updated 5/1/2009 2:34:44 PM ET 2009-05-01T18:34:44

Guest: Chris Van Hollen, Gary Peters, Grover Norquist, A.B. Stoddard, Jack

Rice, John Nichols, Jonathan Cohn, Sen. Jeff Merkley


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


SCHULTZ:  Good evening, Americans. 

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

The president uses one word, “mistake.”  I think it‘s a curveball. 

Chrysler‘s going into bankruptcy, and the president says it‘s actually good for the workers. 

Do the banks really own the United States Senate?  We‘ll put that question to a senator tonight. 

And is the party over for the GOP?  John McCain is now leaving a group focused on the future of the Republican Party.  What‘s wrong with that picture? 

Plus, “”Psycho Talk.”  

But first, tonight‘s “OpEd.”

What a homerun.  The president, we all know, has had a lot on his plate.  First 100 days, economic meltdown, changing the strategy of two wars.  But the biggest curveball he‘s been thrown in recent weeks is that on torture.  Everybody wants an answer. 

Torture could have derailed his presidency, turned it into a really messy partisan fight.  It would have been absolutely perfect ammunition for the GOP.  They would have loved to go back to scaring the American people, telling them that, hey, President Obama, he just doesn‘t know how to keep you safe. 

Last night, on his 100th day, the president was confronted with the torture issue.  He‘s handling this and did handle it absolutely in a brilliant manner. 

You know the GOP line “You‘re either with us or against us,” the terrorists, the “24” scenario, all of that stuff.  The country is under attack and the liberals won‘t protect America because they‘re more concerned about protecting the ACLU. 

Republicans want to make the security issue an either/or question. 

Either we torture or get attacked. 

The president did a great job of shutting that down last night. 


BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I am absolutely convinced that it was the right thing to do.  Not because there might not have been information that was yielded by these various detainees who were subjected to this treatment, but because we could have gotten this information in other ways, in ways that were consistent with our values. 


There are other ways.  We don‘t have to torture.  We can protect America without breaking our laws and morality. 

That‘s not the liberal view.  That‘s our heritage as a democracy. 

Last night, President Obama put a new face on his position against torture. 


OBAMA:  The British, during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees.  And Churchill said we don‘t torture. 


SCHULTZ:  We don‘t torture.  You know, Winston Churchill, the British bulldog that American conservatives love so much, he defeated the Nazis in the face of Hitler‘s relentless bombing campaign. 

Winston Churchill was against torture.  Everybody got that?  Just like the president of the United States, Barack Obama. 

Now, there‘s the question on whether Bush and Cheney should be prosecuted.  The president, a former constitutional law professor, was asked about that.  His answer, absolutely A-plus spot on. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you believe the previous administration sanctioned torture? 

OBAMA:  I believe that waterboarding was torture, and I think that whatever legal rationales were used, it was a mistake. 


OBAMA:  Mistake, not a crime.  With that word, the president washed his hands of thinks whole thing and sent it off to the courts. 

This is what I think we need to focus on tonight—mistake.  Now, look, we all want justice, a lot of liberals out there in this country, a lot of folks out there who have been saying, hey, I voted for Barack Obama because I wanted justice, and now he‘s backing off on this whole thing. 

Folks, recognize what he‘s doing.  This is politically and legally a brilliant move by the president of the United States. 

Now, what if the president had come out and said, “Yes, I think it was a crime”?  What do you think we would be talking about forever, throughout his entire administration until we got justice? 

With this way, he washed his hands of it.  Politically he washes his hands of it, because now he sends it to the rule of law. 

Imagine this: the president of the United States rendering judgment without investigation, without inquiry, without doing the due diligence of exactly what happened, just taking a couple of Senate reports and saying, yes, it was a crime.  It would have defocused the country and we wouldn‘t have gotten anything done on health care this year. 

It was brilliant.  It was the perfect card to play.  He totally disarmed the conservatives, totally disarmed all of the political “antis.”  And believe me, they are out there.  Just look at some of the ads the GOP is running this day. 

Now, it‘s up to Eric Holder, it‘s up to the rule of law, it‘s up to the laws of this country now that have to be followed.  But if the president had stood up there and said, yes, I think it was a crime and I think they‘re guilty, where would we have been then? 

Where would the reelection effort to get more Democrats in the Senate and the House, where would that have gone?  The Republican fear machine is back in action today. 

For more on that, let‘s bring in Congressman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the chairman of the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee.

Now, I think, Congressman, you are the perfect interview on this story tonight.  Your job is to go out and get Democrats elected.  And I would guess that the last thing you want to talk about is torture. 

Now you can go out there and say, well, we‘ve got an investigation going on, let‘s just do the due diligence of this whole thing.  And by the way, we brought you some health care. 

What about that? 

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND:  Well, Ed, you‘re right, I think the president handled this masterfully last night.  He said, “I have put an end to waterboarding.  I think it‘s torture.”  He said the legal questions will be handled by Eric Holder, we won‘t criminalize policy differences, but the Justice Department will look into the legal questions, and let‘s move on and talk about the real challenges the country is facing right now on the economic front.

Let‘s talk about health care, because right now thousands of people around this country, as they lose their jobs, they‘re losing their health care, he has a plan to deal with that.  Let‘s get the economy out of the ditch. 

So I think the president made it absolutely clear, he‘s turning the page on the policies of the last administration.  He is going to uphold the values of this country.  We‘re not going to engage in waterboarding and torture just as Churchill did not engage in it during World War II.  Now let‘s get on and tackle these big, important issues on the economy.

SCHULTZ:  Congressman, what does it tell you that the president just happened to stumble across an article where he found out and supported his case that Winston Churchill didn‘t torture the Nazis when he had an opportunity?  I mean, if that‘s not proof positive that this guy does his homework, I don‘t know what is. 

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, it certainly is, Ed.  And this president is a student of history, and he‘s perfectly willing to say, you know, this is what happened in the past, these are the values and our tradition, let‘s not throw all those values out the window right now. 

And we know the Republicans were just laying in wait trying to use this issue.  As you know, they already started running an ad today invoking the pictures of 9/11 and suggesting that the Democrats are somehow weak on national security, when in fact this president, through his words last night, through his actions with respect to Afghanistan and Pakistan, has clearly demonstrated that we inherited a lot of problems from the last administration when it came to national security. 

After all, they essentially took their eye off the ball in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and now he‘s having to remedy that situation.  So he‘s been very strong on national security. 

SCHULTZ:  But now your competition, Congressman, is out there fear mongering again, trying to scare the American people. 

Here‘s their latest commercial.  Here it is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just what is the administration‘s overarching plan to take on the terrorist threat and to keep America safe? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Then, in this two-page memo, “High-value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used, and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qaeda organization that was attacking this country.”


SCHULTZ:  Are you kidding me?  When I saw that today, I couldn‘t believe it. 

That‘s their answer after everything we‘ve been through?  After we‘ve rendered judgment?  That‘s where they want to take America right now? 

This is right out of the book of Dick Cheney.  Dick Cheney is running the GOP right now.

What do you think, Congressman? 

VAN HOLLEN:  Ed, look, this is Dick Cheney, this is Karl Rove, this is the last eight years.  This is what they tried in the last election, this is what they tried in 2006. 

The American people are a lot smarter than that.  What you‘ve got now is a Republican Party in Washington, the Republican leadership, that is not only out of touch with all the American people, they‘re out of touch with Republicans around the country, which is why, as Arlen Specter said the other day, 200,000 Pennsylvania Republicans switched parties in the presidential election to vote for Barack Obama. 

You‘ve got a shrinking Republican Party around the country, you‘ve got a geographically isolated Republican Party that‘s mostly in the South, mostly white men in the South.  And the fact of the matter is, instead of waking up and saying we‘ve got to look for a different solution, we‘ve got to look for positive ideas, they keep trying the old thing, and that old playbook means they‘re going to keep shrinking further and further. 

SCHULTZ:  So quickly, Chris, do you welcome that commercial?  Do you think that commercial helps you? 

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, I don‘t think—that commercial doesn‘t add anything to the dialogue in this country.

SCHULTZ:  No, it doesn‘t add anything to it.

VAN HOLLEN:  But Ed, from a pure political view, yes.  What it says to the American people is...

SCHULTZ:  We‘re still dumb.

VAN HOLLEN:  ... these guys continue to be out of touch.  They‘re continuing to be out of touch.  Let‘s deal with the economic crisis.  Let‘s not just be the party of “no.”

But what it says is they‘ve got nothing but the old, tired, you know, fear mongering. 

SCHULTZ:  You got it. 

VAN HOLLEN:  People aren‘t falling for this, and the president was spot-on last night when he addressed all these issues. 

SCHULTZ:  Will Arlen Specter help?  Will he help you in Pennsylvania? 

VAN HOLLEN:  Well, I certainly think he will help in the Senate in terms of getting the 60 votes that we may need to move on issues like health care, move on issues like energy policy, because what he did when he voted for the economic stimulus plan was said he did understand that we‘ve got to do something to turn this economy around.  And instead of welcoming that, the Republican Party in Pennsylvania said, hey, we‘ve got an opponent who‘s going to run against you. 

So, as they said at the White House the other day, the president and the vice president when they met with Arlen Specter, we welcome him on the team.  And hopefully he will work with us to make sure that we address these big issues. 

SCHULTZ:  Chris Van Hollen, always a pleasure.  Great to have you with us tonight.  Thanks so much. 

VAN HOLLEN:  Good to be with you, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  You bet. 

One footnote about the president‘s news conference.

Now, the president took 13 questions last night, half of them from the TV networks, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Telemundo, and also BET. But the reporter from Fox, he didn‘t get to ask a question.  Do you believe that? 

The Fox network—of course, they didn‘t carry the press conference.  Now, maybe that had something to do with it, but it might have been the last psycho question that was asked at press conference number two. 


MAJOR GARRETT, FOX NEWS:  Taking this economic debate a bit globally, senior Chinese officials have publicly expressed an interest in international currency.  How comfortable you are with the Chinese government run by communists less confident than they used to be in the U.S. dollar, and European governments, some of them center-left, some of them socialists, saying you‘re asking them to spend too much? 


SCHULTZ:  He‘s talking about one world currency? 

Major Garrett, you‘re a good guy, you‘re a network reporter.  But maybe if you quit getting your material from Michele Bachmann, he would take your question seriously. 

I mean, come on.  Who‘s talking about one world currency? 

You know, maybe Fox has to earn that question. 

All right.  Chrysler‘s autoworkers did their part.  Fiat agreed to the deal.  Even the bailed-out banks have signed on to it.  But a group of Wall Street hedge funds refused to deal, and Chrysler is forced into bankruptcy. 

That‘s next on THE ED SHOW.

Stay with us.


SCHULTZ:  A mixed decision for Chrysler today.  They got a partner, they managed to cut a deal with Fiat, but Chrysler is being forced into bankruptcy. 

The bailed-out banks that Chrysler owes, like JPMorgan, were willing to pitch in and reduce their debts, but a group of Wall Street hedge funds refused to deal.  They wanted Chrysler to be liquidated for every last dollar. 

Those hedge fund holdouts got slammed by President Obama today.  He made the case that bankruptcy will actually protect Chrysler and its workers from greedy creditors. 


OBAMA:  I don‘t stand with those who held out when everybody else is making sacrifices.  And that‘s why I‘m supporting Chrysler‘s plans to use our bankruptcy laws to clear away its remaining obligations so the company can get back on to its feet and on to a path of success. 

This process will be quick.  It will be efficient.  It‘s designed to deal with those last few holdouts, and it will be controlled.  It will not disrupt the lives of the people who work at Chrysler or live in communities that depend on it. 


SCHULTZ:  Joining me now is Congressman Gary Peters from Michigan. 

Chrysler is in his district. 

You know, Congressman, I know the president is very popular, but I have to say, that‘s about the best case I have ever heard and the best description of how positive bankruptcy can be that I‘ve ever heard.

Are you OK with this? 

REP. GARY PETERS (D), MICHIGAN:  Well, there‘s no question, Ed, that we wanted bankruptcy to be the absolute last option.  As you know, we‘ve been fighting very aggressively to bring everybody together, all the stakeholders together, so that we could avoid bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy can be uncertain and it also can drag on.  We didn‘t want to do that, and certainly incredible progress was made in this last month. 

You had the UAW stepping forward, major concessions, major change in contract.  As you mentioned, we had the major banks step forward and cut a deal, a deal that was a fair deal in order to move forward. 

Everybody had shared sacrifice, but then it came to a group of hedge funds, some hedge funds and some non-bank investment firms that said, no, we want even more, we don‘t believe in that, even though they were getting a good deal.  And quite frankly, Ed, I think they made a bad business decision, because now that Chrysler has gone into bankruptcy, they‘re likely to fare worse than they would have fared had they dealt with the Treasury. 

They certainly didn‘t do their shareholders any good, and they certainly did not do the country any good.  That‘s for sure. 

SCHULTZ:  Congressman, why don‘t we just write Chrysler another big loan check?  I mean, are we blaming hedge funders?  To heck with them.  I mean, are we going to be behind them or not?  I mean, if they‘re going to be profitable, if the president likes their plan, why not just give them a bigger loan? 

PETERS:  Well, he is giving a loan, $6 billion—actually, about $8 billion total money will go into Chrysler.  So the president definitely stepped up, said we‘re going to get through this bankruptcy.  Debtor-in-possession financing is a big challenge, especially now, in this very tough economic time. 

The president has committed to doing that, to provide the funding necessary, and he made some commitments.  I had an opportunity to talk to him prior to the announcement, and he was very clear that we‘re going to be protecting—or that he‘s going to be protecting the retirements of Chrysler workers, health care plans. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  That‘s a key point.  I want to stop you right there. 

You have a commitment from the president of the United States that people are going to get their retirement checks in full on this deal? 

PETERS:  Yes, he mentioned that we‘ve got to do everything we can to make sure that we‘re protecting our retirees, protecting health care.  And also, a question that I asked him directly as well is we‘ve got to make sure that our auto suppliers have the resources they need, because as you know, even more people are employed with auto suppliers than they are with the actual companies. 

And I think the president has made it very clear that he wants to see a viable domestic auto industry.  He understands that that is essential for a manufacturing sector.  And as we‘ve talked about on this program before, you cannot have a middle class in America without a vibrant manufacturing sector. 

SCHULTZ:  There‘s no doubt about it.  But the fact is, jobs will be lost over this, correct? 

PETERS:  Well, in Chrysler‘s case, I think there‘s some optimism in the fact that now, with Fiat and this partnership with Fiat, that there will be opportunities to use that capacity that‘s there to build new cars, new models, round out Chrysler‘s product line.

So, in addition to them being leaders in the minivan market and Jeep, also have small cars.  So—although we‘ve got to get through this rough time right now.

SCHULTZ:  Yes, we do.

PETERS:  You‘re going to see some plants being idled in the short run, but everybody‘s not selling cars.  We‘ve got to start selling cars again.  And once that happens, they ramp up production, you could see it.  So I think—again, I think bankruptcy, we should have tried to avoid it at all costs, there was every effort to do that.  But now that we‘re there, we‘ve got to move forward.

SCHULTZ:  It is the only thing.  And it is the thing. 

Thanks, Congressman.  Appreciate your time tonight.

PETERS:  A pleasure.

SCHULTZ:  House GOP members are up in arms over the hate crime bill?  A lot of them qualify for “Psycho Talk.”   But we‘ve reserved the title for one congresswoman, Virginia Foxx.  She checks into the “Psycho Talk” zone next on THE ED SHOW.    

Stay with us.


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

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

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

All right.  We‘ve got a serious one here tonight. 

The House passed the so-called hate bill crime yesterday, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act.  The bill would expand hate crime laws to include attacks motivated by sexual orientation.

Now, a number of GOP House members took to the floor last night to warn Americans their freedoms would be taken away. 

Listen to some of the rhetoric. 


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA:  I feel that this hate crimes legislation in some ways could be considered the very definition of tyranny. 

REP. STEVE KING ®, IOWA:  The very idea that we could design (ph) what goes on in the heads of people when they commit crimes...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Consequently, this bill would inhibit religious freedom in our society.  A scary thought. 

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT ®, TEXAS:  This is the federal government, the big brother that Orwell talked about, coming in to the thoughts of every individual. 


SCHULTZ:  First, let‘s set the record straight on this bill. 

Hate crime laws do not go after thoughts, they do not create a big brother government.  They do not end religious freedom.  What hate crime laws will do is go after violent crimes. 

Any of those comments from the floor could qualify for “Psycho Talk,” but we have decided to reserve the title for one specific congresswoman, Virginia Foxx of North Carolina. 

Listen and you‘ll understand why. 


REP. VIRGINIA FOXX ®, NORTH CAROLINA:  We know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery.  It wasn‘t because he was gay.  The bill was named for him.  The hate crimes bill was named for him, but it‘s really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills. 


SCHULTZ:  A hoax?  Denying it was a hate crime? 

The men who killed Matthew Shepard say they did it because he was gay. 

Matthew Shepard‘s mother was in the chamber listening to all of this. 

She will be on with Rachel Maddow tonight. 

So calling a confessed hate crime a hoax and claiming this hate crime bill threatens your freedom, this is a real sad chapter of “Psycho Talk.” 


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  The GOP is coming apart at the seams.  Arlen Specter‘s exit has led to some serious soul-searching among the ranks.  Forget a solution for health care.  Today, the GOP announced a solution to their party‘s problems: rebranding.  They have a new group called the National Council for a New America. 

Guess who‘s in the group?  Well, we‘ve got some newcomers like John McCain, Mitt Romney.  They‘ve even got a Bush in there.  Little brother Jeb is in the fraternity.  Mitch McConnell, Republican leader in the Senate, John Boehner, Republican leader in the House, Eric Cantor, the House Republican whip. 

This is the New America?  Sounds to me like it‘s a project for an Old American Century. 

Joining me now is Grover Norquist, president of Americans For Tax Reform.  Grover, thanks for joining us tonight.  Did you ever think it was going to come to this?  How serious can anybody take these old Republicans getting together and forming what they say is a new group?  What do you make of it? 

GROVER NORQUIST, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM:  Well, it‘s their effort to continue a national conversation about where to go.  I think it‘s a fine idea, but, most important, the Republicans should continue to put forward the proposals they have on health care, such as trying to get the billionaire trial lawyers‘ hands out of the pockets of doctors and between patients.  It‘s something, unfortunately, the Democrats side with the trial lawyers against patients and doctors.  It would drop a lot of the costs of health care. 

It‘s an old idea, but it‘s a good idea.  We just have to get the Democrats pried away from trial lawyer money. 

SCHULTZ:  Grover, you study this stuff, been around it a long time.  Maybe you could be the first one tonight on THE ED SHOW.  I have asked a half dozen Republicans to tell my their plan for health care.  Can you spell it out in 30 seconds tonight? 

NORQUIST:  Sure.  Tort reform, so that the trial lawyers that take billions of dollars out, and have made it difficult for rural areas to have OB/GYNS and general practitioner doctors—getting those trial lawyers‘ hands out of it.  Second, allowing competition between the states, so that state mandates, which keep the costs of health care in a state like New Jersey much higher than an Iowa or even Pennsylvania—allowing competition, so that people in New Jersey can buy health insurance in other states. 

That would drop health care costs about 15 percent by giving people additional options. 

SCHULTZ:  Why didn‘t the conservatives do it?  Why didn‘t the Bush administration do it?

NORQUIST:  Because the Democrats filibustered on these issues.  It takes 60 votes, as the Democrats are discussing now, and the trial lawyers are such an important financial part of the Democratic party, that they can‘t allow it to go through. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, I give you credit.  You said tort reform, and you said, in a round about way, going after the insurance companies.  But I think that‘s a back-ended way of helping out consumers, where they‘re looking at double-digit increases in their premiums. 

NORQUIST:  Well, it‘s step one. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  I give you credit for at least I got some kind of an answer.  Lindsey Graham now is talking about the Republican parties and the problems that they‘re having, that their brand is tainted.  Do you agree with that? 

NORQUIST:  No.  Look, I‘m old enough to at least remember and be aware of what happened in ‘64, when the Republicans had a bad year, and the Lindsey Grahams of the world said the Republicans should move left.  In ‘74, after Nixon and Watergate, they said the same thing. 

In ‘76, when  Carter won the presidency with a Democratic House and senate, they said the same thing.  In ‘92, when Clinton had a Democratic House and Senate, they made the same case. 

Each time, those people who said the Republicans should be for higher taxes and more government spending were wrong in their advice to the Republican party on how they should be successful electorally, but most importantly on principle. 

SCHULTZ:  Grover, good to have you with us tonight, appreciate your time and your take. 

I should point out the expense of health care in this country, less than one percent of the cost is in the legal arena. 

Turning to our political panel, associate editor for “The Hill,” A.B.  Stoddard, radio talk show host Jack Rice is back with us tonight, and Washington correspondent for “The Nation,” my friend John Nichols.  Everybody on this panel is my friend.  But I got to warn our audience, John Nichols, he has a black belt in liberalism.  This guy, he‘s a tried, true and tested lefty on this. 

John, we‘ll throw it to you first tonight, and I want to play this commercial that the GOP has got out now.  And I want your response to this.  Here it is. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  His own director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, released this two-page memo, in which he basically privately distributed to private officials—said in this two page memo, quote, high-value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qaeda organization that was attacking this country. 


SCHULTZ:  John, you know the man.  This has got Dick Cheney written all over it.  What do you think? 

JOHN NICHOLS, “THE NATION”:  Well, it‘s a darn scary music in the background, no doubt of that.  And, look, if the Republican party is going to renew its brand with torture, if that is going to be their primary argument for why they‘re different and better, then I would say more power to them. 

But when we talk about trying to revitalize the Republican party, trying to give it a new image, I think references back to Dick Cheney as sort of your guru, the guy who really shows you where to go and what to do, is madness. 

Remember, Dick Cheney is the guy who in 1976 managed Gerald Ford to defeat.  Dick Cheney has been wrong a lot more than he‘s been right, and he‘s also the guy who, when he tried himself to run for president in 1994 and 1995, was told by Republicans you‘re not—you‘re just not attractive enough to be a candidate. 

SCHULTZ:  A.B., it would just seem to me that this is such a golden opportunity for a young, fresh, new idea conservative to step to the plate and make some news.  Don‘t they have anybody? 

A.B. STODDARD, “THE HILL”:  Well, they have Governor Huntsman from Utah and they‘re ignoring him.  He is talking about changing some of his positions.  He talks about how when he sits down and talks to his kids at the dinner table, they‘re living in a different world than the Republican party is talking to. 

I understand what they‘re doing with this ad.  They‘re playing off the fact that the electorate is split on the question of these interrogation techniques.  The experts are split on the efficacy of the techniques.  And the public is split on whether or not we need to use them.  There is an ambivalence there.  And the Republicans are trying—it‘s an old political trick—to increase our anxiety. 

I understand why they‘re doing it.  But in terms of using old faces and not finding new ones and not allowing a new message to emerge, it‘s a huge lost opportunity and they‘re losing a lot of time.  We‘re already into May of ‘09. 

SCHULTZ:  That‘s right.  And if they get health care done this year on the Democratic side, it is going to be doubly tough in the mid terms, no question about it. 

Jack Rice, I want to play for you a Robo-Call that they have come up with in Pennsylvania to push back on the switch of Arlen Specter.  Here it is. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘ve recorded this message to help you welcome your newest Democrat senator, Arlen Specter.  We wanted to make sure that we properly introduced him to you.

Former President George W. Bush said this about Arlen Specter:

GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m here to say it as plainly as I can, Arlen Specter is the right man for the United States Senate.  I can count on this man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Now he is Senator Specter on important issues to labor and Democrat interests groups.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  I will not be an automatic 60th vote.  I would illustrate that by my position on employee‘s choice, also known as Card Check.  I think it is a bad bill, and I‘m opposed to it.  I would not vote to invoke cloture.


SCHULTZ:  Jack Rice, your reaction.  It sounds like they‘ve got the same playbook. 

JACK RICE, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  You‘re absolutely right.  You know what this is like, Ed?  I think back to Pat Buchanan and Newt Gingrich when they were trying to make the argument that Hillary Clinton would actually be the best one to fight against, and maybe the best person for the Democrats to put in office, because they figured the Republicans would fold up. 

They knew that they would fight back.  They‘re trying to split the left.  They‘re trying to do the same thing, as they‘ve always done.  And very simply, it‘s not going to work.  There‘s one other issue here: this is, very simply, on the part of the senator, political.  It‘s not pandering.  You know what pandering is, Ed?  Let‘s go up to Minnesota right now, and what we see with Norm Coleman.  That‘s a guy who held the arm up of Paul Wellstone, the most liberal member of the US Senate, and then he became the most conservative member of the U.S. Senate. 

He is all over the board.  He has to be whatever he needs to be.  That‘s actually where the country is watching, now, because that‘s the 60th vote. 

SCHULTZ:  All right, panel, stay with us.  We‘ve got more coming.  OK, Joe, our vice president made—well, it took him 101 days to come up with his first gaff, OK?  On day 101, Biden gives the media something to talk about.  I think my colleagues are wrong on this one and a little bit too tough.  A page from my playbook when we come back.  Stay with us. 


SCHULTZ:  All right.  In my playbook tonight, I want an instant replay of what Vice President Joe Biden said about the Swine Flu.  I want to analyze this play.  Vice President Joe Biden likes to talk.  We all know that.  He‘s a great interview, by the way.  And sometimes he just really lets the truth out, from his heart.  This morning on “The Today Show,” he said what he believed about Swine Flu. 


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I would tell members of my family—and I have—I wouldn‘t go anywhere in confined places now.  It‘s not that it‘s going to Mexico.  It‘s that you‘re in a confined aircraft.  When one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft.  That‘s me.

I would not be, at this point, if they had another way of transport, suggesting they ride the subway.  If you‘re out in the middle of a field and someone sneezes, that‘s one thing.  If you‘re in a aircraft, or closed container, or closed car, or closed classroom, it‘s a different thing. 


SCHULTZ:  Biden‘s press secretary went into action, issued a clarification.  Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tried to clean it up.  But I don‘t think they‘re capturing the intent in which the vice president was trying to convey to the American people in the words that were spoken. 

Now, look, I think we‘re a little bit overboard on this.  Last night at the press conference, the president talked about washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough, just doing practical things.  If you‘re sick, don‘t go to work.  If your kids are sick, don‘t send them to school.  Stay way from some crowded areas.  So Joe Biden picks up on that this morning, and the conservatives want to put fear through everybody.  Did you hear how Joe Biden is just making us all scared?  He calls for a panic.  Doesn‘t want anybody to travel anymore.

Come on.  You know, did you keep your kid home from school today because the president said something and do you feel better about it?  And oh, by the way, your kid‘s got the flu?  That‘s what he‘s talking about.  He‘s not saying let‘s shut down mass transit.  Dog gone it, there should not be any airplanes taking off from JFK around the world.

This is so goofy.  This morning, I have to tell you, I came back from Washington on the shuttle.  I didn‘t notice any Americans wearing any masks.  Wasn‘t anybody sneezing.  I think one guy in the back of the plane was coughing a little bit, but nobody seemed to protest or worry about it. 

Can we use some common sense on this so we don‘t run away with it, folks?  It‘s the flu.  Thousands of people die from the Flu every year. 

For the latest on Swine Flu, I‘m joined now by Jonathan Cohn, Senior Editor for the “New Republic” and author of “Sick, The Untold Story of America‘s Health Care Crisis and The People Who Pay the Price.” 

Jonathan, thanks for joining us tonight.  You agree or disagree with my take on what the vice president was trying to convey? 

JONATHAN COHN, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”:  Look, I can‘t read into Joe Biden‘s mind, but I like the way you put it, about appealing to common sense.  I‘m actually glad he said it, in a way, because it gives us a chance to have a conference about a common-sense way to treat this outbreak. 

This is a new virus.  There‘s a reason the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control are talking about it, why they‘re reacting the way they are.  It‘s a new virus.  It‘s spreading very quickly.  We want to be careful. 

If it becomes something very lethal, we want to be prepared to react to it.  But look, also, the fact is right now, in this country, there has been one tragic death.  But otherwise, most people are recovering.  They‘re recovering on their own. 

It seems to be responsive to the anti-viral drugs.  And so manage your risk in a common-sense way.  Look, I got in a car to come to the studio today.  Driving a car involves risks.  You get in car accidents.  There are lethal car accidents.  Manage your risks appropriately. 

Do the common sense things, wash your hands.  Do the things you would always do.  But look, do you lock yourself in your room during flu season?  No.  You go on about your lives.  It‘s important to keep life going on as usual.

SCHULTZ:  Now, Jonathan, the CDC said today that there is no silver bullet to stop the transmission of this flu.  Well, isn‘t that the same way with every flu virus? 

COHN:  Yes, I wish there was a silver bullet to stop every flu virus. 

We wouldn‘t all come down with it every Winter.  The flu is a bad disease.  Most of us know the flue is a nuisance.  But it does, as you say, kill 30,000 people a year.  It would be great if there was a silver bullet. 

I don‘t want to understate the problem here either.  This is worth watching.  There is a reason the authorities are getting up and having these news conference, because we want to watch this closely.  It‘s a new virus and we want to be careful. 

SCHULTZ:  How do you think the Obama administration is handling it? 

COHN:  I think they‘re handling it very well.  This is—at the federal level, we‘re now pretty well prepared for.  You can thank that partly into the mindset of post-9/11, post-Katrina.  We actually have spent some time getting ready for a flu pandemic.  If you look at the agencies, you see CDC, the Food & Drug Administration, just, in lightning quick, managed to develop protocols for delivering anti-viral drugs to children under one very quickly. 

I think the Obama administration is doing a good job.  I do worry about the strain on local and state health authorities, who are really starving for money. 

SCHULTZ:  He called for more money last night at the press conference on that, announced it.  So I think that is going to be addressed.  Jonathan, thanks for joining us tonight.  Thanks for your take on that. 

Last night, on this program, the Senate‘s Democratic whip, the man in charge of counting the votes, told us the banks own the Senate. 


SCHULTZ:  You believe the banks own the Senate, and you can‘t get this done? 

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS:  I will tell you that, at this point in time, it‘s an uphill battle for me to get 60 votes in the Senate to save these homes from foreclosure. 

SCHULTZ:  Their lobbying power is that strong? 

DURBIN:  Yes, it‘s hard to believe, Ed. 


SCHULTZ:  How can we get reform if the banks own the Senate?  Reaction to that next right here on THE ED SHOW.  Stay with us.


SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  Home foreclosures are at their highest level in history.  Eight million homes are facing foreclosure.  But earlier today, the Senate rejected an amendment to the housing bill that would likely keep hundreds of thousands of Americans from losing their homes.  President Obama has been a long-time supporter of this measure, and the House of Representatives passed similar legislation back in March. 

So what happened in the Senate today?  To help explain that, here‘s one of the amendment‘s supporters, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.  Senator, this is a real good kick in the teeth for taxpayers.  We give them money to bail them out, and then, of course, they take their money and use lobbyists to fight legislation that would make it better for us.  Do I have that right?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON:  Yes, I‘m enormously frustrated, because this is such common-sense, win-win legislation, to say let‘s have a lifeline, when consumers are unable to reach their mortgage company, so that they can hold a conversation that will result in them staying in their home and payments on the loan that will continue, albeit at a smaller rate, but we want to avoid foreclosure. 

When banks have to foreclose, they lose 50 percent of the value at least.  So this was a win-win that was rejected today.  The frustration is enormous. 

SCHULTZ:  What are the taxpayers of this country supposed to think when the number two Democrat says that the banks own the Senate?  Senator, do they own you? 

MERKLEY:  Well, I‘ll tell you, I voted for working men and women across this country, as 45 of my colleagues did today, because we understand that we have allowed tricky mortgages, deceptive mortgages to turn the American dream into an American nightmare for millions of families. 

Now we have the chance to say, look, you can‘t even reach your mortgage company to be able to have a conversation about renegotiating the terms.  The average American should have the same opportunity that a person has with their yacht loan or their vacation loan, vacation house loan, and we‘re not giving it to them. 

SCHULTZ:  So Jeff, I‘ve got to ask you, how do you feel now about helping some of these banks that can‘t pass the stress test? 

MERKLEY:  I‘ll tell you, I‘m—I am not giving up on this battle.  We have got to win this battle.  We have got to win this battle.  I want us to go back, and we‘re going to try again.  Let‘s not give up, because we can‘t afford to give up on behalf of our families.  But it does certainly put a little taint in the well, if you will. 

SCHULTZ:  Keep fighting, senator. 

MERKLEY:  Thanks so much, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  Let‘s welcome back our panel, A.B. Stoddard, Jack Rice and Jeff Nichols.  A.B., this doesn‘t make any sense.  I would think President Obama would really weigh in on this pretty hard pretty soon. 

STODDARD:  Well, it‘s just part of a larger picture as we move into the second 100 days.  There are—there‘s going to be opposition from his own party, not just from the Republican party.  Whether it‘s farm interests in the Dakotas, student loan interest in Nebraska, it‘s going to be a very, very tough slog in the months ahead on his big, big issues. 

It‘s just not going to be—you‘re not going to get 58, 59 or 60 and gets these things out the door.  And he‘s picking his battles. 

SCHULTZ:  John Nichols, has the president said enough about this?  I know there‘s a lot on his plate.  But moving forward, if we don‘t loosen up the credit markets, I don‘t know how the economy is going to go.  If we don‘t reel in the banks and the way they‘re sticking it to consumers, what‘s going to change? 

NICHOLS:  My number one concern is rising unemployment.  Rising unemployment in combination with foreclosures is an absolute disaster for this president.  Barack Obama will start to take a lot of the blame for the economic crisis if we go over a 10 percent unemployment rate. 

So he needs to start to weigh in much more fundamental and aggressive ways on the economy.  I will tell you this, Ed, on that question of whether the banks own the Senate, just remember, in September of last year, the auto industry and the banks industry were in crisis.  The banks got hundreds of billions, now trillions.  And the auto industry, well, they‘re still struggling to get a couple billion. 

SCHULTZ:  Jack Rice, was this a good deal today for Chrysler and Fiat? 

What do you think? 

RICE:  I‘m really hoping what it‘s really about here is about the American people.  It‘s also about those workers.  If we saw the tanking of GM, see the tanking of Chrysler, and we simply say, what about the three million people who are tied to that?  What about the pensioners?  What about all of the people who own homes that would lose them?  What about cities and towns that would collapse? 

What I want to see is a focus upon that, instead of a focus upon the corporate side of this.  If that‘s a byproduct, great, I‘m thrilled.  But I want to see the American people benefit.  What you‘re talking about right now is a perfect example, where the American people just don‘t have the lobbyists.  The banks do. 

SCHULTZ:  A.B., what‘s the political fallout for the president on this bankruptcy, if any? 

STODDARD:  Well, he‘s trying to paint a picture that it will be quick, efficient and helpful.  But the bottom line is, politically, I was so surprised to see exasperation from President Obama last night with the bailing out of the auto industry.  You never see him that emphatic.  He‘s wringing his hands.  I don‘t want to meddle in the private sector.  I don‘t want to run car companies. 

He really wants this—he wants this to work, because he wants to move on.  He wants Chrysler to merge with Fiat and succeed, and he wants this to be over with.  But he‘s clearly placed the blame with bond holders that were interested in looking for more bail outs.  And he was mad. 

SCHULTZ:  John Nichols, what‘s the play for this, responding to what A.B. said? 

STODDARD:  Well, the president should stop wringing his hands and be thrilled about the fact that the United States government can get in and help American workers keep their jobs.  Remember, we don‘t want rising unemployment in this country.  That‘s a disaster, not just politically, but for the country itself.

I‘ll tell you this, one thing I‘m happy about is that the United Auto Workers are going to come out of this Chrysler restructuring with about 55 percent ownership.  I‘m glad the people who work on the lines actually have some control of the company.  It will be better run. 

SCHULTZ:  All right.  John Nichols, A.B. Stoddard, I want all of us to focus in on the background of Jack Rice tonight.  I don‘t know who his studio producer is, but if that‘s a live shot of all those yachts, buddy, you‘re living right.  Jack, good to have you with us. 

RICE:  Thanks so much. 

SCHULTZ:  That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  If you‘d like to send me an e-mail or get more information on the show, go to Ed.MSNBC.com or check out my radio website at WeGotEd.com.  We got a townhall meeting in Buffalo June 13th.  You can sign up for that.  Text alerts, you know what to do; just text the word Ed 622639.  We‘ll be back tomorrow night, 6:00 Eastern.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.



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