The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, 9/10/21

Table of Contents


Biden vaccine mandate triggers GOP meltdown. Biden to GOP on vaccine mandate, this isn`t a game. Biden to campaign for Gov. Newsom on eve of recall election in California. DNC chair to campaign for Gov. Newsom with Biden on Monday in California. A right-wing extremist group has planned a solidarity rally on September 18th for those charged over the Capitol riot. How the U.S. has changed in the 20 years since the 9/11 attacks.


RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Our special coverage begins at 5:00 a.m. Eastern Time, live from ground zero New York City. President Biden will attend a ceremony at the 9/11 memorial there tomorrow morning. In the afternoon President Biden is also expected to visit Shanksville, Pennsylvania and also the Pentagon. We are going to bring you those visits as they happen again with live special coverage all day long. That`s going to do it for me. As of now though, we`ll see you again here on Monday.

Now it`s time for “The Last Word,” were Jonathan Capehart is in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Jonathan, nice to see you.

JONATHAN CAPEHART, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Rachel, nice to see you too. Before I let you go, you grew up in California, right?

MADDOW: Mm-hmm, San Francisco area, the east bay.

CAPEHART: So, what do you — are you surprised by this California recall of Governor Newsom?

MADDOW: No. The thing about California ballot stuff is that in my sentient life as a California resident, even growing up as a kid who didn`t care much about politics, it was clear to me that these stupidest stuff imaginable could get on the ballot with nobody exerting any real effort to get it there. And once stuffs on the ballot, anything can happen. Direct democracy can be crazy.

And so, like we — like tax policy made by ballot initiative, when I was in elementary school, that stuff was absolutely nuts. And California ballot measures, and people like direct democracy and stuff right on the ballot there. It`s always been a complete, umm, swear word.


CAPEHART: A complete swear word. This is a great way to transition you into a nice weekend, I hope. Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Thank you, Jonathan. Thank you.

CAPEHART: All right. This isn`t a game. That`s how President Biden scolded Republicans who are outraged over his new efforts to combat the coronavirus. President Biden announced a six-part plan to compel millions of unvaccinated Americans to get the shot, including requiring employers with more than 100 workers to mandate vaccinations or make unvaccinated workers get tested weekly.

And this, not 1,500 people dying daily for Delta, is lighting a fire under Republican leaders. Some Republican Governors are threatening to sue the Biden administration over vaccine mandates.

The Republican Governor of Texas called the mandate, quote, “an assault on private businesses who have the, quote, right to choose.” And he`s the one who signed into law an abortion ban that doesn`t allow women their right to choose. And South Carolina`s Republican Governor promised to battle President Biden to the, quote, “gates of hell.” Whatever that means. President Biden said this today in response.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am so disappointed that particularly some Republican Governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids. So cavalier with the health of their communities. This is — listen we`re playing for real here. This isn`t a game. And I don`t know of any scientist out there in this field that doesn`t think it makes considerable sense to do the six things I`ve suggested.


CAPEHART: It`s terrifying to think that the health and wellbeing of their constituents is taking a back seat to politics. But welcome to the GOP in 2021. Keep in mind, these Republican Governors are all vaccinated themselves. They`re not at risk. And people who work for private businesses don`t even have to get vaccinated. They`re complaining about requiring someone to get a cotton swab up their nostril for 20 seconds once a week.

Even more terrifying than the Republicans in power are the ones who want to be in power. They`re appealing to the most fervent conservative primary voters. And they sound bonkers. Ohio Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance said, “Do not comply with the mandates — only mass civil disobedience will save us from Joe Biden`s naked authoritarianism.” Another Senate candidate, Trump ally Josh Mandel, issued what`s possibly the most bizarre statement about the mandate.


JOSH MANDEL, CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATE (R-OH): Do not comply with the tyranny. And when the gestapo show up at your front door, you know what to do.


CAPEHART: The gestapo? Really? It would be laughable if it weren`t so dangerous, because, like the president said, this isn`t a game. Republican posturing and screaming are resulting in more people getting sick and more people dying.



BIDEN: If they`ll not help, these Governors won`t help speak the pandemic, I`ll use my powers as president to get them out of the way.


CAPEHART: Joe Biden is also using that power to fight the absurd Republican-driven recall election in California. Right-wing efforts to oust Governor Gavin Newsom reached their height earlier in the pandemic when fear mongers and liars labeled Newsom`s COVID precautions as Democratic overreach. That was never the case. It was about keeping Californians safe.

And now, what was once seen as a liability for Newsom might be what keeps him in office. As the Republican alternatives to Governor Newsom decry mask and vaccine mandates and as voters see what`s happening with the virus in Republican-led states, polls show they want to stay the course. The latest poll out today from “The L.A. Times” shows, 60 percent of Californians do not want Gavin Newsom recalled.

Leading off our discussion tonight is Jaime Harrison, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Chairman Harrison, welcome to “The Last Word.”

JAMIE HARRISON, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: Thank you so much for having me, Jonathan.

CAPEHART: All right. I`ve got to have you listen to something that Kristi Noem had to say on Fox News on Thursday. Have a listen.


GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): This is not a power that is delegated to the federal government. This is a power for states to decide. In South Dakota we`re going to be free. My legal team is already working and we will defend and protect our people from this unlawful mandate.


CAPEHART: Chairman Harrison, Republican leaders are making a conscious choice to fight back against President Biden`s COVID protection measures. How will Democrats proceed in dealing with a party so unwilling to help fight the pandemic?

HARRISON: Well, Jonathan, these people are unhinged. It`s like watching a version of looney tunes or something. They`re cuckoo for cocoa puffs. I mean, this is just absolutely crazy. There are so many vaccines that we take just walking around. You know, polio, measles. You know, I have two young kids and every few months we take them to get their shots so that they can go to school. I mean, so why the hysterics for adding yet one more vaccine?

You know, there are people who are dying in the streets in other nations because they don`t have access to the vaccine and we do. We are so fortunate. We are so blessed. But we also need to use the mind and the intellect that we have. Let`s protect our people. And what you see with Joe Biden is, this isn`t about politics for him. The health and the safety of the American people is his number one concern. And that`s why this party is moving forward with protecting the American people.

Not worrying about polls and politics and all that, but worrying about how we can protect the American people, particularly the most vulnerable. I think about my kids who can`t get vaccinated. There are 17,000 kids, Jonathan, here in South Carolina since school started that have contracted COVID. Just the other day, two, a 9-year-old and a 15-year-old, passed away. We need real leadership. And these Republican Governors, we`re in the situation because they won`t lead.

CAPEHART: You know, Chairman Harrison, I want to read you something from Ron Brownstein, something he wrote in “The Atlantic,” the headline, “The California recall could be a roadmap. For Democrats.” And here`s what he writes, “Newsom has focused less on selling his accomplishments than on raising alarms that his Republican opponents will exacerbate the coronavirus pandemic by repealing the public health protections such as vaccine and mask mandates that he has imposed to fight it.” And so the question for you, Chairman of the Democratic Party, do you see this as a roadmap for Democrats in 2022 particularly, but also beyond?

HARRISON: Well, Jonathan, I think the American people overwhelmingly, at least 75 percent, are tired of being in a COVID world. They`re tired of dealing with all the things that come with COVID and they want to get out of it. But they see that the path to get out of it is by listening to our doctors, listening to the scientists, who would say get your vaccine, make sure you mask, wash your hands, do the things that are necessary so that we can move on.

But you know, the Republicans, just like the issue of climate change, will find the biggest cracks out there, people like Rand Paul, who will come up with all this wackadoodle stuff that kicks the can down the road. Folks are tired of this. And we can get past it. And we know we can get past it. We just need to get folks vaccinated. So that`s what the Democratic Party is going to be all there about, it`s about exercising real leadership.

Again, this isn`t about politics. This is about the health and the safety of the American people. But we see that we`re not getting that type of leadership from the Republican Party. So where they fail to lead, we`re going to continue to push forward in order to protect the folks in this nation.


CAPEHART: You know, I`ve heard some people sort of critique the president`s speech yesterday, about his tone, about, you know, not just defiance but just sort of open annoyance at the unvaccinated. And to my mind, the president is channeling a very palpable anger from a majority of the country.

Do you see any — I know for the president this isn`t about politics, this is about public health. But in the realm of politics, is the president doing the right thing by channeling that anger that is out there in the country from the vaccinated toward the unvaccinated because — well, because of them, we can`t do anything.

HARRISON: Yes. Jonathan, people are — hell, people are just tired. They are tired of the situation. And we can see ourselves out of it. But we`ve got to follow the science. We`ve got to follow the recommendations of these doctors.

I mean, you know, pandemics aren`t new to this earth, right? We know that in the past, when people have gotten vaccinated, you get masks, vaccinations, you get herd immunity, you can get past this. This idea that people — it`s about choice and this and that. Come on, be serious folks. Let`s be our brothers and our sisters keepers, let`s take care of each other. Let`s provide for each other.

Even if you don`t do it for yourselves, folks, do it for the people you love, do it for your grandkids, do it for the immunocompromised person down the street that you love or that you take care of. We have to protect each other.

And that means getting vaccinated, making sure we`re wearing our masks, so that we can get past this. People are tired of it. I know the president is tired of it. I`m tired of it. I know you`re tired of it. Everybody`s tired of it. So let`s go and do the things that we know are necessary in order to get past this.

CAPEHART: Tired of it. You know, a great mantra. Jaime Harrison, chair of the Democratic National Committee, thank you for joining us tonight.

Coming up, Democratic Senators are working furiously to ready the $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill for next week. And a key decision from the parliamentarian could come this weekend. We`ll get the latest, next.



CAPEHART: Congress is out of session this week. But House and Senate Democrats have been hard at work hammering out the details of one of President Biden`s key policy priorities. Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, has set a September 15 deadline for committees to finish drafting their portions of the Democrats` only $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.

Joining us now is NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent, Leigh Ann Caldwell. Leigh Ann, what`s been happening on the Hill this weekend, what can we expect as we head into next week`s deadline?

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Hey, Jonathan. So it`s been a critical week on Capitol Hill even though the House and the Senate aren`t even in session, as you mentioned. Those committees are drafting their relevant pieces of this $3.5 trillion human infrastructure bill.

But this is just one step in the process, in the first step in the process. The House is going through the process right now. The Senate is also doing something similar. And then it goes to the entire caucus, the Democratic caucus, where they have to agree on the terms of this bill.

And that`s going to be extremely difficult, because we`ve already seen a lot of pushback from two Senators, Senator Joe Manchin and even Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who have a lot of problems with the top line number of the bill, $3.5 trillion. They want to make sure that a lot of these programs for children, for the elderly, that they`re means-tested so that the most vulnerable have access to these programs and that they are the most limited in scope. So there is a lot of negotiations to do, Jonathan, and not a lot of time.

CAPEHART: The key phrase you used was “extremely difficult.” And there`s something extremely difficult that Democrats are trying to do and that is – – they`re working to get major immigration changes into the reconciliation bill. And that would be a huge achievement, if the parliamentarian allows it. When do we expect to hear from the parliamentarian on that?

CALDWELL: That`s right, Jonathan. So Democrats met with the parliamentarian today. Now, she is this referee to determine if legislation is able to be included or proposals are able to be included in these special rules that they`re trying to pass this human infrastructure bill.

And the Democrats made an argument that in fact it should be included because it follows Senate rules, because it has a budgetary impact. That`s pretty wonky, but big picture, what Democrats want to do is provide permanent legal status for 8 million currently undocumented immigrants, that`s DREAMERS, people with temporary protected status, essential workers, and farm workers.

Now, Republicans were also in that meeting and they argued that it does not follow Senate rules, that this piece of legislation is not able to accommodate this immigration component. It`s up to the parliamentarian. At this stage in the process, to recommend what should happen. And she should come out with her decision or her recommendation, I should say, as early as this weekend. Democrats are pushing for something very soon, because, as we mentioned, there`s not a lot of time. They`re trying to work very quickly.


CAPEHART: All right, NBC`s Leigh Ann Caldwell, thank you.

Joining us now is Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan, she is the senior Democratic WHIP. Congressman Dingell, it`s great to see you, thanks for coming to “The Last Word.” In a call with reporters this week, Senator Schumer was confident, Democrats in the Senate would be unified. Let`s have a listen.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: In our caucus, there are some in my caucus who believe $3.5 trillion is too much. There are some in my caucus who believe it`s too little. In reconciliation, we`re going to all come together to get something big done. And second, it`s our intention to have every part of the Biden plan in a big and robust way.


CAPEHART: So Congresswoman Dingell, how confident are you feeling about votes in the House?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): So, Jonathan, it`s good to see you, I miss you. It`s been a long August. I`m going to tell you, you know, there`s an old will Roger statement that people with weak stomachs should not watch sausage or laws being made. And we are clearly in the sausage-making process right now. But the fact of the matter is, we can`t afford to fail.

So I don`t think it`s going to be pretty for the next two weeks. I think there`s going to be a lot of discussions, a lot of negotiations, a lot of back and forth, a lot of intensity, a lot of passion. But we can`t fail. Chuck Schumer is right, we have to be united, because the American people are expecting us to deliver on roads and bridges and broadband and a lot of other programs that really matter to people every day. So in the end, we`re Democrats, we will come together and we`ll get this done.

CAPEHART: Congresswoman Dingell, I have a question, because you are from Michigan, and you are someone who is like, when you speak, especially when it comes to things dealing with policy, but how it plays in Michigan, folks listen. And so when someone like Senator Joe Manchin says $3.5 trillion is too much and I can`t see supporting anything bigger than a trillion dollars, does that play for your constituents in Michigan? Is that rationale something Democrats should be — actually should be listening to?

DINGELL: So I want to say a lot of different things here. First of all, there are a lot of people who think that there`s more than one Senator from West Virginia that represents the country and there are a lot of other voices (inaudible). And I love Joe Manchin, he`s a good friend, but, you know, the 435 members of the House that also have a right to have a voice, so West Virginia is not the only state in the country.

So I`m going to start there. The fact of the matter is, we`ve also — we care about — we`ve had seven storms. What happened in Louisiana, what happened in New Jersey and New York, was terrible. But 20,000 homes were damaged in a storm at the end of June and we`ve had six more with floods that are going over people`s first floor windows.

And I have people say, I`m sorry about what happened in other states, but who cares about us? We need to build up resiliency. We keep having these once in a lifetime storms what seems like every week. So people want something done on those issues.

And there are a lot of other — electric vehicles, the president has set a voluntary standard for 2030 of 50 percent sales. They want to know who are going to invest in the infrastructure that`s going to convince people, give people the truth to buy those EVs.

There are ton of issues that I can go through on this, but people care about and that they need and they want to (inaudible) Congress (inaudible). We`ll have a lot of discussion but they want to see results. They want broadband.

They can`t — I mean, the kids, they want their kids back in school, they are trying to get it there, but broadband is so unequal. It`s not here in the urban areas, it`s not out in the rural areas. I`ve been trying to do virtual hearings in the car this week with markups, the votes, and it`s a nightmare. People want results.

CAPEHART: Congresswoman, you sit on the House Energy Committee which released details of its portion of the bill this week, which includes $190 billion for an expansion of Medicaid to help the elderly and the disabled stay in their homes. It`s far less than the $400 billion that the president wanted and still below the $250 billion that Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania requested. Talk about that change. Do you think the overall size of the bill will come down significantly?

DINGELL: I don`t know what`s ultimately going to happen. I think 3.5 is where we`re looking right now. You know that bill is also my bill, it is the Dingell bill in the House, and it`s not enough money. President Biden put $400 billion in when he initially talked about it.

We have almost a million people, we have over 800,000 people that are on a waiting list right now for home-based community care. Seniors. We`re the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn`t take care of its seniors, that we impoverish them. We need to do something about this. I have stated I don`t think it`s enough money. I`m working with Bob Casey. You know me, you know how intense I am when I`m working it.


CAPEHART: Oh, yeah.

DINGELL: I`m not leaving anybody alone (inaudible). But you know, we`ll see where this all comes out. We`ve got to do a lot of discussing and seeing where we`re going to get on these totals. But that bill is very important, and I think we need — it`s time for us to take care of our seniors. People should — we put them in institutions, they`re desperate, they have nobody to take care of them. I know, I was lucky enough to have my husband be able to stay at home.

But the days I took my head and just put it against the wall, trying to make a broken system work, you know, that`s what the dictionary says, that infrastructure, the system and processes that let a country operate smoothly, a company operate smoothly. Shouldn`t people be able to go to work and not have to worry about feeding their children or their parents or relatives that they care about?

CAPEHART: Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, that should be a rhetorical question. The answer is yes. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. Great to see you, Congresswoman Dingell.

Coming up, we`ll get the latest on the January 6 investigation, plus an expert who spends his time monitoring extremist right wing groups will tell us why we need to talk about September 18. That`s next.



CAPEHART: Today, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ruled that this man, Jacob Chansley, must remain in detention until he is sentenced for his role in the Capitol insurrection. This is the third time he`s been denied release.

Jacob Chansley is one of 600 people who have so far been charged for their actions on January 6th. 63 or about 10 percent of them have pleaded guilty, according to BuzzFeed News. Meanwhile, the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection is making progress in its efforts to determine the role that some Republican members of Congress and Trump White House officials might have played on January 6th.

The committee announced that it has received, quote, “thousands of pages in response to their requests from executive branch agencies and telecom companies for relevant records.” The committee says, “So far material has come in from nearly all executive branch agencies and we continue to work with them to identify the highest priority records.”

There are fears that another January 6th style attack could happen in Washington next weekend. A right-wing extremist group has planned a solidarity rally on September 18th for those charged over the Capitol riot. But it`s unclear just what will happen at this event. Some extremists have been promoting it. Other groups are warning their members to steer clear. The Proud Boys posted, “We aren`t going, and you shouldn`t either because errbody going to jail. Sounds like bait.”

Joining us now are Paul Butler, law professor at Georgetown University and a former federal prosecutor, and Jared Holt, a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council`s Digital Forensic Research Lab. His latest “Substack” newsletter piece is entitled “Let`s Talk About September 18.”

You know, Paul, I saw you chuckling. When the Proud Boys Are saying “errbody going to jail,” you should pay attention. But, Paul, I want to start the conversation really about January 6. And here`s what Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, a member of the January 6 Select Committee, said about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy who`s threatened the committee for seeking his communications records. Have a listen.


REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): What`s he hiding? Why is he trying to keep the truth from coming out? You know, I think the leaders of our country, and Kevin is one of them, should be stepping forward and trying to get to the bottom of everything that led up to January 6. And people who aren`t doing that are a mystery to me, unless they participated.


CAPEHART: So, Paul, how much legal peril is Kevin McCarthy in?

PAUL BUTLER, LAW PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: He`s got a reason to be concerned. Commission chair Congressman Bennie Thompson seems to have instructed his investigators to go hard or go home. So they`re getting the goods on all of the big names, Donald and Melania, all of the adult kids except Tiffany, Rudy, Roger Stone, Steve Bannon.

And Jonathan, they`re demanding records from 15 social media companies, not just Facebook and Twitter, but Parlor and 4Chan and all those creepy places on the Web where domestic terrorists hide. But it`s likely there`ll be the records from eight different federal agencies that are most productive. We`re going to get all political appointees, what they knew about any attempts to support the big lie in the federal government.

Jonathan, my favorite might be the request for all documents related to the stability of Donald Trump or his fitness for office.

CAPEHART: Actually that is — that is — wow. I can`t wait to see what those results entail.

Jared, so then what do we need to know about September 18th?

JARED HOLT, RESIDENT FELLOW, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: I think a lot of the coverage that we`ve been seeing about September 18th has quite frankly been hyperbolic, based on the analysis that we`re seeing. This rally that`s planned for September 18 is going to potentially be very significant, but maybe not in the sense that it could generate another type of January 6 event, but rather it could lay patchwork or groundwork for those kind of events to happen in the future in D.C. or maybe even at state capitols going forward.


CAPEHART: So then, from what — so, I mean, given what you just said, so — and the fact that you monitor these situations, so is the chatter similar to January 6 or less than January 6?

HOLT: It`s much less than. You know, January 6 was the byproduct of — you know, I mean, for one point, you had a sitting president of the United States and all his allies in Congress and right-wing media egging on these big lies and encouraging people to turn out to an event like this. Trump is more or less out of the picture at this point, doing his thing on the side but certainly not the social pariah that he once was.

And the guy who is putting together this rally, Matt Brainard, he simply doesn`t have the clout required to draw that kind of crowd. And a lot of the same extremist groups that participated in January 6 have been very clear with their members that they should not go to this, that a lot of the trials for their members that participated in January 6 are still ongoing. And this, if their members show up and cause trouble again, is just going to mess all of that up while they`re trying to figure out a way out of the situation they`ve dug themselves into.

CAPEHART: And so then, Paul, given what Jared just said, do you think that deterrents work, that these — the arrests and the charging of the folks involved in January 6 is making it possible for September 18 to not be a repeat?

BUTLER: I hope so. But who I really hope learned a lesson isn`t so much the domestic terrorists but law enforcement. Because, Jonathan, we learned that on January 4th, a law enforcement official sent an e-mail warning that a large number of people are coming to the Capitol in two days to engage in civil unrest and violence. On January 4th, there`s a conference call where all these law enforcement officials are talking about the potential for a mass casualty event on January 6.

So they knew but they didn`t act like they knew. Why wasn`t more done to protect the Capitol? Because the result was the worst attack on the Capitol since the war of 1812.

CAPEHART: Well, let`s just hope that September 18th is nothing like January 6th.

Paul Butler, Jared Holt, thanks for joining us tonight. Thanks for being here.

Coming up, tonight, Joe Biden had the difficult task of speaking to America about the 20th anniversary of 9/11 against the backdrop of our current politics. How do we make sense of what`s happened in our politics, in our culture, in the 20 years between now and then?

We`ll talk about that, next.




JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Unity is what makes us who we are. America at its best. To me, that`s the central lesson of September 11th, it`s that at our most vulnerable, in the push and pull of all that makes us human, in the battle for the soul of America, unity is our greatest strength. Unity doesn`t mean we have to believe the same thing. We must have a fundamental respect and faith in each other and in this nation.


CAPEHART: That was part of President Biden`s six-minute message to Americans tonight ahead of the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed 2,977 people on September 11th. The president had the unenviable task of talking about the national unity many felt in 2001 against the backdrop of our current politics. As 1500 people are dying every day of a virus for which there is a vaccine. And after all we watched, a violent mob breached the nation`s capital, hunting lawmakers and beating police officers to try to overturn the election results egged on by the then-president.

The last 20 years have brought us two wars. The first black president, elected twice. And Donald Trump. How do we understand that history?

Former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes reflected on that earlier today.


BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Something has broken in those 20 years that we`ve reached a point where you could have a violent insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, the very threat that we were so worried about after 9/11, the very type of attack that those heroic passengers prevented on Flight 93, a flight that was likely headed for the U.S. Capitol.

You could have that attack and within hours of that attack, instead of people rallying together, there are people trying to blame Antifa, trying to obscure what had happened. That`s how far we`ve fallen in 20 years. And frankly, that`s reflective of a reality where that`s been this kind of radicalization inside, let`s face it, the American right-wing.


CAPEHART: But that isn`t the whole story. Our culture is a whole lot more liberalized today than it was 20 years ago. Just look at American commercials or network television shows. There is much broader acceptance of LGBTQ rights. People recognizing that black lives do indeed matter. Confederate monuments coming down. But in many ways, conservative politics has become more extreme and more rooted in disinformation and myth instead of fact.

Joining us now are Eugene Robinson, associate editor and Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for “The Washington Post.” He`s an MSNBC political analyst.


Joanne Freeman, professor of history at Yale University and author of “The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War.” And Jonathan Alter, a columnist for “The Daily Beast” and an MSNBC political analyst.

Joanne, I`ll start with you, whether it`s the attack on January 6th or the pandemic, we haven`t seen that sense of common purpose that we did 20 years ago. Why do you think the 9/11 attack spawned a national unity that we`re not seeing now?

JOANNE FREEMAN, YALE UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR OF HISTORY: It`s interesting, because that really is, in a sense, as the introduction to this moment that you just showed reveals, that was one of the really striking things about 9/11, was the way in which there was a real sense of common purpose, there was a real “we,” a sense that we as Americans were joined together in that moment.

You know, you think about that singing of “God Bless America” by members of Congress on the steps of the Capitol. That was 9/11. We`re now in this hyper partisan, polarized moment that is hyper extreme and, you know, to be quite blunt about it, there is — on the right, there are people who are no longer really attached to some of the fundamental aspects of democracy like free and fair elections, like the rule of law.

Some things that, you know, 20 years ago I don`t think we would have assumed would get the kind of play that they`re getting now.

CAPEHART: You know, Eugene, President Biden acknowledged the darker forces — excise me — we saw in the aftermath of 9/11 against Muslims even at a time of unity. Have a listen.


BIDEN: The 9/11 generation stepping up to serve and protect in the face of terror, to get those terrorists who were responsible, to show everyone seeking to do harm to America that we will hunt you down and we will make you pay. That will never stop. Today, tomorrow, ever, from protecting America.

We also witnessed the darker forces of human nature. Fear and anger, resentment and violence against Muslim-Americans, true and faithful followers of a peaceful religion.


CAPEHART: You know, Gene, it seems like that anger was always present, it`s just shifted over the years to other groups, like undocumented immigrants or Black Lives Matter or socialist liberals.

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Yes, I think it has been there. I mean, remember, think back to September 10, 2001. We were a divided nation then. We had just come off this bitterly contested closest election in our history that I think was decided by hanging chads and finally and ultimately the Supreme Court decided the election. And, you know, everyone accepted George W. Bush as the legitimate president.

But not everyone was happy about it. And so I think the ugliness that we see, we saw erupt in some anti-Muslim sentiment after 9/11, that we saw erupt in the rise of Donald Trump, and that we see now on the far right, I think it`s been there. It needed these sparks and catalysts to let it express itself. And it`s here now, and in our faces in way that we haven`t seen in a long time.

CAPEHART: And, you know, Jonathan, Hillary Clinton touched on something that I`ve been thinking a lot about, and that, you know, she said she`s more concerned today about internal threats. Have a listen.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We always have to be aware of and protect against external threats. But what really is tearing our country apart and threatening our democracy is what we saw on January 6th. And I unfortunately have seen so much of that kind of continuing divisiveness and hatred, and ideological attitudes about our democracy, about each other.

I think every American, regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, should be as worried if not more right now about what we`re doing to ourselves.


CAPEHART: Yes. And Jonathan, it seems like unity was easy when the threat came from outside the United States. But now that the threat is coming from inside, we`re seeing Republicans feel the need to provide cover or excuse or defend the insurrectionists rather than denounce them.

JONATHAN LATER, THE DAILY BEAST COLUMNIST: Yes, we have a crisis of faith in our institutions, our values, and most importantly, in each other. We just don`t believe in each other the way we have at various times in the past.


All of this is part of the fallout from 9/11, in the same way that the big event of the first quarter of the 20th century World War I, it radiated out into the Russian Revolution and then, you know, into the seeds of World War II. This bomb blast, you know, in 2001 radiates. And the toxicity that gave cancer to a number of people working on the pile is metastasizing in the culture, and creating, you know, conditions of division that we haven`t really seen since the Civil War.

The origins of it I think in the post-9/11 period, we`re in the 2002 midterms, which were the first midterms since 1934 that the party in the White House won. People rallied around George W. Bush, but also there were these terrible negative ads against Democrats, where they would have Democratic candidates morphing into pictures of Osama bin Laden.

So you saw even then that the Republican Party was radicalizing in a way that was based on a foundation of lies. And that this would have a terrible, corrosive effect on our political culture.

CAPEHART: And, you know, Joanne, there`s no better example of, you know, this toxicity, the shift in this country, and particularly within the Republican Party, in the 20 years since 9/11, than Rudy Giuliani. I mean, I worked on Bloomberg`s first campaign for mayor. And so I know that on September 10th, New York could not wait for the primary to happen because that would start the clock down on Rudy Giuliani rule of New York City.

But on September 11th, he became America`s mayor. He ran for president himself. And now today he`s facing disbarment for spreading so many lies about the election for Trump.

FREEMAN: Talk about shifting tides, I mean, that`s certainly an extreme example. But, you know, one thing that`s strikingly different between 2001 and the president, in that last 20 years, and Giuliani and any other number of people would be caught up in the impact of this, and that is social media. The impact of social media. Because everyone has been talking, Jonathan and Eugene, about radicalization.

Part of that radicalization is a product of social media spreading radical words and ideas with ever-increasing speed, and no filter. And after, in the leadup to the civil war, the telegraph did the exact same thing, which was spreading its views, spread dissension. It was a new form of technology. People hadn`t quite mastered it yet, and so it was ripe and open for the kind of use that we`re seeing social media be put to today.

CAPEHART: You know, Eugene, and we`ve got two minutes left, and I want to get to each of you in the time that we have left. Eugene, you wrote a fantastic column in our paper about Robert E. Lee and the removal of that enormous statue in Richmond. Briefly talk about the significance of the removal of that statue. It`s not just removing a Confederate statue. What else does its removal signify?

ROBINSON: Well, I`m just arguing that we also dismantled the myth of Robert E. Lee, the sort of revanchist myth of Robert E. Lee, as this romantic figure, he was the greatest general in U.S. history, and who reluctantly fought for his state and was, you know, was against slavery, actually. None of that is true. He wasn`t a great general, he lost the war.


ROBINSON: He really lost the war. He lost everything and took casualties at a rate that, you know, like Stalingrad, basically. He was a slave owner, he was not a kindly slave owner. He said slavery was evil, but, you know, it was more evil to the white man than to the black man. He was not a good guy.


ROBINSON: He had this myth, that was used to justify the imposition of Jim Crow, and the maintenance of Jim Crow, and everything. So let`s get rid of the myth of Robert E. Lee as we get rid of the statue.

CAPEHART: All right, we`ve run out of time. Jonathan Alter, I`ll hit you up next time.

Eugene Robinson, Joanne Freeman, Jonathan Alter, thanks for joining us tonight.

We`ll be right back with tonight`s LAST WORD.



CAPEHART: Tomorrow, President Biden will visit all three sites attacked on 9/11. Ground Zero, where he`ll be joined by former president Barack Obama, Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon.

MSNBC will coverage of it all. Special coverage starts at 5:00 a.m. Eastern with Alex Witt, Kendis Gibson and Lindsey Reiser anchoring live from Ground Zero. Brian Williams and Nicole Wallace picked up coverage at 8:00 a.m. Eastern. Then Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle continue coverage at 11:30 a.m. Eastern.

And there will be an encore presentation of “MEMORY BOX: ECHOES OF 9/11” tomorrow at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC.

That is tonight`s LAST WORD. “THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS” starts right now.

CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC HOST: Good evening once again. I`m Chris Jansing, in for Brian Williams. Day 234 of the Biden administration.