updated 5/15/2009 1:37:35 PM ET 2009-05-15T17:37:35

Guest: Ben Cardin, Joe Sestak, Jared Bernstein, Sen. Robert Menendez, Simon Johnson, Laura Flanders, John Feehery, Christina Bellantoni, Geri Jenkins, Jack Rice

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHULTZ:  Good evening, Americans. 

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

Good evening. 

Dick Cheney is continuing his CYA campaign.  Now his daughter is out there accusing President Obama of siding with the terrorists. 

Several top generals asked the president not to release detainee abuse photos, and he agrees. 

States want to know, where‘s the stimulus money?  I‘ll get some answers from the White House tonight. 

And the president says the stars are aligned for health care reform this year.  Nancy Pelosi says there will be a bill coming this summer. 

Plus, “Psycho Talk.” 

All of that, a great panel.  But first, tonight‘s “OpEd.” 

Well, this PR tour is on a roll, isn‘t it?  Now the whole family is in on the act. 

You know, it‘s the Cheneys.  They‘re on a roll.  If it‘s not Dick, it‘s Liz, the daughter.

Now, it just seems to me that both seem to be on a mission to distort the facts and gin up fear in the hearts and minds of the American people.  And I will tell you straight up, folks, this is, in my opinion, below the belt. 

The Cheney cult is now what I call them.  They are now acting like defendants in a trial trying to spoil the jury pool.  In this case, it‘s the case of the American people. 

Now, if the Cheneys and if Dick Cheney is not judgmental enough for you on the Obama administration, just listen to his daughter. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIZ CHENEY, DICK CHENEY‘S DAUGHTER:  Clearly, you know, what they‘re doing is releasing images that show American military men and women in a very negative light.  And I have heard from families of servicemembers, from families of 9/11 victims this question about, you know, when did it become so fashionable for us to side, really, with the terrorists? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Side with the terrorists.  Now, that‘s interesting.

You know, the conservatives used to consider that treason, sedition, simply anti-American, certainly unpatriotic.  Here‘s the bottom line: the American people want the truth and the American people chose a new direction last November.  Full disclosure.    And that‘s really what the Cheneys, the whole family, that‘s what they are worried about. 

To suggest that the president is siding with the terrorists is simply undermining the efforts of a lot of brave Americans protecting this country.  Circumventing the truth with reckless accusations just illustrates how far this clan will go.

They are not American, in my opinion.  They don‘t love the country. 

They just love it when it‘s right for them, and they love themselves.

And you know what, folks, we need to remember?  There is a standard of behavior here, because back in 1893, the Clinton administration was just 37 days old.  The World Trade Center got hit.  Those killers were brought to justice.

And in the aftermath, you didn‘t see Bill Clinton and Al Gore working the media circuit, second-guessing the Bush administration about keeping the country safe when we got hit on the Bush-Cheney watch.  So let‘s just be up front. 

Mr. Cheney, Clinton and Gore kept the country safe for seven and a half years after that terrorist attack.  And I believe that‘s what you told Fox yesterday, as if you really deserve a special medal there. 

So while Dick Cheney continues to Monday morning quarterback for the sake of basically saving his ass and his legacy, let the hearings begin.  And they did today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Nothing I have seen, including the two documents to which former Vice President Cheney has repeatedly referred, indicates that the torture techniques authorized by the last administration were necessary or that they were the best way to get information out of detainees.  So clearly, the former vice president is misleading the American people when he says otherwise. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  There was strong testimony today and we‘ll have that in just a moment. 

But first, Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland was at today‘s hearing. 

Senator, great to have you with us tonight here on THE ED SHOW.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND:  Ed, it‘s good to be with you.

SCHULTZ:  I‘ve got to ask you, Lindsey Graham said in his opening remarks that this was, you know, political grandstanding, a political witch hunt. 

Do you agree with that?

CARDIN:  No, not at all.  I think it‘s important that the record be clear.  And I think today‘s hearing was very constructive. 

We had a former FBI agent who testified very clearly that using these enhanced methods that is torture would not get reliable information, that the FBI understood that, the best way to get information is to develop a rapport with the detainee.  That‘s how you get their confidence and get information.  And if you use torture, you‘re going to get unreliable information. 

And by the way, we also had testimony today that there was clear information made available that this was not legal and the Bush administration chose to ignore it. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  We‘re going to get to that in just a moment, but here is testimony that I think caught the attention of a lot of Americans here from an FBI interrogator. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALI SOUFAN, FMR. FBI INTERROGATOR:  The contractors had to keep requesting authorization to use harsher and harsher methods.  In the case of Abu Zubaydah, that continued for several months, right until waterboarding was introduced.  And waterboarding itself had to be used 83 times, an indication that Abu Zubaydah had already called his interrogators‘ bluff. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Senator, based on that sound bite alone, it seems that there was quite a bit accomplished today in the first day of this hearing. 

CARDIN:  Oh, absolutely.  That‘s the responsibility of Congress, is the oversight to see what happened.  And I think the record is going to be very clear.  Despite what the former vice president has said, the record is clear that this was not the best way to get reliable information, and it was clearly illegal. 

SCHULTZ:  Now, what was the most startling piece of information that struck you today that you think could make a real difference here? 

CARDIN:  I think it was that testimony you just heard, when he went on to say, look, we were experienced in interrogations.  We walked away from this because we knew we wouldn‘t get the right information and it was wrong.  It was only the contract people working for the CIA that decided to use these enhanced methods to torture, and it was basically amateur hour in a very—just wrong way for our country. 

SCHULTZ:  What‘s up with the Cheneys, in your opinion?  Why are they doing this, this constant circuit of interviews, undermining the president, when the president and his administration is out there trying to protect the country? 

What‘s your take? 

CARDIN:  Well, I find it very disappointing.  We‘ve had, I think, a history in this nation about the presidents and vice presidents trying to support—the former presidents and vice presidents trying to support the current administration in its foreign policy.  It seems like the Cheneys are undermining that. 

SCHULTZ:  So, did Dick Cheney, in your opinion, go to far?  And basically, should he shut up? 

CARDIN:  Absolutely.  I think I wouldn‘t use those terms, but I think he has gone too far. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.

Well, what do you make of his daughter, I mean, saying that, you know, that the president is siding with the terrorists? 

CARDIN:  Well, I think I‘ll leave the family out of it and just deal with the former vice president.  He‘s the one who held public office, he‘s the one who should know better than what he has said. 

SCHULTZ:  Thank you, Senator Cardin.  I appreciate your time tonight. 

CARDIN:  Thank you. 

SCHULTZ:  President Obama has changed direction on the detainee abuse photos.  The White House will now try to block the court-ordered release of thousands of Bush-era photos. 

Now, the photos show detainees being abused at U.S. prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Now, the president changed his mind after listening to the generals, who told him that they were concerned about the possible retaliation against the troops. 

Take a listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals.  In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.  Moreover, I fear the publication of these photos may only have a chilling effect on future investigations of detainee abuse. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Some people may view this as a real flip-flop. 

For more on that, let‘s bring in Congressman Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania. 

Congressman, former Admiral, you agree with the president‘s move on this? 

REP. JOE SESTAK (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  I have a bit of a hard time with this decision, but I would accept it for a temporary pause in the release for one primary reason.  He‘s been dealt a very weak hand on Pakistan, which is close to being a failed state, where the Taliban are hiding and where nuclear weapons could soon be loose nukes with Taliban in control. 

I remember how the Danish newspapers published those photographs that

were insulting to the Islamic faith.  I would accept that at this

precarious time for national security, not for the protection of our troops

because our troops were already in endangered by the notices that we did torture, but rather not to inflame a very precarious situation, what “The Economist” has rightly called the most dangerous place in the world and, therefore, our interest, a temporary pause. 

But just like I believe there needs to be an exit strategy measuring success and failures and benchmarks for Afghanistan, there should be an exit strategy for the release of these eventually, because only then can we hold up a mirror to ourselves and once again say, that‘s not who we are.  We are better than that. 

SCHULTZ:  Congressman, this is a reversal by the president.  And you say—you struggle with it, and you wanted to—you know, you want these released.  I mean, this is what the president campaigned on, full disclosure. 

Do you think it will be temporary or do you think it will be permanent? 

SESTAK:  Right now it does not appear to be temporary, but that‘s what I would advocate. 

Look, eventually Americans have always gone around the world and been supportive of textbooks, let‘s say, in Japan that did not reveal how they did things in Korea and were misinformation during World War II.  If we are going around the world saying that to others, how can we not hold it up to ourselves? 

But for national security reasons, temporarily, at a very delicate moment, because it is the fire closest to the sled (ph), so to speak, Pakistan, I could hold off.  But I believe it needs to be released eventually.

And you know, Ed, these photographs are not even as bad as Abu Ghraib and others.  We know that. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes.  Well, I think the American people want full disclosure on this.  I think a lot of people were taken by surprise. 

Let‘s talk about Dick Cheney. 

Has the former vice president, in your opinion, gone too far?  I mean, we didn‘t hear the Clinton folks, we didn‘t hear Al Gore and Bill Clinton out there, you know, Monday morning quarterbacking after we got hit on September 11th, because we were hit on the Clinton watch at the World Trade Center back in 1993.  I‘m troubled by the fact that he‘s lowered the bar.

From a military experience that you have as an admiral, what‘s your take on this?  Has he gone too far? 

SESTAK:  As I‘ve said before, Ed, when a captain has left the ship that he was in command of, he did not look back and critique the next captain who is responsible for leading into harm‘s way that crew.  I believe former Vice President Cheney has a due (ph) responsibility to the office of the vice presidency and the office of presidency that he worked with and was part of to say, wait a moment.

This is a moment where if he does want to in a thoughtful way, but not a way that criticizes to such an extent that he actually says our president, with no due evidence, has lead us to be less secure today, that, to me, is more concern about his personal legacy than it is about the future of America.  He has gone too far in this criticism.  Way too far. 

SCHULTZ:  And are you willing to tell the American people that we are safe tonight, just as we were in the last administration?  Operationally, we are doing the same thing? 

SESTAK:  We are much, I believe—have taken that gigantic step by

re-engaging in the world, by having properly redeployed from Iraq and

putting our focus rightfully on Pakistan or Afghanistan to assist us to solve the problem of al Qaeda having a safe haven. 

Look, Ed, when you look back over the last eight years and see that an economy of ours, our economic security, was placed in President Obama‘s hand in a state of disarray, when you saw that al Qaeda has a safe haven in Pakistan, and when you see that our Army can‘t deploy anywhere else in the world because of the low state of readiness of having been in that tragic event (ph) in Iraq, that is where we became a less secure America. 

Now, we are taking the proper steps to reclaim.  And that‘s why this issue on the pictures is important...

SCHULTZ:  It is.

SESTAK:  ... because the power of—when I went everywhere in this world in the Navy, we were recognized and respected with the power of our military and the power of our economy, but we are admired for the power of our ideals. 

SCHULTZ:  The moral high ground.  And it‘s a big one.

SESTAK:  You go it.  And it matters, Ed.  It matters.

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

SESTAK:  Thanks, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Congressman Joe Sestak, retired admiral, United States Navy, now in the United States Congress, representing those in Pennsylvania. 

Thanks so much. 

SESTAK:  Thanks for having me.

SCHULTZ:  Next up, where‘s the stimulus money?  Only a fraction of it has been dished out to the states. 

Vice President Joe Biden overseeing the stimulus distribution.  I‘ll get some answers from his top economic adviser next on THE ED SHOW.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Only six percent of the economic stimulus money has been sent out? 

Man, show me the money.

It‘s been three months since the president signed the bill to get the economy going again.  And of that $787 billion package, less than $46 billion has been paid out.  Critics say, that‘s just not fast enough. 

Joining me now is Jared Bernstein, chief economist for Vice President Joe Biden, who is overseeing all of this. 

Mr. Bernstein, thanks for joining us tonight. 

Are we on schedule?  Is this OK?  Are you happy with this right now? 

JARED BERNSTEIN, CHIEF ECONOMIST FOR VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN:  Yes, we are on schedule and it is OK, Ed. 

The numbers that you cited earlier have a problem.  They are low by about half. 

Thus far, we‘ve spent out—or I should say obligated -- $90 billion, a little bit over 10 percent.  And that‘s just on track to do what we said we were going to do, which is spend 70 percent of this program by next summer in order to create 3.5 million jobs, created or saved, by the end of next year. 

Now, let me just take half a second, if I might, Ed, to explain the difference to our viewers.

If you tell me in two weeks—let‘s say you just hired me to do a job.  You told me in two weeks you‘re going to pay me by two-week paycheck.  I know that that money is obligated to me. 

Now, two weeks from now, I‘m going to have the money.  But in this two-week period, where the obligation is made, I‘m going to go out and buy my groceries and pay my rent and do whatever I do with my paycheck based on that obligation.  We have $90 -- actually, it‘s $88 billion out there, out the door—construction projects, fiscal relief, unemployment—that‘s the correct number. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, Mr. Bernstein, we heard so much about shovel-ready projects, and the president brought in the governors, he brought in the mayors, all of this was identified, everybody‘s begging for money.  Some were a little bit nervous that it‘s not moving fast enough. 

How hard is it to call up Virginia and say, by the way, we need your road members and, by the way, we‘re going to send you a check, can you get this thing moving?  I mean, that‘s the way the American people are thinking. 

BERNSTEIN:  Yes, if it were that easy.

You know, there‘s a balance here, Ed.  And I think you and our viewers would recognize this.

On the one hand, you‘re absolutely right, we‘ve got to get the medicine into the patient as quickly as possible.  On the other hand, we have very important oversight and accountability and transparency commitments, such that we don‘t waste this money by sending it to projects that perhaps aren‘t shovel ready, or projects that would have been anyway. 

SCHULTZ:  But aren‘t governors identifying what has to be done? 

BERNSTEIN:  Yes. 

SCHULTZ:  And you can work through—I mean, aren‘t governors allies in this? 

BERNSTEIN:  That‘s exactly right. 

Now, by boss, Joe Biden, is on the phone weekly with governors and mayors to make exactly these kinds of connections.  And thus far—and I want to get this number out there—thus far, we have obligated or approved 3,000 transportation projects.  Now, I challenge—and as I said, we‘ve obligated $88 billion. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Is that obligation an IOU, though?

BERNSTEIN:  Yes, exactly.

SCHULTZ:  OK.

BERNSTEIN:  It‘s a contract.

SCHULTZ:  OK.  All right.  Now, what about...

BERNSTEIN:  It‘s a contract.

SCHULTZ:  And quickly, what about the parts of the country that really need the money?  Are they getting it first?

BERNSTEIN:  This bill is going out to 52 states and territories.  You can‘t find a part of the country that this bill has not reached.

Now, I will—and I want to say this on that last point...

SCHULTZ:  OK.

BERNSTEIN:  ... the obligation is a contract.  It‘s an IOU.  It says a project will be completed.

The funds may not have been dispersed because you‘re not at that stage.  But that‘s $88 billion.  That‘s an average of a billion dollars a day.  And I challenge anyone to find a program in the history of the federal government that has spent out this quickly and efficiently. 

SCHULTZ:  All right, Mr. Bernstein.  Thanks for answering the questions tonight. 

BERNSTEIN:  My pleasure.

SCHULTZ:  The states want to know, where‘s the money?

Thanks so much. 

Coming up next on THE ED SHOW, it‘s “Psycho Talk.”  

More Republican crazy talk about carbon emissions.  We know they‘re experts on that. 

What Congressman Joe Barton says about marathons?  Next in “Psycho Talk.”    

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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.” 

Oh, we‘ve got a dandy tonight.  “Smokey Joe” is back at it.  “Smokey Joe” Barton, that is.  He enters tonight‘s “Psycho Talk” zone.  That‘s right, the Republican from Texas. 

Barton has already made it clear that he‘s one of Congress‘ biggest deniers on manmade climate change.  Now he‘s got a new one. 

The congressman spoke with (INAUDIBLE) -- there‘s a news source—on Monday.  Now, they saw in his interview, if you‘re a runner, you know, I‘d be a little bit nervous about your favorite sport.  Barton says the Obama‘s administration‘s efforts to regulate carbon-dioxide could close down—get this, close down—the New York and Boston Marathons. 

“If you put 20,000 marathoners into a confined area, you could consider that a single source of pollution,” said the Texas congressman, “And you could regulate it.”  “That would be whether the EPA says that 20,000 people running the same route was one source or not.”

This is a classic conservative argument against greenhouse gas regulation.  We exhale CO2. 

Now, it‘s natural.  Therefore, if you want to regulate emissions, you‘ll have to regulate natural sources as well. 

Say what? 

OK.  Let‘s start from the beginning. 

There are natural sources of CO2, then there are industrial ones, you know, like burning oil and coal and deforestation.  Yes.

Now, the EPA says since the industrial revolution, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have climbed 35 percent.  It‘s the industrial ones that are the problem here. 

The EPA wants to regulate the industrial ones there, Congressman. 

No more marathons?  Cut me some slack, man.  I‘m trying to lose some weight.

This is another case of Republican fear mongering.  Carbon-dioxide fear mongering, it‘s a new one. 

That‘s ridiculous, Congressman Barton, for thinking there is no difference between industrial pollution and people actually really running.

That‘s “Psycho Talk.”  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT:  This has been an assault on the American consumer that is growing by the hour.  This bill couldn‘t be passed any time too soon.  Every day we delay in getting this done is one day further consumers will have to put up with these abuses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  That was Senator Chris Dodd today.  It looks like the Senate may finally have a deal on a credit card bill of rights.  The president wants a bill on his desk by Memorial Day. 

But the banks, I tell you, they are really fighting to block this thing.  The American Bankers Association sent a letter to Senate leaders just yesterday.  And it says, “if it,” the bill of rights, “is enacted as it currently stands, it will have a dramatic impact on the ability of consumers, small business, students, and others to get credit at a time when the economy can least afford such constraints.” 

What?  Folks, that is economic terrorism.  That‘s what I think.  That‘s a threat.  I mean, I don‘t buy that.  You crack down on our predatory practices, and we‘ll make sure that credit gets denied up and down the board. 

Now, are the banks going to get away with bullying the Congress and blocking reform?  Joining me now is Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who serves on the Senate Banking Committee.  Senator, what do you make of that letter?  It was right to the point, but it seemed pretty threatening to me.  What do you think? 

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY:  Well, Ed, I think it‘s a lot of hooey.  The reality is that we have the ability to make sure that we get rid of the most egregious practices, create consumer protection, and still have credit opportunities.  These are just practices that are not acceptable in the marketplace.  They take advantage of consumers arbitrarily and capriciously.  And the credit card companies are still going to make money.  They‘re still going to give credit.  But this is a way to try to create a concern that credit will dry up in a touch credit market as it is.  I don‘t believe that‘s the case. 

SCHULTZ:  All right.  Is this standard operating procedure?  I mean, they are playing with house money.  We have given a bunch of money to these banks.  And now they are hiring lobbyists and they‘re fighting reform that would be advantageous to consumers.  If the banks do own the Senate, this would be a great opportunity to show them that they don‘t. 

MENENDEZ:  I think you‘re going to be pleasant to see that no one owns the Senate, especially Senate Democrats.  And you‘re going to see a very robust vote here.  And for the first time—Chairman Chris Dodd has been at this for 20 years.  When I came to the Senate four years ago, this was the first bill that I introduced, was on credit card reform.  It‘s happening because of a new majority and because of an outcry of the American people, who have been getting sky rocketing interest rates and trapped floors on their credit card bills, that suddenly—all of a sudden, they find new conditions and terms which they didn‘t even know about. 

So we‘re going to pass it.  We‘re going to send it to the president.  And I know that he‘s pushing hard to make sure that it gets to where he can sign it. 

SCHULTZ:  And you‘re confident that this can change the climate for consumers?  OK, that‘s great.

MENENDEZ:  Absolutely. 

SCHULTZ:  We still have some pretty tough news out there.  We have foreclosures up in April by 32 percent, which tells me—all the surveys show that more people are going to be relying on credit cards.  Now, the question comes up, senator, about the timing of this.  Why does it have to take so long to enact some of the restrictions that you‘re going to be putting on the credit card companies, when people really need relief now? 

MENENDEZ:  Well, Ed, as a matter of fact, the Senate bill is the one that has the shortest time frame, shorter than what the Federal Reserve did, shorter than what the House of Representatives passed.  It brings it down to nine months to get all of these different changes we‘re making. 

And we‘re making a series of changes on universal default.  On not going after college students who don‘t have the ability to pay.  On making sure that there is a bait and switch, on a whole host of issues.  So nine months is the shortest time frame.  It‘s also what is possible to pass in Senate and get some Republican votes.  And it‘s the shortest of the time frames that anybody has offered. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, it‘s short, but it‘s still nine months.  That‘s an eternity to people who are having financial trouble.  Why can‘t you make it three months?  Why can‘t you do the 90 day thing?  Are the banks having that much time adjusting?

MENENDEZ:  Well, some of these things legitimately need some longer period of time of adjustment.  By the same token, it is the art of what is necessary to get the votes we need her and beat a filibuster.  So we‘ve dramatically reduced it from a year and a half to nine months.  I think it‘s what we‘re going to get.  We‘ll start getting relief. 

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

MENENDEZ:  Good to be with you, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Thanks so much. 

You heard it from Dick Durbin on this show last week that the banks own the Senate.  Now, of course, Senator Menendez doesn‘t agree with that.  If you‘re working for the banks, we‘ve got to ask, who is working for us? 

This credit card legislation is good. 

Joining me right now is Simon Johnson, who is the former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund.  He blogs about the financial crisis at BaseLineScenario.com.  Mr. Johnson, do the banks own the Senate?  What do you think? 

SIMON JOHNSON, ECONOMIST:  The banks have enormous influence in the Senate.  That was clear from some of the things that Senator Menendez was saying.  But the good news is that Senate Democrats are reacting to a lot of the criticism they‘ve been getting more broadly.  And I think they are getting much more on board with the reform agenda.  And House Financial Services has been pushing some good ideas, too, in this context. 

So I‘m a little more optimistic than I was a month ago. 

SCHULTZ:  Breaking up the banks—I mean, we have been awfully good to these banks.  We have forked out billions of dollars.  And does it make sense to possibly go in competition with them and nationalize the banks?  What do you think? 

JOHNSON:  I think what you need to do on the banking system is establish who is truly solvent.  You need to have an FDIC type intervention process for insolvent banks.  We‘re good at that for small banks.  We never do it for big banks.  That‘s a huge gap in our system. 

And you need to restructure the bank system.  More competition is the key to bringing down these egregious practices around credit cards, for example. 

SCHULTZ:  That‘s interesting you bring that up, because you say more competition.  Some of these banks went out, took money, and bought up other banks.  That wasn‘t part of the deal.  How much has that hurt this recovery, in your opinion, if at all? 

JOHNSON:  I think that‘s a small part of the broader issue.  The broader issue is consumers.  What‘s going to happen to consumption?  If you‘re raising credit card fees, if you hit them with overdraft fees, if you‘re engaging in other kinds of predatory practices, that hurts consumers.  That hurts consumption.  That will, I guarantee you, slow down the recovery. 

SCHULTZ:  Finally, I want to ask you a question about some new budget numbers that have come out.  You‘re formally of the International Monetary Fund.  How much debt can the United States take?  And we hear that we‘re spending 46 cents on every dollar is going to be borrowed?  How solvent is that?  Are we teetering on disaster, in your opinion? 

JOHNSON:  No, we‘re not teetering on disaster.  But the debt is already rising to levels where we should pay attention.  We can‘t afford to be frivolous with our spending.  We have to be careful.  There are serious longer term problems coming.  They require fiscal resources. 

I think this administration has done a very good job with this initial fiscal stimulus, but we shouldn‘t get carried away. 

SCHULTZ:  Why don‘t we have leverage with these American banks?  That‘s really what the American people want to know.  Why don‘t we have leverage with these banks? 

JOHNSON:  Because, Ed, as you know, they make a lot of political contributions.  They have a huge impact on Congress, and more broadly through the political system. 

SCHULTZ:  Not only change in Washington, you‘ve got to change the country on that one.  Mr. Johnson, thanks so much for joining us. 

JOHNSON:  Thank you. 

SCHULTZ:  Of course, he‘s formerly of the International Monetary Fund. 

All right.  Let‘s go to our political panel for a hot one tonight.  Author of “Blue Grit” and host of GritTV.org, Laura Flanders.  Also joining us, “Washington Times‘” White House correspondent Christina Bellantoni, and also Republican strategist John Feehery.  Welcome all of you tonight. 

Laura, the banks. 

LAURA FLANDERS, GRITTV.ORG:  I am so with you on this stuff, Ed.  I mean, really, if they‘re going to threaten the American people that if they can‘t charge us 30 percent interest and give credit cards to teens with no salaries, they‘re not going to give us any credit at all.  That is just terrorizing, as you said. 

What is with this nine months?  I don‘t get it either.  I think Dick Durbin was absolutely right here.  The banks own the Senate and I‘m particularly offended that they spent 13 million dollars of Tarp, the banks have, in just the last few months, to defeat this kind of stuff. 

SCHULTZ:  John Feehery, is this a classic that Barack Obama is finding out as president, you just can‘t change some things in Washington and this might be one of them? 

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Ed, I look at this more from the free market perspective.  I know that‘s not popular on this show.

SCHULTZ:  Wait a minute.

FEEHERY:  I think you have to understand something.  The banks really got the big bailout money because they were refusing to get involved in too much lending because they were worried about their reserves.  I don‘t want to necessarily defend the banks.  I‘m not here to defend the banks. 

But I would say that if you do these credit card reforms, it‘s going to be less likely that they‘re going to give credit cards to people who actually need credit, which is poorer people, really, and the lower economic strata.  So this is going to have a dramatic impact in a way that might have unintentional consequences. 

SCHULTZ:  Christina, is the Obama administration leaving average folks behind?  What do you think?

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, “THE WASHINGTON TIMES”:  I would say that is not what they would say.  You‘re going to see President Obama tomorrow in Albuquerque, New Mexico talking about this credit card legislation in a townhall for voters.

SCHULTZ:  Do you think it has enough teeth in it, Christina?  Do you think this goes far enough, this bill, to satisfy consumers?

BELLANTONI:  That is definitely not for me to decide.  I know that Senator Chris Dodd just sent an e-mail to his political action committee saying that his version is much stronger than the House version.  He‘s trying to frame it from a citizens perspective.  He‘s actually asking people to sign on his website and be part of this reform effort.  They are trying to make this appear like it‘s a grassroots effort. 

FLANDERS:  That‘s just craziness.  The people who are opposing this reform—and I don‘t think it goes far enough, by any means—are standing up for gimmicks and tricks.  We‘ve got 700,000 people losing their jobs every month, eight million foreclosures happening, and we‘re worried about the profits of the credit card companies?  Give me a break. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, John, it sure seems to me like you‘ve got Wall Street

this is the tail wagging the doing, in my opinion.  I don‘t think this legislation goes far enough.  Certainly the nine-month thing isn‘t going to satisfy a lot of people.  What do you think is the number one thing consumers want here? 

FEEHERY:  I think they want a fair deal.  I think they don‘t want to be nickel and dimed and screwed around with, as far as the fine print.  I think they want honesty.  I think they want transparency.

When it comes to Tarp, they definitely want transparency.  They want to know where the money is going.  And they want to make sure there‘s no insider deals.  I think they have the right to do that.  I think that is the most fundamental problem we have with this bail out money.  We have no idea where the money has gone.

SCHULTZ:  Christina, we‘ll start with you when we come back.  We‘re going to move along.  Panel, stay with us.  Coming up, Speaker Nancy Pelosi promises a health care bill by the end of July.  Plus, health care professionals, check this out, fighting for single payer, marched on the capital today.  Did lawmakers actually listen to them?  I‘ll ask a nurse who was right there on the front lines.  That‘s next on THE ED SHOW.  Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  In my play book tonight, we have a set timetable for health care reform?  You mean the clock is ticking?  The game is on?  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she wants legislation on the House floor by the end of July.  I‘m all for it. 

Pelosi and other House Democrats met with the president today and also the vice president in the Oval Office, before going outside to make their announcement.  The president underscored the urgency of action. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We‘ve got to get it done this year.  We‘ve got to get it done this year, both in the House and in the Senate.  And we don‘t have any excuses.  The stars are aligned. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  I‘m all about it. 

The president also said he wants to bring down costs.  OK.  We‘re good with that.  He wants to make it easy for people to choose their own doctors and plan and for Americans to have quality and affordable health care. 

This is all great generic talk.  But let‘s be honest, I‘ve been saying this, if we‘re going to have an honest debate in this country, a fair debate on health care in this country, single payer has got to be on the table.  Consumer groups, doctors, nurses, people who are on the front lines, people who want and need real reform have not been given a seat at the table. 

Today, nurses were in Washington making sure they were to be heard.  They marched to the Congress to call for a single payer system.  Joining me now is Geri Jenkins.  Jenkins is a registered nurse and co-president of the California Nurses Association, the nation‘s largest nurses union.  She also participated in today‘s march. 

Do you think you‘ve got anything done today? 

GERI JENKINS, CALIFORNIA NURSES ASSOCIATION:  Absolutely, Ed.  We really got the message out, I think.  We went to the Finance Committee yesterday and had a silent protest.  We rallied outside and we went today and we had a -- 

SCHULTZ:  Geri, you‘re not at the table.  You‘re not at the table. 

JENKINS:  You‘re right.  You have to make your presence felt and you have to rattle the cage a little.  I think we‘ve done that.  There was such a long period there where they weren‘t even talking about single payer.  Now at least we‘re getting the word out.  People are understanding more what it is.  We had a good success today, I think, in letting them know.

We had nurses in the House, went to 100 different legislators and talked with them about the issues.  We still have to keep pushing to get single payer on the table and have a conversation.  But I think we made a good start today to getting the message out.  But this needs to be something out there.  Like you say, it has to be on the table if we are going to have an honest discussion about what health care reform needs to be in this country. 

SCHULTZ:  Are you confident that there will be some type of public offering and security blanket for Americans who can‘t afford it. 

JENKINS:  Well, I think we have to still push them on it.  I think we have to keep the heat on—keep their feet to the fire and keep hammering away that there has to be a public option at least.  We would ideally like to see single payer and eliminate the insurance industry all together.  But public option is a good start.  And we need to keep the heat on them to do that. 

SCHULTZ:  Geri, would you take a limited form of single payer, just for maybe people who can‘t afford insurance?  Do you think they are just going to slam the door on you totally?  Or is there going to be an opening here? 

JENKINS:  I think we have to push for the optimum, best plan that serves the people the best.  And for us that would be single payer.  We have to keep pushing the agenda on that, to make sure that they understand this is what the majority of Americans want, as you said many times yourself.  We need to keep hammering on that issue.  Keep it out there.  I don‘t think it‘s appropriate to compromise too soon, before you get into the fight.  You need to fight the fight and stand for what you really think you need to have up front. 

SCHULTZ:  I hope you get it.  Keep up the fight, Geri.  I know that the California Nurse‘s Association is very adamant about this.  You‘ve got some real professionals working there that want this.  But you‘ve also got the power brokers.  You‘ve got Nancy Pelosi who is on record saying, no single payer.  The president has been ominously quiet about this.  I‘ll be anxious to see if it‘s part of the plan.  I hope it is.  Keep up the fight.  Thank you. 

JENKINS:  Thank you. 

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, dramatic testimony from today‘s torture hearing.  A former FBI interrogator, testifying behind a screen, says water boarding was amateur and completely ineffective.  We‘ll talk about it next.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don‘t believe it was torture.  We had attorneys who gave us clear guidance as to what was appropriate and what wasn‘t.  Suggestions that perhaps people should be prosecuted for having participated in the program, or the lawyers who gave us these opinions should be disbarred, I think that‘s an outrage. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Wow.  That was Dick Cheney trying to cover his tracks.  He knows it was torture.  And he knows that it‘s illegal.  His only remaining move is to call the investigation a partisan witch hunt and accuse Democrats of trying to criminalize Bush policies.  At today‘s hearing on the torture memos, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse shot that argument down. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  We‘ve been told you shouldn‘t criminalize conduct by prosecuting it.  You criminalize conduct by making it a crime under the law of the land at the time the crime was committed.  Prosecution doesn‘t criminalize anything.  Prosecution vindicates the law in place at the time, based on the facts that are admissible as evidence. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  All right.  Let‘s bring in former CIA officer Jack Rice, who was at the hearing today.  Jack, what struck you today when you heard that FBI interrogators say it doesn‘t work.  Yet we have Dick Cheney over here saying that it did work. 

JACK RICE, FORMER CIA OFFICER:  Ed, all I really thought about was that Dick Cheney was noticeably absent for eight years in some underground bunker, and now he‘s on his presale book tour, or something like that, and he‘s sort of ginning up sales right now, because all I know is he keeps talking about this. 

And torture is torture is torture.  What part of this don‘t we get? 

SCHULTZ:  That‘s a great question, because they seem to use the word appropriate.  Is there such thing as appropriate water boarding and inappropriate water boarding? 

RICE:  You know, there absolutely is not.  Look, we‘ve been very clear.  At least at one point in our country, we decided there were certain things we wouldn‘t do.  It really is about who we are.  It‘s about the character that this country has.  If we‘ve somehow decided that‘s not important—I realize that the Geneva Conventions are quaint.  Yes, I will refer back to that quote, that somehow they are irrelevant. 

You tell the men and women in uniform who served this country, who served in some of the most difficult environments, if something happens to them, they can‘t stand behind that and say, we‘re for something great?  What is wrong with this?  What has happened here? 

SCHULTZ:  Jack, another issue today; the release of the photos is trying to be blocked now by the Obama administration.  The president has made a reversal on this.  You as a former CIA officer, what‘s your take on that? 

RICE:  I‘m very concerned, Ed.  Again, I was at the Gibbs briefing as well at the White House today.  What we need in this country, without question, is transparency.  We need to know what is going on, what our country does. 

SCHULTZ:  Do you think the president is backing off on that? 

RICE:  Yes, he is.  He said before he went into office that he wanted this.  As a matter of fact, on day two, when he took office, he said he wanted this.  And then, all of a sudden, sometime after April, he decided he needed to reconsider where he was. 

Wait a second.  This isn‘t a left or right question. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  And finally do you think we made some progress today at these hearings? 

RICE:  I hope so.  I‘ve got a bad feeling, but I hope so. 

SCHULTZ:  Jack, thanks so much for joining us.  Jack Rice, former CIA agent, joining us tonight here on THE ED SHOW. 

Let‘s bring back our panel, Laura Flanders, also Christina Bellantoni, and also John Feehery. 

Christina, this reversal by the president, political damage here or does this silent the right in this country?  What do you think? 

BELLANTONI:  Well, it was really interesting to see all of the statements of praise coming from people like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Jim Inhofe, one of the most conservative Republicans in the Senate, and liberals were very frustrated.  I had a lot of people e-mail me their own personal frustrations.  And you really could tell on the blogosphere, on Twitter, people were not happy with this. 

They do look at it as a reversal.  They felt like these photos should be seen.  And it does go against what the Obama administration said about transparency.  It will be really interesting to see if the Cheneys now applaud the president‘s decision to keep these photos. 

SCHULTZ:  That‘s what they‘ve been screaming for.  What happened to full disclosure? 

FLANDERS:  You‘re absolutely right.  I think Anthony Ramero (ph) was completely right today.  This is a 180-degree turn on the president‘s part.  It‘s a huge problem.  These pictures are going to come out.  And then we‘ll have not just a torture scandal, but a cover up. 

SCHULTZ:  But isn‘t he listening to the commanders in the field?  They are saying that they don‘t want to put their soldiers in an untenable position. 

FLANDERS:  The numbers are going to—the second—the pictures are going to come out.  The second circuit was right.  The speculative fear—and we‘re being told these pictures were not as bad as stuff we‘ve seen before—is nothing as important as the public interest. 

SCHULTZ:  John, does this shake the president‘s base a little bit?  Trying to figure out where he is coming from now when he was talking about full disclosure. 

FEEHERY:  You know, Ed, I don‘t think so.  I think his base is still with him.  I think he made the right call on this one, because he doesn‘t want to have riots in the streets in Pakistan and in Iraq.  You don‘t need that right now.  I think he made the right call.  Will his base be shaken?  No, the base loves Barack Obama. 

FLANDERS:  You can‘t restore American standing in the world and keep covering this stuff up.

(CROSS TALK)

FLANDERS:  All the people in the field wanted it.  The CIA director wanted it.  He made the right call.  He should be applauded for it.

SCHULTZ:  Christina, isn‘t this an admission by the military that we did torture?

BELLANTONI:  I don‘t know about that.  But I will say, from a political perspective, a lot of the liberals weren‘t always that comfortable with Barack Obama to begin with.  This was not necessarily his base.

(CROSS TALK)

FLANDERS:  You want to talk about safety, torture has not made us safer.  Torture produced bad intelligence that got us lied into a war.  It‘s a lie what Cheney says.

SCHULTZ:  John, you can‘t deny the fact that what that FBI interrogator said today.  He says torture does not work and it didn‘t serve up any useful information.

FEEHERY:  Ed, having the FBI disagree with the CIA is as surprising as having Ed Schultz say I like the Minnesota Vikings.  There‘s no surprise here at all.  The FBI and the CIA have had this conflict for many years and it‘s no surprise to me. 

SCHULTZ:  How dare you diss on my love for the Redskins like that.  Whatever.  Christina, moving forward on this, from a legal standpoint, the president obviously took a safe play here, didn‘t he? 

BELLANTONI:  Yes.  This was a safe move.  It opens him up to the political considerations, because he‘s actually changed his mind from what he said in April.  As you said about day two, he did say if there is something that the administration wants hidden, it‘s not going to be hidden just because I said so. 

FLANDERS:  It‘s not about political safety.  It‘s about people safety. 

And this torture stuff is not making us safer.  It‘s making us less safe. 

If we don‘t have some prosecutions and put an end to it, we‘re going to -- 

(CROSS TALK)

SCHULTZ:  OK.  But why release the photos?  Everybody knows we tortured.  Why throw fuel on the fire? 

FLANDERS:  We‘ve got to have some prosecutions.  We‘ve got to have some transparency. 

(CROSS TALK)

SCHULTZ:  All right.  John says he made the right call.  Christina and Laura, thanks so much for joining us tonight.  That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  For more information, or to send me an e-mail, go to Ed.MSNBC.com, or go to my radio website at WeGotEd.com.  Townhall meeting coming up in Buffalo on June 13th.  Health care and Employee Free Choice Act, we‘ll be talking about that.  Get text alerts on THE ED SHOW sent to your phone just text the word Ed to 622639. 

We‘ll see you tomorrow night at 6:00.  Next up, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews on MSNBC.

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