tv The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell MSNBC August 1, 2019 10:00pm-11:00pm PDT
greenlight impeachment proceedings against the president, getting 118 members of the caucus onboard is kind of the first step. because 118 members will be more than half of the democratic caucus. and as more and more democrats been the unwritten rule that 118 democrats must openly come out for impeachment before the next move. tonight they got a step closer. congressman pete aguilar became the 117th to call for impeachment inquiry into the president. 117 that's awful close to 118. that does it for tonight. see you again tomorrow. time for the last word with lawrence o'donnell. good evening, lawrence. >> good evening, joy thank you very much. >> thank you have a great show. >> we have some sad news tonight from high anis port from the kennedy family, the 22-year-old granddaughter of robert kennedy and ethyl kennedy has died. "the new york times" reports is an apparent drug overdose. we will get more for you on the
information as it develops tonight. but that is once again another tragic death announcement tonight by the kennedy family in hyannisport. as soon as we can bring you more information on that we will bring it during the hour. but go on now to the news of the week in the presidential campaign, beginning with a very simple fact. presidents don't debate. but presidential candidates have to debate in order to win the presidency. a job where they then will not have to debate. most american presidents have been elected without ever debating. debates do not actually test the skills necessary to be president. and most of the political news media does not seem to realize that. and i will have much more to say about that at the end of this hour. and about how we can improve debates and the work that you actually have to do as a viewer and voter when you are watching the debates. it shouldn't be a passive exercise. you should be listening and thinking and ignoring much of
what happens in presidential debates, especially the games sometimes played by some of the moderators. and this week the moderators game, which was probably urged on them by their bosses was to trap the candidates into fighting with each other. trap democrats into fighting with democrats. one candidate refused to do that. even when specifically invited by the moderator to attack a specific candidate, with one candidate refused to play that game. one candidate rose above the cnn game and never criticized another candidate on that stage. the candidate who wouldn't play the game, the candidate who only attacked donald trump in the debates, will be our first guest tonight. that candidate went from the debate stage to fighting mitch mcconnell on the senate floor today. on the last day of work in the senate before the august recess. in the week since joe
scarborough started mitch mcconnell moscow mitch the label has stuck and used by democrats in kentucky in a way that has mitch mcconnell worried about his re-election campaign in kentucky. senator mcconnell got stuck with the label moscow mitch when he chose to repeatedly block legislation designed to strengthen our election system against another attack by the russian government. mitch mcconnell says the legislation is partisan. and that's why he blocked it. but that is not true. one of the bills mitch mcconnell blocked was written by a democrat and a republican. it has bipartisan support. the democrat who wrote that bill along with oklahoma republican senator james lankford knows how and when to work in a bipartisan way in the united states senate. but this week on the presidential debate stage, that senator was the most partisan democrat in the debates because that senator refused to criticize any democrats and only attacked donald trump. and here is that senator.
on the senate floor today going after mitch mcconnell. >> we are about to adjourn this day without passing election security legislation. we have bipartisan election security legislation. we've had that for years. and yet it has been stopped every step of the way. last week my bill was offered by senator schumer on the floor. it could have gone to the president's desk that day. instead leader mcconnell objected. during his objection he said that election legislation must drachted with great care and on a bipartisan basis. we did that. senator warner is here. he worked on it. we did that with senator langford, but we were blocked at the rules committee. we were blocked. that's a documented fact. the markup had been scheduled ready to go. senator blunt had been willing to mold a markup on the bill. and it was stopped.
i am going to tell that story every day until we advance this. i have an opportunity to do that. and i'm going to do it because people need to know what's going on. this should not be -- in should not be about partisanship or what benefits what party. you think that's what the founders were thinking when they decided to declare independence from a foreign country? they were thinking of our country as one. >> and here is a sample of amy klobuchar on the presidential debate stage trying to advance her candidacy without ever aching another democrat. >> i have bold ideas but they are grounded in reality. and, yes, i will make some simple promises. i can win this. i'm from the mid-west and i have run every race every prays every time and i will govern with integrity. the integritiworthy of the extraordinary people of this nation. so this is what i think we need
to get done. we need the public option. that's what barack obama wanted and it would bring health care costs down for everyone. people can't wait. i've got my friend nicole out there whose son was actually died trying to ration his insulin as a restaurant manager and died because he didn't have enough money to pay for it. >> senatoren. >> a bernie and i worked on pharmaceutical together. >> thank you senator. >> what's missing if the right pirn in the white house donald trump wants to use the people as political pawns. i was just in flint. and they are still drinking bottled water in that town. that is outrageous. but i don't think anyone can justify what this president is doing. little kids literally woke up this weekend turned on the tv appear saw their president calling their city the town of baltimore, nothing more than a home for rats. and i can tell you as your president that will stop. when he was just with vladimir putin at the g-20, asked about invading our democracy, he made
a joke. we need someone that has people's back. we also need someone that can win. and i have won in these red districts. i win in the midwest. i can win in states like michigan, iowa. and we have a president where people turn off their tv when they see him. not me. i will make you proud as your president. >> and then there was this moment when amy klobuchar was specifically invited to attack her competitors for the democratic presidential nomination. and she would not do it. >> you have said when asked about your primary opponents, quote a lot of people are making promises and i'm not making promises just to get elected who on the stage is making promises just to get elected? >> everyone wants to get elected but my point is this. i think when we have a guy in the white house that has told over 10,000 lies that we better
be very straightforward with the american people. >> leading off the discussion tonight is senator amy klobuchar of minnesota, a member of the senate judiciary committee and candidate for president thanks for joining us tonight. >> thanks, lawrence. >> i want to switch gears for a moment on this breaking news that we're getting from hyannisport. you worked with ted kennedy in the senate and now one of his nieces reportedly died today, the news released by the family in hyannisport, possibly from drug overdose. i wanted your reaction to that. >> you just think of the tragedy that has hit this family. and it's just one thing after another. obviously we think of them today. but in problem of drug overdoses is happening all over this country right now. and certainly we know it here with prince in minnesota but it's not just famous people. it's everyday people.
i talked about little casey jo, a champion swimmer at the end of the debate who went into the emergency room and got hooked. and her last words to her mom was mama, it's not my fault and she later died. this is happening because we have a lot of politicians talking about it. but just as i said in the debate to be straightforward, these companies if it was opioids i don't know what happened in in tragedy case but if it was opioids we know what happened here. the market was flooded by pharma companies. people turned to opioids and illegal drugs and started taking the drugs and they're dying. and those pharma companies had better be held responsible. it's one of the reasons i came out with a full plan for mental health and addiction, given my own family history with my dad who had drunk driving convictions and finally got treatment. in his words he was sprused by grace and changed his life. everyone has that right.
and when i hear the stories -- again we don't know exactly what happened -- whether in famous families or not, it makes me think about that wektd be doing a better job as a country getting people into treatment, removing the stigma and then making sure that the people this that are responsible for this which has been the drug companies are paying for it. >> senator, i want to talk about the debate and make sure we reserve enough time to talk about what you were trying to achieve on the senate floor today. to the debate, why didn't you do it? cnn wanted you to attack your competitors on that stage. they wanted you to -- if you felt like it to reach over and attack competitors on the other stages that you weren't even on. but any really really wanted you to do that. why didn't you do it? >> because i don't think this is a sporting event. i think there is more that unites our party than divides us. i think as you have seen we will have legitimate discussions i
disagree with my colleagues and made that clear and continue to have disagreements on policy and make that clear. because i want to make the case i'm the best candidate. but we have to use the debates lawrence as a moment to take it it do donald trump because there are not just base the dmakts watching the debates. there is independent. moderate republican. there is the general election issue. but also the fact that i still believe that people want to hear from us about what differentiates us, what's the contrast, our optimistic economic agenda. if you spend the whole time cutting down your opponent to get the viral moment then what have we done? we don't win and don't do better for the country. and so it's just a fundamental belief of mine that maybe i won't have that viral moment or maybe i will. i had one once in the kavanaugh hearing just because i did my job. and that's what i'm not looking for it by going after my opponents by saying mean things. i don't think that's how do you
it. some people think this is a test for taking on donald trump. as i said at that debate, one of my opponents once in a debate republican said to me you're nothing but a street fighter from the iron range. and i said thank you. you can show your tough enough to take on donald trump without doing it against fellow democrats. >> well is it one way to do it the which you did it in the debate which is you show how you are taking on donald trump but actually taking on donald trump during the debate? >> well that does seem to me to be a good idea. my favorite moment for me was when he called me snow woman after my announcement in the blizzard and i had taken on climate change he made fun of me for doing that in snow. i wrote back to him i sent out a tweet and said the science is on my side i'm climate change, donald trump and i'd love to see how your hair would fair in blizzard. i think there are many ways to take this guy on. you have to show the absurdity of what he has done.
and one way is what we were talking on the senate floor. he git punched us on the election bill last year. senator langford and myself and senator burr was on the bill, warner. basically the administration made calls directly, don mcguyana the white house council and stopped the bill. calling republicans. >> let's listen to what the president said today about russian interference in the election since this is so relevant to what you were fighting for in the senate floor today. >> robert mueller said last week that russian interfered in u.s. elections right now. did you raise that with vladimir putten >> you don't believe this? do you believe in do you believe this okay, fine we didn't talk about that. >> so, there is the president of the united states saying in next, he doesn't believe that russian -- russia interfered with the election or russia plans to interfere with the election when he is confrontwood that by robert mueller's testimony through a reporter he says you don't really believe
this. >> same old thing. robert mueller said it under oath that the russians are doing it as we speak. trump's own fbi director christopher wray under my questioning and others just last week said the same thing. his own intelligence director dan coates who is now sadly resigning said that they are getting bolder. so it is undeniable that this is happening. they've done it through hacking and done it through dirty propaganda online. and both of these things we could take steps to decrease the possibility of in happening. as i said today, this is about our democracy. hundreds of thousands of people lost lives on battlefields to protect our right to vote in our democracy. four little girls lost life in a church in birmimgham at the height of the civil rights movement because we stood up for our democracy.
for this guy to make jokes about it all the time it's unpatriotic and unamerican. and this can't wait for a new president, lawrence. there are 11 states that don't have backup paper ballots. anything we can do to get the backup paper boolgts some are partial some not at all. we could have a presidential election and not know the outcome. and the second thing is making the social media companies tell us where the ads are coming from and who is paying for them so that we can have a fair election. four billion wsh three to four billion is going going to be spent. your network when you run ads you have to say who is paying for the ads not true of facebook or google or twitter or any of those companies. and their volunteer measures don't measure up to what you have to do on network tv or radio. >> senator, i know we are not hearing the name moscow mitch on the senate floor. senate rules and customs don't allow that and senators don't want to talk that way about each
other no matter how bad it gets but the names seems to stick and in politics in kentucky to the point where there are now reports indicating that maybe mitch mcconnell will want to negotiate something with amy klobuchar when he gets back from the august recess. >> well, right now senator langford and i -- and that actually was our bill that we did last year hasn't been reintroduced because we continue to negotiate it. the other -- the bills that were blocked was a bill i was leading with senator warner and others. and then senator widen and i have a bill. but what this bill does it requires backup paper ballots if you take out federal money for election that would move the states to know that's what they have to do. and it has audit provisions. senator langford and i talked today. we're continuing to negotiate. my hope is that over the august break as long as your viewers keep calling and demanding this
and using whatever names they want, that maybe we can actually get this done. >> senator i'm kind of speechless about what i saw happen in the senate judiciary committee today because i've never seen anything like it. i know you've never seen anything like it. it was a markup of a bill in that process in which the committee votes on a bill. whenever that happens both sides get to speak about it at minimum speak about it before there is a vote. usually they get to amend it or offer amendments before there is a vote. lindsey graham just convened the committee and basically said let's vote. shocked pat leahy who had 40 years of service in the senate, couldn't believe what he was saying. what was your experience of what happened on your committee today. >> i was there for the entire hearing. and it was one of the saddest things i'd ever seen. senator graham as we pointed out worked with us on that initial immigration bill when president bush was in valiantly we tried to get that done. he then supported the bill in 2013 comprehensive reform.
and now he has just gone when it comes to this issue the full trump because what's happened here is we would like to work with him on the issue of seeking asylum in those home countries of the northern triangle. but instead he has put a bill forward we have some issues with annan instead of just working with us he rammed it through without amendment. i had great amendments on temporary status people that are here, domestic violence victims, and we weren't able to offer any amendments. he -- i think he broke four rules just to get it through the committee on a partisan vote. and the despite how vitriolic the dprimgs immigration is right now there are people of good will that worked together on this in the senate in the past and want to in the future. that's why this was such a sad moment. the bill i suppose is now headed to the floor. >> senator amy klobuchar thank you for yoing us i really appreciate it. >> thank you, lawrence great to be on. >> thank you.
>> and when we come back we'll have more on tonight's breaking news from the kennedy family in hyannisport, another tragic death in the kennedy family, the 22-year-old granddaughter of robert kennedy and ethyl kennedy died today. more democrats declaring support for impeachment including one of the most senior democrats in the house, a chairman of a st. an important committee. he will join us. let's see, aleve is proven better on pain than tylenol extra strength. and last longer with fewer pills. so why am i still thinking about this? i'll take aleve. aleve. proven better on pain. our mission is to provide complete, balanced nutrition for strength and energy! whoo-hoo! great-tasting ensure. with nine grams of protein
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back to breaking news tonight, a granddaughter of robert f. kennedy and ethyl kennedy died this afternoon after suffering an apparent overdose at the kennedy compound in hyannisport, massachusetts. according to two people close to the family who spoke to "the new york times." she was the dourt daughter of courtney kennedy hill and granddaughter of ethyl kennedy. 22 years old.
the family release add statement including this quote from ethyl kennedy saying the world is a little less beautiful today. we are joined now by anne thompson of nbc news joining us by phone from hyannisport, anne, what do we know at this point. >> lawrence, we know that this afternoon emergency responders were called to robert kennedy -- the home on the kennedy compound that belonged to the former and late senator robert kennedy. and they were responding to an apparent overdose. we know tonight that the person who they treated was 22-year-old sersha kennedy hill. what's interesting about her is that she sh spoken about her struggles with mental illness at deerfield academy.
and she wrote about the struggles. saying she fought with depression and suffered what we she called bouts of deep sadness that felt like a heavy boulder on her chest. and she revealed in the newspaper article she once tried to commit suicide after being sexually assaulted she did the worst thing a victim could do and pretended it hadn't happened. it became too much and she attempted to take her life. but in this article she felt she had overcome the issues. she said we are all either struggling or know someone who is battles an ilds will illness qb to let's come together to make our community inclusive and comfortable. but as far as beyond the fact that she died in afternoon and that this is a family that is
absolutely heart broken at her passing, the specific circumstances of her death have not been made public at this time. >> and, aen, in family has suffered so greatly through each generation. the earlier generation of cousins has gone through similar kinds of suffering. so this is a family that has tragedically found itself in this situation before. >> think of this as the second -- ethyl kennedy lost her son david to a drug overdose in the 1980s. we don't know again if this is an overdose- dsh this would be her grand child that she lost to the same sort of illness. patrick kennedy, the former congressman has been public about hig struggles with mental health, mental illness.
and so this is a big, large family that deals with a lot of the same problems that many american families deal with on a constant basis. but in this case, i mean this is now, you know, another kennedy, another kennedy who has gone at an age that seems far too young. >> anne thompson thank you for joining us really appreciate it. >> you're welcome, lawrence. >> we'll be right back. hmm. exactly.
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most members of the political news media are sports fans and most think politics is sport. and most of them cover it as a sport. a heavyweight championship fight so candidates know they will be scored by tv pundit it's on punches thrown. so punches are thrown. but it doesn't have to be this way. it's possible to campaign without attacking your competitors. amy klobuchar showed? her debate performances. it's possible to campaign or
fofs without mentions opponents. i worked for a united states senator repeatedly elected in snork by two thirds of the vote talking about what he had done as a senator and what he would continue to do and never mentioning opponents. presidential races are different of course. and the it's more intense than senate of course opinion. and feels much more personal. one of the ways on competing on a presidential debate stage is making the very best case for yourself without trying to tear someone else down at the same time. the sports model for that could be, home run derby. what if each exact on the stage treated the competition like home run derby instead of boxing match and when each got up to bat they tried to do their best and make the best case for themselves just hit good solid clean home runs. here are the competitors in this year's home run derby. they are all fierce competitors.
they were each trying to beat the other. but only doing their own personal best. politicians could learn a lot from them. joining us now is a spokesperson for justice democrats and a former senior aid to zand alexandria ocasio. a delegate for bernie sanderss in the campaign and he is not affiliatewood a 2020mentle campaign. and ron klain, a senior aide to vice president joe biden and president obama. also was an -- he is now an adviser to joe biden's 2020 presidential campaign. and ron i was just learning that in the teleprompter. so it's -- it's present tense now that you are formally advising the biden campaign. >> i am, yes, absolutely. >> so give us -- give us your reaction to what you saw on that debate stage last night. >> well, look, i think you saw on the one hand the candidates did make a powerful case against donald trump.
and i thought, you know, vice president biden took it to trump in the opening statement. senator gillibrand had the statement about color oxing the oval office. and he was called a white nationalist. you saw the candidates take it to to donald trump but you saw seven candidates individually attack the vice president. part of that debate was him dealing with the attacks responding to the attacks. you know making points about his opponent records. that's part of the debate process. you saw both things happening last night. >> when did you see. >> i saw candidates making a case. >> feel free we have on have the haven't done a show since monday. feel free to reach back to tuesday night where bernie sanders was on. >> i thought we saw a substantive discussion about the role of government and the democratic party and the role of government in america. i mean, it's a tech tonic shift where the democratic party was in the 90s with elizabeth warren and bernie sanders trying to make government work again. it's not that long ago said the
era of big government is over and now the era of big government is back in the democratic party. both kind of rekindling the spirit of the new deal, great society. and i think in terms of the baseball metaphor they have to be able to draw contrasts with other candidates that's what they are doing. there's been a lot of talk today about how president obama was attacked last night over immigration. which i think is a little oversaying it. i mean what actually happened is a reflection on mistakes democrats made in the first term of the president regarding immigration and deportation. i mean, the first person who tell you they disagreed with the obama dmimgs policy is obama himself because he created new policies to provide relief to dreamers. we're a little too sensitive about the robust discussion happening. tension can produce great growth. 2008 people forget that got heated as well. >> i agree with walid on that i
think the word attack gets used too much. what i'm watching is a variation on the kind of debate you see unfold within the democratic party for decades on the senate floor, for example, where we both worked, on any given issue. there is a range of opinion. usually the party is unified in the direction like we want to provide more access to health care for more people. and then you get into this debate, argument within the committees and then on the senate floor about what are the right methods for doing that? as you goe through that debate certain things get thrown out in order to clear a vote hurdle like with obamacare we they dropped the public option because they knew they couldn't get it through the house of representatives. for me there is something familiar about all of this that i don't think of as attack. >> yeah, look, i think the discussion the went on on health care both nights was a robust and interesting discussion. to go back to what the earlier point, one interesting thing if you take the left side of the debate and the moderate side of the debate, both positions whole
range of positions is significantly more progressive than where we were seven or eight years ago as a party. with the kind of the public option now being starting point for public like vice president biden senator bennett and others. and senator sanders for medicare for all. senator harris for a hybrid plan. but i think what you are seeing is like what you said, lawrence, a discussion about the policy stuff. i think that's very, very healthy. when it stays away from people attacking motives, people attacking each other's -- senator gillibrand went after the op-ed vice president biden wrote 38 years ago. i don't think that's healthy. that's not what democrats want torz. but robust skupgs from the candidates about the ways to meet the democratic goal of expanding health care in the country that's a healthy conversation one we have to have. >> when i look back at the reagan presidency and how ronald reagan in his road to the presidency republicans never
attacked him for having been a democrat. a democrat. a couple of decades earlier. because they care about where you are today. and that's part of the key to the trump candidacy. all they had to do was hear that he was going to accept mitch kpaunl's supreme court justices during the campaign, and they didn't care what his previous position on abortion was or any previous position he ever had. is there a lesson in that present tense campaigning of republicans for democrats? >> i don't know. i think like as a millennial i look at the presidential stage and i see candidates who have made decisions that impacted my life from voting for the war in iraq, or voting for deregulating wall street, overseeing the most -- most of the carbon emissions we have seen in this country have come in the last 30 years. i think a lot of the anger is driven by young people who have seen politicians not really solve systemic crisis in the country.
that's why i think you see people like elizabeth warren and bernie sanders propose solution that is solve the crisis and are the goal themselves rather than just getting to the goal. >> why aren't you supporting bernie sanders this time. >> well, i think right now we have had a lot of supporters nar split between candidates. we'll follow when our supporters want. we have a lot of supporters supporting bernie. >> your organization -- you stay out of it because the organization hasn't chosen yet. >> yeah, yeah. >> i got it. ron what about that, the way in which republicans seem to be very mink to forgive and forgot anything you've done before today because what they care about as voters and as as candidates is what are you going to do tomorrow. >> i do the think the centerpiece of the conversation should be about what democrats propose to do tomorrow, what's realistic, what can get done, what can make people's lives better? i think vice president biden was talking about that last night when he talked about his health care plan and expand coverage that's a positive direction.
hopefully we see more in the upcoming debates. ron, joe biden aside, in the two nights just give me -- just give me one name who you think did the best on each of the two nights without including joe biden. >> it's a hard question, lawrence. i think andrew yang was a surprise breakout star did a good job of raising issues the other candidates aren't talking about. >> we'll leave it there. thank you both for joining us. when we come back, the russians have decided who they do not want to be the democratic presidential nominee or least at least one of the people they don't want to be the democratic presidential nominee and more democrats in the house coming out in favor of the impeachment including the chairman of the foreign affairs committee. elliott engle. he will join us. - choosing to foster a child is choosing to nurture and emotionally support children in urgent need. it's not just about opening up your home; it is also about opening up your heart.
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announced they back impeachment. and today the number of house democrats supporting impeachment rose to just one vote shy of -- of a majority of democratic caucus itself, according to the nbc news count. 117 democrats and one independent, former republican, declared support for impeachment, well more than halfway to the 218 votes that would be necessary to vote for impeachment in the house of represent he was. joining us now is the chairman of the house foreign affairs committee democratic congressman elliott engle thing for joining us. >> thank you. >> you represent new york city. you have come out in favor of impeachment. your fellow chairman jerry nadler represents another part of new york city. he will be in charge of impeachment if it happens. what brought you to this decision? >> well, first of all, we certainly watched the hearings.
two of our committees of course had mr. mueller there. and we have had the opportunity to read mueller's report and conclusion. and i have come to the conclusion that this needs an impeachment inquiry. i mean it's not something i relish. it's very railroad kief. but if we do nothing then we encourage this kind of behavior not only now but for all future presidents as well. mueller also said that he could not impeach the president. >> indict the president. >> indict the president. i'm sorry. he could not indict the president because the sitting president could not be indicted. he said it would be possible after he leaves office. so it falls to us, to the house. we're dually elected. i was sworn to uphold the constitution and i don't take it
lightly. i agonize over it it which is why i didn't do it months ago. >> the clinton impeachment process you were there in the house for that. is that what part of what slowed you down or made you as careful as you've been in reaching the decision. >> i think it played a role. i wouldn't say it played a major role. but the last time it really just brought the country to a really difficult position. but, you know, lawrence what choice do we really have? we have an obligation. and we have to fulfill the obligation. i think to do anything less would be really not doing our duties. we would hold -- we know the senate has a majority. and so the chance of getting a conviction -- you can get impeachment but not conviction -- is nil. but that doesn't matter because i think the constitution works and we really have to do our job. i mean, we are talking about russian interference in the
united states election. and we are talking about collusion with the trump campaign. i mean, what can be more important than a democracy hanging in the balance? the president takes it quite calf letterly thinks it's not a big deal. but nothing is a big deal to him. this is our very, very democracy hanging in the balance. and i don't want to get mellow dramatic. but the fact is we have a responsibility. and i think you going to see the house taking the responsibility. >> we shaw the president asked by a reporter about robert mueller saying the russians attacked the election, they will continue to attack the election and did you mention that to vladimir putin? and the president said to the reporter, you don't believe that there is the president saying publicly he doesn't believe now -- he is saying now, i don't believe that the russians attacked our election. >> well i think you have to be naive or i don't know what to not believe it. it's there.
and then there are other things. the speaker has designated six of us who are chairs to continue investigations. and you know, we still don't know what happened when putin met trump in helsinki that time. thump seems to have this wonderful feeling towards the dictators despots. i want to know what happened. >> that's part of your investigation. >> yes. >> chairman engle thank you very much for joining us. i appreciate it. >> my pleasure, lawrence thank you. >> thank you. >> when we come back we discuss how to improve presidential campaign debates. they can't get much worse. improving them is not that difficult. that will be tonight's last word. t really talk about your insurance unless you're complaining about it. you go on about how... ...it's so confusing it hurts my brain. ya i hear ya... or say you can't believe... ...how much of a hassle it is! and tell anyone who'll listen... (garbled)....it's so expensive! she said it's so expensive.
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that's not the way we in the media usually analyze debates. we cover them like sporting debates. we try to guess which candidates impress the tv audience the most. and we are always guessing about that although we rarely label our statements as the pure guesses they are. we evaluate debating skills. that's the problem with debates. presidents don't have to think on their feet. presidents never have to make a decision alone without advisers who have much more experience on every subject than the president does. so the debates do not test the skills necessary to do the job of president well. it's a job that you never get to see the president do, because the real work of the presidency is done behind the closed door of the oval office or the closed door of the cabinet room or the situation room or on air force one. the real work of the presidency is making decisions after being sufficiently briefed on the subject by people who have been working on that subject for
their entire careers and know the subject way better than the president ever will. the president doesn't have to sit there on his own trying to think of every relevant fact of a particular policy in 30 seconds. that's not the job. i have seen only one president doing the job of the presidency. and that's because when bill clinton was president i was chief of staff of the finance committee and most of the agenda had to come through my committee. we were repeatedly in meetings with the president in the oval office with the door closed and in the cabinet room with the door closed. and in those rooms in every meeting i was in, the president of the united states had less to say than anyone else in the room. and in the meetings i was in, the president of the united states knew less about the subject than anyone else in the room. and bill clinton was as steeped in policy detail as any president we have ever had. president clinton was probably smarter than most of the people in the room, but he was not more informed than most of the people in the room, because he was the president. the president has jurisdiction over all of the policy territory of the federal government, all of it from domestic policy to foreign policy. and the experts in the room usually are only very highly informed about their subject,
that one subject, taxation or national defense. the president has jurisdiction over all of the policy territory of the federal government, all of it from domestic policy to foreign policy. and the experts in the room usually are only very highly informed about their subject, that one subject, taxation or national defense. and most presidential meetings, the president does not have to make a decision. he simply listens to what the policy experts have to say and what the congressional sayers
have to say about how many votes the different policy approaches can get in the senate and the house. and the president usually decides later, sometimes much later after conferring about which policy approach to support. i actually saw president clinton make governing decisions a few times right there in the meeting, but that was very rare. and he took his time when he did that, when he made those decisions sitting in the room with us. there was no 60-second time limit on his decision making. and so if we want debates to more realistically show what a candidate might be like as president, there should be ten people on the stage, but only two candidates. and each candidate should have five advisers on different policy arenas sitting right behind them exactly the way all cabinet members do when they testify to congress. and those advisers should be able to pass notes to the
candidate the way they pass notes to cabinet members when they are testifying. and we should give the candidates the questions in advance so that we can get their best, most thoughtful answers, answers that they arrive at with the help of their advisers exactly the way they would responsibly do their job as president of the united states. now, i know how heredical that sounds. a few elections ago in a private conversation with a member of the presidential debate commission who i can knew, i brought up what i thought would be the craziest idea he had ever heard, giving the candidates the questions in advance skpmpt to my surprise and delight he said he had recently decided that was a good idea even before i mentioned it to him. and that was because he knows what the job of the presidency actually is. but it's not going to happen.
we're going to continue to have tv debates that serve the purposes of tv, specially commercialed tv, rather than the interests of voters. and so your job as a voter when you watch the debates is to try to think beyond the sound byte and figure out what, if anything, in the debate actually matters in your choice of candidate. and don't be surprised if there is nothing in the debate that helps you make up your mind, because the debates are not designed for you. the debates are not designed to enlighten us about who can best do the job of the presidency, because the debates have absolutely nothing to do with the job of president of the united states. that is tonight's last word. the 11th hour with brian
williams starts now. tonight, the president dismisses the warning from mueller that russia is interfering in our elections. so he says he didn't raise it while on the phone with putin. we will go live to louisville tonight as the senate majority tonight as the senate majority leader who has to win re-election to keep his job title is angrily trying to shake off his new nickname of moscow mitch. after last night's friendly fire debate where even obama was under attack, impeachment talk is still growing and their hopes are rising in texas of all places with a big name retirement making news tonight. all of it as "the 11th hour" gets under way on a thursday evening. well, good evening once again from our nbc news headquarters here in new york. this was day 924 of this trump