updated 4/1/2009 10:10:12 AM ET 2009-04-01T14:10:12

Guest: David Corn, Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford, Sen. Tom Harkin, Susan Docherty, Chris Kofinis, Amanda Carpenter

Spec: Barack Obama; G-20; Economy; Neil Barofsky; Legislation; Congress


DAVID SHUSTER, HOST (voice-over):  Tonight, President Obama brings his economic message to Europe, but back home the outrage is growing over an alleged double standard.  The automakers face bankruptcy as more bailout money goes to the banks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know what these people were thinking.

SHUSTER:  Meanwhile, our government still doesn‘t know how most of the banks spent the funds they‘ve already received. 

Plus, the dramatic push for health care reform.  Today‘s hearing featured the return of Senator Ted Kennedy. 

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Over the past 10 months, I‘ve seen our health care system up close. 

SHUSTER:  There was also testimony from Bob Dole. 

From the best lawmakers to the worst, Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. 

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue. 

SHUSTER:  Bachmann lands in “Hypocrisy Watch.”

And the things I thought you should know: Congressman Kucinich campaigns for his wife in “Dancing With the Stars,” coach Bob Knight stars in a Guitar Hero commercial. 

BOB KNIGHT, BASKETBALL COACH:  Who are you calling pop?

I think my ex-players will find this to be very humorous. 

SHUSTER:  And Twitter time, all tonight on 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A great day for a hearing. 


SHUSTER:  London calling. 

Good evening, everybody.  I‘m David Shuster.  And welcome to the show. 

Day 71 is quickly coming to an end for President Obama.  He and the first lady are in London tonight, where it is now 11:00 p.m.  This is the first trip overseas for Barack Obama as president of the United States and the first chance for Europe to meet Mr. Obama, with the power of the United States backing up his words. 

The president touched down around 2:45 p.m. Eastern Time today.  He and the first lady just wrapped up greeting U.S. Embassy workers at the American School and have retired for the night. 

But not all of London is welcoming.  The streets are filled with marchers protesting the G-20 summit, and much of their rage is focused on the economic meltdown, carrying signs like, “We won‘t pay for their crisis.”

The G-20 isn‘t until Thursday, but President Obama has a packed day tomorrow.  He‘ll head to 10 Downing Street to meet with the prime minister, Gordon Brown.  He‘ll also meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and Chinese President Hu Jintao, all major players in solving the global financial crisis. 

Later, the president and first lady, Michelle Obama, will head to Buckingham Palace for a private audience with the queen. 

On Thursday, the president will attend the main day of meetings for the G-20 summit.  He‘ll also hold a news conference at London‘s ExCeL Centre, which will be broadcast in America and around the world. 

On Friday, the president will head to Strasbourg, France, for the NATO summit.  He will also hold a town hall meeting and take questions from the French citizens. 

On Saturday, he‘ll head to Prague, where he will meet with leaders of the European Union. 

And on Sunday, he will head to turkey for a United Nations meeting. 

This will mark the president‘s first stop in a Muslim nation in office. 

But the Obama administration is already making significant moves to deal with the Muslim and Arab world. 

Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is at The Hague for a conference on Afghanistan, a conference that‘s also being attended by Iran.  In a significant move, U.S. Special Envoy to the region Richard Holbrooke met with Iran‘s deputy foreign minister today.  Secretary Clinton talked about the discussion and called Iran‘s presence at The Hague a positive sign. 


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE:  It did not focus on anything substantive.  It was cordial, it was unplanned, and they agreed to stay in touch.  I think the fact that they came today, that they intervened today, is a promising sign that there will be future cooperation. 


SHUSTER:  We begin tonight in London with NBC News White House Correspondent Savannah Guthrie, who is traveling with President Obama. 

And Savannah, first, when President Obama came to Europe as a candidate this past summer, hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets to see him.  What kind of reception is he getting tonight? 

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, he‘s already had at least hundreds of people on the streets hoping to get a glimpse of his motorcade as he made a brief stop today to meet with American Embassy officials.  He just arrived here late this evening and actually took a helicopter to the ambassador‘s residence, where he‘s staying.  So there hasn‘t been a lot of opportunity so far for people to see him. 

Nevertheless, people have lined the streets waiting for his motorcade. 

He‘s very popular here.  We saw that when he was here as a candidate. 

And it will be interesting to see how he is received as president.  He may be personally popular, but in terms of some of his policies, he may meet some resistance from European leaders, particularly France and Germany. 

SHUSTER:  As far as the personalities are concerned—and this is one of what I think were the most interesting—one reception for the president might be a chaise vide, an empty chair from French President Nicolas Sarkozy.  He‘s under fire in his own country for his handling of the bailouts and executive bonuses.  He wants the G-20 to come up with tough global financial regulations, or he‘s threatening to walk out. 

Where is the White House on this? 

GUTHRIE:  Well, the White House is really trying to emphasize the areas of common ground.  And they‘ve been really saying today, look, we‘re essentially satisfied at the moment with this stimulus that the G-20 countries enacted.  They said that actually all of the countries are either in the process of passing or have already passed stimulus of their own. 

But what they do want to see is the G-20 countries commit to doing whatever it takes to restart economic growth, particularly if this recession is more prolonged than some think.  And I think they view some of what particularly President Sarkozy did as a little bit of bluster. 

As you mentioned, he‘s having some hard times in his own country.  And that‘s a popular thing for him to do, to stand up to say, you know, if they don‘t enact some strong regulations and we don‘t get a hold of this unbridled capitalism, well, I‘m going to walk out the door. 

The White House recognizes that‘s something that‘s popular for Sarkozy to do, or for Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, to say, look, nobody tells me how to spend money.  That‘s something that people in their own countries will look at positively, but they do think that they‘re going to be able to reach areas of broad consensus here when all the leaders get together on Thursday.

SHUSTER:  It‘s also something that is so fresh, but in any case, Savannah, I want to ask you about Iran. 

We saw, of course, Hillary Clinton there talking about the meeting between Holbrooke and an Iranian representative. 

How big a deal is this and how‘s it playing? 

GUTHRIE:  Well, you know, they‘re using those cautious terms, saying it‘s a promising sign, it‘s an encouraging sign.  So they‘re not overblowing it.  But I think they are pleased to see that Iran did send its deputy foreign minister.  And as you mentioned, Ambassador Holbrooke was able to go over there and greet him. 

There wasn‘t a lot of substance there, but this is considered a positive sign, and particularly with regard to an issue like Afghanistan.  The administration has tried to emphasize wherever there is common ground, they want to reach out and work with Iran. 

They‘ve made those overtures that really were kind of rebuffed by Iran‘s leaders, including a video message on the Iranian new year directly to the Iranian people.  But in any event, I think they see this as a positive first step.  I think they believe there are areas where they can work with Iran.  And so they‘re anxious to see if this leads anywhere. 

SHUSTER:  And finally, Savannah, what is the White House‘s greatest goal for the next week? 

GUTHRIE:  Well, I think they have a lot of goals.  I think they want to see some broad consensus and broad agreement come out of the G-20.  They‘re going to have this NATO summit, so there will be talks certainly about Afghanistan, that new Afghanistan/Pakistan policy. 

But in terms of a very broad goal, something you do hear White House officials talk about is the steps that the president has taken and will take to what they say is restore America‘s image abroad.  I mean, obviously, particularly here in Europe, the last eight years were not well received by many here, the idea of American unilateralism  They emphasize, the White House does, that the president is here not just to lead, but also to listen. 

SHUSTER:  NBC News White House Correspondent Savannah Guthrie live in London. 

And Savannah, thanks for that report. 

And as we pointed out, it‘s a big deal back here at home, what‘s going on with GM and Chrysler.  We will get to that in just a couple of minutes.  And, of course, there‘s some huge political implications for the Obama administration in all of that.

But up next, the U.S. Senate today tried to figure out if any of those bank bailouts are working.  And when the senators asked about potential fraud in the trillion-dollar program, the figure they were given was astounding and infuriating. 

We will bring you that number next.

And the Senate today also took up health care reform.  Senator Ted Kennedy made a dramatic return and presided over part of the hearing. 

We will bring you the highlights and talk with the senator who spoke with Senator Kennedy behind the scenes.  That‘s at the half-hour. 

Plus, we‘re taking your questions and video suggestions during the hour over Twitter, including why we just showed that shot of an empty studio.  Just go to twitter.com/shuster1600, or click on the link at shuster.msnbc.com.



SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY ®, RANKING MEMBER, FINANCE COMMITTEE:  You know, I think that maybe Congress was awed by a person that comes off of Wall Street making tens and tens of millions of dollars in salary before he comes into the cabinet.  And then you find out when it‘s all said and done, he doesn‘t know a whole lot more about it than we in Congress do that are very generalist.  And I think that‘s why this legislation was so poorly written. 


SHUSTER:  That was Senator Chuck Grassley expressing his frustrations about the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, also known by critics as the bank bailout. 

Oversight officials testifying to the Senate Finance Committee today revealed the $700 billion financial bailout has been unsteady, and that it‘s still not clear the funds are being used in the best possible manner.  Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for TARP, told the committee the program puts taxpayers at risk for nearly $3 trillion, and he warned of fraud. 


NEIL BARFOSKY, SPECIAL INSPECTOR GENERAL, TARP:  FBI estimates that I‘ve seen is that 10 percent of any government program is going to be vulnerable to fraud.  That would be $300 billion. 


SHUSTER:  Mr. Barofsky says he has a dozen fraud cases going already. 

Joining us now is David Corn, Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” and blogger for CQPolitics.com. 

Three hundred billion dollars in potential fraud? 

DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES”:  Yes, and that‘s if the bailout doesn‘t get any bigger. 

Now, to be fair, he was taking in theoretical terms.  He said that, you know, in any big government program that has an inspector general, you worry about 10 percent perhaps going to fraud.  So if you have $3 trillion, then he‘s looking at a potential $300 billion fraud exercise of a variety. 

But, you know, it wasn‘t just what he said.  You know, Elizabeth Warren, who oversees this congressional panel of oversight for the TARP and the other bailouts, testified.  And it was kind of stunning what she got into. 

SHUSTER:  And she got into the whole thing about Treasury not being cooperative, and not knowing what these banks are doing? 

CORN:  I mean, here‘s this one quote from her prepared testimony: “The most important lesson we draw from an analysis is that without a clearer explanation from the Treasury about its overall plan for each capital infusion, and without more transparency and accountability for how that plan was carried out, it is not possible to exercise meaningful oversight over Treasury‘s actions.”

SHUSTER:  In other words, Congress can‘t figure out what Treasury‘s doing. 

CORN:  We can‘t tell how good a job they‘re doing, whether this money is being used well or not.  Forget about fraud.  This is a—you know, if he‘s worrying about $300 billion in fraud, she‘s worrying about $2.6 trillion in real money being not used well. 

SHUSTER:  And just to put this in perspective, the government agency which is overseeing the biggest financial program in U.S. history basically cannot figure out whether it‘s working.  They don‘t know what has happened to a lot of the money.  They can‘t figure out, make any assessment as to whether it‘s doing what it‘s supposed to. 

CORN:  Yes.  She said that several times in different ways throughout her testimony.

And in Neil Barofsky‘s testimony, he talked about how last December, he had—you know, he had proposed that Treasury—that Treasury set up a program that would require TARP recipients to monitor their use of funds and be required to provide certified reports to Treasury on how they are using taxpayer money. 

Now, that makes sense, doesn‘t it?  But it hasn‘t happened.

SHUSTER:  And contrast that, then, with what we were talking about at the top of the show.  The president may face a political problem because of what‘s going on in Michigan, and that GM and Chrysler essentially are being put on a path towards bankruptcy because they haven‘t done enough to account for their problems. 

CORN:  Right.

SHUSTER:  Doesn‘t it make it seem like there‘s even more of a double standard where you‘re doling out literally over $1 trillion that you can‘t keep track of, and you‘re fighting with General Motors and Chrysler over whether or not they can get $6 billion because you don‘t like the models they‘re building? 

CORN:  Right.  And with any government program, there‘s going to be waste and fraud.  And you know it would only take, you know, a $10 million fraud exercise or a criminal violation to tar and taint any of this. 

So I think it would be incumbent upon Treasury and I think it would be incumbent upon the Obama White House to pick up the phone and call Geithner.  I guess he answers his own phone these days because there are aren‘t a lot of people working there.  And say, my God, just do what Barofsky and Warren want you to do, get somebody in place, and let‘s have as many safeguards as possible, because, gosh darn, if you‘re going to ask the Americans public to kick in $3 trillion into all this stuff, you‘ve got to do everything possible, realizing you won‘t catch it all, but you‘ll catch much of it. 

SHUSTER:  Especially if you‘re asking autoworkers in the Midwest to lose their jobs in the midst of everything that‘s going on. 

David Corn, thanks  for reporting through the hearing for us.  We usually call this segment “Follow the Money,” and today we should call it “Can‘t Follow the Money.” 

In any case, thanks, David.

During the TARP hearing today, we did notice a celebrity cameo appearance.  Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore was sitting in the third row wearing his trademark baseball cap.  The maker of such films as “Sicko” and “Fahrenheit 9/11” slipped out of the hearing before it ended. 

The big question, of course, could a film on TARP be Moore‘s next project?  Maybe.  According to the Internet movie database, Moore is working on an as yet untitled project on the global financial crisis. 

Up next, stars of NBC‘s hit show “The West Wing” take up a real life political cause.  We‘ll talk to actors Bradley Whitford, who played Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman, and Richard Schiff, who played Communications Director Toby Ziegler. 

Plus, President Obama kicks off an eight-day trip to Europe with a rock star welcome in London.  Will he be able to use his popularity to get Europeans to support his economics policies? 

You‘re watching 1600.


SHUSTER:  Welcome back. 

President Obama recently told union leaders in a closed-door meeting he will pass the Employee Free Choice Act, or EFCA, a labor bill that will offer employees the same opportunity to form a union by a simple majority vote.  Supporters of the bill say it will make it easier for workers to join unions and to fight for better benefits.  And now the bill is getting a boost from some former West-Wingers.  They spent years advising fictional Democratic President Jed Bartlet on TV. 

Today, actors Richard Schiff and Bradley Whitford were on the Hill lobbying for workers‘ rights in a new campaign to pass EFCA. 

All right, you guys.  You‘re rich, you‘re famous, and in a union.  Most people think of unions as solely blue collar.  Does that contribute, perhaps, to some of the prejudice? 


Against unions? 

SHUSTER:  Yes, against unions.  Because it‘s—I wonder if people realize that these weren‘t just blue-collar workers, that there‘s all types of workers, that maybe it would stand a better chance. 

RICHARD SCHIFF, ACTOR & WORKERS RIGHTS ACTIVIST:  Well, the first misconception about our unions out in Hollywood and New York‘s Screen Actor Guild and Actors Equity is that 99 percent of the union is made up of middle class workers who are scrapping to make a living.  So, while some of us do better than the average worker, the majority, if not almost everyone, is struggling along and trying to make a living like every other worker in America. 

WHITFORD:  But I think there is a huge—right now, confronting this bill, a $200 million disinformation campaign about what unions do and about what they stand for. 

Unions are a tremendous engine for the creation of the middle class.  It is an absolute myth that unions exist to torture management.  In fact, the opposite is true.  And we see this all over the place, whether it‘s Kaiser Permanente, AT&T, all sorts of places where a management labor coalition works together in the interest of keeping these jobs good and these businesses strong. 

And the main reason we‘re here, a couple of actors, is trying to shine a little light on these workers who American Rights at Work has brought here to speak and lobby on the Hill for this bill.  These are all people who wanted to exercise their simple basic right to organize and to bargain collectively, and under the current system that‘s not possible for a lot of people.  And that‘s why the Employee Free Choice Act needs to get passed, and it needs to get passed now, especially in this economic climate. 

SCHIFF:  Most of these people have lost their jobs or have similar stories to tell because they tried to—either they said—one of the workers, Corey (ph), from North Dakota, said to his boss when he was asked, brought into his office, “Will you vote for this union?” And he said, “Yes, I will.”  He was fired the next day. 

And the news got around to all the workers right before—the day before the vote, he was fired.  News spread like wildfire.  And then the vote was—failed to create a union, partly because people were afraid that they would lose their jobs. 

WHITFORD:  And it is a fundamental right for workers in this country to be able to join a union.  And the fact of the matter is, that‘s not the truth on the ground.

And we‘re here and American Rights at Work is here to remind people that this isn‘t about political strategy, who‘s winning, who‘s losing.  It‘s about these people who do not have the fundamental right in this day and age to form a union, which is unacceptable. 

SCHIFF:  Yes.  I mean, we‘re just challenging the paradigm that creates a reflex reaction by corporate America, or by management anywhere, that creating a union isn‘t good for everybody, doesn‘t create a win-win.  Without a reemerging middle class, we don‘t have anyone to buy the products that these companies are making.  It‘s a win-win scenario, and—sorry.  Go ahead.

SHUSTER:  And it is such a fascinating issue on so many levels. 

And Richard Schiff and Bradley Whitford, thanks so much for joining us tonight.  We appreciate it.

It‘s an issue that we‘re going to be getting into a lot more in the days and weeks ahead.  We appreciate you kicking off our coverage on it. 

SCHIFF:  Great.  Thank you.

WHITFORD:  Thank you.

SHUSTER:  You‘re welcome.

Up next, Senator Ted Kennedy today presided over a confirmation hearing for HHS nominee Kathleen Sebelius.  We will take you inside that hearing room, show you the strong emotions, and talk one-on-one with one of the senator‘s colleagues who was there. 

And later, Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is at it again.  She says America needs peace and understanding, but is now advocating for an armed revolution against the president and his policies. 

Is Bachmann nuts?  Either way, she has landed in “Hypocrisy Watch.” 

That‘s coming up. 

This is 1600.



SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Over the past ten months, I‘ve seen our health care system up close.  I‘ve benefited from the best of medicine.  But we have too many uninsured Americans.  We have sickness care and not health care. 


SHUSTER:  Welcome back to 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.  That was Senator Ted Kennedy who was back on Capitol Hill today in the midst of his continuing treatment for a brain tumor.  Today, Kennedy chaired a nomination hearing for Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and talked about how much health care reform means to him personally. 

President Obama has called for major health care reform legislation to be passed this year.  Today, Sebelius echoed that urgency. 


KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HHS SECRETARY DESIGNATE:  Health care reform cannot wait.  It must not wait.  It will not wait another year.  Inaction is not an option.  The status quo is unacceptable and unsustainable. 


SHUSTER:  Joining us now is Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, Democrat, member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension.  He chairs the committee‘s Prevention in Public Health Working Group.  Senator Harkin, welcome.  You were at the hearing today.  What was it like to see your colleague, Ted Kennedy, back in the chair? 

SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA:  It was great, David.  I tell you, when Ted is back, he energizes all of us.  This is his cause.  He‘s been the leader on health care, well, since I‘ve been here and I‘ve—this is my 35th year here.  All these years, it‘s always been Senator Kennedy the leader on health care and he remains so today.  It was just energizing for all of us. 

SHUSTER:  Several senators welcomed the senator back.  Here‘s Senator Barbara Mikulski.  Watch. 


SEN. BARBARA Mikulski (D), MARYLAND:  Senator Kennedy, great to see you back in the chair.  We‘re really genuinely and enthusiastically happy to see you. 


SHUSTER:  Had a chance to talk with Senator Kennedy.  What is he saying about how he‘s doing and his level of involvement in the health care reform process? 

HARKIN:  Take it from me, he is very much involved and very top on everything.  This started last November.  Right after the election, he asked three of us to chair different working groups.  As you mentioned, he asked me to head up the Prevention in Public Health Group.  We‘ve been having meetings.  We‘ve been having hearings.  We have already sent legislation down for drafting purposes. 

I know senator Bingaman, Senator Mikulski are doing the same.  He‘s in touch with us every day by phone.  I don‘t think any day goes by that I haven‘t talked to someone whose gotten a call from Teddy Kennedy, talking to them about the health reform bill.  He‘s very much on top of everything. 

SHUSTER:  One of the key issues would be the process.  Republicans say they might go nuclear if you use a thing called reconciliation, which would require only 51 votes instead of 60.  Do you think that‘s something you may need to do?  Would you be willing to do that in order to get this passed? 

HARKIN:  Well, I think what all of us want to do—I know I can speak for the chairman here.  Senator Kennedy wants to work this through the normal process, through the committee.  Let‘s have our debates.  Let‘s have our amendments.  Let‘s have an open process.  That‘s what President Obama wants also.  We‘re committed to that. 

But in the end, if we have legislation that is supported by a huge majority, but we have four or five or a handful of people that just want to block it and want to stop it, we can‘t let four or five people fork the will of a huge majority.  So it might be important if that happens at that time to have this procedure, as you called it, reconciliation, so that we can do it with 51 votes and we won‘t be subject to a filibuster. 

That‘s really what it is.  We wouldn‘t be subject to a filibuster in the Senate. 

SHUSTER:  Finally, senator, while we have you, on the Employee Free Choice Act that we were talking about a few minutes ago.  Where does that stand?  What do you think it will take to get that passed, in your view? 

HARKIN:  Right now, we‘re still developing it, still working on it.  Senator Kennedy is very much in charge and on top of this.  And he‘s asked me again to work on this issue.  Again, it‘s something that we need to do.  We need to bring some balance to our—to labor and management in this country.  It‘s gotten way out of balance over the last 20 or 30 years and we need to bring that balance back. 

I think the Employee Free Choice Act is a good bill and we‘re going to be working on it.  Of course, there may have to be some compromises.  I understand that.  But I don‘t think we ought to just stop it right now, again, because a few people on one side don‘t want to move it.  I think we will move it, even though we have to make some compromises. 

SHUSTER:  Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat from Iowa.  Senator Harkin, thank you so much for coming on tonight.  We appreciate it. 

HARKIN:  Thank you, David. 

SHUSTER:  You‘re welcome.  Time to turn to our panel.  Amanda Carpenter is a reporter and blogger for the “Washington Times,” and Chris Kofinis is a Democratic strategist and former Edwards communications director.  Chris, put in some perspective for us how important Ted Kennedy is to this process. 

CHRIS KOFINIS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST:  Well, he is an incredible force in this process.  I mean, aside from just the incredible emotional nature of his testimony today, speaking in his own personal terms, going through the health care process, I think he puts a very powerful face to an issue that I think the time has come to finally deal with it once and for all. 

I think what‘s interesting about the entire health care debate, it seems that the particular stars, if you will, are aligning.  You have, I think, business interests, health care interests and obviously public policy interests all seemingly coming together, with the understanding that health care reform needs to happen.  It‘s too much of an economic problem, let alone a social problem. 

So I think, you know, Ted Kennedy is probably going to be a key force in helping pass this.  But this is, I think, probably the key issue for the Obama administration amongst all the other serious issues they have to deal with. 

SHUSTER:  Amanda, another political star who was there today was former Senator Bob Dole, the Republican party‘s presidential nominee in 1996.  He‘s also supporting what Ted Kennedy is doing.  Is Bob Dole wrong? 

AMANDA CARPENTER, “THE WASHINGTON TIMES”:  Bob dole is entitled to have his own opinion.  If he supports it, that‘s good.  I think where people are going to get hung up in terms of implementing such vast reforms aren‘t necessarily going to be on the Congressional level, but rather at the level of secretary.  In watching the confirmation hearing, I can‘t help but think the Democrats were dealt such an excruciating blow when Tom Daschle withdrew his name from consideration to become secretary. 

And I have yet to see proof that Sebelius is equipped to take on such a task.  She may very well be.  She didn‘t have the knowledge and experience that Tom Daschle did. 

SHUSTER:  The other issue I want to talk to you guys about today involves the automakers.  To set this up, I want you to stick around for a second.  The Obama White House has given General Motors 60 days to come up with a model for viability, after making the unprecedented move to oust Rick Wagoner.  Today, employees at GM met their new boss, CEO Fritz Henderson, who spoke frankly about the possibility of bankruptcy.  


FRITZ HENDERSON, GM CEO:  We will do what it takes to make sure General Motors can be successful in the future, that we can win.  It‘s pretty clear from our perspective that, one, our preference continues to be to try to use the 60-day period to accomplish this out of the court process.  Second, if we‘re not successful, we‘re not going to compromise the objectives. 

The objectives are clear.  Therefore, if we‘re not successful doing it out of court, we will do it in court. 


SHUSTER:  Joining us now from GM‘s headquarters in Detroit is GM executive Susan Docherty.  Susan is General Motors‘ vice president of Buick, Pontiac, and GMC.  Susan, we were all a bit surprised on this end by how hopeful Mr. Henderson was today.  Do people inside GM feel as positively about what the president said yesterday? 

SUSAN DOCHERTY, GM VICE PRESIDENT:  We absolutely do.  And to be quite honest, we greatly appreciate all the support that we are getting from President Obama, not only for General Motors, but for the auto industry in general.  It was terrific news to hear him speak yesterday. 

SHUSTER:  But the “Wall Street Journal” reports that the Obama administration is leaning toward a structured bankruptcy for GM.  Wouldn‘t that make it a lot harder if you have to go the bankruptcy route? 

DOCHERTY:  Let me just say this: first of all, I think it‘s important for your listeners to understand that we get it.  We need to move faster.  We know what needs to get done here.  We understand the sense of urgency. 

It‘s critical for all of us to put together a plan, a plan that‘s going to work.  And we fully understand this is going to take nothing short of reinventing our company. 

SHUSTER:  Susan, can it be done in the next 60 days? 

DOCHERTY:  Well, as you heard from our CEO, Fritz Henderson, either speaking earlier this morning or early this afternoon, we‘ve been very clear about the fact that we‘re going to put all our efforts into the next 60 days, and we are going to reinvent our company and come out of this on the other side viable and very strong. 

SHUSTER:  Susan Docherty, executive for General Motors out of Detroit. 

Susan, thank you very much.  Let‘s turn back to our panel real quickly.  Chris Kofinis, they are in such a difficult position.  I don‘t know anybody who wants to be in the position Susan is in right now. 

KOFINIS:  It‘s a very difficult position.  You‘re trying to restructure a massive company in probably the worse economic climate you can imagine.  Here I think is the one reality to think—at least I hope most people realize.  You‘re talking about an industry that represents, both directly and indirectly, millions of jobs.  That is critical to the health of vital states like Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, parts of New York. 

And so the notion that somehow some people say willy-nilly, let them go, don‘t give the money, I just think is ridiculous.  You have to figure out a way to keep these two vital industries to survive and basically thrive.  I think it can be done.  I think there is a plan.  Either they come up with it with the Obama administration, whatever that specifics of the plan is. 

The one thing I think everyone has to agree with, and I hope they do, is that this is an industry that needs and must survive. 

SHUSTER:  Amanda, do Republicans believe that?  A number of Republicans have suggested we should have just let them go to bankruptcy to begin with. 

CARPENTER:  I think that‘s what Mitt Romney originally came out when he was campaigning for president.  He had a very high profile in the “Wall Street Journal” saying something to that effect.  The question is, do we have enough political capital to keep these companies afloat?  This is another round of bail outs.  There‘s a real question right now, I think, for Obama, if he‘s hinging his political capital to the future of this company, whether he can take care—he‘s in the position now of taking care of all those union workers and their health care benefits.  If he can‘t figure out a way to do it, I think there‘s going to be a big backlash.  The question is—

SHUSTER:  You can‘t just let 3.5 million people lose their job in the middle of this economy, especially when you‘re pouring over a trillion dollars to help the banks bailout.  And all of a sudden, you‘re telling the auto workers, no, there‘s a different playing field for you guys. 

CARPENTER:  I think that‘s a good question that people have been raising, especially on the liberal side.  How can you even think about letting these workers go when you‘ve propped up all the big bankers?  How come you‘re firing GM when you never—

SHUSTER:  I agree with you on that.  We agree on something.  No worries.  Amanda, stick around. 

Up next, can President Obama parlay his overseas rock star status into much needed support for global economic policy? 

Your Twitter questions coming up at the end of the hour.  Go to Twitter.com/Shuster1600 or use the link at Shuster.MSNBC.com. 


SHUSTER:  Welcome back to 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.  Remember the famous 1961 instruction of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to Paris?  Well, today, Barack and Michelle Obama start a grand European tour of their own.  From “The Guardian,” which reports thousands of police officers in the city of London have deployed to secure the city where world leaders are meeting, to the “London Times,” every European paper is covering the arrival of the Obamas this evening. 

They touched down in a continent where they‘re wildly popular.  Over 80 percent of Europeans approve of the Obamas in a recent poll.  Can Mr.  Obama use the rock star appeal which brought crowds of 100,000 to hear him speak last Summer in Berlin—can he use all those crowds to persuade Europeans to support his foreign policy goal? 

Let‘s bring in our political panel, Chris Kofinis, Amanda Carpenter. 

Amanda, is there anything about this trip that concerns you? 

CARPENTER:  Here‘s the thing, in the run-up to the trip, if you read the Sunday papers, every paper was talking about the problems that Obama might encounter on this trip, how difficult it was going to be to management expectations.  I just don‘t buy it.  He‘s very popular there.  I don‘t think he‘s not—he‘s going to get good mileage out of this.  You don‘t even have to produce results, because it‘s the first trip.  You‘re laying the ground work.  So I think he‘s going to get a lot of good press.  At the end of the day, it isn‘t going to mean a whole heck of a lot. 

SHUSTER:  Chris Kofinis, I have a theory that this trip becomes an automatic success if Barack Obama comes back and the American people are told, no, the United States is not participating in an international global currency.  The reason they might even think that is because of people like Michele Bachmann, who have been coming up with this crazy stuff.  The expectations are already perfect for Obama to sail over. 

KOFINIS:  It‘s pretty easy to sail over that expectation.  Here‘s what I think is great about the president‘s first trip overseas; here we have a president who, yes, is wildly popular with Europeans and is going to be met with huge, relatively, I would say, adoring crowds, versus the previous president, who would be met with less than adoring crowds, to be kind. 

This is a dramatic turn in this country‘s, I think, foreign policy and diplomacy.  That is a good thing.  It is critical, I think, toward our ability to work with our allies on critical issues, whether it‘s the global economy, whether it‘s Afghanistan, whether it‘s terrorism, whether it‘s Iran. 

That, I think, in and of itself, is probably the most significant thing President Obama does.  He finally is bringing that breath of fresh air to American diplomacy, something that was sorely needed after eight years of cowboy diplomacy under the Bush administration. 

SHUSTER:  Amanda? 

CARPENTER:  I mean, it‘s kind of funny.  If you look at conservatives blogs and things like that, I can see how people get the perception that it is automatically bad that Obama is liked abroad.  I don‘t think that‘s a terribly bad thing.  The question should be, can he use his personal appeal to work on behalf of American interests?  I think people wonder if he will compromise American sovereignty—

SHUSTER:  Like what?  


SHUSTER:  Something about American interest that he might compromise. 

What specifically? 

CARPENTER:  People are worried about that.  He will lend too much cooperation at the United Nations on issues we don‘t agree with, that they will, you know, devote more money to programs that may not work and that other Americans don‘t agree with.  The question is, will he use his personal appeal?  For what causes will he advance with that?  You can‘t see that from the first trip.

KOFINIS:  This, I think, is the main criticism from the right and the flaws.  They see diplomacy and cooperation somehow as a negative.  They see working with allies as somehow wrong, a weakness.  It actually is the greatest thing you can do, because it actually maximizes your power instead of weakens it.  This is what was, I think, the major flaw of the Bush administration, going it alone on every single issue.  And they just alienated the world. 

As a consequence, you have President Obama trying to fix that. 

SHUSTER:  We‘ve got to make that the last word for this segment.  Chris Kofinis and Amanda Carpenter are sticking around.  We‘ll see them again in Twitter time. 

Clearly, as we were talking about earlier, there are some very powerful lawmakers like Ted Kennedy and Bob Dole here in Washington.  Now, it‘s time for focus on one of the worst, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. 

The Minnesota lawmaker is criticizing the Obama administration.  That is fine.  The way she‘s doing it now takes us to tonight‘s hypocrisy watch.

First, the non-controversial background.  Congresswoman Bachmann has repeatedly insisted that all of us need to work peacefully and lawfully within the political system.  She‘s speaking about that goal in talking about the Middle East.  She recently urged the Obama administration to, quote, “foster an environment with the Middle East that promotes peace and understanding.  The future of America and Israel depend on it.” 

The future of America and Israel depend on peace and understanding.  Seems rational, right?  Well, not to the same Michele Bachmann, who gave a radio interview last week and advocated for a violent revolution here in the United States.  First, she first spoke about her role in that revolution. 


REP. MICHELLE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  Really now in Washington I‘m a foreign correspondent on enemy lines. 


SHUSTER:  Enemy lines?  Democrats are the enemy?  It gets worse. 


BACHMANN:  I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax, because we need to fight back. 


SHUSTER:  Armed and dangerous?  We need to fight back?  First of all, I hope the Secret Service is listening, because when a member of Congress urges an armed revolution against something the president of the United States is doing, that‘s a threat and it encourages threats. 

Now, I‘m sure Congresswoman Bachmann will insist she has been misconstrued and that she doesn‘t always mean what she says.  After all, last year when she said some of her colleagues in the House were un-American, she then denied saying it, despite the existence of that little thing called videotape. 

In any case, congresswoman, when you speak of peace and understanding one day and armed revolutions the next, that‘s hypocrisy and it‘s wrong.  And any lawmaker who encourages an armed fight against any president of the United States, that is way, way over the line. 

Up next, a Congressman‘s wife is “Dancing With the Stars” in her husband‘s district.  Can you guess who this is?  We‘ll tell you about her and the campaign her husband has launched on her behalf. 

Plus, Bobby Knight, Roy Williams and coach K playing the guitar in their underwear?  Our Twitter video of the day.  You don‘t want to miss this one.  That‘s ahead on 1600.


SHUSTER:  Welcome back to 1600.  There‘s a lot going on today.  Here are a few things I thought you should know.  Former President George W.  Bush is writing a book and finding a few other ways to keep busy these days.  Today, we learned he‘s going to throw out the ceremonial first pitch next Monday at the Texas Rangers opening day in Arlington, Texas.  Mr. Bush was the managing general partner for the Rangers from 1989 to 1984.  What video that is.  Amazing.  He followed some famous foot steps.  His dad, George H.W. Bush, threw out the first pitch in 1991.  Gerald Ford earned that honor in 1976. 

Up next, the Fox TV show “The Simpsons” has given a nod to the on-going economic crisis.  In the opening sequence of every episode, Bart Simpson is seen writing something on the chock board, a punishment for some sort of mis-doing in class.  In every episode, the phrase that Bart writes as punishment changes.  Look closely at what Bart wrote this past Sunday night.  “My piggy bank is not entitled to Tarp funds.”  That‘s right, unless is belongs to AIG. 

Next, whether you agree with his policies or not, one of the most endearing members of Congress is Democrat Dennis Kucinich.  He‘s proven that yet again.  Kucinich is now using his Twitter page to get votes for his wife.  Elizabeth Kucinich is not running for office, but she is trying to win Cleveland‘s “Dancing With the Stars” competition. 

Take a look.  News Channel 5 in Cleveland is running a local “Dancing With the Stars” contest on its morning news show, “Good Morning Cleveland.”  It‘s week there.  Here‘s Kucinich dancing the tango with professional dancer Bob O‘Brien.  Here is the campaign effort from Kucinich‘s husband Dennis.  He Tweets, “please vote for Elizabeth and ask your friends to do the same.  Vote early and vote often.”  Voting closes tomorrow morning at 6:30 Cleveland time.  We‘ll have an update for you tomorrow.

Those are a few things I thought you should know. 

That leads us straight to Twitter time and this related story.  A university in Great Britain is offering a master‘s degree in Twitter.  Birmingham City University School of Media is offering a social media degree which would study websites like Twitter, Facebook and blogs.  The course would kick off this fall.

Let‘s bring in our panel, Chris Kofinis and Amanda Carpenter.  We encourage our Twitterers to link us to videos.  The video that everybody has been talking about wanting us to run from Twitter is this one.  One is bad, ten is good.  Get ready to score this.  Watch. 



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What are you doing? 

BOBBY KNIGHT, BASKETBALL COACH:  We‘re playing the Guitar Hero. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now there‘s Guitar Hero Metallica.   


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So it means you‘re going to have to put on some pants, pops. 

KNIGHT:  Who are you calling pops? 


SHUSTER:  That was coach Bob Knight, formerly of Indiana fame, Coach K, Roy Williams, Rick Pitino.  One is bad, ten is good.  Your score, Amanda Carpenter? 

CARPENTER:  I give it an eight.  It‘s entertaining, but they‘re basketball coaches.  I would have liked to see a little more yelling, less singing and playing guitar. 

SHUSTER:  That‘s a good point.  Chris?

KOFINIS:  I give it a one.  They‘re all coaches of the wrong team.  As a lifelong Syracuse fan, I can not be party of any favorable comments about Indiana coaches or North Carolina coaches. 

SHUSTER:  You‘re killing me.

KOFINIS:  Sorry, David.

SHUSTER:  Here‘s one of the more interesting things we found about this video.  We found some of this via Twitter as well.  That is the coaches were all interviewed about their experience of shooting this commercial.  Here‘s four-time NCAA champion winner coach Bob Knight talking about this commercial.  Watch. 


KNIGHT:  I think my ex-players will find this to be very humorous if they can actually believe I‘m doing this. 


SHUSTER:  Coach Knight, you get a ten from all of us in Hoosier land. 

Well, these guys are just freaking out on me tonight. 

CARPENTER:  Ten for the people on Twitter. 

SHUSTER:  Quick Twitter question before we go.  Amanda, we were talking about Michele Bachmann.  Somebody on Twitter wants to know, are Minnesotans nuts?  How could Michele Bachmann get elected? 

CARPENTER:  You look at the other people in that state, I think you can make that argument.  Who is it, Jesse Ventura?  Do I have that right? 

SHUSTER:  -- between Jesse Ventura and Michele Bachmann? 

CARPENTER:  They have this thing about Minnesota nice.  I think there‘s some fun stuff going on.  I do think Michele Bachmann is a very nice lady.  I‘ve talked to her a number of times.  I think she‘s very outspoken.  I applaud that. 

SHUSTER:  I think she‘s nuts. I think a case can be made that Michele Bachmann—

CARPENTER:  I don‘t think she‘s nuts. 

SHUSTER:  Why would a rational person—she has said some very rational things—say some of the things she has? 

CARPENTER:  I think she puts herself in a venue where she speaks her mind and that‘s refreshing in some respect and politics—

KOFINIS:  I think it‘s dangerously scary.

SHUSTER:  I‘m with Chris Kofinis. 

Thanks to our panel, Chris Kofinis and Amanda Carpenter.  That‘s the view from 1600 PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE.  I‘m David Shuster. 

Remember, get the latest political news and a sneak peek at what‘s coming up on the show sent to your inbox with the 1600 Daily Briefing.  Sign up at Shuster.MSNBC.com or text Penn to 622639.  I‘ll be Twittering after the show.  I‘m David Shuster.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews starts right now.



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