on a piece for Dana`s newspaper in which I argue that, right now, we are all living in the world that Rush Limbaugh made in his own image, when you think about what he did and the influence he had.

He was an entertainer. He was not a deep thinker. He was not a thought leader. But he shaped so much of the way the right wing transformed itself over the last few years. He popularized what -- he popularized conservative ideas.

But he also played a very central role in the derangement of it. So, his legacy is a conservative movement that is, in fact, more dishonest, more open to dishonesty, crueler, dumber than it was before.

And you can`t understand Donald Trump without understanding that Rush Limbaugh was in many ways not just the guy that laid the groundwork for him, but in many ways a role model in the way that you could twist truth, the way that you could use insults and ad hominem attacks, instead of actually dealing with ideas, because the bottom-line dirty secret about Rush Limbaugh is, he was utterly uninterested in ideas.

He was much more -- he was much more interested in the kind of smashmouth, own the liberals politics that Donald Trump was so good at. And he was also really one of the pioneers in convincing conservatives to look the other way about lies and conspiracy theories.

So, it is a dark legacy. And I have to say one of the real tragedies here, because it`s a human tragedy, is that, even when he was confronted with his own mortality, he saved the worst for the last. Some of the things that he did in the last six months of his life were among the most indefensible things he ever did.

And, right now, you look around us, and everything can be traced back to Rush Limbaugh and his influence.

REID: Well, I mean, it`s absolutely true.

I mean, Dana, he called the Affordable Care Act secret reparations and racialized something that had no racial undertone to it, other than it definitely lifted people of color, on average, more, because black and brown people had less health care, right?

But he racialized it, and he got white Americans to hate the Affordable Care Act. He called President Obama "Barack the Magic Negro," and used his black sidekick as a cover to be able to do like that kind of outright racist stuff.

I mean, if any person other than Donald Trump would have been president, it would have been him, because he basically was president for the last four years.


And that`s a crucial point, Joy. And you mentioned "Barack the Magic Negro." I think that was 2007. It was a few years before Trump started with the birther nonsense. So, in that way, you see how Limbaugh...

REID: Yes.

MILBANK: ... was sort of breaking the ice, making the pathway for him.

Charlie`s point is excellent. It`s not really about conservatism. Before there was Rush, there was Ronald Reagan, there was Barry Goldwater. What Rush brought to the table was attitude, was a hatred. He was gaining power in his sphere in the late `80s and the early `90s, exactly when Newt Gingrich was taking over in the House.

And it became the notion of moving the Republican Party and a large part of the conservative movement away from being a cooperating participant in American democracy to being an opponent of democracy.

So, we have seen all the components of that, the conspiracy theories, the racism, the detachment from reality, and also the notion that your opponent is not sort of the loyal opposition, but it`s the enemy.

REID: Yes.

MILBANK: So, in that sense, Rush created this world that Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity went on to further.

But we`re all living in his world.

REID: Well, and what`s interesting too, Charlie, is that these kind of figures -- you always talk about people who go to war against their own class, FDR, who fought the rich to make sure that there was a massive sort of social underpinning.

Just like Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh was this rich, privileged guy, never missed a meal, never had a problem financially, but who also kind of broke the Republican Party from the whole moral majority idea. Multiple marriages, they set it aside. The drug addiction issues, they set it -- every kind of sort of moral underpinning that Republicans claimed, he said, nah, forget all of that stuff. All you want to do is own the libs. Own the libs every day.

And he was mad at the Republican Party for a long time that they wouldn`t do it. And, finally, they not did it. They elected his doppelganger to be president.

SYKES: Well, see, that`s an interesting point, because, really, you can understand why these two guys bonded with one another, because they kind of reveled in the fact that they could say anything and do anything, that...

REID: Yes.

SYKES: ... Rush Limbaugh could go on the air and refer to a co-ed as a slut or the -- or make fun of Chelsea Clinton, 13-year-old woman, make fun of the disabled, and yet you still survive. You never apologize.

And you`re going to hear a lot of conservatives saying, well, Rush Limbaugh was this funny entertainer. And he had some amusing parodies, but you look back on it, and what he did was, he normalized so much of this normalized these racial -- the racial attacks, normalized mocking people for their illnesses, including AIDS victims, people who suffered from AIDS, and then normalized that, and got the Republican base used to it, so that, by the time Trump...

REID: Yes.

SYKES: ... came along, they had become accustomed to shrugging off -- well, that -- he`s just dopey. He`s just being funny.

But, look, Rush Limbaugh had a moment.

REID: Yes.

SYKES: If he wanted to be a thought leader, he could have pushed back on some of this, but he didn`t. He didn`t.

REID: Yes.

SYKES: And, again, here we`re at.

And I`m sorry to be having this conversation the day that he died.

REID: Yes.

SYKES: But his legacy is so much with us now.

And, boy, you just cannot understand modern conservative (AUDIO GAP) without understanding the way that he -- that he transformed (AUDIO GAP)

REID: That`s right, absolutely.

Last question very quickly to you, Dana.

There`s a thing that happens when sort of the leader of a movement is gone. And Rush Limbaugh is sort of sui generis. There isn`t another person at his level in terms of talk radio. With him and Roger Ailes now gone and departed, what happens to this movement? Does Donald -- because Donald Trump is not on the radio. Like, there`s -- who inherits that role?

MILBANK: Everybody in the party is trying to inherit that role now. There is nothing left of the party, except the Rush Limbaugh, the Donald Trump types.

And you see that -- what happened with Mitch McConnell now being decimated, even though he actually defended Donald Trump during the impeachment trial itself.

REID: Yes.

MILBANK: So, I think you have -- you have 50 Rush Limbaugh clones in the Senate at this point -- well, 43.

REID: Absolutely.

And Mitch McConnell -- well, Mitch McConnell can`t control any one of them, not one.

Dana Milbank, Charlie Sykes, thank you both for being here. Really appreciate you both.

And up next: You would think the Texas mayor who said only the strong will survive as his own state is buried in snow and folks are freezing without power would be a shoo-in for today`s absolute worst, but, oh, no, no, no, no, there`s something even worser-er-er in the state of Texas.

Stay with us.


REID: The mayor of a town in Texas is now the former mayor, after telling his constituents to quit their griping about the cold weather and the lack of electricity.

Mayor Tim Boyd of Colorado City posted a nasty message on Facebook telling suffering Texans: "No one owes you or your family anything, nor is it the local government`s responsibility to support you during trying times like this. Sink or swim. It`s your choice."

And that wasn`t all. He went in deeper, adding: "The city and county, along with power providers or any other service, owes you nothing. I`m sick and tired of people looking for a darn handout. Only the strong will survive and the weak will perish."

Even worse are the Texas politicians who love to champion this "Lord of the Flies" style of governing, because only the strong survive. Dan Patrick, the Republican lieutenant governor of Texas, once suggested that grandparents would sacrifice their very lives if it meant getting the country back to work during the pandemic.


LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK (R-TX): Let`s get back to work. Let`s get back to living. Let`s be smart about it.

And those of us who are 70-plus, we will take care of ourselves.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: You`re basically saying that this disease could take your life, but that`s not the scariest thing to you. There`s something that would be worse than dying.



REID: Yes, not having a nail salon open when you need it.

Then there is former Texas Congressman Ron Paul, father of Rand, who once told a cheering crowd of Republicans that the beauty of his politics is the freedom to be selfish.


FMR. REP. RON PAUL (R-TX): That`s what freedom is all about, taking your own risks.


PAUL: This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody...


REID: I know, I know. That sounds pretty gross. But that`s not even the worst.

The absolute worst is when you realize that that kind of ideology has been put into actual practice.

Just take a look at the Texas power grid. It`s the only state-run system that is free from federal control. Texas Republicans proudly deregulated the power market years ago, so that the energy companies, not state regulators, could manage and maintain their power plants.

Those companies didn`t winterize their equipment because that free market system allowed them to put a priority on cheap prices over reliable service.

Call it the Texas Enron way. But those choices, that deregulation has led us to where we are now, with millions of Texans struggling to stay warm, safe and alive.

And yet, even in the face of that kind of despair, one Texas politician says Texans would happily endure more nights of freezing agony, rather than welcome federal oversight.

And that is next.


REID: As a Texas power outage stretches into a third miserably cold night, Rick Perry, the former secretary of energy and former governor of Texas, has decided to chime in.

In a blog post, he wrote: Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.

Yeah, right, because everyone loves the spot of hyperthermia, am I right?

Thankfully, that guy isn`t president. The guy who is president, Democrat Joe Biden, will be shipping generators, diesel fuel and water to communication facilities and hospitals in the state to help with the current crisis.

I`m joined now by Steve Adler, mayor of Austin, Texas.

And, Mr. Mayor, I will start by asking you straight out, is it your view that your constituents would be prefer to go on without heat in their homes for another three days, if it meant the federal government would stay away?

MAYOR STEVE ADLER (D), AUSTIN, TEXAS: I think the only person that can say that is somebody that hasn`t lived that experience.

People in my city are scared. They`re frustrated, they`re confused, they`re angry and so am I.

Being without power, like a third of my community is for over 50 hours at this point, is asking more of anybody than we should ever ask.

REID: Do people generally know why the power is out? I mean, do they understand that this is an all-Texas issue? That this isn`t the federal government? That this is Texas owns its own power grid and it`s all about that.

Do people -- do people understand that? Do you think?

ADLER: I think they understand that it`s all about the state. And at this point, I now have my governor blaming the administrative body that I think he appointed in this situation. It`s the Texas reliability -- Electricity Reliability Council of Texas, which is, it`s certainly not very reliable.

And no one has any answers at this point. We don`t know why we`re in this place and we also don`t know when we`re going to be able to come out of it. And people are angry and they`re looking for answers and they`re not coming.

REID: We do understand that one of the issues is that there was this wave of deregulation from 1995 when George W. Bush was governor, all the way through Rick Perry`s administration in 2000, when he came in in 2000. That they just deregulated everything. Put everything under state control.

And then it wasn`t weatherized. No weatherization was put in. No planning for it ever being cold. Now, bam, it`s cold, nothing`s weatherized and all the stuff is freezing. And it`s oil and gas-based and nuclear-based energy that`s the worst.

What do you make of the fact that despite that, people like your Ted Cruzes, your Dan Crenshaws, your John Cornyns who have gotten a lot of money from oil and gas interest, $1.1 million in oil and gas money if you add it all up, are all trying to point as is your governor to the green fuels that are like maybe like 10 percent of your energy?

ADLER: And I watched my governor in that interview yesterday, and simply not true -- to suggest that we`re in this position, because of the sustainable energy. We lost and dropped about 45,000 megawatts of power and almost 30,000 of that with fossil fuel was oil, it was natural gas, it was coal, it was even one of the nuke reactors.

So, to turn this at this point into political messaging about climate change mitigation is just -- is just outrageous. And you are right about the deregulation. There has been such a premium on producing energy at a low cost, that there is no incentive for someone to actually pay for the insurance policy that`s associated with hardening our system.

So that in a situation where we get to 18 below zero, we can still survive. And that may have been in the past an event that no one could fathom, but I`ve now seen it happen every ten years. And I think it`s going to happen with increased frequency.

We need the regulation. We need to ensure that there are certain minimum standards that are maintained by generation in this state.

REID: Yeah, and I can`t imagine having to deal with that, plus the pandemic, if people have to go to shelters during a pandemic, communities of color suffering more. It is a lot.

So I really wish you all the best. Lots of prayers for you, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, and your constituents, and everyone in Texas. Thank you very much, sir.

And up next, dozens of Republican-led states are trying to impose draconian new voting restrictions in the wake of Trump`s defeat. Now, the good news is those efforts have a high chance of backfiring right in their faces.



FANNIE LOU HAMER, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: It was a 31st of August in 1962 that 18 of us traveled 26 miles to the county courthouse in Indianola to try to register to become first class citizens. We was met in Indianola with -- by policemen, highway patrol men and they only allowed two of us in to take the literacy test at the time.


REID: That was a glimpse of a turning point in the fight for voting rights in America. Mississippi civil rights activist and legend Fannie Lou Hamer`s 13-minute address to the 1964 Democratic National Convention on the racist brutality black Americans faced for simply as she said trying to become first class citizens and registering to vote.

Armed with just her very classy handbag, Fannie Lou Hamer`s testimony outlining harassment of local officials and the vicious beating she received in a Mississippi jail a year earlier was so riveting, Democratic President Johnson called an impromptu press conference at the White House to get her off the air.

On that day in August 1964, Ms. Hamer couldn`t help but ask, is this America? But 57 years later, that is still American, as Republican legislatures across the country race to restrict voter access in response to the 2020 election that hinged on record turnout from among others, black, brown and AAPI voters.

Take Georgia where the state Senate just today advanced bills requiring excuses and identification to request an absentee ballot and Iowa where the Republican led legislature considered a bill to slash the state`s early voting and vote by mail system.

It follows similar action in Florida restricting vote by mail after nearly 5 million Floridians voted that way last year.

Thirty-three state legislatures have already introduced 165 bills, 165, to restrict voting access just since last month.

Joining is Vann Newkirk, senior editor for "The Atlantic", whose piece is part Inheritance, the Atlantic`s project to elevate underreported black history, and Marc Elias, attorney and founder of Democracy Docket.

And, Vann, first of all, thank you for your piece, "American Democracy is 55 Years Old -- And Hanging By a Thread." It was so good. You hinged it on your mother`s experience.

When you see this throwback and immediate pushback against an election in which people of color were decisive, does it feel like that history is an ongoing project and not at all over?

VANN NEWKIRK, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Yeah, I think the point of the piece is I don`t know if we can call it a throwback. It is just part and parcel of how people have interfaced with black folk voting in this country forever, especially in the last 50-some odd years. This is the pushback to -- against the Voting Rights Act, the push to roll back the Voting Rights Act, those were birthed with the Voting Rights Act.

And this entire sort of regime of changes that states are trying to get approved, to I guess curtail which was record black minority turnout, those things are things that have been circulating around for years in intellectual circles and really I think again the seeds were planted as Fannie Lou Hamer made that speech in 1964. So, I wrote about my mother --

REID: Yeah, I mean --

NEWKIRK: Yeah? Go ahead.

REID: No, go on.

NEWKIRK: Yeah, I wrote about my mother. She passed away three months ago and yeah. The thing that really strikes me about talking about her life is that she was born, she passed away, she was 56, and so she was born before I would say America had any type of real democracy.

So, yeah. It`s fragile. It`s contingent. It`s new.

REID: Indeed. And condolences to you on that as well. I should have started with that.

And, you know, Marc, it`s interesting that -- so there`s always been an anti-black voter party, right? And it`s jumped from party to party. The Democrats, the current Republican Party, been a faction in American politics whose sort of goal in life is to restrict the right to vote for black folks in particular.

You know, I think about, you know, John Roberts, the current chief justice, who his goal in life to gut the Voting Rights Act and then gets on the Supreme Court and gets a chance to do it. And because of that, you now see things like this.

Let`s note a couple of these. Georgia`s got these bills. Iowa has a bill that cuts mail and in-person voting from nearly 29 days to just 18. Florida is doing its usual Florida thing.

What are the most dangerous bills out there that could do the most damage and what can we do about it?

MARC ELIAS, DEMOCRACY DOCKET FOUNDER: I think all of these bills have one thing in common which is to perpetuate a big lie that Donald Trump told, that the reason why he lost was due to fraud, with a not-so subtle hint because black voters voted.

Like, let`s just call it what it is. Trumpism has been a racist lie from the beginning. It was premised on the idea that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and it has continued since.

So what we are seeing now with legislatures is this effort to perpetuate the lie that somehow (AUDIO GAP)

REID: We`re having some trouble with your microphone, Marc. I don`t know - - let`s just give a second, let`s see if we can get your microphone fixed up so we can see if we can understand what you are saying.

I`m going to jump back to Vann while we try to work on Marc`s mic.

Do you think that these -- what Marc was saying, from what I could hear from what he was talking about, is that there is this predication that black voters by definition are doing something fraudulent, that when they vote, when we vote, when black folks vote, it is by definition likely something illegal has taken place and we have to restrict it. The language we`re hearing around that now, "The Wall Street Journal" did a piece today trying to make it pristine and sort of elevate it and sound is voter integrity.

So, when you hear voter integrity, think we`ve got to stop these black folks from voting, in your view does this wind up having the same kind of backlash that we saw in the 2020 election and in a sense get black people more motivated to vote?

NEWKIRK: I think that remains to be seen. One thing we always want to stress about this push/pull of voter suppression and increased turnout is that level of increased turnout, level of interest. It takes a whole lot of energy. It takes black folks standing in lines for hours. It takes activists spending the time and money and gas and going out helping people.

And, you don`t know if those things are going to be able to hold up from election to election and the fact of the matter is that making it harder to vote makes it harder to vote, and then eventually will have an effect on turnout. So, I see thing like voter integrity, the fight against voter fraud, those are words and phrase that had been around and used as euphemisms since reconstruction. Those are things that we know have always been levied against the black folk.

And you look at the cities, the places that supporters of Donald Trump have used sort of to promote the big lies, Philadelphia, it is Atlanta, it is Milwaukee. It`s cities with big black populations that they`re really not used to sort of determining elections in the way they do and they had really high black turnout.

REID: Yeah.

Let`s see if we can get Marc back in.

Marc, let`s see if you can finish your thought.

ELIAS: Yeah, what I was saying is that I think we need to realize that the Republican plan coming out of 2020 is the same as it was going into 2020 which is to pass laws and engage in practices that simply make it harder for black people to vote and, you know, if they (AUDIO GAP) if black voters are voting in person they create long lines. If they want to vote by mail, we saw record turnout and now, we`re seeing restriction of vote by mail. Well, guess what`s going to happen then? We`re going to see long lines again.

And we don`t see long lines in (AUDIO GAP) Virginia and (AUDIO GAP). We don`t see it in the white suburbs. We see it in the places where black voters vote. And that is a national (AUDIO GAP). It is the stain of American history and Republicans are now preying on the lies told to their voters (AUDIO GAP).

REID: It is incredible that the Republican Party has gotten to the point where they`re willing to break the Post Office, right? The Post Office that even their own voters could rely on to get the medicine to kill the black vote. That`s how determined they were, like we`ll break the whole post office to stop you all from voting.

And, you know, Marc, very quickly before you go, can this be stopped? Do you have the legislative power? I know you have done a lot of this going in. Can you stop it? Can lawyers stop it?

ELIAS: Yeah. So look, I think that we have to fight in court because we can`t let them do this. We had success last cycle some places, more places than I thought we would.

Remember in 2013, North Carolina passed a monster bill. Reverend Barber led Moral Monday --

REID: Yep.

ELIAS: -- Moral Mondays and we beat it in court. So, we`re going to keep fighting.

REID: Absolutely.

Vann Newkirk, Marc Elias, thank you both very much. We appreciate you.

That is tonight`s REIDOUT.

"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts right now.