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As you've seen by now, this isn't a normal convention. It's not a normal time. So tonight I want to talk as plainly as I can about the stakes in this election. Because what we do these next 70, six days will echo through generations to come. I'm in Philadelphia where our Constitution was drafted and signed. It was a perfect document. It allowed for the inhumanity of slavery and failed to guarantee women and even men who didn't own property the right to participate in the political process.
But embedded in this document was a north star that would guide future generations. A system of representative government, a democracy to which we could better realize our highest ideals. Through civil war and bitter struggles, we improved this constitution to include the voices of those who had once been left out. And gradually, we made this country more just and more equal and more free. The one constitutional office elected by all of the people is the presidency, so at a minimum, we should expect a president to feel a sense of responsibility for the safety and welfare of all three hundred and thirty million of us, regardless of what we look like, how we worship, who we love, how much money we have or who we voted for.
But we should also expect the president to be the custodian of this democracy. We should expect that regardless of ego, ambition or political beliefs, the president will preserve, protect and defend the freedoms and ideals that so many Americans marched for, went to jail for. Fought for and died for. I have sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president. I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies.
I did hope for the sake of our country that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously.
That he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care. But he never did. For close to four years now, he has shown no interest in putting into work, no interest in finding common ground, no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends. No interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.
Donald Trump hasn't grown into the job because he can't. And consequences of that failure are severe. One hundred seventy thousand Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone. Those are the top taken more than ever. Worst impulses unleashed our proud reputation around the world, badly diminished. And our democratic institutions threatened like never before. Now, I know that in times as polarized as these, most of you have already made up your mind. But maybe you're still not sure which candidate you'll vote for or whether go vote at all.
Maybe you're tired of the direction we're headed, but you can't see a better path yet. Or you just don't know enough about the person who wants to lead us there. So let me tell you about my friend Joe Biden. Twelve years ago, when I began my search for a vice president, I didn't know I'd end up finding a brother. Joe and I come from different places, different generations, but what I quickly came to admire about Joe Biden is his resilience, born of too much struggle, his empathy born with too much grief.
Joe is a man who learned early on to treat every person he meets with respect and dignity, living by the words his parents taught him. No one's better than you, Joe, but you're better than nobody. That empathy. That decency, the belief that everybody counts. That's who Joe is. When he talks with someone who's lost her job, Joe remembers the night his father sat him down to say that he'd lost his. When you listen to a parent who's trying to hold it all together right now, he does it as a single dad who took the train back to Wilmington each and every night so he could take his kid into bed.
When he meets with military families who've lost their hero, he does it as a kindred spirit, the parent of an American soldier. Somebody whose faith has endured the hardest loss there is. For eight years, Joe was the last one in the room, whenever I faced a big decision, he made me a better president and he's got the character and the experience to make us a better country. And then my friend, Kamala Harris, he's chosen ideal partner who is more than prepared for the job, someone who knows what it's like to overcome barriers and who's made a career fighting to help others live out their own American dream.
Along with the experience needed to get things done, Joe and Carmela have concrete policies that will turn their vision of a better, fairer, stronger country into reality.
They will get this pandemic under control like Joe did when he helped me manage H1N1 and prevent an Ebola outbreak from reaching our shores.
They'll expand health care to more Americans like Joe and I did 10 years ago when he helped craft the Affordable Care Act and nail down the votes to make it the law. The rescue, the economy, like Joe helped me do after the Great Recession. I asked him to manage the Recovery Act, which jumpstarted the longest stretch of job growth in history. And he sees this moment now not as a chance to get back to where we were, but to make long overdue changes so that our economy actually makes life a little easier for everybody, whether it's the waitress trying to raise a kid on her own or the shift worker always on the edge of getting laid off or the student figuring out how to pay for next semester's classes.
John Carmello will restore our standing in the world, and as we've learned from this pandemic that matters, Joe knows the world and the world knows him. He knows that our true strength comes from setting an example that the world wants to follow a nation that stands with democracy, not dictators.
A nation that can inspire and mobilize others to overcome threats like climate change and terrorism, poverty and disease.
But more than anything, what I know about Joe, what I know about tomorr, is that they actually care about every American.
And that they care deeply about this democracy. They believe that in a democracy, the right to vote is sacred and we should be making it easier for people to cast their ballots, not harder. They believe that no one, including the president, is above the law. And that no public official, including the president, should use their office to enrich themselves or their supporters. They understand that in this democracy, the commander in chief does not use the men and women of our military who are willing to risk everything to protect our nation as political props, to deploy against peaceful protesters on our own soil.
They understand that political opponents aren't un-American just because they disagree with you.
Free press isn't the enemy, but the way we hold officials accountable, that our ability to work together to solve big problems like a pandemic depend on a fidelity to facts and science and logic and not just making stuff up. None of this should be controversial. These shouldn't be Republican principles or Democratic principles. They are American principles, but at this moment, this president and those who enable them.
Have shown they don't believe in these things. Tonight, I'm asking you to believe in Joe and Camilla's ability to lead this country out of these dark times and build it back better.
But here's the thing, no single American can fix this country alone, not even a president. Democracy was never meant to be transactional, you give me your vote, I make everything better. It requires an active and informed citizenry. So I'm also asking you to believe in your own ability to embrace your own responsibility as citizens, to make sure that the basic tenants of our democracy endure, because that's what's at stake right now.
Our democracy. I understand why a lot of Americans are down on government, the way the rules have been set up and abused in Congress make it easier for special interests to stop progress than to make progress. Believe me, I know it. I understand why a white factory worker who's seen his wages cut, workers jobs shipped overseas might feel like government no longer looks out for him. And why a black mom might feel like it never looked out for her at all.
I understand why a new immigrant might look around this country and wonder whether there's still a place for him here. Why a young person might look at politics right now, circus of it all, the meanness and the lies and conspiracy theories and think, what is the point? Well, here's the point. This president and those in power, those who benefit from keeping things the way they are, they are counting on your citizen. They know they can't win you over with their policies, so they're hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote and to convince you that your vote does not matter.
That is how they win. That is how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life and the lives of the people you love. That's how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected. How are health systems will let more people fall through the cracks? That's how a democracy weathers. Until it's no democracy at all. And we cannot let that happen. Do not let them take away your power. Do not let them take away your democracy.
Make a plan right now for how you are going to get involved and vote, do it as early as you can and tell your family and friends how they can vote to. Do what Americans have done for over two centuries when faced with even tougher times than. All those quiet heroes who found the courage to keep marching, keep pushing in the face of hardship and injustice.
Last month, we lost a giant of American democracy in John Lewis, and some years ago I sat down with John and a few remaining leaders of the early civil rights movement.
One of them told me he never imagined he'd walk into the White House and see a president who looked like his grandson. And then he told me that he had looked it up and it turned out that on the very day that I was born, he was marching into a jail cell trying to end Jim Crow segregation in the South. What we do echoes through generations. Whatever our backgrounds, we are, all the children of Americans who fought the good fight.
Great grandparents working in firetraps and sweatshops without rights or representation, farmers losing their dreams to dust.
Irish and Italians and Asians and Latinos told go back where you come from. Jews and Catholics, Muslims and Sikhs made to feel suspect for the way they wish it. Black Americans chained and whipped. And hanged. Spit on it for trying to sit at lunch counters. B for trying to vote. If anyone had a right to believe that this democracy did not work and could not work, it was those Americans, our ancestors, they were on the receiving end of a democracy that had fallen short all their lives.
They knew how far the daily reality of America strayed from the. And yet, instead of giving up, they join together and they said somehow, some way we are going to make this work. We are going to bring those words in our founding documents to life. I have seen that same spirit rising these past few years. Folks of every age and background who packed city centers and airports and rural roads so that families wouldn't be separated so that another classroom wouldn't get shot up, so that our kids won't grow up on an uninhabitable planet.
Americans of all races joining together to declare in the face of injustice and brutality at the hands of the state. That black lives matter no more, but no less, so that no child in this country feels the continuing sting of racism.
To the young people who led us this summer telling us we need to be better. In so many ways, you are this country's dreams fulfilled. Earlier generations had to be persuaded that everyone has equal worth for you, it's a given a conviction. And I want you to know if it for all its messiness and frustrations, your system of self-government can be harnessed to help you realize those convictions for all of us.
You give our democracy new meaning, you can take it to a better place. You're the missing ingredient. The ones who will decide whether or not America becomes the country that fully lives up to its creed. That work will continue long after this election. But any chance of success depends entirely on the outcome of this election. This administration has shown it will tear our democracy down if that's what it takes for them to win.
So we have to get busy building it up by pouring all our efforts into these seventy six days and by voting like never before for Joe and Carmela and candidates up and down the ticket so that we leave no doubt about what this country that we love stands for. Today and for all our days to come. Stay safe. God bless. There was a time when your important personal information was only in a few places like your wallet, your computer or a safe deposit box.
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Hi, I'm Chuck Rosenberg. This season on my podcast, The Theos, I spoke with ten remarkable public servants, men and women who sacrificed for the common good, who do things that are hard, like former National Security Council official Fiona Hill. We can have a serious discussion about where we want the relationship with Russia to go, but we have to stop using Russia as part of our domestic politics. Civil rights activist Maya Wiley. When police officers are not protected, when they tell the truth, that creates a culture of silence that makes them accessories.
And Flight 15 49 pilot Captain Sully Sullenberger to know that we had been in the cockpit of that airliner over Manhattan at that low in altitude when we had lost thrust on both engines with so few options. It was just astonishing.
Catch up on season three of the Earth with all 10 episodes now available, Search for the Earth, wherever you are listening right now to subscribe and hear all 10 episodes for free. Brian Williams here with you for the rest of the way, but we want to begin with what we have just witnessed with our friends, Rachel Maddow, Nicole Wallace, Joy Reid, who remain with us and watching from our New York studios. Rachel, I want to get your thoughts on tonight and what we have just witnessed.
And I'm tempted to say you think you know somebody and I don't mean us in the business. I mean us as American consumers and citizens who had a good number of Barack Obama speeches to watch over eight years of his presidency. You think you know somebody. And then tonight, someone and something altogether different. Yeah.
And actually, I would apply that analysis, Brian, to both of the culminating speeches tonight, both to President Obama's speech and to Senator Harris. Senator Hatch, Senator Harris has been a I'm from the part of California that she's from. She's been a public figure to me for a very long time. I've paid very close attention to her as a potential presidential candidate. I really thought she was going to win the Democratic presidential primary this year. I was completely wrong.
She didn't even make it to Iowa before she before she dropped out and ended up endorsing Biden. But I felt like I knew her before I saw her give this speech tonight. And this was different. Kamala Harris, this was more like what she is like in person. If you have the opportunity to meet her off camera, that warmth and that personal willingness to show you who she is and to talk about things that matter to her in a way that, you know, can soften your heart a little bit.
And I think of her as a politician, as a public figure, as being kind of nails, as being really tough. It's part of the reason that I've always thought she'd be an excellent general election candidate against Donald Trump or any Republican. But tonight, for her to do so much biography, so much talking about her mother is the most important person in her life, just the part where she said, you know, I'm thinking about that. Twenty five year old Indian woman, all five feet tall, who gave birth to me at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland, California, to turn to that.
My mother taught me the service to others gives life purpose and meaning. That's a side of Kamala Harris that is very accessible, I think, and warm and kind of loving in a way that I think she's been so tough as a public figure. She hasn't shown much of that. So that to me, it was a surprise. President Obama's speech tonight slayed me. I'm sure people have different opinions about it is a different kind of thing from him.
But his warnings that we could potentially be at the end of American democracy scared me. And I found upsetting and hard to watch, but just powerful, powerful stuff. Yeah, absolutely.
No, I first of all, just like to cosign everything that that Rachel Maddow just said, because I agree, you know, to go to President Obama for just a moment. I was lucky enough with E.J. Dionne to write a book about Obama's speeches. Right. So President Obama can be a poet. There's a kind of speech he gives, particularly his eulogies that are all poetry and that take you through these emotional chords of American history. He's a writer, so he speaks like a writer.
And he participated in writing his speeches, which is unusual for a politician. And so he and he has this very poetic and very almost dramatic sort of sense. That was not the kind of speech he gave tonight. This was this was President Obama saying, I sat in that office and I want you to listen to me because I'm warning you, because I know it from inside the job, that there's a danger here.
This was the speech that Obama has given throughout all the speeches I've read or watched that absolutely did feel like the most of warning. And I think it was warning about the potential end of America. And I mean, that seems dramatic when people say it and people throw around. We have won four more years of trump. The country will end. But there is a fundamental sense that if you break every institution that made it possible for there to be a Barack Obama, it will end.
You will be another thing. So I think his speech was important that it was one of the most important speeches I've ever heard him give on Kamala Harris. Again, I will agree with Rachel Maddow. She is extremely nice. Right. And so I think that the hard charging, tough person that we're used to seeing Bill Barr and make him seem that he's about to need a depends is the kind of person that we're used to. But she's also capable of just being this.
And her story about her mom is so poignant. It to me personally, I also lost my mom to cancer. So that's the part of which I really need a Kleenex because, you know, losing your mom and not having a mom with you during these big moments in your life when you're achieving big things is is so personal that for a politician to explain that and to share that with the public, it's something Barack Obama also understands and dealt with. And I think the pain that politicians bring to the table is what makes them empathetic and makes them real.
Joe Biden obviously has exactly the same ability to to channel that.
And she did that tonight, and not only she's fiery in her speeches, but tonight she was really lovely and loving and I think that was important. I also want to shout out the Elizabeth Warren speech, and I will give the total credit to Rachel, who noticed the BLM in the background with a little blocks, a little blogsite that Black Lives Matter gave me a little bit of life. Love that. And Gabby Giffords.
I think that the Gabby Giffords thing was incredible, the Gabby Giffords and a lot of emotion there. And obviously, this was the all star team of Democratic women, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Gabby Giffords. You know, it was it was an all star presentation. And I think it was one of the best prosecutions of a sitting president that I've really ever seen.
Brian, let me jump in on the Obama speech first, because I actually think that that these speeches went together in an interesting way. And I think that President Obama, doing what he did, allowed Senator Harris to do what she did. And I think that kind of coordination is not often executed the way it's been executed this week. Let me say this about Obama.
I have a hunch that every living former president would speak from the same deep well of despair. Obama's speech shook me because of his despair laid bare. And if you had been the president, you probably feel you probably have a well, a fury that started the first day of the transition when Donald Trump and his son tried to set up a back channel to Russia to go around the intelligence community. By the way, they're a bunch of stars at the CIA from members of the intelligence community that died protecting this country's national security.
First thing that Trump did when he won was to liken them to Nazis. So we cannot fathom the fury and the despair in the rage that every former living president has to go out on a limb and say that that wants to feel. When I watch Donald Trump and I've not seen any living president tapped that well of despair and be vulnerable enough to share it with the country. But that is my theory of the case of what President Obama did tonight and the gift it gave Senator Harris.
The vice presidential campaign exists in three acts. The first is the announcement speech. The second is the convention speech, and the third is the vice presidential debate by Obama doing what he did and being that vulnerable and sharing that urgent call to action. And I would guess he wrestled with whether or not to do that she was allowed to do. And I don't see I see her attacks as really nice. I think the reason she is before is because she does it with this velvet hammer.
So so I didn't see her as sort of putting aside the fierceness to be nice. I think she is always all things. And I don't think that any woman should ever again have had to compartmentalize any part of herself. And I think the gift of her candidacy is that she doesn't. But I think that by Obama doing what he did at nine o'clock, at ten, 30, she could do what she did, which was tell her story. And I'm from the Bay Area, too.
And I've grown up knowing her and watching her and watching all the women around her. So to see all of them there, it just let her tell that part of her story. But I think that this convention storytelling is second to none. I actually think that the stories they have told have built this drama that is Hollywood like in its tension, in its despair and its pain. I mean, to make the pain that we have all felt. If you love this country, to watch what Donald Trump has done to it has been searing, it has been gutting.
And to make that part of the case to the country is risky. And we won't know until Election Day if it works. But it is big and it is painful and it is raw. And and I just think that this Obama speech was one for the ages and let everybody else kind of go out and do what they have to do to tell the Biden story. But I think it's something we'll be talking about for a really long time. Brian.
Brian, are we allowed to your point? Excuse me, Brian.
Oh, I was just going to say before we we delve back into what we witnessed historians and we all read them and we all are lucky to be living in a time of great historians, love presidents and precedent. And think about a time where no prior presidents support the incumbent. And Nicole, think about next week's convention. The living, surviving former Republican president will not set foot virtually or no in that convention. This is an extraordinary night for those reasons.
Well, Brian, so take that and put that exact frame around former living generals, except maybe Flynn, right? I mean, you've got Mattis, who was who is a great and revered general who came out after Lafayette Square and likened Donald Trump tactics and his penchant for division to the Nazis. I mean. That's not just a general that won't stand with him as he stands for reelection, but someone who has called the president, he served similar in his tactics to the Nazis.
You've got John Kelly, who I think call him an idiot. You've got Rex Tillerson, who was his secretary of state, who called him a bleeping moron, the people. And for those of us who cover it, this is instructive because the Trump team rules by intimidation and fear. They're tweeting out deranged people.
This was his cabinet. His national security officials drew these conclusions and there's only one president at a time. So President Obama, former Presidents Bush didn't see him up close, but Rex Tillerson did. John Kelly did. Secretary Mattis did. And those are the conclusions they drew. I think it is a moment of choosing for this country. I think that's what President Obama came out and said tonight. And again, none of us knows what the country will choose.
But I do think that Senator Harris and Vice President Biden deprive Donald Trump of all of his ammunition from four years ago. They're not elites. I mean, Donald Trump ran is this sort of common man, but he isn't. He has gold toilets. Joe Biden was nominated by so many men in an elevator on the way to an ED board meeting that didn't endorse him. I mean, Joe Biden is sort of taking all the Trumpy stuff away from Trump.
And I think Senator Harris helps make that case. I think President Obama helped tell the story of why it matters so much.
President Obama's not emotion, but his kind of it was a little bit of rage.
I mean, he's not I mean, we all know that there has to be a Saturday Night Live character created to be Rachel Obama. Right. He doesn't show that sort of thing.
But when he showed some of his anger, I'm actually I had I had told the control room that I wanted to play number six, which I'm going to change my mind about, actually. Sorry, because I'm that terrible person. But the person can we play number three? That was Obama just because this is so at this point, he has made the argument that our democracy is at stake. He has talked about how a democracy wither's until it is no democracy at all, when people are talked out of the idea that our system of self-government is what we can't do to solve whatever problems that we have.
But there is this moment where you see Obama like kind of having a real himself back in in terms of how serious he thinks this is and what we have to do about it.
Let's watch. What we do echoes through generations. Whatever our backgrounds, we are, all the children of Americans who fought the good fight, great grandparents working in firetraps, in sweatshops without rights or representation, farmers losing their dreams to dust. Irish and Italians and Asians and Latinos told go back where you come from. Jews and Catholics, Muslims and Sikhs made to feel suspect for the way they worshipped. Black Americans chained and whipped and hanged, spit on for trying to sit at lunch counters, beaten for trying to vote.
If anyone had a right to believe that this democracy did not work and could not work, it was those Americans, our ancestors.
That is an uncommon Barack Obama right there, and it's not even the way you normally talk about American history, right? He normally talks about the reconciling nature of our history and the ways in which we've been able to repair. And he's he's very much about that. And he is an institutionalist. He really does deeply believe in the reparative power of America, of America. This was I was going to pick the exact same one because this was Barack Obama saying this isn't even the most savage our history has been.
And I'm going to explain to you how savage it has been. And those people believe that democracy that's was the solution to our problems we have. And now we're going to be the ones to have democracy. That's right. It's just like if we lose America right after they manage to get through all of that and save it and build into what it is now, then we have to. We have to. And it's funny because commonly here is kind of ends with the same kind of flourish where she says one day people are going to look back.
That's exactly right. And they're going to ask us, what was it like? What did you do? And you don't let yourself be caught saying I did nothing because you only have to vote. And it's risky now because covid is there and voter suppression is real. And the fight against democracy, I've never seen anything like it. I say it all the time. My father is rolling in his grave. He was a Reaganite. He would never recognize what the Republican Party is now because it is in many ways an insurgency against America.
It's an insurgency against every value that Republicans use to claim that they held dear. They're fighting. They're not just fighting Barack Obama. They're fighting us. They're fighting voters, the postal service. They're fighting every institution to break it so they can keep power. Both Compris and Barack Obama in very different ways, made that mess.
And for for Obama to have made that pointed case against what's happening with Trump ism and what's at risk with Trump ism and for Harris to be left, Nicole, as you point out, to to say they will ask us what was it like? And we will tell them we will tell them not just how we felt. We will tell them what we did. She didn't have to prosecute the case against Trump tonight. She got to introduce herself tonight. She got she said, I know what a predator looks like, pointed paws.
We all right? Right. But at that point, she's she she steps up to the point of talking about Trump, walks away from it and is able to get back to. It's nice to meet you, America. Here's how we're going to help. And that's a that's a powerful, emotional sort of way to bring us back from the brink that I think President Obama brought a lot of people to tonight by speaking so starkly. Hey, everyone, it's mainly MSNBC correspondent and host of the podcast Into America, the presidential election is less than three months away.
So this week on Into America, we're looking at some of the biggest factors at play as Americans get ready to vote. Black women are one of the most important voting blocs for the Democratic Party, but they face decades of exclusion at the polls. This week marks 100 years since the ratification of the 19th Amendment. So we're looking at the role of black women in the suffrage movement then and now. Plus, we'll dive into some of the more subversive forces influencing voters like Kuhnen, a pro Trump conspiracy theory that is gaining influence in this pandemic.
And as the Democratic National Convention rolls out, virtually. We'll talk about what the DNC signals about the party strategy for November. I hope you'll join us for these conversations.
New episodes drop every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Search for into America wherever you're listening right now and subscribe.