updated 6/1/2009 12:27:22 PM ET 2009-06-01T16:27:22

Guests: John Harwood, Ed Rendell, Lanny David, Heidi Harris, Bill Press, A.B. Stoddard, John Podesta, Lizz Winstead

(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.

Breaking news tonight.  The president weighs in on that controversial comment Sonia Sotomayor made almost eight years ago.

I think the White House just opened the door the righties are going to drive a truck through.

Here was the big story today. 

A Republican senator pushes back on Rush Limbaugh, calling the drugster‘s attack on Sotomayor “terrible.”  Did the president just give the right wing, those nut jobs, a stay of execution? 

Arlen Specter is facing a primary fight in Pennsylvania.  Will Democrats support Joe Sestak if he decides to run?  Governor Rendell is a king maker in that state.  He speaks on that issue for the first time, right here on THE ED SHOW, tonight, in just a moment. 

And “Daily Show” creator Lizz Winstead is here with her take on Rush, Shooter, and a whole lot more. 

Plus, “Psycho Talk.” 

All that, a great panel. 

But first, tonight‘s “OpEd.”

You know, the only way I think I can look at this thing tonight is that right wing pressure has reached the Oval Office.  Just moments ago, the president acknowledged with NBC News anchor Brian Williams that his pick for the Supreme Court may have overstepped her position on race some eight years go.

Here‘s the comment that is in question tonight and has been all week long by the conservatives.

Her quote was, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn‘t lived that life.”

Well, today, here is the president‘s reaction to that in the interview. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK H. OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m sure she would have restated it, but if you look in the entire sweep of the essay that she wrote, what‘s clear is that she was simply saying that her life experiences will give her information about the struggles and hardships that people are going through that will make her a good judge. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Hold it right there. 

Mr. President, what I wanted to hear you say in that interview was she is not a racist and the right wing is way out of line and way off base with that accusation. 

Now, did the White House miss this in the vetting process, or is this just a political or public miscalculation on the part of the administration?  I mean, for the president, he has gotten so many thing right in dealing with these folks and dealing with the public, I think this is a blunder.  And I‘m really surprised at the White House‘s reaction to this week‘s right wing rhetoric on this issue. 

Now, there came an end.  That‘s the only way I can read it. 

Instead of defending his nominee, and a comment that she made as a Latina woman, Robert Gibbs backed off his comment today at a press briefing.  And now the president throws fuel on the fire and really validates critics who are never going to side with him on anything. 

Got to get tough against these people.

What‘s really odd about this is that the White House, I think, really had this battle won all week long.  The majority of the Americans are beyond this nomination.  Now you‘ve got Rush, you‘ve got Newt, and you‘ve got Tom Tancredo using the same comment that justified calling the first Hispanic Supreme Court nominee a racist, a bigot, comparing her to the Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke?

Give me a break.  Do you think Americans are going to be willing to side with nut jobs like that?  Do you really think elected Republicans are going to come up and say, you know what, I really believe a lot of things that are being said out there about this nominee?

Case and point, Senator John Cornyn did the unthinkable today, criticizing the drugster.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN CORNYN ®, TEXAS:  I think it‘s terrible.  This is not the kind of tone that any of us want to set when it comes to performing our constitutional abilities of advice and consent.  Neither one of these men are elected Republican officials.  I just don‘t think it‘s appropriate and I certainly don‘t endorse it.  I think it‘s wrong. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  The Democrats and the administration should be forcing openly to the media, ask that question to ever elected senator on the Judiciary Committee who‘s going to go through the nominating hearings and the confirmation hearings. 

Now, I come from the school of tracks—the side of the tracks, you can‘t give these righties an inch because they will take a mile. 

The White House just gave new life to this story.  Maybe it will go away since it‘s a Friday afternoon, and maybe we‘ll be talking about cars on Monday, but I‘m not quite sure.  I think this thing is going to go on for a while. 

For more of this, let me bring in CNBC Chief White House Correspondent John Harwood.  He‘s also a political writer for “The New York Times.”

John, good to have you with us tonight.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Hey, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Do you consider this a major shift by the White House?  And is it a mistake, in your opinion, that they bring it up like this?

HARWOOD:  Well, actually, I don‘t, Ed.  And I don‘t see it quite the same way you do for this reason—for the last couple of days, in background briefings with White House officials, they‘ve been saying the same thing about this comment, but let me be precise about that.  The only thing that makes the comment in that speech anything other than total boilerplate is the word “better” result.  That is to say, it suggests superiority. 

If you say a wise Latina woman would bring a diversity of experience that isn‘t already on the court, only a moron could argue with that.  But if you say I‘m superior to other people because I‘m Latina, that‘s a different thing.  That is not a sentiment the Democrats want to put forward.  And White House officials have been saying that, and I think the president took the opportunity with Brian Williams to just sort of knock that one aside. 

I expect in the confirmation hearings you‘ll see Judge Sotomayor doing the same thing, and I think their belief is that, as you said a moment ago, they had it won.  I think they still have it won. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  Now, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said the word “better.”  I think that, in my opinion, anyway, the way I took is as a consumer, was that she was using the word “better” in reference to her life experiences as a Latina woman, as opposed to maybe Antonin Scalia, who might go hunting with Dick Cheney.  I mean, there‘s a totally different experience there.  There‘s life experiences here that are totally different. 

(CROSSTALK)

HARWOOD:  Right.  But “better” is not between the word “different” and the word “better.”

SCHULTZ:  True.

HARWOOD:  It‘s the suggestion that she was saying, I‘m better than you because I‘m a Latina.  That is something that‘s hard to defend in the American system.

SCHULTZ:  True.

HARWOOD:  But honestly, when you look, as the president said, at the context of the remarks, it suggests that maybe she was being a little cheeky, she was having a little fun talking—being self-referential, a wise Latina woman like me, ha ha.

I suspect that that‘s what she was doing.  But in any case, you know, the use of this one word, which the president said she would want to walk back, I think in the context of her career is simply not likely to be a major problem for her. 

SCHULTZ:  OK. 

John, I was also taken by the fact that the president would respond to this, but he wouldn‘t take it a step further, and Robert Gibbs didn‘t take it a step further, by saying, I want to make it perfectly clear, this White House is offended by all of this conversation that she could be a racist, or is a racist.  In the definitive terms, that‘s what the former speaker of the House has said.

I‘m surprised the president didn‘t go after that angle and just clear the deck once and for all on that.

What do you think?

HARWOOD:  Well, it‘s an interesting point that you make.  You could do that.  On the other hand, if you make a statement, “She‘s not a racist,” that might sound to some people like, you know, denying something and elevating it by denying it.

I suspect that the White House and the president are quite happy to have John Cornyn in that clip that you just played knock it back himself and say it‘s terrible.  The more the White House can have Republican intramural fighting between those on the voluble extreme, on talk radio, and those who are out of office, and those whoa re in the Senate saying, no, we can‘t have that kind of talk, that‘s a good day for the White House. 

SCHULTZ:  A good day for the White House when Cornyn comes out and says that he may have made a political calculation on something like that as well because of the Hispanic population down in Texas.  I mean, they‘re all covering their backside on this. 

But why would the...

HARWOOD:  Oh, yes.  And there are a lot of Republicans who care about Hispanic votes who are going to be very reluctant to get tough with Sotomayor. 

SCHULTZ:  OK. 

So, do you think at all that the White House could have just walked from this and said, you know, it‘s been a pretty good week, we‘ll just let it sit the way it is, and let‘s see if they want to bring it up in the confirmation hearings? 

I don‘t see the gain by either Gibbs or the president addressing this today. 

HARWOOD:  Well, you could be right.  It‘s possible that, had they said nothing, the critics of Sotomayor would continue making this case and it wouldn‘t go anywhere. 

On the other hand, Democrats know that the affirmative action issue, which is, of course, front and center in this case that she‘s been involved with, it‘s something that‘s been pretty volatile in American politics.  And it remains—it retains some juice, not as much as it did 10 years ago, 20 years ago, but it‘s important, in their mind, I think, that they prevent that from having any critical mass there.  And I think that‘s what the president was thinking in that remark to Brian. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, this may be the end of it.  Monday is going to be a big story, of course, John Harwood, because the president is going to have to deal with bankruptcy of General Motors.

Thanks so much, John.  Thank you so much.

HARWOOD:  You bet.

SCHULTZ:  All right.

You can also watch more of Brian Williams‘ interview with President Obama tonight on “NBC Nightly News.”  It‘s all part of our special NBC News special airing next Tuesday and Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m., “Inside the Obama White House.”  Brian Williams reports. 

Coming up, Arlen Specter will likely face a primary fight in Pennsylvania.  Will Democrats turn their backs on Joe Sestak? 

Governor Ed Rendell weighs in on this next, right here on THE ED SHOW.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Arlen Specter has been a Democrat for exactly one month and one day.  Now he‘s facing a primary challenge from Congressman Joe Sestak.  Sestak has all but said he‘s getting in the race.  Will it be a fair fight, or will the party establishment just automatically back Arlen Specter? 

Joining me now is Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.

Governor, good to have you with us tonight. 

GOV. ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA:  Nice to be with you, Ed.

SCHULTZ:  Is this going to be a slam-dunk for Arlen Specter, or do you

think that Joe Sestak, if he jumps into this—and it looks like he will -

do you think he can mount a serious threat to the political future of Arlen Specter?

RENDELL:  Well, let me begin by saying I‘m a great admirer of Joe Sestak and worked hard to get him elected and reelected, and I‘m going to work hard to get him reelected when he runs for Congress next year, not for the Senate.  Joe should not run for the Senate in the Democratic primary.  He would get killed. 

And let me tell you why he‘d get killed.

Number one, Arlen Specter‘s been going around Pennsylvania for three decades as the Senator.  He goes into every one of the 67 counties each and every year, and he holds town meetings and he does constituent service.  And he‘s never asked whether people are Republican or Democrat. 

The last three weeks or so we‘ve been having regional conferences with elected Democratic Party chairs and elected Democratic officials in every region of the state.  It‘s unbelievable how many of them know Arlen personally and admire him and supported him even though he was a Republican in the past. 

You can‘t buy that, and you can‘t overcome that in one campaign.  It‘s been 30 years. 

Number two, Arlen Specter will raise two, three, four times as much money as Joe Sestak. 

Number three, Arlen Specter has the support of the president and the vice president, a president who has got a 90 percent approval rating among registered Democrats in Pennsylvania. 

Joe Sestak does not want to be one of the candidates who ran against Bob Casey in the Democratic primary when the whole governmental establishment was for Bob Casey.  He doesn‘t want to be marginalized.  He doesn‘t want to get 15, 18 percent.

Joe should run for Congress again, establish some seniority.  His time will come.  He‘s a terrific guy.  His time will come, but it‘s not this year. 

SCHULTZ:  Governor, you‘re very strong with that answer tonight.  It almost sounds as if Joe Sestak would be making a fool of himself if he were to try this?  Would you go that far? 

RENDELL:  Well, I wouldn‘t say making a fool of himself, because Joe‘s a terrific guy, and he‘s got great credentials.  But he‘s being talked into it by people on the extreme of the party, and they‘re good people and they care about the right issues.  But they don‘t represent the broad slice. 

This is a conservative state.  I know people shake their heads when I say that, but the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania is more Bob Casey‘s party than it is Ed Rendell‘s party. 

I won because I was a great regional candidate, Ed, and I won reelection because I think I did a good job.  But our Democrats are middle-of-the-road Democrats with the exception of the southeast.  And Arlen Specter appeals very much to them.  And it‘s not so much who I support... 

SCHULTZ:  Sure. 

RENDELL:  ... or who Bob Casey supports.  It‘s all these party chairmen and all these elected officials that Arlen has been taking care of for years.  And most people think that Arlen supported our constituencies, and he has, over the years.

SCHULTZ:  So, the infrastructure of the party in Pennsylvania, no matter what side it is, is going to be with Arlen Specter.  So, the question begs, is anybody willing to step up and tell Joe Sestak, don‘t do this, that we‘ve got a good enough guy, that he‘s going to be good on the issues?  Because Mr. Sestak was on this program, and the point that he made, he didn‘t like the idea that there were so many people in the party, including yourself, including the president and the vice president, that were willing to anoint Arlen Specter because he had been around for a long time. 

RENDELL:  Well, we anointed Bob Casey because he was a good candidate, and he had been around for a long time even though he was a young age.  He started very young.

And it‘s not a question of anointing.  In the end, people decide.  Not even the president.  People decide. 

But when they hear from the president that we need Arlen Specter, when people understand that Arlen Specter single-handedly saved the stimulus program for this country and put his political rear end on the line, when they understand that he got $10 billion more for NIH to help us do research on every incredible disease that we‘re facing as a human race, people understand.  And they like Arlen Specter, and they understand that he is who the president wants. 

Look, I‘m the last person to tell Joe not to run, because people told me not to run when I decided to run for governor because no one from Philadelphia had been elected since 1914 as governor.  So I‘m not about to say to someone don‘t run.  But I think Joe should think about what Arlen has done, the things that—the alliances he‘s made over the years, the constituent service operation that he has that‘s second to none, and the fact that he does have the support of Democrats, particularly the president. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, labor has told me that they are not going to sit this thing out.  Now, would this competition make Arlen Specter a better Democrat when it comes to voting on Employee Free Choice Act, free trade issues, and also health care reform?  What about those three? 

RENDELL:  Well, it‘s interesting.  Both Joe Sestak and Arlen Specter are trying to broker a compromise on the Employee Free Choice Act because they know there aren‘t enough votes right now—there are at least—and you know this better than I do, Ed.  How many Democratic senators will not vote for the Employee Free Choice Act as it is? 

SCHULTZ:  Well, they‘re a little nervous about it, there‘s no question about that. 

RENDELL:  Right.  And both Arlen and Joe are both trying to make some changes in the act so that everyone can support it, so they can have a broad base of support. 

So, I think Arlen Specter has been for our constituents for the longest time.  You know, he was called RIINO, a Republican in Name Only.  And in fact, there was a lot of truth to that.

He‘s always been there for poor people, for working people, and he‘s been there for labor.  He ran against a good Democratic congressman, Joe Hoeffel, in the 2004 election, and organized labor was for Arlen Specter.  Arlen is going to do the right thing on the Employee Free Choice Act just like he did on the stimulus.  He‘s going to try to broker a compromise. 

Ironically, Joe is doing the same thing in the House.

SCHULTZ:  Yes.

RENDELL:  So, look, these guys are very much the same.  Joe Sestak is not a liberal Democrat either.

SCHULTZ:  No, he‘s not.  But he is better to labor and he wants a public option on health care.  And he‘s not the free trader that Arlen Specter has been. 

I think your analysis and your take is great.  You know, I don‘t want to go against you on anything.  I mean, I always want you on my team.  You‘ve got Pennsylvania down, there‘s no question about that.

But from my instincts, I think Americans are tired of the good old boy network.  And I love competition, and I think competition makes people better.  That was my hotbed (ph) last night. 

RENDELL:  You‘re right about that, except we will lose a terrific congressman.  Joe Sestak runs against Arlen Specter, he‘s out of the Congress after just two short terms. 

We will lose a terrific congressman.  And when he loses to Arlen, he fades into political obscurity.  He‘s a guy who should be there for us.  We don‘t have a deep bench among Democrats in Pennsylvania.  We need Joe to stay in the Congress and do the good work he‘s been doing. 

SCHULTZ:  Governor, good to have you on THE ED SHOW tonight.

RENDELL:  Thanks, Ed.  Thanks very much.

SCHULTZ:  Thank you so much. 

Up next on THE ED SHOW, “Psycho Talk.”  Tom Tancredo, he‘s back at it again.  What does the Ku Klux Klan have to do with Sonia Sotomayor‘s Supreme Court nomination? 

It‘s 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? 

It‘s time for “Psycho Talk.” 

Well, in “Psycho Talk” tonight—in fact, we probably ought to give this guy a talent fee, he‘s given us so much material—former congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado. 

Now, Tancredo started a firestorm on this show Tuesday when he called Judge Sotomayor a racist.  Yesterday, Tancredo went on CNN and took his line of attack even further.  He suggested Sotomayor‘s affiliation with civil rights group La Raza is equal to being a member of the Ku Klux Klan? 

Listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM TANCREDO ®, FMR. CONGRESSMAN:  If you belong to an organization called La Raza, in this case, which is, from my point of view, anyway, just nothing more than a Latino—it‘s a counterpart—it‘s a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses.  If you belong to something like that, you have to explain that in a way that‘s going to convince me and a lot of other people that it‘s got nothing to do with race, even though the logo for La Raza is All for the Race, Nothing for the Rest.

What does that tell you?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN:  All right.  We‘re not talking about—you know what?  We‘re not talking about...

TANCREDO:  But she‘s a member.  She‘s a member of La Raza.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  A Latino KKK without hoods or the nooses. 

Right wing groups have waged war against La Raza for its position on immigration for years.  No surprise that Tancredo, who is a well-known anti-immigration dude, would talk like that and take issue with the group.  But calling the group a Latino KKK, as far as I‘m aware, La Raza has no record of using lynching, you know, night rides, terrorism, or any other form of violence to intimidate, oppress or even murder. 

Now, the group is the nation‘s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization.  And another problem with Tancredo‘s line of attack, La Raza‘s slogan isn‘t—it is not All for the Race, Nothing for the Race.  The true slogan is “Strengthening American by Promoting the Advancement of Latino Families.”

Comparing a group that promotes civil rights to the KKK, that is super “Psycho Talk.”    

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  In 2001 Sonia Sotomayor spoke about her experience as a Latina woman during a speech to Latinos about law at Berkeley. 

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn‘t lived that life.” 

Sotomayor‘s use of the word “better” in that one sentence has become the focus of the right-wing backlash against her nomination of the Supreme Court.  Mainstream conservatives are calling it activists.  The fringe, they‘re calling it racist. 

Tonight in an interview with NBC News anchor Brian Williams, President Obama seemed to walk back Judge Sotomayor‘s comment. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I‘m sure she would have restated it but if you look at the entire sweep of the essay that she wrote, what‘s clear is that she was simply saying that her life experiences will give her information about the struggles and hardships that people are going through that will make her a good judge. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Lanny Davis was special counsel for President Clinton.  He is now head of Orrick‘s Legal Crisis Strategic Group and made comments and wrote about the fact that he thought she should back off on that comment. 

Lanny, good to have you with us tonight. 

LANNY DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO PRES. CLINTON:  Thanks, Ed, but. 

SCHULTZ:  Did you know the White House was going to do this?  This is a pretty tight call on your part, my friend. 

DAVIS:  Well, I didn‘t but this is crisis 101.  This is a great lady.  This is a lady who, if you read her decisions, is brilliant and down the middle of the road.  There‘s a case that they are not citing on the far right called Norville versus Long Island Hospital where a black female with a disability sued the hospital because she wanted a job and was replaced by whites and she sued for racial, sex, and disability discrimination. 

Judge Sotomayor, certainly feeling sympathy for this woman, as anyone would reading this case, applied the law and applied the facts and affirmed the district court case throwing that case out because it didn‘t cut the mustard. 

SCHULTZ:  But Lanny. 

DAVIS:  That‘s where she is. 

SCHULTZ:  OK. 

DAVIS:  The fact that she used one wrong word that she actually didn‘t mean as a superiority word but as exactly President Obama said, it‘s just as well that they get that out of the way.  If one mistake were applied in a misspoken word, as it will in Washington, to hold office there‘d be nobody holding office. 

SCHULTZ:  Well, you know, Lanny, that many have taken it to extremes. 

DAVIS:  Absolutely. 

SCHULTZ:  You know, and used the word racist.  And it brings it to a new level. 

DAVIS:  Right. 

SCHULTZ:  So why even go down that road if it‘s just one word, the difference between the word better and the word difference.  Aren‘t we just word smiting this?  And you use the words... 

DAVIS:  Sure. 

SCHULTZ:  You used the word strategic.  Strategy for what?  She was very clear on where she stood on her life experiences and how she would relate that to the bench.  What‘s the issue here? 

DAVIS:  I think that President Obama said it perfectly and rather than allowing this far right diversionary and somewhat unbalanced comments, I mean, watching Rush Limbaugh, you really have to wonder whether he‘s lost it.  And this is the voice of the Republican Party. 

Thoughtful conservatives might vote against her because they don‘t like some of her legal reasoning but she is a brilliant woman.  A highly qualified, probably one of the most qualified people we‘ve seen nominated to the court, and if that‘s where the Republican Party wants to go down the road of Rush Limbaugh and some of these hate-filled words—people who described La Raza as the Ku Klux Klan.. 

SCHULTZ:  But why would the White House give—but Lanny, why would the White House give it any credibility at all?  Now this is Robert Gibbs earlier today using the word poor, which opened the door.  Here it is. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  She‘d say that her word choice in 2001 was poor, that she was simply making the point, that personal experiences are relevant to the process of judging.  That your personal experiences make you—have a tendency to make you more aware of certain facts in certain cases.  If she had the speech to do all over again, I think she‘d change that word. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  I just totally disagree with even addressing this, but Lanny, you obviously say it had to be done. 

DAVIS:  Well, it‘s simply sensible that she doesn‘t consider herself superior to anybody else.  And she was talking about life experiences.  She used the word “better” and taken literally that‘s a word of superiority.  She didn‘t mean that and might just as well say it now. 

She‘s going to say it in her confirmation hearings.  Why should we let them bleed us when, of course, it‘s a distortion of. 

SCHULTZ:  But why would you go out there and say she‘s got to get out in front of it?  It wasn‘t that big of a deal.  Did you put a little heat on her? 

DAVIS:  I actually don‘t think I was putting heat over shedding light on what she, President Obama and everybody else, plus any sense, if you say a word that you don‘t mean, and it‘s then being misinterpreted deliberately and maliciously by the whacko right, then why feed their fire and simply say, look, that word was not the best word to choose looking back on it? 

But if there‘s a rule in Washington that if you use a mistaken word, you are disqualified from something, there‘d be nobody left. 

SCHULTZ:  Well. 

DAVIS:  And that‘s really the crisis management advice I was giving him.  That‘s all. 

SCHULTZ:  But, OK.  When you‘re dealing with race and you‘re dealing with allegations such as this and definitions and labeling, I mean this is at a whole new level.  I think Newt Gingrich bears a tremendous amount of responsibility to this. 

DAVIS:  Let me just. 

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS:  Let me just agree with you 100 percent. 

SCHULTZ:  All right. 

DAVIS:  They‘re carrying it to a new level.  She is a fantastic nominee. 

SCHULTZ:  She is.  And Lanny. 

DAVIS:  And read that Long Island Hospital decision and you‘ll see what I mean. 

SCHULTZ:  All right.  Good to have you, Lanny.  Thanks so much for being here tonight. 

DAVIS:  Thank you. 

SCHULTZ:  Lanny Davis.  So did the White House just make a mistake or was this a smart move? 

Let‘s put it to our panel tonight.  Bill Press is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, A.B. Stoddard is associate editor of “The Hill,” and Heidi Harris is radio talk show host on AM 720 KDWN in Las Vegas. 

Bill Press, you‘ve been down this road handling candidates in the past.  Your experience in California being head of the party.  What‘s your take on this?  Was this over board by the part of the administration today? 

BILL PRESS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  First of all, Ed, let me just say Lanny Davis is one of my best friends.  I think he‘s dead wrong on this.  I agree with you 100 percent. 

You know the way I see it, Ed, this is war.  This is war. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes. 

PRESS:  And this was the first battle of this war and what do we do?  We raise the white flag and that troubles me going down the road.  I‘m looking for some backbone in this gang.  She said nothing wrong. 

Look, I‘m a white male and I would hope, I would hope, to use the word, that any woman, and particularly a minority woman, would bring a different experience when it comes to judging race, discrimination, or sex discrimination. 

To me, that‘s just makes common sense and it doesn‘t threaten me.  I think the president and Robert Gibbs should just stood behind her and said she‘s right.  , I hate to see them cave in on this. 

SCHULTZ:  Heidi Harris, is this a victory for conservatives this week after what I think the administration have gotten out in front of this pretty good?  They opened up a whole new can of worms.  What do you think? 

HEIDI HARRIS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well, I think they made the right move actually.  You‘ve got to address it.  You can‘t pretend it didn‘t happen.  And as far as whether it‘s racist or not, it depends on how you define racism. 

But she did say that she would bring a better point of view than a white male and that‘s a little disconcerting because she‘s supposed to apply the law, not her own personal experiences to whether or not she‘s got a grievance that would be addressed by a case. 

That‘s what you have to look at.  That‘s all that matters. 

SCHULTZ:  A.B., wasn‘t it a good 48 hours in dealing with this and then all of a sudden this happens today.  What do you think? 

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL:  Well, I mean—it was a great roll out, it was absolutely perfect.  But you can see that the repeated discussion, whether it‘s on Rush Limbaugh‘s show, or CNN or your show, about these comments produced some heat.  Otherwise the White House wouldn‘t have addressed this. 

I agree with Lanny Davis because there is sort of an air of superiority about using the word better.  If that‘s not what she meant, you come out and address it.  You don‘t wait until these confirmation hearings which are months away. 

And President Obama clearly felt and so do Robert Gibbs they would continue to be asked about this and they hoped in answering—they didn‘t really disown the comments but they hoped in addressing them head on that they would make these questions go away. 

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS:  And you know that in his confirmation hearings, Samuel Alito talked about his Italian. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes, he did. 

PRESS:  . and how much it meant.  I mean he dealt with immigration issues, he went back to his Italian heritage.  Now, if he can say that, she can say her Latina experience means something. 

SCHULTZ:  And. 

HARRIS:  Oh, come on. 

STODDARD:  But he didn‘t say he was better. 

HARRIS:  Sam Alito. 

STODDARD:  No, he didn‘t say he was better. 

HARRIS:  Sam Alito never said he was better. 

PRESS:  He said he had a difference experience that he brought to the decisions. 

HARRIS:  Sam Alito never said he was better because he was Italian. 

PRESS:  That‘s all she said. 

HARRIS:  But he didn‘t say he was better that Sicilians or black people, or anybody else.  That‘s the distinction.  That‘s a very different story. 

PRESS:  She didn‘t say that either.  She didn‘t say that either. 

HARRIS:  Oh she did, too. 

PRESS:  No, no, no. 

HARRIS:  She did, too. 

PRESS:  Have you read the entire speech, by the way, Heidi? 

HARRIS:  Yes. 

PRESS:  Have you read the speech? 

HARRIS:  I did and. 

PRESS:  And she said. 

HARRIS:  She did say that she would have a better. 

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS:  You know better interpretation than a white male.  That‘s ridiculous. 

PRESS:  Obviously you didn‘t read the next paragraph.  She said she knows that while makes could easily make the best decisions and as good a decision as she can.  But she used the conditional, I would hope that a Latina would bring some rich experience to these decisions as well. 

SCHULTZ:  Heidi, let me. 

PRESS:  Of course she was. 

SCHULTZ:  Heidi.

HARRIS:  I understand that. 

SCHULTZ:  Heidi, hold on a second.  Do you think that Scalia would have a very good insight on the life of a Latina woman being a white guy on the Supreme Court?  Do you think that‘s. 

HARRIS:  Why does any Supreme Court justice have to have insight into the life of a Latina woman?  Why is that a classification. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ:  Isn‘t the Supreme Court supposed to represent all Americans? 

Wasn‘t the. 

HARRIS:  Absolutely. 

SCHULTZ:  OK. 

HARRIS:  Of course.  Of course it is. 

SCHULTZ:  OK, so. 

HARRIS:  But you don‘t have to have a singular qualification that, oh, she can address a Latina woman.  What does that mean? 

PRESS:  Hey, Heidi, let me—do me a favor.  Read Sandra Day O‘Connor‘s book.  Sandra Day O‘Connor said as the first woman on the court, she brought a wealth of experience that had never been on the court before. 

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS:  I didn‘t like her either.  I don‘t like. 

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS:  I haven‘t liked any women justices. 

SCHULTZ:  All right.  Heidi, hold on a second. 

HARRIS:  I don‘t like any of them. 

SCHULTZ:  Let‘s go more to the interview.  Here‘s another sound cut from the interview with Brian Williams and President Obama. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  All of us have like experiences and struggles and part of the job of a justice on the Supreme Court or any judge is to be able to stand in somebody else‘s shoes, to be able to, you know, understand the nature of the case and how it has an impact on people‘s ordinary day to day lives. 

And I think that when she‘s appearing before the Senate committee in her confirmation process, I think all this nonsense that is being spewed out will be revealed for what it is. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  A.B. Stoddard, you put some sense to this.  He said stand in somebody else‘s shoes.  I think he‘s talking about diversity.  What do you think? 

STODDARD:  Yes.  And I think all Americans are looking for diversity on the court but there‘s two schools of thought on this, Ed.  That when you are a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, it is not your job to stand in anybody‘s shoes.  It‘s your job to interpret the law with your blindfold on and there‘s another camp, which is asking these justices which is what President Obama is stalk talking about, which is asking these justices to stand in people‘s shoes. 

Those are not going to meet in the middle.  People are disagreeing on what that means, what is the definition of empathy and activism and what‘s the definition of just blind justice.  And that‘s going to be an argument that we‘re going to hear about all summer. 

SCHULTZ:  Heidi, what is your decision about empathy? 

HARRIS:  My—well, I—understanding how other people feel and what other people have gone through but I agree with A.B.  A Supreme Court justice applies the law.  The attorney will present the facts.  The attorney will try to get sympathy for the client.  But the Supreme Court justice has to apply the facts. 

I‘ve never been beaten by a man but I think if I was sitting on a bench I could have some sympathy for a woman or empathy for somebody who‘d been abused. 

SCHULTZ:  OK, Bill Press, you. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCHULTZ:  Bill Press, you get the final word tonight.  Go ahead. 

PRESS:  This is idiotic.  I mean I would like to tell people how do you leave your life experience behind.  I mean justices are not machines.  They‘re not robots.  Let‘s face it.  And when Alberto Gonzales was named by George Bush to be attorney general, Orrin Hatch, the Republican head of the Judiciary Committee, said this is not just any nomination.  This is the first Hispanic nomination, therefore he deserves to be attorney general. 

SCHULTZ:  And we will leave it at that. 

Bill Press, A.B. Stoddard and Heidi Harris, great to have you on the program tonight.  Thanks so much. 

Coming up, a conservative group tries to swift boat healthcare reform.  They‘re planning a huge ad push this weekend.  How are progressives fighting back to make sure that the public plan doesn‘t get torpedoed.  That‘s next in my “Play book” here on THE ED SHOW.  Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  In my “Playbook” tonight President Obama says it‘s now or never?  For healthcare reform?  Whoa.  The president warned yesterday that if Congress doesn‘t deliver healthcare legislation this year, the opportunity will be gone? 

We have a guy in the White House who wants to do something about healthcare.  No doubt about that.  Then you have the right wing sound machine mounting the charge to block reform.  This Sunday, a group called Conservatives for Patients‘ Rights, they are going to be airing a 30-minute infomercial.  The mission, to scare the hell out of the American public. 

The man behind the campaign is Rick Scott.  Scott is the controversial former CEO of the hospital chain HCA.  His campaign against healthcare reform, of course, is being coordinated by the same PR firm in that group that, you know, did the swiftboat attacks against John Kerry back in 2004.  So those are the players. 

Think Progress has put together a video looking at Rick Scott‘s career and what type of healthcare system he would actually advocate.  Let‘s watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAPHICS:  Who is Rick Scott? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A once powerful healthcare executive who opposed healthcare reform and built the Columbia healthcare empire during the 1990s and was forced to resign in disgrace. 

One tactic Scott‘s company employed, for example, was to buy out all of the hospitals in one community and shut them all down but one.  Doctors complained about cheap medical equipment.  Nursing staffs were downsized. 

Scott‘s companies made billions in part by systematically defrauding the government. 

Will we let Rick Scott impose his profits-at-all-cost vision of healthcare on America once again? 

The choice is up to you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Joining us now John Podesta who‘s president of the Center for American Progress. 

John, good to have you with us tonight.  Thanks for telling the truth on that one. 

JOHN PODESTA, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS:  Good to be with you, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  been talking about this guy on the radio for a while. 

I want to ask you, John, because you have been through these wars of getting an agenda through.  What does President Obama mean when he says now or never?  Meaning 2009 is such a crucial year?  What‘s your take on that? 

PODESTA:  Well, look, he has put healthcare reform front and center in his agenda.  It‘s the most important item and not only, I think, to get people the healthcare they need at a time of economic crisis, but really to kind of reform the way the whole economy works, so that businesses could thrive, families can thrive and the government can continue in the programs that it produces, particularly Medicare and Medicaid.  It can have a system that‘s going to provide quality, affordable coverage for every American. 

SCHULTZ:  But politically. 

PODESTA:  And this—the time is now. 

SCHULTZ:  Yes. 

PODESTA:  We got to do this this summer. 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  This summer.  Because when we get into the midterm, 2010, the political climate could be a little bit different.  I mean that‘s what I think when I hear the president saying now or never. 

PODESTA:  Yes.  Well, absolutely.  And I think that the Congress has set to do this.  There have been—you know major progress moving forward in the Senate as well as the House, I think.  The Congress is prime to make the tough decisions to get costs under control in the healthcare system to provide affordable coverage for every American. 

But we‘re coming up to the tough decision time and that‘s why these right wingers that are out there in force, and Rick Scott is really, I guess, the worst spokesperson.  You know his companies paid $1.7 billion in criminal and civil fraud.  He had been forced to resign by his board just before that or before that. 

But they have been bilking Medicare, over payments, they had, as the video notes that we produced, providing lousy coverage that would—they put profits above people in the systems they built.  So to put this guy out in front with the $20 million ad campaign to scare people into thinking that we can‘t do better is really—you know, it‘s sort of shocking but that is what they do. 

SCHULTZ:  What should the Obama administration do to counter punch this 30-minute infomercial that normally things like this have an effect on people?  What should the play be right now? 

PODESTA:  Well, look, I think, you know, you noted the swift vote.  I think the biggest lesson that should have been learned from swift votes is that you‘ve got to attack back.  You‘ve got to put the real facts on the table.  The president has put ideas on the table that the Congress is considering, will let you keep the coverage that you have, pick the doctor that you want if that‘s what you prefer but it will also give you choices. 

To provide—to take on health insurance that will become affordable and give you better choices in the future.  So you know it‘s going to be a fight, as I said, to gets costs under control in the healthcare system, to give people choice, to provide people at the low end of the income spectrum... 

SCHULTZ:  But. 

PODESTA:  . the support that they need and Congress, I think, is ready to do that. 

SCHULTZ:  I hope so and I hope they don‘t forget a public option.  Quick take on that, John.  We got to run.  But do you think that a public option will be part of the Obama plan? 

PODESTA:  Well, it definitely is part of the Obama plan. 

SCHULTZ:  OK. 

PODESTA:  And I think it will be part of the congressional plan as well. 

SCHULTZ:  All right.  John Podesta, Center for American Progress, thanks so much for joining us tonight. 

PODESTA:  Thanks, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  Coming up, could it be true?  Is the GOP finally ready to kick the drugster habit?  “Daily Show” creator Lizz Winstead weighs in on that next on THE ED SHOW.  Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHULTZ:  Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.  Time for “Club Ed.”  RNC chair, Michael Steele thinks the GOP shouldn‘t be going after Sotomayor.  Only he says it Steele style. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN:  I know that a lot of folks want to do the knee-jerk, you know, let‘s start slamming and ramming.  But I think we really need to take a step back from this. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  Slamming and ramming.  Joining me now is comedian Lizz Winstead, co-creator of “The Daily Show” and the brains behind “Wake Up, World.” 

OK, Lizz.  Slamming and ramming.  What are we making of that tonight? 

LIZZ WINSTEAD, COMEDIAN:  The notorious GOP, Michael Steele, always with tired, not really working hip-hop references.  He‘s just got to stop. 

(LAUGHTER)

He‘s got to stop. 

SCHULTZ:  What do you make of this whole ordeal this week of Sotomayor?  I mean what does it remind you of? 

WINSTEAD:  Well, you know, Ed, it‘s so funny because Tom—if there was ever anyone that irony was lost on, it is Tom Tancredo.  Because let‘s not forget in 2007 it was Tom Tancredo who said that Americans should reject the siren song of multiculturalism.  Now what that says to me is that Tom Tancredo actually embraces the philosophy of single culturalism which I do believe is the siren song of the KKK. 

(LAUGHTER)

What? 

SCHULTZ:  OK.  And of course, the president, former president, George W. Bush went out and gave a speech last night and he talked about torture.  But he wasn‘t quite as tough as Dick Cheney and wasn‘t tough at all on the president of the United States.  He was very respectful. 

WINSTEAD:  Ed, stop saying that.  You‘re the fourth person I‘ve heard on TV say he wasn‘t as tough as Cheney.  It‘s like putting lipstick on a torturer.  He still advocated enhanced interrogation techniques. 

And now that we know that these photographs are as horrific as possibly could be, you know, I just don‘t think that the Obama administration can just keep saying, you know, let‘s just—let‘s just move ahead. 

You know, it‘s no longer—it‘s waterboarding under the bridge.  And I just feel like—I don‘t hear the outrage from Americans.  I know they have it there but I think the way to really get Americans to come to the forefront and really address the president on this issue is if it‘s just finally became a reality show.  If we had a reality show that said “I‘m a detainee, get you me out of here,” I think Americans would finally address this horrific issue of torture once and for all. 

SCHULTZ:  Lizz Winstead, thanks for being in “Club Ed” tonight. 

Thanks so much. 

WINSTEAD:  Thanks, Ed. 

SCHULTZ:  You bet. 

One last thing before we go tonight.  Today President Obama announced he‘s creating a new office for cyber securities.  The purpose, to protect the nation‘s computers and digital networks from potential attacks. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  This cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation.  It‘s also clear that we‘re not as prepared as we should be as a government or as a country. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHULTZ:  The president said in the last two years alone cyber crime has cost America more than $8 billion.  Even his own 2008 campaign got hacked.  The president has not yet named the cyber security czar but he said he will personally be involved in the selection. 

That‘s THE ED SHOW.  I‘m Ed Schultz.  We‘ll see you back here Monday night, 6:00 Eastern Time right here on MSNBC.  For more information on THE ED SHOW, go to Ed.MSNBC.com or check out my Web site at WeGotEd.com. 

And also to get text alerts about the show, text the word “Ed” to 622639.  I‘m heading off to Minnesota to do some fishing this weekend.  I can‘t wait.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is next right here on the place for politics, MSNBC. 

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

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