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tv   The Mehdi Hasan Show  MSNBC  July 19, 2021 1:00am-2:00am PDT

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i am deeply, deeply sorry. and it's biden versus facebook. the president says the social media platform is killing people so what does facebook have to say for itself. and historic protests in cuba.hi how should the united states stopped? u i'll speak to bob rhodes, the former obama official who helpek normalize relations with havanaa good evening.
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i'm mehdi hasan. the fate of hundreds of thousands of people in this country could be decided by just two people that almost nobody has ever heard of. oh, yeah, and that actually nobody elected. meet andrew hanan. he's flown under the radar as a federal judge on the texas-mexico border after his appointment by president george w. bush.re though he's been one of the mose partisan conservatives as "slate "magazine described him last year, but he was catapulted to national attention when he claimed daca, the obama-era program protecting undocumented kids brought to this country as kids as unlawful. it doesn't affect the 600,000 dreamers in the country but puts an immediate halt to accept new applicants to the program or grant the protections to the people that applying for the program. the democrats have a solution. they could pass immigration e te reform through budget
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reconciliation, which only needs a 51-vote majority, and they even have the support of joe manchin. oh, wait, there's someone else i need to introduce you to. meet elizabeth mcdonagh, a th former immigration lawyer who has served as a little known but at times hugely power official in the united states senate because the only way a permanenh fix to the dreamers' problem is going to happen by skirting the filibuster, by reconciliation, is if the senate parliamentarian elizabeth mcdonagh allows it to happen. if she says it can go into the budget reconciliation package, then it can happen. it's her call. now, there's a soiled argument to be made that it belongs in the bill because when you regularize immigrants, they pay more taxes and, therefore, it's a budget issue, but no one really knows how the parliamentarian is likely to route. you'll recall in february she ruled against including a federal $15 minimum wage in the covid relief bill.a remee.ag of course, if chuck schumer, majority leader, doesn't like
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her ruling, he could always fire her. that's what then senate majority leader trent lott did when he got in the way of the bush tax cut. anybody believe that demes are going to do that? what happens if the senate tries to tackle immigration reform, something they tried and failed to do so before. george w. bush was in his second term in office and had bipartisan support in congress and yet a coalition never ns seemed, to well, coalesce and then the obama administration tried to revive the issue, but his tough actions at the border failed to mobilize activists, and bush and obama saw their efforts shot down by the good old filibuster. for two decades political leaders in d.c. have been stepping on rakes when they s wanted to provide a permanent pathway to citizenship for undocumented children raised ino the united states to adulthood, despite it being hugely popular even with republican voters.
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so if joe biden and chuck schumer can pull this off, it will be huge, huge, and if this plan doesn't work and the filibuster wasn't again stands in the way, is that it? do the democrats especially senate democrats really plan to go into the 2022 mid terms next year saying to the american people we wanted to give you immigration reform and we wanted to give you a $15 minimum wage but the parliamentarian wouldn't let us. we wanted to protect your voting rights and we wanted to protect our climate, but the filibuster wouldn't let us. really? t cave wt ouplan?te because that way lies certain defeat. who better to talk about this with than california senator alex padilla, the son of immigrants and chair of the senate judiciary subcommittee on immigration. senator, good evening. welcome to the show. your part of the strategy to get immigration into the reconciliation package, what exactly would you like to see in there, and how exactly
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do you expect to get it past the parliamentarian? >> good to be back with you, mehdi, and timely, of course, to given the judge in texas' ruling just a couple of days ago. and let me just address that first. for any dreamers that are tuned in today or friends of dreamers tuning in, this is not end of the road. the department of justice has already announced they will ea appeal and so the backup program is remaining in place. this is not the death knell for daca, but it is the most recent reminder of why we need congress to act sooner rather than later. you know, just to kind of summarize what we're trying to do this, calendar year alone, 2021, which started the year al with some optimism and some hope in the beginning of a bipartisan process and trying to work democrats and republicans to achieve reform because as you mentioned, daca is supported by republican and democratic voters across the country. republicans in the senate, a different question. so not putting all of our eggs
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in one basket, we have been pursuing this reconciliation project, chi i'm guardedly optimistic about if we're able to achieve not just a security and a pathway for dreamers, but for essential workers throughy the reconciliation process, it's not unprecedented n.2005 when republicans were in the majority, they used the very same reconciliation process to change immigration policy as it pertained to visas so we have a precedent. il >> senator, if the parliamentarian comes out against this, is your party just going to roll over and accept that like your party accepted her blocking of the minimum wage increase earlier this year?yo at what point do democrats say, you know what, we're elected, you're not. like trent lott and the republicans did to the parliamentarians in 2001, if you want another president. >> you have a whole lot of issues. you have immigration reform, climate change, and so much more that is an existential threat. so everything is on the table to be able to get things done, with
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or without the parliamentarian. it may take a vote on whether it's the dream act or essential workers or maybe comprehensive immigration package on the floor of the senate so that the public clearly knows which party is for immigration reform, immigrants that are contributing to this nation and those who are not. heard a lot from our republican colleagues who support dreamers and they are full of excuses and can't bring themselves to img support commonsense reforms that are long overdue.or >> you're going to atlanta tomorrow for a rules committee field hearing on the need to go pass voting rights protection. last week the president gave his big speech in philly on voting rights. it was a great speech in terms of laying out the argument and threat and the historic moment we're in, but where was the plan to get the for the people act passed? i didn't hear one.
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the president doesn't seem to have one. do you? >> once again, if -- whether it's elimination of the filibuster or at a minimum an ai exemption or carve-out, whatever terminology you prefer to the filibuster for the sake of securing our democracy, this is critical.n this is critical, and the public has a role here, which is why we're going to georgia. in many ways it's like the only exhibit a for why we need the for the people act, but the audacity and cruelty of some of the changes to election laws in georgia is what we're trying to highlight and uplift as a strategy to not just continue to raise the attention of the general public, but to apply pressure on our colleagues.bu the last time we were at a critical moment, remember, we didn't even have the support of joe manchin for the for the people act. whether it's for the policy, moving republicans or some of my democratic colleagues reforming the filibuster, we're trying to create that opening to get this done.
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>> but the carveout, the filibuster carveout, this is a good idea, your colleague, joe manchin, said, no carveout, not even willing to agree. and his friend, senator sinema, for obstructionist when it comes to the filibuster posted a treat commemorating the late civil rights icon john lewis whose death was one week ago and reverend barber, anti-poverty act have called out her hypocrisy when she's blocking his life's work because she supports a filibuster which wouldn't let it through. at what point do you and your e colleagues say to sinema and manchin we give up or you must budge? s i feel like i've asked numerous democratic senators on the show over the last few months, when does this end? >> i'll tell you this much. we will never say i give up or we give up. we cannot give up, and so we
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will continue to press. the more we push, push, push, it does generate movent in. a couple weeks ago joe manchin said he was publicly against for the people act but pressure and cajoling and conversation got him to engage. he asked for a few small measures and got to a yes position. all 50 democrats voted to debate and discuss the for the people act, not the 60 that were needec to overcome the filibuster but the more we continue the more we continue the momentum and shift in opinion not just amongst thei general public but our colleagues to either advance the policy or reform the filibusterl >> okay. i'm glad that you've been so outspoken on the filibuster. doesn't seem if manchin and sim sinema are listening. and joe manchin isn't just opposed to getting ridn' of the filibuster and not r keen on dealing with climate change on carbon emissions in this reconciliation debate.
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you're in a state that's on fire and what's your response to seeing your fellow democratic senator joe manchin on a fund-raising tour in texas taking smiling pick taurus with republican oil and gas donors? >> yeah. ias again, california is not just literally and figuratively on fire,fi but california has led e way in terms of policy and not just ideas. california's shift to renewable energy has proven that, yes, it can work. you can create good-paying jobs along the way, and it serves as a model for us to build on for a national plan and that's what the debates and discussions are all about, and with all due respect to my colleague senator manchin. he was a key player in putting together the bipartisan
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infrastructure package. we knew -- most of us knew that that wasn't going to be enough, and as a member of the budget committee for, you know, days and days and hours on end, literally chuck schumer with my right and bernie sanders to the left and other colleagues around the table to come forward that $3.5 trillion package that meets the moment from a climate change standpoint plus from a child care standpoint and from a kthastee rs mthe grid la the ioa om a a standpoint, you know, for so many other areas. we'll have the support of all 50 democrats in short order. >> okay. i do hope so.ats one last question before i let you go, senator. as democrats are doing things in congress like trying to get immigration reform and voting rights and climate change actioc republicans like matt gaetz ands marjorie taylor greene are continuing their road show, protesting and counterprotesting outside their event in riverside in your state of california. yesterday it led to a confrontation. we saw it all over social media. you have these america first far right gop members of congress riling up people, provoking scenes like that far from their own homes and then you have senate democrats often extolling the virtues of working with hegd republicans, of bipartisanship. i wonder, senator, do you see how weird that looks to a lot of americans, the disconnect?th
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is your party in denial about what the gop has become? >> yeah. look. there's that -- completely inconsistent. let me be clear about this. clearly trump is gone. he's no longer in the white um house, but trumpism is still alive and well, whether you see it in the hallways of congress, in the house and senate chambers or in events like you just pointed now the riverside this weekend. it is taking its toll, its impact on the policy-making process. in congress, most of the american public would ideally ic like to see bipartisan agreement on good policy, and we've got to try. the difference is we can't wait, wait, wait for republicans to come around. so we give it a good-faith effort, and if they are not going to participate and reciprocate, we have to move forward even if it means abolishing the filibuster and doing for the nation what we know needs to be done.
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>> senator alex padilla, democrat of california, appreciate your time and your insights tonight. coming up, a special kind of stupid requires a special kind of attention, especially if it's a law that can kill you.ia like making it illegal to si uid discriminate on the basis of vaccine status. stick around for my 60-second i rant.nd plus, facebook says facebook is killing people. hey, we're not. that's next. not that's next. nate odors... simply shake and spray to unlock the breakthrough power of touch-activated scent technology. that lasts, even hours later! that's because febreze touch stores scent in your fabrics so you get bursts of freshness with every touch. your whole world will come alive. welcome home to fresh with new febreze touch.
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i'm told on misinformation, what's your message to platforms like facebook? >> they're killing people. i mean, they're really -- look, the only pandemic is among the unvaccinated, and they're killing people.
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>> an astonishing claim from the president about one of america's biggest companies that they are killing people. his comments just the latest in the war of words between the social media giant and the white house. on thursday press secretary jen psaki referenced a report that found 12 accounts on facebook were responsible for 65% of vaccine misinformation on social media. following biden's remarks, facebook hit back, blasting the administration claiming their site had done a better job than biden had on vaccinations. in a statement, the company's v.p. of integrity -- yeah, this is a job title there -- said 2 billion people use facebook to view trusted information about the science behind the vaccine, okay? great. so just for context and just to compare, how many people viewed vaccine misinformation on facebook? surprisingly mark zuckerberg and
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co won't tell us that begging the question what does facebook have to hide? joining me now is charlie wassel, a technology writer for buzzfeed and "the new york times," and is now editor-in-chief of the newsletter "galaxy brain." charlie, thanks so much for coming on the show. in that statement facebook laid how the how they combat covid-19 misinformation claiming to have removed 18 million instances of misinfo and reduced the visibility of 167 million pieces of debunked covid-19 content and yet vaccine misinformation still continues to spread. a poll found 67% of unvaccinated adults have heard at least one myth about the covid-19 vaccine and either believe it to be true or are not sure. are these moves by facebook enough in your view, charlie? >> well, no, absolutely not, and i think as many people pointed out in the past couple of days, we're seeing a classic example of facebook using part of the information they have, the good part to obscure the other part. someone said using the ename denominator to bscure it, and i
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think that's a good way of pitting it. this is a problem with facebook and its size. this is what we're talking about is its size, right. obviously facebook is going to be one of the prime vectors of covid-19 vaccine misinformation and it is information. it's also probably going to be one of the, you know, one of the places where most people can go and find, know, a vaccine information that is good. facebook is huge and that's part of the problem and anything that they do that is, you know, good for society has this outside alternate benefit, you know, negative consequence rather for society. >> yeah. facebook saying, well, you know, look at canada. we have -- we have a huge presence in canada. they don't have the same resistance to vaccines. maybe facebook users in the u.s. are a little bit dumber elsewhere, why. but let me ask you about the political reality here. we have a president who has never been a fan of facebook, quite to the contrast to the previous administration. donald trump had mark zuckerberg over for meals at the white house, and even kamala harris has been very close to silicon valley back in her california
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political days, but joe biden hasn't been. how bad is this current conflict between the administration and facebook politically? >> i think politically it's quite bad. when i interviewed joe biden with the "new york times" editorial board in january of 2020, he came out very forcefully and basically cited that he didn't like mark zuckerberg as a person. there's a real animosity there that i think is -- is quite profound, and this is clearly a move to put a bunch of pressure on the company, but i do just want to say that this is maybe, you know, not the most exciting point, but there's a real flattening of this conversation where we say is facebook killing people? is facebook saving people? and the truth is really complex. again, i guess i want to keep harping on facebook's size and
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opacity and the fact that we don't know a lot about this company. there's so much data that they need to, you know, share with people about how information travels, recommendation algorithms and systems that researchers need to see this stuff so they can be held accountable and we can assess light and harm. >> so let me ask you about what's happening on this channel in an hour, in the next hour. joshua johnson will be silting down with the authors of the new bombshell book of what's been going on behind the scenes of facebook called "the ugly truth" and the book says facebook experts were so alarmed about posts from domestic extremists in the run up to the capitol riots that some urged zuckerberg to call trump to find out what he was going to say on the rally on january 6th. they cited concerns that that would leak to the press and that would make flock complicit with facebook denying that those conversations took place. facebook is denying the power that they have and don't seem to put the country or business above their own algorithms whether it's the threat from covid or white supremacy or russian interference, whatever. >> yeah, i'm still making my way
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through that book, but what i noticed in that rorgt, which is fantastic, as well as covering facebook for so long is this struggle. you have plenty of well-intentioned wonderful people inside the company, but at the end of the day this company has its own directives. it has -- you know, the system puts pressure on all the employees there. it sort of works them and it turns them, you know, to do things based off of, you know, driving the bottom line in scale and growth and i think what it really is it's just an absolute failure of leadership from the top and a group of people who fundamentally believe that facebook's growth and success is more important than anything else or any other fallout from that. >> yeah, and they can make it all up by mark zuckerberg cooling on the water on the fourth of july. that image will stay in my mind for a long time charlie, thank you so much for your insights as ever.
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the unvaccinated as civil rights heroes? what? next, republicans are trying to use civil rights laws to push their anti-vaxxer agenda, and i'll be responding. but first here's richard lui with today's headlines. hey, mehdi. three people were shot outside a washington national game saturday night. up was a bystander attending the game and is expected to be all right. this is the fourth shooting this weekend. u.s. tennis player coco gauff tested positive for covid-19. the world's 25th ranked player will no longer participate in the olympics. golf expressed her disappointment and wished the team good luck at the games. and martin moise, the widow of the country's president, returned to the country for her husband's funeral. she was treated in miami after the july 7th attack that injured her and killed her husband at their private residence. more on "the mehdi hasan show" right after this break. right after this break
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welcome back. it's time now for what i'm calling the 60-second raft. start the clock. axios reported last week state republican lawmakers around the country with pushing bills, at least one of which has become laws giving unvaccinated people the same protections os those surrounding race, gender, and religion, for example. hotels and groceries stores in montana are prohibited to withhold goods from people who are not vaccinated. experts saying this is a civil rights expert and republicans are using civil rights laws to push their anti-vaxxer agenda. are you kidding me? have we forgotten what the civil rights movement was all about, harriet tubman and rosa parks fighting civil rights and john lewis having his skull cracked with a billy club crossing the bridge, and martin luther king and harvey milk.
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and a bunch of largely privileged predominantly white conservative anti-science republicans refusing to get vaccinated and refusing to accept any consequences into isn't a civil rights issue. it's an issue of recklessness, of selfishness and of sheer, sheer idiocy. it's monday in the uk, where they're set to celebrate the lifting of nearly all covid restrictions. there's just one problem. covid cases are rising again, including within the british government. we'll speak to a scientist who sounded the alarm. that's next.
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is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated, but it's not just the united states facing a worrying upward trend. in england where the clock struck midnight just an hour ago it's officially what conservatives have dubbed freedom day with all government covid restrictions now lifted, and how better for the prime minister boris johnson celebrate than by going into self-isolation. why, you might ask? well, because the newly installed health secretary there has been infected with a breakthrough case of covid-19 and he had met with the prime minister. oh, the irony. look, this is an issue that extends far beyond downing street in england. take a look at the latest numbers out of the uk, today recording 48,000 new cases of covid-19 with 25 deaths. despite that, the government says it's full steam ahead. in fact, they say they think they will hit 100,000 daily cases or more in the coming weeks, but the johnson government remains defiant. it's our price worth paying for freedom. the only issue is it's not just
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their problem as a group of more than 100 scientists wrote in the medical journal "lancet" saying allowing the virus to spread and mutate is a danger to the entirety of the world. joining me is the director of the clinical operational research unit at university college london. thanks so much for coming on the show tonight. i want to start by asking you a very simple question. should england be lifting all its covid restrictions all at once as it is right now? >> no, i mean, absolutely not. it goes against every public health principle to relax controls just as, you know, you're nearing the peak of another wave. it's just crazy. >> and as i mentioned, the health secretary says that the country will reach probably 100,000 case as a day this summer, and, you know, oh, well, that's just life seems to be the
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altitude even though one leading scientific says it could be as high at 200 cases a kay. any infection comes with the possibility of what we call long covid. an estimated 1 million people, including 33,000 children live with long-term covid with 35,800 people having symptoms for more than a year. i wonder is this whole debate missing something important, given the idea if you don't go to the hospital and don't die, you're fine. that's just not true, is it? >> yeah. and the problem is no one's measuring it. it's nod on the mathematical daysboard or modeling, and people say deaths are lower and hospitalizations are lower, and they are now going up in uk, and this affects young people and children, and there's no treatment. we might have another -- it's a massive new chronic disease for which we don't have a treatment. >> it's a ticking time bomb as all these case up. a top executive at the world health organization say the strategy in the uk, moral
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empty necessary and each epidemiological stupidity. while it group of more than 1,200 in the lancet sent a pretty clear message but nobody is listening on downing street. what's the message for not just the uk but for the rest world? >> for the rest of the world, i think the worst case is a new variant, and as you say, international scientists have been raising the alarm internally here. a group of eminent virologists wrote to downing street last week saying you're creating a condition where a new variant is likely to rise by having incredibly high infections in a
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semi-vaccinated population. so if you get a variant that resists the vaccine, it will spread. and we've seen that with delta, and it could happen with a new variant. because the uk is a travel hub, any variant that comes here will spread globally and we saw in january to march and we cannot risk it. we have a global responsibility. of. >> i mean, given the uk and the bores johnson gave the world the alpha variant what you're saying is we could get the variant out of uk, which is the first variant in the world that defies the vaccine, what has been working against all the variants, including the delta variant out of india. let me ask you about the breadth of opposition in the uk, internationally given that the government has implemented much stricter guide loins, stricter than what we've even seen in the united states why is bores the boris johnson government doing this now in the defiance
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of commonsense? is it just pure reckless politics? >> i think part of it is ideology. there seems to be an idea that the government wouldn't be able to get through parliament with prolonged restriction as enough of their own mps rebel. certainly the science is not behind them on this, and i find it just inexplicable, irresponsible, frightening. i think -- i think -- i think they will have to change their minds. i think everyone expects it to get to at least 100,000, and it could nearly double that. and then we're actually back in a situation where hospitals are overwhelmed. we've got 5% of our population is clinically extremely vulnerable, that's new. almost 4 million people. they have been told to stay at home and not mix with anybody. that's not feasible to do. people have jobs and have kids. you just have thrown them under the bus.
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>> i fear this is going to end in tears. i hope it doesn't. thank you so much for your insight tonight. appreciate it. why is it whenever there's trouble in latin america, the answer in washington is always pay, more military intervention. it's time for a little walk down memory lane. up next, the grim history of u.s. interventions in cuba and haiti. and haiti. americans who experience occasional bloating, gas or abdominal discomfort? taking align every day can help. align contains a quality probiotic developed by gastroenterologists. it adds more good bacteria to your gut to naturally help soothe your occasional bloating, gas and abdominal discomfort. support your digestive health with align, the #1 doctor recommended probiotic. try align today. and try new align fast acting biotic gummies. helps soothe occasional digestive upsets in as little as 7 days.
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there is a growing acknowledgement these days that the teaching of american history and especially black history here at home has been bad, incomplete, whitewashed, but our knowledge and understanding of america's history on the national stage and especially with our neighbors to the south is even worse. take haiti now in crisis again after the president was assassinated in his home earlier this month. "the washington post" editorial
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board reacted by calling for a swift and muscular international intervention in haiti led, of course, by the united states military. no mention of the fact that haiti's first elected president; jean bertrand aristide was toppled in a coup orchestrated by haitian offices, some by the payroll, or he was overthrown again in a second 2004 coup whose instigators were supported by elements of the george w. bush administration. though haiti was militarily invaded and occupied by the united states between neon 15 and 1934. take cuba, in an appearance on fox news to discuss the growing protests there, republican mayor of miami frances suarez says u.s. air strikes against cuba is an option that have to be explored and cannot simply be discarded. sorry, what? it's almost as if the cia did not try to assassinate fidel castro more than 600 times, as if the bay of pigs never happened, and if the united states hasn't spent much of the
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past decade on an island of 11 million people, a policy millions of people are against. the united nations general assembly voted to end the u.s. embargo on cuba. only two countries voted to keep it, the united states and israel. our record across the rest of the world isn't better. sill bombing in iraq and syria and post-war libya remains a mess yet there are people seriously suggesting we send troops to haiti. we launch air strikes in cuba. have they lost their winds and if they have lost their memory those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. next, historic protest in cuba broke out against the government this week. president obama's former national security adviser ben rhodes is here. stay with us. but eventually, with spring comes rebirth.
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everything begins anew. and many of us realize a fundamental human need to connect with other like-minded people. welcome back to the world. viking. exploring the world in comfort... once again.
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calvin coolidge in 1928. everything was reopening. the u.s. embargo was being relaxed, and then along came donald j. trump. he targeted cuba with a raft of policies. all but reversing the obama era policies. and these moves have helped cripple the country and its economy. paired with surging cases of covid-19, cuba is now in serious economic turmoil. to be clear, much of that turmoil has also been caused by the dictatorial regime in havana. in just the last week, we've seen protests, government supporters taking to the streets, though, it's difficult to tell what's driving different groups of people in that country. what's the new democratic president of the united states to do? especially as he's being pressured by the hawks in both d.c. and miami. who better to ask than the architect of the obama outreach, ben rhodes. he's the former deputy national
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security adviser for the white house. he visited cuba dozens of times as well as overseeing the secret talks in canada that led to the 2014 dealings. msnbc contributor, host of "pop saves the world", and author of kwf after the fall." ben, your resume is far too long. thank you for joining us today to talk about all of this. i want to start by asking you about some of the calls we're seeing for action. the miami mayor says the u.s. should consider air strikes. rubio says cuba will see a horrific bloodbath if biden does not take action. what is your reaction to all of that? >> it's absurd and counterproductive. it's a gift to the cuban nationalist party. we should be asking ourselves, we've been trying an embargo, we've been trying the total isolation and pressure on the communist party for more than 60
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years. and all it has led to is devastating humanitarian impacts, crushing poverty for the cuban people, and an entrenched cuban communist party. the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again. so if we think that continuing this hawkish hard-line policy towards cuba will do anything to help the cuban people or to advance the cause of human rights in cuba, we're refusing to learn the lessons from several decades of history. >> indeed, and that whole definition of insanity, doing the same thing again and again, expecting different results, it applies in cuba, it applies in iran, and so many places around the world where we just keep doing the same thing, regardless of the results. and, of course, ben, this isn't just an issue for the republican party, cuba. we've seen others going toe to toe with alexandria ocasio-cortez and ending its embargo on cuba. it is never acceptable for us to use cruelty. she responded saying it's the failed policies of a communist regime.
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it's violate human rights, killed dissidents. the u.s. must act. there's that whole "u.s. must act." i don't know about you, wherever i look, it seems to be some sort of divide where you're either someone who thinks the embargo is to blame for all of cuba's problems or the castro and the regime is to blame for cuba's problems. it can be true, can it not? >> it's even more than that. the embargo and the regime are symbiotic. what the embargo does, it cuts off this island of 11 million people from the rest of the world. it cuts them off from the economy, from sources of ideas and information and the cuban government, because of that isolation, therefore, has an easier time controlling things. when we opened up space just the last two years of the obama administration, a growing cuban
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private sector suddenly had resources pumped into it because it was connected to the gray of the cuban economy. the cuban people were suddenly connected to the americans who were traveling down there. we negotiated as part of the normalization deal with the cuban government not just the release of 53 political prisoners, but also increased internet access in cuba, increased wi-fi in cuba, entry for u.s. technology and social media platforms into cuba that became part of the way people in cuba were able to empower and connect one another. so this is totally absurd to suggest that somehow the only way to support the cuban people is through a completely stifling environment. >> ben, your critics would say that, look, engagement was fine, diplomacy was fine, but you guys went too far. is that you were way too chummy.
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we saw the obama/castro game that they watched together. some people would say that's not how you do diplomacy with dictators like the castros. what do you say to your critics? >> i would say this they were learning from the mistakes of 60 years. we were learning from what had not worked in america's cuba policy. this is an island of 11 million people that are 90 miles from florida. if you allow for travel, the internet, the people are going to be empowered. you talk about a lot of american politicians, talking about the cuban people want. there was public opinion research after the obama opening that found that 977% of the cuban people supported normalization. they desperately want that interaction with the united states. the people protesting, of course, want freedom and deserve greater access to the basic universal values. they're also hungry, mehdi. they want -- they need medicine, they need food and the united states is in part together with the policies of the cuban government, responsible for the dire circumstances. if we want to respond to the cuban people, we should actually listen to them.
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>> ben, you mentioned cuba's 90 miles off the coast of florida. this is a major political dilemma for the democrats right now. you've got val demings running for the senate against marco rubio. she can't win a place like florida unless she takes on cuba, and that's been a problem for the democrats. florida is a swing state where a bunch of conservative people on cuba insist on a hawkish policy on cuba and your party has to go along with it. >> mehdi, barack obama ran for president of the united states in 2008, promising to engage in direct diplomacy with cuba. he took steps to relax the embargo in his first term and opened things up in the second. the only democrat who has won florida in recent years is barack obama. he won florida twice. because he offered a real contrast. the way to defeat hard-line politics is not to be hard-line light. that suggests to the voters, if
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they want the real deal, why don't they vote for the hard liners here. the reality is if you look at the democratic party in 2016, hillary clinton ran on lifting the embargo. that's where we were at the end of the obama years. it's donald trump who invested a lot of time and a lot of effort and money into florida to shift things in a more hard-line direction. the reason you're offering that contrast is not because you support in any way the cuban communist party. it's because you want to help the cuban people. you want to improve their lives. and both improving their economic circumstances and advancing human rights in cuba will be far easier if we're engaged in -- we have diplomats on the ground. if we've got americans traveling down there. that's the way to promote positive change. >> well, i hope your former colleagues at the white house are listening to what you're saying tonight. it's different to what a lot of other democrats are saying on this issue. that's why we wanted you on the show tonight. always appreciate the conversation.
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thanks so much for being here. thank you all for watching at home. we'll be right back here next sunday at 8:00 p.m. eastern and catch me monday through thursday at 7:00 p.m. eastern on the choice on nbc streaming channel on peacock. there is a clear message that's coming through. this is becoming the pandemic of the unvaccinated. we're seeing parts of the country that have low unvaccinated coverage because people are at risk. and communities fully vaccinated are generally faring well. after weeks of decline, current infections are on the rise across the country iechlts being driven entirely almost by places with low vaccination rates. the question is could mask mandates come back even for vaccinated americans? plus, president biden's

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