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Transcript: The ReidOut, 8/20/21

Guests: Sylvester Turner, Matthew Dowd, Douglas Lute, Tom Nichols, Rob Reiner, Jean Guerrero, Jean Guerrero


COVID cases are spiking in Texas amid low vaccination rates. Texas Governor Abbott opposes COVID precautions despite surge. Texas Lt. Governor Patrick blames COVID surge on unvaccinated black people. In Texas 5.6M whites are unvaccinated while 1.9M blacks are unvaccinated. One hundred Texans are dying of COVID every day. Texas brings in mortuary trailers amid COVID surge. Texas is running low on pediatric ICU beds. Texas Democrats who fled state return for vote on voting rules. Biden defends Afghanistan evacuation efforts. It`s just weeks away from a recall election targeting California`s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom.



JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: You just said shout out to Baby (ph). Yes, people bathe yourself and your children, if I could just weigh in on that conversation. Yes bathe them, they`re stinky.

MELBER: You know, when they say -- Joy, sometimes they say it`s a long story. It was actually a short story. So I can just leave it there.

REID: Leave it there. Let`s leave it there. We can take it to Twitter. Thank you very much, Ari. Have a great weekend. I appreciate you. Cheers.

MELBER: Peace to you.

REID: All right. Good evening, everyone. We begin THE REIDOUT tonight, once again, with a devastating map, just blood red with COVID, this one, of Texas, where more than 100 people are dying of COVID every day, and where only 46 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. It`s a state where the daily average number of hospitalizations is north of 12,000.

And just to break that down for you in more human terms, that means mortuary trailers are coming in to store bodies of COVID victims. It means dozens of children are newly hospitalized with COVID every day with pediatric ICU beds unavailable in some areas. In case Texas leadership is listening right now, I am going to speak in very blunt terms. Texans are dying. Parents are dying. Their children are becoming orphans or they are sick and hospitalized themselves. This child has died of COVID.

And yet, the state`s thrice vaccinated, COVID-positive leader, Governor Greg Abbott, has spent months blocking mask mandates. Abbott tested positive for COVID this week 24 hours after attending this mask less fet. COVID is a serious matter, even for someone waging war against preventative measures, which is why Abbott got treated right away with Regeneron`s monoclonal antibodies prescribed by his doctor while he quarantines in his mansion.

But his own constituents must go to a pop-up clinic for that treatment, assuming they can get one at all. To top it off, the state`s lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, who once said grandparents are willing to die of COVID to save the economy, went back on Fox News to share who he thinks is to blame for the COVID surge. Spoiler alert, it ain`t the Texas Republicans.


LT. GOVERNOR DAN PATRICK (R-TX): The COVID is spreading, particularly most the numbers are with the unvaccinated and the Democrats like to blame Republicans on that. Well, the biggest group in most states are African- Americans who have not been vaccinated. The last time I checked, over 90 percent of them vote for Democrats in their major cities and major counties. So it`s up to the Democrats to get, just as it`s up to Republicans to try to get as many people vaccinated.


REID: Ah, yes, when in doubt, blame the blacks. Let`s just be clear here. Black Americans make up roughly 13 percent of the Lone Star State population. Meaning, the raw numbers tell a very different story. State health department data shows the biggest group of the unvaccinated are white Texans by a roughly 3 to 1 margin. But go ahead, Dan, tell us how it`s black Texans` fault when you and other state Republicans plot to, you know, also keep them from voting.

Joining me now is Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Matthew Dowd, Founder of Country over Party.

And, Mayor Turner, I am just going to let you respond to your lieutenant governor. He thinks the black people in Texas are to blame for the COVID surge. Your thoughts?

MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D-HOUSTON, TX): Absolutely ridiculous, makes no sense, goes contrary to the facts. If it`s not the immigrants or Latinos, then it must be African-Americans. The lieutenant governor was just flat- out wrong, and his comments were offensive and should not be ignored. And people across the board even Republicans should reject that statement. You cannot blame this surge that`s happening in Texas on African-Americans.

The reality is that -- this mismanagement, you know, people haven`t taken this seriously. You haven`t given out the right facts. They are not encouraging people to wear their mask. They are not doing enough to encourage people to get vaccinated.

And let me just say this, Joy. If you`re an elected official, I don`t care what party you may be affiliated, but we have a responsibility to represent every single person, whether people voted for me or not as mayor of City of Houston, I represent every single one of them. And it`s my responsibility to do everything possible to keep them safe. The same applies to the lieutenant governor.

REID: You know, that is the thing, Matthew. Adam sort of (ph) pointed this out. He had a tweet that that spoke for me. The idea that you would say oh the blacks are on the Democrats. I`m only responsible for the whites and the Republicans. Seriously? Is that our governing philosophy now? That he doesn`t have to be governor of black people in Texas other than when he is denying them the right to vote?

MATTHEW DOWN, POLITCAL STRATEGIST: Well, first, a shout-out to Mayor Turner, who I am a big fan of down the road here in, down the road in Wimberley. So, a big fan of his for everything he is doing. I`m amazed we`re having this conversation. You know, today is August 20th.


1619 is when the first 20 or so African slaves were brought and sold in this country. As of today, 1619, we are having this conversation, still.

They don`t think they`re the -- they don`t think they`re the leaders of all Texans. They have acted like this over and over and over, again. It`s not just the public health crisis. It`s on every cultural issue. It`s on the economy. It`s on healthcare. It`s on the expansion of Medicaid. It`s on everything. They do not think -- they only want to represent the million people that vote in the GOP primary. That`s all they want to represent. 5 percent of the state is all they`re interested in representing at this time.

And what we have is the three top leaders in Texas, the governor, lieutenant governor and the attorney general, I call them one is craven, one is cruel and one is a crook. And that`s who is leading the state right now. God bless the local leaders. God bless the local leaders who are trying their best. But I thought a conservative principle was empowering local -- local leaders and local governments to do what was right for their communities. They have abandoned that conservative principle long ago.

REID: Yes. And let me just read Dan Patrick`s statement on his comments. He wrote this today in part. Federal and state data clearly indicate black vaccination rates are significantly lower than white or Hispanic rates. Democrats continue to play politics in people`s lives pandering and dot, dot, dot.

On Texas and COVID, 38 percent of African-Americans there are vaccinated. 47 percent of whites are vaccinated and while vaccination rates are low among black Texans per the census, black residents in Texas accounted for 16.4 percent of the state`s cases. Whites and Hispanics who make up more than 80 percent of the population, well, they account for 70 percent of the cases, right?

TURNER: Right.

REID: So we`re talking about he is blaming the people who account for 16 percent of the cases when whites and Hispanics account for 70 percent of the cases.

Just on this idea, if, in fact, the governor and lieutenant governor are only responsible for white Republicans and they are not responsible for African-Americans, they`re still doing a crap job. Because Texas ICUs are filling up, the same people that they say they do govern, so we are going to leave the black people aside because apparently they`re not their governors, they are getting sick and dying at incredible rates. Texas is one of the worst states in the country in terms of the COVID pandemic.

So, Mayor Turner, what do you have to say to him just about his governance of his own people, the people he says he does care about?

TURNER: Well, when you start blaming the surge of all of these cases in Texas on black people, you`re trying simply to deflect the attention from the lack of responsibility and the lack of accountability and the lack of actions on the leadership part. The reality is, in this area in Houston, 18 percent of the cases that are in our hospital are children. One month ago in our hospital, we had a little over 500 cases a day in our hospitals in Houston. That number is over 2,600 as of this morning.

And so, the reality is, is that you just can`t blame it on any one group. This virus doesn`t care who you are. It doesn`t care you`re black, white, or brown. It doesn`t care if you are Democrat, Republican, rich or poor, urban or rural. This virus will attack you if you don`t take the mitigating measures to prevent it from spreading. And that`s what the lieutenant governor should be saying. That`s what -- he should be encouraging people to wear their mask. He should be encouraging them to get vaccinated. And he has to represent every single Texan in this state, regardless of their party affiliation or their race, religion, sexual orientation or age. That`s where we need to be. And what I say to people is that you need to be more scared of the virus than the vaccine, okay? Those are the realities.

Joy, I started not to even say anything about his comment. But the reality is if the only voices are those of like the lieutenant governor and the rest of us treat his comments as if we are numb or this is the normal way of life, then we are making a very serious mistake. You have to speak out against it. You have to debunk them. You have to call it for what it is. And he is still responsible and I hope he owns it up to what he said and retract his comments. What he said was wrong, offensive, and should not be ignored.

REID: You know, and, Matthew, thank you for saying that because I am starting to understand why the Republicans in Texas are so desperate to disenfranchise black and brown voters. Because in order to be this incompetent to give yourself the best treatments, the Cadillac treatments for you and let everyone else go to a pop-up shop to get their treatments, to be this cruel, to try to -- to sue counties that just want to protect children, saying they can`t have a mask mandate, the only way you can get away with that, Matthew, is if those people can`t vote you out, is if you install yourself permanently as being in governance because they cannot and are prevented from voting you out.


So I guess I now have to sort of understand why these Republican governors want to mess with people`s voting rights, but I`m sorry, you were going to say something. Go ahead.

DOWD: Well, what I was going to say is that that`s exactly the point is they don`t care. They don`t care. They have given -- to me, the Republican Party, and especially the Republican Party in Texas, has given up on the idea of the common good. They no longer think the common good is part of what American democracy is. They think it`s only about me and what`s good for me and what`s good for my group, not what`s good for the state of Texas, as a whole, not what`s good for the city of Houston, as a whole or any other city or town in the state. They don`t care. And they operate every day.

This is not the first time they`ve taken away local control. They took away local control on dealing with environmental concerns, when local cities wanted to deal with environmental, they took control away doing the bidding of the oil and gas industry. They took local control away from police reform when cities wanted to do police reform and figure out what was going on in police departments and figure that, they took local control away from cities on police reform.

And so this is just another aspect of cumulating power and the census numbers for Texas tell the whole story. 4 million people were added in Texas, the biggest group, the largest state increase in the country by net numbers. 95 percent of the people that were added were nonwhite people, were people of color, 95 percent of the 4 million people. That`s what they`re afraid of.

REID: That`s right. And you know what? I -- you know, the right got mad at me when I made this comparison to South Africa before but I am just going to make it, again. How did a corrupt minority government rule over the people of South Africa for so long? By force and by not letting them vote, by disenfranchising 85 percent of the population and then they could do whatever they wanted. They could be as corrupt, as venal, as criminal as they wanted because who cares? No one could get rid of them. They were a permanent fixture in government. That`s Texas at this point.

At this point, they now have a quorum. Republicans now have a quorum because they have gerrymandered themselves into power there in the legislature. So do you expect, Mr. Mayor, that they are going to pass while they are not doing anything on COVID just onerous rules stopping people from voting, because they do seem interested in that?

TURNER: Joy, I suspect that they will but this battle won`t be over then. They have the numbers. They have the quorum that`s now in place and I think they will move very quickly to pass these onerous, restrictive and suppressive bills. I think that will happen. But we have a responsibility to step up to the plate.

This is round one. It`s not the final round. And so, we have to now mobilize. We have to now make sure people are registered. We have to make sure that people are voting. That`s our responsibility. But what is -- but what I hope the greater society will understand, if any party writes off an entire group, if you say blacks are not part of this or we don`t have to represent them, that`s dangerous on multiple levels.

Can you imagine me as the mayor of City of Houston, the most diverse city in the country, if I said, look, whites didn`t vote for me in large numbers so I`m not concerned about them. What about their neighborhoods in this city, for example, certain areas, where 80 percent of the people in those communities did not vote for me as mayor? So should I simply say, because you didn`t vote for me, I don`t represent you? I`m not going to provide any services to you? And can you imagine the condemnation that I would receive if I took that position?

And so now, we are dealing with people`s fundamental right to vote. And so what I am saying to the people in the city and people in this state, this may be round one but it`s not the final round. So let`s recognize what we are confronting. Let`s recognize what we are dealing with. Now, let`s stand up and speak loudly because your vote is your voice. And don`t allow anyone to keep you silent. Don`t mute yourselves.

So we`ve got some work to do. And I promise you between now and next year, we will do what we need to do to mobilize and get to the voting booths.

DOWD: And Joy let me add --

REID: It`s not Sunday but you can get amen, you can get an -- real quick.

DOWD: Let me add one other thing to what he just said. Texas, even with the rules that were changed last year to help people to vote was still ranked 50th in ease of voting, 50th in ease of voting. So I tell people Texas is not a red state. Texas is a non-voting disenfranchise state.

REID: That`s right, that`s absolutely right.

DOWD: Until we change that --

REID: Yes. And by the way, black and brown Texans, hello. Your lieutenant governor has just told you, you don`t have to listen to the lies when they try to say they care about you. They obviously said they don`t represent you. So you`ve now, you have heard that loud and clear, not from me but from them. Thank you Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, thank you for all that you are doing. Matthew Dowd is sticking around.

Up next on THE REIDOUT, new details tonight on the evacuation effort in Kabul and the fight by Republicans to keep afghan refugees out of the United States.

Plus, the author of a new book joins me on who the January 6th insurrectionists really were.


Not disenfranchised people with legitimate gripes. No, no, but bored, narcissistic, and often affluent people who are the ultimate sore losers with the emphasis on losers.

Plus, why Democrats cannot get complacent about next month`s California recall election. Take a look at Texas and Florida. That`s you, California, if Gavin Newsom loses.

THE REIDOUT continues after this.


REID: If any politician or pundit was looking for an apology from President Biden today on his handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, they were sorely disappointed. Biden, who has been for getting out of the U.S. or for getting the U.S. out of Afghanistan since he was President Obama`s vice president, made it clear that it was time for the war to end. And the focus now should be on getting Americans and our Afghan allies safely out of the country.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The past week has been heartbreaking.

We have seen gut-wrenching images of panicked people acting out of sheer desperation. You know, it`s completely understandable. They`re frightened. They`re sad, uncertain what happens next.

I don`t think anyone, I don`t think any one of us can see these pictures, and not feel that pain on a human level.

Now we have a mission, a mission to complete in Afghanistan. And we have plenty of time to criticize and second-guess when this operation is over. But now, now I`m focused on getting this job done.


REID: The U.S. evacuated 5, 700 people over the last 24 hours, with 13,000 evacuated since August 14 and 18,000 since the end of July.

The president stressed that he`d evacuated every single American in Afghanistan. And he said today that the Taliban are letting Americans through checkpoints. But there have been reports of some Americans being beaten by the Taliban in Kabul.

And a U.N. report notes that the Taliban is hunting down Afghans on their blacklist who`ve worked with U.S. and NATO forces.

Now, while there`s plenty of punditry and media second-guessing over what the Biden administration knew and when, it just is an unavoidable fact that Afghanistan didn`t just spontaneously go bad last weekend out of nowhere. It`s been going bad.

I have said it before and I will say it again. There is just no elegant way to end a losing war. And while Joe Biden is the one out of four presidents, just the one, who was willing to rip the Band-Aid off, this war has been lost for a long time.

And it was Trump`s deal with the Taliban, not Biden`s, that scored the fatal blow. It`s the Trump administration that set a May date to withdraw, freed 5,000 militants, one of whom is now president of Afghanistan, and who are now trying to claim, oh, ways out, they didn`t mean it.

And it was the vehemently anti-brown and Muslim immigrant Trump administration that is responsible for the number of our allies who are stuck in Afghanistan. They drastically reduced the number of visas processed for Afghan interpreters, so that, by the time the Biden administration came into office, there was a backlog of more than 17,000 Special Immigrant Visa applicants, 17,000.

And while they were cutting deals to hand Afghanistan over to the Taliban, cutting out the government that we were propping up, the Trump administration left no plan for how to move Afghan civilians out of the country, with the withdrawal date just months away, according to a Biden administration official.

I`m joined now by former NATO Ambassador and retired Army Lieutenant General Douglas Lute -- Douglas Lute. And Matthew Dowd, former country -- founder -- sorry -- of Country Over Party, is back with me.

Still learning to talk here.

And, General Lute, you are one of the guests who I stole from my good friend Ayman, who has fantastic guests on. And I just -- I watch the show, and I just write down all the names and then ask my booking producers to go and get them. I do the same with Nicolle Wallace, which is how I got Matthew Dowd.

You said a thing that I thought was so brilliant about the concentric circles of Afghanistan, where you have got the airport in the middle, and then -- then there`s outside of the airport in Kabul. Then you just go out and out and out, and how difficult it is for someone in those outer rings to find their way to the airport.

There was a story today, some reporting from NBC News that the U.S. was actually sent a military chopper on Thursday to pick up 169 Americans who were just outside the airport area, but they were afraid to like navigate their way there, because you got to go through these checkpoints.

But I have to ask you this. As somebody who has expertise here, as a nonexpert, the way I see this war is that, once Donald Trump cut the deal and said, we`re out of there, we`re going to leave, the only choices that Biden really had, realistically, were negate the deal and say, we`re staying, and, probably, that means we have to add more troops, because we`re just going to continue this operation, or leave.

And it was always going to be inelegant when we left. Am I wrong about that?

LT. GEN. DOUGLAS LUTE (RET.), FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: No, I think you`re right. Those are the two sort of binary choices.

Had we walked away from the Trump deal on May 1, and retained U.S. forces, we probably would have had to escalate, that is, add troops, to simply sustain an eroding status quo. I mean, the Taliban were resurgent over the last several years.

So, for Americans, this looks like it all happened overnight.

REID: Right.

LUTE: But for those of us who watch this very closely, it`s actually been eroding steadily for several years.

This was a very long and slow-burning fuse that eventually imploded with the collapse of the Afghan state.

REID: And, Matthew, you and I, it`s funny, because we sort of started off on opposite sides on the Iraq War, and then ended up on the same side.



REID: And I think we have now ended up again on the same -- right -- on the same side on Afghanistan, because I started off thinking it was a bad idea.

In my nonexpert opinion, I thought this is the death of empires country. We`re really going to invade and occupy that? I didn`t think it was a good idea. But I was kind of alone on that.

"The Hill" has an opinion piece by guy, a Duke professor named David Schanzer. I hope I`m mispronouncing -- not mispronouncing his name.

And it says: "The real date of the Taliban`s victory was assured -- the real date that the Taliban`s victory was assured is February 29, 2020. What did the United States gain? Nothing but vague, unenforceable promises that the Taliban would not engage in hostilities. Once the agreement was signed, the fate of the Afghan government was signed, sealed and delivered. The Taliban had practically won the war."

You tweeted this earlier yesterday, actually. You said: "The way many in the media and punditry are jumping on Biden makes me think, if they and the ecosystem were around -- this ecosystem around in 1863, they`d have deemed Lincoln a failure or, in 1944, at D-Day, would have lambasted General Eisenhower. For example, 7,000 Americans have already been flown out." You name some of the ones who have left. "Yesterday, 1,000 people died from COVID here. Hundreds of people died from gun violence over the last week, and still not a single elected official held accountable for the January 6 insurrection."

So I`m just going to let you talk about your view on why we`re so reflexively jumping on a decision that 90 percent of Americans approve of, getting out of Afghanistan?

DOWD: Well, that`s something I have struggled with. And I have thought about this a lot.

I mean, part of it is, there`s various cognitive biases that I think affect it. And it affects the press and it affects many people. And it affects people in policy things, where they get anchored on certain things, and they can`t get off of it no matter what facts president themselves.

So there`s an anchoring in something or a preference bias. And then they sit through that prism. They look at everything from there.

To me, I`ll take what the general said and take it one step further, which is, this has been coming for a long time. I think it`s actually been in place since the day we got there and saw -- said we were going to nation- build, because the history of the civilization is, you can`t build a nation, especially a democratic nation, from the top down. It never works.

It always has to come from the bottom up. And in order for it to work, it has to come from the bottom up. Now, if there`s a struggle from the bottom up, somebody can intercede and say I`ll help you as you struggle from the bottom up. That wasn`t the case with Afghanistan.

And so ever since that day in the Bush presidency when that decision was made to go beyond just decimating al Qaeda and to nation-build is -- was the was the original sin of this problem.

And, to me, Joe Biden -- I mean, you can find faults, but I actually think he should be congratulated. He is basically evacuating people in a war zone in the middle of an international hurricane. And as of yet, he`s -- not one single American has lost their life in that time period, as he`s evacuated them -- from them.

Now, there`s fault, and there will be after-action reports, and they will do all of that. But, right now, Joe Biden is the first president in four presidents to have the political courage to actually do what the American public fundamentally wants.

And what did they -- what we have seen unfold in the last four days, to me, is confirmation that the Afghan government never had control of their country. For it to fall like that is right is prima facie evidence they had never had control.

REID: Amen.

The former President Karzai is in Kabul. The supposed current president left.

Last question to you, General, Ambassador, Ambassador Doug Lute.

You have already had former National -- Trump National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster say that we had a surrender agreement in 2020. He worked for the Trump administration. He called it a surrender agreement.

Olivia Troye, who worked inside of the Trump administration, she said that there were Cabinet meetings during the Trump administration where Stephen Miller, the anti-immigrant guy in there, would peddle his racist hysteria about Iraq and Afghanistan. His enablers across government would undermine anyone who worked on solving the SIV, the visa issue, by devastating the system.

If Biden had a system that was completely broken and clogged because the previous administration didn`t want these people here, is there any feasible way that they could have evacuated 80,000 people between May and today?

LUTE: Well, I mean, you`re right to point out that this crisis didn`t build overnight, right?

I mean, at a minimum, at a minimum, the February 2020 agreement stated clearly that America was leaving by May of this year. So that gave us 14 months. And by all reasonable expectations, we should have used those 14 months to slim down the embassy, begin to account for American citizens in the country, and to begin an aggressive application of this Special Immigration Visa program.

REID: That`s right.

LUTE: So, the SIV program, right, which brings to America those Afghans who have worked closely with us and might be vulnerable if the Taliban rose to power.

So, at a minimum, we spent those 14 months or more sort of sitting on our hands, when we could have been making progress against the numbers that need to be evacuated today.


REID: That`s right.

LUTE: So, we lost a lot of time.

REID: We had an anti-Muslim and anti-non-white immigrant administration that made -- that freed 5,000 Taliban prisoners, but refused to shorten the process to bring any Afghan interpreters here.

So, they were more interested in letting Taliban people out of prison than they were in getting Afghan interpreters here. They let -- they didn`t let them in. And so they literally had no plan to let them in, because they didn`t want them here. Let`s just be real about where the fault lies, everybody.

You can be mad at Biden if you want, but that -- there`s no way to get around that.

I`m sorry. We`re out of time. I`m sorry.

LUTE: And...


REID: Oh, go ahead.

LUTE: I just want to say, I just want to say, too, that when we welcome these Afghan refugees into our country, what we will find is that they`re some of the most vibrant, the most energetic, the most dedicated citizens we have.

REID: Yes.

LUTE: So, we should welcome them with open arms.

REID: Tell that to Stephen Miller.

Ambassador Doug Lute and...

DOWD: I will just add -- let me just add one thing.

The same Republicans who are criticizing Joe Biden for not saving the Afghan citizens who are our allies...

REID: Yes.

DOWD: ... are the exact same Republicans saying, don`t bring them here.

REID: Boom. Boom.

Ambassador Doug Lute, Matthew Dowd, thank you both very much. Have a great weekend.

Meanwhile, a bomb threat at the U.S. Capitol reminds us that domestic terrorists are still a threat to our national security and our democracy.

We will be right back.



REID: One week ago, the DHS issued a new warning about the domestic terrorism threats facing this country.

And just yesterday, we watched the hours-long standoff between police and a man threatening to explode a bomb near the U.S. Capitol, while demanding that Joe Biden resign, and spouting QAnon-like conspiracy theories about children in Afghanistan.

That man, Floyd Rosenberry -- or Roseberry, made his first court appearance today. This comes as we continue to learn more about the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on January 6, like these messages allegedly sent on election night by a pair of accused Oath Keepers that were included in new court filings.

One Oath Keeper tells another that he is going to go on a killing spree and writes: "Pelosi first."

For more, I`m joined by Scott MacFarlane, NBC4 Washington investigative reporter, who I follow vociferously on Twitter because you`re giving us such great updates.

I want to ask you about what you U.S. -- the U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, she is questioning the sort of strength of the sentences that we`re seeing. I know you have reported on this show a lot about the sentences. They seem short. She says they`re not really giving prosecutors time to -- courts more supervision of the people who are being sentenced.

And these guilty pleas seem to be not really a deterrent, based on the severity. What do you make of what`s going on?

SCOTT MACFARLANE, NBC4 WASHINGTON INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Yes, Joy, the judges -- and she`s not alone -- are expressing concern that they`re kind of being painted into a corner by the Justice Department with these lower- level plea agreements, that the charge, the boilerplate plea agreement, for the misdemeanor cases is unlawful picketing and parading.

And the guidelines are zero to six months, and the restitution is $500. And the judges are saying, first of all, why not charge these defendants more? Because we shouldn`t just be paying for damage to the Capitol, but for the tens of millions of dollars in other costs from the insurrection.

But what`s more, there is concern that zero to six months doesn`t send the proper message to deter future mobs and future insurrections.

REID: And very quickly, we`re -- oh, we`re very much out of time.

So I`m going to have to invite you to come back, because I burned some time earlier in the show. So, I want to thank you. Have a great weekend.


REID: And we will have you back very soon. Cheers. All right.

In his new book, "Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault from within on Modern Democracy," Tom Nichols, contributing writer for "The Atlantic," describes how January 6 is the most extreme example of how we have allowed our own narcissism, anger and resentment to put our very democracy on a precipice.

Nichols writes: "The rioters were not disenfranchised or oppressed people in a peaceful assembly. This was a board lumpenbourgeoisie, a narcissistic and mostly affluent middle class have deep pockets and shallow minds who paid lip service to democracy, but had no interest in it if the results of democratic elections offended them."

Tom Nichols joins me now.

And, Tom, I remember interviewing you for my book "The Man Who Sold America." So I`m excited that you have a whole book of your thoughts, because I enjoyed talking with you then.

I`m fascinated in that -- that narrative that you have, because we just talked to Scott MacFarlane about the light sentences we`re seeing. We`re not talking about, as you said, poor folks, people who are struggling economically, who are desperate.

These are people, some of them owned businesses, were CEOs, flew in on private planes. And now they`re facing sentences of like $500 fines. I don`t see how that deters the next member of this lumpenbourgeoisie from saying, oh, it doesn`t cost me much to try to overthrow democracy.

TOM NICHOLS, "THE ATLANTIC": Well, I`m not going to second-guess the Justice Department or the judges in all of this.

I think one thing to think about is that I think January 6 shows the kind of lack of seriousness with which a lot of these folks approached what they were doing. I mean, people were going in there and saying, life or death, this is it, and don`t forget, when I get back to Texas, I`ll sell your house because I`m a great realtor.


REID: Yes.

NICHOLS: So, it may -- I don`t know. I`m not a lawyer. I don`t work for the Justice Department. I think -- I think it`s interesting that people who believe the government is persecuting them now are seeing evidence that the government may be letting them off.

But I think that there`s a much bigger problem here than just the sentences that the rioters get. There`s a bigger problem, where I suppose all of us of a certain age maybe just ask, when did people start thinking this is OK?

REID: Right.

NICHOLS: When did people start thinking this is a thing to do, that, if you don`t like the outcome of an election, that you smear feces on the walls of the U.S. Capitol?

That`s not -- that`s not the country I grew up in. And I think it`s worrisome, because it`s a sign of an affluent and bored country, not of suffering and poverty.

REID: Well...

NICHOLS: Poor people don`t go to these protests.

REID: They can`t afford it. First of all, they can`t afford to go and get an Airbnb and fly out to D.C. to go and do like a rent-a-mob for a day, like you said, then go home to their real estate business.

But, I mean, the thing I wonder is, is the creep that we stopped believing at some point that it was possible for people not us to win elections?


I can remember President Obama`s election being accompanied by, oh, that was just fraud, and people sort of already putting it in their minds that I -- it`s not possible for people like me to lose. It has to be some other explanation that becomes increasingly conspiratorial.

NICHOLS: Well, at the risk of both-sides-interesting, I`m going to say that there -- while the American right has really imbibed this, and that they just simply believe that it`s impossible for them to lose elections, and I would argue that they have decided that, if they have to govern by minority rule, so be it.

REID: Yes.

NICHOLS: But I also spent four years hearing people saying that Hillary Clinton couldn`t have possibly lost the election, the Russians changed machines.

And we have really become a country that thinks of every single election as this drama-filled, end-of-the-world, existential crisis. And I feel sad about that, because I tell a story in the book -- and I`ll be very quick.

My dad was an old man, and he had no love for -- he was an old white Republican, was not exactly what you would call enlightened about issues of race or gender. And yet, toward the end of his life, as Obama was being reelected, we were talking about it, and he looked at Obama and Romney, and he said: "They`re both good men. They`re good men. No matter who wins, we will be fine."

I want to believe that we can get back to that, where we look and say, these are good people, we will be fine. And, instead, we have really internalized this notion that every election is the end of the world. And you can`t sustain a democracy on that.

REID: Well, I mean, and we can argue on Hillary Clinton, but I -- as I can tell you, the Mueller report might dispute what you`re saying, is that, obviously, there was foreign interference.

NICHOLS: Of course there was.

REID: But the only reason that we could have foreign interference, right, is that you had 40 years of people saying it would end the world if Hillary Clinton became president.

And once you believe that she is an existential threat as a human being, if I`m a foreign adversary, oh, no, no, no, no problem, all I have to do is come in and say -- try to mess with her election.

But, anyway, we can have that debate on Twitter.

You`re great. Your book is something that we all should be reading. So thank you very much. I really appreciate you. Best of luck with the book. And I will tweet about it.

Tom Nichols, thank you.

And "Who Won the Week?" is next.

But, first, we are just weeks away from a recall election targeting California`s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom. It`s a big deal. And, trust me, it`s unlike any election you have ever seen.

Filmmaker and political activist Rob Reiner joins me next. More REIDOUT next.



REID: California, just picture it. You too can be just like Florida, Texas and Mississippi, no mask mandates everywhere -- mask mandates anywhere, intensive care units filled with schoolchildren, and unvaccinated people sick with COVID begging for Regeneron at pop-up clinics in parks, stadiums and university ballrooms.

This too could be yours in roughly one month if Governor Gavin Newsom loses the recall election on September 14. That`s right, California. Your state is once again embarking on a recall, this time sparked by right-wing activists who are desperate to bring Trump-style governance to your state.

What could go wrong for the 39.5 million of you or the 63 percent who voted for President Joe Biden?

Here`s the thing. It just might happen. And here`s why. If more than 50 percent of voters fail to recall -- vote to recall Governor Newsom, if they vote, yes, recall him, then the replacement candidate with the most votes becomes the governor, even if they have far fewer votes than Newsom.

Yes, it`s bonkers.

There are 46 candidates for the governor on the ballot, three pages. Californians can pick from the finest crop of celebrities. There`s Caitlyn Jenner, or the fiancee of a real housewife of Orange County. Goody. Or even Stephen Miller`s presidential booster and conservative talk show host Larry Elder.

Two questions are before California voters: Should Governor Newsom be recalled, yes, no, and, if so, who should replace him?

All registered voters should have already received a mail-in ballot or will very soon.

For more, I`m joined by director and producer extraordinaire and my pal Rob Reiner. And, no, he`s not one of the 46 candidates on the ballot, unfortunately. And Jean Guerrero, "L.A. Times" columnist.

Jean, I`m going to get to you first, because there is a genuine concern. I was being a little silly with the open, but this is actually quite serious, because California would become the most gargantuan Trump state. It would be a mega-Florida if it were to become a Republican state.

Larry Elder, who right now is the leading candidate on the other side, has denied brandishing a gun at his girlfriend, his ex-fiancee. He says black people are more racist than white people. He says he doesn`t believe sanctuary laws or citizenship for dreamers should be happening.

He`s against in-state tuition, health care and driver`s licenses for the undocumented. He opposed -- he opposes birthright citizenship. He wants to get rid of that. He objects to cashless bail. We can go on and on and on. And he thinks that Stephen Miller should be president of the United States.

So, how serious are the chances that this guy could be the next governor of California?

JEAN GUERRERO, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, it`s very serious, because it`s possible that the majority of the people who are going to turn out are the people who are excited by Larry Elders` brand of extreme far right beliefs.

He is to the right of Trump as far as immigration issues. Like you mentioned, as I wrote in my book "Hatemonger," he mentored Stephen Miller from the time that he was a teenager. He fed talking points to the Trump campaign through Stephen Miller. He has made a career of denying the fact of systemic racism by maligning black communities and Latinos.

And, as I wrote in my column for "The L.A. Times," he -- a lot of these stats, these false stats which have been debunked by crime law professors who I spoke to at Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, Columbia University, they come from a white supremacist named Jared Taylor, a well-known white supremacist who Larry Elder has repeatedly quoted in early writings in his books and continues to peddle the same false statistics.


Clearly, his views were shaped by this white supremacist Jared Taylor, who he repeatedly quoted in books and articles. And he just represents an incredible threat to immigrant rights and racial justice, the immense progress that California has made on these issues.

And it would set a catastrophic precedent that would reverberate across the country. California is supposed to be a leader on these issues. Things like sanctuary laws, he wants to get rid of that. He wants to -- he doesn`t even believe people who are born in this country should be U.S. citizens if their parents aren`t citizens themselves.

REID: Yes.

GUERRERO: And that goes against our Constitution.

REID: Yes.

It`s scary, Rob, because he would -- not only would -- I mean, and it`s ironic. This is a black man. And it just goes to show you that it is true that even people of color can be influenced by white supremacist narratives and fall victim to it, right?

This guy would also, if he were governor, or any of these other characters, would also, in theory, be able to appoint the replacement if Dianne Feinstein, for instance, were to retire.

So, this could also reverberate into Washington, D.C.


And here`s the thing. The Republicans have figured out that they cannot win based on their policies and what they stand for, because they don`t really stand for anything. So, they know the only way that you can get power is by finding a way to either voter-suppress or do these kind of tricks with a recall.

And think about this for a second. This is over 40 million people. This is like one-eighth of the country. To become under control by this maniac, Larry Elder, is just crazy. It`s all about power grab. They`re trying it everywhere around the country, and they`re trying it in a big way here in California.

California is the biggest prize of any blue state in the country.

Now, I want to tell you something about Larry Elder. I debated Larry Elder years ago. I passed an initiative here in California to raise cigarette taxes to fund early childhood. And we debated, and because we knew that by raising cigarette taxes, you were going to reduce people`s smoking, which was a good thing.

Larry Elder actually took the position in the debate that it was a good thing that people smoked because they would die sooner and it would reduce the health care costs and the drag on the public for Medi-Cal, Medicare and Medicaid.

This is a crazy man. And, like you say, he`s way to the right of Donald Trump. So, this is scary. People cannot be complacent. You have got to hand in your ballot. Get your ballot and vote no. That`s all you have to do is vote no for the recall, and Gavin Newsom will remain governor.

REID: Do you think that Democrats are taking this seriously enough, Rob?

Because the fact is that a recall worked before. That`s how Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor. It`s not like Republicans have not won the governorship of California, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon. It could happen.

REINER: It absolutely could happen.

And if you look at the latest polling, it`s within the margin of error. I mean, you have got Gavin Newsom up by a point-and-a-half, two points throughout the state. That`s the margin of error.

And Democrats are complacent. They figure, there`s no way that we`re going to have a crazy right-wing maniac take over the state, it`s going to stay in Democratic hands. Well, it won`t, not if you don`t get out and vote.

REID: Well, it -- I mean, I think a lot of people said the same thing about Trump becoming president of the United States.


I`ll give you the last word on this, Jean. What are the political -- what are the Democrats actually doing functionally to get their vote out and to get the no-vote out?

GUERRERO: I mean, they`re putting -- they have started a campaign of trying to target -- the Latino vote is going to be crucial in this election.

And they`re finally starting to try to campaign in those communities and put out information about what is truly at stake for Latinos and other communities of color in the state.

I mean, I think part of the reason there`s some complacency is, there is this idea that, oh, we have a supermajority in the legislature and nothing much can get done. But there are significant programs that he could target. He could obstruct funding by empowering the Republican minorities.

And the rhetoric alone would have a major impact. There`s already been a rise in hate crimes against Latinos, against Asians, against black people in the state and across the country. And he told "The L.A. Times" that he plans to use the bully pulpit, that he wants to use terms like illegal aliens, rather than undocumented, because he thinks that...


REID: It`s better politics for his radio show, yes.

GUERRERO: Exactly.

REID: And, Rob, people -- when you think California, people think Hollywood, which is an industry which would then be under his control.


But there`s also agriculture, which is huge in California. There`s also environment and climate.

Make the case for why Democrats ought to pay attention and vote in California or anyone who cares about sanity reigning.

REINER: Well, because -- you mentioned it earlier -- if he becomes governor and, for some reason, Dianne Feinstein decides to retire, he gets to replace that, that seat, gets that seat with a Republican, and then we would lose control of the Senate.

And we`re -- just right now, it`s razor thin. So you want all environmental regulations to be dragged back? You want immigration laws to be dragged back? You want -- everything that we fought hard for to be at the forefront in California will be reduced and taken away if we allow one of these people to get in there.

You have got to get out and vote. It feels like we`re going to win, but we`re right on the razor`s edge here.

REID: Yes, this is not a big booster for the current governor, but he`s been competent. He wants to stop COVID. He`s a sane, normal politician. Don`t let what happened with Trump nationally happen to you, California.

It`s too big and important of a state. It could be its own country, it`s such an important economy. Lord have mercy.


REID: Rob Reiner, Jean Guerrero, thank you very much. We appreciate you both.

We will be right back.


REID: Hey, that is tonight`s REIDOUT.

I went over on a previous segment, so apologies for that.

I was going to say that Barbara Lee won the week, because she -- she called Afghanistan very early.

Thank you, guys, very much.