updated 4/28/2009 4:45:25 PM ET 2009-04-28T20:45:25

Guest: Michael Smith, Gary Peters, Jonathan Alter, Sam Stein, Nancy Giles, Christina Bellantoni, Richard Viguerie

Spec: Health and Medicine; Mexico; Automotive Industry; General Motors; Eric Cantor; Media

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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.

Swine flu hits the United States.  Republicans are playing politics with our health. 

General Motors unveils its new plan to stay alive.  How do the American people feel about the new president‘s first 100 days?  New poll numbers are out. 

Plus, a shocking number for the GOP. 

And “Psycho Talk.” 

But first, tonight‘s “OpEd.”

Well, here we go again.  Republicans are playing politics with our health. 

This kind of stuff just makes my temperature go up.  I‘m boiling over this. 

As many as 150 people have been killed by this flu in Mexico.  Cases are popping up all over the United States. 

Here in New York, parents are calling their high school saying that, well, the kids aren‘t coming to school.  People are nervous about this because they basically don‘t know where this whole thing is going. 

Now, we have a public health emergency but no health secretary?  How come? 

Conservative senators are holding up Kathleen Sebelius‘ confirmation.  Republicans are playing politics with your health.  They play politics with the money, they play politics with the stimulus package to the tune of $870 million for pandemic flu that was stripped out. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS ®, MAINE:  These decisions are difficult.  For example, I think everybody in the room is concerned about a pandemic flu.  But does it belong in this bill?  Should we have $870 million in this bill? 

No, we should not. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  We‘ll just send it over to Iraq.  They get whatever they want, but here at home it‘s a different story.

Folks, this is a classic case of Republicans having no forward thinking.  This is what you get when all you‘re concerned about is the money. 

And who helped frame the argument against the funding?  Oh, there he is again, Karl Rove. 

Republican senators like Senator Collins said fighting off a deadly flu really had nothing to do with the economy.  You see, Democrats argued that a pandemic would lead to people, let‘s see, not working, not traveling, not taking public transportation, and a dramatic increase in the need for health services. 

Now, speaking of stimulus, you know the Republican governors who took the principled stand against taking all of the stimulus money, this federal money, you know, remember Texas Governor Rick Perry when he threatened to leave the United States because he just didn‘t really need that federal money?  Guess what?  Now he‘s asking the federal government to send him the flu medicine. 

You just can‘t have it both ways. 

This is just not a health scare.  It‘s a national security situation. 

And we‘re now joined by homeland—we were going to be joined by homeland security director Janet Napolitano but she has been called away to an emergency meeting at the White House.  So NBC Justice Correspondent Pete Williams is kind enough to join us tonight. 

Pete, I heard that closing the border is not an option.  Take us down what legal road we would be facing if that‘s what it came to. 

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I asked the secretary that today, if—she said a couple of times—she seemed to suggest that it was not a high priority.  And so I asked her in an interview whether it was simply a nonstarter, and she in essence said yes, it isn‘t. 

She said you might look at closing the border before the virus gets here, but now that it‘s already here, she says, closing the border doesn‘t make any sense.  She says it‘s coming from people who have been to Mexico and are already back, some people who have come from Canada into the U.S.  So she says it just doesn‘t make logical sense. 

And I asked her, well suppose there was a big concentration of swine flu in the southwestern border states.  Would you then look at closing the border?  And again she said, no.  That basically once the virus is here, containment is no longer an option.

And she also said that the U.S. depends economically on cross-border traffic, the U.S. food supply depends on cross-border traffic.  So we got the very clear impression from her that it‘s simply not anything that‘s under active consideration. 

SCHULTZ:  Pete, within the last half hour, the World Health Organization raised the pandemic threat to level 4.  What does that mean tonight? 

WILLIAMS:  Well, levels—you go 1 through 6, and 6 is the actual pandemic.  And Secretary Napolitano today said while technically we were in the U.S. at level 3, we‘re already operating at that higher level any way. 

We‘re already doing a lot of the things that you would do, she says, at the higher level.  For example, at the borders, Customs and Border Protection people, when you come off the plane, or you come across the border, and you go up to the border person with your passport, if you‘re coughing, you seem to have flu symptom, you‘re set aside into another room.  Those people are evaluated by doctors or Customs and Border Protection people with training. 

This is not a guarantee situation.  Those people are simply questioned while they decide what to do with them. 

But they do have the option, I suppose, of denying them entry if they have full-fledged symptoms and they seem to have come from these areas in Mexico where the swine flu outbreak is in full tilt.  So that‘s one thing that they are doing. 

The government is sending around these medications that seem to be effective in treating people that have the flu.  As you know, there‘s no virus, so they can‘t be sending that out.  But Tamiflu and these other medications that you take once you get the flu are being sent out to the states where there are outbreaks, and she says by next week, they will have something like 50 million doses of it sent around to all of the states and ready, if need be. 

So—and with things like this, they say, they would have done it at the higher level, they are doing them any way. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Now within the last hour, the Centers for Disease Control has said that fatalities in the United States are possible.  Do you think the president will be addressing the country?  I mean, people‘s fears are starting to rise a little bit on this.

WILLIAMS:  Well, I think they are saying that because of based on what they see in Mexico.  I asked her today, “What is it about the swine flu that worries you more than any other kind of flu?”  Because, you know, it does come at the end of the flu season, when things are normally starting to taper off, and that‘s one thing that public health authorities take some heart from. 

What they say is particularly worry some to them is the patient population, where they‘ve had deaths in Mexico, it‘s usually very young people or very old people whose immune systems and whose defenses are not as strong.  But in the Mexican case, they have some cases of people in apparently otherwise robust health.  So they are trying to find out if they are—yes, go ahead. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, Pete, do they have any answers as to why this is affecting a certain demographic in Mexico, and would we see that in this country?  Any comment on that? 

WILLIAMS:  Yes, those are the really good questions, and I think they have the same question and they just don‘t know the answer yet. 

They are trying to figure out the epidemiology of those people in Mexico, how they got the disease, whether those folks who died from it had maybe other health problems.  The flu was a contributing factor but wasn‘t the only cause, but they just don‘t know that yet. 

But that‘s one of the reasons why they are concerned about it.  And by the way, this medication, the Tamiflu, normally cannot be taken by very young children.  But one of the effects of declaring this public health emergency, as the secretary did yesterday, is the FDA is now allowing it, with a doctor‘s recommendation, to be used for younger people than it‘s normally used for. 

So that just gives you an example of the kinds of things that they are trying to do here. 

SCHULTZ:  NBC Justice Correspondent Pete Williams.

Pete, I‘ve never met you.  Nice to have you on the program tonight. 

Thanks for the help in a tight spot. 

WILLIAMS:  My pleasure. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet. 

It just goes to show how intense the story is at the White House.  We were expected to have the director of homeland security on the program tonight.  She was called away to a briefing, and that was right after the World Health Organization raised the pandemic threat to 4, a level of 4.  You heard Pete say it goes up from 1 to 6. 

And also, the CDC says that fatalities in the United States are possible.  It is getting more serious by the hour. 

Now, you‘ve got to ask yourself, how‘s this Tom Daschle thing looking now?  We do not have a secretary of Health and Human Services. 

Politics. 

Well, swine flu has doctors absolutely stumped.  One reason they are worried, many of the people killed in Mexico were healthy, young adults. 

Dr. Michael Smith is the chief medical editor for the online Web site MD, he joins us now—he‘s not with us. 

Oh, here he is.  OK.  Thank you. 

Dr. Smith, good to have you with us tonight.  If you can answer some of these questions for us, because we‘re getting a lot of e-mail from people saying, why is it affecting young people and not older people?  Or am I wrong on that? 

DR. MICHAEL SMITH, CHIEF MEDICAL EDITOR, WEB MD:  Well, actually, it‘s a very important question.  That‘s one of the things that the government officials are really looking at because, typically, the flu does affect the young and the older more severely.  However, in these cases, it does seem that there are young, healthy adults who seem to be more severely affected, but we don‘t know why. 

But it‘s an important question that we don‘t yet have the answer to, because what it will tell us is, if there is something unique about this population of people.  Do they for some reason not have then immunity to the swine flu virus that some other populations might have? 

SCHULTZ:  Dr. Smith, what is the CDC doing at this hour?  Do you feel confident that we have defense mechanisms in place? 

SMITH:  Oh, absolutely.  You know, they‘re obviously working around the clock, working all avenues, talking very closely with the Mexican officials.

I‘m confident that they are doing everything they can.  We have to do everything that we can to help prevent spread of the flu virus ourselves. 

SCHULTZ:  And what are the symptoms?  I mean, is it an upset stomach, weak legs, high fever?  What should people be looking for? 

And I hear that it‘s been reported that you could have it and not even know it.  What is the swine flu? 

SMITH:  Well, if you do have symptoms of the swine flu, very similar to symptoms of the regular flu—fever, cough, sore throat, chills, aches and pains all over your body.  So you can see it‘s very similar to a lot of other respiratory viruses probably that you and I have both had many times.

The difference here is some people do have nausea and vomiting with it.  But other than that, it‘s really tough to tell the difference.

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Here‘s an Ed question for you tonight.  Is everybody going to be wearing these masks before the week is out?  Is that where we‘re going?

SMITH:  Well, right now there‘s no need for that.  We‘re not calling for that.  The government is not calling for that.  But keep in mind, there‘s a lot that you can do, yourself, without wearing a mask to help prevent spread of this virus. 

Frequently wash your hands.  That‘s the most important thing you can do. 

You know, you might want to avoid things like kissing with a greeting.  Very common in Mexico.  People do it here.  Just try to avoid that, certainly if you‘re in areas closer to these viruses spreading. 

Those are simple things that you can do—alcohol-based gels.  Just try to keep your hands clean, don‘t put your hands in your mouth, that kind of thing.  Simple things like that. 

SCHULTZ:  Dr. Smith, why are people dying in Mexico but not dying in the United States?  At least we haven‘t had a fatality here yet. 

SMITH:  Right.  You know, unfortunately, it probably means that we will eventually have a fatality here. 

Keep in mind that just from the normal—every flu that we have every year, 36,000 people die every single year on average.  Here, we have not had anyone die from the swine flu.  Unfortunately, there‘s a good chance that we will eventually, though. 

SCHULTZ:  Dr. Smith, thanks for your time tonight.  Appreciate it so much.  Thanks for that information from the CDC. 

Dr. Michael Smith with us here on THE ED SHOW.

Coming up next on THE ED SHOW, more people believe in ghosts than want to associate themselves with the Republican Party.  Now, this is no joke.

Neither is this, say goodnight, Pontiac.  GM makes drastic cuts to stay alive.  Will the new plan work?  We‘ll get that next on THE ED SHOW.

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SCHULTZ:  Well, so long Pontiac.  Now, hold it right here. 

I think that if Pontiac and GMC and General Motors, if they had just come back with the Goty (ph), if they had come back with the Pontiac LeMans, hey, they could have turned this thing around.  Don‘t you remember those days cruising around in those vehicles?  They were just unbelievable. 

So what are we going to do?  We‘re going to kick the number three profit machine, Pontiac, out the door. 

Well, that‘s just the beginning of a massive restructuring plan General Motors‘ CEO Fritz Henderson laid out today.  Twenty-one thousand factory jobs gone, 42 percent of dealerships to go out of business in the United States.

There are more plants that are going to be shutting their doors, bringing the total to 13 closed factories.  And oh, by the way, now you and I have got a stake in this.  That‘s right. 

In an interview with CNBC‘s Phil Lebeau, Henderson reminds us bankruptcy is still on the table. 

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FRITZ HENDERSON, CEO, GENERAL MOTORS:  One of the things we‘ve said very clearly through this process is that we think that we want to restructure our business outside of a bankruptcy process.  But if we have to go into a bankruptcy, we will. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Joining us now is CNBC‘s Phil Lebeau. 

Phil, good to have you with us tonight. 

PHIL LEBEAU, CNBC:  Hey, Ed.  How you doing?

SCHULTZ:  Gosh this hurts.  That‘s a lot of jobs to be gone.  Was that the plan all along? 

LEBEAU:  Well, the plan is actually—in terms of the white collar—or the blue collar job cuts, that 21,000 is simply an extension of 7,000 to 8,000 from what was previously announced in February.  It doesn‘t feel good for the 7,000 to 8,000 who have now been added to the job cut status here at General Motors, but this is a company that needs to shrink. 

It has too many plants, building too many vehicles, and it needs to shrink.  It‘s going to be painful what‘s happening over the next 16, 18, 24 months, but this is a company that needs to become much smaller if it has any hope of being profitable. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, and how are American taxpayers, do you think, going to respond to this?  We‘ve forked out a bunch of loans to this company.  Are you telling us tonight that they‘re just going to be in a lot better shape to pay these loans back to the Treasury? 

LEBEAU:  Well, that‘s the hope.  Their hope here is that the Treasury Department, as part of forgiving some of the loans to General Motors, will take a 50 percent equity cut in the company.  If the stock appreciates and if the company becomes profitable in the future, then, clearly, the shareholders, which are the taxpayers, the federal government, they will be repaid with a stock that is greater in value.  But there‘s no guarantees here. 

The bottom line is this, Ed—somebody was going to have to fund the bankruptcy of General Motors.  There are no banks out there that can do this.  The federal government is the lender of last resort.  It was either going to have to do it in bankruptcy court or outside of bankruptcy court, and right now they are doing it outside of bankruptcy court. 

SCHULTZ:  And why does Pontiac get the ax?  Why not some other lines? 

LEBEAU:  Well, according to Fritz Henderson, they ran the math and the math shows that the most profitable lines that would be left at General Motors are Chevy, Cadillac, Buick, and GMC.  Now, a lot of people are saying get rid of Buick and replace it with Pontiac.  Buick is number one in China, incredibly popular in Asia, and it‘s more profitable per vehicle here in the U.S. than Pontiac.  So from GM‘s perspective, if you‘re going to get rid of either Pontiac or Buick, Pontiac was the one that had to go.

SCHULTZ:  Is this company still going to be able to innovate with all of these cutbacks?  I mean, are they confident that their research and development is going to be able to move forward so they can get into the profit zone? 

LEBEAU:  Well, they say they will be able to.  And that‘s really—we‘re not going to be able to know that until two years, three years down the road, when we see what vehicles are coming out. 

They are putting a lot of investment into the Chevy Volt, the electric car that‘s coming out the end of 2010, but that‘s going to be in small numbers when they first hit showrooms, not enough to impact the bottom line.  GM will have to invest in future products if it‘s ever going to get back in the black. 

SCHULTZ:  Phil Lebeau, thanks so much for joining us tonight.

CNBC‘s Phil Lebeau with us.

All right.  Now, in a statement today, Congressman Gary Peters of Michigan said taxpayer money for General Motors was not just to keep the automaker in business, it was to preserve American jobs and boost the economy.  “We all know that General Motors must make cutbacks, but preserving as many American jobs as possible must be the primary goal of all restructuring efforts.”

Congressman Peters joins us tonight. 

Is this acceptable, what‘s happening, Congressman? 

REP. GARY PETERS (D), MICHIGAN:  Well, it certainly was a real kick in the gut to have this many jobs lost.  It‘s going to impact us in Michigan.  And we‘re waiting to see the details. 

Certainly, the devil is in the details as to where these job cuts are going to be, and we certainly hope they aren‘t disproportionate in Michigan, which is already, as you know, Ed, suffering a great deal, highest unemployment rate in the country.  This is going to be a significant blow. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, the latest “Washington Post”/ABC News poll that was out shows that the president‘s handling of the U.S. automakers, 53 percent disapprove.  That‘s not his best number out there.  That‘s for sure.

So how is this going to be received, 21,000 job cuts and all these factories being shut down in Michigan?  Is there going to be a political kickback to this? 

PETERS:  Well, certainly, again, we‘ve got to see where the details are, where these cuts are going to be, how they‘re going to be spread out across the GM system. 

One thing in particular that I want to look at is to see what sort of cuts are there in foreign production, where cars are being built overseas and then being imported into the United States?  I certainly don‘t want to have a situation where we‘re cutting domestic jobs, American jobs, and basically outsourcing those and bringing in imports in place of those job cuts.  That can‘t happen.  That is certainly unacceptable. 

We‘ve got to have a plan that is going to preserve jobs.  But I think that, ultimately, you can‘t cut your way out of this problem. 

The problems at General Motors are the same with Chrysler, with Ford, with Toyota, Honda, all of the car companies, is that sales generally are down.  We need to stimulate demand.  That‘s why we need to have immediate action on the Cash for Clunkers bill that Representative Sutton has.

I‘m going to be introducing a bill to give tax cuts to small businesses and medium-sized businesses to buy new vehicles, to upgrade their fleets.  We‘ve got to get people in the showrooms.  And when they start buying cars, that‘s not only great for the American auto industry, that is how you get out of a recession.  That is how you get the economy moving.

You can‘t keep slashing jobs and think you‘re going to get out of a recession.  You‘ve got to stimulate the demand side.  That‘s where our focus should be. 

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

PETERS:  Thank you, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Congressman Peters from Michigan tonight. 

Next up on THE ED SHOW, one Republican leader blames the mainstream media for nobody knowing just what a great job the GOP is doing.  Yes, it‘s time for “Psycho Talk.”    

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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?

You‘ve got it.  It‘s time for “Psycho Talk.” 

Well, now how‘s this for “Psycho Talk”?  The GOP are not obstructionists.  It‘s just the media that portrays them that way.

You see, the media is to blame.  That‘s what Minority Whip Eric Cantor argued in a recent interview on CNN‘s “Situation Room” with Wolf Blitzer.  Asked Cantor about a CNN/Opinion Research Poll showing Americans think President Obama is doing more than the GOP to cooperate with the other party. 

Here‘s Cantor‘s response. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR:  Why does the American public think that the White House and the Democrats are more assertive in wanting to cooperate with you than the Republicans?

REP. ERIC CANTOR ®, VIRGINIA:  Well, Wolf, I may lay some of the blame back on that, on your colleagues, and the mainstream media.  It‘s just not as appetizing, I guess, to cover the plans that we have and the attempts that we‘ve made. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  I didn‘t know we had such influence.  Appetizing.  It‘s not appetizing to cover all those new plans you‘ve put forward, is it? 

Like what plans?  The last time I checked, the Republicans, they don‘t have a plan for health care.  Not one Republican in the House voted for the president on the economic stimulus package. 

Blaming media for their own failures, that‘s never going to work. 

That‘s why it‘s “Psycho Talk.”  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  There‘s something really crazy going on in this debate over torture and who is going to be held accountable.  There‘s a faction of the Republican party, the die hard Dick Cheney crowd, the disciples, the torture cheerleaders, just dying to have this debate. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think now that the door is opened, I say, bring it on.  Let‘s have a big national debate on this.  Let‘s have George Tenet testify.  Let‘s have Mike Hayden testify.  Let‘s have a serious debate.  Let‘s have Dick Cheney take on anyone the left wants to produce about whether we were responsible, whether this is a dark chapter in our history, something we have to be ashamed of, or whether the U.S. behaved in a very fine way, I think, in a very impressive way. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Whoa.  Did the wind change direction on that one?  the idea that these guys want to be hauled out in public and do a line by line evidence that they signed off on the torture, I mean, it just sounds crazy to me.  We have a lot more investigations we can do, too, going all the way back to Cheney‘s executive energy meetings in 2001.  Remember those secret meetings?

This is really strange that they want to do that.  Some die-hard Cheney disciples are determined to scare us absolutely silly.  They think they can control this debate with some scare tactics. 

Joining me now is Jonathan Alter, senior editor of “Newsweek” and also the author of “The Defining Moment, FDR‘s 100 Days and the Triumph of Hope.”

You know, it‘s a new chapter every day with this outfit, isn‘t it? 

What are they trying to accomplish here? 

JONATHAN ALTER, “NEWSWEEK”:  Look, they think they have a story to tell.  They think that they are going to prove, when all of this is hashed out, that torture works, and that is saved thousands of lives.  The problem that they‘ve got is that the truth is a lot more complicated than that, and getting to the bottom of whether it was torture or other kinds of intelligence gathering that led to the foiling of some plots, very, very complex. 

And once they go down that road, I think they will be sorry, because there will be clear evidence of law breaking.  Remember, torture was against the law throughout this entire period.  Water boarding has been considered tortures for hundreds of years.  People have been prosecuted in the United States for water boarding. 

So they are in a kind of a box here.  I think they are trying to use some bluster to get out of it. 

SCHULTZ:  It‘s really strange because they‘re failing on every issue.  They have no ideas.  Now, only 21 percent of the Americans who have been polled are willing to say that they‘re a Republican.  Yet, half of the country believes that, you know, this torture thing might have worked.  Are they winning this argument?  Is this their best play now to go down this road? 

ALTER:  There are a lot of people who watch “24.”  There are an awful lot of people whose first inclination is to think—in my work, I have to, in all honesty, say in 2001, I felt that way.  You know, but then you do learn, as the president said when we went to the CIA.  You learn that it‘s more complex, that what the military says is that when people are tortured, they talk but they lie.  They just say whatever comes into their mind in order to get the pain to stop. 

So it‘s not very reliable.  If you do any kind of a balancing test on it, Ed, you find that the disadvantage, what it hurts us in terms of recruitment for al Qaeda, wrecking America‘s reputation in the world, greatly out weighs any possible advantage that it could have. 

SCHULTZ:  We have now got the most publicized former vice president in contemporary time.  Dick Cheney comes out and does an interview every 30 days.  I went after him on this program.  I think he wants this country to get hit again for political gain.  Of course, the response by his colleague, John McCain, over on the Senate side, yesterday on “Face the Nation” was that wasn‘t a very good thing to say.  I forget exactly how put it.  The fact is, wouldn‘t McCain be the perfect guy to stand up and tell the American people that this isn‘t the road we want to go down?  Instead, he‘s out defending Dick Cheney. 

ALTER:  He is.  In fairness to McCain, he‘s saying that torture is wrong and it doesn‘t work.  He‘s been pretty consistent on that, although he left a loophole in legislation last year to allow the CIA to continue to engage in some of this.  In terms of where Cheney‘s head is, I think it‘s unfair to Cheney to say that he wants us to be attacked again.  But what he is saying is that should, god forbid, we be attacked again—at that point, he‘s going to start saying, I told you so. 

And he‘s positioning himself for a resurrection, for a comeback.  And that is a politicizing of this that is kind of nauseating. 

SCHULTZ:  It is nauseating.  It really sets them up for an I told you so.  But if Dick Cheney really thinks we‘re going to get hit again, why doesn‘t he just get some time with the president and say, you‘re not doing A, B, C, and D, and you‘re got watch out for this.  Wouldn‘t that be the statesmen thing to do. 

ALTER:  No, what he‘s saying is we‘re going to get hit again because we‘re not torturing.  He‘s not saying he knows of some imminent threat.  He just believes—and it‘s rationalizing on his part—that this works.  So he‘s sought the declassification of a couple of documents.  Let‘s see what‘s in those documents. 

What‘s peculiar, though, is that those documents were written two years after the torture, according to him, worked.  If it worked so well in 2002 and 2003, why didn‘t they write it up at the time?  Why are the documents that proved that torture worked something that was written way after the fact?  You get the sense that they are going back and trying to make it seem like it worked, when there wasn‘t a lot of evidence for that at the time. 

SCHULTZ:  What do you think Mr. Eric Holder‘s play is going to be? 

ALTER:  You know, he‘s in a tough spot there, because the president has tossed the ball into his court.  There is some kind of middle ground here between prosecutions, criminalizing these differences, which it‘s clear that the president doesn‘t want to do, put us through this long process.  On the one hand, you can dispense with that and still have some accountability through a kind of truth commission that they had in South Africa, when they had all of their abuses. 

Then when that report is delivered, Ed, this would be good in taking on the Cheneys in the world.  It‘s in the administration‘s political interest to have a truth commission.  Otherwise, they are kind of sitting ducks for Cheney coming back and saying, I told you so, should we be attacked again.  If there‘s a commission that says, hey, torture was not instrumental in keeping us safe.  There were these other things that were more responsible for keeping us safe.  Then at that point, the Democrats can fight back harder should, good forbid, we be attacked again. 

SCHULTZ:  Jonathan Alter, “Newsweek,” great to have you with us, as always.  Thanks so much. 

ALTER:  Thanks, Ed.  

SCHULTZ:  Let‘s bring in our political panel.  Political writer and commentator Nancy Giles with us tonight.  “Washington Times” White House correspondent Christina Bellantoni.  And also “Huffington Post” political reporter Sam Stein. 

We‘ll start with you, Sam.  What do you make of the response of John McCain on this? 

SAM STEIN, “HUFFINGTON POST”:  I think Jonathan is right.  John McCain has defined torture pretty harshly in the past.  But the defense of Dick Cheney, and saying, well, Dick Cheney may be right, I‘m not going to get into it, that‘s a bit disappointing. 

I think more important point is the selective memories of many of these Bush administration officials and their conservative counterparts is worth noting.  There‘s a 2004 CIA inspector general report that is supposed to be out there, that should show that torture actually did not yield any evidence that could have thwarted an attack. 

Now, Cheney wants to release two documents that shows evidence that supports the use of torture.  Let‘s have a fair accounting of the 2004 memo as well. 

SCHULTZ:  Christina, is it a good road for the GOP to travel to give these guys some backup on this?  Half of the country—the country is split on this.  This seems to be about their best play right now with the public. 

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, “THE WASHINGTON TIMES”:  I don‘t know if it‘s their best play.  This is maybe not where they want to take it.  I think the American people actually are very concerned about things like deficits.  So that‘s an area where they do have a disagreement with the president and perhaps they should push that. 

But as far as these memos go, we‘re also going to be seeing transcripts of sessions of some of the things that went on.  I think those are the kinds of things that the American people are very uncomfortable with.  And members of commerce supporting this truth commission, that‘s not a new thing.  You‘ve had calls—even with Vice President Cheney, you had calls from his impeachment from Congressman Kucinich many years ago.  I think you‘re going to see those calls continue.  And the president may try to be about that fray. 

SCHULTZ:  Nancy, are you comfortable with Nancy Pelosi‘s position on this, that she knew or didn‘t know?  She‘s been very adamant about that recently.  But there seems to be some conversation there that she was briefed, but then wasn‘t told that they were going to do it.  How do you see that? 

NANCY GILES, POLITICAL WRITER:  I think we should know about everything.  I say, take everything document, let‘s open it up and see, Democratic and Republican, people who knew about what was going on ahead of time.  The bottom line is, those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.  And if we‘re going to be the changed nation that we talk about being, and if we‘re supposed to be the moral authority in this world, we don‘t torture. 

The thing is find out what torture is, expose it, and don‘t do it again.  It‘s absolutely, I think—whatever Nancy Pelosi knew and when she knew it should be out there. 

SCHULTZ:  Do you think Eric Holder is going to ignore this, Sam Stein? 

STEIN:  It would be a surprise to me if he did.  I don‘t think it‘s one of those genies you can put back in the bottle, so to speak, especially when we‘re going to get photographs released.  I think there‘s a public outcry to figure out what happened, some sort of accounting of what happened.  Yes, let‘s get all of the information out there.  As a journalist, I want all of the information out there.  It‘s something that we deserve to see. 

SCHULTZ:  Are you OK with that, Christina? 

BELLANTONI:  I completely agree with Sam on this point.  The more information the better.

SCHULTZ:  What about these secret energy meetings that Dick Cheney had back in 2001, after the rolling blackouts took place in California? 

BELLANTONI:  Yes.  This is the point with the Obama administration;

They Want to be very transparent.  And that was I think what they were trying to aim for in releasing these memos.  Let‘s make it entirely transparent.  Let‘s release everything.  That was one of his first moves when he came into office, was to say we‘re not going to have the exact same executive privilege we had before. 

SCHULTZ:  I‘d like one on, let‘s see, pre-war intelligence.  I‘d like one of rendition flights.  Nancy, what do you think?

GILES:  Absolutely.  And that energy commission always bothered me.  What‘s going on?  Who was involved?  How did Cheney get around letting people know.  Not right.  I also have to say, with regard to torture and Cheney, It‘s important to remember that this guy did not serve.  OK?  He saw no battle.  I think it‘s easy for people like that to think that torture works, because maybe it would work on them.  But in the real world, and not the “24” world, the studies have proven it doesn‘t get you any information. 

SCHULTZ:  I‘ll tell you, the Senate Armed Services report that came out last week is pretty damaging to the whole thing.  We‘ll talk more about it.  Stay with us, panel.  We‘ve got some other things coming up as well.  Up next, this marks a major milestone for President Obama.  How are Americans feeling about the job he‘s doing?  New poll numbers coming up.  Stay with us on THE ED SHOW.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  This is a benchmark week for the Obama administration.  On Wednesday, we reach the 100 day mark.  In my playbook tonight, I would like to say that the game is pretty much going as planned, wouldn‘t you think? 

I want to break down a brand new poll that‘s out today; 69 percent approve of the president‘s job performance; six in 10 Americans say Obama has kept most of his major campaign promises; 90 percent say that he is willing to listen to different points of view. 

If that‘s not enough, here are a few more things.  The majority of Americans think about the president: he‘s a strong leader; he is honest and trustworthy; he really is a likable guy, too.  Can we just say that?  He brought the needed change to Washington.  That‘s what this whole election was about, change.  He could be trusted in a crisis.  He‘s in sync with their values. 

And a majority rate him as a good commander in chief.  Now here‘s what we‘ve been told by Republicans: no, no, no.  We‘re spending too much money.  We‘ve been told Obama is palling around with terrorists.  How dare he shake the hands of Hugo Chavez?  Everything Republicans have come up with has failed.  They have no leadership, in my opinion.  Average Americans are now afraid of what is going to come forward, what‘s going to happen if I step out, step forward and say, I‘m an American. 

Only 21 percent say that they can identify with the Republican party.  That‘s the lowest number in this poll in more than 25 years, a quarter of a century.  If that‘s not a good warning sign for the GOP, I don‘t know what is. 

Joining me now is Richard Viguerie, chairman of a ConservativeHQ.com.  Mr. Viguerie, you are proof positive that I am fair on this program in getting both sides. 

Richard, these numbers are terrible for you guys.  What is happening over there? 

RICHARD VIGUERIE, CONSERVATIVEIQ.COM:  Ed, I‘ve been saying the same thing.  First of all, most conservatives these days don‘t even think of themselves as Republicans.  We are conservatives, even Reagan conservatives.  We agree, we need to get rid of this Republican leadership.  It‘s taking our cause down. 

Unfortunately, we‘re tied to the Republican party.  And there‘s nothing we can do about it.  But we‘ve got to get new leaders.  John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Michael Steele, they all need to go.  We‘re like the Jews in the Bible that had wander through the desert, Ed, for 40 years until that generation of faithless, corrupt leaders had passed from the scene.  We‘re not going to come to power as conservative Republicans until we get new leaders.  It‘s very clear. 

SCHULTZ:  Why is Obama so popular?  At 69 percent approval rating and all of the things I mentioned out there.  Richard, he‘s winning in a lot of categories right now with the American people. 

VIGUERIE:  There‘s no getting around it, Ed.  But, you know, let‘s, you know, realize that he‘s not all that different from what other presidents were at a similar time, whether it‘s Ronald Reagan, George H.W.  Bush, George W. Bush.  They are pretty much in that ballpark range. 

Plus, he is going overseas a lot.  And politics stops at the water‘s edge.  And Americans, you know, see him as a strong leader.  It didn‘t hurt at all to take a strong national security position with the pirates.  So this is natural.  But we‘ve had a lot of work ahead of us.  There‘s no question.  I‘m not going to try to put too rosy of a picture on it.  We‘ve got a lot of work to do.  It‘s going to have to come from the conservative.  It‘s not going to come from the Republican, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  What is the best move for the Republicans, Mr. Viguerie?  Is it the filibuster until you get organized over on the right? 

VIGUERIE:  It‘s a show of leadership.  It‘s to take principled conservative positions.  They haven‘t been taking principled conservative positions.  They‘re wet finger politicians, trying to take the temperature of the country.  Just go out there and take principled positions and let the politics follow. 

But right now, we‘ve got politicians that are out of synch with the American people.  And as I said earlier, we‘re just not going to get to the political promise land until we get new leaders.  Number one thing is that people at the grass roots level, by the way, Ed—you‘ve got conservatives, I know, listening to you.  And those conservatives need to show leadership.  And leadership begins at the grass roots level, not with people like you and me. 

SCHULTZ:  On a lighter note, since your numbers are so bad on the conservative side right now, did your NFL team at least pick the right guy on Saturday?  Did you get the player you wanted? 

VIGUERIE:  Well, Ed, I‘ve Been out of town working hard to bring conservatives back to power.  So I haven‘t even been reading the newspaper.  But I do know that our Washington, D.C. hockey team is going to win the playoff game here.  We‘ve got some things going for us here. 

SCHULTZ:  All right.  Good to have you on with us tonight. 

VIGUERIE:  Thank you, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  Thanks so much.  Always an honest take from that man.  Only 21 percent of Americans say they are Republican.  We only have two major parties in this country.  The number of people who believe in the GOP is smaller than the people who believe in ESP.  That‘s right.  What does it mean for the future?  We‘ll ask that to our panel when we come back next on THE ED SHOW.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  Just 21 percent of Americans are willing to identify themselves as Republicans.  That‘s a low number, isn‘t it?  Actually, more Americans believe that they have seen a ghost.  More Americans believe that UFOs may be circling their homes.  No kidding.  And more Americans believe that they can communicate through ESP.  I mean, these are some low numbers. 

Now, you know what I‘m thinking about the Republican party.  Back with me now is our political panel, Nancy Giles, Christina Bellantoni, and also Sam Stein.  Nancy, high numbers for Obama, low numbers for the Republicans.  Is he going to get everything that he wants, the president? 

GILES:  I think he‘s going to get a lot.  Not to repeat what everybody said, but the Republican party is just turning out to be the party of no.  They don‘t have any ideas.  I watched the Tea Bag protests.  And I wondered where are all of the rich people that are upset that they‘re the top three percent earners, that their taxes are going to be cut. 

They‘ve got nothing to stand on.  Obama‘s wish to get health care is a huge, huge thing.  It touch‘s everybody‘s life and everybody‘s pocketbook. 

SCHULTZ:  Christina, wouldn‘t it be politically smart for maybe the Republicans to pick one issue to agree with the president on, and then kind of work from there?  Could they pick one issue to work with Obama on and then maybe work from there?  These are the worst numbers.  The midterm is going to be lining up for the Republicans to get smoked. 

BELLANTONI:  Right.  Possibly.  Also, if they came up with some ideas that the Democratic leadership would consider, that would also help them as well.  But I think part of this, they are going to have to buckle in for the next week, because the president is going to get a lot of favorable first 100 days coverage.  The DNC is going to be out with this new TV ad tomorrow that really has an interesting take, showing President Obama making campaign promises and then signing bills that fulfilled those promises. 

They‘re going to have to endure a little bit more of this.  Right now, it‘s not popular to be a Republican.  But they have to figure out what their soul is.  Are they conservatives?  Are they pro life?  Are they tax cutters?  What are they all about?  They have to figure that out. 

SCHULTZ:  Sam, what is going to be the biggest hurdle for the president?  I‘ve got a commentary on this in a moment.  But what do you think is the biggest hurdle for the president right now? 

STEIN:  God, there a few things that could pop up.  Health care is the most dicey of issues.  But the use of reconciliation could change the dynamics when it comes to that.  The truth is, the biggest hurdle is politics is cyclical.  Over time, people will get upset with the president on some front.  And sure, maybe a Republican official might move up in stature and standing and sort of galvanize the movement. 

But right now, he‘s riding high, and the 100 days coverage is an important point.  Got another two weeks of that coasting that he‘s going to have.  And he racks up legislative accomplishments, you‘re going to see even more favorability ratings. 

SCHULTZ:  You know, Sam, you hit the nail on head.  He‘s riding high.  So why take singer payer health care off the table?  Just because Max Baucus says not to do it.  Nancy, this is what frustrates me.  I‘ve done town hall meetings all over the country.  I was here in Brooklyn just last Saturday.  They want single payer.  The majority of the health providers, the majority of Americans want single payer.  You‘ve got a president with a 69 percent approval rating.  What are they waiting for? 

GILES:  I don‘t know.  Now‘s the time.  You‘re not going to get a better time than now.  I think you should put it back on.  I do.

BELLANTONI:  He hasn‘t really ever been out promoting it.  Maybe way back when, when he was running for Democratic primaries, before he started running for president.  But President Obama has been consistent for the last two, two and a half years.  And Hillary Clinton used to hit him on the fact that he wasn‘t for single payer when had said he was for years before.  So this isn‘t necessarily an issue they just took off the table.

SCHULTZ:  Christina, I think one of the reasons why he hasn‘t gone back to single payer, he is of the mindset he wants to do something that‘s politically achievable.  But if you have the country behind you and the political will, and the 69 percent approval rating, I think he should bring it back.  Why not? 

BELLANTONI:  Good question for Sam at the press conference.

SCHULTZ:  Sam. you better ask him that question Wednesday night. 

STEIN:  If I get another question, maybe I will.  There‘s a reason why not.  It‘s the fact of the matter is, even if you need 50 senators to pass this thing, you need 50 senators.  I‘m not sure that the Max Baucus types are going to be on board for single payer.  Obama has said if he was starting from scratch, that would be the type of system that he wants.  He‘s not starting from scratch.  He‘s not going to do it. 

SCHULTZ:  We have got single payer in this country right now with Medicare.  We have administrative costs that are one-fourth of what it is with HMOs.  You can have a choice.  You don‘t have to get referred to the doctor.  Medicare works in this country.  But the key is, it does cost money, Nancy.  The American people want to spend it. 

GILES:  And we should spend it.  If we can straighten out this medical problem, this problem with health care, can you imagine how many companies wouldn‘t be going bankrupt.  We hear it time and time again. 

SCHULTZ:  Christina, can you tell me what the Republican plan is for health care is in 30 seconds?  You‘ve got 30 seconds to tell me what their plan is.

BELLANTONI:  I think—I don‘t know what their plan is.  And I think that‘s part of the problem.  They are not necessarily communicating it and rather than just being against what the president is offering, this really does need to be something where they come together.  And that‘s where people like Arlen Specter, senator from Pennsylvania, Republican that supported the stimulus, he‘s going to be real key on this.  He‘s talked a lot about the need of health care reform.  It‘s just a matter of what form it ends up taking. 

STEIN:  Can I make a point here, Ed?

SCHULTZ:  Go right ahead, quickly, Sam? 

STEIN:  This is one of those cases where the Republicans actually can do something positive for their own image.  With the stimulus, I‘m surprised at how few Republicans actually voted for the package, then turned around and took credit for getting so many tax cuts in the package. 

SCHULTZ:  Got to run, Sam.  Great panel tonight.  Thanks so much, Christina, Nancy.  Thanks for being here.  That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz.

To send me an e-mail, just go for more information at WeGotEd.com or Ed.MSNBC.com.  Got a town hall meeting coming up in Buffalo June 13th.  Chris Matthews is next with “HARDBALL.”

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

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