updated 2/19/2009 12:02:44 PM ET 2009-02-19T17:02:44

Guest: Jeff Zeleny, Barney Frank, Sam Stein, Baratunde Thurston, Tom

Dicksinson, Ed Schultz, Jonathan Martin

High: President Obama is back home in Washington after spending the day in sunny Arizona at a high school in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, where he made his first sales pitch for a $75 billion housing plan and was greeted with a rock star‘s reception.

DAVID SHUSTER, HOST:  Hello, everybody.  I‘m David Shuster. 

And welcome to 1600.

President Obama is back home in Washington after spending the day in sunny Arizona at a high school in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, where he made his first sales pitch for a $75 billion housing plan and was greeted with a rock star‘s reception. 

Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States. 

(APPLAUSE)

BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Are you excited? 

Thank you.  Thank you. 

In Phoenix and in surrounding suburbs, the American dream is being tested.  Home values have fallen so sharply that even if you make a large down payment, the rent value of your mortgage may still be higher than the current value of your house.  You can‘t afford to leave, you can‘t afford to stay. 

Millions more who are in no danger of losing their homes but who have still seen their dreams in danger.  Their own homes, their single largest asset plummeting in value. 

The tax base shrinks, which means less money for schools and police. 

The plan I‘m announcing focuses on rescuing families who played by the rules and acted responsibly. 

By refinancing loans for millions of families in traditional mortgages who are under water or close to it, by modifying loans for families stuck in subprime mortgages, by taking broader steps to keep mortgage rates low. 

It will not help speculators.  It will not help dishonest lenders.  It will not reward folks who bought homes they knew from the beginning they would never be able to afford. 

This plan will not save every home. 

Individuals have to take responsibilities for their own actions.  That means all of us have to learn to live within our means again. 

Those are the values that have given substance to our faith in the American dream.  Those are the values we have to restore now, at this defining moment. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  A $75 billion plan.

And let‘s bring in Jeff Zeleny, White House correspondent for “The New York Times.”

And Jeff, why don‘t you outline the risks and rewards for what the president tried to do today. 

JEFF ZELENY, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  Well, David, I think it was striking that, A, the president was in Arizona to announce this, which is a state that Democrats have had their eyes on for a long time.  But he made it sound like that this was not a bailout. 

Of course, it is a bailout, but throughout the course of his speech, he was making it clear that, look, this is for average Americans who are in trouble.  Look, this is for people next door to you, next door to me, who have had trouble paying their mortgages. 

He was making this program sound as different as absolutely possible from all of the other bailouts that we‘ve been hearing about from Washington for the past several weeks.  So he was trying to sell this plan to the people who will need it, but also to the people who may wonder, why are we spending more money, why are we devoting more money to bail out of other people who maybe bought homes that were too expensive?  So, throughout the course of the speech, it was as geared to the people who will not need this money as to the people who will need it. 

SHUSTER:  And during his speech, he clearly hit several crucial themes

community, populism, and responsibility.  Explain why the issue of responsibility and getting that across is so important to this White House now. 

ZELENY:  I think responsibility is very important to this White House, beginning with the fact that, look, they‘ve been in office, as you‘ve said, a month, and they‘re spending already so much money, billions, hundreds of billions of dollars on bailouts, on stimulus plans, et cetera.  It was a message from the president to say, look, we are going to be as fiscally responsible as possible.  We are going to try and rein in spending.  We want you to be responsible, but we‘re here to help you out in the short term. 

This housing piece of this legislation, many of—many people have been waiting for it really for a long time.  We were hoping it was going to come last week.  So this week, when Congress is away, this was a way for President Obama to say, look, this is for everyone, but it‘s perhaps one of the last times we‘ll be coming to you with this message that the government is going to be spending billions and billions and dollars on a bailout. 

SHUSTER:  And yet, Jeff, I gather that the people in that building behind you, in the White House, are not certain that this is going to work. 

ZELENY:  It may not work.  I mean, look, one question that this did not resolve or answer today was the solvency of the banks.  I mean, this did not talk about the automotive industry. 

So this is one of many pieces, but homes are as personal of a thing as anything in this economic crisis.  So this is something that the president talked a lot about during the campaign.  And they‘re hoping that this at least gives people some comfort or, perhaps, a little bit of time to get their finances in order to keep their homes. 

SHUSTER:  “New York Times” correspondent Jeff Zeleny at the White House. 

Jeff, thanks for joining us.  We appreciate it. 

ZELENY:  David, thank you. 

SHUSTER:  Republicans are already coming out against the president‘s plan, and some of them say it could actually cause more foreclosures. 

Joining us now is Congressman Barney Frank, a Democrat from Massachusetts and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. 

Congressman, when the foreclosure plan looked like it would be about $50 billion, you said that was too small, it needed to be $100 billion.  Is the plan today enough? 

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  I believe it is.  These are areas where no one can be certain. 

We‘re in a very difficult period where things are unclear as to how they‘ll work out.  But I think the $75 billion should be.  If it isn‘t, we can always decide to do more.  We have the ability to make judgments. 

It is clear and has been clear there‘s a wide consensus here from economists that until you start reducing foreclosures, you can‘t begin—you‘re not going to get out of the economic hole.  The recovery plan was important, but the foreclosures have been at the center of this.  And look, this is one of the great differences between the Obama and Bush administrations. 

We should note, by the way, that the money that‘s being used here, there is no new money here.  This is all money and legal authority that was available to President Bush.  Unfortunately, he—yes? 

SHUSTER:  Oh, I was going to say—no, I hear where you going, that this was all essentially money that came from the $700 billion TARP approved in December.  It‘s important, as you point out, to make that clear. 

I want to ask you though about some of the Republican criticism.  The ranking Republican on the Senate Financial Services Committee, Richard Shelby, condemned the plan.  He said, “The biggest outrage is that the president‘s plan actually will use taxpayer money to pay people to do what they are already supposed to do—pay their mortgage.  It also uses taxpayer money to pay banks to do what they should already be doing—modifying mortgages.”

Congressman, take on Shelby‘s argument. 

FRANK:  Well, of course, you know, people are supposed to pay their own bills, but when they‘re unemployed, we give them unemployment compensation.  This is an argument that many conservative Republicans hold, which is let the market alone and never intervene no matter what happens. 

The fact is that we are suffering in the overall economy for people‘s inability to pay mortgages.  This is not just an individual situation.  And we are, in the first place, requiring the lenders to take a big hit.  This is not bailing out the lenders. 

It is saying that if you do not do anything to stop foreclosures, if you continue to have millions of foreclosures, and that it spreads, and property values go down, cities get hurt.  You talk to any mayor, you know, a foreclosed property used to pay taxes.  Now it eats taxes.  So this is something that‘s central, trying to deal with this, for the economy. 

By the way, one of the major advocates of this plan, one of the major proponents of it, is Sheila Bair, George Bush‘s appointee to head the FDIC.  The Bush appointees in the banking area knew that this was important.  They just couldn‘t get themselves organized enough to do it. 

SHUSTER:  One of the things that you were pushing for in the fall, of course, was the issue of bankruptcy judges.  You pushed hard in that provision.  President Obama, who was then running for the presidency, he essentially backed off and told Democrats, no, don‘t put it in there because you‘ll chase off Republican support for the TARP.  But we‘re right back to this issue of bankruptcy judges. 

What‘s been lost in the last five months?  And who‘s to blame? 

FRANK:  Oh, the Bush administration, mostly, because while I would have liked to have bankruptcy, we—basically, the president announced today plans to use legal authority and money.  And by the way, it‘s not just the TARP.  It‘s also from the money that Secretary Paulson asked us to make available family for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, because this is going to be using them. 

Part of this is to help people avoid foreclosure.  Another part is to help people who aren‘t facing foreclosure take advantage of lower mortgage rates. 

We have people who are being barred because of their lower equity from taking advantage of refinancing without any subsidy.  And this is going to use Fannie and Freddie to do that.  So it‘s all authority that they had. 

If the Bush administration had done this—and I admired Secretary Paulson up until the end.  I thought he made a lot of good judgments.  But when he refused to use the legal authority we gave him in the TARP—frankly, Congress would have never passed the TARP if it hadn‘t been for the agreement that there would be money used to reduce foreclosures, both as a matter of social fairness and as an economic matter. 

And his failure to do that caused us a lot of problems.  The economy is worse off and individuals are worse off.  And again, I want to stress, this is all money and legal authority that was available to the Bush administration that they inexplicably refused to use. 

SHUSTER:  Finally, Congressman, you‘ve said the last couple weeks that President Obama overestimates his ability to take (ph) people, especially our colleagues on the right, and sort of charms them into being nice.  The president is going to meet—has invited Judd Gregg to discuss the economy with him next week, even though Senator Gregg decided he didn‘t want to help work at the Commerce Department. 

Has the president learned anything, in your view, or is it wise to continue reaching out and trying to get some Republicans on board the way he is doing? 

FRANK:  The answer is yes to both.  Sure, you reach out, but you don‘t set that as a goal. 

Bipartisanship is a means, not an end.  And I would say this—look, we have proof today.  The president today is putting into effect plans that the Bush administration had said they were going to do, that Sheila Bair, a Bush appointee, was for, that a large number of economists are for.  And the reflex reaction of the Republicans is just to say no.

This is something which, if Bush had done it, they would have been supportive of it.  So I think this negative reaction today to what is widely held by economists to be essential if we‘re going to get out of this economic hole, trying to reduce foreclosures, the fact that you get this reflective Republican no, to me it means that, yes, he should try.  I just don‘t have any high hopes, because I think you have the Republican Party today dominated by the right wing talk show hosts, determined to be as negative as possible.  And if they want to be cooperative, that‘s fine, but you can‘t allow their negativism to hold you back. 

SHUSTER:  Congressman Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts.

FRANK:  And I just hope—can I just say...

SHUSTER:  Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. 

Yes?

FRANK:  I hope Judd Gregg doesn‘t decide not to come now and change his mind again. 

(LAUGHTER)

SHUSTER:  Congressman, thanks for joining us.  We appreciate it. 

FRANK:  You‘re welcome.

SHUSTER:  Coming up next on 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE, what on earth was a “New York Post” cartoonist thinking when he tied President Obama to a violent chimpanzee?  The blogosphere erupted today. 

We‘ll talk about that and the latest statement from The Post.

Plus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just gave a fascinating interview to “Rolling Stone” about President Obama, bipartisanship, and the fire she is taking from Republicans. 

Later, this is “Mythbuster Wednesday.”  On the president‘s economic plan, there are myths being pushed by Democrats and other myths coming from Republicans.  We will bust them all. 

Also this hour, Sarah Palin has a tax problem she‘s now trying to fix.  She owes the government money for expenses she charged to taxpayers (ph) while living at home. 

And we are taking your questions during this hour over Twitter.  Just go to twitter.com/shuster1600. 

All of that and “Hypocrisy Watch” ahead on 1600.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Welcome back to 1600.

A month after the historic inauguration of our first African-American president, Attorney General Eric Holder spoke today at a ceremony honoring Black History Month and said our nation is not having the conversation about race that we are capable of. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and we, I believe, continue to be in too many ways essentially a nation of cowards. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Today we were reminded how far our country has to go on the issue of race when “The New York Post” published this cartoon.  It shows a police officer shooting at a chimpanzee, another police officer saying in a caption, “They‘ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

Joining us is Sam Stein, White House correspondent and political reporter for “The Huffington Post,” and Baratunde Thurston, comedian and blogger on jackandjillpolitics.com. 

Sam Stein, first to you.  Your reaction to this cartoon? 

SAM STEIN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”:  Well, it was indeed provocative.  I mean, cartoonists naturally live between acceptable and provocative.  I think this morning‘s cartoon, for a lot of people, went over the line.

Obviously there‘s a lot of racial symbolism towards including a chimpanzee when discussing anything impertinent to politics because of the first African-American president.  And for a lot of people, they interpreted this as a shot against Obama. 

Of course Obama did not write the stimulus.  Congress did.  But if you saw the preceding page, there was a picture of Obama actually signing the stimulus in “The New York Post,” and I think for a lot of people that was just one step too far. 

SHUSTER:  Well, in fact, there‘s the picture right there. 

And Baratunde, given the proximity of that to the cartoon, I mean, it seems that somebody, at the very least, had a major screw-up.  I don‘t know if it was necessarily intentional, but good grief, how could they be so insensitive? 

BARATUNDE THURSTON, JACKANDJILLPOLITICS.COM:  Well, this is “The New York Post,” and we have to remember that they‘ve done things like this before, whether it‘s homophobic cartoons, whether it‘s anti-Arab imagery.  What‘s really disturbing about this is that there‘s a long and vile history of equating black people to chimpanzees, apes and gorillas.  And when people have that subhuman image of you, they tend to treat you in a subhuman way. 

So it‘s not just against Obama.  This is really a negative sort of image thrown against any black person who wants to be taken seriously in this country. 

SHUSTER:  The Reverend Al Sharpton was one of the first to speak out on this.  And that prompted “The New York Post” in their statement today to make a reference to Sharpton.  But here‘s what they said first about the cartoon. 

“The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut.  It broadly mocks Washington‘s efforts to revive the economy.  Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist.”

Baratunde, your reaction to that statement?

THURSTON:  First of all, I can talk about Al Sharpton.  That‘s inside the family.  “The New York Post” has no credibility when it comes to criticizing any political figure in any community at this point. 

There is—it‘s not just a racist image and a racist cartoon.  It‘s really unclear not—it has no point, ultimately.  They‘re saying that a wild chimpanzee is equivalent to the president coming in to clean up an eight-year Republican-led mess?  It‘s off on logic grounds and race grounds. 

SHUSTER:  Sam Stein, do you believe this was intentional by “The New York Post”?

STEIN:  It would seem like it was—to be fair, I don‘t think they were intentionally trying to be racist, because that would be crazy.  I think the problem is, as my co-panelist says, it‘s not clear what they were getting at. 

I mean, here you have a cartoon that is supposed to depict ostensibly Democratic leaders in Congress.  But how are we supposed to relate them to a crazed chimpanzee that was shot?  It just doesn‘t make sense. 

So I don‘t think they were intentionally trying to incite racial fears.  I might be wrong, but it just wasn‘t clear.  And it was so over-the-top provocative, that I think it was regrettable. 

SHUSTER:  For both of you, what sort of damage will this do?  I mean, we keep hearing on Twitter, for example, the number of people who say that they‘re no longer going to read “The New York Post,” they‘re going to end their subscriptions.  “The New York Post” has a lot of African-American readers in New York City. 

Baratunde, what does this do?

THURSTON:  I‘m a lot less worried about The New York Post‘s readership and advertising market.  I really am concerned about the image that this puts out there. 

There‘s a psychological study that a professor at UCLA did, and it talked about the image of black people being equated with apes makes people more tolerant of abuse—when you get physical police brutality.  You have actual cops in this image on the tails of the Oscar Grant situation. 

It wasn‘t just a lack of sensitivity.  There‘s some subconscious damage going on in the mind of those cartoonists, and unfortunately it leads to real-world damage to the lives of African-Americans out here. 

SHUSTER:  Yes.  I agree. 

Baratunde and Sam Stein, my view is that this cartoon is simply despicable and outrageous.  And I can‘t for the life of me think why any sane person over at “The New York Post” would agree with having this cartoon in the paper. 

But in any case, Sam and Baratunde, thanks for coming in.  We appreciate it. 

STEIN:  Thanks, David.

THURSTON:  Thank you so much.

SHUSTER:  Coming up next, today President Obama did what critics have been demanding for weeks.  He unveiled a plan to help struggling homeowners.  But now some of the critics don‘t want a plan that involves spending any money. 

“Hypocrisy Watch” is next.

Plus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave an intriguing interview at “Rolling Stone” magazine.  Pelosi spoke about President Obama and the mood in Congress.  We will bring you the details ahead on 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Welcome back to 1600.

For several days we‘ve been telling you about the Obama administration‘s growing foreign policy challenge in Africa stemming from the arrest of Zimbabwe‘s opposition party leader, Roy Bennett.  Advocates of democracy consider Bennett one of the most courageous men in Africa.  Unfortunately, the police and court authorities working on behalf of Zimbabwe‘s dictator, Robert Mugabe, have now announced that Bennett is being charged with terrorism and will be kept in jail. 

Mugabe, who lost an election last year, but refused to step down, is supposed to honor a power-sharing agreement that calls for Bennett to serve in the cabinet, not a jail cell.  The Obama administration has now warned Mugabe‘s government of possible sanctions, and Senator Russ Feingold is also speaking out, pressing for Bennett‘s immediate release.  Bennett has now been in jail six days and counting. 

Every Wednesday is “Mythbuster Wednesday” here at 1600.  And today we‘re tackling some of the myths surrounding the economic recovery plan President Obama signed yesterday. 

First up, this declaration...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  ... that it will create or save 3.5 million jobs over the next two years. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  The number is based on projections from economists, but those economists aren‘t sure because the modeling is untested with this kind of recession.  So the certainty that 3.5 million jobs will be created in two years, that‘s a myth. 

There are also myths about the spending plan being pushed by conservatives and their supporters.  Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Harry Reid, under the cover of darkness, snuck in, what was it, $8 billion for that high-speed light rail from L.A...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  And handwritten as well. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s right.  From L.A. to his home big town of Las Vegas. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Actually, no, that‘s a myth.  The rail line project is not in the bill.  There are $8 billion for high-speed rail funds, but how the money is spent across the country is completely up to the transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, a Republican.  Furthermore, the request to give the Department of Transportation this money came from this man, Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, not Harry Reid. 

Another myth from conservatives involves a health care component of the spending bill.  Senator Tom Coburn, Republican from Oklahoma, writes on his Web site about a billion dollars for comparative effectiveness research.  He claims it will “... help establish a government board that will make life and death medical decisions about health care costs and treatments.”

That‘s a myth.  As the bill spells out, the research will give doctors and their patients the latest information on treatments and success rates.  The government office providing the information will not require doctors or their patients to do anything. 

Remember, if it‘s Wednesday, it‘s “Mythbuster Wednesday,” even if we can‘t say it here on 1600.

Finally, the debate is now ratcheting up over the foreclosure relief plan President Obama announced today, and that takes us to tonight‘s “Hypocrisy Watch.”

First some background.

In recent weeks, congressional Republicans repeatedly criticized the president‘s economic recovery plan because Mr. Obama was not focusing enough, they said, on the housing crisis.  Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  Until housing prices stabilize, the economy is not going to stabilize. 

REP. ERIC CANTOR ®, MINORITY WHIP:  A virus that began in the credit and housing markets has spread to infect the broader economy. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... for ideas focused first on getting the housing market out of the gutter.  The housing problem is what got us where we currently are, and it should be where we begin in turning our economy around. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Solid points by each of those Republicans.  The thing is, House Republicans are now signaling they oppose a housing foreclosure plan. 

Here‘s what House Republican Minority Whip Eric Cantor said yesterday:

“ Who‘s going to pay for this continued succession of bailouts?  We just cannot continue to pay for the kinds of things that this administration thinks that we can.”

Congressman, when you attack somebody for not tackling the downturn in housing, and then you oppose them because they are tackling the downturn, that‘s hypocrisy, and it‘s wrong. 

Coming up, what Swedish models have to do with President Obama‘s possible plan to fix the nation‘s banks. 

Plus, growing calls for Roland Burris to resign.  Will the man who replaced Barack Obama be forced to give up his seat in the U.S. Senate? 

It‘s all ahead on 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Welcome back to 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.  President Obama‘s most powerful ally in Congress is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  She‘s charged with turning the Obama agenda into actual legislation, and delivering enough votes to make it into law.  So it‘s not hard to understand why she‘s a lightning rod for Republicans. 

First, it‘s a lot easier to attack the liberal from San Francisco than the popular president.  And if they can trip up the gate keeper, it will stop Obama‘s agenda from going through.  We‘re going to talk with our panel about that in a moment with host Ed Schultz, Chris Plant and Jonathan Martin. 

But first, “Rolling Stone” scored a fascinating interview with the speaker.  What she has to say about Republican obstructionism and prosecuting former members of the Bush administration.  Tim Dickinson did that interview.  He‘s a contributing editor for “Rolling Stone” and he joins us now. 

Tim, I was so struck by the phrase that she used, the public wants us to attempt bipartisanship.  What did you make of that?

TIM DICKINSON, “ROLLING STONE”:  There is a difference there, isn‘t it.  I think she‘s saying the attempt to reach out is almost as important as the actual result.  I think that what Democrats accomplished here was to look very reasonable in their approach.  The president made overture after overture to Republicans and they didn‘t yield results.  But I think the Democrats end up looking like the adults in this equation, and the Republicans look like toddlers who have just learned how to say no. 

SHUSTER:  There was this terrific sort of nugget, where you describe Nancy Pelosi watching the floor vote over the stimulus in the Senate.  She sort of talks and sort of expresses shock that the Democrats can‘t give Senator Martinez, the out-going Republican, to join.  It clearly seemed like a shot from Pelosi to Harry Reid.  Is that how you viewed it? 

DICKINSON:  No, I don‘t think so.  I think you have to consider the Democrats in the Senate are hardly a united bunch.  I think the shock there is mostly that there are a lot of Republicans, who I think if they‘re being honest, really agree with the legislation and, in fact, they are going home to their constituents and crowing about what‘s in it for them.  They‘ll take a piece of the pie, as long as somebody else is buying the pizza. 

So I think the reality is that a lot of Republicans—there actually is bipartisan support for this bill.  It‘s pretty centrist legislation.  But the politics at the moment require the Republicans to back themselves into a corner and just say no. 

SHUSTER:  What is Speaker Pelosi‘s relationship with President Obama? 

DICKINSON:  She‘s tremendously admiring of Obama.  We were watching him on TV and she was talking to me about his press conference and called it a tour de force and the best thing she‘d ever seen.  She seems very eager not to get out ahead of Obama, I think, in part because Obama is so much more popular than Congress is at this point.  Following his lead is important here. 

SHUSTER:  What does she make of the strategy of Republicans essentially directing all of their fire at her, and essentially leaving the president alone?  Is she fine with that? 

DICKINSON:  She seems to be fine with that.  She‘s very much a partisan.  I think is trying to play—cloak her partisanship in a velvet glove, if you will.  She‘s, I think, content to be the villain, if it helps Obama preserve some of his political capital along the way. 

SHUSTER:  I want to read one of the things you asked her.  She‘s getting enormous pressure from the left to try to prosecute members of the Bush administration.  You asked her, “do you foresee a scenario in which senior members of the Bush administration are actually prosecuted?

Pelosi: I think so.  The American people deserve answers.  Where we are now in terms of prosecution of White House staff is that we have charged them with contempt of Congress.  We‘re talking about Harriet Miers, Josh Bolten, and Karl Rove.”

Then you asked, “I‘m talking more about the level of a Donald Rumsfeld, people who authorized torture and green lighted the kidnapping and rendition of innocent people.

Pelosi: I didn‘t like their policies, which is why we needed to win the election, to get them out of power.  But I don‘t know what the evidence is against them on any specific charge.”

The what did you make of that? 

DICKINSON:  Well, she sort of started out trying to do this Obama two step, where you say, no one‘s above the law, but we need to look forward.  But by the end of our conversation, she was really endorsing the sort of truth and reconciliation commission approach that‘s been put forth by both Leahy in the Senate and by Conyers in the House, saying that we really need to know more, and that approach has been helpful everywhere it‘s been tried.  If you have evidence of charges, you need to bring them.  I think she really did get ahead of the president on that front. 

SHUSTER:  Tim Dickinson, great piece in “Rolling Stones,” a profile of Nancy Pelosi.  Fascinating interview.  We appreciate you coming on our program. 

DICKINSON:  I really appreciate it.  Thanks. 

SHUSTER:  You‘re welcome. 

Well, let‘s turn to our panel now for some reaction to what we‘re hearing from Nancy Pelosi these days.  Ed Schultz, host of the nationally syndicated “Ed Schultz Show,” Chris Plant, host of “The Chris Plant Show” that airs weekdays on WMAL in Washington, and Jonathan Martin, White House correspondent for “Politico.” 

Chris, let‘s start with you.  What do you make of Nancy Pelosi and her position these days? 

PLANT:  Well, she assumes a lot of different positions, doesn‘t she?  She‘s a lightning rod because she‘s playing an extremely partisan political game, freezing the House Republicans out of the discussions on this largest spending bill in history, locking the door, doing it behind closed doors, not posting it on the Internet as promised. 

And if she—you know, look, she‘s a velvet fist; is that what we had from our friend with “Rolling Stones?”  She is causing a lot of trouble in Washington.  She‘s behaving imperiously.  She‘s behaving as though we have one-party rule.  If she wants to have trials for Donald Rumsfeld or anybody else, and bring in CIA field officers that engaged in the enhanced interrogation techniques that were approved by the Democratic leadership, after explicit briefings by then CIA chief George Tenant and by Dick Cheney, himself, let‘s do it. 

The Democratic leadership was in this up to their ears.  They‘re playing political games with this.  I‘ve got to tell you, if they want to bring 100 Jack Bauers up to Capitol Hill, these guys will eat these Congressmen for lunch.  If they want to do this, that‘s great. 

Furthermore, if they‘re going to do it with the Bush administration, let‘s do it with the Clinton administration.  They engaged in about 80 renditions themselves, and I guess out sourced the dirty work. 

If that‘s the game they want to play, let‘s play it.  Bring it on. 

SHUSTER:  Ed Schultz? 

SCHULTZ:  Well, Chris, first of all, you‘re wrong on a number of things.  No one was excluded from this.  They were included from the start.  Let‘s get that fact out there correctly. 

PLANT:  Yes, wrong, lie. 

SCHULTZ:  Excuse me.  I have interviewed both Mr. Conyers and Pat Leahy.  They have said repeatedly that justice has to be done through the process, so that Congress in future years is not trivialized.  The fact of the matter is Nancy Pelosi, on this other hand, is going after those who are just so negative.  It‘s all over your side of the radio dial.  You can‘t say anything positive about a president who hasn‘t even been in office for 30 days.  He comes out today with a housing plan, and your leaders over on the right are sitting there criticizing it before it‘s even made public to anybody. 

So all you want to do is see the president of the United States fail. 

You don‘t want to give him a chance.  The American people have spoken. 

They want housing relief.  They want to be told what‘s happening out there. 

That‘s exactly what‘s going down.  And you guys can‘t take it. 

PLANT:  Almost everything you have said is false or incorrect. 

SCHULTZ:  It‘s absolutely correct.  The fact is your side of the aisle has been spewing this stuff out for 30 days.  You have no facts.  The point is that the Republicans were included in all of this. 

SHUSTER:  Let‘s bring in an arbitrator here.  Jonathan Martin, who is right and who is wrong?  Did Nancy Pelosi not invite the Republicans in?  How much were they brought in?  Also, I would agree on the point that I do remember the Obama White House saying any bill brought forward would have five days of public review.  Am I wrong? 

MARTIN:  David, I feel like I‘m the middle of the a.m. dial right here.  Let me try and sort some of this out.  I think there‘s certainly a case to be made that the Republicans did not actually have a chance to help write this bill.  Certainly, they were not in the room when it was drafted by Chairman David Obey.  But the fact of the matter is they were consulted and—

SCHULTZ:  Were they involved in this or were they not involved in it? 

Come on, were they involved or not involved? 

PLANT:  Once again, you are wrong. 

MARTIN:  I‘m not going to play talk radio back and forth here.  Let me finish my statement.  The fact is, a chief portion of this bill were those tax cuts, which, of course, Republicans pushed for.  There‘s truth here on both sides. 

PLANT:  A lot of the tax cuts were taking out.  For example, in all these shovel-ready jobs that we‘re creating, these highway construction jobs that we‘re creating, they took out a Republican effort along the lines of E-Verify, which would have required the employers to simply verify the people they‘re hiring for the shovel-ready jobs were U.S. citizens.  If we want jobs for U.S. citizens, let‘s hire U.S. citizens.  The Democrats pulled that out.  As Jonathan said, the Republicans were kicked out of the room. 

(CROSS TALK)

PLANT:  -- all the Republican contributions out before the bill was ever voted on.  Everybody knows that.  The reason—the reason nobody is listening to your end of the dial is because you don‘t have any facts straight.  OK?  You want facts? 

SCHULTZ:  Ninety five percent of the American people are going to get a tax cut out of this.  This has all kinds of tax credits in it.  The fact is the Obama campaign said early on this is what they were going to do. 

SHUSTER:  We‘re going to ask everybody to stick around.  Both the way, they‘re around the entire back half.  Stay tuned. 

Coming up, the man who replaced President Obama in the US Senate is under investigation.  He keeps digging the hole deeper.  Maybe our panel will agree on that. 

Plus, President Obama picked a senator from Colorado to head up the Interior Department.  But a man who wanted to be a Colorado senator isn‘t having as much luck in his career path.  He‘s talking margaritas mix, I kid you not.  Ahead on 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Welcome back to 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.  Time now for Smart Takes.  Bye-bye, Senator Roland Burris.  The junior senator from Illinois whose surprise appointment to fill President Obama‘s Senate seat initially met resistance because of the perception of taint is again in hot water.  This morning, the “Chicago Tribune” pronounced itself tired of the here we go again feeling we‘re getting from Burris‘ changing stories and called on him to resign. 

Quote, “the story gets worse with everybody telling.  Enough, Roland Burris must resign.  His protests that he had nothing to hide just don‘t square with his obvious attempts to hide something, as evidenced by the involving truths in three sworn statements to the House Impeachment Panel.  Now he has admitted that the governor‘s brother hit him up for campaign cash.  In at least one conversation, Burris raised his prospects for being appointed to the Senate.  There‘s only one honorable action for Burris, resign.  Strip this whole wretched process out of the hands of the politicians and give it back to the people.” 

Burris tried, for his part, again, to explain himself in remarks to the City Club of Chicago today.  Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ROLAND BURRIS (D), ILLINOIS:  Friends, I‘m new in Washington.  OK?  They don‘t know me out there yet.  They don‘t know me yet.  OK?  You know the real Roland.  I am the real Roland. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Oh, my.  Let‘s welcome back our panel, Ed Schultz, Chris Plant, Jonathan Martin.  Jonathan, does the I‘m an outsider, and that‘s why my character is under attack defense, does that work? 

MARTIN:  I think it‘s the best shot he‘s got going right now, David.  In the shorter run, this is a problem for the Democrats.  They don‘t need this distraction.  It‘s bringing back the ghost of Blago.  Once you thought he was gone, he‘s still there. 

Ultimately, if he somehow is not pushed out and he is in office a year from now, David, this has actually got some upside for Democrats for this reason: they now don‘t have to have any qualms about taking him on in a primary.  If you‘re Dick Durbin, the senior senator from Illinois, and you want to field a primary candidate against Burris, it‘s a heck of a lot easier now to do that.  A lot of Democrats I talk to now think that he will not be on the ballot in the fall of 2010. 

SHUSTER:  Ed Schultz, do you agree that Senate Majority Leader Reid ought to push this guy out? 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I‘m not going to spin this at all, David.  This is baggage now for the Democrats.  There are discrepancies in what he has said.  There are discrepancies in some of the events that have unfolded.  This is one problem that the Democrats of the Senate do not need.  And it‘s Illinois politics that have infiltrated inside the beltway.  It‘s not good.  It‘s headlines and conversation that the Democrats don‘t need now. 

We‘ve got bigger fish to fry than have to mop up what Mr. Burris has got himself into it.  He needs to tell the truth.  There has to be a full vetting process here on exactly the turn of events that unfolded, who he talked to, what was in those conversations.  The Democrats in the Senate just don‘t need this.  I don‘t think he‘s going to be able to survive this.  I think he‘s going to have to end up giving up his seat. 

SHUSTER:  Chris Plant? 

PLANT:  Ed did a pretty good job with the facts there.  I think he‘s got it about right. 

SCHULTZ:  Nice, Chris.  Good material, Chris, just a shot at me.  I get it. 

PLANT:  You got the facts.  It‘s worth noting.  Look, Roland Burris should be gone.  He is a product of Illinois politics.  I grew up on the north shore of Chicago.  I have family involved in Chicago politics.  

SCHULTZ:  That explains your answers. 

PLANT:  He‘s not, you know, the only person that is a product of Illinois politics that has moved inside the beltway either.  Roland Burris should go.  There should be a special election.  Maybe they could run Ed Schultz in New York. 

SCHULTZ:  I don‘t want the pay cut.  No, I‘m not taking the pay cut. 

(CROSS TALK)

SHUSTER:  We‘re getting a lot of questions over Twitter.  We‘re going to start Twitter time a little early.  We have a lot of questions over this “New York Post” cartoon.  Chris, I‘m fascinated by your view of the “New York Post” cartoon that appeared to sort of liken the president to a chimpanzee.  What did you make of it? 

PLANT:  Well, I think that it was a pretty lame stretch on the part of the “New York Post,” trying to associate the shooting of a chimp in Connecticut with the stimulus bill.  You have to keep in mind that Nancy Pelosi wrote the stimulus bill, as we just covered, without the participation of Republicans.  I don‘t think it got there.  I hate to be on the same side of any issue with Al Sharpton, but it was a pretty lame cartoon. 

SHUSTER:  Ed Schultz, your view? 

SCHULTZ:  It was scurrilous.  It was—it‘s despicable.  It‘s unbelievable that something like this—I mean, I would equate this to the seven words in broadcast that can‘t be spoke spoken on American airwaves.  I can‘t believe this type of garbage and this type of race baiting and hateful type of printing is allowed in this country.  This is unbelievable.  Rupert Murdoch, not the cartoonist, the person who owns the newspaper needs to speak up to this. 

MARTIN:  David? 

SHUSTER:  Last word. 

MARTIN:  I was going to say, one final point very, very important to note on Burris tonight.  Late development, Robert Gibbs, the president‘s press secretary, said, coming back on Air Force One tonight, that it was too early right now—I‘ll put the emphasis on right now—to make a statement about Roland Burris, before the investigations take place.  That means the Senate Ethics Committee here in Washington and then whatever else happens back in Illinois. 

SHUSTER:  My view, that is a big problem. 

SCHULTZ:  That mean he isn‘t going to make it. 

(CROSS TALK)

SHUSTER:  -- waiting for an investigation.  This is not a difficult call for this White House.  This may come back to haunt them if they let this drag out.  If they‘re going to continue to say we‘re not going to make a statement.  In any case, we have another segment ahead.  Remember this?  By the way, our panel is going to stick around. 

Remember this, an Iraqi journalist throwing a shoe at President Bush.  President Obama now has a shoe of his own.  We‘ll tell you who used it, who it used to belong to, next on 1600.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHUSTER:  Welcome back.  Here‘s a look at what is on our radar tonight.  When Governor Sarah Palin joined the Republican ticket, she often criticized Barack Obama and Democrats for wasteful spending.  Remember this? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN ®, ALASKA:  I got rid of a few things in the governor‘s office that I didn‘t believe our citizen the should have to pay for.  That luxury jet was over the top.  I put it on eBay.  I love to drive myself to work, and I thought we could muddle through without the governor‘s personal chef, although I‘ve got to admit sometimes my kids sure miss her. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  It turns out that Governor Palin was still receiving thousands of dollars in expense money even while living in her home in Wasilla, Alaska.  State officials are now insisting that she pay back taxes on this money.  As of December, Palin was still charging the state for meals and other expenses incurred at home.  Palin‘s spokeswoman is refusing to say how much tax money the governor owes. 

Ever wonder what President Obama might be doing right now if he lost that Senate race in 2004 instead of winning it?  Consider the case of former Congressman Bob Schaffer.  He just lost a Senate bid in Colorado.  Take a look at what he‘s doing now. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB SCHAFFER, FMR. CONGRESSMAN:  I‘m Bob Schaffer. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m Maureen. 

SCHAFFER:  We approve this message.  You‘re enjoying one of the best margaritas that there is on the market. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Yes, that‘s Schaffer selling Coyote Gold, his wife‘s margarita mix.  The former politician describes the family blend in these patriotic terms, a stimulus package that works, capitalism in a bottle, and liquid liberty. 

Finally, when you become the president, all kinds of questions are answered before your very eyes, including, what is Shaquille O‘Neal‘s shoe size?  When President Obama landed at the Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, yesterday, the mayor‘s son presented a gift to him. It was an autographed sneaker from basketball star Shaquille O‘Neal.  Shaq couldn‘t make it but wanted the president to feel his presence.  Shaq wore the sneaker in Sunday night‘s All Star Game.  For the record, it is a size 23. 

The president put the shoe on the ground next to his and then loaded it on the limo.  The president, by the way, wears a size 12 shoe. 

Now for some more fancy foot work, we‘re back with Ed Schultz, Chris Plant and Jonathan Martin.  We like to call this last segment Twitter time, because of all the questions submitted for you online during this hour.  Here are a few.  Chris Plant, somebody says, OK, North Shore, that explains Plant‘s attitude.  Your reaction? 

PLANT:  I can‘t say what I‘m thinking.  So will a hand gesture do? 

(CROSS TALK)  

PLANT:  I came in sweet as can be.  Ed Schultz is just a very aggressive individual. 

SHUSTER:  Well, you know, the real funny thing about all of this, ladies and gentlemen, is that I‘ve known these three for a long time.  And there‘s nobody who would faster give their shirt off their back for you than any one of these three.  Unfortunately, in this medium and in talk radio, you get sort of a one dimensional view of these guys.  These are some of the three nicest guys you‘ll find. 

Jonathan Martin, now that I have congratulated you and raised your standing, would you like to take it back down? 

MARTIN:  Here we go. 

SHUSTER:  There are people wanting to know if you‘re Twittering, if not, why not? 

MARTIN:  David, I sure am Twittering.  It‘s JMartinPolitico.  I am Twittering every day now.  A shout-out to not just you, but also your colleagues here at NBC, including David Gregory, who have really embraced Twitter.  It‘s great stuff, man. 

(CROSS TALK)

SHUSTER:  Ed Schultz, you‘ve got a lot of people writing in right now wanting to know, when is Ed going to Twitter? 

SCHULTZ:  Probably tomorrow.  I‘ve got to catch up with everybody.  I‘m just too busy—although, if I can get a tax cut tonight or a tax credit, I‘ll do it before midnight tonight. 

SHUSTER:  Chris Plant, talk about your radio show—

PLANT:  We‘re looking for Nanny Pelosi to bail out liberal talk radio. 

So that‘s kind of what --   

SCHULTZ:  You don‘t have to bail out my show.  I‘m syndicated and you‘re not. 

SHUSTER:  Chris, tell us about the radio show.  When can we hear you? 

PLANT:  9:00 to noon Eastern time here in your nation‘s capital, Washington, D.C., WMAL, just before Rush Limbaugh, the most successful radio broadcaster in America. 

SHUSTER:  Oh no.  Ed Schultz, when can we hear you?  

SCHULTZ:  You can hear me on 95 stations across America, in the nation‘s capital, and here in New York, and in Chicago, and in San Francisco.  So I guess I‘m on all the big markets, Chris.  Someday you‘ll get there, buddy. 

SHUSTER:  Jonathan Martin, “Politico.”  Jonathan Martin, “Politico.” 

MARTIN:  Politico.com. 

SHUSTER:  All right.  Jonathan Martin, Chris Plant, Ed Schultz, seriously three of the nicest guys you‘ll ever find off air.  Thank you so much for joining us.  We appreciate you joining us on air as well.  That is the view from 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE tonight.  I‘m David Shuster.  Thank you for watching.  We will see you back here tomorrow night same time, 6:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC. 

Get the latest political news and a sneak peek of what‘s coming up on the show sent to your inbox with the 1600 Daily Briefing.  Plus, we‘ve got some fun content and Shusterian stories that are not available anywhere else.  Just log onto Shuster.MSNBC.com.  If you‘re into Twittering, I‘ll be online right after the show. Follow me on Twitter.com/Shuster1600. 

I‘m David Shuster.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews starts now.

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