updated 6/18/2009 10:37:03 AM ET 2009-06-18T14:37:03

The Ed Show

June 17, 2009



Guests: Mike Rogers, Tony Perkins, Jared Bernstein, Scott Garrett, Ron Christie, Jack Rice, Sam Stein


Good evening, Americans. Live from 30 Rock in New York City it's THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.

Senator John Ensign says marriage should be between a man and a woman. His marriage was between a man, a woman and a married campaign staffer; another example of Republican family values.

Our new NBC news poll shows the challenges for President Obama ahead. He's still very popular but the Republican talking points, hey, they might be starting to sink in.

Last night on this show I called out Sarah Palin for being political slime. The blogosphere is going nuts but I'm not backing down to the conservative attack machine. And by the way, news busters, I've got more for you tonight.

Plus "Psycho Talk." Get your laptops ready; want to communicate with you. I need your help, folks.

We have a great panel coming up tonight.

But first tonight's "Op-Ed." There is no doubt which party favors the family values and which exploits values for political gain. Today the president of the United States has made a first step in delivering for gay couples. Your tax dollars are now providing benefits for gay couples who are working for the federal government. What do you think about that?

Minutes ago, the president signed a presidential memo granting same-sex benefits to federal workers. Folks, this is a change. We don't have a president who takes his marching orders from James Dobson anymore. We as a country may not have the federal marriage amendment but gay couples are now getting on the fast track to equality.

Quite frankly, to conservative Republicans this is pretty disgusting I'm sure, but the last time I checked, you know, they've got some morality issue themselves.

Senator Judgmental from Nevada, John Ensign stepped up and fessed up.


SEN. JOHN ENSIGN ®, NEVADA: Last year, I had an affair. I violated the vows of my marriage. It's absolutely the worst thing that I've ever done in my life. If there was ever anything that I could take back in my life, this would be it.


SCHULTZ: I tell you what, that's almost a replay, isn't it? Because what's interesting here, that's what Mr. Ensign was saying, you know, about Bill Clinton. He was very critical of Bill Clinton. I think I remember that.

Here's what he said when he was running for the senate back in 1998. Quote, "President Clinton should resign because of what he put his whole cabinet through and what he has put the country through. He has no credibility left."

Senator Ensign, don't be a hypocrite on us. Why aren't you resigning?

I know what you're thinking. All right, Ed. What about Eliot Spitzer? What about John Edwards? Democrats have affairs, too.

Wait a minute, the Democrats haven't wrapped themselves in family values and sold it as a political ploy. The Republicans love to talk about moral values and the sanctity of marriage.

Then we find out they're sleeping with a staffer or having sex with a hooker or trying to do whatever the heck they're trying to do in a Minneapolis airport.

What's also interesting is Mr. Ensign was opposed to the gay marriage amendment. In 2004, he supported the changing of the Constitution to defend gay marriage-and define marriage. He said this on the senate floor.

"Marriage is an extremely important institution in this country and protecting it is, in my mind, worthy of the extraordinary step of amending the Constitution.

Now here we go, the holier than thou crowd, once again, is being disarmed by the facts. They should have no problems for gay couples getting when benefits. No Republican should stand in the way of equal rights based on their own behavior.

Joining me now is Mike Rogers, gay activist and also editor of blogactive.com.

All right, Mike. We'll start first with the president today. Is this a big step forward getting benefits for federal employees who have gay partners, what do you think?

MIKE ROGERS, GAY RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Actually, Ed, I'm quite troubled by the president's decision because it doesn't include health insurance which is the most basic benefit that people depend on. And as long as the president really isn't ready to stand up and say we will repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, this actually becomes something that isn't that big of a change in federal policy. It's kind of like a car without the engine.

SCHULTZ: Now, is the president buckling to pressure here? I know the gay community has not been real happy with how progressive the president has been on gay and lesbian issues, but I understand that there was a fundraiser coming up, and some folks weren't too happy about it. Tell us about that.

ROGERS: There is a fundraiser that will be headlined by Vice President Biden. And leader after leader-I was just reading an e-mail that leader after leader decided to pullout as a demonstration of how they are upset. And yesterday there was this mad scramble in order to start doing things to start helping the gay community to show a demonstration.

We had Barney Frank today introducing the employment non-discrimination act. We have the president quickly cobbling together last night some gesture to the gay community.

But now that these small simple steps are taken, and they are steps on the road to equality, I think that we really need to continue to drive hard and see the president start to make some substantive change and to call for the repeal of those very laws that won't allow him to grant full benefits. I think that's where we have to be.

SCHULTZ: Mike, what is your interpretation of this? Does anyone who has a partner-do they get federal benefits? Or there have to be some type of civil union or marriage here in one of the states that recognizes it? How do you read that?

ROGERS: Well, you know, the details are still being worked out. And it's interesting because last night, people ask me is this in effect of what you're all doing as activists and folks demanding change? And in reality, they have put it together so quickly that we haven't even heard all of the answers to those questions and we're eagerly looking for something.

SCHULTZ: What do you want? If you're not married or a gay person isn't married, should their partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever, get federal benefits? What do you want?

ROGERS: Well, you know what I wanted in America, we have 300 million citizens and I want equal treatment for each and every one of those people; every one of them in loving families with children, everybody in a job with a partner who wants to protect that person in times of good health and bad.

And as long as the president steps up and starts to deliver on the campaign rhetoric which now I'm wondering is it just rhetoric? Has the president delivered and the answer so far is no. And he needs to certainly ratchet it up a great deal because all we're looking for here is simple equality. And that's really a matter of patriotism more than anything else.

SCHULTZ: But Mike, finally, does the president have you right where he wants you? I mean, the gay community isn't going to go out and support a Republican candidate. So is the president maybe not giving you the due respect? What do you think?

ROGERS: Well, I think the president is going to be in for a very valuable lesson. When money starts being cut off at the spigot, we all know what happens. People get in line and they start doing things.

I think that, just like John McCain, you can't always count on the base. You have to count on the American people who want fairness, justice and equality. As we see in places, Ed, Massachusetts, Connecticut, even in Iowa, the president is behind the curve on this. He needs to step up and lead, not follow.

SCHULTZ: What are you going to do to get health care benefits in this?

ROGERS: Well, we are going to stand up and demand. We're requesting the president to introduce the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act so that these benefits can start being given to all Americans. And we'll keep the pressure on.

I was just reading in my e-mail, more people are pulling out of this fundraiser. This issue is not over. President Obama is not let off the hook by giving relocation benefits to people. We want to see real change in America. We want true equality in America and it's starting. You can't stop it so they should get onboard.

SCHULTZ: All right.

Mike Rogers thanks so much for joining us tonight.

ROGERS: Thank you Ed.

SCHULTZ: Time now to turn to Tony Perkins who is president of the Family Research Council. Tony thanks for joining us tonight.


SCHULTZ: What is your reaction to President Obama now signing this memo, allowing federal employees to get-who may or may not be married, to get federal benefits? Your tax dollars are going to be used for gay couples, how do you feel about that?

PERKINS: I think Mike is accurate in pointing out the details are yet to be known. I think the reason it's so late in coming out with the details is because he's absolutely right. They kind of cobbled this together in an effort to try to appease their base that's not happy.

As we see it, regardless of what may be in there is the president here is taking taxpayer dollars to try and appease his political base. And we're carving out special benefits for couples based upon their sexual behavior. This is not being extended to heterosexual couples who cohabitate.

Simply, as we understand it, it's going to same-sex couples and it's not connected to a marriage or civil unions, as it's been explained. Now, of course, the details are not yet out.

SCHULTZ: So Tony, your position and the position of your organization would be absolutely no benefits, no way to gay couples?

PERKINS: That's right. The reason that benefits are recognized or given to marriage is because marriage has benefits it gives to society. It's where children are raised. These are not necessarily families in which there are children. This is just-it doesn't state that. It doesn't say that.

This is just couples who cohabitate of the same sex and are in some sexual relationship. They can get benefits that are granted to heterosexual married families.

SCHULTZ: Mr. Perkins, do you think that the definition of marriage is changing in our society? Look at the number of states that are now recognizing gay marriage?

PERKINS: That's interesting because what Mike just brought up that the president is behind the times, Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut; that's where judges impose same-sex marriage on those states. And so no, I don't think-still, the American public, despite the media, despite Hollywood, still remains fixed in their support of traditional marriage.

SCHULTZ: Where do you think Americans are on this? Just your gut-check on this; do you think the majority of Americans are going to go along with President Obama's decision on this?

PERKINS: I think many Americans will see this-as Mike pointed out

this is a piecemeal attempt to redefine marriage in the country. The president knows it right now, he does not have public opinion to go on a frontal assault and take out the Defense of Marriage Act.

What he's doing here is I think he's throwing trinkets to his base while he works on other radical policy initiatives like health care reform and he knows that this would complicate matters with the American public. It's much like what Bill Clinton faced when he tried to remove the barrier for those practicing homosexuality to serve in the military.

SCHULTZ: And finally, why are so many Republicans having troubles with their personal lives? I mean, it's another story coming out of the senate yesterday. Your thoughts on that.

PERKINS: It's disappointing, Ed. It really is. I think that's why the Republicans are having trouble and have had trouble over the last three years with many voters is because there is a sense of hypocrisy. It's not that they-you know, they shouldn't take on these issues-I think you're right in saying if you're going to champion those issues you've got to live by a higher standard.

I think all public servants to be faithful to their vows of marriage. I can't imagine why voters would think they would be-politicians would be faithful to them if they're not faithful to their spouse. I think all of that have should be considered whether it's Republican or Democrat.

SCHULTZ: Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council. Good to have you on tonight with us here on THE ED SHOW.

PERKINS: Thank you, Ed.

SCHULTZ: You bet.

Coming up, fat cats, watch out. President Obama is cracking down on Wall Streeters who helped game the system and helped trigger this economic collapse. Well, guess what? The Republicans are against it. I'll take one of them on next right here on THE ED SHOW.

Stay with us.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Millions of Americans who have worked hard and behaved responsibly have seen their life dreams eroded by the irresponsibility of others and by the failure of their government to provide adequate oversight. We did not choose how this crisis began, but we do have a choice in the legacy this crisis leaves behind.


SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

That was President Obama today announcing a new era of regulation for Wall Street-the key word here, folks, is "oversight."

He's forming a consumer protection agency to level the playing field for the average American family. Senator Dick Durbin told us on this program not long ago that the banks control the Senate. The mission now for the Democrats is to get regulation. Joining me now is Jared Bernstein, chief economist for Vice President Joe Biden and executive director of the White House task force on working families. Mr. Bernstein, there's a difference between oversight and interference. What's it going to be?

JARED BERNSTEIN, CHIEF ECONOMIST FOR VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: It's the former. In fact, one of the things the president stressed today is that in the context of markets that are appropriately regulated, innovation can flourish. What we have in the case I think that got us into this mess was the absence of the necessary regulations that protect investors, consumers, such that they know what they're getting into.

Let me tell you something, markets don't work if risk is under-priced. Markets don't work if people don't have-if investors don't have the kind of information they need about loans, about derivatives, about mortgages. These plans give investors and consumers the information they need to get these markets functioning in innovative fashion once again.

SCHULTZ: Well, Mr. Bernstein, deregulation got us in this mess. Is this an effort to get the country, the Senate and the House back on track with the repealing of the Glass-Steagall and now implementing it again? Are they going to take measures from that bill that was voted down in 1999 and take parts of that and implement it?

BERNSTEIN: In some ways, yes; certainly not bringing any old legislation back because actually that wouldn't be appropriate. I would say in one way, though, that what you said is germane, Ed. It's that it doesn't matter what it says over the doorway of your institution. If you borrow short and lend long, you sound like a bank. If you're deeply interconnected to the financial system and consumers depend on you, borrowers depend on you then you need the same kind of oversight commercial banks face.

SCHULTZ: Well, what about the selling of mortgages and the sub prime? Is there going to be protections there where it's not so much the people that made the deal on the mortgage, it's who they sold it to and let it run off...

BERNSTEIN: Absolutely. That's exactly right, Ed. The consumer financial protection agency will very much intervene in those markets.


BERNSTEIN: One of the things the president talked about today is the importance that borrowers and lenders-that the distance between borrowers and lenders doesn't get so far that they don't know what each other is up to. We have to have loan originators have some skin in the game.

SCHULTZ: Mr. Bernstein, good to have you with us tonight. Thanks so much.


SCHULTZ: Today, President Obama anticipated his critics. Joining me now is Congressman Scott Garrett of New Jersey. He's the top Republican on the house financial services committee. I think he's got a different take.

Congressman, are you for some regulation? Or should we keep it the way it is?

REP. SCOTT GARRETT ®, NEW JERSEY: I don't think anybody thinks we should keep it the way it is. The Republicans threw out an entire plan last week so we're a week or so ahead of the game. As far as the administration, we want better regulation and we don't want any more bailouts, is the bottom line.

SCHULTZ: What are you going to do for the sub prime market? Do you want some regulation there? If you go to the bank and do a deal with them for your home, do you know where that mortgage is going to be?

GARRETT: Sure, we want some regulations there. We want to make sure that the system that was in place really gets enforced. That's part of the problem is that we had regulations and we had authorities. They just didn't do their job.

GARRETT: Are you concerned about additional power? You might have some help on the Democratic side. This is Congressman Brad Sherman earlier today on this network talking about too much intervention.


REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D): I'm concerned about giving all this additional power to the Fed. While at least the Federal Reserve's 12 branches are not even governmental entities, their boards are selected by bank executives and not responsible to the electorate in this democracy.

The fact is that you can't have banking regulation done by entities that are selected by the bankers themselves.


GARRETT: He makes a real good point.

SCHULTZ: But the American people don't want Wall Street to run away with their money and then nobody do anything about it. I mean, what about enforcement for those who break the rules? Where do you stand on that?

GARRETT: Well, we have a provision in our plan for stricter enforcement, but I think Sherman correct on this. The American people don't want any more bailouts and that's really a fundamental problem with Obama's plan. He perpetuates the idea that the taxpayers are going to bail out Wall Street.

And we want to end that.

SCHULTZ: Congressman, would you support the president in the formation of this consumer protection agency for Wall Street?

GARRETT: Not the way that it's laying out right now. None of the experts support that idea. They say how can you set up this agency over here on one side and over here be divorced, detached from the very entities that they're trying to regulate, their prudency and their solvency?

SCHULTZ: But how are the Republicans going to get the confidence of the American people if you're not willing to really put some oversight into Wall Street? It doesn't sound like you want to do too much.

GARRETT: Oh, no. We have eight or nine-point plan that we threw out this past week and we want to have the transparency and we want to have the oversight, but we want to draw the line in the sand and say no more bailouts, no more picking winners and losers and no more putting the taxpayer on the hook for Wall Street's mistakes.

GARRETT: Congressman Scott Garret, New Jersey, good to have you with us on THE ED SHOW tonight.

GARRETT: Good to be with you. Thanks.

SCHULTZ: Thank you so much.

Coming up next on THE ED SHOW, "Psycho Talk;" actually, it's a psycho protest. These folks claim they're standing up for children? Wait until you hear what they're actually saying. What a bunch of freaking hypocrites.


SCHULTZ: In "Psycho Talk" tonight, holy smokes, we have a collection of psycho protestors on our hands. The "fire David Letterman" rally outside the Ed Sullivan Theater yesterday-folks there were more media than protestors out there.

Our producers put the big number at 15. A "New York" magazine videographer Jonah Green (ph) was also there and captured some of the more shocking and hateful rants. Listen up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone in the country is very, very frustrated and upset that he was allowed to make a rape joke about a little girl, 14 years old sitting on the sidelines, watching-of all things-an American basketball game.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's too old to be on that damn show anyway.

He's not even funny. He's a jerk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is someone making jokes about his child? Especially, you know, when he had a daughter out of wedlock himself. How dare he? When he has a [bleep] son and a [bleep] for a wife.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keep children safe from David Letterman's mouth.

He will rape them with his mouth.


SCHULTZ: These people don't even know what they're protesting. First of all, it was a baseball game, not basketball. Letterman has one child, Harry, he's 5 years old. Aside from the comments being hateful, inappropriate, and plain wrongs, let's also look at the hypocrisy here.

We have a fringe personality personally attacking Letterman; calling his wife a slut, his son a bastard child, all of this protesting a joke about Sarah Palin's daughter? Just to note, Palin's teenage daughter Bristol had her baby out of wedlock.

This hype and type of protest really was a joke. Probably because conservative talk show host John Ziegler created the whole thing. The firedavidletterman.com Web site only brought out 15 people to protest to try to get David Letterman fired.

And this just in, Ziegler reported that he had at least one turd in his pocket. Let's call a spade a spade. This pathetic rally turned out to be just nothing but a bunch of psycho-protestors.


SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Our NBC News/"Wall Street Journal" poll has just been released, and it shows a mixed bag for President Obama.

The American people like this guy a lot. Fifty-six percent approve of the job he's doing as president. A whopping 75 percent say they like him regardless of how they feel about his policies. But here's the challenge he faces.

People are down about the economy. They're losing their confidence. Forty-six percent say the country is on the wrong track. Fifty-seven percent believe life will be worse for their children than for them.

And 87 percent say they are dissatisfied with the current economy. Americans are pretty much split over whether the president is doing the right thing on the economy and health care. We will get to the numbers in just a moment.

But, first, let me bring in NBC News chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd. Chuck is also the political director for NBC News. And nobody can pick this stuff apart better than Chuck.


SCHULTZ: Chuck, let me ask you, any trend jump out at you with these number tonight, where we might see a big shift somewhere?

CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I think what we're-what we're seeing here is that this is this tran-this is a poll that we can say, hey-hey, we're at a transition point in this presidency, right?

You had an American public that looked to Barack Obama as this hopeful, optimistic leader. And, in many ways, they were judging his job as much on that optimism as they were not really judging him on policies.

Now here we are, five months in. They're starting to look at the policies, and they're just nervous about them. They want to know if they're going to work. They haven't seen it work yet. That doesn't mean they don't believe they-it won't work, but they're nervous about it. They see all this government intervention.

They see the rising budget deficit. So, we're seeing is that nervousness. And now they're judging him. It's sort of, I would say the honeymoon is coming to an end, but it's not personal. As you pointed out, those-those personal numbers are still sky-high.

So, they like this guy. The possibility of-of these numbers bouncing up very high for him are there. Now they're just saying, OK, we're going to judge you on the job that you're doing.

And where we're seeing the most movement, Ed, is among self-described independents. Six weeks ago, in April, when we conducted this poll, his approval rating among independents was sitting at 60 percent. Now it's at 46 percent. They're the most sensitive to these issues of government intervention and the deficit.

SCHULTZ: You know, you said policies that he's put in place.

And one of them, obviously, is the stimulus package. It looks like the president has got some work to do here, Chuck. Thirty-seven percent think it's a good idea. Now 39 percent think it's a bad idea. What can we make of that?

TODD: This is about results.

I mean, give the American public some credit. They know they haven't seen any results yet. Now, the White House said, it's going to take time for the stimulus to work. They always said, this was a two-year program. Well, guess what? They're still not seeing the results.

They will judge this a positive or a negative if the results start showing up. But we talked to some of these folks. After we did a poll, did the survey interview, we talked to them a little bit longer and just to get a conversation with some of them.

And they said, hey, we're-I want to see if it's going to work. There was one guy in California saying, I want to-I haven't seen any jobs created. I guess I thought it was going to be faster.

Now, throughout the poll, you see some evidence that the country still has a lot of patience, and they know this is going to take a while, but that's what's going on, I think, with the stimulus number, Ed.

SCHULTZ: You know, the-the Republicans don't fare very well in this poll.


SCHULTZ: But one thing they have been doing is pounding away at the deficit numbers.

TODD: Right.

SCHULTZ: And it looks like it's starting to work a little bit.

As to what the president should focus his time on, 35 percent say boosting the economy. Fifty-eight percent are saying keeping the deficit down.

Are the Republicans making some headway here?

TODD: Well, they are.

And I want to point out that poll question, because, the way we worded it, frankly, Ed, I did not think that that number would be 58 percent. We said, worrying about the deficit, even if it means slowing down the economic recovery. And, yet, people still picked the deficit.

So, I absolutely think, yes, not only are they having traction, but don't forget, we saw the deficit popped up like this in the early '90s. You know, the-the-the middle of this country, independents, they sit there. They're-they're pragmatic folks, and they do worry about this stuff.

These are the ones that are probably the most sensitive to Social Security, most sensitive to health care. So, I think we shouldn't be surprised. And I will tell you, I talk to folks in the White House. They know this is a problem. That's why you saw little things like that fiscal responsibility summit. They know this is a sensitive area for them.

SCHULTZ: And it looks to me like there's going to be another heavy lift, and that is selling the president's health care plan. It's pretty much split here. You have got 33 percent saying it's a good idea...

TODD: Sure.

SCHULTZ: ... and 32 percent saying it's a bad idea.

He's got some selling to do. Chuck, where is the disconnect here?

TODD: Well, I will tell you where there's disconnect in this poll that I found it fascinating, is that let's take the two biggest debate points going on Capitol Hill right now about health care, right, which is this idea, all right, how do we pay for it? And then-and there's a growing-not-consensus is a too strong of a word, but a growing movement to say tax people's health care benefits as a way of finding a funding source.

And then, of course, you hear about this controversy, oh, I don't know if we can pass a bill that has a public option in it, that there's public insurance.

Well, here's what our poll tells us, Ed. Overwhelmingly, people will not believe there is any kind of reform of the health care system if there's not a choice of a public option...


TODD: ... in here.

And, overwhelmingly, they say, don't tax my health care benefits to pay for it. So, for some reason-and I have talked to some folk at the White House-they sit there, and they-they-they-they're frustrated with some of these conservative Democrats in the Midwest. They say, guys, are you reading this poll? The public wants a public option, and they don't want you to tax their health care benefits. So, you better find another way to pay for it. And you better not be afraid of passing a public option.

The fact is, people will not feel like health care has been reformed if they don't see a change that they can touch and feel. And, right now, public option may be that change that they touch and feel, which is why they seem supportive of it.

SCHULTZ: Chuck Todd, thanks so much, NBC chief White House correspondent, with us here tonight here on THE ED SHOW.

TODD: All right, Ed.


SCHULTZ: People are down on the economy, no doubt about that. But there, you know, might be a glimmer of hope here.

Forty-six percent now say they think the economy will be better in a year. That's jumped eight points since the last NBC News poll back in April. Hey, it's a start. I think Americans are starting to get some confidence here. Polls don't tell everything, but that's how I see this one.

For more on it, let's turn to our panel tonight, Sam Stein, political reporter "The Huffington Post." Jack Rice, former CIA officer and radio talk show host, is with us tonight. And back, off our spirited discussion last night here on THE ED SHOW...


SCHULTZ: ... Republican strategist Ron Christie.

Ron, you're a good sport for coming back tonight.



Good to be with you.

SCHULTZ: I-I-I will give you the first cue here tonight.

Are the Republican talking points starting to chip away at the Obama agenda? What do you think?

CHRISTIE: I don't know, Ed, so much if it's the Republican talking points, as that the American people are very concerned about the size and the scope of government.

And I think what we just heard from Chuck Todd is exactly right. People are very concerned about the size of the deficit. You know, the president is out selling his health care plan, and he said it's going to cut costs, but the Congressional Budget Office thinks that it's going to add a trillion dollars to the deficit.

So, I think the president has a lot of heavy lifting to do. He has a lot of convincing to do. And the Republicans are going continue to hammer away that his policy right now is fiscal irresponsibility. And it's going to add to the deficit.

SCHULTZ: All right, Jack Rice, does President Obama have some selling to do on the stimulus package and on the deficit numbers? What do you think?

JACK RICE, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Yes, no question about it.

He actually has to step up here. I mean, the fact is, is the American people-are we are looking at the numbers as well-the American are looking for an option here, this public option. And they're also looking for the Democrats to have a spine. And they're looking for the fact that they have the White House, they have a great majority in the House, and just about a filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate.

And there are a lot of Democrats, a lot of progressives out there saying, OK, guys, it's time for you to flex your muscles. But it's also time for the administration to step up and convince the independents and some of those left-leaning Republicans that they're right. I mean, people are waiting here.

SCHULTZ: Sam Stein, do you see any erosion from liberal Democrats who think maybe the White House isn't moving fast enough? Take us inside the White House. How do you feel about this?

SAM STEIN, THEHUFFINGTONPOST.COM: The White House is fairly confident that they have the backing of liberal Democrats. I know there's been some uproar within the gay-rights community, but, by and large, they're confident that their base is fine.

The key number is obviously the economy and jobs. I mean, 87 percent dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied with the economy, only 12 percent satisfied or very satisfied? That's just not going to cut it. The White House is worried about that, far more than they are their base.

Also, one other thing-Obama has taken off two very tough issues that may have hurt him in these poll numbers. One is the closure of Gitmo. The other one if the bailout of GM. Both of them are very unpopular. Even if they're principled stands. I think that has hurt the president as well.

SCHULTZ: No doubt. The president, earlier this afternoon, made a comment after signing the memo to give federal employees who have-gay couples, some benefits.

Here he is.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a day that marks a historic step towards the changes we seek, but I think we all have to acknowledge this is only one step. Among the steps we have not yet taken is to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. I believe it's discriminator. I think it interferes with state's rights, and we will work with Congress to overturn it.

We've got more work to do to ensure that government treats all of its citizen equally, to fight injustice and intolerance in all its forms, and to bring about that more perfect union.

I'm committed to these efforts, and I pledge to work tirelessly to behalf of these issues during the months and years to come.

Thank you very much, everybody. With that, I am going sign this executive order.


SCHULTZ: Ron Christie, how do think Americans are going to feel about their tax dollars going to benefits for gay couples? What do you think?

CHRISTIE: I think it's going to cause a lot of concern, Ed.

I think a majority of the people in the United States, and myself included, believe that a marriage is between a man and a woman. I think this is a very sensitive political issue. I think that the civil union issue, frankly, is best left to the states. And the president knows he doesn't have the support in the Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

I think this is one step that he thought that he could take safely to appease some of the gay advocate supporters, without overly supporting-or-excuse me-overly upsetting a majority of the American people, who still believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.

SCHULTZ: Jack, you agree with that?

RICE: No, I don't.

I think what is unfortunate here is, they're trying to have it both ways. They're trying to make the argument that they don't have the right to marry on the one side, and, then, on the other side, but, if we give them these rights, we're not giving them to people who-who aren't married on the straight side, so that's not fair either.

You don't get it both ways. This is not just a gay issue. I actually think this is a human issue. So, I think the Republicans and the conservatives are absolutely wrong on it.

SCHULTZ: It might be a money issue, too.


SCHULTZ: Sam Stein, the report is, is that they're going to have a gay fund-raiser for the Democrats, a bunch of people were bailing out...


SCHULTZ: ... and this might be a reactionary move. What do you think?

STEIN: Exactly.

And the people that I talked to who are very involved in this-on this topic say, as much as it's about-as much as it's about policies, it's about image as well. You know, the Obama White House prides itself on being so diplomatic and open to discussion on all fronts of politics, but, when it came to gay-rights issues, they have been decidedly closed off.

The president's address this afternoon was probably the most he's said on DOMA since he got into the White House. And, of course, the Justice Department defended DOMA in a file in California. So, they're waiting for the White House to lead. I think the American public is waiting for the White House to lead. Maybe the conservative movement isn't happy, but this is one place where the Obama administration is tripping up.

SCHULTZ: I will tell you what, fellows. The one thing that I took out of this poll is that the president has got some selling to do on his health care plan.

STEIN: Exactly.

SCHULTZ: I mean, resoundingly, the American people are saying, we want a public option, but, for some reason, his approval rating when it comes to selling that is in the 30s. I mean, they're not really excited about his health care plan.

Only 33 percent say it's a good idea. Thirty-two percent say it's a bad idea. I think the president is going to take that number and go out on the road and try to turn this thing around.

Ron, do you think that's his next move?

CHRISTIE: Absolutely.

I think the president's strongest suit is his going out, rolling up the sleeves, going in those town hall meetings. And I think he's going to look at this poll tonight and say, if I don't get out there and exert presidential leadership, this is not going to pass this summer.

I, of course, don't agree with his health care plan, but we know how charismatic the president is. I expect Air Force One is going to be logging some frequent flyer miles.


STEIN: Ed...


STEIN: Ed, if there is one saving grace here, a Gallup poll out today showed that the Republican Party's-that the preference for the Republican Party's handling of health care was worse-worse than the pharmaceutical industry and the health insurance industry.

So, the president's opposition is far less popular than he is. He has room to operate. He will go out. He will sell the plan.

RICE: Yes, we have to remember, too, it's taken a couple of decades to get us in this much trouble.


RICE: So, it's going to take more than two or three months to get it fixed.

SCHULTZ: Well, the last eight years was probably the best thing of them doing it, Jack.


SCHULTZ: There's no doubt about that.

All right, stay with us, fellows.

Coming up: The GOP is waging a war to kill President Obama's health care plan. I'm going to tell the Democrats how you hit back on this. And you have also got to do some listening to the people.

That's next in my "Playbook." Stay with us.


SCHULTZ: Our NBC News polls shows exactly what I have been talking about, that the American people want a public option when it comes to health care. But, of course, the Republicans have got a campaign going onto kill the doggone thing. That's called health care reform.

Democrats, you need to punch back fast. I'm going to tell you how to do it next in my "Playbook."

Stay with us.


SCHULTZ: In my "Playbook" tonight, I want to look at who's winning the debate over health care reform.

Now, the president has made it very clear-and now he has got a poll to back up his position-he wants a public option. And, of course, Republicans are resisting any change whatsoever.

Well, today, the GOP House members presented an outline of their health plan for America, once again, full of promises, no details, no numbers, and, of course, the usual lies and fear-mongering.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: If you look at their plan, it really is a big government-run plan that will take control of the delivery of health care in America.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: People ought to be able to keep the health care they have got, if they want it. We want to provide access to a basic plan for all Americans. We do so by making sure we keep down costs and incorporate the ability for folks to pool together to access lower costs, to bring private sector into the game and keep government out.


SCHULTZ: A government takeover. We have just got to keep government bureaucrats out of the process, so the insurance executives can be in the process.

They're all speaking from the same playbook. Now, we have Senator Jon Kyl in "Psycho Talk" last night-much deserving, I might add-saying the same doggone thing on the Senate floor on Monday. Remember Frank Luntz. He's the guy who wrote this playbook on health care.

He the pollster who told Republicans how to attack Barack Obama's plan as a Washington takeover. In May, Luntz put out a memo titled "The Language of Health Care 2009: The 10 Rules for Stopping the Washington Takeover of Health Care."

The RNC has jumped on board big time. They put out a Web video on President Obama's government health care program. And you have got to see this. They're saying the same old thing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have reached the United States federal government health care plan. Your approximate hold time is 35 hours and 26 minutes. The next available surgical appointment is August 14, 2011.

NARRATOR: An exaggeration? Maybe not-if President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and other liberals in Congress get their way.

When President Obama says he wants a public option in health care reform, what he means is that he wants a government-run plan.



SCHULTZ: Nothing's changed either.

Now, I played this sound clip for you on Monday's program. Got to see it again. It's awfully good. Here's Ronald Reagan in 1961. The AMA hired him-hired him-as an actor and spokesman to campaign to block anything with Medicare.


RONALD REAGAN, ACTOR: My name is Ronald Reagan.

One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. A doctor decides he wants to practice in one town, and the government has to say to him: You can't live in that town. They already have enough doctors. You have to go someplace else.


SCHULTZ: Oh, out of respect, we won't put him in "Psycho Talk."

You will remember, President Obama took the health care fight straight to the American Medical Association earlier this week. Obama said, there will be no Washington takeover of health care. At least, that's what he said off the teleprompter.

He also warned us about the antis using scare tactics and fear-mongering about government takeovers.

Back to my question. Who is winning the debate? Well, a new NBC News poll, "Wall Street Journal" poll is showing, it's a pretty even tossup. When asked what a public health plan would do, 47 percent said it would lower costs and provide universal health care. Forty-two percent said it would limit access to doctors and treatment.

Folks, this is a wakeup call to every progressive, every liberal in this country who wants to get a public option. You have to keep the pressure on. There's no better time to call your representative or call your senator. This is no time to get weak knees.

If you really want health care reform in this country, then you're going to have to act. You might even have to march. You're going to have to get in front of the cameras. You're going to have to speak up. You're going to have to give President Obama the backup that he needs to get this thing done.

I mean, basically, when it comes down to it, we are in a cultural war when it comes to providing health services in this country. There's a bunch of righties over here that say, well, we don't want anything to do with that. And, by the way, well, we can't pay for it. They can pay for Iraq, but they can't pay for health care.

And then there's some compassionate folks over there who care about people. And that would be, of course, the liberals and the Democrats that are trying to do something. But I'm worried about them, because they're getting weak knees, big time.

They're simply not standing up, and saying, well, we have got to have a bipartisan agreement.

We don't have to have a bipartisan agreement. Minnesota, will you please tell the Minnesota State Supreme Court to figure this thing out with Al Franken and Norm Coleman, and can we get number 60, so we can get something done with health care in this country?

And that's my "Playbook" tonight. And, by the way, it is a touchdown.

Coming up: Conservatives are busting my chops for calling Sarah Palin political slime. Well, I have got a few choice words for them when we come back right here on THE ED SHOW.

Stay with us.


SCHULTZ: Welcome back to THE ED SHOW.

Time now for Ed "Feedback."

I want to cut right to the chase on this. Sometimes, I say things on this program that you don't like. Sometimes, I say things on this program that you really like, but you're always going to get a take.

Now, last night, on this program, I referred to Governor Sarah Palin as political slime. Why did I do that? Well, because she is.

This is-and there's a lot of blog traffic out there. NewsBusters is having a field day, saying that, you know, I'm a garbage man and everything else.

So what? Here is the bottom line. This was a national candidate for the Republicans who said that Barack Obama was palling around with terrorists. She didn't have any plan for health care. She didn't have any plan for anything. But she had a target on the back of candidate Obama and now the president of the United States.

You know, a lot of apologies are going around as of late.

Governor Palin, why don't you apologize to the president of the United States? Because he never has and he does not pal around with terrorists.

For more on this, let's bring back our panel tonight, Sam Stein, Jack Rice, and Ron Christie.

Let's talk about this Palin-Letterman battle that is going on. It look-it appears to me that David Letterman is playing this for it's worth again. It was in the top 10 list last night.

Ron Christie, who is winning this P.R. battle? Is there an upside or downside for either one of them?

CHRISTIE: Oh, Sarah Palin is winning this battle.

David Letterman looks like a jerk any way you slice it. First, he talks about Governor Palin's daughter getting knocked up. "Oh, I meant the 18-year-old, not the 14-year-old." He looks desperate, looks like he's trying to get ratings. He's losing the battle.


Jack, what do you do think?

RICE: You know what? He's getting ratings. The bottom line is, he's actually winning in that sense.

At the same time, I look at Sarah Palin. And what is unfortunate is I think, if anybody is intellectually honest here, they would agree that the reason she's doing this, the reason she's so outraged in defending her family, is because she's looking for political gain; she's looking to keep her face and her name in the public eye, because she's looking at 2012.

Is there anybody who is telling me that's not true? Please.

SCHULTZ: Sam, did this help her with Republicans in any way?

STEIN: Well, I think we have to look at it in two distinct ways.

Letterman is in ratings business. Sarah Palin is not in the ratings business. And, in that regard, it hurts her. She needs to be thought of as a more serious politician. But, any time you're in a spat with a late-night comedian, I don't really see how that helps.

So, with all respect to Ron, I-I just don't see where this helps her down the road.

SCHULTZ: All right, gentlemen, great to have you with us tonight.

Thanks so much.

That's THE ED SHOW. I'm Ed Schultz.

For more information on THE ED SHOW, go to Ed.MSNBC.com, or check out my radio Web site, wegoted.com.

And, of course, we have got a couple of town hall meetings coming up:

Madison, Wisconsin on July 19; Portland, Oregon, on July 31. You can sign up at our Web site.

"HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS" is coming up next right here for the place for politics, MSNBC.

Thanks for joining us tonight. We will see you back here tomorrow night.



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