updated 4/24/2009 10:45:53 AM ET 2009-04-24T14:45:53

Guest: Carl Levin, Chris Dodd, Carolyn Maloney, Justin Ruben, Laura Flanders, Michael Smerconish, Joe Madison, Sen. Debbie Stabenow

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ED SCHULTZ, HOST:  I‘m Ed Schultz.  This is THE ED SHOW.

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SCHULTZ:  Good evening, Americans. 

Live from 30 Rock in New York City, it‘s THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.

Got a great show for you tonight, folks.  Two big stories: the torture web widens on the Bush crew, and a big victory for consumers on credit cards. 

We‘ve got the chairmen who are the key players in both these stories, Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan and Banking Committee chair, Chris Dodd, of Connecticut.  Both coming up in the first half-hour of this program. 

Plus, Americans are starting to hope again.  An amazing new poll is out, and it shows the effects that President Obama is having on the country. 

The Treasury Department is drawing up bankruptcy plans for Chrysler.  GM plans to shut down its factories for the summer.  Could that put the brakes on America‘s economic recovery? 

And, of course, the “Party of No” is whining about bipartisanship. 

Karl Rove is in “Psycho Talk” tonight.

But first, tonight‘s “OpEd.”

President Obama campaigned on hope.  We are there. 

President Obama is only in day number 94, but today we got some measurement as to why this president was elected the leader of this country in such a critical time. 

President Obama‘s approval rating is still soundly, solidly in the 60s.  A new AP poll shows that he‘s at 64 percent, but here‘s the key number.  Forty-eight percent of Americans now say the country‘s on the right track.  More people are feeling hopeful about the future. 

The last time we were optimistic about the country the way we are right now was all the way back in January of 2004.  That‘s more than 1,900 days ago.  Now, that‘s pretty astonishing.  When you think about it, we‘re in the worst economic crisis since 1989; we‘re fighting two wars; we‘ve got unbelievable job loss numbers; credit is as tight as it‘s ever been, foreclosures are still a big story; and our auto industry is on the brink of failure. 

Now, the president has a 64 percent approval rating.  Nearly half of us think we‘re headed in the right direction. 

The president has the country feeling confident again.  Remember what they used to say about Reagan, about how good we feel about the country and how good everybody feels about the way things are going?  The conditions that this president has been handed are unbelievably negative, but you know what it shows at 64 percent?  That we have confidence that we‘ve got the right guy in office. 

All this talk of failure, have you ever put a number to it?  Do you know how many conservatives talk show hosts are on the radio every day in this country?  Over 400.  How many of them line up with Obama?  Zero. 

All the talk of failure, all the negativity talk, he‘s not going to make it, we can‘t wait, blah, blah, blah.  You know what?  We do have patience.  We have learned that.  We waited a long time to get rid of Bush and Cheney, and we can wait a long time for this president to have his opportunity far beyond 100 days to deal with all the situations that I just spoke of a moment ago. 

This is a heavy lift, but this is the right guy.  And the issues don‘t get any easier. 

Here are the issues tonight. 

Torture and finance: the evidence is mounting on torture.  The momentum for justice is growing.  I hear it on the radio all the time. 

We know, Americans know that Bush officials signed off on torture. 

The question is, how high did it go? 

President Bush got angry when he was asked about it back in 2007. 

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GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  This government does not torture people.  You know, we stick to U.S. law and our international obligations.  The techniques that we use have been fully disclosed to appropriate members of the United States Congress. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Ooh, that‘s a dandy sound bite, isn‘t it? 

Now, apparently, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn‘t count as an important member.  Here‘s what she said today. 

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REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER:  We were not—I repeat, not

told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used.  Flat-out, they never briefed us that this was happening. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  You know, I remember talking several years ago about John McCain, about how he used to go to these briefings on Capitol Hill that were security briefings and intel briefings, and then they would go out and pick up “The Washington Post” the next day and it would be on the front page. 

Look, this was a cabal.  And I want to say something here, folks.

This is not some media-manufactured story by MSNBC.  The Senate Armed Services report clearly indicates there was a systematic use of torture.  We‘re talking about 70 interviews that people that were involved, over 200,000 pages of documents. 

Eric Holder is now the most significant player in the game, the attorney general.  The ball is in his court.  And the Obama administration, I believe, needs to move on this. 

We want you to weigh in.  We‘ll have another text survey in just a minute, but first I want to bring in Senator Carl Levin tonight, joining us from Capitol Hill.  He is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. 

Senator, good to have you with us tonight with this really important story. 

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE:  Good to be with you, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, talk to us tonight about the systematic use of torture.  What do you mean by that?  Was it all through the system? 

LEVIN:  This was authorized at the highest levels.  There was a decision made, I guess approved by the National Security Council, and of course endorsed by the vice president, at least explicitly, that they use these aggressive techniques. 

The order came from Rumsfeld in December of 2002, that these aggressive techniques would be used at Guantanamo.  They were used at Guantanamo.  They then went from there.  You can follow the change right over to Afghanistan and to Iraq.  And, you know, the people that have been held accountable are the folks at the lowest level, but no one at the highest level has been held accountable, despite legal opinions which I thought were abominable, policy decisions which violated the code—the highest military ethic. 

If you just listen to General Petraeus on this one, Petraeus says we are fighting for these values, we‘re fighting for high values.  We‘re not going to stoop to the level of the Chinese communists who are the ones who instituted these kinds of activities.  They were patterned after the Chinese communists, but the reason we ever trained our people in them was to resist interrogation, and so there‘s a big downside when you use these kind of aggressive and abusive tactics. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, it‘s been characterized as a partisan report.  Are there Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee that go along with your assessment? 

LEVIN:  Well, this is a committee report, Ed.  I‘m glad you asked. 

This report here is over 200 pages, over 1,000 footnotes.  It took us a year-plus to put together. 

There was no dissent at all on the Armed Services Committee to the approval of this report.  Everyone was given an opportunity to write any dissenting views or additional views.  There were none from any of the Republicans or Democrats on the committee. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, Senator, I have to ask you on that, because last night, Chris Matthews had an interview on “HARDBALL” with Senator John Ensign, who characterized it as only the Democrats supporting this and it was a partisan report. 

You say that‘s not the case?

LEVIN:  No, that‘s absolutely wrong.  This was approved by the Armed Services Committee at a regular approval—it was voice-voted, but there was a large number of members there on both sides of the aisle.  We had more than a quorum.

Everybody voice-voted this yes.  And most importantly, everybody was explicitly given the opportunity to write any dissenting views, any additional views.  None of them came in. 

Now, Senator Ensign is not on the Armed Services Committee, but Senator McCain, Senator Graham, and other Republicans very strongly, explicitly support this report, and there was no disagreement.  And again, I emphasize, this is a Senate Armed Services Committee, it‘s a bipartisan report. 

SCHULTZ:  All right.  Senator, you cleared that up perfectly. 

Now, let‘s talk about moving forward with possible investigation and prosecution.  You mentioned John McCain.  Here‘s what he had to say this morning on the “CBS Early Show.”

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SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA:  In banana republics they prosecute people for actions they didn‘t agree with under previous administrations.  And to go back on a witch hunt that could last for a year or so, frankly, is going to be bad for the country, bad for future precedents that may be set by this, and certainly nonproductive in trying to pursue the challenges we face. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Senator Levin, is this Senate Armed Services Committee a witch hunt against the Bush administration? 

LEVIN:  Well, I don‘t think John McCain was saying that our report was a witch hunt.

SCHULTZ:  Well, he was saying that the prosecution would be a witch hunt. 

LEVIN:  Yes, but our report is the facts, and John McCain signs up to this.  So I don‘t think he was referring to this. 

But I think what needs to be done now is, the Department of Justice, which is there for a reason, which is to make determinations on accountability and to decide on remedies, should make the decision, either themselves or I recommended to the attorney general, that he appoint one or two or three, perhaps, retired federal judges who will have the credibility that will make a recommendation on whether anybody should be prosecuted or held accountable in any way. 

I think this is the way to take it out of politics.  That‘s what the Department of Justice is there for. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, got to ask you about the troubling situation in your state of Michigan.  What do you want to see happen with General Motors and Chrysler?  In your opinion, is bankruptcy an option? 

LEVIN:  Well, I don‘t think bankruptcy is the right option.  Obviously, it is not an alternative which is desirable, because then people will have the impression that the company will not be there to carry out warranties and make repairs.  So that is not the goal.  However, if that ends up being the case, it would hopefully then be an in-and-out bankruptcy, which would be shedding some of the liabilities.  But clearly that is not the desirable option. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, great to have you on with us tonight.  Thanks so much for your direct answers.

LEVIN:  Thank you, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  You bet.

I want to know what you think, viewers.  Would prosecuting Bush officials damage President Obama‘s presidency?  Send a text to the number on your screen.  Text “A” for yes, “B” for no. 

Up next, consumers won a big victory today.  President Obama laid down the law with credit card companies‘ executives.  No more outrageous rate hikes. 

Senator Chris Dodd is demanding it stops now.  We‘ll visit with him next on THE ED SHOW.

Stay with us.

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BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There has to be strong and reliable protections for consumers, protections that ban unfair rate increases and forbid abusive fees and penalties.  The days of any time, any reason rate hikes and late fee traps have to end. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

I don‘t know what you wanted to hear, but that‘s exactly what I wanted to hear.  The president went face-to-face with credit card executives today. 

He is concerned that our tax dollars that are keeping the banks afloat, and the same time they‘re nailing credit cardholders with exorbitant rate increases and fees.  In the last year, 70 million credit card customers have seen their rates go up.  That‘s one in four.  The rate fee hikes for cardholders are $10 billion and counting. 

Will consumers finally get a fair shake when it comes to credit cards? 

Joining us tonight is the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut.  He sent a letter to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke today asking that the Fed freeze credit card rates immediately. 

Senator, good work.  We needed that. 

Here is what you wrote: “We strongly urge you to utilize your emergency powers to put this rule into place immediately and protect consumers from these outrageous rate increases.” 

Senator, do you think you‘re going to get a positive respond to this? 

SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT:  Well, we hope so.  In fact, I was joined by Senator Chuck Schumer in that letter to the Federal Reserve, the Office of Thrift Supervision, and the National Credit Union Administration as well, to ban retroactive rate increases. 

Our bill that we hopefully will bring up in the next couple of weeks does that, but there‘s an opportunity, because the Federal Reserve has actually issued a rule to do just that, but you would have to wait until July of next year for that rule to go into effect.  Under what, Ed, is called the Good Cause for Vision of the Administrative Procedures Act, you can in fact take immediate action.  In fact, it‘s been used quite frequently since 2007 in a number of other areas.

So we‘re asking these agencies to use those emergency powers to make a difference for consumers right away.  We don‘t need to wait until 2010.  These rate increases, as you point out, have been used in 70 million cases.  One in four families have watched their rates go up in the last 11 months, and every indication that‘s going to continue for the next year and a half.  So let‘s take action today and stop this procedure. 

SCHULTZ:  So, the issue here is you want to put the brakes on what they‘re doing until you can get the legislation that is going to be fair to consumers.  Correct?

DODD:  It moves it up.  So you can do it immediately.  You don‘t have to wait until next year. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes, OK.

Now, what you want to see happen in the industry and what the Banking Committee has been talking about, are you in accord with what the president said today? 

DODD:  Well, certainly his language.  He didn‘t get involved in endorsing particular provisions, but I enjoyed hearing him say no more of this any time any reason clause, which is used far too often to have rate increases go into effect.  And certainly these late fees, or fees that are unfair, that are being imposed on consumers. 

It used to be the credit card industry made its money with interest rates.  Lately, over the last number of years, they‘re making their money with penalty interest rates and fees—penalty fees that they‘re imposing on them, as you pointed out, in setting up this story. 

We want to change a lot of that.  I‘m not against credit cards, you‘re not against them, Ed.  They‘re a great tool for people in need. 

But frankly, the industry is abusing consumers, they‘ve been doing it year in and year out.  I‘ve been at it for 20 years.  Finally, we have an opportunity to—these are predatory lenders, in my view.  They did it in the real estate market, and now they‘re doing it with credit cards. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, Senator, I‘m not only not against them, I don‘t know how to function without them.  The American people, I mean, we just count on these.  This is just a way of life right now, and I appreciate you doing what you‘re doing on this and calling for this immediate action. 

How soon do you think the Fed chair would move on this, if he does?

DODD:  Well, he could move within literally days or less.  I mean, they have the power to act quickly.

And as I pointed out a minute ago, they have not been hesitant to use emergency powers, as we‘ve known, over the last seven or eight months since this matter all became public back in September.  They‘ve been utilizing emergency powers to put in place actions to try and get our economy back in track. 

They have the authority, they can use it, they have used it.  This is a classic moment where if they wanted to make a difference for consumers, they could put this ban on retroactive rate increases immediately and really save a lot of money for a lot of people who are struggling today to keep their families together financially. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, great to have you on with us tonight. 

DODD:  Thanks. 

SCHULTZ:  Thanks so much.

Senator Chris Dodd here on THE ED SHOW.

All right.  What Americans need to know is that the Congress is doing something about this. 

I mean, we‘ve heard the voices that Congress—you know, you hear, oh, government doesn‘t do anything.  Wait a second.

The credit card companies are getting hit on three fronts right now.  The president‘s in the face of the executives.  You just hear what Senator Dodd is doing in the Senate committee.  And last night, the House Financial Services Committee passed the Credit Card Bill of Rights by a vote of 48-19. 

Joining us now is the architect of that House bill, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York, chair of the Joint Economic Committee. 

Congresswoman, you got some Republicans to join you on this one.  Good job. 

REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D), NEW YORK:  Thank you, Ed.  Great to be with us tonight. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet. 

Is this about the most bipartisan we‘re going to see when it comes to the Congress right now?  You‘ve got a number of Republicans that go on board with you on this.  Is this going to fly through the House? 

MALONEY:  I believe it‘s going to fly through the House.  In the last Congress, we got a 312-112 votes, a solid majority, and 84 Republicans voted with us last year.  I think more of them are going to vote with us. 

And the president, with the momentum he‘s putting behind this effort, I think the vote is going to be even stronger.  He showed he‘s not afraid of anyone.  He stood up to the credit card issuers, the special interests, and said we need to put these changes in, and I applaud him. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  What is the argument that would not do anything?  And the conservatives say, well, it‘s just the free market at work. 

What‘s your take on that? 

MALONEY:  Well, the free market at work, I‘m all for the free market, but they are practicing policies that the Federal Reserve and others have called unfair, deceptive and anti-competitive.  That‘s why the Federal Reserve came out with a mirror—rule that mirrors the legislation I‘ve been working on so long. 

These abuses are unfair and deceptive, they need to stop.  I mean, how outrageous is it, Ed, that they can raise your rates any time, any reason, retroactively on your balance?  That is clearly wrong, unfair, it‘s got to stop.  My bill does that. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, Congresswoman, I would feel just a little bit better about it if they weren‘t yanking our tax dollars to stay afloat, and it looks like we‘re paying for it, we‘re paying for the interest on all this. 

MALONEY:  Well, that‘s true, too, but the main point is these are abuses that need to be stopped, whether you‘re taking TARP money or not.  They‘re unfair, anti-competitive, deceptive, they‘re little tricks and traps of changing due dates, running up interest rates, running up fees.  And it‘s wrong and it‘s unfair, and we need to stop it. 

Also, if you get these interest rates down, then there‘s more money for consumers to put back in our economy to get our economy going.  We‘ve done a great deal to help Wall Street and financial institutions stay afloat.  That‘s important.  We need or financial system to work.  But we‘ve got to do something for Main Street. 

We‘ve got to help the working men and women.  And that‘s what the bill does. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, this would help working families, for sure.

Congresswoman Maloney, thanks so much. 

MALONEY:  Thank you, Ed.  Thank you so much.

SCHULTZ:  You bet.  By the way, it‘s good to be in your district, too. 

MALONEY:  Thank you.  I look forward to seeing you. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet.  Thank you.

MALONEY:  All right. 

SCHULTZ:  All right.  Next up on THE ED SHOW, “Psycho Talk.”   Karl Rove is back.  He‘s talking about torture.  He‘s got some funny ideas about the thing we call the law.  He thinks that you can just pick and choose whichever one you like. 

I mean, folks, the man has learned nothing after all those days in court. 

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SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Have you heard some of the crazy things that are being said by conservatives? 

It‘s time now for “Psycho Talk.” 

“Psycho Talk” tonight—oh, Karl Rove loses it over torture investigations.  Of course the rant begins in the name of keeping America safe. 

What the Obama administration has done in the last several days is very dangerous, he says.  Quickly, though, Rove loses sight of how Obama is endangering the country; right?  And gets caught up in attacking President Obama and his policies. 

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KARL ROVE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR:  Is that what we‘ve come to in this country, that if we have a change of administration from one party to another, that we then use the tools of the government to go systematically after the policy disagreements we have with the previous administration? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  OK.  My temperature just went up about four degrees on this one.  Hold it right there.

Rove is saying we shouldn‘t second-guess presidential policy?  That‘s their defense for breaking the law?  We just are going to run this thing the way we want to? 

Let‘s go over what Karl Rove conveniently misses here. 

Any prosecutions by the Obama administration will be based on violations of law, not policy differences. 

What we‘re talking about is a potential crime, Mr. Rove.  We‘re talking about torture, OK? 

Let‘s continue.  It only gets better here. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROVE:  Now, that may be fine in some little Latin American country that‘s run by the latest junta.  It may be the way that they do things in Chicago.  But that‘s not the way we do things here in America. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Did Karl Rove just compare the president of the United States to a Latin American junta? 

Right, Karl. 

Here‘s what we do in America—we bring justice.  We investigate and prosecute officials who may have broken laws. 

That might be you. 

That‘s what we do in America.  So this is what I‘m kind of hi wondering, Karl.  What are you worried about? 

That‘s “Psycho Talk.”  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back for THE ED SHOW.  Is the Obama administration willing to prosecute Bush officials for torture?  President Obama is getting a lot of pressure from the liberal left.  MoveOn.org has launched a new campaign calling for an investigation.  Take a look. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Torture an individual detainee, you might go to jail.  But if you authorize an entire secret torture program, you get off Scott-free? 

America is better than this.  Go to MoveOn.org/Investigate and ask Attorney General Holder to appoint an independent special prosecutor to investigate these abuses. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  OK.  MoveOn.org is back at it.  The executive director of MoveOn.org is Justin Ruben.  He joins us now.  Justin, we asked our listeners earlier tonight about what they thought about the prosecution, whether this would hurt the Obama presidency.  And 25 percent said yes, it would.  Are you on the right track here?  What do you think? 

JUSTIN RUBEN, MOVEON.ORG:  Well, look, I think the bottom line here is we need an investigation, because we have to understand what happened.  America does not torture.  And we are a nation of laws.  And in America, no one is above the law.  And until we have an investigation and accountability for the people who gave the orders, we‘re never going to be able to move forward.  And we‘re never going to be able to make sure this doesn‘t happen again. 

SCHULTZ:  MoveOn.org was founded when Bill Clinton was going through the impeachment thing, and I think the theme of the organization was to move on.  Isn‘t this looking backwards?  What about that?  Is this out of your realm here? 

RUBEN:  No, I think this is really about looking forward.  The key is we can‘t let this happen again.  To make sure it never happens again, the best thing is to understand what happened, and then fundamentally, we need accountability for the architects, the people who gave the orders to simulate drowning and partially drown people, and lock them naked in boxes with insects and smash them against walls. 

These are abhorrent practices, and we need to understand what happened, precisely because in the future we can‘t let this happen again. 

SCHULTZ:  What do you say to those who say that the activities that you just described are enhanced interrogation techniques? 

RUBEN:  I got to tell you, reading these memos—if people haven‘t read them, you should.  It‘s chilling.  In cold, bureaucratic legalese, you see truly horrifying practices spelled out and justified.  There is no question this is torture.  We prosecuted people for it after World War II.  It‘s un-American.  The country I love does not torture. 

SCHULTZ:  Will President Obama be making a mistake if he doesn‘t push Eric Holder to move forward on this? 

RUBEN:  We appreciate the fact that the president has made transparency a priority and is releasing memos. 

SCHULTZ:  But is he making a political error here in the eyes of the liberal left if he‘s not aggressive on this? 

RUBEN:  Well, I—we do hope that he will push for a full investigation.  But I‘ve got to tell you, this is not a political calculation.  It‘s not a left or right thing.  This is about what‘s right.  And in American we are a nation of laws, and no one, no matter how powerful, is above the law. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Justin, good to have you with us tonight here on THE ED SHOW.  We‘ll have you back. 

RUBEN:  Thanks a lot.   

SCHULTZ:  If you haven‘t weighed in, send us a text to this number on your screen.  Would prosecuting Bush officials damage President Obama‘s presidency?  A for yes, B for no. 

For more on this, let‘s turn to our panel tonight.  Laura Flanders, who is the author of “Blue Grit” and host of TV show “GritTV.org,” Joe Madison, XM radio host, with us tonight, and Michael Smerconish, nationally syndicated talk show host and MSNBC contributor.

Laura, this Senate Armed Services Committee report is pretty damaging. 

How can Eric Holder not move forward on this? 

LAURA FLANDERS, GRITTV.ORG:  I think you‘re asking the audience the wrong question, with all respect.  It‘s not about this presidency or that presidency.  This president actually cares about the presidency.  I think that is what most Americans care about.  What‘s our best defense against tyranny?  It‘s a executive power kept in check by the legislature and by the Constitution. 

We‘ve just had eight years of a president that threw all that out the window and said, oh, it‘s in the national interest.  That‘s been the argument of every torturer, from Pinochet‘s Chile to Abu Ghraib.  It‘s not OK, and we‘ve got to renounce those practices. 

SCHULTZ:  But I respectfully disagree.  We have a number of people out there who think—you know, they want President Obama to win a second term.  They want to maintain the measures in the House and the Senate, when it comes to majority.  That there is a political calculation here and a risk if they go forward, and it disfocuses the country. 

FLANDERS:  I think he has much to gain as he does to lose.  As Justin said, it‘s not about political policy.  It‘s about principle, the Constitution and morality. 

SCHULTZ:  Michael Smerconish, would this be going a bridge too far in your opinion? 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I feel it would, and I feel like I‘m at risk for qualifying for psycho talk within your program.  Respectfully, I don‘t see it the way you see it.  I believe the election was investigation enough.  And the president‘s initial instinct to say that he would be forward-looking and not backward-looking was the right instinct. 

I read all the grizzly detail.  It‘s not pretty, but you‘ve got to view it in the context of the more immediate aftermath of 9/11.  These were ticking time-bomb cases in the view of those who were doing the interrogations. 

SCHULTZ:  What do you think, Joe?  Was the election enough? 

JOE MADISON, XM RADIO TALK HOST:  Absolutely not.  You prosecute based on what happens in the past.  You don‘t prosecute on what happens—what will happen in the future. 

But let me say this, here‘s the reality that no one is talking about.  I talked with John Conyers just recently.  John Conyers is the one who has said, I don‘t care who was involved, Republican or Democrat; they all need to be investigated.  And here‘s the real secret back behind me.  You‘re going to have Democrats and Republicans who are going to be culpable.  That‘s why this investigation isn‘t going anywhere. 

SCHULTZ:  Michael, aren‘t you somewhat curious that Condie Rice is on the record saying that we don‘t torture; yet there are reports out there now that are conflicting of her previous comments.  What do you make of that? 

SMERCONISH:  Well, it would sound like there‘s an inherent conflict in what she‘s saying.  But I‘m not one who believes that we need to go back and relitigate it.  I spoke today with Congressman Peter Hoekstra, who is the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.  And his words to me were, look, Congress knew about it.  And he also supported the efficacy of it. 

Those with knowledge, whether it‘s former Vice President Cheney, whether it‘s General Hayden, whether it‘s Judge Mukasey, they all seemed to say the same thing, which is that it worked. 

SCHULTZ:  Michael, Nancy Pelosi said earlier today she wasn‘t briefed properly on this. 

SMERCONISH:  I watched carefully what she said on this program, and that seems to be contradicted by others, including those who say they did the briefing.  We can get bogged down on it.  I‘m for this guy succeeding.  I don‘t think this president succeeds by looking backward on this issue. 

FLANDERS:  It‘s not about efficacy.  We‘re in this argument now about efficacy; did it produce good intelligence?  That‘s not the point.  In this country, the ends do not justify the means. 

MADISON:  Absolutely right.  The point I want to make, look, the defense that the right is putting forth didn‘t work for Nuremberg and shouldn‘t work here in the United States.  People need to be held accountable so that my child and your grandchildren and all our children never go through this again. 

All we have to do is ask, what did you know?  When did you know?  How familiar does that sound?

SCHULTZ:  Michael, do you believe that these techniques protected this country? 

SMERCONISH:  I don‘t know, because I‘m without portfolio in this

regard.  But I‘m very reading carefully the words of those who do know

something.  I am deeply troubled by that memorandum from Mr. Blair having

had deleted that sentence where he, as the national intelligence director -

he‘s the guy who knows.  He said we did glean good information from these interrogations. 

SCHULTZ:  All right.  Stay with us, we have a lot more coming.  Great panel tonight. 

Next up, the Treasury Department is drawing up bankruptcy plans for Chrysler?  What kind of ripple effect could that have on the economic recovery?  I‘ll get the latest from Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow after this on THE ED SHOW.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  In my playbook tonight, I want to talk about GM‘s plans to close its plants for two months this summer.  We brought you the breaking news yesterday on this show.  Today, the automaker began telling workers about the plans.  This is bad news for the economy, and for the American worker.  Mark Zandy at MoodiesEconomy.com tells the “USA Today” one lost job at GM can result in ten lost jobs everywhere.  We are looking at a potential chain reaction here. 

If the FM hiatus puts one supplier out of business, that hurts the other automakers who may rely on that supplier.  The pileup goes on and on.  A halt in production is really going to drain the company‘s revenue stream.  An auto analysts tell “USA Today” this could be a sign that bankruptcy is more likely. 

We‘ve just learned this tonight, “New York Times” reporting that the Treasury Department is preparing a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy for Chrysler, a filing could come as soon as next week. 

Joining me now is Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow.  Thanks for joining us.  Right up front, are you prepared to ask the president of the United States to step up and say, bankruptcy is not an option.  Are you there yet? 

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN:  Well, Ed, I have said to our team, to everyone involved that I do not support bankruptcy as a first, second or third option.  With Chrysler, we want to see Chrysler/Fiat come together.  We want to see GM be able to make it on their own.  I understand all the tough complexities around this.  Mainly, we need the banks that have gotten Tarp money to be willing to stand up.  I wrote another letter today to them, saying they need to step up and do their part to make sure these companies can be strong. 

But what you said at the beginning I think is so very important, the ripple effect.  I was talking to some folks this week who are involved with a paper and pulp mill.  And most of their paper goes to the auto industry and they‘re shutting down.  Hospitals that get the benefits from health care from auto workers may close if we see a bankruptcy.  This is huge. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, I think there‘s a disconnect with a lot of Americans.  Why does Chrysler have to have Fiat management to figure out how to make a car, sell a car and make a dollar. 

STABENOW:  You know what?  They don‘t, Ed.  Let me back up and say, what Chrysler and GM are facing today is being faced by Toyota, Honda, Fiat.  Their last quarter they lost money.  We‘re in a global credit crisis.  Global credit crisis, nobody can get the capital they need to be able to operate, to be able to move forward and invest.  Car sales are down all over the place, because of people losing their jobs. 

SCHULTZ:  It‘s a perfect storm. 

STABENOW:  It is a perfect storm. 

SCHULTZ:  There‘s no doubt it‘s a perfect storm.  Why can‘t we do the same thing for the auto manufacturers that we‘ve done for Wall Street?  I mean, throw more at them and just wait for this whole economic thing to turn around.  Hey, just extend the terms on loan, give them a low-interest rate, save a bunch of jobs.  You won‘t have the ripple effect.  Why don‘t the Democrats see that, senator? 

STABENOW:  First of all, this administration did extend the loans and we‘re very grateful for that, because the Bush presidency put a March 31 deadline on the companies.  President Obama has extended that and is continuing to work with us.  They‘ve stepped up to help suppliers.  They‘re now working with the auto dealers.  They‘ve set up somebody that will work with us with communities, where there are plants closed where we need to create new jobs. 

So my beef is not with the administration.  They were handed a real crisis here.  But the reality is we need to make sure these companies stay viable. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, do you think that unemployment in Michigan could go to 20 percent if bankruptcy is filed by these two companies? 

STABENOW:  First of all, it depends on how it‘s done.  We‘re at 12.6 percent right now, but that‘s statewide.  We have some communities that already at 20 percent.  So it‘s very serious for us.  It depends on how it‘s done.  It depends on whether or not pensions are protected and health care is protected, whether or not it can be short-term or long-term. 

SCHULTZ:  What about that?  What about pensions being protected?  Have you been given any guarantees by the administration that the retirees aren‘t going to be thrown to the side like road kill? 

STABENOW:  I know they aren‘t going to be thrown to the side.  But my message to the administration is to remember we have over 700,000 retirees involved, people that have health care.  I know they‘re working diligently on this.  And I really believe that their priorities are in the right place. 

What I want to see are the Tarp banks coming to the table and the institutional bond holders stepping up to help make this happen. 

SCHULTZ:  Senator, good to have you on with us.  Thanks so much.   

STABENOW:  Good to see you. 

SCHULTZ:  Next up, Republican leaders are crying about President.  They say, he‘s not listening to their ideas.  I say what ideas?  They‘re the party of no.  And that‘s next on THE ED SHOW.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  Looking forward, President Obama‘s 100th day in office is coming up.  The GOP started rewriting history again.  They say the lack of bipartisanship isn‘t their fault.  Listen to John Boehner. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, MINORITY LEADER:  I told the speaker and my colleagues in January, when I handed her the gavel, that we would not just be the party of no, that if we had to say no, that we would offer better solutions. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Here‘s an example of John Boehner‘s better solutions. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER:  Not one member has read this. 

Nope, we don‘t have time to do that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Well, that was the stimulus package.  You know what?  These guys have got a reputation, they have earned it, the party of no.  Let‘s just take a look at one issue, health care.  Now, I have had four Republicans here in 14 shows, OK?  Not one could ever answer the question, what‘s your plan on health care?  What‘s the plan? 

Back with me tonight is our panel, Laura Flanders, Joe Madison and Michael Smerconish.  I have to tell all three of you, and two you guys are radio talk show hosts, I‘ve done 12 town hall meetings around the country in the last year.  And I would ask the crowd, what do you want to talk about?  Health care.  It‘s health care everywhere.

Michael, I know it‘s tough to make health care provocative and entertaining on talk radio, but if that‘s what the people want, why can‘t the Republicans come up with a plan?  Why don‘t they have a plan on this? 

SMERCONISH:  Well, it‘s a bigger issue than just health care.  I think the Republican party needs to redefine itself.  I think the party has not properly looked at what went wrong in November and then come to terms with it.  They need new blood.  I‘m still, although kicking and screaming, in that party. 

And I think they have to get more libertarian on the social issues, remain strong on defense, and stand for limited government, and not be afraid of health care, not be afraid of global warming, not be afraid of environmental issues.  But it‘s just not happening.  The same faces are emerging and being cast as party leaders.  They all play to the base and to no one else. 

SCHULTZ:  Are they really behind schedule, Joe, when it comes to getting ready for the midterm? 

MADISON:  Big time behind schedule.  All this limited government stuff, look, they would have argued the G.I. Bill shouldn‘t have been passed because it was a big government project.  Look what it produced.  They would have argued with Eisenhower, a Republican, that we shouldn‘t have the Interstate Highway.  Look what it produced for commerce. 

You know, the problem has been that Republicans, ever since Reagan, have been the problem because of all this deregulation of Wall Street that you just talked about, created this problem.  And it is about time that they understand we had a midterm election last time.  We had a presidential election.  People want change.  And they want optimism, not this pessimism. 

SCHULTZ:  Laura, as a liberal, what do you fear about the GOP?  What‘s your biggest fear when you see them getting back together? 

FLANDERS:  I‘m a full-fledged lefty person, frankly, myself.  This whole liberal thing, let‘s stand up for what we believe.  What we‘re talking about here when it comes to the Republican party of Rove and Limbaugh, Gingrich and Cheney, is a party that understand that the character assassinations strategies actually do work.  Michael can say this is just appealing to the base, but what it does—you‘re seeing it right now, Michael Steele, under attack for not calling Barack Obama a socialist. 

It intimidates.  It intimidates the Democrats.  And right now, when Joe is absolutely right, we need a solid plan—and you are too—on health care, you have got mealy-mouthness going on among the Democrats.  That‘s not going to get us back on track.  It‘s not going to get those auto workers back in business, for example. 

SCHULTZ:  Michael, I have to get back to this with you.  That‘s what does amaze me.  Don‘t you take the biggest issue and address it, and get some groundswell support?  None of the Republican leaders are stepping up with any kind of plan at all.  What is their best move, in your opinion? 

SMERCONISH:  Well, the best move in my opinion is to redefine the platform and what the party represents, and to allow some new blood to emerge.  Every time this conversation, held on this program and elsewhere, comes back to Limbaugh, comes back to Cheney and comes back to Gingrich, the party‘s a loser.  Those are important folks for the base, but they are not growing the tent.  The GOP needs to decide if it‘s prepared on same-sex relationships, on the environment, on a whole host of issues, to grow the tern. 

Up until now, the answer has been now, and that frustrates me. 

MADISON:  He uses the word base. the reality is their base is shrinking.  And if unemployment keeps growing as fast as it‘s growing, they‘re going to get the message real quick when it comes to health care and losing it. 

FLANDERS:  But in the middle of it, we have a situation where we‘re paying out billions of dollars with blinders to the banks.  We don‘t even want to know how they‘re spending that money.  They‘re spending millions on lobbying us and trying to intimidate us from making workers stronger through the Employee Free Choice Act and things like that.  And on the other hand, you have this trade for loans for layoffs with the auto industry.  That‘s no way to restimulate the economy. 

SCHULTZ:  This is where I think the Republicans do have an opening.  If President Obama allows the auto industry to fail on his watch, a lot of those Reagan Democrats in Ohio and Indiana, Michigan, are going to say, we didn‘t vote for this. 

MADISON:  You are absolutely right. 

FLANDERS:  It‘s not on his watch that it failed.  This is year we‘re looking at.  GM was selling the same number of cars with fewer workers.  The profits were going to industries offshore.  What we‘re doing is transferring wealth from working people to the bankers.  That‘s the problem.  That‘s how our market dried up. 

MADISON:  But Ed has a point.  And there would be a backlash.  For someone who lived 20 years in Detroit, it was these—why should auto workers have to lower their standard of living, when executives, compared to what they make in Japan—what, 400 times more than the average auto worker?  The reality is auto workers put their kids in college.  They build county hospitals.  They build the roads we live on.  They should not have to lower their standard of living so that Wall Street can live big. 

SCHULTZ:  Michael, wouldn‘t this be a political opening, though?  The Republicans could come back and say, see, Obama, hard-working Americans, you can‘t trust him. 

SMERCONISH:  I think it‘s not just limited to the auto industry.  I think the fate of the economy generally is going to perhaps give that opening.  The question is, does the GOP really want the man to fail?  Because that means their opening is created by economic hardship and hopefully no one wants that. 

FLANDERS:  It‘s about stimulating this economy, rebuilding a market in this country, people that can actually buy the things they‘re making.  That‘s what we‘ve been lacking. 

SCHULTZ:  Laura, Joe and Michael, good roundtable tonight.  Thanks so much, all of you.  Thanks for being here.  That‘s THE ED SHOW tonight.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  Send me an e-mail or get more information, go to Ed.MSNBC.com, or check out WeGotEd.com.  Get our text alerts of THE ED SHOW sent to your phone.  Just text the word Ed 622639.  We‘ll see you back here tomorrow night, 6:00 eastern.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is coming up on MSNBC. 

Don‘t forget you can text us with our question tonight here at MSNBC.

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

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