updated 4/8/2009 12:29:06 PM ET 2009-04-08T16:29:06

Guest: Stephen Lerner, Ron Wyden, Carlos Watson, Michael Graham, Sam Stein, Mark Ritchie High: The president travels to Iraq.

Spec: SEIU; Barack Obama; Health and Medicine; Insurance; Michele

Bachmann

ED SCHULTZ, HOST:  Good evening, Americans, from 30 Rock in New York City.

It‘s THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.

Good to have you with us tonight, folks. 

And coming up tonight, the president drops into the war zone in Iraq. 

Rallies are organizing around the country for the Employee Free Choice Act. 

And you have to wonder, do Democrats have a detailed plan for health care? 

Senator Ron Wyden says yes, and he‘s coming up on the show. 

And we‘ll have more on the Minnesota Senate race.

I ran into Norm Coleman on the streets of New York last night.  He says it‘s 4,000 votes. 

We‘ll of course have another great panel for you tonight.  And you won‘t want to miss “Psycho Talk.”

But, first, tonight, “OpEd.”

Another middle class issue.  I told you last night we‘re going to be committed to the middle class in this hour on MSNBC. 

Tonight it‘s the Employee Free Choice Act.  I‘m here to report to you tonight that this act is in the danger zone.  But let‘s back up just a little bit and give you a history here. 

The unions put the Democrats in the majority.  Bottom line.  Had it not been for the efforts in ‘06 in Pennsylvania and in Ohio, those Senate seats would have never been won.  Also, Senate seats were picked up in Missouri and Montana. 

So now we roll with into ‘08, and the unions again with an unprecedented effort of $40 million, social networking, boots on the ground, and they want one thing.  It‘s their biggest issue in 40 years of labor, and it is the Employee Free Choice Act. 

Now, what is it?  Well, let‘s go to the board. 

The Employee Free Choice act is about, just that, choice.  What could be more American than having a choice in the workplace as to whether you‘re going to organize or not? 

Now, the point being here is that if you get your friends together in the workplace and you decide you want to do collective bargaining, you can do it.  Yes, you can do it today.  But this would change. 

Now, one of the claims that‘s being made out there by the antis of the Employee Free Choice Act is that this would take away the right of a secret ballot. 

Folks, I‘m telling you tonight, that is an absolutely lie.  And the advertising that has been out there by the antis is misleading Americans across the board on this.

If you‘re in the workplace, and if you want to have a secret ballot or if you want to have an open ballot, you can do that.  This law would not change that. 

Now, also, the thing that the management and ownership doesn‘t like is that there is a date specific when it comes to getting a deal.  You know, voting in a union in the workplace is one thing.  Then going to the front office and getting a deal with the employees, that‘s something else—the stall tactics, the intimidation of the employees who actually started this whole doggoned thing. 

And so there is binding arbitration.  They‘re going to have 90 days to get a deal done and then, of course, there would be binding arbitration.  And that‘s what the antis in the front office doesn‘t like. 

Now, there is a change in the landscape in the last 24 hours.  I have called on all Democrats to stand up.  We know who put you in office, and this is what the union and the working folk and the wage earners in this country want. 

Well, an Arkansas senator, Blanche Lincoln, has decided to take issue with the Employee Free Choice Act.  Now, we asked the senator to come on the program tonight.  She says she‘s moving on to another issue. 

Really?

Now, let‘s talk about Arkansas for just a moment and this comment that was made by the senator from Arkansas.  It‘s one of those issues that creates great division, as well as distraction, at a time we all need to have hands on deck. 

Wait a second.  What division?  What distraction?  This is what the American wage earners want. 

Every poll in the workplace in the country is coming up positive on this.  This is what the unions want.  And I‘ve been told by some union heads, Democrats, if you don‘t deliver on this, it could be a rough road to hoe.  There is a small window of opportunity to get this thing done, and they need to get it done. 

Now, in Arkansas, I find it hard to believe that a senator from a state where wage earners are pretty much depressed wouldn‘t support a deal like this.  For instance, the U.S. median income versus Arkansas median income, $50,000 across the country -- $50,200.  The Arkansas median income is $39,500. 

Senator, your state is 47th out of 50th when it comes to wages.  Now, I know that Wal-Mart is in the back yard and they don‘t like this union thing at all.  But looking at the total picture of it, doesn‘t a rising tide lift all boats?  Don‘t the people of Arkansas deserve this opportunity?  I would think they would considering the statistics I just showed you. 

Now, it‘s going to be some tough sledding for some centrist Democrats out there who don‘t really want to admit who got them in the majority back in November.  And I want to know, where does the president of the United States stand on this? 

Now, President Obama, you know I‘m a big fan.  Hey, I was the first progressive talker to come out in your corner.  And you can‘t get me out of your corner.  I‘m a big fan.  I believe in what you‘re doing. 

I think we documented on this program last night how awesome a 77-day run you have had leading this country.  Your trip to the G-20 has been absolutely outstanding. 

But Mr. President, I need you to say to the American people and the wage earners of this country that you will support and you will sign the Employee Free Choice Act if it comes to your desk. 

How bad do they want it? 

Joining me now is Stephen Lerner of the Service Employees International Union. 

Mr. Lerner, great to have you with us here tonight on the Ed program. 

STEPHEN LERNER, SEIU:  It‘s great to be here.  And congratulations on your show.  We need to hear your voice.  It‘s great to hearing everything you‘re saying. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I have to tell you, my friend, if we don‘t get this thing passed, it‘s all for naught. 

I want to know, are you comfortable where the president stands on this right now?

LERNER:  Well, you know, President Obama has been incredibly clear.  He said he supports the act, he said he will sign the act, and he said again—the Employee Free Choice Act.  Then he said again and again, he doesn‘t buy the argument from people who create all of these minor issues about what they don‘t like about it.

He says you‘re either for letting the majority decide or not, and he‘s for it.  And we ought to build on that.  And all over the country we need to have the message that this is how we rebuild the middle class, this is how we make our country work for the majority of the people again. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Now, I can get any senator to say that.  I can get them

oh, we‘re fighting for the middle class, we‘ve got to have health care, education, this, that and the other.  I‘m talking about moving wages that have been stagnant for the working folk of America versus that of CEOs walking away with millions and billions of dollars. 

When are we going to get some fairness in this whole system?  And this act will do it.  How bad do you want it? 

LERNER:  Well, I‘ll tell you, not only—let me give you an example.  You know, we talk about CEOs.  Ken Lewis, the head of Bank of America, made $35 million in the last two years.  The average teller at Bank of America made $21,000. 

They got $45 billion in our tax dollars.  Then they gave themselves $5 billion in bonuses.  That‘s a lot of billions. 

But think about this—if you had divided those bonuses among the tellers, it would have been $150,000 per teller.  So that‘s what‘s wrong here, is there‘s a small group at the top of billionaires and banks.  They are talk the money. 

And what the Employee Free Choice Act is about is, how do we change that so that, instead, we rebuild the middle class by raising wages, by getting people benefits?  And we want it bad, and I think what you‘re going to see is as people head out to the districts on the recess, a lot of these Democrats who are getting a little wobbly, they‘re going to have to look in the eyes of their constituents, who are saying, I need a raise, I need a union, I need a better life, and I need you to be behind me on that. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, tell us and tell our audience about these rallies that are going to be taken across America.  How intense are they going to be, and do you think they‘re going to have an effect? 

LERNER:  Well, there‘s going to be hundreds of events around the country ranging from workers, roundtables, to people going to talk to their senators.  On the 28th of April, we‘re going to be at Bank of America around the country, calling on them to stop fighting free choice and using our tax dollars to keep wages low.  I think you‘re going to see an interesting thing happening, which is we‘ve got a spirit of hope in this country that we can make things better, and there‘s a growing feeling of anger. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes.  Mr. Lerner, I don‘t want to misstate the facts at all here on MSNBC.  I want to be very clear.  The American people, every poll shows that they are in favor on this.

Am I correct on that?

LERNER:  The American people are in favor of it.

SCHULTZ:  OK.

LERNER:  The majority of Congress, the majority—everybody is for it except for big business that‘s using their power to try to stop them. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Now, are you in favor or would the SIEU, would you go along with a compromise?  Lanny Davis is out there.  He says he‘s got some CEOs on board that are willing to do a compromise. 

Is a compromise a loss for labor? 

LERNER:  Talking about a compromise misses the real point here.  The point is we need a law and a change that let‘s workers organize, let‘s them unite, and let‘s them rebuild the middle class.  And we‘re very suspicious about people who are against unions, who then say, oh, I have a compromise.  We think their compromise is to keep the status quo. 

SCHULTZ:  Mr. Lerner, good to have you with us tonight.

LERNER:  OK.

SCHULTZ:  But I have to tell you, I‘ve got an issue with these centrist Democrats who aren‘t going to work for the wage earners.  This is still a heavy lift.

Good to have you with us.

LERNER:  Thanks a lot.

SCHULTZ:  We‘ll continue to focus on this and the middle class. 

LERNER:  Great.  Thanks.  Good to be on.

SCHULTZ:  Fixing health care.  I think it is one of the most important issues facing us today in America.  Ron Wyden is blazing the bipartisan trail on health care reform.  Can he get it done? 

He‘s coming up next on THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.

Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Up next, Senator Ron Wyden on his fight to get health care coverage for everyone. 

But first, folks, you‘ve got to check this out, new from General Motors and Segway.  It‘s called the PUMA, an electric vehicle with two wheels and room for two people.  GM, you know, the company that made the Hummer—whoa, what a change—it says it now wants to be known as the source for fuel-efficient vehicles. 

I‘m all about it. 

You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC. 

The thing looks like a golf cart.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Vice President Joe Biden was down at the ballpark in Baltimore yesterday.  And you know, he said something really interesting—“If the economy comes back and the middle class doesn‘t, we‘ve failed.”

Now, we all know that the middle class is flat-out going broke in America because of health care costs in this country.  “The New York Times” is out with a new poll today, and it says after the economy, health care is the biggest priority for Americans.  Thirty-five percent of the folks want the president and the Congress to focus on getting health care reform done this year. 

And this is because health care costs are going through the roof.  The middle class is paying big time.  The situation is so bad that 57 percent of Americans would be willing to pay higher taxes for universal health care. 

So what‘s the chance of getting health care reform done this year, and how are we going to just get this thing done? 

Joining me now is the bipartisan trailblazer on all of this, Senator Ron Wyden from the great state of Oregon. 

Senator, great to have you with us tonight here on the Ed program. 

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON:  Thanks, Ed.  I gather this is your second show.  We‘re looking for a lot more. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I wanted to get you on number one, but that was a different story yesterday. 

We got to have you talking about this, Senator.  This is just such a hot issue in America. 

But first, I want to take you to an interview on my radio show that I did with President Obama just a few weeks ago when we were talking about this issue, health care in America.  Here‘s what he had to say. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Cost is the thing that everybody is most concerned about.  So we‘ve got to invest in health information technologies, we‘ve got to change how we incentivize providers so that instead of just providing more and more care, they provide quality care that produces better outcome.  We‘ve got to focus on prevention.  We‘ve got to make sure that insurance companies and drug companies aren‘t working the system in ways that increase cost but don‘t improve health care quality.

So there are a range of reforms that are built in to any package that we put forward.  But I‘m confident that this is the year where we can get health care done.  We‘re just going to have to really work hard to do it. 

SCHULTZ:  You can get health care done in 2009, you think? 

OBAMA:  That‘s what I believe. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Senator Wyden, can you back him up on this?  Have you got enough bipartisan help?

WYDEN:  We do.  And we‘ve got two chairmen, Max Baucus and Ted Kennedy.  And when you talk about this subject, they get a glint in their eye.

And the fact is, Ed, you‘ve been talking about wage earners on the show.  The reason people don‘t see their take-home pay going up is it all goes to medical care. 

So the president made a number of points about cost containment.  Let me ask add a couple of others. 

It really starts with private insurance reform.  Private insurance today is all about cherry-picking.  These companies take only the healthy people, send the sick people over to government programs, more fragile than they are.  We‘re going to change that, and we‘re going to make sure, for example, that everybody is going to be able to buy, as part of a big pool, a big group, so they can get more cost containment. 

SCHULTZ:  Now, do I have this right?  You must enroll in a health plan if this version would pass.  Is that correct? 

WYDEN:  We do believe there ought to be some personal responsibility.  But let‘s start with the fact that there are 11 million people in this country, Ed, with incomes well over $60,000 a year.  A lot of those folks use the hospital emergency room inappropriately.  So a big part of health reform is getting all of us in. 

Then we start rewarding prevention and wellness.  Medicare, for example, is the biggest outpatient health care program in the country.  They don‘t provide any rewards for staying well.  So what we say to the seniors, you lower your blood pressure, you lower your cholesterol, you‘re going to get reduced premiums. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I want to ask you, Senator, about this standard benefits.  You know, I read on your Web site about standard benefits and it was a little foggy to me. 

What does this mean?  Does that mean that Americans are going to get the exact same health care that you men and women in the Congress and the Senate get? 

WYDEN:  You‘ve got it, Ed.  Everybody in this country ought to have a floor of decency in health care.  That means prevention.  It means outpatient.  It means inpatient for hospital and catastrophic. 

And for the amount of money we‘re spending in this country, Ed, we can do it.  For the amount of money we‘re spending in this country, you could go out and hire a doctor for every seven families, pay the doctor $225,000 for the year. 

We‘re spending enough money.  We‘re not spending it in the right places.  And now 14 United States senators, a number of Republicans, are going along with us Democrats to get everybody good quality, affordable coverage, just like Congress people have. 

SCHULTZ:  What‘s this about $83,000?  I see that $83,000 seems to be the magic number in this.  Are you actually going to subsidize premiums for everybody under that number? 

WYDEN:  That‘s correct.  And here‘s the way it would work. 

We‘ve got these tax rules in this country with respect to health care, and they just savor the most affluent.  In effect, affluent folks can go out and get a designer smile on the back of those wage earners that you‘re talking about on the show. 

We want to make sure that no middle class person pays any tax on their health care.  But as far as I‘m concerned, somebody who is well off ought to pay for those designer smiles with their own money, not the taxpayers‘ money, not the wage earners‘ money.  We‘ll take those tax breaks away and make sure that middle class folks can afford health care. 

And if you‘re making, say, $83,000 a year, you‘re a family of four in Michigan, you aren‘t going to pay a dime on a basic health package.  A dime of taxes—excuse me. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, I hope you get it done.  Can you give me just a couple of names, quickly, of some Republicans you‘re going to be able to count on? 

WYDEN:  Well, the sponsors—and this is a pretty amazing group.  We‘ve got Bob Bennett of Utah, Mike Crapo, joining myself, and Debbie Stabenow, Maria Cantwell.

I just think with good leadership, this time we can get it done.  And the fact is, Ed, you cannot fix this economy without fixing health care.

SCHULTZ:  You can‘t.  You can‘t do it.

Senator, great to have you on.  We‘ll do it again.  We‘ll stay on the story.

And please do something for small businesses in this country when it comes to health care. 

Ron, thanks so much.  We‘ll visit again. 

WYDEN:  Look forward to it. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet. 

Next up on THE ED SHOW, “Psycho Talk.”

And wait until you hear Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann‘s latest.  She‘s worried President Obama is going to send our young people to reeducation camps and brainwash them. 

No!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Oh, this is my favorite part. 

Have you heard some of the crazy things that are being said by the conservatives?  It‘s time for another edition of “Psycho Talk.”

Landing in today‘s “Psycho Talk” is Michele Bachmann.  She never seems to disappoint.  Does she?

Speaking to Minnesota radio station KTLK AM over the weekend, Bachmann tells host Sue Jeffers she fears Obama has brainwashing plans for young adults. 

Let‘s go to the tape.   

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  It‘s under the guise of cult volunteerism, but it‘s not volunteers at all.  It‘s paying people to do work on behalf of government.

I believe that there‘s a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service.  And the real concern is that there are provisions for what I would call reeducation camps for young people, where young kids will have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward, and then they have to go and work in some of these politically correct forums. 

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Whoa.  Bachmann is referring here to the Edward M. Kennedy Service America Act, which would expand national community service programs from 75,000 positions to 250,000. 

The bill passed both the House and the Senate with significant bipartisan support.  And to clarify, you heard Congresswoman Bachmann say she thinks there is a strong chance young people are going to be put into mandatory service. 

Wait a minute.  That‘s a false claim which has been spreading on a number of conservative Web sites. 

FactCheck.org says the phrase “mandatory service requirement” is nowhere to be found either in the House or Senate versions of the bill.  Furthermore, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch clarified this last month saying, “Nothing in this legislation is mandatory.  This bill simply provides more Americans more choices and opportunities to give back to their neighborhoods and their country, all through the means by which they so freely choose.”

This is Michele Bachmann‘s first entry to “Psycho Talk.” 

And Ladies and Gentlemen, I‘m sure that she will be making a return. 

More on Michele Bachmann with out panel coming up in a minute. 

We‘re also going to talk about House Minority Whip Eric Cantor.  They say he‘s a rising star ion the GOP.  His latest political strategy?  Ambushing freshman Democrats. 

Does that sound like a plan for a rising star?  Is that all the Republicans can come up with right now? 

This is THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.  We‘ve got work to do. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

So, what have you been doing in the past eight days?  Well, here‘s what President Obama has done: two town halls in foreign countries; two major speeches; six international news conferences; 18 meetings with world leaders; traveled a total of 10,000 miles, including a surprise trip to the war zone in Iraq today to meet with the troops.  Compare that to what the opposition Republicans are doing.  Michele Bachmann talking about re-education camps.  We showed you her psycho talk.  And this report about Eric Cantor, the number two Republican in the House.  Here‘s his big plan.  He‘s trying to ambush freshman Democrats during debates that are broadcast on C-Span, but then put the clips on Youtube to make them look bad. 

You know how it goes?  It sounds like the Republicans have a winning strategy to stay in the minority, if you ask me.  Carlos Watson, anchor and political strategist here on MSNBC.  Sam Stein, political reporter for the “Huffington Post” and also Michael Graham of WTKK, radio host, with us tonight in Massachusetts. 

All right, Michael.  I‘ve got to start with you first tonight, buddy. 

What are the Republicans doing?  What is the strategy here? 

MICHAEL GRAHAM, WTKK RADIO:  I‘m with you, Ed.  I thought Eric Cantor should have been in Europe talking at the G-20.  I think the Republicans should all jump on a plane and—come on, you can‘t compare what the president of the United States is doing with some guy in Congress. 

All the Republicans need to do right now is keep score.  If running up a 1.75 trillion dollar deficit, if adding more debt in 20 months than we‘ve had in 200 years works, then the Democrats are going to win.  But if it doesn‘t work, the Republicans will have to say, see, we told you it was a bad idea. 

SCHULTZ:  Carlos, what do you think about this? 

CARLOS WATSON, MSNBC POLITICAL STRATEGIST:  You know, it‘s not unusual.  Remember, Newt Gingrich did this 20 years ago. 

SCHULTZ:  I got a play book here.   

WATSON:  By the way, who is Cantor‘s mentor?  Newt Gingrich.  Not surprising where it came from.  I think the real story here is that not only do Republicans need to do some gorilla tactics, and they do.  And not only do they need some real solutions—we saw them try last week.  Who knows what will happen, as you said, on health care and other things. 

But what do they really need to do, Ed?  They have to raise a ton of money.  The truth of the matter is, right now, they don‘t have the message and they don‘t have the messengers. 

SCHULTZ:  Sam Stein of the “Huffington Post,” I want to ask you, the “New York Times” has come out with a poll that says the number one issue is either the economy or health care.  Why aren‘t the Republicans talking about it, Sam? 

SAM STEIN, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”:  Because they are stuck on tactical maneuvers, like the one that Eric Cantor would do.  This just feeds into that theme that all they have are different guerrilla tactics to get back in the majority.  They could have spent the time they did trying to embarrass freshman Democrats by actually putting numbers on the budget they introduced first going up to Congress. 

But they‘re devoid of ideas, and they can‘t talk about the economy when they have Bush hanging over their heads as the reason the economy is in the doldrums in the first place.  Again, deploying tactics as a way to get back into the majority.  Don‘t know if it‘s going to work. 

SCHULTZ:  I‘ve got to ask you, Michael, are the elected Republicans listening to Newt Gingrich?  Do they believe that we are less safe?  Does the leadership of the Republican party think we are less safe? 

GRAHAM:  I‘m sorry.  You mentioned a mythical creature I‘m not familiar with.  The leadership of the Republican party?  I want to get back to something.  I love this sympathy for congressman for whatever party.  They‘re in Congress.  Someone asks them a question.  Eric Cantor isn‘t asking them questions from “Jeopardy.”  Quick, the northern most European capital.  He‘s asking them about the policies they are disgusting.  And so I‘m supposed to feel for a congressman who doesn‘t understand the issues?  Then again, since Democrats have stopped reading any legislation they vote on, maybe it is a trick question.  I don‘t know. 

STEIN:  -- a clip for Youtube. 

(CROSS TALK)

SCHULTZ:  Hold on fellows.  The “New York Times”/CBS poll, the right direction on the economy; the numbers show that the president of the United States, Carlos, is headed in the right direction.  How long do you think this is going to last?  We‘ve got to start seeing some job, don‘t we? 

WATSON:  We do.  But I think he has until the year.  And actually I think he may have longer.  The truth of the matter is I think this president may get the longest honeymoon since FDR.  It won‘t be as short as what Gerald Ford got, which was only a month.  And he may or may not get two years.  I think people are willing to give it some time. 

You know what‘s helped a bunch in the last couple of weeks, believe it or not?  I think the Dow.  I think the Dow‘s numbers—people are looking for something.  They are not getting it from the unemployment numbers, not yet.  We don‘t see a lot of for hire signs.  I think the Dow is something that people can measure that is giving them a little bit of hope. 

SCHULTZ:  Sam, there‘s another poll out, right direction on keeping America safe.  The president also wins, 61 percent to 27 percent.  How should the Democrats take this?  Go out and tell the world that they are doing the right thing?  Should they spike the ball on this?  What do you think? 

STEIN:  No.  I think the truth is that they should civil about, statesmen like about it.  They don‘t want to make it a political issue, because that‘s the thing that they blame the Bush administration for doing.  I think the structure right here is to focus on the economy too.  So as much as these national security numbers matter, really it‘s about jobs. 

I‘m with Carlos.  I think the president gets a honeymoon.  I think actually the unemployment statistics are what is the key is here, not the market.  If unemployment keeps going up, then the president is going to be in trouble. 

SCHULTZ:  OK, Sam, I‘ve got to ask you, because you did the story on Michele Bachmann.  Does she have any credibility at all? 

STEIN:  Yes, sure.  I think there‘s a sliver of the GOP that actually believes the stuff that she says, whether it‘s these camps for education or whether it‘s an orderly revolution or the elimination of a dollar, all of these crazy things she has said in the past few weeks.  I actually think there‘s a slice of the GOP that terminally believes this paranoia about Barack Obama. 

SCHULTZ:  I just find her comments absolutely amazing.  For talk television, she‘s the gift that just keeps on giving. 

WATSON:  And for Democrats.  Do you not think that MoveOn.org and every other Democratic group is not going to run some of her things over and over again?

SCHULTZ:  Michael, I‘ve got to ask you, should the Republicans be reeling in Michele Bachmann at all?  She seems like an unguided missile right now. 

GRAHAM:  Most Americans are going, who is Michele Bachmann?  I love the idea of MoveOn.org, the vast majority of whose members, according to polling, say that they either believe that government was involved in 9/11 or aren‘t sure, is going to criticize someone over conspiracies. 

Right now, you have a loony lefty, Lincoln Chafee, running for governor of Rhode Island.  He wanted to be part of the 9/11 investigation panel, because they are not sure what happened.  If you want to find kooks in America, look to the left. 

SCHULTZ:  That‘s the majority of us then, Michael.  Come on over, my friend.  Things are going pretty good.  We‘re heading in the right direction.  Panel, stay with us.  We‘ll be right back. 

What is going on with the Minnesota Senate race?  It‘s been three months, folks.  Why this recount?  Why is it dragging on?  What‘s going on?  Well, we‘re going to ask the Minnesota secretary of state, up next on THE ED SHOW, right here on MSNBC.  Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  You know, I‘m a football guy.  Of course, we have play books.  And today‘s play book is about the Senate race that just isn‘t going to end.  Or is it? 

We thought today would be a big day in the Minnesota Senate sage.  A three-judge panel got together and counted 350 contested ballots.  As expected, Democrat Al Franken expanded his lead over Republican Norm Coleman of more than 300 votes.  But here‘s what I learned last night.  I mean, I had one of these crazy New York City experiences. 

I‘m walking down Sixth Avenue and all of a sudden there‘s Norm Coleman.  What are you doing in New York?  I ask, are you going to throw in the towel on this thing?  He said, absolutely not.  He told me that he‘s going to take this baby all the way to the supreme court.  He wants every vote counted. 

Well, then, we have Governor Pawlenty comments on our air yesterday.  He was asked if he would sign the election certificate if the panel found Franken the winner.  His answer no.  Listen up. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY ®, MINNESOTA:  It‘s pretty clear that one side or the other is going to take that next step.  It wouldn‘t be appropriate for me or anyone else to step in front of it.  It‘s frustrating that this has taken so long, but we need to get a proper and just and accurate and legal result.  It‘s going to take, it looks like, a few more months to get that.   

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  So what‘s next?  Let‘s ask the secretary of state from the state of Minnesota, Mark Ritchie.  He is here to join us and explain what is becoming an embarrassment, I think, for the state of Minnesota. 

Mr. Ritchie, I ran into Norm Coleman last night.  He said, 4,000 votes, he wants them counted.  Is that going to happen? 

MARK RITCHIE, MINNESOTA SECRETARY OF STATE:  Well, of course today the judge said, no, that‘s not going to happen.  We have now counted all of the legally cast ballots.  Candidate Franken has won the election.  But, of course, with Minnesota law, we are very careful and allow the losing candidate to go to the state supreme court.  We expect that to happen and for them to act very swiftly in this manner. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Let‘s say that he does that, goes to the Minnesota Supreme Court.  They rule.  And then here comes the United States Supreme Court.  Do you think they will go that far?  It sounds to me like Norm Coleman is going to take it to the limit? 

RITCHIE:  Oh, he can take it to the Supreme Court, but the US Senate could care less what the US Supreme Court says or doesn‘t say about who they seat them.  The U.S. Senate has been very specific.  They want to know who the citizens of Minnesota voted for in November.  We have established that.  There is one more appeal. 

The U.S. Senate is not waiting around for the U.S. Supreme Court.  We‘re going to have an order from the Minnesota Supreme Court.  That‘s what ends this process.  There will be an election certificate and the U.S.  Senate will then decide, as they always do, how and when they seat their members. 

SCHULTZ:  But you heard Governor Pawlenty.  He was on our air yesterday here on MSNBC.  He‘s not going to sign it.  What about that?  Who wins? 

RITCHIE:  Well, what he said was that at the end of this contest there still is one more step.  He‘s absolutely right.  We give a losing candidate one more try.  They can go to the Minnesota supreme court.  The Minnesota supreme court is there waiting for his appeal.  They‘ve been following this closely.  We expect them to act very quickly.  And they will then order the certificate signed and delivered to the Supreme Court --  I mean, to the U.S. Senate.  And then we can get back to fishing and other things in Minnesota that are equally important. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, now, wait a minute.  I‘m from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. where we live—we used to live there.  And I know fishing is important, but we might have World War Three first, because John Cornyn, the senator from Texas, says it‘s going to be World War Three if Norm Coleman is not going to be in the United States Senate?  What do you expect from the Republican leadership?  Are they going to push back on this?  And what legal grounds do they have to do that? 

RITCHIE:  I don‘t know.  The U.S. Senate will have to deal with that.  But other people have declared World War Three and the Yanks have kicked their behind.  So that‘s pretty strong language. 

SCHULTZ:  All right.  Mr. Ritchie, I appreciate your time tonight on THE ED SHOW.  We‘ll visit again.  Thanks so much.    As a Minnesota resident, I would like to see this end.  OK. 

Let‘s bring back our panel.  Carlos Watson, have you ever seen anything like this? 

WATSON:  You know, I was a young pup in 1974, when the New Hampshire New Hampshire race went super long.  It ended up going into the fall with a do-over.  But I think what Mr. Ritchie said is pretty close to accurate.  I think that by the time we get to summer time, I think Democrats will get another vote in the form of Al Franken.   

SCHULTZ:  Michael Graham, I know who you‘re voting for—

GRAHAM:  Al Franken. 

SCHULTZ:  Are you comfortable with what has happened? 

GRAHAM:  Well, a couple things.  One, I think if Norm Coleman goes to the state supreme court, that he should say that we‘re done.  That‘s what he should do.  There‘s politics here.  This is a political system.  Forget what you can do, the nuances. 

The second thing I want to say about the secretary of state.  I used to work for secretary of states and run campaigns.  His overt partisanship I think is problematic for observers trying to say, look, this thing is so close.  Whoever won won.  I don‘t think that‘s particularly helpful.

SCHULTZ:  But, Michael, they had the most exhaustive process, the most open process.  I mean, you can‘t go much more than live television coverage counting the votes, can you? 

GRAHAM:  Look, I don‘t want to get inside the nuances.  You know this in Minnesota.  The counties that trend liberal, that have certain structural things that tend to, in a race this close, show up. 

I think it‘s relevant.  If he loses on the Supreme Court, he needs to go way.  But being overtly partisan as secretary of state just makes it look like a scam is going on. 

SCHULTZ:  Sam, how big a deal is this for the Democratic party?  This is a big seat, is it not? 

STEIN:  Sure.  Well, hold on one second.  I don‘t think Mark Ritchie has been overtly partisan.  I think we need to dismiss that notion.

As for the Democratic party, yes, having an extra senator in there would be a big deal.  I don‘t think it‘s a secret now that the national Republican party is trying to hold up this election for, as Michael just said, political tactics.  They don‘t want to have a 59th vote there.  So seating Franken, symbolically and politically, is very important for the Democrats. 

SCHULTZ:  Carlos, explain Al Franken‘s silence. 

WATSON:  I don‘t think it‘s silence.  I think he knows that he‘s going to win this.  I know that he went into this with a 225 vote lead.  Now they‘ve counted the additional votes, it‘s now north of 300.  He also knows that the folks in the state supreme court, who Coleman is likely to go talk to, are people who have been intimately involved in the recount process.  In fact, a lot of it has been run by the Republican appointed chief justice. 

So here‘s the other big piece of this: Tim Pawlenty‘s popularity is at almost 60 percent, even though he‘s only won narrowly each time he‘s run.  And everybody knows he wants to run for president in 2012.  Do you really think he wants to drag this out over the long term?  I don‘t care what he said yesterday.  I think the reality is that seven-member Minnesota supreme court says, at the end of all this, let‘s seat Franken.  I think that‘s what happens and then move on. 

SCHULTZ:  Carlos Watson, Michael Graham, Sam Stein, thanks so much. 

We‘ll have you back.  Panel stick with us.  That‘s right. 

Next up, President Obama makes a surprise visit to Iraq, his first since becoming president.  And he got a warm welcome from U.S. troops today.  One of them shouted out, I love you.  You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  President Obama was supposed to be headed back to Washington after his trip to Turkey.  But instead he made an unannounced trip to Iraq, touching down at Baghdad International Airport at 4:42 in the afternoon, and traveling by car to Camp Victory—what a site—where he gave a pep talk to U.S. troops who were looking really happy to see the president.  President Obama told the cheering soldiers that it‘s time for the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own country. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  It is time for us to transition to the Iraqis.  They need to take responsibility for their country and for their sovereignty. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Back with us is Carlos Watson, Michael Graham, and Sam Stein.  Michael, how do you rate this trip?  What did the president do wrong, if anything in my opinion? 

GRAHAM:  Well, first of all, let‘s just celebrate the fact that he went to Iraq.  That‘s terrific.  I‘m glad he went there.  The troops love it.  I was in Iraq in 2005 at Camp Victory when things were very different.  The fact that he went and they loved him—the troops are incredibly gracious.  They were nice to me.  That‘s how nice they are.  But it was great and inspiring.  I love seeing him there.

It‘s sad—in fact, it‘s almost completely tragic that he can‘t say the obvious, which is hey, guys, we have a path to victory.  You have won this path to victory.  We and the Iraqis can accomplish something great together.  It looks like we‘re about to.  Of course, during the campaign he was wrong about Iraq.  But I‘m glad that he went. 

SCHULTZ:  Michael, I‘ve got to ask you, staying with you for a second here, I don‘t hear the conservatives out there, you know, saying they support the troops.  That was one of the big promotional banners the conservative movement in this country had.  We support the troops.  I don‘t hear that anymore.  Why not? 

GRAHAM:  I don‘t know what you‘re talking about.  Has something changed? 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Well, let‘s just say that I think the conservatives in this country have dropped that promotional banner. 

GRAHAM:  No, not at all.  I just did a fund raiser for the Fisher House, which provides housing for military families, and my conservative dumped two or three thousand dollars into it during this very tough economic time.  The love is still there. 

SCHULTZ:  It‘s just what? 

GRAHAM:  -- a year ago, it‘s no different than today. 

SCHULTZ:  Michael, thanks.  Stay with us.  Now, Sam Stein, I said on the radio I thought this president was acting and looking and performing like he‘s in his seventh year as president.  How do you view his performance at the G-20 and this trip to Iraq? 

STEIN:  I think he hit all of the right notes.  I think it was obviously a big success.  It‘s nice to see a president embraced by the world community, rather than at odds with a lot of its members.  Practically speaking, he maybe could have gotten more done, especially when it came to actual NATO combat troops in Afghanistan. 

But like they say, it‘s not going to all be done in one week, let alone one day.  It‘s a process and I think he hit all of the right notes. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Carlos, your thoughts?

WATSON:  I disagree with Sam a little bit there.  I don‘t know that he could have gotten a lot more done.  Some people say 5,000 troops from NATO is kind of piddling.  I think the reality is, given all the damage of the last several years, given that the coalition of the willing has been pulling back, not pushing forward, seeing NATO step up to some extent I think is building the ground for a lot more to happen. 

SCHULTZ:  Some of George Bush‘s best days were when he had the troops behind him and the country felt good.  Do you think that President Obama will get that love as well?  There was a real acceptance there. 

WATSON:  You saw it.  The exact same excitement you saw from troops is the same excitement that you saw, frankly, at the Turkish forum, same thing you saw with the French as well.  I think Obama‘s popularity right now is going to be helpful, Ed, when you talk about some of the more difficult issues that are coming up this summer, which include some that you care about, like health care and like energy. 

SCHULTZ:  He‘s got to get that done.  Michael, what is the Republican plan for health care?  Do you know? 

GRAHAM:  Well, I know what my conservative health—

SCHULTZ:  I‘m talking about the Republican party.  What is their plan? 

I haven‘t heard it.  Do you know? 

GRAHAM:  Their plan is to not join in having the government chose your doctor for you, run one seventh of the entire economy.  You know, right now, 88 percent of Americans are happy with their health care, and about 60 percent are comfortable with what they are paying for it. 

SCHULTZ:  Eighty what are happy? 

(CROSS TALK)  

SCHULTZ:  I‘m not talking about providers, Mike.  What we‘re talking about is—

(CROSS TALK)  

SCHULTZ:  Carlos, your thoughts on that?  What is the Republican plan on health care?

WATSON:  Well, I think Republicans will get more aggressive on it.  There‘s no doubt about that.  But what you just heard Michael say is kind of going back 15, 16 years.  I think what Republicans have to say, if they were going to be innovative about it, they would say, if the government is going to jump in and starts helping pay the costs, they have to negotiate with the big Pharma companies to get costs down. 

SCHULTZ:  Sam Stein, I had Senator Wyden on here, who is leading the bipartisan charge on health care in this country.  Do you think the Republicans in ‘09 are going to help this president get a victory on health care? 

STEIN:  Isn‘t that the million dollar question?  It changes so many different dynamics.  If the Obama administration determines that it‘s not going to happen, they are going to try to find different avenues around getting 60 votes, the filibuster free majority.  Senator Wyden has some co-sponsors that are Republicans on his bill, in part because it brings in private enterprise into the system.  I don‘t know how the GOP caucus is going to approach this.  But if the budget and the stimulus are any blue print, you‘re going to have strict opposition.  It will be like 15 years ago, as Carlos said. 

SCHULTZ:  Michael, do you want to see the Republicans use the filibuster when it comes to health care? 

GRAHAM:  Look, you need to remember something.  Health care is like Congress.  Everybody hates Congress but they obviously like to some degree their Congressman.  Everybody talks about health care in the big picture.  The facts is, most Americans like the doctor they have.  They like the coverage they have, most Americans. 

The closer the Democrats get to screwing the normal typical guy, not the people on the edges who have serious issues, the more they are going to make mad.  If Republicans stick with typical normal guy, who is generally happy, and they don‘t let him get screwed over, that‘s a good strategy. 

SCHULTZ:  We will definitely take that chance. 

GRAHAM:  Absolutely. 

SCHULTZ:  Forty million people without any coverage in this country. 

All right.  I‘ve got to tip my hat to the president of the United States.  His team won the national championship last night.  North Carolina went right through the tournament.  He picked North Carolina to win the dog gone thing.  Carlos, he didn‘t spike the ball.  Class act, didn‘t rub it in.

WATSON:  You know what?  North Carolina came through for him in the election by one percent. 

SCHULTZ:  That‘s right. 

WATSON:  Michigan state, you have to take their hat off to them.  They beat two number one  seeds to get to that final.  Even with four minutes left to go, they were narrowing it down to almost ten points. 

SCHULTZ:  And this one touches my heart; Senator Ted Kennedy today throws out the pitch at a baseball game for the Boston Red Sox.  I was told there was no way he was going to be denied this, that he wanted to be there.  It‘s been one of his goals.  This is one tough American right here. 

WATSON:  Ed, remember, he‘s an old football player, too. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes, he is.  And there‘s no doubt about it.  Sam Stein, this has got to warm your heart a little bit. 

STEIN:  As a Red Sox fan, I was moved deeply by this.  What a great moment.  As for the North Carolina pick, I have to get to this.  Half of the country picked North Carolina to win.  It‘s not like Obama went on—

SCHULTZ:  Sam, just win, baby.  Just win.  You know how it is.  You still have to pick a winner, my friend.  You‘ve still got to pick the winner. 

Gentlemen, thanks for joining us tonight, Sam Stein, Michael Graham, Carlos Watson, always a pleasure.  Great to have you with us.  That‘s THE ED SHOW tonight.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  And I want to tell you that it‘s been just an absolute honor the last couple of days to be here.  And I get to come back tomorrow night and the night after that.  This first week is pretty dog gone exciting. 

For more information on me and my show, go to Ed.MSNBC.com.  Or you can check out my radio website at WeGotEd.com.  And I want to thank all of the listeners to “The Ed Schultz Radio Show” across the country in 100 markets for joining us on this program every night at 6:00 Eastern time.  We will always have the hot interviews.  We will always go after the stories when it comes to the middle class.  And we will always keep the wage earners in mind at this hour here on MSNBC tomorrow.

Tomorrow, we‘re going to be talking a little bit about education.  The secretary of education, Arne Duncan, is going to be joining us on THE ED SHOW.  I want to know specifically what this extra money, billions of dollar, is going to be doing to help your son, your daughter, and your family when it comes to education in America.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews starts right now.  David Shuster in for the vacationing Matthews.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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